Visual Poetry: Tunnel Through

For today’s Wonder of the World poetry prompt, the topic was the great Channel Tunnel. I decided to go inside the tunnel with a visual poem, writing about finding your way through from one end to the other.
Tunnel Through
And here is the poem:

You can get here from there
You just need to crawl through small spaces
Hugging walls and pipes and concrete
As you move from there to here.

Nothing fancy with the poem itself but I like how the use of the cylinder shape, with pitch black background and white words like flashlight beams, makes the visual poem something a little special. And the title of the poem, in green, seem like those headlights that miners wear so they can work. (I used an app called Visual Poetry to make the poem).

Peace (in the poem),

I had Stickers – An Early Childhood Appreciation

The other day, I volunteered to lead a family poetry workshop at Barnes and Noble to support our Western Massachusetts Writing Project. I didn’t know what to expect, so I gathered up a bunch of supplies for a Post It Sticky Note Poetry idea. I had a bunch of small mentor texts (haiku, couplets, shape poems, etc.) along with lots of art supplies.


I set up in the little staging area of the children’s section, still not sure who would come and participate. Now, remember, I teach sixth grade and spend my days in the midst of 11 and 12 year olds. And I have three boys of my own, two teenagers and one 9 year old.

So, imagine my surprise when I was surrounded by a group of five girls — ages 3 and 4 — with their parents for the poetry workshop. I was a fish out of water because clearly my plans for writing and understanding poetry styles would not connect with this group of energetic mostly-pre-writing girls. I was in a sixth grade mindset and that would not work here.

Luckly, I had stickers! Lots of stickers! And that led to some post-it poems, of a sort (well, more like drawings) and some basic rhyming games. Some of the girls could write some basic words, so we wrote rhymes. For others … it was all about the stickers and post-it notes.

That was OK but it reminded me (again) of the task before our early childhood colleagues who are often faced with a class full of young learners who might or might not have had preschool experience, might or might not have had parents read to them regularly, might or might not have had pre-writing experiences, and the range of literacy was staggering in that little group.

It was fun and enlightening, and certainly a very different kind of teaching experience for me, one that reminded me to appreciate the kinds of days that my colleagues often have, and how grateful I am as a sixth grade teacher for all the work that gets done in the years before my students reach me to get them ready for the rigor of our learning.

Thank you, teachers.

Peace (with stickers)


Book Review: There Will Be Bears

The only time I went hunting for real, I was a teenager with a friend on his family’s farmlands. We each had shotguns and we were looking for deer. At some point, a flock of geese flew over us and I raised the gun, pulled the trigger and took a life from the air. It was a perfect shot (right through the neck) but I remember the feeling of dread, and the tiring hour spent trying to find the bird (we had no dog), and then the realization that “Since I shot it, I need to eat it” as we brought the goose back to his house, where his mom helped me dress it and cook it. The meat was gamey and I hated every bite. I never went hunting again.

I was remembering this story as I read the novel There Will Be Bears by Ryan Gebhart, in which the protagonist, Tyler, is coming of age and is determined to join his aging grandfather on an Elk Hunt in the Grand Tetons. Tyler’s life is a muddle, with his family’s finances causing stress and difficulties, and his best friend is his grandfather, Gene. But, his grandfather is ill with kidney failure, and as the day of the hunting trip nears, his grandfather is shipped to a nursing home.

The two decide to break out of the nursing home and go on the elk hunt anyway, against the wishes of Tyler’s parents and the doctors. Oh, and there is a grizzly bear with a mean streak roaming the elk hunting grounds, and Tyler’s fears and trepidations grow even as he refuses to give up on his rite of passage in his family. The story pushes towards a climatic moment in which the elk are hunted, the bear appears and Tyler realizes some important thing about life.

There Will Be Bears is a solid tale, told well, with the reader burrowed down into the confused head of a teenage boy. This book doesn’t take a stand on hunting, and in fact, keeps an emotional balance, thanks to the strong character of the grandfather (who turns out to have a story of two of his own, including his status as grandfather).

Peace (in the hunt),

A Poetic Conversation: You, Me and the Leaning Tower

This morning’s writing prompt for the Wonders project is the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I went into a tool by Google called Google Story Builder, which is a nifty way to create a document of dialogue (and other kinds of writing) into a video.

You Me and the Leaning Tower

Check out my dialogue poem

I was trying to get at the idea of looking at the world from a different angle, told in couplets. Not the best poem of the month, but after watching UConn win the NCAA championship last night (go Huskies!) and fighting off a cold and sore throat, it’s all I had in me today.


Peace (in the poem),

Animated Acrostic: Minaret

For today’s Wonder Poem about the Hagia Sophia Mosque in Turkey, I chose an animated acrostic, using a Mozilla Thimble template designed by some National Writing Project friends that makes kinetic text poems. I was looking for a way for text to drop out, leaving only the main word in the margins. I think it worked out OK.

Here is the original poem:

Many people believe
In sacred towers, reaching skyward –
Never truly fallen,
And always put back by the faithful;
Rest assured the same will happen with us
Even though actions and words may be driven by anger
There is always the chance to start over again.

Here is a screenshot of my kinetic text poem (but you will need to follow the link to get there):

And here is the code of the poem itself:
minaret code

What’s nice about Thimble is you can remix the code yourself, too. At the Thimble file, click “remix” and get started (you will need a Mozilla Webmaker account, I believe, but I highly recommend it for all the cool stuff Mozilla is putting together around web design and web composition).

Peace (in the falling words),

DigiLit Sunday: Tapestry

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

My friend, Margaret, hosts a Sunday DigiLit sharing at her blog. She asks us to write about digital writing techniques and tools, so today, I thought I would share out an app that I really like for its simplicity as much as the way a piece of writing can unfold.

It’s called Tapestry, and there is an App and a website. I find myself mostly using the website but I need to explore the App again (as it recently got an upgrade and I am curious). Tapestry works sort of like a series of slides, but you can format text to unfold when a person taps or clicks the screen. So, you hide words and phrases, and let the reader discover the text on their own.

You can add images, too, but I personally like the clean design elements and often keep images to a minimum. Check out Tapestry and let me know how it goes and what you think.

Here is an example that I shared the other day, as I collected haikus from teachers who write with me in the National Writing Project iAnthology space every week:

Peace (in the tap),

If I Were a Rock Thrower …

This a poem related to Mary Lee’s Wonders of the World poetry prompt. Today’s Wonder, I believe, is about the Porcelain Tower of Nanjing, which I had never really heard about.


If I threw rocks,
your tower would fall
into a million tiny pieces –
white shards of history
scattered in the dirt for us to collect
and inspect and reflect upon —
but I am too humble for that
so I wait here each day
for the second strike of lightning
and hold my breath
for the disaster of dismantling yet to come.

So,  I am not sure what my aim was with this one.

Peace (in the words),

Infographic: Online Activities of Kids

I’m working on a presentation to a group of mothers in the town where I teach about digital citizenship, and found this infographic by ebuyer that is handy, with useful information about technology use by kids.
digital generation infographic
Peace (in the sharing),.