We’re In This Room Together

At our recent Western Massachusetts Writing Project conference, the keynote speaker was educator Kelly Norris, whose new book — Too White — explores her identity and her story through the lens of race, bias, empathy and social justice.

Here, she reads some of her recently published book:

Interestingly, during the Q&A period, Kelly responded to a question about addressing difficult issues like these while working in a relatively insular school community, and Kelly mentioned how difficult a role that can be. Particularly, she noted, when she always seems like “that person in the room” who raises questions and challenges assumptions and bias.

Then, while watching the video archive of a Studio Visit for the Equity Unbound course, I heard the same phrase by some of the guests, noting that they often feel like “that person in the room” and put on the spot.

Which led to a comic. We’re in the room together.

Spark change

Peace (and understanding),
Kevin

Graphic Novel Review: Hey, Kiddo

Compassion is a word that comes to mind after readingJarrett Krosoczka’s new graphic memoir entitled Hey, Kiddo. I’m not speaking of the compassion of the reader to his story — although one gets to know of his struggles and his family’s love for him despite the situation, and certain compassion is activated — but of Krosoczka’s compassion for his own younger self.

There’s a real spirit of fighting against the odds in this story, and of finding the people who will be there to support you along the way. If you are lucky. For surely, just as Krosoczka’s story shows how far he came with a mother with a heroin addiction and a father who did not reach out to him until his late teen years, there are so many kids — they’re in our classrooms if we look close enough — who are struggling without the support Krosoczka was able to get from his grandparents and extended family.

If you don’t know of Krosoczka, he is a talented storyteller and graphic artist, known mostly among my students for his Lunch Lady series. But he has also done other stories that reach an elementary audience. Hey Kiddo is very different in style and substance and depth (not to take away from Lunch Lady) — even my 14-year-old son, picking up my copy of the book, which I told him he really should read, asked: “He wrote the Lunch Lady? This seems … very different.”

What emerges from Hey Kiddo is the power of story, and the way he was able to use art and comics to find his way forward through his childhood struggles. It also points to the power of adults encouraging those talents. His grandparents — rough and endearing — were his vital support network, providing opportunities for his art (one birthday, he got a drafting table from them; another time, they surprised him with lessons at an art gallery that proved to be a critical juncture forward.)

I also appreciated the end notes, where Krosoczka writes about the writing of this story. How difficult it was to tell. How important it was to tell. And when he talks about his choices for the book’s artistic style – the reasons behind color hues, or the meaning of background images, or the rationale for frames spilling into each other — it is nearly a master lesson on making comics.

This book is more geared for middle and high school and adult readers, just in case you are in a school setting thinking of adding this to your library because of Krosoczka’s name and his previous work. While advanced elementary readers might be interested in his story, know that the references to drug abuse and other traumatic events are central to Krosoczka’s story. That said, there’s nothing here that does not reflect the larger world and nothing so graphic that even an elementary student would be alarmed by. Still, I ‘d suggest you read it first before bringing it into your classroom.

And of course, you should read Hey, Kiddo anyway. It’s that good.

Peace (between pages),
Kevin

PS — NPR Fresh Air has a nice piece, too.

Slice of Life: RoomGameSounds Bonus Track

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

During a freewheeling exploration of possible song ideas for a recent musical project — A Whale’s Lantern: Field Trip — I put forth a suggestion that my partner and I work with some past audio sounds of a classroom of students working to hack the game of chess.

The theme of the collaborative music project was ‘school.’ I tinkered with something to show what I was thinking — with bass and synth and some effects on the student voices to expand the atmosphere — but we decided to go in another direction instead, cranking out a three minute rocker called Outcast Kid.

Still, I liked how the use of student voices informed a piece of music. Or might have, if we had developed it further. Take a listen:

I still like how the sounds of the kids becomes the atmospheric element of this groove. You can just hear my voice, asking questions of groups of students, and then explaining the games they were making with a modified chess board and assorted other things, like dice.

Peace (sounds strange),
Kevin

Making Music with the World: A Whale’s Lantern 3 (Field Trip)

Whale's Lantern 3

For the past year or so, I have been involved in three rounds of a music project called A Whale’s Lantern. Folks in the Mastodon networking space are randomly paired with other volunteers, and then they have an extended period of time to write and record a song on a theme. The most recent theme was along the lines of school.

The third iteration — entitled Field Trip — just dropped yesterday on Bandcamp, and my contribution was a garage-rocker called Outcast Kid. My partner was a keyboardist/artist (whose artwork is the cover of the album) and our song’s lyrics are about finding a mentor in a mixed up world and feeling less on the fringe because of your interests as a result. I’m on guitar and bass and vocals.

Take a listen:

If you are interested, here are links to all three rounds. Each time, my contribution and partner and resulting song has been very different from the other, and that variety is intriguing.

 

 

Round Three — Song (partner: keyboardist): Outcast Kid https://awhaleslantern.bandcamp.com/track/outcast-kid   Album: https://awhaleslantern.bandcamp.com/album/field-trip
Peace (sounds good),
Kevin

WMWP: Conversations from the Digital Margins

This is the digital annotation workshop for WMWP’s Best Practices. While this is here for participants in the workshop itself, anyone else who might be visiting (hello to you) is free to explore and join us, too. Although, the first part — where we write on paper — might prove trickier for you than for us.

Links/Resource List:

Peace (in the piece),
Kevin

Getting Ready for Annotation Workshop

Big Article for Annotation Workshop

Tomorrow, I am leading a workshop at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project about digital annotation (and a second one about Write Out and place-based learning). My frame is to have them first work with the text on their own, with pen and notes in the margins of their copies of paper; and then together as a workshop group, marking up the text with sticky notes; and then online with the world, using Hypothesis to make connections with the text and others.

I took the Christensen article we will be using — a powerful piece about critical literacy and paying attention to students by Linda Christensen — and blew it up into poster-sized pages. For the second phase of the workshop — annotating as a small group — we will use these over-sized pages and sticky notes. The article was part of a Writing Our Civic Futures activity last year.

You will be able to see the slideshow for the workshop here tomorrow, since I am going to embed it for participants to use for links and such.

Peace (writing on the walls),
Kevin

 

What Does Project-Based Learning Mean to You?

What Comes to Mind with PBL?

I’m working with some teachers in my school district, exploring Project-Based Learning. In a gathering, we used Answer Garden to gather a bit about what comes to mind when we think of PBL (which is rather new for all of us). How about you? What comes to mind when you think of Project-Based Learning? I’ll share these responses with my colleagues.

Use the embed (just add your response) or go to the site.

Peace (and appreciation),
Kevin

Exploring the Project-Based Learning Experience

I faciliated the first of a few PLC sessions with colleagues across my school district yesterday afternoon during a full PD day, with our focus on the theme of Project-Based Learning. I’ve been reading A.J. Juliana’s useful book on PBL (The PBL Playbook) , which we are getting copies of for everyone in my small group.

I pulled out a small PBL simulation project idea from his pages for today’s workshop as a way to walk us through the possibilities of PBL. The idea is to use the Global Goals for Sustainable Development resource site to choose a topic, explore that topic, discover information and action, and share out.

I was hoping the teachers might enjoy the simulation process, and would view it as a learning experience as both student and teacher.  They did enjoy it, expressing appreciation for the small-scale (about 45 minutes) version of something that loosely follows the overall flow of a PBL venture. They worked in small teams on this.

We used Google Slides for our work, since it is part our PLC networked space. (AJ suggests making a Public Service video on mobile devices, too. I like that, but didn’t want to overwhelm my colleagues. And they liked having some experience in Slides and Classroom)

I did a sample presentation on the Hunger Zero concept (above), so that I could experience what my colleagues will experience (who are thinking of what their students might experience in a PBL classroom), and to work through any problems.

Peace (an ongoing project),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Thanking the Colleague Who Taught Them Before You

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I try, as often as I can, to acknowledge the efforts that my fifth grade colleague in the grade below me does with my current students, as I often see evidence of her handiwork when they become sixth graders. I’d like to think our schools would be a better place if we did this kind of acknowledgement more often. None of us teach in a vacuum. None of our students learn in a vacuum, either. We all build upon what has happened before.

The other day, I sent my colleague (C.S.) this note (B. is our special education colleague):

Dear C. (colleague),
I am starting to look over some of the first literature-based open responses with evidence from text and they are a solid batch (with a few outliers). I am noticing a pretty strong understanding of the format, with students working to find and cite evidence, and the use of the T Chart organizer. As much as I say “we are building on what Mrs. S did with you,” they are just as likely to say “this is like what Mrs. S taught us last year.”
🙂
I am grateful for the work you do, C., as it sets the stage for sixth grade (as I hope the work I do will set the stage for seventh grade). Our earlier collaborations and discussions around open response writing (with B. as a bridge between us) is definitely making a difference.
Anyway, I wanted to let you know. Thank you.
Sincerely,
Kevin

Peace (acknowledged and appreciated),
Kevin