How I Am Using #Writeout With Students (Week One)

Write Out Hyperdoc

This year, as part of the Write Out project, which is a partnership between the National Writing Project and the National Park Service, I am fully integrating the concept of connecting writing to place into my online learning platform for my students who are not in the school but are at home, doing independent work. I’m tapping into the concept of a HyperDoc as a way to provide instructions and a flow to activities.

So far, so good.

First, I created a series of park explorations in a HyperDoc that has them looking at maps, videos, images and text about all sorts of National Parks. Then, they are choosing a National Park, and creating a presentation about that park, which will get shared with the entire sixth grade. (feel free to get a copy for yourself) This HyperDoc is a remix of another that I found in the HyperDoc community, which I greatly appreciated. Thanks to @kellyihilton and @SARAHLANDIS!

Second, I invited Springfield Armory Park Ranger Scott Gausen to a Zoom meeting, and nearly 20 students showed up yesterday morning to hear him chat about the National Park Service, and his work both at the Springfield Armory National Historic Site but also the Oregon Caves park. It was great. Scott and I have worked together for a few years as part of a local partnership between the Western Massachusetts Writing Project and the Springfield Armory.

Third, each day, I am pulling the Write Out prompts by National Park Rangers into our Google Classroom space, and students are writing responses each day to the prompts, either as creative writing or as informational writing. Some of their writing has been amazing. (see all the park ranger prompts for week one here in a slideshow format)

Next week, we’re going to be doing a Write Out postcard project, but I’ll share that out another day. Oh, and the National Day on Writing is coming next week, too, on October 20. And I haven’t even started to use the many storytelling videos for Write Out, but I will.

Peace (in parks),
Kevin

WriteOut: SmallPoems Inspired by Roots and Trees

Tree Poem for WriteOut

Yesterday, for Write Out, the theme for the daily writing prompt was about understanding how trees communicate. Park Ranger Mackenzie from the Sequoia National Park introduced the daily prompt (see the Write Out page where all prompts will go live each of the two weeks of the event)

My students wrote about it in their Google Classroom spaces and during our free-writing time in class, I composed a few small poems about trees, roots, leaves and more.

Three Poems; Falling

First Branch

Percussive
drops drain
these trees —
Arbor leaves sing
like cymbals

Dripping Autumn rains
find rhythms all their own

Second Branch

Every leaf
might contain
a map –
each vein and vessel
an artery line
to somewhere close –
traversing root to trunk
to branch to stem –
pure electrical pulse:
invisible
communicated
connected

Third Branch

If canopy
was ground
and ground
was sky
I’d
T
U
M
B
L
E
from your branch
and wonder why

Peace (even if you can’t see it),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life/Audio Postcard: Week Five

DSC01722 (2) -01 DSC01722 (2) -01 flickr photo by suzyhazelwood shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

We’re now entering our fifth week of the school year, and I am still taking part in a research project documenting educators’ first six weeks of school through audio postcards. Here, I address how things are going, as we start our fifth week; what’s working so far; and maybe what’s not.

Here is:

Peace (finding our footing),
Kevin

WriteOut: Poems All Over the Map

Writing Marathon BINGO

Since early summer, I have been spending time, wandering as a poet through the handful of virtual Writing Marathons that sites in the National Writing Project had hosted. Each site had created interesting maps, with pins and links that led to historical moments or natural landmarks or buildings with fascinating stories.

I had only joined one single marathon in person, myself, when they were on Zoom (I participated in the Hudson Valley Writing Project event, which centered on the amazing Storm King Museum). But I knew I wanted to explore what the other sites had done, too.

So I took my time. I ambled. Wandered. I wrote over many weeks.

With the third year of Write Out now officially underway, I also decided to adapt a HyperDoc project into a Bingo activity for visiting the NWP Writing Marathons. You can access it here and wander about a bit yourself, and maybe find some inspiration to write. Write Out has resources and activities around creating and hosting Writing Marathons. Check it out.

Looking back on the poems I wrote, here are a few that I think are worth sharing. I chose one poem from each location that I think might have some resonance.


Inspired by New York

Oracle of Lacuna

only half
a house
buried in dirt
becomes
the bricks
a writer
might use
to build
a few words
into only
half a home
for a poem


Inspired by Mississippi

All around this small house
you’ll find cubbies and
alcoves, small nooks
for fingers and dreams,
large enough to hold
the historical legacy
of one, Miss McCarty,
the woman of the wash
who worked her days
planning for another’s
opportunities


Inspired by Arizona

Chiricahua

Rock fists
raised
in protest;
these stone gods
with faces
and bodies hidden
stand strong
against the winds
of every day
turmoil;
change arrives,
incremental


Inspired by Kentucky

Some still dig deep
into this earth,
the past condensed
into their skin
like pressed stones,
mottled with dust
and dirt
and stories
and home


Inspired by North Dakota

Standing still
in the exact
center of this
country, one senses
nearly simultaneously
how solid
and yet how fragile
it all is, these fault
lines cracking, and how
tired is this turtle
of foreverness,
its carapace
not quite designed
for something like this


Inspired by Minnesota

Home
is the place
of all sixteen words
spoken in Dakota,
every doorway
another entry
for the lost
becoming welcomed


Inspired by New Hampshire

Brick dust and bones
and kicked stones
and walls torn apart;
the end is where
this starts


Inspired by Louisiana

Remembering Ellis

The radio show played
the entire concert
of the father, Marsalis,
leading his sons, the family
riffing off each other in front
of an audience, with us
listening in, too, but it was
the son’s voice on the passing
of the father that hung so quiet
in the air, like a complex harmony
of shared jazz improvisation


And then, knowing my writing journey was over for now after visiting all of the places, I wrote this final poem, to celebrate the journey and the hope that what begins in one place continues in another.

All Ends Are Merely Beginnings

What at first
might seem like
merely pins on
the map become
stories of a place
when you dig deeper
in – wrapping fingers
into dirt, resting ear
against wood, scratching
words into stone; so sit
with it for awhile and
let the land tell you
its tale of where it’s been
and where we’re going

Peace (in poems and place),
Kevin

Song Exploder Now on Netflix

I’ve long loved listening to the Song Exploder Podcast, and now the program — which breaks apart songs, piece by piece, deconstructing how a song was written and produced — is on Netflix, too, and I’m enjoying that experience, too. An episode on REM was fascinating as was the one on Ty Dolla $ign (which my teenage son, a music producer, sat down to watch with me).

There are only four episodes right now on the Netflix channel, but the two that I watched were excellent, and the other two — about Lin Manuel Miranda and Alicia Keys look like they could be fascinating, too. Host  Hrishikesh Hirway does a great job of celebrating the music but also probing the creative spirits that helped forge a specific song.

Peace (sounding good),
Kevin

Audio Postcard: Week Four of School

DSC01722 (2) -01 DSC01722 (2) -01 flickr photo by suzyhazelwood shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC) license

It’s the fourth full week of school. As part of a research study on the first six weeks of educators returning to school, I have been recording weekly “audio postcards” for the project, and sharing out. This week, we were asked to explore how we have been reaching out to families, something that has been more important than ever, it seems to me.

Here is

Peace (talking it up),
Kevin

Picture Book Review: 16 Words (William Carlos Williams and ‘The Red Wheelbarrow’)

“Williams saw poetry in his patient’s lives.” — from Author’s Note, 16 Words, by Lisa Rogers and Chuck Groenink

Of course, I know the poem, the famous short verse about the red wheelbarrow, the rain and the white chickens. You probably do, too. What I didn’t know was who poet William Carlos Williams was — in fact, I didn’t know he was a doctor who scribbled poems on his way to patients or typed out verse in between appointments.

And I didn’t know the poem that made him most famous (along with his apology poem to his wife for eating her plumbs) was inspired by a neighbor, friend, and patient — Thaddeus Marshall — from whose window Williams saw the wheelbarrow, the rain, the chickens.

We learn all this in 16 Words: William Carlos Williams and “The Red Wheelbarrow” picture book by writer Lisa Rogers and illustrator Chuck Groenink. I appreciate books about writers, and picture books in particular have a way of bringing us a bit closer to the people in focus. This book is written in beautiful minimal language (as befits the topic) and the illustrations are lovely, too, bringing us into the small community where Williams is a family doctor as he writes his poetry.

You can of course enjoy his poetry, not knowing much about him. Even Williams said he didn’t strive so much for deeper meaning but to capture the lives and world around him. We teachers may be overanalyzing his poems, but there is no doubt to his skill of minimal beauty — of the glimpses into what he saw, through short verse and descriptive language.

This picture book would be a perfect read aloud for any poetry unit, and a reminder that poets can be any of us, and all of us, if we just take time and attention to noticing what is around us.

Peace (and poems),
Kevin

Slice of Life: It’s All So Dang Quiet

(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.)

The first thing I noticed as we began our first day back in the school building since March with students (half of them, anyway) was the quietness of the building. The hallways, shining from cleaning and new lighting; the cafeteria, set up for one student per table for lunches; our classrooms, with desks spaced apart; everywhere.

So quiet.

And the students, on their first day back to our school but not their first day of school, were subdued. Maybe it was the masks. Maybe it was learning the protocols of how to move through the building and how to clean desks and when we can go outside to get fresh air. Maybe it was all just very overwhelming. Just as important is the class sizes, of no more than 10 students per classroom at this point (the other half of the classes are home, doing independent learning and come to school on Thursday and Friday).

I asked people about the quiet, which was so noticeable in a building often filled with loud students and raucous energy. They all noticed but whether they liked it or not was rather mixed. Same with my students, as some said they like the quietness of the classrooms, and hope to get more schoolwork done. Others admitted they missed the noise of friends, even as they were happy to be back.

Outside, under a tent, for a mask break, the students could chat with each other, although a few pairs of friends had to be reminded about social distancing more times than once.

“How long will we have to do this?” one boy asked, exasperated, after being told to move a few more feet away from a friend he had not seen in person since March.

“For as long as we need to stay safe,” I replied, sympathetically.

Another student chimed in, “Until the virus is gone.”

A fourth noted, rather sadly, “And who knows when that will be.”

We all went quiet at that.

Peace (back in the building),
Kevin

Getting Back into the School Building

Missing Colleagues

This morning, my team of sixth grade teachers (along with fifth grade teachers), head back into our school building after two and a half weeks of remote instruction, from home. I am both excited by the prospect of being back in the physical school and a little anxious about all of the health protocols and expected uneasiness of our students.

We’ll get through it, together.

Peace (one day each day),
Kevin