Youth Radio at the MegaConference Jr.

I am both excited and disappointed that our Youth Radio podcast community is going to be part of the 2008 MegaConference Jr. event today. I am excited because it is another way to showcase the possibilities of the collaborative project that brings together the voices and writing of young people from around the world. I am sad because our school is on vacation this week and I can’t get my class to attend.

But, lucky for us, we have Gail Desler, who is helping teacher Jim Faires bring their California class into MegaConference Jr. and she tells me they are planning to podcast their 25 minute or so presentation and seminar on the Youth Radio adventure. Their event begins at 5:05 p.m. (easternUS time) and the link to their event is here. I hope to try to pop in from home, if I can.

Youth Radio began as a way for my students and I to use podcasting with other students. First, it began through friends in the National Writing Project network but it has now branched out considerably to others in various online networks. The podcasts come and go, periodically, and it is a struggle for many of us find the time in our curriculum to really integrate Youth Radio. That is a reality. Another reality is that there are many school districts who are blocking all Web 2.0 applications such as blogging and podcasting, or there is such fear in the community about online predators, that such a project as Youth Radio can’t be sustained. That makes me frustrated on behalf of my colleagues and worried that this is the direction that my school district may venture.

When I watch my students listen to the voices of others around the world, or when they read the comments of peers from other states and countries, I realize the power of these connections through voice and writing. It is very meaningful.

Here is an example of a podcast thread this year. My class invented new words as part of a study of the English Language and we posted a podcast of the words on Youth Radio. A class from Spain was intrigued, and created their own words. That led to a class in Australia to want to do the same. Now we have all these creative words and all these wonderful voices.

Take a listen:

Good luck today, Gail and Jim and our friends from Butler Elementary School in California. You make me proud!

Peace (in podcasts),

Day in a Simile/Survey


Day in Sentence IconThis week’s Day in a Sentence is actually Day in a Simile. (Once again, props go out to Larry for another great suggestion). Boil down a day or your week into a simile/sentence and share it out with our growing community of writers and teachers and others.

Just use the comment feature here on this post and submit your simile. Of course, podcast links and videos and any other format is always welcome.

One possible format is: My Day is like a __________ because _____________.

Also, I have been tinkering with Google Forms (which is a quick survey that you can create within Google Docs and Spreadsheets) and I was hoping I could get you all to take a very short survey. First, I am interesting in your thoughts about Day in a Sentence. Second, I want to see how Google Forms works and I promise to share out the information when it is done.

So, pleasepleaseplease, take a second and take the survey. Thanks!

Oh, and here is my sentence/simile.

My week has been like one of my saxophone solos, with many many harmonious parts followed by a few bad notes that just made me cringe.

Peace (in collaboration),

How to Stop-Motion Animate


This video from YouTube is exactly what I have been looking for as an introduction to my students about stop-motion animation. I love the world of viral videos!

[kml_flashembed movie="" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (in frame by frame by frame),



In 30 minutes this morning, my three kids barraged with me these questions (I actually wrote them down once I realized the question attack was on, although it was a coordinated venture, as far as I can tell):

  • Can you get me a bowl (me: cereal)? Can you get the milk? Is that a spoon? (7 yr old)
  • My pajamies has milk on it. Can you get it off? (3 yr old)
  • This spoon is too small. Can you get me a big spoon?( 3 yr old)
  • Can you read me a book? (10 yr old)
  • What’s that right there? (me: it’s a crock pot) I don’t like crockpots. (3 yr old)
  • What’s chili? (me: kind of like soup, but spicy) It’s not soup! I don’t like chili. (3 yr old)
  • Can we see Lord of the Rings? (me: no, too scary) You always say that! (10 yr old)
  • Can you help fix my shade? (me: your shade? what’s wrong with your shade. Who yanked it all the way up?) Me. (me: why?) Don’t know. (7 yr old)
  • I don’t have my other sock. Daddy, can you find it? (3 yr old) — sock found in bed.
  • Daddy, when you are done, can I go on NBA.Com? The Celtics play tonight. (7 yr old)

Me: It’s gonna be a long day.

Peace (from the answer man),

Networked Teacher

This is from a Flickr site:


Does it speak the truth?

Is it about connections or is it about overload?
Peace (in networks),

Entering the Twitterverse

The Way It Is

There’s a thread you follow. It goes among
things that change. But it doesn’t change.
People wonder about what you are pursuing.
You have to explain about the thread.
But it is hard for others to see.
While you hold it you can’t get lost.
Tragedies happen; people get hurt
or die; and you suffer and get old.
Nothing you do can stop time’s unfolding.
You don’t ever let go of the thread.

~ William Stafford ~


I don’t know why this poem seems appropriate but I ran into it in a book I am reading as a book group with the Western Massachusetts Writing Project (the book is From Outrageous to Inspired by David Hagstrom) and it got at something about my entry into Twitter.

A year ago, my friend, Bud, was explaining to a few of us in the National Writing Project about Twitter and I kind of didn’t get it. He talked about short posts, an emerging community and text messaging. He lost me at text messaging, as I don’t like cell phones, and so Twitter remained outside of my field of vision for a long, long time.


Then, I became an Edublog Supporter and suddenly, I had some possibilities to merge my Blog with Twitter, and I realized that I did not need a cell phone (was this obvious to everyone but me?) and I could Twitter from the web. And so, I did, and in the past week or so I have been fully engrossed in this concept of “What are you doing right now” in 140 characters or less. It is not IM, as far as I can tell, but some strange cousin with its own universe. And, of course, my friend, Bonnie, was asking if I was going to venture into Twitter. There was a convergence of momentum.

What I like about Twitter is that it gives me an opportunity to enter as a writer, but I am also becoming a reader. As you Twitter, you are also following others, and others are following you. I think. It seems as if there are many threads going on, depending on your network, and so you may suddenly see references to alternative conversations and it feels a bit disorientating. As if someone is whispering some news behind your back, inadvertently. I am wondering what is going on with the other folks in my network and if I am even part of their network. Is it all reciprocal?

I also use something called Twitbin, which an add-on for Firefox that allow you to open up Twitter right in the left side of the browser. It is quite handy. You can be working and watching as folks are letting you into their lives. Anything from baking cookies to preparing for a presentation to a scuffle in the classroom — it comes out on Twitter.

With Edublogs, I can now both add my blog posts to my Twitter and then collect all of my Twitter posts onto my blog — all automatically. It’s interesting and I am noticing my writing is a tangle of focus and freeform with Twitter. I really am trying to hold true to the question of “What are you doing right now.” It reminds me of our Day in a Sentence, too, as we reflect on our week and boil it down to its essentials. Twitter is kind of like that, but on the run and in the moment.

Along with searching out Twitter friends (dogtrax is my twitter name, if you want to add me to your list), I also came upon two interesting Twitter feeds. One, called TwitterLit, posts the first line of an adult novel and that’s it. Another, called KidderLit, is the children’s book version, and it has opening lines to kid books. I love that. It is so interesting and certainly, I am going to use them as writing prompts in the classroom. (Hmmm — might be a nice post for Ben’s TeachEng.Us blog — note to self).

Where does this Twitter lead? I am not sure, but I was intrigued to see my friends from the New York City Writing Project having their own collective Twitter page and I wonder if there are ways to move Twitter into professional development.

For now, though, it is another venue for writing. What am I doing right now? Writing about Twitter. How about you?

Peace (in short thoughts),



Day in a Haiku: February 17 2008

We added another twist to this week’s Day in a Sentence by transforming it into Day in a Haiku, which also forces a certain brevity of thought. I was pleased to read these poems as they filtered into my blog throughout the week (a flurry on Sunday) and even put out a call for haikus on Twitter, just to see what would happen (tepid response in the Twitterverse, though).

Here, then, are your poems for this week:

Larry, who suggested the idea of a Haiku for the feature, checked in as he was checking out and hopefully, returning unscathed by the experience:

Preparing to go
on San Francisco field trip
I hope to survive

Lisa, who came via Twitter (hi Lisa!), wrote what was on my mind as last Friday approached:

Final day of school
Vacation is here at last
Much needed respite

Liza’s poem had me singing a children’s song in my head.

Relax your brain and draw
Polly wolly doodle all the day
Art springs forth from idle hands

Valentine’s Day found a way into Ben D’s poem:

Writing utensils
scar paper and stitch up hearts
both at the same time.

Sara, Sara, Sara. My old friend, Sara, got into a bit of hot water lately with the bigwigs but I will bet her students still love her.

Say I’m “Unsatisfactory”
But just with them.

Ben. B needs sleep? Who needs sleep? I need sleep.

Three-day weekend? Great.
Sleep in this week. At least next
Weekend’s three days, too.

Bonnie was a reluctant poet this week. But that didn’t stop her from captured the winter in her words.

Icy roads stopped travel
But not Tuvia, no chance
Steps on the stairs, welcomed.

Karen was feeling the Haiku rush, and submitted two poems. The first is inspired (is that the right word?) by some classroom management issues that are vexing her.

Pushed to the limit
Students are out of control
Need to reign them in

(Karen writes: Stress is running high because our state tests are in less than a month)

Testing days are soon
Last minute preparations
I know they will ROCK!

Mary lives a few hours away and wrote what I was seeing out my window this week during a blast of rainy winter weather.

No morning sun just
Icy drops striking ice snow
Winter symphony

Karen, too, saw winter, but she saw it as an opportunity to relax a bit and enter into the quiet.

Winter, pre-dawn snow
School, on a two-hour delay
Work, peace and quiet.

Amy is another friend needing a snooze. Meanwhile, she has some work on her plate.

Report card writing
Fiction story editing
Can I take a nap?

Lynn submitted her poem, but also gave a detailed explanation. The poem comes first:

windy blacktop
laughing retreat
sound fails

And then, the explanation:

Our whole school (950 total) assembled outside for a rally for charity, Friday in the AM. Wind and cold (Cali-style) caused teachers and students to huddle like pigeons on a ledge. The sound system failed its contest with the wind so all marched back into class mostly laughing. It was the capper to a week in which I had a miserable head cold and two all-day district training sessions. But, in between I also experienced riches, including the return of my “writer,” a professional who comes once a week to write with me and 6 students after school. We kept going while he was out of town, but it was really great to have him back.

Mary, a friend from Western Massachusetts, reminded me of the buckets around my school this week, following the rain-ice storm.

sheets of rain on roof
drip through the ceiling below
pails in place of desks

Christine looked at the room around her for inspiration.

Modular Classroom:

Chills from tin windows
Warming the room from within
Students sneaking in

Jo has testing on the mind and so do the students. So writing, writing, writing.

We’re writing away.
SOLs are coming up.
Oh, to know the prompt.

Jo added: I’m in Virginia, and my eleventh-graders have to take the writing parts of their (end-of-course) Standards of Learning tests the first week of March. Oh, joy!

It’s a bit of a frantic mood in Cynthia’s World.

Research paper time
Seniors rushing to finish
Deadline’s drawing near!

Frank (new to Day in a Sentence) is down in Mexico but writes that he loves Haikus for their simplicity and as a genre that his students can enter into as writers.

The warmth of the sun
Touches me with tender love
Then the night falls fast

Thanks to everyone for their beautiful poems.

Peace (in poetry),

Just One More Book: My Review, part 2

I submitted another picture book podcast review to the Just One More Book blog/podcast site and it was published this morning. I love the site for its rich content and interest in the world of children’s books.

Anyway, I reviewed the book called Madlenka by Peter Sis. It’s an interesting book in which a little girl travels around her city block and sees the world. When you think of the concept of the Flat World in which everything is connected through human experience and connection, it seems that this book is a representation of that (although it clearly was not written to do that).

Here is by review of Madlenka by Peter Sis and be sure to visit Just One More Book often and get it into your RSS feed.

Peace (in picture books),


Mentoring from Afar

This morning, after reading Sue Waters’ Edublogger post, I followed a link to a classroom site in Australia. The teacher — Al Upton — is looking for virtual mentors for his classroom of young bloggers (called MiniLegends — love that name) and so, I signed up. I felt a bit strange about having to choose one of the kids from the selection of photos but sort of randomly chose one from the list. I decided on a boy named Sam. (Hi Sam, if you are reading this — you will probably now get a “ping” from my link to your site)

Photo of this year's class of miniLegends

The idea is that educators from around the world follow the student blogs, offer comments and suggestions, and encourage them as writers. I think this is a fantastic idea and I am interested to see how it all pans out for the Australian students, who know they are writing for a real audience out in the world.

I am also involved in a distant mentoring with a high school student (hi Bryan) from Kansas, who is working on a year-long project around claymation animation. He has been emailing me questions and giving me updates on his progress, and I have been trying to give feedback and answers as best as I can. It’s interesting and I hope he will share his final project with me.

This concept of mentoring from afar demonstrates another wrinkle of possibilities in the Web 2.0 World, where the ability to reach out and support others is as simple as a connection to the Internet. It is a pleasure to find a way to support both of these young men, Sam and Bryan, in any way I can, and I hope that if you are given the opportunity, you will take it.

And you can: just head over to Al’s blog and sign up as a mentor. I’d hate to see any kids on his list left out of the program.

Peace (in support and encouragement),


What to do with Parts of Speech

Glazed eyes often accompany my unit on Parts of Speech and I don’t think it is my teaching style (he says, confidentally). It’s that the concept of how words act within the structure of a sentence is so incredibly abstract for my sixth graders that they can’t connect it with their own base of knowledge. I’m not sure how learning about nouns, verbs, etc, helps them progress as writers. Yet, it is part of what I need to teach, so we do activities (such as using a Nerf Brain Ball as a devise for showing prepositions – I threw the brain ball across the room and hit Mr. Hodgson in the head, etc).

Our final project is to write a short piece about themselves and then use color-coding to identify a set number of Parts of Speech within their own writing. I hope this brings some ownership to them, but I am still not so sure. (They also can do a bonus of writing and performing their own Grammar Rock song, which are still underway).

Here is a student sample of a Parts of Speech project:

Nouns are blue
Verbs are red
Adjectives are yellow
Adverbs are green
Conjunctions are orange
Prepositions are pink
Pronouns are purple
Interjections are brown

Feel free to use my project handout, if it interests you.

Peace (in dissecting our language down to its bare bones),