Space, Edition 2

George Mayo and his students continue to promote a great idea: an online student journal that is essentially run by students. The first edition was released about a month ago and this weekend, the finishing touches were put on the second edition.

It is a pretty amazing collection of student work that reflects some inroads into writing in the digital age. There are movies, stories, essays, poems and animation — all with links back to student and class sites. Students submit work through the YouthTwitter Network.

I have a handful of students who submitted some pieces to Space again this time around, including a few hyperlinked poems. We used Powerpoint for our linked compositions, but other students from other schools used Hypertextopia as the platform for publications and sharing.

Here are pieces from my students:

What I like is the possibilities here. The digital canvas might allow for students to really explore different kinds of composition and writing, and then share it with a real audience of other students. You could never do this with a paper journal. Movies, audio, animation, etc, would all be flattened down.

The next edition of Space may be handed off to students elsewhere (more on that in the coming weeks) and a wiki may become the publishing platform. I like how the investigation of the right tool is still being explored. The first edition used Google Docs, then Google Page Creator, and now maybe Wikispaces.

Peace (in student work),


PS — Another amazing project by George and his students was a collective writing project called @manyvoices, in which more than 100 students from around the world contributed to a collaborative story using Twitter. I ordered a book version from Lulu publishing, and it was pretty amazing. You can also download a free PDF version from Lulu, too.


Live Video of The Sofa Kings

When I am not teaching and being a dad and husband, or writing, I am playing rock and roll.

Last night, my band — The Sofa Kings — played out for the first time with new lead singer and we created a video for our website to try to reflect where we are right now. The video is a bit dark and sound gets a bit distorted at times, due to the club setting and limitations of my video camera.

But it captures us nicely, I think. (That’s me on saxophone, keys, guitar and some singing)

All of the songs are originals and I wrote or co-wrote all of them for the band.

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Peace (in music),

Your Days in Poems


Such a pleasure to have such wonderful treasures to share. Your days as poems were just wonderful and inspiring, and I thank you so much for the gifts this week.

Without further ado, here are your poems and other assortments:

Karen, my NWP friend, found some good news in her pocket this week.

Good news came today
A family reunion
Is coming my way!

Cheryl was finally able to put away the longjohns as Spring finally came to Maine.

sunny days, warm temps
turning winter snow to spring corn snow
no mittens, but sunglasses
no longjohns, but pants
skis turning on little ball bearings
turning to mash potatoes

Elona used a nice rhythm in her poem and it reminds her (and me) of all the things that need a-fixin’ now that the snow has melted and the seasons have changed.

the mourning doves have built their nest in the light fixture on the porch
the daffodils are up and their buds are bursting with pride to bloom
The grass along the fence in the back yard is a beautiful green
the cycle of life has begun anew

Amy has been part of the group who have been writing and publishing poems all week over Two Writing Teachers and I am so glad to have her here. I am also happy to report that, unlike the last two weeks, Amy did not get caught in my spam filter. You made it through!

A week of poems
Recipes, couplets, senryus
Whirling in my mind

Amy adds: Thanks to all the kind comments and inspiration from everyone at Two Writing Teachers Blog! Thanks also to you for hosting Day in a Sentence. I appreciate the opportunities to inspire my writing.

One of those Two Writing Teachers, Stacey, joins us this week in Day in a Sentence. And although she has been writing beautiful poetry all week, she decided to make her first foray here as a sentence (which is perfectly fine) about her holiday preparations.

We spent hours searching for the napkins we’re positive we bought, but in the end, we had to land up buying new ones for our Passover Table.

Sara, an inspiring teacher but probably a good pain in the butt for most administrators (I say that with friendship, knowing her as I do), provides us this poetic and engaging entry into her world.

after my neophyte years of teaching,
you know, when i was five,
and my kindergarten classmates stared
at me with the panicky eyes of the poorly taught,
hissing, “sara, what do i do here?”
gesturing at the purple mimeograph copy
with L word pictures on it,

i’d point at the directions,
leadingly whisper,
“it has something to do with L words,”
and then bear the wrath
of mrs. kirby,
shrieking across the room from
her desk,
“sara, keep your eyes on your own work!”

since then, i’ve been a good teacher
and endured the stupidity of my
current educational authority
with less than subtlety,
i guess.
i intimidate,
i know.

so the best gift, manna for
the big-eyed teachers under my
shrieking principals
who are
their desks,
is the Principals’ Report Cards
i found in my mailbox today.

Due April 30th,
Comments Appreciated.

and anonymous.

i’ll tell you this –
very few L words will be used.

Ben B. (who will host Day in a Sentence next week) proves his mettle at couplets with this poem about his uncertain future:

I was first offered a job at Podunk-BFE
I then figured that it was the place for me.
Still, I’m unsure at which district I should get tied.
I interviewed well at White Kids’ Unified

Jane, a blogging colleague from Slice of Life and other adventures, has just about had it with her computer. You may recognize the love-hate relationship with tech that most of us go through in the lines of her poem.

The computer is
my friend and my enemy.
No hugs for this week.

Bonnie has been exploring hypertextual composition this week, exploring the unknown territory, and she shares this reflection and poem. I love the poem because it is about her guitar and it made me pull out my guitar for a few strums.

This was a great week for flexing my poetry writing muscle, thanks to the challenge set down by Stacey, at her Two Writing Teachers site. I wondered if I was up to the challenge and then hypertext found its way to my screen, a la Twitter and Paul Allison’s TTT. All the stars collided and with KH’s support I tried something new and exciting on the Hypertextopia site. Here’s a poetry slice from the larger piece. What fun!

In Guitarland

“My guitar sits next to me
Silent, patient, waiting

Guilty, I continue to keep
her close,
but untouched.

I am planted in my chair
using my calloused fingertips to click away

Why don’t I power down and
lift her from her dormant sadness?

We would both be happier
collaborating in music”

And here is a podcast of her piece(be patient — the first 8 seconds are silence)

Liza looks into the work of teachers with questions.

Seeing other teachers work
fills me with inspiration
But will it be worth being gone?

On a beautiful day like today, I send some of the sunshine and warmth to a friend, Illya, whose poem wonders where it has gone.

April weather
It rains
It snows
The sun shines and the wind blows
I long for warmth
where are you spring?

Jo had a haiku up her sleeve about a good teaching strategy.

A thirty-percent
increase in lit. terms quiz grades
says the flash cards work.

Jo then explains: My colleagues in the social studies department have been getting their students to make flash cards for information they need to know all year (and maybe before, but this is my first year working here), and I recently started doing the same with mine. All of those pesky literary terms the kids need to know in order to analyze the literature they read are usually not the most fun thing to learn. But with the flash cards, my students have been really getting into it!

They actually have fun making them and have fun using them to quiz each other. I haven’t even had to lecture about where-are-your-flash-cards. They have them! And, like my haiku says in a not-so-poetic way, the quiz grades have improved dramatically. And the reading-analysis discussions have been so much more lively! =)

I was most happy that some folks who expressed such reservations at poetry gave it a try anyway. I hope the freedom to create whatever you wanted got you writing in a new way. Anne M., for example, says she almost passed on contributing this week, but gave way to this four line gem.

Mine was a week online learning driven
With elluminate used for pd sharing
Parents to be interviewed and verbal reports given
Blogs shown to them for student sharing

I would like to leave you with one more thing. On Friday, my class worked on Haikus and we created a podcast for our class weblog (The Electronic Pencil) and so I wanted to share some of their voices with you. Some of the poems were very traditional and some were a bit silly (you’ll hear the pronounced giggle from one student at the very start as she wrote about some inside joke about sunglasses).

Here they are: Student Haiku Podcast

Peace (in rich collaboration),

Poem a Day, Saturday

A One Week Poetry Challenge
(An April challenge to write and post a poem a day for a week, as hosted by Two Writing Teachers)

I began this Week in Poetry Challenge with a hyperlinked poem and so I guess I should end it on the same note. I took a short poem cycle that I wrote for my students and went into the site called Hypertextopia to investigate its possibilities for hyperlinked composition.

The result is something I am calling Writing is a Voyage, which is a collection of poems about the act of writing and teaching writing to my students.

In the interest of sharing, I am including the full opening poem here, too.

Writing is a Voyage
(dedicated to my students)

Listen to the Poem as Podcast

I stand in front of the classroom
pen in hand
and think out loud in concrete thoughts
as my mind wanders
in couplets and rhyme
and dangles downward
in acrostic fashion.
Sometimes, I strap them into the seat
with the 5-7-5 seatbelts of a haiku
and other times, I present them with the rare diamond
of the cinquain.
They are richer than their dreams
although few may realize it
until years later
when I am an old man with a cane
and a mouth full of knowledge.
I know my students often think me full of nonsense
but I can’t help myself:
I am someone who writes
and I want them to compose their lives, too,
so I urge them on
and find new paths to explore,
new doors to open,
and then give them a gentle push
into unknown terrain of their mind.
The ideas will be their fortification
on this personal journey.
May they go with the grace of words.

Here is a screenshot of my poem in Hypertextopia (and you can click on the image to bring you to the actual poem, too)

Peace (in poetry),

Poem a Day, Friday

A One Week Poetry Challenge
(An April challenge to write and post a poem a day for a week, as hosted by Two Writing Teachers)

In the Middle

Our friend tells him he is the peanut butter and jelly
between the bread,
and that spot has always made him at odds with himself.
The older and the younger — simultaneous positions — and wondering
where he truly fits in.
He is the first to love, the first to shout,
the first to reach out to those in pain,
the first to stake out his ground,
the first in affection for affection’s sake,
the first to slam the door.
Yet something is happening to him even as we speak,
something transforming him from unsettled force in the world
into this steady and stalwart child.
Perhaps he is coming into his own and no longer needs
the bread on either side to hold him
together in place.

Listen to the poem as a podcast

Peace (in poetry),

Calling for Days in a Poem

Day in Sentence Icon

In honor of National Poetry Month, this week’s Day in a Sentence is hereby converted into Day in a Poem. You are invited to boil down your day or your week into a poem of any choosing, including freestyle (so, technically, a sentence might still work, particularly if you were creative with your formatting).

I invite anyone and everyone to participate, including my friends from the One Week Poetry Challenge over at Two Writing Teachers. I would love to see some of those folks join our Day in a Sentence community, too.

Please use the comment feature on this post to submit your words. I will collect and protect them all until Sunday, when I shall release them to the world.

I decided to write my poem as a Haiku, inspired by a complete lack of sleep last night due to cries from inside the house (bad dreams) and outside the house (a fischer cat attack, I think), plus our happy cat who purred most of the night (prob glad he was not outside when the attack took place). Meanwhile, this is an incredibly busy day — we have our Quidditch Championship all day today, the kids have baseball practice until nightfall, and then I agreed to go on Teachers Teaching Teachers webcast tonight to talk about hyperlinked composition and student publications.

A night of no sleep
does not bode well for a day
of Quidditch frenzy

Listen to the poem as podcast

Peace (in reflective poetry),

PS — In looking at Two Writing Teachers today, they define a form of poetry called a senryu as sort of like a Haiku, but about human nature. Perhaps I wrote a senryu today and not a Haiku, as it is not about nature.

PSS — Next week, Ben B. will take the helm of Day in … something.

Slice of Life, the weekly series, Chapter 3

(This is part of a weekly feature called Slice of Life Project)

My mind is adrift with poems and positions, and it is feeling a bit tangled up. The poetry aspect is good. I love daydreaming of the poems. And writing every day … that is great and inspiring.

The positions? Well, that has to do with the game of Quidditch that we play at our school and the Big Championship is tomorrow. All the sixth grade classes play before the entire school. It’s a madhouse affair, with loud screaming, action and school spirit on full display all day long.

The kids are amped up and I, as coach, am working on squads for three different matches that are fair and equal and give everyone a chance to play. It’s difficult, though, to make that happen and time is running out. My kids seem to understand that I do the best I can and they were sympathetic and impressed when I showed them the grid that I used to map out who is playing what position, when. The reality: I need to get the squads done today and I don’t have the time! (No, I know, I will make the time)

We play a scrimmage match this morning against another class and so I get another look at my class on the Quidditch court. I told them yesterday that I am incredibly proud of the attitudes they have had so far. Usually, we have to deal with snippets of trash talking from team to team. Not this year. Everything has remained real positive, and that is just such a relief.

I don’t care if we win or lose. I just want them to have a good time and I want everyone — from my natural athletes to the ones who would fade into the wall if I let them — to feel involved and part of the class.

Wish us luck!

Peace (in beaters, quaffles and snitches),

Poem a Day, Tuesday

A One Week Poetry Challenge
(An April challenge to write and post a poem a day for a week, as hosted by Two Writing Teachers)

Not Quite Ready

I’m not quite ready to let go
of all of this
but the release is inevitable.
I took him in my arms the other day
and hugged him,
kissed his head,
and he blushed — his friends were watching —
but I could tell it was still OK.
The path forward inches as fast as the growth upward
and still we see the shimmer of the baby in his eyes —
the first born —
although soon, we won’t be looking down — we’ll be looking up.
And I’m not quite ready to let go.

Listen to the poem as a podcast

Peace (in poetry),

Poem a Day, Monday

A One Week Poetry Challenge
(An April challenge to write and post a poem a day for a week, as hosted by Two Writing Teachers)

How To Build a Butterfly

I’ll show you, Daddy,
how to build a butterfly
from crayon colors and blue sky moments.
Look here as the wings take shape on gossamer dreams
against a green backdrop of the fresh spring grass.
It’s delicate, Daddy,
and only for your eyes, not your fingers.
My butterfly dances on the moon
when the moon is hiding,
so that only the two of them dance together
in tap-step harmony.
That is how you build a butterfly, Daddy.
What wondrous thing will you create, he says,
as I think, you.

Listen to the poem as podcast

Peace (in poetry),

Poem a Day, Sunday

A One Week Poetry Challenge
(An April challenge to write and post a poem a day for a week, as hosted by Two Writing Teachers)

Older Brothers

They stand
hands in pockets
themselves as younger boys
when baseball was fun
and not just another mark on the calendar
with the coach mad
at some missed catch
and the game on the line
and all that stress
that follows you right up to the pitcher’s mound
night after night after night
and you can see it in their crooked stance
how they are pretending to run the bases in their minds
with high-five celebrations all around
and nothing but time on their hands.
The older they are,
the more they think how great it would be
to be young again
while the younger ones
hold close to aspirations of beating their brothers
at baseball.

listen to the Poem as a Podcast

Peace (in poetry),

ps — and to keep things on the lighter side, how about this classic Abbott and Costello skit about baseball.

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