Daddy?

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),
Kevin

Networked Teacher

This is from a Flickr site:

(http://www.flickr.com/photos/courosa/344832591/)

Does it speak the truth?

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

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),
Kevin

 

 

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.

Administrators
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),
Kevin

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),

Kevin

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),

Kevin

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),
Kevin

Quickfiction: chapter 4

I was able to write and podcast two more pieces for my ongoing Quickfiction Project during a Pink Eye Sick Day on Tuesday. One story is inspired by a student from years past and the other, by my own experience as a teenager.

Bridge
Listen to story
You wish you had been honest. Instead, there they wait. On the other side of the river, urging you on. Between you and them is this log, a slippery bridge over a raging gorge that barrels down from the mountains to the town below. If you had been honest, and owned up to your fears of heights and crossing these logs, you would not have all five of them staring at you, cursing at you to get moving before the sun goes down. If you had been honest, you would not be frozen here. Immobile. Honesty was never your strong suit, anyway. You think of this as you inch your left foot forward. There is green moss on this tree and the bark is crumbling. This tree has been here for a long time. It has witnessed much in this world and it cares not one whit about your fear. It is only there. Last night’s rains make the bridge even more treacherous. The path seems slick. They’re talking to themselves. One shakes a head and begins moving on. The others look back at you, wave their hands and then, in disgust, follow the path into the darkening woods. You remain, now alone, on the other side of the gap, wondering how this will end. Will you retreat? Or move forward? Your right foot crosses your left. You are leaving the solid world behind but the fear races through you. You can’t do this. You can do this. Voices compete in your head in a battle against the sound of the rushing water. Don’t look down. Whatever you do, don’t look down. They are now long gone. The woods are silent. It’s your decision — move on or go back. Forward or retreat. At long last, your inability to be true to yourself is at hand and you realize that you are not ready. No one ever is.

Test
Listen to story

She had no doubt that she knew the answer to every single question on the sheet in front of her. It had always been this way. The trick had been how to hide it so that others would not know. She glanced down, her eyes following the questions and the answers dancing in front of her mind. 24. A equals 56. Square root. Isosceles Triangle. It would be so simple just to fill in the ovals with the answers and just be done with this nonsense. Yet, she didn’t. She couldn’t. She remembered third grade, when she never even opened the test and instead, she had illustrated a picture of her kitten by using the bubbles as dots that could be connected. It was a very beautiful rendition of Scuttle but the results landed her in the Resource Room for the entire fourth grade. She learned to tune them out. Her teachers. The other students. Her parents. Why? they would ask.Why are you here? they would wonder. Tuning them out made everything so much easier. She was feeling worn out by the game, though, and the question of why had begun to creep into her dreams at night. Why, indeed. And why not? The answer sheet crinkled in her hands. The pencil felt cold. Her mind raced on, finding solutions as if it were not part of her entity at all. As if she were separate from her mind. One-million-twenty-five. Radius of a circle. Flip the diagram and slide it right. Parallel lines. She laughed at the thought of what they would all think if she did this test the way they wanted. If she followed the rules. They would be stunned. No doubt, they would imagine that it was somehow a mistake. Some error of the computer system. They would not suspect a thing. She thought of her cat, all curled up at home in the warmth of her bed, and she started to write.

Peace (in stories),
Kevin

PS — I just posted a piece on data collection over at Ben’s blog collective (he is still looking for writers — how about you?) called Teacheng.Us.

Day in a Haiku (!)

This week’s Day in a Sentence comes from Larry, who has been asking for a little taste of poetry with our words. He suggested that we use a Haiku to write our sentence this week. Let me forewarn you: I won’t be counting syllables, but a typical Haiku is 5-7-5.

Day in Sentence Icon

Here is my Day in a Haiku:

I am not a twit
But I’m taken with Twitter
warm words in winter

Just a reminder:

  • Boil down your day or week into a haiku
  • Use the comment link on this post to add your writing to the mix
  • I will collect and publish them all on Sunday
  • You can always podcast, too. Feel free to email me an audio file through dogtrax(at)gmail(dot)com or provide me with a link. Your voice is important!

Peace (in poetry),
Kevin

A Second Place Poem

I found out last week that a poem I wrote during my OnPoEvMo project last year (one poem every month) garnered second place in a writing contest hosted by our Western Massachusetts Writing Project. The poem is about race and prejudice, and trying to investigate why our skin makes us feel so different from others.

Here is the poem and here is the podcast:

Like Birds in Flight

I can’t crawl inside your skin
I’m claustrophobic with the fingers of history wrapped around my neck
and, besides, your black doesn’t fit with my white.
We clash.

Or so I have been told, not in so many words, of course, but in so many looks.
Which leaves us both here with this sense of intense misunderstanding

and missed opportunities that come from rage at the ways of this world.
No one ever told me that you were always the same as me,
with the same dreams,
the same heart,
and you, with your ancestors on an timeline that intersects with mine only in pain and infinite sadness,
you look so different from me — on the outside.
Your black doesn’t fit with my white.

I often wonder how it would be if we had a covering of feathers instead of skin
and you were to become haloed in a rainbow
with hues casting deep shadows that I could just swallow up like worms on a summer day after the storms have cleared away,
filling me whole with experience and reality,
and then maybe — maybe — I could finally feel your light, your strength, your sense of being you.

Just you and nothing more.

Your black would fit with my white.
We would no longer feel tethered by this solid Earth
and instead, as one, we would rise to the clouds on the upward draft of hope
and avoid the fears that keeps us rooted so firmly in our own minds.
I look at you.
I don’t see you.
Instead, I only see skin.

Peace (in understanding),
Kevin