Marks on Wood: Filtered Effect Artwork

My students recently finished up working with a visiting artist — a woodcarver named Elton Braithwaite, who has been coming to our school now for 22 years — and their two pieces of collaborative carvings are very impressive. One has a tree theme. The other, a book theme.

The pieces have yet to be painted, so I took pictures of both carvings in their unpainted state, and began to play around with app filters (inspired by a friend of mine, Simon). One filter app I used (on the tree) is called Olli and the other (on the read) is Painteresque. The gif maker site is called Gif Maker.

I wanted to see the same image, fading in and out with filters. This approach worked better in another space, where Simon and I and others are sharing writing and art and more. The fade there was more natural. But here, I just used the online gif maker and layered the photos. The transitions are more abrupt, and a bit too quick (maybe I should have tinkered more with the settings on the gif creator).

It’s still kind of neat. The tree one works best, I think, for the app brings to the surface more of the textures of the carving piece. It’s a more natural piece of art. The read one is sort of distracting with the filters I used — at times giving it a sort of metallic sheen that goes counter to the concept of this being a carving on wood.

Peace (in the carving),
Kevin

Where Art, Writing and Inspiration Meet: Graphic Novelist Jarrett J. Krosoczka

A Visit by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

We had the pleasure of bringing graphic novelist Jarrett J. Krosoczka to our school yesterday. He gave presentations to four different grades about his work as a writer and artist, and shared his writing process and passions for making books. Krosoczka is the creator of the very popular Lunch Lady series, and his recent book is Hey, Kiddo.

His origin story of the Lunch Lady series was interesting. He told of going back to his old elementary school as an adult, and spending time with a lunch lady who used to serve him lunch, only to realize that she had a whole life outside of the school building (shocker). He wanted to write a picture book about the cafeteria staff, only to realize that one small strand of that book — a lunch lady as an undercover agent, whose mission is to protect the school and students — should be its own book, and that the comic format of a graphic novel was the way to tell that story. It took eight years from that spark of an idea to publication of the first book, he told the students.

Meanwhile, in preparation for his visit, students across our school have been working on projects, including graphic novel stories, in art class to recognize and celebrate our own lunch staff and other support staff workers in the building. During one of the sessions with Krosoczka, the staff from the cafeteria was brought in, and celebrated, with students performing a rap and short opera they wrote for them as appreciation.

My sixth grade students met him at the end of the day, after a long morning of state math testing, so it was a nice counterpoint to that to hear Krosoczka describe how he came to love reading, and then making, comics, and how it was his passion for art and writing — and lots of persistence in the face of rejection, particularly for his first picture book — that got him to where he is today, as the writer/illustrator on dozens of books.

It’s one thing to teach students the art of writing; It’s another to hear a writer tell of their experiences. Krosoczka wove the two strands together, and hopefully inspired young writers to write (and draw).

Peace (on the page),
Kevin

Classroom Comics and the Visiting Graphic Novelist

Scenes from Novels: In Comic Format

Thanks to funding support from our PTO, the school librarian, Pati M, and I (along with support by our art teacher, Leslie M) are bringing in the very talented Jarrett Krosoczka this coming Friday to share his work as a graphic novelist and maker of comics. Krosoczka’s most recent book — Hey, Kiddo! — is an amazing autobiographical examination of his childhood, with loss and love and art as the underpinning of his story.

Jarrett Krosoczka Display at the Eric Carle Museum

Jarrett Krosoczka Display at the Eric Carle Museum

I regularly use comics in my writing classroom (and did more when we had access to Bitstrips for webcomics but still use Make Beliefs Comix now and then) but I’ve been stepping it up a bit knowing that Krosoczka is coming to our school. And our art teacher has been focused on comics in art class, too, as our sixth graders work on graphic stories that are inspired by Krosoczka’s popular Lunch Lady series. Our students are celebrating non-teaching staff in our building by making them into superheroes, in comic format.

Meanwhile, I’ve had my sixth graders turning important scenes from the novels we are reading — Flush and The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg — into comic strip format, and it has been wonderful to see the creativity flourish this way. We also did Onomatopoeia sound effect comics a few weeks back.

Comic Sound Collage

More about Krosoczka via his TED talks:

and

Peace (in frames),
Kevin

Earth Day Celebration: Making Blackout Poems to Surface Ideas

EarthDay BlackOut Poem Blend

We came back yesterday from our week-long April break to Earth Day, and to a double environmental issue of Time for Kids magazine, and in the midst of our poetry unit. It seemed like a good time to bring in Blackout Poetry, for what sixth grader can resist the power of the Sharpie?

After reading some of the pieces in the Earth Day special edition of TFK, I explained the nature of Blackout Poems  — remove text to reveal text, as a found poem inside the redactions. After finding words and phrases, I had them move to their writing notebooks to compose a short poem (at this point, they could re-order words and phrases and add words, if needed).

The picture above is my sample, from an article about re-using bridges and machinery to create coral reef ecosystems. Some students did get a chance to share their poems, and they were wonderful in their eccentricity, as free-style poems with an environmental theme. Perfect writing for Earth Day!

Peace (to this planet),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: The Fortnite Effect

(Slice of Life is a month-long writing challenge to write every day in March, with a focus on the small moments. It is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. This year, I’m going to pop in and out, but not write daily slices, as I did for the past ten years of Slice of Life. You write, too.)

One family told the story of their child, our student, breaking their bedroom television and then suggesting to the parents that they not replace it. Another said they had curtailed time spent on it after listening in to conversations. Another said they were going home right after our meeting, to delete the program. Another admitted they did not know much about what their child was doing in it but they witnessed a change in personality that worried them.

The video game of Fortnite unexpectedly became a theme of conversations across meetings with families last night for our spring conferences, each time brought up by the parents and not by us teachers. Clearly, for many families, the Fortnite phenomenon is causing concern over the emotional health of their children and the impact on school.

I am usually one of those who argues that there are some virtues in many gaming platforms, and I have constructed an entire teaching unit around video game design as a way to help my students see gaming as a possible way to compose in a media storytelling mode, to shift them from player to builder.

Of course, I’ve watched as Fortnite became the “go to” game for many, girls and boys, over the last year or so. I even wrote a few times about the noticing the emergence of Fortnite.

There are some positives to Fortnite worth knowing. It is a communal experience, where players often work in teams to help each other survive. The violence of the dying, while baked into the game, is not often explicit, unlike some games where the blood and gore of killing and dying can be alarming. There are easy entry points into the game, and it is cross-platform.

But … it has become clear that the social aspect of the game — particularly the chat function of social interaction — can also be its worst feature, as gamers use the physical distance from each other, and the possibility of unaccountability for language and words, to create a negative element to an addictive environment (Fortnite developers are brilliant in leveraging the many psychological ways to keep players, playing, for hours.). All the things one may worry about — bullying, peer pressure, profanity, etc. — now seem to play out in the Fortnite battlefields, and sometimes spill over into the school day.

In a few cases, teachers and parents could delineate either a decline in work quality (child started using Fortnite) or an increase in quality and happiness (child stopped using Fortnite) so clearly that it was rather startling, to be honest. It’s a small sample pool, to be honest, but still … something to mull over.

I’ve noticed the trend of playful remarks about Fortnite shifting this year into more negative, cutting remarks about playing ability and skins and more. It may just be this particular cohort of students — and there are one or two students who clearly are the leaders, admired by others for their Fortnite prowess yet more negative than positive to others, using their social cache in the game platform in all the wrong ways. When a handful of parents all bring the game up in a school conference, it suddenly feels as if we as teachers should find a way to address it.

I intend to gather more resources about screen use and game effect on growing minds and on Fortnite, in particular, in hopes of making a resource for parents who may be struggling with this issue and need a way to have a conversation at home. And I will be thinking of how I might use our upcoming Argumentative Writing unit to tackle Fortnite.

If you have ideas or know of resources, please leave them in the comment bin. Thank you.

Peace (turn off to turn on),
Kevin

 

 

Slice of Life: The Head in the Door

(Slice of Life is a month-long writing challenge to write every day in March, with a focus on the small moments. It is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. This year, I’m going to pop in and out, but not write daily slices, as I did for the past ten years of Slice of Life. You write, too.)

He stuck his head in the door. A colleague from another grade. We don’t see each other all that often because his classroom is in another wing of the building, up a set of stairs.

“I wanted to tell you,” he said, “that for a paper for my class (for administrator licensing), we had to write about digital learning in our building where we teach. I focused on the EPencil.”

The Electronic Pencil is our sixth grade home base for digital literacy learning and sharing.

“You’re doing some great things with the kids,” he said, “and I wish more of us were, too. Sometimes, we do things that we think no one ever sees. We still do them, anyway. I appreciate what you are doing with our students. Thank you. Great work.”

And then he was gone, but I sat there for a few minutes at my desk, pausing in my pile of papers that were helping me with the approaching report card deadline, and glowed a bit in appreciation for his gesture as one colleague to another.

The noticing is a powerful thing. It only took a few seconds but those few seconds set the tone for the rest of my day. I need to remember to do more of that, too.

Peace (sharing it),
Kevin

BookSnaps: Getting Close to the Text

BookSnaps Collage 2019Last year, I tried out this close-reading technology activity called BookSnaps — an idea shared by Tara Martin — in which students use an image “snapped” from their independent reading books as a way to reflect on what they are reading. They layer “stickers” on the image that connect to the story and use text “call-outs” to put their own ideas/reflections in there.

The other day, I had my sixth graders work on BookSnaps (we use Google Draw, through Google Classroom) and my readers were quite engaged in the activity, identifying snippets of text and asking questions, making predictions, discussing characters. There were a lot of helping hands, as most needed help holding the books while snapping the picture.

While the BookSnaps themselves don’t allow for deep literary analysis, they do provide an visual and engaging means to discuss the books they are reading, and just as important, they spark interest in other readers, as a sort of BookSnap/BookShare concept.

This was the one I did as a sample for them to see — I was reading The Stars Beneath Their Feet.

Mr H BookSnap SampleHere is a video collection of the BookSnaps that were finished by students during our class period:

Peace (snap it into place),
Kevin

PS — Tara Martin did a talk on this concept, which is when I first heard about it and wanted to try it out

How Rube Goldberg Design Spilled into Video Game Design

Don't Move: Game

Many times, my students surprise me. Take for example, this student, who decided to take the concept of informational design/expository writing with our work around Rube Goldberg Contraptions and make a video game project version in Gamestar Mechanic. He spent a long time in design mode, making sure that once a player hits “play,” all they have to do is watch the game unfold on its own.

As someone who has designed games in Gamestar Mechanic, I can tell you: this is very intricate and required lots of planning and troubleshooting, but it is pretty cool to play/watch as things unfold automatically.

Play Don’t Move

Peace (this leads to that),
Kevin

Mentor Interactive Fiction Text: The Place of Lost Bones

Interactive Fiction Cave Map

As I wrote the other day, my students are in the midst of creating Interactive Fiction stories. Many are done while some are finishing up. It’s almost always the case that as they are doing a new project, I am doing the assignment with them. Here, I built out a story for them to play, and for me to use as a way to talk about Interactive Story construction in Google Slides.

The map above is part of a map-making activity in which students take a break from building the stories and take a fresh look at the setting by making a map of the terrain. This was my map for my story down below.

Plus, it was fun to write. The best way to play/read these is to go full-screen mode.

Peace (choose the way),
Kevin

Slice of Life: On the Stage and Into the Woods

Into the Woods at HRHS

(Slice of Life is a month-long writing challenge to write every day in March, with a focus on the small moments. It is hosted by Two Writing Teachers. This year, I’m going to pop in and out, but not write daily slices, as I did for the past ten years of Slice of Life. You write, too.)

One of the joys of being an elementary teacher is when, years later, you see your former students. You catch glimpses of the child that had once been in your classroom.

Yesterday, we took our current class of sixth graders to see a preview of a staged production of Into the Woods at the regional high school. I made it a game from my seat of recognizing those on the stage. The years gone past for many of them — in some cases, nearly six whole years — made this a rather tricky endeavor.

Still, I could hear echoes in voices and I could see past days in faces. I was also wonderfully mesmerized by the talent on display for this production — which is a complicated retelling of Grimms’ Fairy Tales, with weaving story and music lines.

The best part was after the preview, when the cast sat on the stage, answering questions from the audience of elementary students. They were so poised, funny, enthusiastic and … themselves, just as I remembered them (at least, those who had once been my students). They made me proud.

Peace (from the seats),
Kevin