Stopmotion Name Movies

We dug right into technology in our first days of school as I had students use Pivot Stickfigure to create short stopmotion animation movies using the letters of their first name. You should have seen the engagement and concentration, and heard the laughter. And you should have seen students reaching over to show another a trick they discovered or share their movies in progress with each other.

It seemed like a real “bonding over technology” period of time and I can already gauge who is comfortable with working on the computer, who is not, and who can meet deadlines and who will have trouble with deadlines. That was part of my learning experience.

I also began showing the movies to the other sixth grade classes (this particular project was just with my homeroom class to start the year) as  way to signal that we will be getting creative this year. And my class got raves and applause from the others. Nice.

Peace (in the motion),


Wordling our Way into the New School Year

In the ongoing efforts to get to know my 77 students, I decided to tap into Wordle to show some brainstorming we were doing around the things they are excited about and the things they worry about now that they are in sixth grade. This was a simple activity. I gave them a notecard, they drew a line down the center and on one side, they wrote what worries them and on the other, what excites them.

I then took their notes and put them into Wordle, using the Wordle Advanced option so that I could weigh responses, as there were many that were multiple student lists.

Just so you know, Quidditch is a game that we play at our school with sixth graders that culminates in a huge tournament in the Spring. (See our video about our game of Quidditch.)

Here are the things that excite them (I like that writing class was on many lists):

Here are the things that worry them:

Peace (in the new year),

Making My Writing Curriculum Visible

I’ve been working for a few weeks on a website that shows the progression of my writing, reading and technology curriculum for my sixth graders. In the past, I used a basic Curriculum Map that I shared with parents at our Curriculum Night and left a link on our blog page, but I was never really happy with it. With a website (which I created using Yola — fantastically easy to use, by the way), I think I can better show student work and make the projects and skills being taught a bit more visible.

What I still intend to do is to link in the standards of our new report card (we’ve moved into a standards based reporting system this year) so that projects and activities are better aligned with the progress reports. But I think our administration is still tinkering with the progress report document, so I will wait on that.

And sometime, I will go through and connect with the Massachusetts Curriculum Frameworks, too, so that I can show alignment to what I am teaching.

One thing I did find is that creating this kind of document really forced me to rethink the rationale of what I am doing and placed me in a very reflective mode. That’s always a good thing.

Take a look at my site. I would love to get some feedback on the project.

Peace (in the year),

Day One Activity: Make a Movie of Your Name

Each year, I try to find some new and interesting activity for my incoming students (they arrive on Wed, although a few have begun blogging at our classroom blog already .. cool). This breaks the ice, gets them engaged in an activity and allows me time to wander and have conversations with them.

This year, I decided I will show them Pivot Stickfigure and have them create a short stopmotion movie using the letters of their first name. Pivot (a free download, by the way) is always a huge hit with students, and I am curious to see how tech-savvy they are in the first few days. With pivot, you can export the final movie as an animated GIF. Or use it in Moviemaker (I won’t go that far with them yet, however).

Here is a sample that I created to show them:

Peace (in frames),


I know the school year is close when …

… I am waking up in the middle of the night, thinking about the letter I want to send to all of my new students, welcoming them to sixth grade. And, also, I know we are getting close when I start cleaning out and cleaning up our classroom weblog (should I do a new theme every year? a pondering question) and create a new post for students to write about their summer experiences before they even set foot in the school.

My mind is getting ready. I can feel it.

School starts next week.

Peace (in the coming days),


Distilling a Belief about Writing

A personal goal this summer is to create a friendly website for parents and families and students to provide an overview and an insight into my writing/reading/technology classroom. I have had handouts and I even have an html document that I link off our classroom blog. But it was so darn ugly and just text that I could barely look at it.

So, I am in the process of creating a website that will provide links to handouts and showcase student examples from the past. It’s pretty cool. I’ll write more about how I am doing it at another time and my thoughts on trying to keep a design in mind as I do it.

On the homepage, I want to provide a philosophical rationale for writing and what I believe. I am trying to distill it away from jargon. Here is my first draft and any comments on editing, deleting or adding to it is most appreciated.

Mr. Hodgson believes:

  • Writing is an important and critical way for students to learn by processing their ideas into coherent form;
  • Writing should be done across various curriculum areas and not taught in isolation;
  • Students should write for various audiences, including just for themselves, just for the classroom and sometimes, for the world;
  • Technology can be a useful tool for composing various forms of writing and media;
  • Writing should be authentic and have meaning for students so that they can make connections between school and the world outside of school;
  • Group projects not only draw on the strengths of all students but also allow students to learn to work cooperatively;
  • Art elements and the concept of design play a role in the way that young people compose writing and other media;
  • Reading quality books  and storiesof various genres provide an insight into the writing process and allow students to reflect, connect and utilize critical thinking skills;
  • All students can succeed and improve as writers if they are willing to put in the time, creativity and effort.

Peace (in the sharing),


Some odds and ends: How Students Think We Can Use Comics

I have a few posts here and there that I never got around to publishing before the school year ends and this is one of them. While we were using our closed ToonDoo comic space for Comic Strip Poetry, I asked my students in a survey for some suggestions on how I could integrate the use of comics into various projects throughout the year. I enjoyed reading their suggestions.

On a side note, I also came across this great resource for comics in the classroom (I think it was put together by my friend, Glen) with ComicLife software. Whether you use ComicLife or not, this site has a ton of ideas and possibilities, and includes some great links. Take a look.

And now, my students’ ideas:

  • Use it to design Quidditch logo (use shadows and shapes)
  • You could make a mystery poem; since there’s black and white slides.
  • making a comic book project
  • make story books
  • make an end of the year book.
  • We could do something on how to write a poem, because everyone seems to think that they’re so hard, even though they’re really not (especially if you use an online rhyming dictionary).
  • for plays
  • Have a writing period where we can show what we have made in ToonDoo.
  • Writing digital story books for next year
  • Next year you could have an adventure comic rather than an adventure story.
  • Science-mitosis
  • Social Studies-Egyptians
  • We could do a story on how your last year at Norris was.
  • We could use it in math and make toons to show how to do a certain equation.
  • To make your own wanted posters on toondoo about a criminal.
  • We could take any of the prompts we have wrote this year and make then into books. I also think it would be cool to make books about things we a learning to help us remember things.
  • I think it would be a good idea to use it in writing class but also maybe in literature class. I think it would be fun to use in literature.
  • I think you should do a mystery comic strip poem or on the Harris Burdick story. That would be cool. You should also introduce this site to the younger kids.
  • I think we can use this site for many different things for ex. you can probably use this for just an activity after MCAS and create a comic strip of what they thought of MCAS and if they thought it was easy or hard for them and that kind of stuff.
  • For songs.
  • Maybe we can make multiple strips and put them into a book so after each comic is done, it will be like one giant book.
  • We could use it to show our favorite part of Norris School.
  • We can use them with the comic book thing to create mini graphic novels and of course more poems and our freewrites in our notebooks.
  • We could use them to make stories (a short story writing prompt) into a funny comic that still shows the story.
  • I think we could make our own book- maybe a story about how our elementary years at Norris have been.
  • I think we could use the toon do site for making a book about our favorite thing that we did in writing. 🙂

Peace (in the frames),

How I used Tech this School Year

(from a student)

The school year finally came to an end yesterday (Kids left on Thursday) and I am left in a bit of a reflective mode, even though the end of the year rush has not yet settled in for me. (Plus, I have two summer camps to get ready for — Claymation and Webcomics). But, I am thinking about my increased use of technology in the classroom these days and so, here, I present a brainstormed list of some of the projects we did that integrated technology into my curriculum:

  • Before school even begans: Blogging at The Electronic Pencil
  • First two days of school: Dream Scenes digital stories
  • Writing Prompts that became Podcasts
  • Using Wordle to demonstrate power of words of collective student writing
  • Using Google Forms to collectively brainstorm social action projects and then vote on ideas
  • Using Webcomic platform (Make Beliefs Comics) to pose questions for presidential candidates
  • Stop-Motion Animation movies at Longfellow Ten site with literary themes (authentic publishing and collaboration with other schools)
  • Origins of English Language: collaborative, across-years wiki/podcasting with Wikispaces — The Crazy Dictionary
  • The Heroic Journey— using Google Maps and Picasa to tell a story of a heroic journey (after reading The Lightning Thief novel and The Odyssey graphic novel)
  • Podcasting letters to the new president (in collaboration with social studies teacher)
  • Podcasting Expository Writing (how to do something)
  • Narrative Paragraph Writing — as digital storytelling
  • Blogging with high school students as part of our transition process (moving from our elementary school to a regional high school next year)
  • Digital Picture Books: cellular mitosis as frame for fictional story (in collaboration with science teacher)
  • Podcasting Poems for Multiple Voices
  • Creating Webcomic poems with ToonDoo networking space
  • Claymation Movie Projects — on the theme of tolerance
  • Hyperlinked Digital Poetry Books

Wow. That seems daunting even to me. But it all did seem to come pretty natural and the students were very engaged in all of this work. Technology was a huge hit with my students and I saw many benefits to their learning process.

Peace (in reflections),

Rockin’ and rollin’ in my classroom

I shared this photo with Photofridays, but it is my set-up this week as we venture into songwriting for the last few days of the year. We listen to a lot of songs (Green Day, Goo Goo Dolls, etc) and then I let them listen to two of my songs with lyrics, as I talk about the writing process, and then I share a song that I wrote with a missing verse.

They write the verse and then come up and sing it with me. I crank up the electric guitar and plug in my drum machine and turn the microphones loose for a while. Most of my students join me (not all, but most) and now we are using SuperDuperMusicLooper software to “write” their own songs, with a verse and a chorus. If we have time, they will then create a Pivot stickfigure movie, with their song as the soundtrack.

If time …

Peace (with amps up to 11),

Making Songwriting Visible

My class is moving from poetry into songwriting (even as they finish up a Hyperlinked Poetry Book project) and yesterday, we took a look at a Green Day song (and sang it together, with me on guitar) and some songs that I wrote and performed with my old band (The Sofa Kings). We talked about establishing a theme or message in a song, how most pop and rock songs use a verse-chorus structure, and what rhyming patterns might emerge (mostly couplets).

We’re going to rock the room today, with my electric guitar, drum machine and PA system and a song that I wrote a few years ago that has a missing verse. They’ll write the missing verse (theme: believe in yourself) and then come on up to the microphone tomorrow to perform with me. Then, I want to get them writing their own songs before the school year ends next week.

But this reminded me of a video I made about a year ago as I sat down to write a song. I used my little Flip video to capture my process of writing, rewriting and thinking out loud about what I was doing. So, here I share the video again and also, below it, the song that I quickly recorded after the video had ended and the song came together.

The song: A Man of ContemplationPeace (in the song),