The Hero Journey/Google Map Project

I am putting the finishing touches on the tutorial I am going to show my students as we launch into the Hero Journey Project that I have been writing about. Take a look and steal from it what you need:

Peace (in journeys),
Kevin

The Desks Will Hover

I like to pose some tech-related questions to my students each year, just to get a sense of where they are at with their own use of technology. I usually tack on this question: What will a classroom of the future (say, 50 years from now) look like? The answers are always amusing and interesting. This year, a big theme — floating chairs and desks.

Check out some of the student responses:

  • The desks will hover
  • Floating desks and robot teacher
  • High-tech pens.
  • A bunch of jet packs.
  • Exactly the same, but all electronics smaller.
  • The same
  • It might have floating desks, electronic chalk boards,and other things like that
  • I think they wouldn’t have chalk boards anymore; they would have the kind of board we have in the library — the “Alive” board or whatever; and they would have a computer attached to every desk and an electric pencil sharpener. The children would have personal white boards so they could envision what they’re learning. They would also have better heating and Air conditioning. 😉
  • A classroom in the future will have a robot teacher. Hmmmmm, maybe we can break it.
  • Cool with hats that tell you stuff
  • The walls might be made of slate and instead of desks we could have the teachers desks.
  • The desks will float, the chairs will have rockets on the bottom of them, and everything will be chrome.
  • robots take over the world
  • An old cob web place like very haunted house
  • There will not be school so there will not be one (classroom of the future)
  • There would be lots of Mac’s and no chalkboards. (there would be no chalkboards so teachers couldn’t write down homework :D:D:D)
  • It might be all white, have solar panel windows and desks and chairs that hover in the air
  • Flat screen computers that hang on the wall, floating desks, and animated teachers
  • Who knows what it could look like? It will be surprise. Hopefully the fab Mr.H will still be teaching.
  • White walls — fake windows — robot teachers —  smart-boards in every classroom —  all desks will also be computers
  • I hope Dr.cool is still teaching!!

I also took all of the answers and threw them into Wordle:

It’s nice to know that teacher will still be needed, although a few of them have converted us into robots.

I wonder what your kids think if you pose the same question.

Peace (in a robotic voice),
Kevin

Moving my Hero Journey into Google Earth

I knew this was possible (and thanks, Sheryl, for reminding me) but I had not done it, but … wow — moving my Hero’s Journey from Google Maps into Google Earth was very cool. And so simple: download the .kml file from my Google map and open it right up in Google Earth. So simple, and yet, being able to move across the globe like that, and to zoom down into the terrain … pretty amazing.

Want to give it a try? Here is the kml file from my Hero’s Journey sample. I am hoping you can just open it up and it will launch your Google Earth application (if you have it and if you don’t or need the Earth update — as I did — it will walk you through the process).

And thanks, too, to Sheryl for reminding me of the LitTrips site, in which teachers map out stories with kml files right on Google Earth. I found the one for the Odyssey interesting.

Peace (and safe journeys),
Kevin

Mapping out my Heroic Journey

So, I had this idea … (don’t these  projects all begin like that?). We have just finished reading The Lightning Thief, which is a fantastic book set in Modern Day against the landscape of Greek Mythology that has as its main character a boy (Percy Jackson) who is considered dyslexic and ADHD, but who finds out he is really a half-god and must avert World War III by returning the stolen Lightning Bolt of Zeus. The kids eat this book up and many were borrowing Greek Mythology books from the library. I had parents saying their kids were reading, on their own, more than I had assigned — for the first time that they could ever remember. Honest.

So, too bad we had to end it, right?

Next up: the graphic novel version of The Odyssey. I convinced my team to invest some of our shared resource funds into a set of the novel, which is going to be a perfect companion to The Lightning Thief, and should allow them to see how the travails of Odysseus (and his hubris) are alive and well in Percy Jackson. Plus, it has cool monsters and stuff. And it allows me to teach a bit about image and text and the dynamics of a graphic novel (this is another first for us).

So, I was trying to think about a project after we read The Odyssey and it occurred to me that a great project would be for them to create their very own Heroic Journey Home. It would be a creative journey, but how best to show it? Why not use an online mapping program, I realized, that would allow them to learn more about the technology and create something interesting. I thought about CommunityWalk — too many advertisements. I searched around for some others. Interesting, but nothing outstanding. And I kept returning to Google Maps and so, that is where I stand right now (but still searching).

And as it turns out, in writing class, we have been doing an entire descriptive writing project around monster, so there are illustrations of almost 90 monsters that they can draw upon to “encounter” on their way back home. Are you with me so far?

If so, can you give me some feedback on this sample Heroic Journey that I created?


View Larger Map
Thanks and peace (with as little hubris as I can muster),
Kevin

Wordle Up

Last week, I used Google Forms (part of the Google Docs suite) to survey my students on a variety of topics (including a community action/school spirit project). Two of the questions were open-ended: Why should they care about other people in the world and what would their motto/slogan be if they were running for president? I took their answers and put them into Wordle.

Here is what I got:

First: Why is it important that 11 and 12 year old students from a suburban town in Massachusetts care about other people in the world?

(I love how Care and Kids and Help and People are all huge)

And, what would your motto be if you were running for president?

(Is it significant that Peace and World and Change are most prominent? Yes, I believe it is)

Peace (in wordles),
Kevin

An Audio Adventure Story Collage


(this is an illustration from one of the adventure stories)

Yesterday, my students chose a section of their adventure stories to share and we created a collective podcast of their readings from each class. I love this idea of an audio collage, and students were quite interested to hear the bits and pieces of each other’s stories, wondering about the rest of the tales.

Give a listen:

Stories from First Period

Peace (in voice),
Kevin

A Rafting Adventure

We took our sixth graders on a white water rafting adventure last week and it was a blast! We taught them all about teamwork and cooperation and working towards a goal (the Class III rapids). The weather was perfect and the trees were in the midst of Autumn change.

Here is a video I made for them:


Peace (in the rapids),
Kevin

Getting Them to Think, Write, Create

Yesterday, in hopes that it would draw my sixth grade students’ attention to the first presidential debate, we did some work around thinking about the elections. Our school will be doing a Mock Election for the first time (ever?) and I am determined to provide my students with enough information to not only make a good choice but also to filter out the influence of parents, teachers and others (yeah — this is going to be tough).

I started out the lesson with this great video from Common Craft and we talked about the complicated voting system in this country and why that is important (and the day before, we chatted about the balance of power among the branches of government).

Then, I had them brainstorm issues that they consider important and hope to be addressed in the campaign. Our list included:

  • Global Warming
  • Protecting Animal Habitats
  • The War in Iraq
  • Fuel Prices
  • Offshore Drilling
  • Health Care
  • The Economy

Next, my students did some stick figure drawing for a comic strip in which they, as a comic character, ask a question of the candidates. We then moved onto the computers and headed off to Make Beliefs Comics, which is an easy and isolated comic strip making site. They loved it! The comic site is limited in scope, but you can email the link to the comic and I intended to take all of the comics and use Google Sites to create a little website of their comics.

Here is my example:

BUT — the Make Beliefs site has something strange going on with scripts (I emailed the creator, Bill, and he is working on it — he is very responsive). So my web idea will have to wait and I hope they get it all resolved out very soon.

Peace (in the election campaign),

Kevin

Riding the Wave into the Future

I love the fertile imagination of my students. Give them a push and they leap forward. I presented them with a prompt in which they had to create a Vehicle of the Future that would run on something other than fossil fuels. This led to an interesting talk about the Earth’s resources and innovation.

Then, they got to work, using informational text/expository writing to label and explain their vehicles. I took their images and went into Animoto and … came up with this. I showed it to my students today and they were enthralled with it (and a few who had not yet finished their vehicles are now inspired to complete it soon before I do a revision of the video).

See what you think:


Peace (in green beans — which was my vehicle),
Kevin

Writing With My Students

As much as possible, I try to write with my students, and share out what I am doing — talking through my writing process and asking them for feedback. This week, we brainstormed a long list of possible short story titles that we will draw upon in the weeks ahead for writing prompts. It was quite a creative adventure and the list has already provided some nice inspiration for students.

Here are a few:

  • The Day Cows Drove Cars
  • My Homework Ate My Dog
  • Personalities
  • Never Put 200 Pounds of Salt in Your Locker
  • A Demon Named MCAS
  • The Greatest Robot Ever
  • Magic Window
  • CRASH: A Journey into the TV
  • Alien Friend, Where Are You?
  • I Wish I Could …
  • Holy Monkey Muffins
  • Lord of the Springs

(The MCAS one is funny. The MCAS is our state test.)

Meanwhile, I took one of their titles and wrote this story over four periods of writing classes during one day (I teach four sessions). The title was one of my student’s ideas and it just intrigued me.

The Eye in the Hourglass

Who knew the genie would be so cruel? And would bring such bad luck? Surely, three wishes would change my life for the better. But, it turned out that I found a bad genie, a wicked genie, and he twisted my words around like a tornado until the meaning of what I really wanted disappeared into a storm of unfortunate events. My first two wishes should have given me some clues. First, I asked for a bag of gold. What he gave me was bag of stones, with one flint of gold at the bottom.
“It has gold, does it not?” the genie sneered.
My second wish was for a new house. I was thinking of the shack where my father and sisters lived. A new home would be a perfect for my family — a chance to start anew. So what did the genie provide? What was the answer to my wish? A house that fit in the palm of hand. No bigger than a pencil, really.
“Very nice structure,” the genie laughed as I gasped in astonishment.
I should have quit there, but I didn’t.
Instead, I wished for the one thing I always wished I could control: time. I wanted to be able to stop the hands of time and hold off the disease that was raging through my father’s bones. I wanted to hold back time so that I could find a cure for him.
“Done,” said the genie, and before I knew it, he had blinked his eyes, muttered a few words and — boom — I found myself trapped inside some glass compartment. It was curved, with the top being wide and the lower end being narrow. A hole was right in the middle of the floor and there was sand all around me, pouring past me, down the hole into a chamber below me. I realized with a gasp that I was inside an hourglass. I looked up at the genie, who was done with my wishes now. His huge eyeball was pressed near the hourglass, making me feel tiny and powerless.
“So, boy, stop time,” he thundered.
“What?” I asked, confused. “Get me out of here!”
“Oh no. I can’t do that. This is your wish, come true, boy. Stop time. Put your foot in that hole and hold back the Sands of Time. All of time will come to a halt if the sand stops. Your wish has been granted.”
The genie started to laugh again. I stared down at the hold, watching the sand drop. This was my wish? Stuck in an hourglass? I bent down and glanced through the hole to the chamber below. Something else was down there, I realized. Something buried in the sand. It moved and I jumped back. But I could not resist. I bent over again. The movement continued, as if something were shaking off the dust of time. I gasped. There, beneath me, was an eye. An enormous eyeball. And it was staring up at me. I was not alone.
In a panic, I looked for the genie. Surely, he would get me out of here. But he had left the room, apparently, so I scooted a little closer to the hole to get a better look at the eye below me. The sand kept on pouring past me. It formed a powerful current, like a the undertow the ocean, and I must have stepped too close because I suddenly felt myself being caught up in the motion. I started to slip and before I knew it, my foot had become lodged right in the opening itself. I felt another wave of panic and then noticed that the sand was rising up at my foot. I knew I was in serious trouble.
“Genie! Genie!” I yelled. “Get me out of here!”

Either he couldn’t hear me, or he was ignoring me. In either case, the genie was not going to help. That much was clear. I struggled again, trying to free my foot. I turned and twisted, with no luck. That’s when I felt it. At first, it was just a nudge. Almost gentle. And I sense some movement of the hourglass. A ripple, almost. Then, there was a sudden and powerful thud against the bottom of my foot. Then, another. Something was pushing up into me. Something strong. I realized what it was: the eye.
I was frantic now and feeling every more helpless. The eye kept pushing upward. Amazingly, I felt my foot starting to get free of the hole. There was now a bit space, just enough for me take advantage and wrench my body backwards, falling into a pile of sand. My foot was free. And then sand now continued its journey downward. I could now hear the grains of sand hitting something with a thwacking noise.
It must be the eye, I thought. It was getting pummeled by the falling sand. By helping me get free, the eye had put itself into danger. I ran to the hole and looked down. The eye was looking up, sort of sad and mournful, if that was possible. I realized that it had saved my life. And now I was watching it die.
“Hold on,” I screamed. “I’ll try to save you!”
I began digging fiercely to keep the sand from heading into the hole. It was fruitless. Time was running out.
That’s when I noticed the genie. He bent down his head until his eye was just outside the glass window.
“Having fun?” he asked, in a cruel voice.
I was just about to yell at him and demand he free me and the eye from this prison when he reached out, grabbed the hourglass and turned it upside down. My entire world spun around and I bounced from side to side, banging my head and getting sand all in my mouth. Suddenly, the hourglass was reversed. Sand was now pouring down on top of my head. And I could just make out the eye from above, looking down at me just as I had been looking down at it minutes before.
I opened my mouth to scream but sand came in and choked me. Yes, I realized with the cruelest of ironies: Time was most certainly coming to a stop.

As I was writing this, it occurred to me that this would make a great graphic novel story and maybe it is something I will try (someday). Short, sweet but creepy.

Peace (in short fiction),
Kevin