Another Form of Literacy: Sports Play Diagramming

Quidditch Diagram Play collageAs we shift into Expository/Informational Writing during our school’s season of Quidditch, I use the opportunity to expand the notions of literacy by incorporating the diagramming of a sport play into the classroom. Students must invent a play to be done on the floor of our game of Quidditch (which we play in the gym), and then both diagram out the movement of players and write an expository piece of writing, explaining how the play unfolds.

This kind of literacy — connecting writing to the athletic field — opens up the doors for some of my students who play sports but who are reluctant to write. They immediately see the connection of clear, sequential writing, and imagine themselves as a coach in a timeout, giving out instructions on the basketball court, or the football or soccer field, with a small whiteboard in hand.

Sports plays are a language all of their own, defined by the sport. Here, for example, in our game, you may not know that CH is chaser, K is keeper, SL is sideline, and SK is seeker. The colored floor lines have meaning, too, to our game. The arrows and dotted lines indicate movement. It’s visual information with a writing companion (with a bit of trickery, since the writing is mostly what I am most after here).

This kind of activity comes from a workshop presentation I was in many years ago now, through the National Writing Project, where a fellow writing project member shared her work in using football play diagrams to teach reading to her struggling high school students. Something clicked when I saw that. It has stayed with me, this idea of meeting the literacy needs of our students on the fields where they play.

In a resource she created for NWP on Redefining Text, Bee Foster writes:

When we expand our view of text, we celebrate and support a greater number of our students on a regular basis. We acknowledge the ways in which our students are already reading and writing. We give them credit for their strengths and begin an important dialogue around the transfer of skills from one mode to another. We more effectively provide differentiation both in what students read, and in what students write. Most importantly, we more regularly allow our struggling students to take on the role of expert.

Hey – I even found her video:

Peace (run it, catch it, win it),
Kevin

When Your Classroom is a National Historic Site

We just wrapped up a professional development partnership between the Springfield Armory Historic Site and the Western Massachusetts Writing Project. I was one of the lead facilitators, and it was such a great experience to use the Armory itself as our classroom as a way to explore history and primary sources. The course was supported through a grant by the National Writing Project and the National Park Service.

After all the participants shared lesson plans and resources and topics — ranging from the role of light rail transportation at the Armory, to the use of the Organ of Muskets poem that was inspired by a visit to the Armory by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, to use of The Things They Carried to invite a veteran oral historian into the classroom, to deep research into local history of a community — we asked the teachers to write a reflection. Part of what we are doing is gathering resources for a future website to showcase the potential of exploring local history.

Peace (and thinking),
Kevin

Sharing Out the Alchemy Lab Immersive Storytelling Collaboration

I was fortunate not too long ago to be part of a discussion group with some National Writing Project colleagues that convened to share and discuss the possibilities of virtual and augmented reality for learning. We all brought examples from the field.

I shared out the Networked Narratives project — The Alchemy Lab. It’s a rich example of collaboration and storytelling, and how objects can inspire us to make media and to experience media in a virtual space. And now NetNarr is launching again …

Peace (real and reality),
Kevin

To Friends in Many Spaces: Thankful, Appreciative, Optimistic

Book Turkey(My wife brought home this book turkey she made with an old textbook and I love the way a book was remixed into art.)

Dear friends in many spaces,

Thank you. Thank you for, first, for even being here at my blog at all. I know fewer and fewer people read blogs, preferring sound bite analysis and catchy headlines on social media. I do that, too, at times. As such, I am always appreciative when anyone takes the time to jump from a tweet or a shared link or maybe even RSS reader to come and spend a few minutes with my writing or my songs, and maybe even write a comment. Thank you for your conversations in the comment bin, when you have time and inclination to do so.

I am also deeply appreciative of the fact that while I read about and know about the thorny, messy elements of the Web — the way trolls play out on Twitter, the way algorithmic bots target us on Facebook (well, not me, but maybe you), the way we are the product for marketing, the way dark corners of the Net are home to anger and conspiracy and such — I have mostly avoided those elements.  I know others have not been so lucky, targeted because they speak out and have strong views.

I think my positive bubble — which is not the kind of bubble that walls me off from the world and not the kind that stops me from expressing my own strong opinions nor engaging in debates — has been mostly due to you.

You have helped me stay positive and engaged in thinking forward. I ask you questions, and you answer. I remix your resources, and honor your work. You do the same, with mine. I write in your margins, to better understand. I write my way forward. Sometimes, I read what you share and let it sink in, letting time follow me until I realize that what you shared with me is now the thing I need right now. You knew that all along.

This is not, alas, unbridled optimism without worry, of course, worries about the many obstacles still there when it comes to learning and teaching and writing and sharing and connecting, and the myriad of troubles that come with this digital world. For sure, there are unsettling problems, made worse by our digital connections with the world. I find myself agreeing with the analysis by many that the promise of the Web, as we know it today, is not what we thought it might be.

Still, it might yet still become something else altogether, something better.

We collectively push forward by pushing forward, we do by doing, we make by making, and we can do this together. No one person can be on this journey alone. We make this path, together.

Whenever I think, this is a perfect opportunity for a collaboration and let’s get an invite out into the networks, that impulse to work with others in technology and writing and making is based on hope in the possible. It’s why I remain part of CLMOOC, and why offshoots of connected communities intrigue me. It’s why others in the National Writing Project seem like friends, even when we only just meet. It’s why I found a new-ish home on Mastodon, settling into small stories and small poems and small sharing. This is why regular activities like Slice of Life remain a draw for me. It’s why I don’t worry too much about leaving one place to go to another, to meet new people, to learn from others. I dip my toes, for a reason. There are more people out there who want the same than we realize. It’s sometimes just a matter of finding us.

I am thankful there are such opportunities. Thank you.

Peace (a few words and such),
Kevin

 

What Words Surfaced When Talking Augmented and Virtual Realities

VR AR Words Surfaced

I spent the weekend in New York City with a gathering of National Writing Project colleagues, talking and sharing about experiences around augmented and virtual reality, in connection to learning opportunities. The word cloud comes from my messy notepad, where I was trying to pay attention to key words that were surfacing across a day of project sharing.

Notice how the technical aspects — of how things work — is less visible than the “why we might do this” aspect, as well as the literacy components. This is not to say we didn’t talk technical at times, but mostly it was a rich discussion about how such virtual and augmented experiences might extend our definitions of literacy and composition, and how keeping an eye on the human interaction nature of technical innovation systems is a key component.

Peace (in real time),
Kevin

 

 

Celebrating the National Day on Writing

Tomorrow is the National Day on Writing, now in its tenth year (I believe), through the support of the National Council of Teachers of English and other organizations, like the National Writing Project. But tomorrow is a Saturday.

Today is when I will do some activities with my sixth graders. I had hoped to try to do a Zine project, but I dropped the ball on my planning and worries about time necessary to do a quality job. So, I am pushing the Zine idea out further into the year. (I connected with our city library, which runs a Zine project for teens, and they have some examples and resources I can borrow.)

So, I am going to do a version of what I have done other years, which is to have my sixth graders write about why they write (the theme of NDOW is Why I Write), and then share their ideas in the classroom. From there, students will volunteer to do an audio podcast (when I mentioned this the other day, they were excited about it), and then we’re going to use Make Beliefs Comix site, turning the writing piece into a comic.

Here’s mine:

Why I Write 2018 Comic

I hope to have a Wall of Comics about Writing in my classroom by the end of the day and to have student voices released into the #whyiwrite world, too.

These are voices from last year:

And a few years ago, I asked my colleagues at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, why do you write? This is what we said.

What about you? What will you do? Why do you write?

Peace (writing it down),
Kevin

 

At WMWP: Instruments in a Common Band

WMWP Best Practices Overview

The small group planning the two main conferences for our Western Massachusetts Writing Project this year have decided to have an overarching theme of the entire year. Which I think is a fantastic idea — the theme is the thread to connect our work.

Even better is the theme they chose: Instruments in a Common Band. The tagline is: Voice, Identity and Respectful Dialogue. Perfect, right?

Not just metaphorically, which works for me as a musician, but also with the intent of encouraging the consideration of different voices and identity and discussion in the field of teaching and writing. Our first weekend conference is coming up, and the sessions and the keynote address reflect this theme rather nicely.

The “common band” phrasing has stuck with me, too. How we are all making music together, metaphorically — sometimes in harmony; sometimes, with cacophony; sometimes in rhythm; sometimes, not. Our obligation is not just to make noise but to make music. Not just as teachers, but as learners. As citizens.

And the theme certainly dovetails nicely with our WMWP Mission Statement.

Peace (sung from the band of the Common),
Kevin

PS — if you are in Western Massachusetts, there is still time to register for our Best Practices in the Teaching of Writing on Saturday, October 13.

#Writeout: The End is Just the Beginning

Where Write Out Goes

We’re wrapping up the summer portion of Write Out, after two full weeks of activity and sharing an open learning network. You can read the last newsletter — which has suggestions for video reflections via Flipgrid and a LRNG Playlist to continue the work of making connections into the school year — and the hope is that teachers find park rangers, and park rangers find teachers.

And that these partnerships help students find places beyond their schools and classrooms to become inspired to write about the world.

As the band, Semisonic, reminds us: Every new beginning starts from some other beginning’s end.

Peace (start at the end),
Kevin

 

 

An Invitation to Write Out and Explore the Terrain

I want to invite you to join in for the upcoming Write Out project, an open learning adventure sponsored by the National Writing Project and the National Park Service and built off the concepts of the Connected Learning MOOC (CLMOOC) experiences of the past few years. I am one of the facilitators of this new experience.

Write Out is being designed to connect educators to open and public spaces, such as the National Parks network (but not limited to those places), and we will be working on mapping as a central theme this summer. We aim to have teachers and park rangers and other explorers in the mix.

The Write Out website

Write Out officially begins on July 15 and will run for two weeks. There will be invitations for making maps and making connections, for making media and writing stories, and more.

If you have five to ten minutes, we’ll have some suggestions. An hour? We’ll have suggestions. A day or two? We’ve got you covered. As with CLMOOC, you engage where it interests you, with no pressure other than a sense of connection and community.

Our aim is to open more doors for teachers, and their students, to the outside world. If you go to the Write Out site, you can sign up for newsletters and information.

Take a listen to the overview via NWP Radio from some of the facilitators:

I hope to see you in the mix this summer.

The Write Out website

Peace (inside and outside),
Kevin

PS — By the way, CLMOOC is still happening, too, in a sort of parallel and connected path as Write Out, with CLMOOC-inspired daily doodle prompts on map and open space themes, and art swap sharing activities happening. See more at the CLMOOC website.