Slice of Life: Noticing The Stretch of Days

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

It’s easy to forget, amid the hubbub of life and school and family, that the Winter Solistice was a month ago, and the days are indeed beginning to stretch longer.

I find, it’s only when I am in a moment of quiet that I observe more sunlight later in the afternoon, and the days of darkness at 4 pm are gone.

Yesterday, as I waited to get my son from indoor track practice, I noticed the sun was still mostly up, and it was 5 pm and that made me smile, even as the cold air was circulating all around me and more snow was coming (only an inch or two, but still … winter).

So, a poem with this morning’s Slice:

Poem: These Longer Days

Peace (in the moment),
Kevin

 

Slice of Life: To Watch The Joy

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I let Rayna, our young dog, loose in the yard early in the morning, as wet snowfall was just starting to turn to rain here. The slush would come later as the temperatures shifted.

For now, it was a few inches of pure white packable snow from overnight, the kind you could use to build a snow-fort, or snow-person, or perhaps have the most epic snowball fight of the world.

From the back deck, I smiled and laughed out loud as Rayna ran and ran and ran, in circles and then in zigzags, and then in reverse circles, then around the tree and along the fence, and then leaping over the tipped chair, just being so glorious in the moment of pure joy of what the night could bring that all I could do was join her.

So I did, leaping off the steps and running with her in my heavy boots, dashing alongside her, at her, in shared winter exhilaration, the dog and I, together in a moment of play.

Peace (one moment at a time),
Kevin

Slice of Life: The Noise Of Curiosity

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

My sixth graders were working on creating new words as part of our Word Origins unit (and they will be donating one of their newly invented words into an ongoing, 18-year project to build an online dictionary of invented words, called The Crazy Collaborative Dictionary Project, which has more than 1,000 words from students.)

I rarely expect complete quiet when doing this kind of work (and with this year’s antsy social crew, even less so) but the noise of students sharing out loud their words and definitions was a bit of a cacophony yesterday, one I didn’t tamp down on because the excitement and energy level for being creative was just so high, I had to let it go on.

One of my more reluctant young writers was over the moon with this word invention activity, and as I walked by, he turned to a neighbor friend and declared: “This is the BEST writing assignment we’ve had the entire year. I just LOVE doing this!”

I had to smile. You never know what is going to capture the interest of students, and his excitement, along with others, was infectious in the classroom. Heads nodded in agreement with him and then more voices began to float over the room in a strange orchestra of absurd words.

Peace (capturing it),
Kevin

Slice of Life: The Long Tail Of The Daily Create

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I start most of my mornings with two acts of art — I try to write a daily small poem and I try to create some kind of art with the DS106 Daily Create.

As my friend and Daily Create mechanic, Alan Levine, brings the new year into a celebration of the tenth anniversary of the Daily Create (which started as part of an online digital storytelling class and then morphed into an open call for being creative), I realized that I have completed 2,170 works of art (a term I use roughly, some days) and how powerful it has been to be inspired and motivated to create something new every single day.

What does that number translate into? It is three hundred and ten weeks. Or nearly six years. Mostly, it’s daily, but at the start, it was sort of hit or miss for me.  I came and did a prompt when I was interested, and then at some point, it became my daily practice. Some mornings, I am making illustrations. Others, I am sharing some writing. Or remix, or music, or something, anything, loosely affiliated with the daily prompts that come on Twitter and at the Daily Create website.

I learned about the Daily Create from a friend, Karen F., who was a collaborator in the CLMOOC experience. Later, I even adapted the concept of the daily prompt to something called The Daily Connector that we used in CLMOOC and other connected learning experiences. Sometimes, a prompt at the Daily Create dovetails and connects with other projects. Others have done the same with replicating the experience of a daily invitation, and the Daily Create has a long tail of inspiration.

Meanwhile, contributors, like myself, feed back into the system — submitting ideas for Daily Creates, as the baton of administration of the site gets passed from one person to another over time (sometimes, it is a college professor who uses the Daily Creates for daily writing for their students, exposing them to the idea of making and sharing work in a social media experience).

I get a real sense of being curious and creative each morning by the Daily Creates, as I work on a quick prompt (they are designed to be no more than 10 or 15 minutes to complete) and that helps me situate myself for other writing activities or for thinking about teaching that day. It also invites me to try platforms and other tools that I might otherwise not have known about.

Peace (making art),
Kevin

Slice of Life: It’s Hard To Be An Optimist In A Pessimistic World

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

Is it just me or are things seemingly sliding further and further off kilter? I think, or I hope, by nature, I am normally an optimist, seeing possibilities instead of barriers. That’s one reason why I am a teacher. The future always looks bright from the classrooms of today. But I am also a realist, and from this seat, it seems like the world at large has gone slant.

Politics. Economics. Environment. Pandemic. Will the new year be better? I hope so but I am not so certain, given the undercurrents of division and chaos that seems to be nearly everywhere. And 2022 has all the markings of another year of more political tumult (and Trump).

Comic: New Year 2022

Look, I’m not throwing my hands up and giving up on the world.

I’m going to continue to look small. I love my neighborhood, and all of the people here. We look after each other. We connect. I love my networks online where I make art and share writing and create things together, globally. I love my family and our dogs. I love the woods, the rivers, the quiet spaces. And I still love teaching, even though public education has become increasingly stressful and difficult, and politicized.

I’ll hold on to those other small things. Because when I look at the larger world … good lord … it’s hard to believe we’re heading in the right direction anymore.

(Then I remind myself: Covid vaccines are an engineering/medical miracle on a scale never seen before. So there’s that, for those of us in the developed world. And clean energy technology is developing at a rapid pace. That’s good, too. And young people are demanding a better world through collective action. Another good thing … hmmm … maybe I woke up too pessimistic this morning.)

Peace (shaking it off),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Wandering Around Inside Student Video Game Projects

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

We’re nearing the finishing line of our Hero’s Journey Video Game Design project, in which my sixth graders have been working to create video games that represent story. As usual, their focus remains on design and building the game as I repeatedly force them to consider and work on the story aspect of the project. Somehow, they both balance out, mostly, by the time we reach the finishing line (this week, before break).

I shared out the following video yesterday, showing my own play inside some of the games that students have been designing, as a sort of video game design mentor text. I chose games that were made by writer/designers that effectively used the message areas to set a story into motion that the player/reader plays/reads. (I used a filter in Animoto to catch their attention with my video excursions).

Today, we will do some peer reviewing/feedback of games and then by tomorrow, most if not all games should be done and published inside the Gamestar Mechanic community for players around the world to engage with.

Peace (phew),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Poetry, Code and Creativity

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

This week, I will set aside some time for my students to explore Hour of Code, connecting the creative play there with the work we are doing around storytelling and video game design.

Each year, I keep an eye on any new activities in the Hour of Code. This year, the newly added activity is all about poetry and art and design, and that connection between exploring verse and basic programming makes me happy to see.

The Poem Art activity — introduced via video by a high school poet and programmer — allows students to explore animation and text manipulation, as well as design and music and mood. There are options for using provided poems (such as Jabberwocky), but also a place to write your own poem and use your own words.

Cool.

I tried it out by writing a poem — Watch the Idea Dance — and thought it worked just fine.

Hour of Code Poetry

Take a peek at my poem.

Then, maybe make your own.Peace

I’ll be bringing this, along with some other activities, to my sixth graders tomorrow.

Peace (coded for the world),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Gearing Up for Video Game Design

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

The weeks after Thanksgiving are often the time when I introduce a unit around “non-traditional writing” where my sixth graders explore Interactive Fiction texts and writing (just wrapping up) and move into Video Game Design with Gamestar Mechanic.

Librarian's Quest: Let The Gaming Begin!

Alas, Gamestar pulled the plug on its online site due to the end of Flash software in browsers but, phew, launched a stand-alone app for Macs and PCs (but not Chromebooks) that remains a robust place for learning about game design and an opportunity for young people to tell stories through design principles.

Today, I am going to walk my students through the various steps of accessing the app on their school Mac laptops, launching the app, registering an account within my special classroom space in Gamestar, and begin exploring the site before I start to introduce the “story” they will be “writing” as a video game project.

Gamestar Mechanic - Educational Game Review

This particular cohort of kids is tricky. They get antsy. They focus on other things. They jump ahead. I’m going to remind myself to be patient today as I work to get 60-ish sixth graders up and running, and playing games.

Wish me luck.

🙂

Peace (playing it forward),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Let’s Not Go There

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I teach in a fairly conservative town in the midst of a very progressive part of Massachusetts. Sometimes, that tension becomes visible. Like yesterday …

My sixth graders are working on Interactive Fiction stories and one student, louder than they needed to sound, asked if it was OK if one of the characters in their stories shouts out: Let’s Go, Brandon. (If you don’t know what that is, you need to look it up).

To which I not only shook my head in an exasperated “no,” but then launched into a response about how I know exactly what they are trying to do by asking the question, and no, that would not be allowable in their story. (Although part me wonders about free speech and all that …)

Later, as we were walking from our class to the next, outside for fresh air, this same student shouted that phrase out loud.

Sigh.

I took them aside, and now went into my full speech about respecting the presidency, whomever is in office and whatever your political views, and I reminded them of how I served in the military myself and I believe in level of respect and expect them to, as well, and we left it at that.

I know they are using the term because it seems furtive and a way to get a reaction out of friends, and probably, it’s something they are hearing at home from either family or the conservative news channels that the family is watching, or it’s something they are seeing on YouTube or other social media, or perhaps it’s some mix of all those things.

It’s another reminder how words matter, and how the level of discourse in our country has reached yet another low point, and how sad that is that echoes of it has come into our sixth grade classrooms.

Peace (respectfully),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Lending Leaves and Making Connections

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write on Tuesdays about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

I’m not sure how we first got connected with Stan the Fix It Man, or Margie the Leaf Lady, or Henry, or a few others whom we connect with only once a year, during Autumn Leaf Season. To be fair, it was probably my wife who made first contact with all of these folks.

You see, we have leaves. Lots of leaves. And they need leaves, for gardens and trees and more. So once a year, either we reach out to them or they reach out to us, and we make a connection. We also check in with other – making sure all is well — so the transaction  becomes more personal, if transitory, and then we’ll get to the business of arranging delivery or pick-up of the two or three dozen or so bags that we will have from the front and back yards of our home.

I visited with Stan the other day, and he was out in his garden, digging up some rhubarb for a neighbor who stood there with him, listening to his instructions on planting and eating the plant, and then he told me, and his neighbor, all about how he wants to use my leaves to protect his Fig tree, and how wonderful fresh figs are off the tree, and how next time I came around, he’d be sure to give me a few fresh figs. He’s doing fine.

Margie let us know that she was battling some infestation of some kind in her garden, where our leaves provide protective cover over the winter, and so she needed a little time to let the frost settle in before prepping her space for our delivery of bags. Our leaves — particularly the maple — are coveted for their richness, I guess. She’s doing fine.

I suppose this is how community is — the small connections that are part of a larger network or fabric, and how even the simple chatter of connection — even only yearly — makes for something worth writing about. It’s easy to cocoon — particularly in a pandemic — but it’s so important to be part of something larger, too.

Yes, I could make connections from this piece to online writing spaces like Slice of Life, too. I hope you are well.

Peace (falling and then, collecting),
Kevin