Making Connections: Student Poems and Responses

One aspect of a large blogging project underway called Making Connections (funded through the National Writing Project) involves middle school students writing and posting some “I am …” poems and then offering comments, suggestions and critique to others. (Meanwhile, a second wing of the project is working on science-related writing and experiment and sharing — that is what my class is part of). Some of the poems being posted (in a protected site) are powerful, so I thought I — as the project director — would share a few with you.


I am bite size but believe I’m bigger than the world!
I wonder whats going to happen in the future.
I hear the beautiful waves sound of Japan that I miss so much.
I see the beautiful lights at Dragon Palace.
I want a juicy KING SIZE Milkyway.
I am bite size but believe I’m bigger than the world!

I pretend not to be sad, although I’m crying a river inside.
I feel like crying because I’m always worrying about losing someone.
I touch my doggy as I lay myself down to sleep.
I worry that the things I hope for the most will end up not happening.
I cry when I think of the past, because I know that it will never come back.
I am bite size but believe I’m bigger than the world!

I understand that you live and you learn.
I say that you should live life to the fullest, because you never know when God’s going to need another angel.
I dream of what the future is holding for me.
I try not to worry about bad things happening to me or the people I love.
I hope I will get into a good college and make myself and everyone who believes in me proud.
I am bite size but believe I am bigger than the world!

And here are some comments:

Wow…i love this poem!! It’s my favorite so far…I love the imagery, and everything else is great too. suggsetions…well, i think it’s lovely the way it is!! — Natasha


I think you need to add more metaphors. It would make it really good. Also, I like how you used the color and sizes to attract attention to the part. Your poem was great especially how you said you were bite sized its funny B-) bye,


Hi Jasmine.

You had such an awesome poem. I loved the way you wrote it. You have a really cool way of saying things. I really liked this line:

I say that you should live life to the fullest, because you never know when God’s going to need another angel.
When i read that I copied it right away just to tell you its awesome. GREAT POEM! — Allison

Hi Jasmine,

I liked your poem. It was really good. I think you could add a few similes though. Other then that I think you did a really good job.

Andrea C.

Hi Jasmine,

I thought your poem was awesome!! It was so original. I liked the line:

I say that you should live life to the fullest, because you never know when God’s going to need another angel.

I think you should’ve added a simile. But that’s only what our teacher said to tell someone if they didn’t have one. I like your poem just the way it is.


Shannon 🙂

I Am Andrea
I am a girl who loves adventure and sports

I wonder what the world will be like in the year 2015

I hear fans cheering me on to win the game

I see the roses people giving me as I finish the routine

I want the opportunity to be whoever I want

I am a girl who loves adventure and sports

I pretent I am as glamorous as a movie star

I feel the pressure to be like everyone else

I touch the sky with my curiosity

I worry what the world will be like when I am older

I cry for those who are disabled

I am a girl who loves adventure and sports

I understand that dreams are as wonderful as vacation

I say everyone is their own unique person

I dream of going to many different places

I try to forgive people when they make a mistake

I hope I do not become cold-hearted

I am a girl who loves adventure and sports

Your poem is really good! i like it a lot its set up very orderly and has connections with every line! one thing you could change is be more careful with your spelling. but over all it was a great “I” poem! — Samantha

I liked your “I” Poem. It was very very good, also i liked how creative you are. I think of you by what i read in the poem that you are a friendly person and your always surrounded by other people.The only thing you had to do was check for your spelling mistakes. Other than that your poem was great!!!! — Chris

Hi Andrea,

I thought your poem was awesome, but you have to watch your spelling.I love the whole first paragraph I thought that was the best part of the best.

Well bye

Maya C.

I Am Andy


I am a decent swimmer and like to read
I wonder why the Yankees always win
I hear the sounds of the frontline
I see an amazing amusement park
I want to be an amazing swimmer
I am a decent swimmer and like to read

I pretend to do my work
I feel like doing something stupid
I touch anything I want
I worry that college will be hard
I cry when my favorite TV show is cancelled
I am a decent swimmer and like to read

I understand moments in time
I say lets go skating
I dream of succeeding in life
I try to do my best
I hope to live forever
I am a decent swimmer and like to read


I like the line “I hear the sound of the frontlines.” It shows great emotion and great visual effect it gave me in my thought. I also wonder why the Yankees win. I love the Boston Red Sox and hate the New York Yankees. One suggestion I must give is that in the line where you say, ” I understand moments in time…” What times do you mean? It hits the heart, but better if you elaberated more. Great Job! Really meant something to me!


Jim T.

I like your poem it was cool it tells a lot about you — Ryan

I Am

I am a hateful person who likes to read.
I wonder what will happen in my future
I hear little voices in my head sometimes
I see angels in my head
I want to not be so mad all the time and to have more patiance
I am a hateful person how likes to read

I pretend to be nice when i dont want to be
I feel love and hate all the time
I touch love in my boyfriends heart
I worry about my future
I cry when i get mad or sad I am a hateful peroson who like to read

I understand that life sucks
I say I hate the world
I dream about death and my own death
I try to make people understand i hate the world and them
I hope death will come unpainfully
I am a hateful person who like to read

hey gabriella i love your poem. its very good. but try to be more positive my love. okay okay. love you =]


hi Gabriella,

you had a really good peom. You probably shouldn’t have put that your a hateful person. Or that life sucks. Other than that its a really good poem.



Hi Gabriella,

I thought your poem was really good. I think you should change the you poem a little.In stead of putting things that are negative put some things that are positive in your life.why do you hate life so much,because that was what I was getting from your poem.Well anyway your poem was really good.

Bye from Maya

Hi gabreilla I think that maybe in your poetry you should try to be little more optimistic you know. Try to look at the bright side of things. I like how you said I think that it is good that you see angels in your head.

jenisa F.

Your poem is OKay

but you could have put an exclamation point after life sucks



Peace (I am),

PS — I actually checked in with the teacher of the student for that last poem, as it made me worry about her. The teacher reported back that everything was fine and that the student turns to writing for expression.

The WMWP Concept Map

As I was in Chicago working on our Monograph Book Project that centers on how our Western Massachusetts Writing Project responded to change, I began to get more interested in our use of creating concept maps to chart out who our program leaders were and what they were doing, and how things were overlapping with each other. I have not made these maps — that has been the work of others — but they are interesting to think about, and have shaped our inquiry at our site over the years.

So, in true digital storytelling fashion, I created this little video:


Peace (as a concept map translated into reality)<

Winding down in the Windy City

This was a weekend of deep thinking here in Chicago as part of a Monograph Book Project with the National Writing Project. Yesterday, we met with some friends from Western Pennsylvania and we gave them some feedback on their draft of their book (about how a group of teachers moved their site forward through a Visioning Process), and they did the same for us and this feedback helped us immensely. But it also shifted what we had already written in a pretty significant way and so, although not much writing got done yesterday, there was a lot of discussion and remapping out our ideas.

And now we are all about to do more writing again as we use a real inquiry question focus into how our Western Massachusetts Writing Project site coped with significant change and established the groundwork for leadership transitions for the future. My task is to write about mentoring models, job descriptions and how technology helped us completely re-envision our site through the use of website design.

Peace (with progress),

Hello Windy City

On Friday, I am off to Chicago for a Monograph Book Project with the National Writing Project. My colleagues, Bruce P. and Susan B., and I have been writing the story of what happened to our Western Massachusetts Writing Project when three seismic events took place:

  • We lost all of our state funding for supporting writing teachers in our region
  • One of our founders and guiding forces died suddenly and unexpectedly
  • Another founding member and longtime director announced that he would be retiring

This was all before my time at WMWP, so it has been quite a narrative journey for me to discover the history of our site. In Chicago, we will be meeting with editors and other writers from other writing projects to discuss our progress and how things are going.

Essentially, our book is built around these ideas:

Þ The creation of an inservice coordinator position to spearhead our efforts to reach into more schools by tapping into the expanding knowledge base of our teacher consultants.

Þ The addition of a technology liaison who not only helped move us forward into technology in new ways but also became part of the leadership team that allowed our site to view what we were doing, and how we could improve, through a different spectrum.

Þ A model of mentoring in which veteran leaders of site-based programs would ask for newer, less-experienced teacher consultants to become co-leaders and this not only gave us flexibility in times of unexpected crisis, but also expanded the number of leadership positions at our site.

Þ Writing out explicit job descriptions for leadership posts, from co-director to technology liaison, as a way of not only explaining the roles and responsibilities of the position, but also leaving a paper trail for the future.

Þ The recasting of our entire leadership structure to feature rotating co-director slots with three-year term limits and the launch of a task force structure that allowed more teacher consultants to get involved in the decision-making process of our site than had happened previously.

Þ Increased efforts to create partnerships with organizations outside of our traditional circle of friends that allowed us to expand our visibility and reach in a wider geographic and demographic area. These partnerships included Westfield State College, the Wisteriahurst Museum in Holyoke and the Springfield Republican newspaper.

Peace (with reflection),


The Skittle/Blog Experiment

As part of a larger weblog project called Making Connections through the Western Massachusetts Writing Project, a colleague and I at my school are working with three other regional middle school classes to conduct an science experiment (Question: Which skittle will melt quicker — sour or sweet?), share data through a weblog, post a scientific abstract and then, later (and not related to Skittles), post a creative scientific journey story.

As you can imagine, there have been complications along the way. We are using Survey Monkey to collect data, and, well, one day, the settings on the survey collection were not quite right and so after all of our students put their data in, we had to wipe everything clean and start again (my fault).

But here are a few photos we are sharing that show the distribution of colors of Skittles with our students:


Peace (with sweet and sour),


My Weblog/Podcast Workshop Site

A friend asked me to share the Weblog site where I launch many of my workshops on Weblogs for teachers in the Western Massachusetts Writing Project with very little, if any, knowledge of Weblogs, Wikis, podcasting, etc. At this point, the site is only the main interface and not an actual blog, although I have used it for that during various workshops (it all depends on audience and purpose).

Feel free to use the workshop site as you like.

Peace (with sharing),

PageFlakes — Rss-ing the world

This is a follow-up to yesterday’s post, in a way. One of my projects this year is to work with our Massachusetts Writing Project (newly reconstituted with Susan at the helm) with newsletter weblogs for all of sites, and then collect all news via RSS feeds to a single blog site.

This would give us a collective voice for sharing information and by using RSS feeds, I am hoping that it will be less work for everyone involved (except for me, in setting the darn thing up).

Our writing project site also envisions a time when all of our assorted projects (Project Outreach, English Language Learners Network, Reading Initiative, etc) will have their own blog space for sharing with others, and we want to be able to collect their news at one site, too.

So I started toying around with PageFlakes and Mike, over at his Edublogs tutorial site, showed the world how to collect feeds from PageFlake and then move that code over to an Edublog site — just what I may need. (Thanks again, Mike!)

Check out my public PageFlake site and give me any feedback. I have collected all the feeds from folks in the Western Mass Writing Project who have completed the three-hour Weblog/Podcast workshops with me.

Peace (with Pageflakes),

More WMWP Technology Autobiographies

This weekend marked the second in my series of workshops for fellows at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project around blogging and podcasting. Note: Three hours is barely enough time! As part of the series (funded with a grant from the National Writing Project), I have all participants create a blog with Edublogs, post a technology autobiography, and then — using a free MP3/voice recorder and Audacity — create a podcast of their writing. It’s a lot to take in but everyone has come away saying it has been a wonderful experience.

Last time, I shared some excerpts from their writing and the audio (although the flash player isn’t working and I think it is due to the voice recorders somehow but can’t yet seem to pinpoint it, so just click on the actual links to the audio files — thanks), and so I will do this again.

Listen to Susan

” During graduate school, my job in Harvard’s African American Studies Department brought me in contact with my first computer. Thank goodness! I can’t tell you how many late nights I snuck into my office to use the computer to transcribe all the interviews I was conducting and write all my thesis papers. It quickly became hard to imagine all those undergraduate English papers I wrote on the typewriter–talk about a hindrance to revision! ”

Listen to Carole

“I started out in teaching by not teaching. After student teaching, I was not at all sure that I wanted to continue, so I took a job as a Radio Shack manager. Personal computers were just hitting the market in a big way, and “user friendly” was not part of the vernacular yet. Explanations in manuals for how to correct problems often involved patches to correct a “misunderstanding” between the hardware and the software. I will always be thankful for that year. Users and sellers were much more exposed to software and hardware code. We had to pick up a lot of information to make computers work for our customers. As a result, without any real training, I can more easily pick up software that is new to me.”

Listen to Mike

“My first successful experience with technology in the classroom came as an undergraduate student at the University of Massachusetts. In 1997, the chemistry department pioneered an online homework system called OWL (online web-based learning) for use in their general chemistry courses. This system allowed professors to assign homework modules to their students and then monitor their progress throughout the semester. Before OWL, professors weren’t able to check or correct homework assignments in an efficient manner. Test grades suffered because students didn’t have the motivation to complete their homework. OWL gave students deadlines to help them budget their time more appropriately and to avoid the last-minute cramming sessions that became all too common. Another feature to the OWL system was instant feedback. If students selected incorrect answers to questions, the system would explain why that particular answer was incorrect.”

Listen to Tammy

“When I started this year, my team had a smartboard. I had never heard of this piece of technology before. What made it so smart? I had created a blog for my students to use and the math teacher on my team told me that the smartboard would be a great tool to help me show the kids how to use the blog. She and the computer lab teacher showed me various things I could do with the smartboard. I could circle pages in red, green, blue, or black! I was so excited to use it. Then, we came to the issue of moving the board from the math room to my room. There was also an issue of where to put the projector. On top of that, the cables and cords were too short to actually reach the outlets and computer and projector all at the same time. We literally had to fidget with it for two days. But we got it to work.”

Listen to Jane

“When I was attending library school in 1996, the first thing we had to do was pass a Technology Test to show that we had at least mastered some rudimentary uses of the computer. Among the tasks were to send an email, link to some appropriate websites, do some simple research using a database. I was terrified and sure I would never be a librarian ever ever ever. We had four weeks to send in our assignments, which meant that if you didn’t know how to do it, you could learn. I used the very clear tutorials they had fashioned for us, passed with flying colors, and felt very proud of myself; much more so than getting into grad school in the first place.”

Listen to Corinne

“I thought that this workshop was two Saturdays ago. When I came into the computer lab, there were people in the room for a workshop. At that moment I didn’t have anything to make me think a was early. Then the workshop started and everyone knew everyone. Still I didn’t click in. As the conversation continued I began to think I wasn’t in the right place. These people not only knew each other, they had been working for some time on a project together. Even though I then knew that I wasn’t were I was supposed to be, I was sucked into the project these people were working on and the ideas of what I could or would do with something like this–blogging. My thought began to take off.”

Listen to Joanne

“My writing history started with a notebook and pencil, moved up to ink and then I actually owned my own typewritter. The first computer I owned was an Apple and I loved the idea that making changes in what I wrote didn’t involve erasing carbon copies. Can you still buy carbon paper? I’m glad I don’t even know.”

Words from Chuck (but no sound)

“I’ve resigned myself, prematurely, to being the opposite of a technogeek. An all-thumbs Luddite, but that’s not who I could be. I don’t see myself as a whiz at this, but at the same time, I can learn it. It’s so darn user friendly these days, idiot-proof as they said back in the 1900s. So, I’ll keep trying”

Listen to Mary

“Some thirty plus years ago my dad gave me a Texas Instrument chessboard and a cassette tape. He told me it was a computer. With wires and plugs in hand, a portable cassette recorder and an old black and white TV I proceeded to enter the world of technology. It was exciting. Once I figured out how to connect each device (Device not being in my vocabulary as a tech term then.) I played chess with the computer. It amazed me. I knew then that there was no turning back for me. I had ventured into a new world.”

Listen to Abbey

“I would like to expand my technology knowledge to have a real interactive blog with my AP Language class this summer as they read their summer reading books. I would like to make blogging part of assignments, not just a place for me to post. I am also interested in podcasting because other schools have done “This American Life”-esque shows, and that just sounds really cool to me. Some of my top kids are capable of making really amazing presentations and movies for classes, and I would like to use some of that energy to make our language applications more interesting to them and more connected to the real world.”

Listen to Margaret

“We thought we were so cutting edge, working in the computer lab with our classes connected to the internet. We now realize that our ‘cutting edge’ activities were merely worksheets that the students filled out using the same internet source as a reference, but it was a start. As we continued to learn more about the internet, we were able to develop lessons and activities that allowed the students more flexibility concerning topic and searching opportunities. This workshop is my first introduction to blogging and podcasting, so I am once again delving into another layer of technology in hopes of expanding my knowledge so that I can share new learning experiences with my students as well as my colleagues.”

Aren’t these wonderful? I am proud of our brave WMWP blog explorers.

Peace (with taking chances),

Making Connections: Midway Point, part two

In our big Making Connections project this year (we are in the second year, thanks to funding from the National Writing Project), we asked students to take an online survey before they started to do any blogging. We were looking to gather some data about perceptions of students as writers and users of technology. We have had about 250 students take the survey, which we believe gives us some reliability. Some teachers will be sharing the data with their students and with their administration.

Here are four questions that jumped out at me:

How do you use technology to communicate to others?

Do you think you write better on paper or on the computer?

Do you think schools should teach technology as a ways to communicate with others?

Which of these tools have you used in the past year?

Feel free to poke around:

Peace (with data points),


Making Connections: Midway Point, part one

I am project leader for an initiative (funded by the National Writing Project) that seeks to use weblogs to connect students. We have 15 teachers from five school districts, and about 300 students using blogs to write and interact.

We just finished the first phase of our project, in which students introduce themselves and comment with each other. We have had almost 1,200 posts on the Manila-based Weblog that we are using (the poor server). This weekend, the teachers all met to talk about how things are going. For the most part, they are not technology-proficient, so this project is pushing them in new, and sometimes frustrating, directions.

Here are some of the teacher posts from this weekend:

Most students from Southampton have made their introductions and have had had a chance to go back on and make comments to introductions of students from other schools. This went very smoothly in Southampton. Many responses were made to students from other towns. We did tell all students to make at least 3 responses to students from OTHER schools first before responding to someone from our own school. We also reminded them to look for studentsto respond to who might not have any responses yet. One frustration some students had was that they did not know who had responded to their introduction. If there was more than one student with the name “Bob”, for instance, they did not know which one in order to respond back to him. Or, students were not signing their response.” — Lisa

The successes include seeing all of the connections that students are making as well as seeing the empathy being gained as they learn that other student are having shared experiences. Hinting about the upcoming experiement has also been a real postitive as students witness the nature of science as others repeat the Skittles experiment to gather more data. — Jack

Everything is going okay so far. The only problem we have had has been gremlins in the machine that won’t accept the kids’ passwords or even their existence as members when they try to log on. The weird thing is that on any given day some kids get on successfully while others do not. There seems to be no consistency in who the particular victims will be – someone may have no problem one day, but may have to try 2 or 3 times to get logged in the next day.” — Mary M.

I was a little disappointed in my students’ introductions, but I think that as soon as they see the traffic that has hit the blog, they will become more enthusiastic. Right now, like me, I think they are a little overwhelmed. — Denise

Our students created self-portraits by hand. We took digital pictures of them and then uploaded them to a photo storage website. The only pitfall was figuring out how to do all of this–trial by fire and LOTS of time. If anyone needs help with this, thanks to just-in-time learning, I am now a Master Jedi. LOL” — Michele

One problem I ran into was that some students would hop on the blog whenever they got a few extra minutes in the day. They were able to get their work finished quickly; posting their own and responding back and forth to several people. This was great, but the problem was that with the extra time, they just started to casually blog to one another. I had to have the “this is not myspace” talk with them and remind them that all of the other people and teachers on the blog can and would be reading what they write.” — Deb

I’m benefitting because I’m gaining some technological skills. My students are improving both their writing and technological skills, and they’re making meaningful connections with students from other communities. I think my students especially enjoyed posting their self-portraits – Michele, who is a technology wizard, helped a great deal with this. The drawings don’t really look like them, but they capture their personalities quite well! One thing I really like about this project is the security of the site and the control we have as teachers. ” — Paula

Many of the students are excited about the project and are looking forward to continuing. It is sometimes difficult to manage all the students as they are not very independent when starting a new endeavor. We are ironing out the wrinkles as far as logistics, scheduling, and other problems go. ” Ann

Things are going well, slow but sure. My fifth grade students are enjoying this ‘new’ way of talking, especially the relaxed writing style. It was refreshing to see some of my more reluctant participants jump on the tech train. I am wondering how I can keep this same enthusiaism as we try to find time and space in the computer lab. The chatter is great. Kidos want to get on and talk with each other. I have one student who got onto the site from home. I’m not sure about this…I wonder how I can control what happens outside my perview? I have a new layer of responsibility that I’m not yet sure about.” — Mary F.

I have a group of enthusiastic bloggers this year. Although they are not as advanced with technology as my group last year, they are tenacious.” — Eva

It has been difficult for us to “squeeze” the blogging into our curriculum, but the kids are enthusiastic and most want to do more. It’s interesting how these kids perceive the responses they have been getting – some were disappointed to find out that they were corresponding with “white kids”, and others were disappointed to have responses from younger students “Miss, why are you trying to “hook me up” with a 10 year old!” But, it’s good for them to see outside of their culture and very limited horizon. And once they began to understand everything, they were accepting and look forward to the experience.” — Wendy

Again, I’m having trouble when I really wasn’t expecting to. I planned to blog with a class that I had a support teacher with and that is usually a pretty enthusiastic bunch, the principal had been notified and seemed to be on board, etc., and Wendy said she would help if I needed her. Then- My support teacher and Wendy were assigned to new Lindamood Bell classes during that block, the principal got MCAS panic, and my class, for the most part,decided they are not that interested!” — Mary D.

So, as you can see, there is a lot of reflection going on with the project, and many hurdles to overcome. In the next day or two, I will share the data from a survey we had our students take around technology.

Peace (with connections),