Designing a Theme Park: Music Land

MusicLand MapIn our Informational Text unit, I have my students do all sorts of writing and activities, integrating design and art as well as informational text. The other day, they were designing out the map and plan for a Theme Park based on a theme, and as they did so, so too did I (as usual). My musical park could have had a catchier name but I had fun designing a place around music ideas.

Peace (singing it),
Kevin

Walk My World: Going Off The Deep End

TriAnglPoem v3

The latest Learning Event for Walk My World is about the Shape of Stories, and for some reason, I went literal in my mind, thinking of the triangle as a metaphor for sharing a story. I’ve explored the elements of Shape of Story before so I figured I’d think about it at another, eh, angle and let a poem, eh, take shape.

So, I wrote a poem using some of the vocabulary of math and triangles, and then, because we had a snow day and I had some creative time, I took the poem in all different directions just to see how I might twist its shape a bit more. I wasn’t all that sure what I was after. A traditional shape poem didn’t seem to capture it for me but this isn’t too bad. With shape poems, sometimes, the shape takes over the poem, and the words let lost.

* Where this hypotenuse slides ever downward *

* into angled corners to form an imperfect *

* vertex of legged lines is where the *

* shape of story finds its point, *

* then rests itself upon *

* another teetering *

* edge of the *

*world*

The straightforward text formatting is OK. Just nothing special. But the focus is solely on words, not shape. Here, I was more concerned with where a line ended, and where one began, for flow. I was less worried about that with my shape poem experiments, where the overall shape dictated line breaks.

Where this hypotenuse
slides ever downward
into angled corners
to form an imperfect vertex
of legged lines is
where the shape of story
finds its point, then rests
itself upon another
teetering edge
of the world

The following collage shows three different visual takes as I tried to play with how to put the poem into a triangular shape or to least add words to visual imagery.

The top image (also at top of this post) became my favorite, although I wish I could have thought more deeply about the line length numbers to make them mean something. (they don’t). The bottom right was sort of interesting, with the edge of the world falling off the edge of the triangle (that one was done in MS Word). The bottom left was done with the Pablo site, but the image gets lost behind the words.

TriAnglPoem Collage

Then I found myself composing a soundtrack. My aim had been to use more “triangular” loop and sounds (which are often rough edged due to the jagged wavelengths) but in the end, those didn’t work for me as I had hoped because they were too fuzzy and too raw.

So I made some other loops and tracks, and added a literal musical triangle ringing at the start and at the end. I also ended up reading the poem forward (ending at an imaginary musical vertex point) with audio effects and then reversed some of the words to traverse the poem backwards along the line to an end.

In doing all of this, I pretty much ignored the activity instructions but that’s the best part of being an open participant in any network — I can go my own way and not stress about it.

Peace (angled for good),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Documenting Opportunities (Pandemic Year)

Class Padlet(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 a year or so into the Pandemic, and it seemed like a good time to have my sixth graders reflect in writing on life in the Pandemic. I framed their responses as a Message in a Bottle (digital version) for Future Historians. We used a Padlet wall to write and I asked them to share both the challenges and the positives.

While the Pandemic has been disruptive and terribly destructive, the lock-downs and social distancing have also opened up some unexpected opportunities for many of us. I wanted to make sure my students were not deep in just the negatives (they wrote plenty of these — from missing family to feeling isolated to wearing masks to missing the normalcy of school).

Here is some of what my sixth graders wrote on the positive side of things:

  • Acquired new goats (three of them for one student) and a donkey (for another)
  • Adopted many new puppies and rescue dogs
  • More time outdoors; hiking with family; Exploring spaces in town
  • Lots of online gaming with friends as social events
  • Dancing via Zoom, connecting with distant friends
  • Lots of extra time to work on new art projects
  • Time to skate on the frozen ponds and create lawn rinks
  • Bike riding and running together, as a family
  • Time to read lots and lots of new books
  • Horseback riding with family
  • Welcome break from constant “always on” sports seasons
  • Time enough to get caught up with schoolwork
  • Dreaming of the great vacations, once it is all over
  • Listening to more diverse music and discovering new artists
  • Lots of memes/too many memes/memes everywhere
  • Interesting Tik Tok videos and projects (like musicals)
  • More time to practice musical instruments
  • Exploration time with new technology (VR)

Peace (finding it),
Kevin

NetNarr: Then What?

PostPandemicU Message

I’m not completely sure what I am doing here, but Networked Narratives is designed on the reality that the Pandemic has changed learning at the University level. I followed the lead of some others in designing some art about this concept.

It’s not that I think this disruption will completely dismantle higher education, but it is going to be impacted (as it already is) by technology and remote learning and more.

That’s worth noting and thinking about, and the NetNarr folks (a mix of professors, classroom students and open learning folks, like me) are exploring the aspect of change in learning and the next question of: Then, What?

NetNarr PostPandU

Peace (afterwards),
Kevin

Book Review: Daemon Voices (On Stories and Storytelling)

There’s something to be said about stepping into the thinking pages of a talented writer, particularly one who has strong views on the world and yet who also has an open curiosity to the mysteries of stories. This is what you get when you read the essays inside Daemon Voices (On Stories and Storytelling) by Philip Pullman.

Pullman made his name with the His Dark Materials trilogy (which begins with The Golden Compass), is rich with allegory and fantasy, and his most recent fiction trilogy — The Book of Dust — pushes the story even further (with great success, I would argue). He writes with a quick pace of story and with an understanding of how to build an imaginative world that makes sense for that story to be told and for characters to be challenged within that world. These tension points are what drive Pullman’s tales.

Daemon Voices (On Stories and Storytelling) collected a series of lectures and writings he has done over the years about the art of writing. While some of it felt a bit too erudite for my tastes (and his debates about religion didn’t do much for me, so I power-read a few of the later chapters), his explorations of stories and characters, and themes, is quite intriguing, and his defense of children’s books as a legitimate art form with depth and artistry is worth a read alone. As a former teacher, Pullman understands what short thrift children’s stories often get, and argues that the field of criticism and publishing does not do it justice. Readers become writers, and readers become thinkers, Pullman notes.

I always enjoy crawling into the mind of a writer, to see what they see of the world. Of course, this experience is limited (we only see what he wants us to see), yet Pullman’s exploration of where his stories emerge from — mostly, unformed when he begins, and he finds the themes as he moves along into the story — and the way he remains open to inspiration as he writes is worth noting for anyone who writes.

Pullman is an intellectual guide into the art of the imagination.

Peace (dreaming of daemons and bears),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Highly Efficient But Suddenly Forgetful

(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 thought I was being very efficient as a teacher, lining up the release of assignments in Google Classroom to coincide directly when I would need the students to access them. I worked on Sunday, thinking on Monday, for the morning work for school and home students in our hybrid model and for a writing prompt in my three ELA classes. I sent an email to all students in my sixth grade, about materials they would be needing (as we shift this week to synchronous teaching, with Zoom Stations in the classroom).

Everything was aligned, all set, and everything, wonderfully efficient. Or so I thought.

Winter Storm Through the Door

Then, the snow storm came, and the superintendent called off Monday on Sunday night (a bit pre-emptive, I thought, but OK, fine) and I completely forgot that I had these different things all ready for Monday to be released on their own. Google Classroom knows only the clock, not the weather.

I noticed something amiss early on, when a few students (who would be in the home hybrid) began to email me early.

“I thought we had a snow day?”

“Is this is a mistake or is this work we need to do on a snow day?”

“Mr. H, do we have today off or not? My mom says we do. But I see work here to do. So I’m confused.”

Oops. Dang it. I scrambled to pull back the assignment, to send an email out to everything, to relabel the assignments already live with a bold SNOW DAY MISTAKE — GO PLAY, and apologized to those who had emailed me directly.

(A part of me thought, it’s so cool that they were so attentive to the ways our days begin that they were even paying attention enough to notice and email me … that’s another Slice on another day.)

As I write this, I just realized: I have something scheduled for release tomorrow that needs to be adjusted. I need to unschedule that. Be right back …. I’m back … all set …. thanks for waiting.

Peace (forgetfully yours),
Kevin