Just One More Book: My Review

Thanks to a tip and inspiration from Susan, I submitted a podcast review of a Chris Van Allsburg picture book to a site called Just One More Book that you just have to add into your RSS feeds if you enjoy the world of picture books.

Justonebook

Susan had done a review of a book called The Goats in the Rug and her efforts showed me the way to the site, and I figured that I should share this book, too.

The picture book that I chose is called The Mysteries of Harris Burdick and it is a great resource for writing prompts with my sixth graders. You will have to listen to my podcast review to understand why I like it so much as a source for reading and writing.

Peace (in pictures and podcasts),
Kevin

PS — Oh, here is my podcast review from Just One More Book.

How NOT to Powerpoint

I came across a version of this video in my Bloglines and was laughing my socks off, as it most humorously shows us all of the ways that Powerpoint is completely misused.

[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/Rp8dugDbf4w" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Now, in the comment section of YouTube where I got this video, was this interesting comment:

oh my god. teachers in my school make EVERY SINGLE MISTAKE. in fact, every ONE of them is capable of committing ALL those mistakes in ONE single presentation! and people wonder why the students are comatose in class…

Peace (in bullets and slides),

Kevin

The Return of Day in a Sentence (for now)

It’s back home again for the Day in a Sentence feature. Day in Sentence Icon Bonnie did an outstanding job as guest host and I have two more volunteers on board for the near future: Larry F. and Matthew N.

As always, we want to get a look inside your week or day and we encourage you to do this with brevity, wit, humor and passion. In other words, boil it all down into a sentence, my friends.

Please use the comment feature on this post to submit your sentences, and if you have a blog, leave the address for me to reference when I collate and post them all together as a community experience on Sunday.

Here is my sentence:

My classroom is a zone of complete and absolute “puppet mania” right now as my sixth graders are writing original plays, creating strange puppet characters and shifting from the role of creator to performer for younger students at our school who will soon become our audience.

How about you? If you want to podcast your sentence, you can provide us with the link or you can email me the file and I will host it for you. My email is dogtrax(at)gmail(dot)com. I would love to hear your voices.

Peace (in puppets),
Kevin

Student Voices — Adventure Stories

(Note from Kevin: This has been sitting in my bin for a few week)

My sixth graders recently completed a short adventure story project and we created these podcasts in which they choose a tiny bit of their story to share with the class and the world (through our class website — allowing parents to listen in, too).

story pic

(A view inside a diorama of Ali’s adventure story)

The young writers have been hard at work developing adventure short stories, using the concept of Plot Development, character development and the use of action to move the story along. Today, before they turned in their stories for a grade, they chose small sections of their stories to read aloud for this podcast.

Listen in as they provide a snapshot into their stories:

Peace (in young voices),
Kevin

Teachers Teaching Teachers

I had the honor again of joining folks on the Teachers Teaching Teachers webcast (now a podcast) that focused on the work of the National Writing Project and came on the heels of the annual meeting in New York City. The focus of the webcast was on collaboration, but the theme soon became: how do we engage teachers in our writing projects with technology. The TTT show is run by Paul Allison and Susan Ettenheim and takes place every Wednesday night at EdTechTalk.

Here are the guests who joined the conversation on this particular night:

  • Cynthia Calvert, Alcorn Writing Project
  • Jason Shiroff, Denver Writing Project
  • Lynne Culp, UCLA Writing Project
  • Kevin Hodgson, Western Massachusetts Writing Project
  • Peter Kittle, Northern California Writing Project
  • Christina Cantrill, NWP Program Associate in Technology

And here is the podcast.

Peace (in collaboration),
Kevin

Go Elf Yourself: viral marketing

Even though I know this is nothing more than a marketing ploy to get the words “OfficeMax” situated in my brain this holiday season, I could not resist using something called ElfYourself, which adds any headshot you feed it to an elf body and gets those bodies jiggying to some music. This is clearly a viral campaign by the company and, you know, it works. I am seeing references to ElfYourself all over my Bloglines. Our family was laughing and giggling as we watched our dog, Bella, and cat, Coltrane, dancing away.

I wanted to try to catch it as a video file but had little luck. I did use my new screencapture program — Camstasia (which is now a free download) — and it is really jerky. But I did make this photo as a screenshot from the site, and now it is our desktop photo. (Notice I removed the OfficeMax from the shot).

Peace (in Elfworld),

Kevin

Bonnie’s Blog is a Blast

(I couldn’t resist some alliteration in the title here — sorry)

Please head over to Bonnie’s Blog to get the scoop on this week’s ever-expanding, ever-interesting Day in a Sentence feature. There are some amazing insights in this week’s crop of words and Bonnie certainly did an outstanding job with her introductions (better than I have ever done).

See you next week, when the feature returns here to my site and then heads off to someone else’s blog (Larry kindly offered, so I will contact him)  as we pass this “gift” around to each other.

Peace (in partnership),
Kevin

Claymation Magic/Understanding Disabilities

Some of you know I adore claymation — as a viewer, as a creator and as a teacher — and I just stumbled on a PR campaign by Aardman Animation (of Wallace and Gromit fame) to bring light to the difficulties facing disabled people in the UK.

The campaign — known as Creature Discomforts — uses animation to get the point across that people may be disabled, but they are people, first, and they need support, encouragement, love and acceptance (most of all).

At their website, they say:

Leonard Cheshire Disability campaigns to change the way people think about, and respond to, disability. Creature Discomforts is one way we hope to do that. It’s a series of animations based on the experiences of real disabled people. They’re lovely characters and this is where you can find out all about them.

Here is one of their spots:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://youtube.com/v/Z4YsF-SsEQo" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

But just as neat and important are these “behind the scenes” look at the creation of the advertising campaign. I had trouble embedding them because, I think, they are part of UK.Youtube, so here are the links:

[kml_flashembed movie="http://youtube.com/v/qnzQckQhfTE" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

and

[kml_flashembed movie="http://youtube.com/v/5cCkhGMISkg" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]

Peace (in understanding and acceptance),
Kevin

Quickfiction: chapter 2

I continue to explore this work of quick/flashfiction. It’s interesting because I am trying to use the concept of podcasting and voice to help me edit the writing, speaking as I write and editing as I speak. The difficulty with this form is providing enough of a story, without giving the story away. It’s all about the gaps in the narrative and how the reader/listener might fill them in.

Here are my latest:

Black Friday

How do you explain this? You can’t. It’s 2 a.m. You should be home right now, sound asleep with the cat purring near your head and the desire, if not the reality, of a warm body sleeping beside you. You need comfort, not bone-chilling cold. You should not be here, at this hour, in this place, waiting in this line. But here you are. You hold the ticket up in the moonlight, and you see the number 27. You can hear the mini-vans and the cars and the trucks running in the parking lot and you imagine the heat. You can’t risk it so you bundle up as tight as you can possibly be. You draw yourself up inside of yourself, like so many other recent nights and descend into the darkness. Part of what brings you here is the understanding that he is there at home, with his youthful dreams of something that must better than what it is, and the other part of it is the knowledge that so much of your life together has been wrangled so completely out of your control. The divorce. The violence. The terrible abruptness of departure that has settled upon the two of you so heavily that it makes you choke sometimes. You can feel his inherent trust in you withering in this dark winter. Words are beyond you now. Words have no currency anymore. It kills you that your only way back into his heart may be through the object that sits on the shelves in there, beyond those big glass windows and bright neon signs. It’s 2 a.m and you feel as if you have sold your soul to something wicked. You finger the credit card and hope to God that there is enough of a ceiling left to allow you to bring it home, wrap it up and be his hero again, if only for that one morning in December.

Threads

The instant the doors closed, he knew he was on the wrong train. He could barely catch his breath from the mad dash down the tunnel and his overnight bag and computer felt like bricks in his hand. It had been all he could do to find a seat in the crowded car. He watched the doors slide shut and he knew, in that instant, that this train was not his train. He wanted to curse out loud but that was something he never did. His mother had taught him better so he held it inside and felt the blackness seep into his head. He tugged out his ticket from his overcoat pocket and looked it over, as if it and not he were the mistake. There were faces of every color all around him. None seemed to invite a question so he wrapped himself up in loneliness and wondered where he was bound. He felt the familiar unloosening of life that comes from making yet another bad decision and imagined one of his grandmother’s beautiful hand-woven afghans being pulled apart thread by thread by thread. That was his life. The ticket-puncher temporarily saved him. She took the ticket from his outstretched hand and shook her head in that sad, pathetic way people often did with him. He could feel another thread being pulled.”You’re on the wrong train,” she told him, in almost a whisper, and he nodded. “This one goes to Philly, not Penn Station.” He lowered his head. Philly. “Nothing to do now but ride into Philly and get on another back to the city,” she offered, handing him back his ticket and moving on. He could hear the rhythm of her clicker as she moved down the aisle. Philly. He’d be late for the meeting. His bags felt even heavier in his lap and he fumbled around, trying to reach his cell phone. He’d have to let them know and ask to reschedule. It occurred to him, however, that in his rush to get the train to New York on time that morning, he had left his phone sitting on the counter, all charged up for the day. Another thread, being pulled, as he watched the landscape roll past him.

Guitar

She cursed when the guitar string broke. She tried to keep going but it was impossible with the wire dangling down the fretboard. It made a loud twanging noise that made her curse even louder than was normally acceptable on this street corner. The little girl was watching her, so she turned away from the sidewalk and faced the wall behind her. “Damn it,” she muttered, and looking back over her shoulder, she saw the little girl still there, watching, waiting. The collection hat sat between them. Just a few coins and a dollar bill or two in the old cowboy headgear her father had given her years ago. Not much, but enough for dinner before she would knock again on the shelter door for the night. Katarina nodded and the girl smiled back, showing gaps where teeth had fallen out. Where was this child’s parent? No one seemed to be tending her. Katarina ignored the girl and dug into her case for another string, slowing unwinding the broken one and rewinding the new one. The guitar made a strange whirling noise as she twirled the peg and tried to get the string in tune. It took longer than usual as the uncooperative string seemed bent on going too sharp or too flat before being herded into the right pitch. Katarina looked up. The girl was gone. Good. Damn it, she muttered. The girl was gone, and so was the hat.

Yawn

If it were at all possible, he remembers his life beginning after the yawn. It was clear as day and it happened in second grade. Tommy and Sandy were nearby, having one of their endless arguments over whose turn it was to use the computer when it was that he realized that he had been yawning for what seemed to be forever and that nothing had existed before the yawn. It was as if everyone was a blank slate. Was that even possible? Years later, that yawn would seem like some Great Awakening in his life. For it was now, with clarity, that he realized a few things. Tommy was nothing but a bully and at recess that day, he pushed his former friend away and made him cry for the first time in his life. That felt good. Sandy was not quite the yuckiest kid on the planet. He thought about this as they walked around at recess together in the snowstorm that stung their eyes. The snowflakes looked wonderful on her outstretched tongue.Words in books suddenly seemed important. He could hear his teacher talking and understood. He was listening for the very first time in his life. Really listening. And then he went home and lost it all in a good night’s sleep.

Peace (in shortprose),
Kevin

The Boy in the Newspaper

I was reading through our Boston Globe on Sunday, engaged in this story about a boy who is undergoing experimental brain surgery to combat something known as Dystonia when I realized … this is a former student of mine! Alex was one of my students in writing class a few years ago, and although he had some difficulties walking, his disease had not progressed to the point where it apparently is now. He can barely walk or talk, and so his family — immigrants from Russia and deeply conservative and religious — are opting for experimental brain surgery that they hope will unlock the vibrant, intelligent and thoughtful young man from the confines of his unreponsive body.

I am torn with emotions — sad about the progression of his disease and in awe of his courage to keep on fighting. Needless to say, the physical act of writing was a chore for Alex — his hand did not always do what he wanted it to do — but he was always open for new ideas and new directions, and could articulate those ideas pretty clearly. His religious faith was always on the surface, allowing him to draw strength from his understanding of the world.

The article in the paper about Alex (and the photos they have there, too) reminds us of the different paths that so many lives take in the world. Perhaps, as both a father and a teacher, the story hit me hard. My heart goes out to Alex and his family, and I hope his faith sees him through.

Peace (in contemplation),
Kevin