Writing a Song for the Holidays

Our church does a holiday children’s pageant every year, but this year, there is a twist. A musician who works with schools and kids all overt the area is helping to develop an original pageant with original music from the Congregation, which I think is pretty neat. He received a whole bunch of lyrics and song ideas, and I sent forward mine, too.

My song is called All Join Hands and I was trying to capture the spirit of the church as a welcoming and open place that does quite a bit of social justice work. I then recorded it twice: first, by myself, as a demo, and then with my band — The Sofa Kings — one night, quickly showing them the chords, the words and then punching the “record” button and seeing what happened.

The song will be in the pageant in a few weeks, I think, and I will try to record it with the kids singing it. I showed it to them last week and it was neat to hear the young voices singing out the lyrics.

Here are the lyrics:

All Join Hands

All join hands
and light the candle
(’cause) We are one tonight
Peace and love
and faith inside us
(yes) We are one tonight

Everybody, everywhere
We’re reaching out for you — don’t despair
A kindness offered — and one received
A treasure in your heart
is a tender place to start
There’s room enough for you and me

Chorus

Though you may travel many roadways
In search of safety — and blessed byways
Beneath this banner — we receive you
With hope in our hearts
It’s a tender way to start
There’s room enough for you and me

Chorus

And here are the recordings:

Peace (be with you),
Kevin

Mulling over the Heroic Journey Map Project

I’ve been sitting on this project for at least a week or so, thinking about how it all went. In a nutshell: after reading The Lightning Thief novel and then a graphic interpretation of The Odyssey, my sixth graders created their own heroic journey home, using Google Maps and Picasa photo sharing. The “monsters” they could encounter came from an entirely different project that we had just done, which was handy.  I had never done this project before and it came to me as a sort of inspiration one day.

So, how did it go?

Let first say that my students were really into this project, once they grasped it all. There were certainly a number of steps (write your journey, learn about Google Maps, learn how to embed pictures from Picasa into Google, etc.) But they were game, and the few who “got it” wandered around the room with me, helping the others. In fact, one day when I was away, I bravely let the sub give them access to the computers to work on the project, and they did a wonderful job on their own.

The difficulties mostly lay in the fact that my students do not have email, so I created an umbrella Gmail account that we all shared. On the positive side, this meant that I had access to all of their maps (there were 17 maps in all) at all times. The negative side is that sometimes, students would accidentally click on someone else’s maps (I will say “accidentally” here and give them the benefit of the doubt) and made changes, which then had to be fixed.

But some of the maps were just fantastic and I put the entire collection into a Google Sites that I set up to showcase the group of maps. See a couple of examples here:

We also talked about moving their project into Google Earth, so that they can see their projects on another scale, but we sort of ran out of time. (This took a lot longer than I had planned, as usual, and I am hoping they are accessing the project at home, too).

As a final reflection, I had them take an online survey about reading The Odyssey as a graphic novel and creating their maps. Here are their overall responses:

(see larger version)

As part of the reflection, I posed the question: why in the world did I assign this project to them?

Here is what they wrote:

  • To get us to use new software and also to have us learn how to make maps about the two the books
  • So we could have fun and we could explain our own sorta journey meeting with Greek gods or mythical creatures IT WAS SO MUCH FUN THANKS SO MUCH MR HODGSON YOUR THE B-E-S-T
  • Because you wanted to see how good we were with technology.
  • I think you had us do the project so we could learn to use new tech stuff, help us learn about the book more, and to have fun.
  • It goes along with the story
  • You had use us do that because it is like the Odyssey.
  • I think you wanted use to do that because we can make anything up.
  • To be more creative and be able to think of our own journeys that are like the books we just read. THANKS MR.HODGSON THIS PROJECT WAS AWESOME.
  • So we could become more familiar with the c.o.w.s, have fun,and be able to use the monster exchange project in a creative way.
  • Because either you just felt like it or this was like our version of Odysseus’s journey.
  • I think you gave us this project because you want us to become good writers and you wanted us to think about how would it be if we went on a journey.:-)
  • Because the Odyssey has a journey
  • I don’t know, but it was fun…….
  • I think you had us do this mapping project because it shows how to use technology and make our own journey.
  • I think you had us do the mapping project to almost relate to Odysseus and to look how a journey is spread across the world. I also think the mapping project helped us write our own adventure, which related to both the Odyssey and the Lightning Thief.
  • So we could have a chance to use technology.
  • I think you had us do this because so we would understand it better.

I also asked them what advice they would give to improve the project.

Here are their responses:

  • We could have our own accounts.
  • to make your own username and password
  • A way we could make the mapping project better is if you looked up pictures of mythical creatures like hellhounds and hundred handed ones so we could encounter those on our journey. other than that it was A-W-E-S-O-M-E!! <3
  • Make us not have to write so much
  • I think if we added some pictures of say Poseidon and other gods it would make it better.
  • Making us do the project on Google earth
  • More gods.
  • IDK! IT WAS ALL AWESOME I WOULDN’T CHANGE ANYTHING!!!!!
  • Nothing. It was awesome!!!!!!!!!!!!
  • It’s fine. No changes needed, but you might want to scan the monsters, not take photos of them.
  • This project was too awesome that there was no possible way it could have been better!:-)
  • I don’t know. It was good
  • Making a separate account for everyone so that only the student and their teacher know the password to their account, so that no one else could change their map, as we experienced, and found it not to be a good thing.
  • We could have more pictures so we have our monsters then the monster exchange ones. 😀
  • I think that we could have taken a blank map and drawn our adventure. I would have rather had it be more artistic; I love technology, but sometimes art is better to explain a story. Google Maps was cool to look at, by I didn’t like the whole setup that much. I didn’t enjoy watching other people changing other people’s maps, it was extremely frustrating to watch this.
  • I think that the projects could be better if we did not have to copy and paste pictures on to Google Maps.
  • Battle a lot more monsters.

Yes, this project was very worthwhile and engaging, and not only did it use technology to connect them to reading and writing, it also allowed me to talk about the use of technology platforms they knew nothing about before.

Now, I need to grade them, and I am thinking: I wish I didn’t have to. I wish we could let the experience be the learning and not assign a number/letter to the experience. But we are not there yet, and they are expecting a grade.

Peace (in points on the world),
Kevin

A PhotoFriday Picture Story

Allanah showed me this site — called Capzles — that seemed intriguing, so I grabbed all of my submissions to the PhotoFriday Flickr group and made this little show, with some original music of mine.

I think the site is pretty nifty. And it was incredibly easy to use — I uploaded, created and embedded this whole thing in a short amount of time.

(You can also view the show directly with this link. I noticed that the nice background I created in Capzles is missing in the embed widget, so it is worth the visit, I think)

Peace (in slides),
Kevin

Two Cool Things

Here are two neat things that I found this morning in my RSS reader.

First, I went to a site called Create Your Own Snowflake. I know. A waste of time. But a fun waste of time and something that kids might get into. You create the snowflake by clicking in the circle and it makes symmetrical patterns. Nice enough. But here is the thing that was fun: you can then put the snowflake into motion in either 2D or 3D (which is very cool).

(go to Build a Snowflake)

Next, this video from the Google Docs Weblog (which you should put into your reader if you use Google applications at all) is just an amazing thing to watch, as some Google-ites collaborate in a Google Spreadsheet on the creation of a holiday picture. I was fascinated by the movement and wondered: how could we replicate this somehow? (pushing that to the back of my mind for now)

Enjoy!

Peace (in sharing),
Kevin

Passing the Buck to Bonnie (for Days in a Sentence)

Bonnie has graciously agreed to guest host Days in a Sentence this week, and I urge you to cruise on over to her blog and add your thoughts to the mix this week. While you are there, you should see the other things that she is up to, including an article she wrote on blogging with teachers in the summer, a lot of other kinds of writing, and well, just good stuff all around.

And I urge you to check out the Edublog Awards, too, for a whole list of pretty neat blogs and resources that you can add to your list of must-reads.

Peace (in paths),
Kevin

Edublog Awards … and me

There is considerable debate in the blogosphere about the value of any online awards system and I can see both sides of the coin. It is strange to narrow a vision to just a few sites in a sea of millions, and yet, I find that award systems allow me to discover many new places that become valuable parts of my network. If someone has taken the time to nominate a site, it must have some value.

I say this because the finalists for the Edublog Awards for 2008 have been announced, and so I went there, searching for some new RSS feeds. I am always looking for new voices and new resources.

And, there, in the category of Best Teacher Blog was my own Kevin’s Meandering Mind. I want to thank any and all of you who may have submitted this site forward to the nominating committee. I am honored to think that there are folks who find what I sprawl on about useful.

Again, thank you.

Peace (in recognition),
Kevin

What I would say …

One of the superintendents in our system asked me, and some others, for some video for a presentation he is giving to elementary teachers on how and why to think about technology in the classroom. I sort of whipped this together this weekend and if he uses it, great. If not, that’s fine, too, but it allowed me to reflect on some of the projects I have been doing with my students this year.

Peace (in reflection),
Kevin

Days in a Sentence: The Great Sharing Out

In a week of expressing thanks (here in America, anyway), I want to shower all of the contributors to the weekly Day in a Sentence with praise for sharing their words. I am always heartened to see what comes into my blog bin when I put out a call for sentences. So, thank you – each and every one of you, whether you contribute each week or just when time permits.

And now, on to this week’s sentences:

First, Ken gets double-duty. He was the only one to contribute a sentences two weeks ago and I decided to hold onto his poem for this week. And then, he sent forth another sentence for this week, and both are wonderful (as usual):

a week on reports
hammered words into shape for
deserving learners

(and then)

Could you believe it –
from the millions on the Net,
just one sentence – mine?

(Yes, Ken, yours …)

David, who sometimes gets stuck inside my spam filter (which used to happen to me when Day in the Sentence was hosted over at The Reflective Teacher years ago), was engaged in a bit of digital clean-up that had me looking over my system, too. I asked, but he could not come here to help me out.

Added an extra 250 gigabytes of hard drive to my laptop, imagine how spacious that feels, give me a couple of months and it’ll be cluttered up and almost full though…

Both of The Two Writing Teachers (Stacey and Ruth) posted their own Days over at their terrific blog and so, since they are such a team and close partners, it only seems right to share their sentences here, together, as writers.

Stacey: I’ve come to realize that I’m truly blessed to have a friend and a colleague who pushes my thinking and makes me a better teacher of writing.

Ruth: I’m thankful that my very favorite holiday season is upon us.

Bonnie made the attempt to use Vacaroo but the platform didn’t work out so well for her, so maybe it’s not such a hot application after all. But, as always, she took the plunge, gave it a try, gave it a second try, and pushed herself forward. This week, a sentence was not enough and time was a crunch.

Just got home from San Antonio last night. I’m unpacked and happy to be back at the Hudson.
I did have my computer with me for the week of course, but in the world of NWP and vacation, there was no time to Boil Down the Week, barely enough time to chat with friends, but, last night I enjoyed reading through Tech Friends on ning to begin my own conference debriefing. Good to be home and experimenting with yet a new tech tool, thanks Kevin.

(You are welcome, always, Bonnie)

Nancy has some traveling in her bones as teeth move into the mouth of her adorable daughter. Ouch.

Putting some miles on the car last weekend and this, while Alice gains some miles of her own, rolling to and fro, between bouts of teething discomfort.

Conferences over, Liza reflects on things she is thankful for. I am sure the parents are thankful for her as their children’s teacher.

Focused on gratitude this week, I am aware of how grateful I am to be a teacher but also how grateful I am to be finished with Family-Teacher conferences!

Breathing is … good. And having a time to catch your breath … even better. Delaine also tried Vocaroo and came up empty. Methinks I sent forth a bad application to test. I apologize.

Good morning from rainy California. I am so thankful to have a week off to spend with family and friends and to take a moment to breathe.

Deb explains about her Thanksgiving tradition, which  is to tell what people are thankful for at the table. She writes, “I appreciate the tradition. I love hearing the three year-old saying what she is saying, but also what the quiet brother in-laws.”

I am THANKFUL for time with 17 relatives at my Thanksgiving table who will say, ‘I am thankful for…’.

Twelve hours of sleep! My gosh … just look at Karen McM’s list and you’ll understand. I wonder what she dreamed about?

My week as a list (if you don’t mind): report cards; internet safety presentation; Giver project presentations; disaster drill planning; clueless parents; wonderful parents; happy students; cranky students; overachieving students; underperforming students; chatty students; rude students; downright (oohhh…vocab word) disrespectful students; why do I do this job?; God, how I love my job!; a day off from school, slept for 12 hours = priceless!

Nina reminds us to remain grounded in the real world and to not take anything for granted.

In this time of global financial crisis, I am so very thankful to have a job, and one that (despite my frequent complaints) I enjoy doing!

My friend, Ben, whom I wish I could have seen in San Antonio (why didn’t we connect, Ben?) found his thoughts in between two places.

While I feasted on National Writing Project presentations, my students devoured Night, by Wiesel, and Copper Sun, by Draper. (This would be my second sentence if I could have two: I am glad to be part of Kevin’s tribe, but I am sad that I didn’t get to hang out with him there at NWP.)

Anne M. went out and connected. And she returned renewed with ideas. Isn’t that the best part of going to a conference of substance and meaning? (Of course, nothing is worse than the opposite — returning home from a conference that was meaningless).

My week was a thought provoking one as I attended three days of conferences – giving me many wonderful ideas, challenges and the best of all, new and existing connections with some wonderful educators.

The heart of what is important is the center of Sheryl‘s thoughts this week.

Talking of food, friends and family together on Thanksgiving made light work of the weekly chores, duties and responsibilities leading to the day.

Thanks, Art, for reminding me that being in a roomful of hundreds of other teachers who care about writing, and share a similar philosophy, is not an isolating act but one that connects us with others.

Being around the other concerned interested teachers at NWP made me feel more normal than I usually do.

sara looks around and sees a possible ending to passing the buck and she hopes, it will be the students who gain from this change of heart.

it is infinitely satisfying to see my teaching team step up this year and really hold the students accountable, instead of just saying “oh well, it’s easier not to deal with it,” thus saving my stomach from more potential ulcers. : )

Cheryl is thinking downhill (or is it cross-country) with winter and cold weather now upon us but friends and family to keep us warm.

Relaxing with family and friends over a day of skiing and an evening of good food, thankful for these moments.

Pig roast! Not just a pig roast, but a Barbarian Pig Roast! Angie fills us in.

Our second annual Barbarian pig roast at the Texas RenFest with over 30 of our friends followed by Thanksgiving with our son and our close family friends made this past week busy but absolute fun!

Tina also had food on her mind (not pig, but shellfish) and the break in the action that comes with Thanksgiving.

The blackened scallops I ate last night (at the Gill Tavern) were, so far, the highlight of what has been a perfectly pleasureable four-and-a-half-day vacation.

And finally, Amy can breathe a sigh of relief and give some true thanks that the health care system worked for her and her family, and I send out our collective thoughts of support her way, too.

This year we gave thanks for Blue Cross Blue Shield HMO of Illinois. Why? Because we just received word that they will cover the ENTIRE cost of a computer/communication device for our autistic 10 year-old.

Thanks to everyone who submitted a sentence this week. I am truly thankful for your words.

Peace (in sharing),
Kevin