Photo Fridays

My good friend, Bonnie, is launching a new challenge called Photo Fridays, in which folks share photographs on Fridays via a Flickr Group. I am not much of a photographer but I am going to give it a whirl when I can because I have been interested in capturing scenes around my house (without people, if possible). It will be a sort of minutia of the small world unfolding around me.

Bonnie has set up a Mr. Linky widget at her site, so if you post a photo on Friday on your blog or website, be sure to add your link to her blog widget, and we can all connect together.


Yesterday, I looked out at my front yard and saw the perfect image to capture the spirit of baseball at our house. A ball, a catcher’s mask and a pitch-back. It was just right. I love the contrast of the rich green grass with the white ball. The black of the mask and the pitch-back kind of fade, but I think the tree gives a bit of a backdrop and you can just make out the design of the netting. I did add the softening edges just to give more focus to the center of the image.

Peace (in pictures),

Self-Publishing Student Poetry

This year, as we ended our unit on poetry, I decided that I wanted to try something a little different with my students’ poems. In the past, I have collected voluntary submissions of some poems, gathered them into a Microsoft Publisher document to make it look pretty, hit the photocopy machine and cranked out a bunch of stapled booklets. It worked just fine for what it was.

But I want my students to see themselves as published writers as much as possible. So, this year, I decided to be bold and use Lulu, the self-publishing site, to create a real book of student poems. I had tinkered in the year with using Lulu for some of my own work, and I was inspired once again when I saw that the collaborative @manyvoices project that had students using Twitter to write a story across the world published a final version through Lulu (I bought myself a copy). My students were excited about it, too.

And, so, after all of us doing proofreading and choosing some basic designs from Lulu, our book of poetry, entitled Exploration, is now for sale via Lulu. The cost is about $5 per book, which isn’t too bad, but shipping costs another $5. If I had another month in the school year, I would just use order forms for parents and buy a bunch in bulk. But time is running out (two weeks left) and so I have been directing students and families to the Lulu site, in hopes they will order a copy. (I have also set it up so the download of a PDF version is free, although one student asked why you would want that when you can have a book that you can hold in your hands — nice insight in the digital age).

buy this book on Lulu.

This is what the cover of the book looks like:

This file has been created and published by FireShot

I think I will do more with publishing next year, knowing how easy it really is with web-based platforms. My hope had also been to do a fundraiser in which we publish short stories and sell the book collection for a little bit more, and use the proceeds to benefit an organization in Darfur, which my students learned about and became advocates for earlier this year. But, again, time ran out on us.

Peace (in publishing),

Nancy is host to Days in a Sentence

Our very-much pregnant friend, Nancy, has agreed to host this week’s Day in a Sentence (Will she write her sentence on the week of the baby?) So please join this week over at Nancy’s Blog and follow her suggestions for this week’s submissions.

I look forward to your words.

Peace (in rainy days here in New England before the blast of summer about to arrive this weekend),

My RSS-ed World

This file has been created and published by FireShot

I was lucky enough to be asked by the National Writing Project to write an article on how I use my RSS feeds and blogging to connect with the world and other teachers, and also to move myself forward in thinking about technology and information flow as a teacher and as a blogger. The article was published this week at the NWP’s revamped Resource site. (See the article entitled” “Bringing the World to my Doorstep“)

How do you use RSS?

I would be curious to know if other folks see RSS as a way to control the wave of information. What I am finding is that I need to continually nurture the RSS (I use Google Reader now but I used to be a fan of Bloglines, until it would not play nice with Edublogs one time too many) and weed it like a garden: I add new sites as they pique my interest and remove old ones that just seem to take up space, and worry about the sites that I don’t even yet know exist but would be important to me.

Peace (in connections),

Slice of Life, Weekly Challenge, Chapter 10

(This is part of a weekly feature called Slice of Life Project)

Yesterday, we all sat around and wrote. It was another freewriting opportunity for the kids and for me, too. I didn’t give them any directions, really, just space to write. We didn’t share. We didn’t talk. We wrote and then when it was time to leave, we put our notebooks away and that was that. While they were making comics or writing stories or reflecting on their past weekend, I was hit by an urge to write some poetry, and my mind was wandering around the idea of the End of the School Year.

So, these are three of the four poems I wrote during the freewriting times of my four writing classes yesterday. The fourth poem didn’t make the cut, but there still might be some fragments to pull from the fire on some other day. Words are never lost, they just await their time.

Let You Go
(listen to the poem)

I’d count the days
if I had the time
But time is elusive here
as the days slip past.

I am torn
between who you were,
who you are
and who you are becoming,
and wonder where
my place in your story will be
when the years have washed ashore.

You are more than
what my pen can hold
and beyond a form
to take shape on this paper
beneath fingers.

I watch you — I whisper
and let you go.

Stage Presence
(listen to the poem)

On stage
you were transformed
into something unrecognizable
even to me —
the silent one no longer silent
but with a voice
like a wolf
pouncing on those words
like prey.

I was there, with you, on stage,
in the moment
behind the curtain
I believed you in a way
I (perhaps) had not believed in you before

I wonder where that person lives
in you —
when I call on you,
I am only met with confusion.

(listen to the poem)

Another summer awaits you;
your parents are content to let you sit
and simmer in the heat —
and you, thinking your thoughts of no way out;
I know you need structure
an excuse to write,
to learn;
to move among us in the living
from your world behind the mask.

In the days ahead,
I will mail you a book — some pens and paper —
anonymous, as always —
and cross my fingers that it reaches you
in time ….

before the doldrums move you
into the path of the thunderstorms
of summer.

Peace (in the waning days of the school year),


Memoir Mondays: Looking Down from Above

This is part of a project at Two Writing Teachers

(note from Kevin: I am not sure what had me thinking back to this experience. I was just a kid but the memory pops back up from time to time)

Once I got to the top, I could not drop, and instead, I froze.

I remember the rocky ledge steps and how they curved around and then up, straight up, and I stood at the bottom, thinking: here goes. I made my way carefully, slipping a bit here and there, but mostly remaining steady on my toes. I didn’t look down. That’s what they tell you: don’t look down and so I didn’t.

So it was quite a shock when I finally got the top and did look down.

The waterfall was gushing past me with such a roar that I could barely hear my breath. Somehow, though, the thumping of my heart was pounding with a steady, yet frantic, beat, like the rhythm of some tribal drums before a human sacrifice.

Water moved above me, to the side of me and down past me. We were deep in the woods of Maine and nature was everywhere and everything. There are those moments when you realize just how small we are in comparison to the world around you. For me, this was one of those moments.

I felt my breath go in as my friend waved goodbye to me in a offhand way and jumped. Vertigo hit me as I tried to follow his leap down, down, down into the cold water pool below. The drop seemed endless. Then I heard his “whoop.” Another friend went off, too, and then it was just me.

And I could not move.

There I stood, for the longest time, as my friends first encouraged, and then tried to shame me, and then felt pity on me as I stood like a statue at the top of the waterfall. My mind went blank. Despite the suggestions that I come back down the rocky stairs if I was too scared to jump, I could not even do that. I was caught in some internal force that would not allow me to move forward or backwards. I was static.
Friends came up, talked to me, put a hand on my shoulder, joked that they might push me, and then they jumped again and again. I remained still and scared.

I am not sure if I was afraid of the fall, of possible death, or the fact that the water was frigid cold. Something about this place unnerved me to no end.

Finally, after what seemed a lifetime, I willed my young body to the edge, placed my toes over the abyss, and launched myself into a free fall off the waterfall cliff that was about 60 feet above the pool below.

It was an endless drop. I was both in the moment and outside of the experience.

My feet hit first with a crash that was followed fast by such a blast of bone-chilling cold that it took whatever breath I had left away from me and then I was scrambling to come up for air. I willed myself to keep my mouth shut — to survive — and to look up for the sky as my guidepost to life. My head burst up through the surface and I gasped with everything I had.

There was a rousing cheer from my friends but I could barely hear it. My ears were ringing with the experience and I declined the invitations to try it again. Once was enough.

Peace (in safe havens),

PS — Not long after this event, the writer of the comic strip, Funky Winkerbean, did a stretch of days in which the main character climbs to the top of a high diving board and freezes. I could laugh then, and live vicariously through the comic, and even laugh at both him and me.

Your Days in a Comic

Thanks to everyone who submitted their Day in a Comic. It was quite amusing to get them in my email bin. I struggled with how to present them all — I tried making a little movie but the text became too small and unreadable. I tried a slideshow but the new Edublogs platform doesn’t seem to want to have the flickr slideshow that I used to use.
So I am providing you with a link to the Flickr Slideshow and I hope you travel there and get a chuckle and/or insight out of the comic creations of this week.
Or, you can follow these contributors names to their comics:

If you want to make a comic, the tools we used were either Make Beliefs Comics or ToonDoo or the Read-Write-Think Site, but there are plenty of other sites out there that are easy for us and our students to use.

If you sent me a comic but I did not get it or post it, please let me know. And you can still link to your comic in the commenting section of this post, if you were a bit — ahem — tardy or occupied with real life this week.

Peace (in the funny pages),

The Comment Challenge Final Reflection

I saw this and thought of us:

The 31 Day Comment Challenge has been all about peaceful exploration, even as the heroes of one of my favorite sci-fi-spoofing comics — Brewster Rockit — has been engaged in a war of commenting and blogging words with the visiting alien race.
For me, though, the entry into the Comment Challenge has been fruitful on so many levels. I really appreciate the thoughtfulness and support that the organizers — Sue Waters, Silvia Tolisano, Michele Martin and Kim Cofino — put into the activities. And they spent a lot of time making sure that everyone had some sort of comments and discussion going on. It was always a pleasure to open up my moderation bin (yep, I still have it in place) and see their names there, with an insightful comment.

external image comment_challenge_logo_2.png

So, what have I discovered?
  • I created a Commenting Invitation (which began as a policy) so that people who stumble across my little space in the world will know they can participate in discussions and reflection — I love many voices.
  • I use moderation for comments but many folks do not, and I am remaining where I am on this issue but I keep thinking about it. I guess, in the end, I need some sort of control, which is sometimes looked upon as a bad thing in the blogging world. I may reconsider this. Not yet, though.
  • I explored some new technology — including CoComment, which I like very much, and Seismic Video, which is easy to use and easy to embed for video comments, and some other tools that escape me right now. Thanks to everyone who shared and demonstrated the use of new ideas in the Comment Challenge.
  • I ventured far outside my normal blogging circles and found some wonderful places to explore and people to meet, and some of them have followed me back here to become part of the Day in a Sentence and other activities. I welcome all of you here.
  • I blogged in another language, which was a first for me, and quite a thrill. I had never even considered that before but with all the translation tools available, it seemed to work fine. I don’t think I inadvertently comment-bombed anyone.
  • Perhaps most important: I tried to look at my blog through new eyes as the daily activities were designed not only to empower us as visitors to other sites, but also to view our own site through the lens of a visitor — is it inviting? is it conducive to discussion? do we project some personality/persona/brand/voice? why are we blogging anyway?
I will take these lessons, mull them over and continue to refine who I am as a blogger and commenter, knowing that the two go hand-in-hand together. I have responsibilities on both side of that fence and I hope I can keep them up.
One of the final activities was to think about how we can use what we have learned in the classroom. I already do have a Commenting Guidelines that I use with my students but I think many of us struggle with ways to show students the importance of constructive comments in building a relationship with another writer or nurturing a community of writers. As a teacher, perhaps we need to make sure all of the scaffolding is in place to make the experience of blogging and commenting a supportive and nurturing experience for our students. We need to shake them loose from the “IM” speak and shallow comments, and move them into a richer world of writing and interaction. Blogs are just one platform for this, but comments and reaction expands the sense of audience and publishing considerably.
What did you learn from your Comment Challenge experience or from just dropping by from time to time? (vicarious learning is perfectly acceptable).
Peace (in appreciation),

We The People Virtual Art Museum

Yesterday, the fifth grade classes held their annual Living History Museum (students dressed up as and acted as people from history) and the Virtual Art Museum Project that I helped from a technology angle went on display, too. We had a line of laptops along the wall, with headphones jacked in, and visitors to the event listened to the podcasts that were based on famous American paintings. The project was funded through a grant.

There were some annoying glitches (low batteries on some laptops, etc) but overall, the art teacher and librarian, and the student podcasters, did an outstanding job on this project. It seemed like a lot of the people listening in , including parents, were impressed.

We also just released the website where all of the podcast/videos can be viewed by the public.

Head to the We The People Virtual Art Museum to experience the podcasts.

Peace (in collaboration),

Commenting Guidelines for Students

The folks over at the 31-Day Comment Challenge ask us to consider what kind of commenting policy or suggestions we have for students when they use blogs. This is very important and when we start the year, we spent a bit of time talking as a class about the responsibilities of the person who is going to leave a comment and the respect they need to show to the writer.

Over out our Youth Radio site, Gail developed a nice set of guidelines for students who participate from around the world. We call this the Youth Radio Blog Netiquette (a term used elsewhere) and this is what we provide as guidelines:

Please do:
  1. Remember that the Internet is a public forum. Keep your communication appropriate.
  2. Discuss ideas and issues that concern you and your fellow students, especially as they connect to learning about the Youth Radio community.
  3. Back up your statements with examples, reasons, or other supportive evidence.
  4. Read through all the posts in a discussion thread before you respond to one (so you are not asking a question that has already been asked or repeating something that someone else has already posted).
Please do not:
  1. Post your full name or others’ last names, phone numbers, home addresses, or other personal information.

  2. Attack others. Agree or disagree with others’ ideas using reasons and examples to support your view.

  3. Use language that may be offensive to other users.

  4. Initiate divisive discussion topics (e.g., regional sports teams)

  5. Change font sizes and/or colors unless you are trying to emphasize a point. It’s the content of your message that counts, not the style.


Here are some suggestions on for creating good comments for each other. The richer the comments, the more likely it is that someone will answer you back. You can begin your comment by writing and explaining:

  • This made me think about…….
  • I wonder why…….
  • Your writing made me form an opinion about…….
  • This post is relevant because…….
  • Your writing made me think that we should…….
  • I wish I understood why…….
  • This is important because…….
  • Another thing to consider is…….
  • I can relate to this…….
  • This makes me think of…….
  • I discovered…….
  • I don’t understand…….
  • I was reminded that…….
  • I found myself wondering…….

(Much of this was adapted from Excellence and Imagination)

My friend, Paul Allison, and his colleagues in a social networking site called Youth Voices have also explored in great detail how to help students see comments in a productive light. You can view Paul’s guide to blogging at his Hypertextopia space, where he created a hyperlinked document for students.

Basically, they suggest a model for students and although they admit that some of the comments may come across initially as a cookie cutter, the template allows students to get a feel for commenting and then expand beyond that mode.

Dear Writer’s Name:

I <past tense verb showing emotion> your message, “<Exact Title>,” because… <add 2 or 3 sentences>

One sentence you wrote that stands out for me is: “<Quote from message.>” I think this is <adjective> because… <add 1 or 2 sentences>

Another sentence that I <past tense verb> was: “<Quote from message>.” This stood out for me because…

I do/don’t <adverb> agree with you that… One reason I say this is… Another reason I agree/disagree with you is…

Thanks for your writing. I look forward to seeing what you write next, because… add 2 or 3 sentences explaining what will bring you back to see more about this person’s thoughts.

Peace (in comments),