Youth Radio — On the Edublog List

My Youth Radio project — which has yet to really get off the ground this school year but is close — is one of the finalists for the Edublogger Awards for 2007 in the category of educational use of audio. That is really great news for the teachers and students who have been collaborating.

Why not take a minute to cast a vote?

And while you are there, check out the many great blogs and resources that are available out there.

Peace (in podcasting),

Your Day in a Sentence — Post-Turkey Day Edition

This week’s Day in a Sentence includes some new friends, as I posted a call for responses over at the Classroom 2.0, just to see what might happen. (My fear was hundreds of posts but that hasn’t happened … yet). Without further ado, here are your Days in a Sentence (with no podcasts this week — darn it):

The holiday break was on the minds of many this week, including Delaine, who wrote about finding some time away: “A holiday getaway to our San Francisco highrise made me giddy with pleasure.”

Sue, who comes to us via Classroom 2.0 and who has launched her own site called MasteryMaze for teachers and students, had a residue of good feelings from meetings at her school: “This week’s resounding applause from parents and students at parent teacher conferences reinforced my belief, as unpopular as it may be to many, that you can reach them best if you are courageous enough to step into their world!

Durff, whom I seem to run into all over the Web and who is doing some amazing things in many different format, posted her comment on Classroom 2.0 for us. She writes: “This week could be wrapped up by saying it was a week of great loss, great gains, and great rest: the great loss was Monday when a good friend died; great gains when 17 faculty went to ACSI; and great rest for Thanksgiving holiday in USA.

My colleague, Susan, of the Western Mass Writing Project, is still energized by the meetings in New York City. She writes: “There’s nothing more satisfying than connecting people with people and opportunities that support their passions, their great thinking minds, and their vital voices; it’s like living your life in hyperlink!

Ben is nearing fatherhood (whoo-hoo) and realizes that being away from home is not so great a thing, as he muses: “I realized that using the NWP/NCTE New York conference as a exciting, if not poetic, deathbed for the final weeks for the pre-fatherhood epoch in my life was useless because I missed my wife almost as much as I missed seeing my unborn sun bulge in her belly.” (Editor’s Note: Did he mean sun? or son? I didn’t change it because sun seemed poetic to me).

Amy‘s words kept coming, beyond a sentence, and who am I to edit the rush of the writer? She writes: “This week we had our Thanksgiving Morning Ex at school. (Morning Exercises are all-school assemblies that occur once or twice a week.) The Thanksgiving Mex is always highlights fall service learning projects that have happened in the lower, middle, and upper schools. I am the service learning coordinator for the lower school, and although it is a lot of work to put together, it went really well. Today I am baking pies in preparation for tomorrow’s festivities! (Sorry that was more like a paragraph than a sentence!)

Larry (whose blog site you must read regularly — it is wonderful) comes to us with a possible solution for a practical problem, and some learning, too. He writes: “The highlight of this short week was the classroom management success of giving two VERY active students soccer “stress balls,” with the caveat that they had to jot down at least one time each day when they used it (so they might eventually see a pattern).”

Bonnie seems a bit rested and then disturbed by real life, and it comes in the form of filling up the tank. (Is there a metaphor here?) She writes: “Coming back to life without a workshop to prepare for is nice, just a chance to breathe and devour some turkey and wonder just how high the cost of gas will go until someone screams out: I WON”T TAKE IT ANYMORE!

Cheryl (who co-created the podcast-friendly Seedlings Ning for the K12 Online Conference) continues to spread her knowledge and skills with others, as she notes, “I presented about Moodle in 4 different workshops and teachers moved on with Moodle, I am a happy presenter.

Ginny, who has been forging her way into podcasting with the Seedlings Ning site started by Cheryl, is looking closer at student interaction, explaining: “I have discovered how peer assessment, that is students assessing students, contributes to deeper learning and is a fairer way to recognise contribution to groupwork for example.

And then there is Nancy, a virtual friend with whom I met in real life in NYC, who writes: “This week, I went to bed early nearly every night, recovering from a weekend of volunteering and being professionally developed, and practically gave up on teaching my Juniors, those little buggers; thank goodness Thanksgiving is finally here.

So there you have it — a great expanse of writing and thoughts. I encourage you all to follow some of the links to each other’s blogs, and begin a conversation — start a friendship — connect.

Peace (in shortness),

Questions of Leadership: Inquiry with NWP

NPW NYC 07 (4)

In New York City for the National Writing Project, I had the pleasure of co-leading a session that centered on encouraging teacher leadership and developing strategies for encouraging teachers to become more active in programs via the NWP and also showing some ways that current leaders can facilitate that growth and development. It’s not easy and we began our session by having folks come up with some inquiry questions — the ideas that brought them to the session in the first place.

(Note: TC = teacher consultants = teachers in the writing project)

Here is that list:

  • How can I motivate/inspire overworked teachers to jump at the chance to be writers?
  • How do we draw too-busy TCs into leadership?
  • Are there “good reasons” to attract “teachers” – not just leaders – and if so, what are those reasons?
  • What are different ways leadership can “look”?
  • How do we keep others wanting to lead?
  • How can TC leaders help us build participation in initiatives they lead?
  • How do we open closed ears?
  • What strategies can address burnout?
  • What timeline should we pursue?
  • How can we encourage those who won’t take risks?
  • As the site grows, and the responsibilities of various positions grow, how do you figure out what positions to pay and how much is reasonable?
  • What are the issues of teacher leadership from the perspective of school districts?
  • How does a relatively new or developing site develop leadership capacity without “burning out” existing leadership?
  • What are some incentives to encouraging TCs to take on leadership roles.
  • How do we give up responsibilities that we do because no one else can do them?
  • Why are people so afraid to step up to the plate?
  • How can I keep the work I want to do and share the work others want to/should do?
  • How do we groom leaders – allowing for “messy maturation” process and respecting the growth – without micromanaging or having crash and burns?
  • Finding venues for TCs to grow?
  • How do you get people to follow through on promises made?
  • How can we sustain our current leadership – keep them from taking on too much responsibility or burning out?
  • What resources are necessary for growing teacher leaders?
  • What are the qualities of a good leader in the Writing Project? A good potential leader?
  • How can we turn “leadership” into an opportunity instead of a burden?
  • What carrots do you give? Long term and short term. What mentoring do you provide?
  • How can we move from beyond sustaining our site and create systems for growth?
  • Are there approaches that you have used at your site that have increased involvement of TCs after they have participated in the Summer Institute. (Our TCs are willing but time is such an issue)
  • How do you find your voice among a strong leadership team that has defined its own?
  • How can we empower TCs and share leadership and ownership?

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Peace (in inquiry),

Take a look at Lookybooks

My friend, Susan, showcased this very cool site for picture books called Lookybook and I realized that you can embed the books as a flash file in the blog itself. I love picture books and use them all the time in my classrooms so this site is very much welcome (thanks, Susan!).
I liked this one in particular. It is called Jazz by Christopher and Walter Dean Meyers. I know it is impossible to read here so feel free to go to the site and take a look at the book directly.

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Peace (in picture books),

Your Day/Week in A Sentence

This is a shout-out for everyone to capture your week or a day of your week into a single, concise, emotionally-centered sentence. Last week’s VoiceThread experiment didn’t generate too much response but I won’t give up and will give it another go at another time.

This week, it’s back to tradition, so please use the comment feature on this post to share your sentence with us. Please leave your name and your blog, so we can connect with others. You can also podcast your sentence — just provide me with a link to your file or podcast or email an audio file to me directly at dogtrax(at)gmail(dot)com and I can host it for you.

I will collect and post all of the submissions over the weekend.

Here is mine:

“I discovered the joys of quickfiction this week and find my thoughts jumping from short narrative to short narrative in an attempt to harvest this little goldmine as a writer and maybe later, as a teacher.”

Peace (in all of our myriad connections),


Richard Sterling at NWP: One Last Address

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Richard Sterling, the executive director of the National Writing Project, is stepping down from his post as leader of this wonderful organization. Last week, in New York City, he gave his last public address to the more than 1,000 teachers attending the NWP annual meeting. I have only met him once, briefly, but I have always looked forward to his talk at the last three annual meetings that I have attended. His words and stories have been inspiration and empowering, and I will miss his voice and humor at these meetings.

If you missed his speech in New York City, you can take a listen here as I created a podcast of his public address. (The sound is just OK, not great).

Peace (in inspiration),


Student Voices — Changing Our Community

My sixth graders just completed a short, 300-word essay that focused on the suburban town where they live and what issue they would address if they were elected a leader of the community. This was a new project for me and I brought in some local elected officials and the town administrator to talk about local government. Many of my students were quite oblivious to way that decisions that affect them — such as maintenance and creation of new recreational areas or funding for technology for schools — were actually made.

We almost always share out our final writing to the class and this time, I brought in my Blue Snowball microphone (high quality, USB connected) and set up my teacher chair and offered to record them reading their essays. Almost two-thirds of each class volunteered to the podcast, which amazed me. I guess they want their voices heard. The podcasts have been posted on our classroom weblog and are being shared with town officials and parents and school administrators.

Here are a few:

Peace (in fostering change and leadership),

In Support of the Writers …

Is it OK to get political? Writers in this new age of wired media are still important and should be compensated. Words still have value and power in this age of dispersed content. Someone needs to remind the big companies, such as Viacom, about that simple equation.
The striking writers of The Daily Show are doing their part:

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Peace (in giving words value),

A New Writing Adventure

I am back from New York City (from the National Writing Project Annual Meeting) and I will share more about what I was doing there in NYC, and whom I met, later in the week as I pull together some files and thoughts. (I will definitely share a session I led called Writing in the Digital Age, with all of our resources).

But during my stay, I was engrossed during my few down times with a collection of Quickfiction or Flashfiction put out by McSweeney’s. This is a fiction-writing technique of capturing a story or character in a short amount of words. Now that my Poetry Project is over, I have been mulling over what to do next with my writing and this blog, and I think Quickfiction has taken hold in my brain.

On the train ride home yesterday, I started writing and came up with five Quickfiction stories. And hey, I might as well podcast them, too, right? One thought is to collect the best of a series and combine the words and voice with images for some sort of fictional movie project (I haven’t yet figured it out)


He didn’t think of himself as a killer, even though he stood there with the implements of death in his hand and hundreds of corpses laying around him in every direction. It was just an adventure but he knew his father would be angry with him. He knew this with certainty. He thought suddenly of Horton the elephant and how Horton kept reminding himself that a person was a person, no matter how small. What would Horton think? They were small, these little bodies that had been moving just minutes before but now seemed like exclamation points on the driveway. The magnifying glass felt heavy in his hand all of sudden. He gingerly used his feet to create a pile of bodies and then went into the garage to get a broom. His father would never know. And neither would Horton.


I barely conceal the remote and still be able to use it, so moving around the mega-store proves to be rather awkward. I imagine the eyes of all the blue-shirted employees watching me, scanning this hesitant figure marching through their midst. In reality, I’m invisible. Just another wallet wandering through with eyes on overload. The difference is that I have had enough. I use my thumb. Click. Click. Click. I’ve learned to move fast in this environment. I’m a clandestine operator. Click. Click. The noise drops. It’s as if a black hole suddenly opened up, with silence rushing right into the gap. Beautiful silence. I feel the most satisfied I have felt all day, even as I hear voices yelling behind me as I push my way through the revolving door and continue my path down Times Square.


Their heads are visible and nothing else. Their bodies are down below and their necks are barely just above the color line of the fading leaves. Their heads are there – just faces sticking up. One disappears. There is laughing and then a playful struggle. The second one disappears. I want to jump in and join them down there, below the leaves in a world of their own making. I resist. This is child’s play and I am only the observer here. They need an audience. I hold the rake tight. There’s another rustle of leaves and then, the heads pop up again. They look at me as if I am a scarecrow, tethered to a post and unable to move. I walk to another spot of the yard and begin the endless work on creating another pile of leaves for them to destroy.


The balloon dropped so suddenly, it was as if a fish had taken a bite of bait and dragged it down into the water. Like a bobber. You were just a kid then, remember? And balloons were this amazing mystery you couldn’t quite figure out. How was it that something could be lighter than air? Everywhere you went, you looked out for balloons. This one caught your attention as you sat in the back of your parents’ car that Autumn day. Perhaps you were on your way to the supermarket, or a movie, or maybe your grandparents’ house. It may have been a Sunday, coming out of service with your faith in the unknown still safely tucked inside of your pocket. You had long given up pointing the balloons out to your parents and so this view was all of your own. The balloon dropped and that’s when you noticed the basket under it, now swinging up above the oval – it was like a pendulum, it occurred to you — and then it was gone altogether, dropping below the tree line at an incredible speed. You blinked. You didn’t say a thing to your parents. Not a thing.


She was seven years old when the cat died. Eight, when the dog died. And ten, when grandmother died. She assumed that everything was going to die sooner rather than later and when her mom didn’t come home from that long weekend away when she was sixteen, there was no way for her to mourn the loss since she expected it anyway. The problem was that now she often looked to her father, wondering. When? The only time she tried not to think about it was in the mornings, after a long shower, when she was standing in front of the mirror. She didn’t think about it then but she knew. It was only a matter of time.

Peace (in quicktime),

Day in a Sentence — VoiceThread Version

I am out of town this week and so I thought I would leave a different format for the Day in a Sentence feature, as I am hoping to push this concept into new directions (and I am hoping people come along for the journey with me).

I decided to use VoiceThread, which allows people to add short audio clips to pictures, and you will need to sign up for VoiceThread, if you don’t have an account (and teachers get free upgraded professional accounts with VoiceThread). You simply click “record” and record your voice. Or use the text command to add words. And you can even doodle on the pages, too, which allows us to locate ourselves on the maps.

In this case, I have uploaded a few maps of continents, and I am asking that you post your Day in a Sentence on your map and locate yourself for us. I’ll reflect a bit more when I come back home on Sunday from the annual meeting of the National Writing Project, and see how it goes.

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Of course, if this is too confusing or you don’t have the patience, you can still use the comments on this blog to submit your sentence. But I do hope you will give VoiceThread a try.

Peace (with possibilities),