Dogtrax Audiocasts: Rough Draft

This is the the third in a series of audiocasts that I am experimenting with through this Weblog site, which has really become a mishmash of my thoughts on education, music, personal writing, and my work with the National Writing Project. I hope anyone who reads my site doesn’t feel the lack of focus is frustrating.

This audiocast features the archived music of a band that I was in during my college years at Eastern Connecticut State University in Connecticut. ECSU is in the shadow of the University of Connecticut, and is situated only a few miles away from UConn.

Our band, Rough Draft, was composed of myself and some close friends — Johnny D. on guitar and Alex D. on bass — and a drummer (Josh) who never watched the rest of the band when he played, but still did an OK job (it wasn’t easy to find a drummer in those days). We played parties, and some bars, and just got together to make a lot of noise and have fun.

The songs from this audiocast were from a short television show we did for the local cable company and are all songs that I wrote for the band.

microphone Listen to Dogtrax Audiocast Episode Two: Rough Draft


Valuable Resources and Information

This summer, the folks at Tech Matters were kind enough to load us up not only with cool ideas, but also with resources. The series of Seven Things from Educause is one example of very useful information for teachers and educators. Here are some readings/handouts that I think are really valuable and worth sharing with colleagues either in the hallways or in workshops:

7 Things You Should Know About PODCASTING
7 Things You Should Know About WIKIS
7 Things You Should Know About Collaborative Editing
7 Things You Should Know About Social Bookmarking
7 Things You Should Know About Screencasting
7 Things You Should Know About Videoblogging


First Day of School: Sixth Graders Speak

It was Day One of the school year, and so I demonstrated to my sixth graders all the steps necessary to creating and posting audiocast to our Weblog site by actually doing it together (in 30 minutes!!) and we ended up with this audiocast:

On the first day of school, my homeroom students created a podcast about their expectations for sixth grade and/or their concerns for the year ahead.

Listen to Their Voices

Oh, if you are wondering about what Quidditch is, here is a visual guide:

Using Vaestro for Audio Messages

After listening to a Going-Back-to-School Podcast by Bud the Teacher and his friend, Darren (at a site called A Difference), on Labor Day, I began checking out Vaestro as a possible source for a deeper use of audio for Weblogs. Vaestro is an online audio messaging and recording/playing system that is free, and may allow for greater collaboration for my students this year.

The site allows you to record outgoing messages and encourages anyone with a computer and microphone to leave a message. It’s kind of like a free online companion to Skype. I found an interesting article by Wesley Fryer about the use of such services for collaboration in education.
As part of this experiment, I created a message and I am hoping some folks will leave me an answer.

Head here to listen and respond to my Vaestro Message.


On the Radio

In the past two years, I have been on the local NPR affiliate (WFCR) two times — first, as a guest commentator speaking of the values of nurturing student leadership and community service at my school (Norris Elementary School), and, second, as a leader of the National Writing Project-funded Making Connections Weblog Project.

As I continue to explore ways to integrate audio into Weblogs, I figured this would be a time to link those two radio files to this site.


My Writing Curriculum Map

I have always shared information with my parents and students right from the first day of school because I believe it is important for everyone to know what is ahead in my sixth grade writing class. It should not be a mystery. This year, I decided to take it a step further and put together an overall curriculum map and distribute via our school website (which is being revamped) and my classroom Weblog site.

It was a valuable experience for me, as a teacher, to realize the scope of work being accomplished by my students over the course of a school year. I also realized that there are endless mini-lessons and activities that fall outside the scope of this generalized curriculum overview. But I guess it is a start.

Here is the curriculum map for parents and students


Writing Curriculum Map

Sixth Grade Writing Curriculum

A resource for parents and students


Unit Name




Start of the Year Activities

(approximate timeframe: September)

  • Oral Storytelling (act out stories with keywords on note cards)
  • Writing Prompts: freewriting (throughout the year)
  • Intro into Weblog Technology
  • Writing BioPoems
  • Read Aloud Plays (cooperative group)
  • Creating Writing Portfolio with goals, reflections, etc.

Adventure Short Story

(approximate timeframe: September-October)

  • Pictures tell a story: safari adventure
  • Conflict/Resolution in writing (puppet skits)
  • WriteSource 2000 – Plot
  • Writing dialogue minilessons
  • Writing an adventure story – project (w/plot peak organizer, scoring rubric)

Descriptive Writing: Monster Exchange

(approximate timeframe: October)

  • Using the senses in writing (alien activity)
  • Monster Exchange
    • Reading Rotten Island
    • Illustrate from listening
    • Creating Monster and description
    • Day in the life of Monster
    • Monster Exchange in classroom

Expository Writing: Imaginary Land Brochure

(approximate timeframe: October-November)

  • Read Weslandia
  • Examining and analyzing travel brochures
  • Creating Imaginary Land and a travel brochure for that land, using attributes of travel brochures
  • Using Microsoft Publisher to create promotional flyer

Theater Writing: Puppets

(approximate timeframe: November-December)

  • Reading Fairy Tale News play (genre of play script writing)
  • Reviewing Plot/Theme
  • Reading ‘Celebrations of World” and discussing common threads (lights, food, family, etc)
  • Prompt: Inventing a holiday and creating story map (setting, characters, plot, resolution, theme)
  • Cooperative Groups
    • Choosing one story map or combining together
    • Writing a script (every group member has role in creation of project)
    • Making puppets (w/art teacher)
    • Creating promotional materials
    • Performing for younger grades
    • Creating movie documentary of the puppet project

Origins of Words

(approximate timeframe: January)

  • Borrowed Words
  • Jigsaw Words
    • Roots
    • Suffix
    • Prefix
  • Eponyms
    • Create ads for objects
  • Made up Words
    • Frindle
    • Class Dictionary
    • Shakespearean insults
  • Multiple Meanings
  • Slang

Parts of Speech

(approximate timeframe: January-February)

  • Madlibs
  • WriteSource
  • Grammar Rock Video
  • Poster Project
    • Adjectives
    • Adverbs
    • Nouns
    • Verbs
    • Prepositions
    • Pronouns
    • Interjections
    • Conjunctions
  • Writing song in style of Grammar Rock – record and post to Weblog

Paragraph Writing

(approximate timeframe: February)

  • WriteSource Overview
  • Expository
    • Giving directions for Norris/HRHS buildings
    • Writing the steps to how to do something
    • Sharing and posting to Weblog
  • Persuasive Writing
    • MCAS as requirement for graduation?
  • Descriptive
    • Describing Quidditch
    • Stuffed Animal Day
  • Narrative
    • Reading Mem Fox  Wilfred…
    • Writing about object that has strong memories
    • Recording and publishing to Weblog

Essay Writing: Name

(approximate timeframe: March)

  • Prompt: Inventing a Legend of your name
  • Handouts: Genre of Five PP Essay Writing
  • WriteSource
  • Interviewing family: origins of name
  • Computer research/sharing of discoveries
  • Writing essay

Figurative Language

(approximate timeframe: March-April)

  • Hyperbole
    • Davy Crockett Listening Quiz
    • Safari exaggeration sheet
    • Creating own Tall Tale Story
  • Onomatopoeia
  • Personification
    • Writing from view of your house in morning
  • Alliteration
  • Imagery
    • Five Senses Chart – using Halibuts and Hailstones
  • Idioms
    • Phantom Tollbooth
    • Beach Boys lyrics
    • Idiom Game
  • Simile/Metaphor
    • Describe Self


(approximate timeframe: March-April)

  • My America – sense of place/imagery
  • Poetry Exploration Project (finding and sharing poems with class)
  • WriteSource overview
  • Illustrating “mind pictures” from some poems
    • The Raven
    • Paul Revere
  • Reading Love That Dog and share poem styles
  • Poems for Multiple Voices
    • Recording to Weblog
  • Poetry Marathon
  • Animal in Me
  • Haikus
  • Inside this ..
  • Odes
  • Create Poetry Book
  • Letter Writing Mini-lesson
  • Submitting Poetry Journal and letter to me
  • Songwriting

Picture Books Creation

(approximate timeframe: May)

  • Integration of curricular theme (this year – science/ last year – math)
  • Read Aloud Author and From Pic to Words
  • Working with librarian to examine genre of picture books
  • Planning and Writing picture book
  • Using Powerpoint to create and publish
  • Sharing with younger grades
  • Posting to Weblog

Short Story: Trapped in a Board Game

(approximate timeframe: June)

  • Reviewing plot
  • Reading/Watching Zathura and/or Jumanji
  • Writing adventure story
  • Integrating historical figure into story

Tech Book Concept

I was recently asked to join two very established professors in the field of composition — Charlie Moran and Anne Herrington — in launching a book proposal that looks at the convergence of technology and writing. This book proposal stems directly from a conference that the Western Massachusetts Writing Project co-sponsored last spring at the University of Massachusetts that centered on how technology is being used in writing classrooms. The conference was called Conference on Writing, Teaching and Technology and featured a wide range of presenters.
Charlie, Anne and I would like to take it all one step further by focusing in on the stories of what teachers are doing in the classroom to adjust to these changes in grades 4-13. We are still working on the initial proposal for article abstracts (using Writely for collaboration, by the way) but the three strands of focus will be:

  • How is technology changing our perceptions of writing;
  • What are teachers doing to integrate these new perceptions of writing;
  • And how are teachers measuring the outcomes/assessment of student writing.

We hope to have a call for proposals out in the next few weeks and I want to tap into the Technology Liaison network for possible submissions. For myself, I feel honored to have been asked by Anne and Charlie to help edit this future collection that I can see being a very valuable resource for many classroom teachers.

Dogtrax Audiocasts: A Musical Exploration


I have been writing songs on and off for the past 20 years with a variety of bands and throughout that time, I have often turned on a tape machine or recorder and tried to capture the songs in some fashion or another. The advent of easy-to-use coversion technology has allowed me to convert many of those analog files into mp3s and there they have sat, collecting dust in folders.
The idea of audiocasts has intrigued me for some time now and I figured this weblog was as good a space as any to begin creating a series of audiocasts that track some of my songs over the years. So when a friend of mine recently asked me to share some of the songs, I figured now was the time to give it a try. (It is possible they may retract that request upon listening to what I have to offer, but … too late now.)
And so, I begin my journey with this first audiocast, which is a bit embarrassing to release since it features some of the earliest songs I ever wrote and recorded. It was in 1985 and I had just picked up the guitar and didn’t know what I was doing. Not that this stopped me, however.
Thanks for listening (in advance)

microphone Listen to the Dogtrax Audiocast: The Wicked Early Years

Also, this is a running archive of the audiocasts I am creating (so far, only one other file is out there but more are on the way — next up: The Rough Draft Revolution):


Tech Grant Proposal

This summer, while in Chico, California, I attended Tech Matters 2006 through the National Writing Project and all members of the institute are encouraged to submit a grant proposal that supports technology at our local writing project site.

My proposal is designed to help connect the writing projects in our renewed state network and provide assistance to various project leaders within our site, as well as other TCs, in using Weblogs, wikis and audiocasting.

Here is an overview of my grant proposal.