Saturday, November 1, 2014

Come to nErDcamp Northern New England January 2015

Just sharing the link again for nErDcamp Northern New England. It is a literacy "unconference" for grades K-12 on the Saturday of Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.  Last year was great! Hope to see you there!

nErDcamp Northern New England

Recruiting New Fellows!

Send you favorite teacher friends to to download an application!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Saturday, September 27th

For our opening moment, Brigid shared a lovely poem written by Billy Collins about a lanyard (and his mother). I had also planned to do a Billy Collins poem, Litany, as our closing moment, so we had a theme going, until something better came along.

Gigi kicked off the morning of Workshops by teaching us (and her students) how to "Show and not Tell" She gave us a variety of strategies to improve descriptive writing in fun and interesting ways. The first strategy used whiteboard kits and hilarious drawing. I will forever have visions of Sugar Plum Fairies falling on their heads. Kids (and teachers) compared their drawings of a simple scene and them their drawings of a more detailed, descriptive scene to learn to improve their own descriptions. Other examples included paragraphs that showed emotion without mentioning the emotion itself, and we got to try our hand at that ourselves.

Next up, Anne led a workshop on creating more interesting sentences, using a range of activities and resources. We re-crafted an article on the Mt. St. Helens explosion, counted and analyzed the lengths of our sentences, explored a room in our homes through writing, and then improved on our work using "mentor phrases" from New York Times articles. Phew, we learned a lot! Anne wrapped up the time by sharing her system of abbreviations and resource sheets that she uses to give feedback on student writing.

We had fun with Lucinda's workshop as she walked us through some of the playful activities in her classroom. We hunted for Easter Eggs, saw a new way to review material for a test, learned the benefits/drawbacks of not cheating, and had a good time in the process. We were introduced to blackboard Baseball, which sounds hilarious and messy and lots of fun. Possible classroom applications of Guess Who? and the Ungame were also discussed, and we came away with a fat packet of materials we could use on Monday morning!

We also were introduced to Haiku Deck as another option for a presentation software:

Over our break for Lunch/Writing Time, a number of us went to Sebago, where we enjoyed tasty food and beverages and talked about... well... teaching! Shocking, I know.

We went our separate ways to write, and when we gathered again, Patricia lead us through a low-key (and musically-themed!) discussion of Teaching the Neglected "R". We filled our dance card with partners for Salsa, Hip-Hop, 80's and Country music, and when each genre was played, we found that partner and compared/shared our impressions and take-always from the sections we had chosen to read. It was a neat way to negotiate the fact that we had all read different chapters of the same book.

For a closing moment, the aforementioned Billy Collins poem was set aside for an amusing (and
apropos) article found by Brigid. It was a list of photos/GIFs proclaiming, "You Know You're A Teacher When..." and included the shock and horror of running into a student at Victoria's Secret, friending by a student on Facebook, and most of all, the tragedy of returning to school the day after vacation.

Social Stories


While Jill was talking about social stories, I found the PDF online and hope this link works. 

Wendy's Video

Wendy's Digital Story

 Thanks for the great reaction!!

Hello from Rockland!

Hello Fellows, 
I am sorry I could not be with you today and I am sad that I will miss all of the presentations. But I am certainly doing lots of writing, only I'll be doing it with this view (still foggy at 7:00).
This weekend I am attending a writing retreat at the beautiful Samoset Resort. The weather and foliage are beautiful and I just feel fortunate that Brigid and Rebecca allowed me to miss class and come here. I do a bit of professional writing as a contributor for an online PD website called Choice Literacy. So this weekend is all about nonfiction article writing. I have already written one piece and will revise it this morning. Our day is filled with gobs of writing time, meeting briefly with our reflection group, eating and walking the grounds and the breakwater. Oh, did I mention that I am away for a whole weekend without my kids AND I have a room all to myself? Yes, I am more than a bit giddy.

I wanted to share my digital piece. I really want to make book trailers with my students so I explored some platforms. Some required money or seemed too difficult for my 4th graders to use. So I settled on Haiku Deck. Here is my book trailer for The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane

I hope you have a fabulous class. Rock those presentations!!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Humorous Six Word Memoir... a 13 Year Old Boy


My son's class was creating 6 word memoirs.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

FIRST SATURDAY -- September 13

Here we are, back in Bailey Hall, though one flight up and a vast improvement from the second floor. We are comfortable with more space and less humidity.  As happy as we are to see one another, we feel the absence of friends who could not join us for the Fall sessions.  We will miss them.

Patricia Opened the day with some wonderful six-word memoirs.  

We had a quick refresher on the expectations for the Fall (see "helpful links" or the shared folder for the Fall Requirements Doc), and a couple of cool announcements:  1) SMWP is hosting a Writing Marathon in Portland next weekend. Bring a pen, bring a friend, and join us for a day writing around the Old Port!
 2) The Technology Conference is definitely happening on November 7, so ask for a professional day this week and register early (keep your eye on your inbox for registration information).  You'll recognize some names on the presenter list and have an opportunity to meet some great people while learning some things about technology that you can share with your own colleagues.

Writing Time -- any time at all during the school year is a gift, and writing time in particular comes as a rare and precious commodity.

Book Discussion -- small groups gathered by book choice and answered three questions about the book from the Rethinking Teaching Practice category: Thinking Out Loud on Paper, Room 109, Crafting Digital Writing and When Writing Workshop isn't Working.  Each group shared a strategy, idea or concept that participants agreed was important.  

Presentation Blurbs -- fascinating and dynamic brochure-worthy blurbs were crafted and shared on a google doc.  

Closing Moment -- Rebecca shared ZeFrank's eloquent video "Sad Cat Diary."  If you enjoyed today's clip, check out his True Facts videos.

Just Sharing-nErDcamp Northern New England "Unconference" is Coming in January

Hi everyone, 
I just wanted to share this FREE professional development opportunity that is coming in January. 
It is a great day for K-12 to discuss, share and learn together. Did I mention it's free AND there are door prizes!

Six Word Memoirs

September 13, 2014

In the Opening Moment we viewed a series of illustrated six-word memoirs created by students of various ages which you can see on the Washington Post website below.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Teachers at the Center-Review

I'm Sorry but I Have to Be Honest

As I was reading this book, I kept thinking about what I would post about it. Not much came to mind. Did I learn anything I could use in my teaching? No. Did I learn any new writing insights? Not really. Did I gain an understanding of where the whole idea of the SMWP came from? Yes. Did I need to read this book to understand that? 

This is where the honesty comes in. Besides a captive audience like those of us in this Institute, who really is the audience for this book? No idea, really, except the people he talks about non-stop. It sort of reminded me of one of those "bed to bed" stories second graders write. "First I got up, then I had breakfast. I had Cap'n Crunch. Then my mom told me to get ready for school, then I went to the bus stop and saw my friend Tommy"...and so on. He chronicled every moment of every year starting in 1943!!!

Truthfully, Rebecca and Brigid, you could have given us a five minute summary and we would have understood why SMWP does things the way it does. Hopefully I am not being too harsh. Maybe I missed something I should have gotten from this book? If you are looking for recommendations about whether to use this title next year, I would say no. (Unless you would like my copy as a donation for a future fellow!)

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Chair Writing Activity

Writing Homework

You have a writing assignment that is due on Thursday.  Your assignment is to write a character description based upon a picture of a chair.  

Your first paragraph should contain the name of the person who would sit in that chair and what they look like.
Your second paragraph should contain at least five sentences describing their personality.
The third paragraph should be a description of what they carry in their pockets or pocketbook.
The fourth and final paragraph should be description of the most unexpected thing that person has ever done.

Because this assignment is clearly split  up into paragraphs, you must have paragraphs on your paper!!!  Your work should be typed, if possible, or be neat.  You should edit it for spelling mistakes and other punctuation errors.

Florence Boodle

The name of the woman who sits in this chair is Ms. Florence (aka Floss) Boodle.  She’s a thin, insecure woman who  wears slightly too much blue eye shadow and rouge.  She prefers designer clothes and always smells of French perfume.
Floss is the kind of woman who expects you to open doors for her.  She rarely shakes hands, but will kiss you on both cheeks, even if she doesn’t know you.  She loves talking about shopping and the great bargains she gets.  Shopping is her greatest sport and she’s very competitive about it.  She’s generous to herself, but very stingy with others, considering her wealth.  She has never held a job.
In the Louis Vuitton pocketbook Floss always carries there are twenty gold and platinum credit cards, her psychiatrist's phone number, perfume, migrane medicine.  She also currently has some Euros from her last trip to Paris.  She has a special brag book with more than 30 pictures of all of her children.

The most unexpected thing Floss has ever done was to spend a year of her life as a volunteer helper to Mother Theresa when she was 19 years old.

Monday, August 25, 2014

When Writing Workshop Isn’t Working, Mark Overmeyer
Wendy Cannon

Points to Remember

Students—Writing and sharing IS expected.

Choice is key--Teacher can provide a topic/prompt that is general enough that will allow choice but also give some focus. For example the smells writing we did at SMWP orientation.

Anchor Writing--provide common experiences that all students can relate to, refer back to, gives everyone a positive experience with writing.
Poetry--capitalize on word choice, simile, strong verbs and this can lead to more vivid prose

Assessment--purpose needs to be clear to both students and teachers-for a grade or to have a body of work to see whether there has been growth.

Conventions--have kids look for their own conventions errors, using a different color, this way you can see what they can fix. Priority to have kids be able to edit as they work—want them to be as independent as possible. Kids need to be comfortable writing and be able to get enough on the page before focusing on conventions and sentence structure.

Overmeyer says that story should focus on actions, Lamott says the big focus is having good characters first, then see what they do. In Neglected R book, Monica Wood also stated that the action of the character (in response to 'trouble') is what makes the story interesting.

Teaching the Neglected "R" Response

Hi Everyone, I played around with Haiku Deck.

Hope all is well with everyone and that you had a restful summer!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Since a few of you expressed interest, here's a link to the "This I Believe" student podcasts I shared after Seth's tech session. I know others in the group have done this with students as well, and I think I'll try it again next year and have students actually submit them to the NPR program. Authentic audience—check!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Hi folks,

Here's another feature of the New York Times online that you might enjoy, just personally as writers. It's the "Draft" section of the Times's Opinionator, which showcases opinion pieces about the craft of writing. To find it, go to the "Opinion" section of the NY Times. Then click on the drop-down menu under "Opinionator" (further down the Opinion home page), and then click on "Draft." You'll find good food for thought this summer, including the following article titled "The Right to Write."

Her final paragraph reads:

"A writer is like a tuning fork: We respond when we’re struck by something. The thing is to pay attention, to be ready for radical empathy. If we empty ourselves of ourselves we’ll be able to vibrate in synchrony with something deep and powerful. If we’re lucky we’ll transmit a strong pure note, one that isn’t ours, but which passes through us. If we’re lucky, it will be a note that reverberates and expands, one that other people will hear and understand."

Wishing you all a vibrant summer!


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Spilling Ink

The website:

And the book:
Here is the main page for OpDocs from the NY Times.

Great for thinking about writing modes, examples of description, argument, narrative, etc, meaningful filler, a longer term assignment.

Pecha Kucha

If you are interested in seeing "pecha kucha" in the flesh - the next one is in Portland July 24 at Asylum.  Here is the link:

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

I know some were interested in hearing more about Anne's recommendation of Louder Than A Bomb, a mind-blowing documentary following four teams' attempts to win the world's largest youth poetry slam in Chicago.   Prepare to cry your eyes out in front of your students and see students engaged who might otherwise not be.  When I surveyed my students this year about their favorite in-class activities, two mentioned watching this film.  Yes, yes, I know that doesn't speak well of my teaching....but watch the trailer and you will be hard pressed to design a more compelling lesson on the value of finding your voice:

Teachers Write

I just wanted to share a resource. 
I participated in Teachers Write last summer and it was great. There are mini lessons, a platform for receiving feedback and periodic writing prompts. It is FREE and you participate in any way you'd like (or you can just stalk). The event is hosted by Author Kate Messner, but visit the site to check out the AMAZING lineup of guest authors. 

Teachers Write
Wednesday, July 2

Opening Moment
Danie launched the day with a reading of “Facebook Sonnet” by Sherman Alexie. 

Ten-minute Tech with Brigid - Intro to Edmodo

* Sideline reference to membean, which Joanne tried for the first time with success this year.

Writing Group Time
We scattered about the building in search of a cool refuge—the cafeteria, the sitting lounge, and other tolerable spaces. Some folks wrote furiously; others conferred with their group members.

Writing Outdoors with Brigid
A key idea is that being outside inspires closer observation and awareness. Brigid is a firm believer.

  • Writing enhances noticing. We need to slow down.
  • Take time to attend to the tiny things.
  • Observation prompts inquiry. This is the kind of critical thinking we want all our students to be doing. Good for all disciplines.

Brigid comes to us with a background in environmental education. We briefly discussed the dormant No Child Left Inside Act, a bill still waiting to become a law. It advocates for environmental education as a required part of school curriculum. Nature-deficit disorder - dissociation with natural world contributes to anxiety epidemic today.

- Before we headed outdoors, Brigid shared a beautiful reading from Rachel Carson's A Sense of Wonder. I was especially struck by the phrase "the misty river of the Milky Way." Carson reflects on our complacent neglect of natural wonders, like the night sky: ". . . because they could see it almost any night, perhaps they would never see it." 

- Then we ventured out into the sultry morning. Brigid gave us flags to stake out the spots where we chose to sit and write for fifteen minutes or so, after which then reconvened and visited different locations to hear people's observations and questions.

- Follow-up Discussion:

  • How could the activity be used across curriculum and ages? How would you use it in your classroom?
    • Try it with kindergarteners toward the end of the year, when they're restless.
    • Take them out and ask them to describe the classroom to see what they've noticed sitting there all year.
    • Lucinda has done this in the context of slam poetry, asking kids to go outside and describe one particular thing, and then coming back and playing a guessing game: Where were you?
    • Stephanie uses hoola-hoops to circumscribe a bit of ground for children to study with particular care.
    • CC told about taking kids outside to study the terrain in relation to Hannah Holmes's The Suburban Safari. She has also used a series of observational journal prompts to prime the pump for writing projects.
    • Use it to activate use of the five senses.
  • When and why would you refer back to this activity in your classroom?
    • Refer back to this activity to sensitize students to the importance of setting.
  • How did you personally respond to the activity?
    • Folks loved the activity and look forward to using it with students.
    • Great for observation, questioning, and reflection.
    • Good for restless students who have trouble settling down and focusing. It helps bring us into the present moment.
    • Would also be a nice initial activity to encourage students to be observant all year long.

Book Plug from Rebecca! On Looking: Eleven Walks with Expert Eyes by Alexandra Horowitz

Optional Revision Workshop with Rebecca
Check out the wonderful folder of "Revision Resources" posted on the ISFI file in Google Drive!

Book Discussions

Closing Moment
"Midnight on the Water" by Dave Mallett


"A shady friend for torrid days
Is easier to find
Than one of higher temperature
For frigid hour of mind."
                 ~ Emily Dickinson

Google Sites Troubleshooting

Do you want to have your pages in a specific order in your navigation bar?  Have you noticed that google forces them to be in alphabetical order?  Guess what!  You have to power to change that.
The geniuses at this site tell you how.

Sharing Six-Word Memoirs

After writing the six-word memoirs at our orientation, I decided to use them with my 4th graders as a culminating project. They loved writing them The most powerful memoirs came from students who struggle the most. I will definitely do them again, but maybe mid-year also as some students used them to show some difficult feelings.

Short Story Ideas

When I moved from 7th grade to 6th, I gave up the short stories I loved ("The Gun," "Stop the Sun" by Gary Paulsen, the urban legend "Cornered,"  “Abuela Invents The Zero” by Judith Ortiz), so I am looking for interesting, gripping, appropriate for 6th grader stories.  Any suggestions?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Day Five-Tuesday July 1

This morning began with Lucinda sharing two amazing slam poetry videos.

Then the group broke into groups to discuss the books we read. Click on the cover to learn more about each book. 
Each book was very well received with few blahs and many hoorahs. Our to-be-read piles are growing fast. 

Digital Storytelling
Later in the morning Seth led us through a quick overview of how to use iMovie and Garage band to construct digital stories. He shared a wonderful example of a former student's digital story about his camp in Maine. Emily shared an "In this I believe" podcast from one of her students.  

Here are a few quotes from the morning. 
“Maybe I’m not enough of a stickler.” 
“I’m often paralyzed by perfectionism.”
“Writing makes you a better person.”
“You have to read to write.” 
“Trying on different topics.” 
“Students cannot touch laptops until they have revised three times.”
"Steal and Stretch."

Lunch downstairs in the "cool cafe'" in mentor groups was fabulous break from the heat and a great chance to connect. 

After a nice, long chunk of writing time we had a discussion about digital citizenship with Brigid. 

See the google doc. for the notes and resources. 


Guidelines for Writing Practice

1.) Keep writing. Don’t stop to edit, to rephrase, to think. Don’t go back and read what you’ve written until you’ve finished.

2.)Trust your pen. Go with the first image that appears.

3.) Don’t judge your writing. Don’t compare, analyze, criticize.

4.) Let you writing find its own form. Allow it to organically take shape into a story, an essay, a poem, dialogue, an incomplete meander.

5.) Don’t worry about the rules. Don’t worry about grammar, syntax, punctuation, or sentence structure.

6.) Let go of expectations. Let your writing surprise you.

7.) Kiss the frogs. Remember, this is just practice. Not every session will be magic. The point is to just suit up and show up at the page, no matter what.

8.) Tell the truth. Be willing to go to the scary places that make your hand tremble and your handwriting get a little out of control. Be willing to tell your secrets.

9.) Write specific details. Your writing doesn’t have to be factual, but the specificity of the details brings it alive. The truth isn’t in the facts; it’s in the details.

10.) Write what matters. If you don’t care about what you’re writing, neither will your readers. Be a passionate writer.

11.) Read your writing aloud. After you’ve completed your practice session. You’ll find out what you’ve written, what you care about, when you’re writing the truth, and when the writing is “working.”

12.) Date your page and write the topic at the top. This will keep you grounded in the present and help you reference pieces you might want to use in something else. (p 8,9)

Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Day Four

Opening moment by Pat who read Z is for Moose by Kelly Bingham and Paul O. Zelinsky

CC shared that she posted a poem on NWP and received responses from all over the country.
There was a problem using the hashtag which was a great introduction to a silly hashtag monologue with Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake.

We had five powerful and emotional learning autobiographies today starting with Dani.  Here are some highlights of their stories:
  • Don't depend on strangers to get you where you want to go.  You'll never reach your destination.
  • My entire teaching career was made worthwhile in an instant.
  • You are stronger than you know.
  • Be careful not to let the business define your values.  Lose the script and improv the rest of the scene.  (Just what teachers do all the time).
  • If life is so easy, when do we learn.
The remainder of the morning was spent learning how to present our portfolios on Thursday.  We had time to explore Google Sites if doing an electronic portfolio. 

Our afternoon began with a presentation by Lorrie on the step-by-step process for completing Teacher Action Research.  Teacher Action Research is a good way to answer those burning questions about something that you care about. 

JoAnne led us through a Mindfulness In Schools activity.  This was perfect for our stressed out state with portfolios due on Thursday.  Students will definitely benefit from learning how to be more mindful of their present state, also. 

After a nice, solid chunk of writing time, Rebecca got our creative juices flowing with poetry prompts. She pushed us to break the rules, and to encourage our students to do so as well. We made Sound Lists, Cut Up words and phrases, wrote poems with Paint Chips, and journeyed through an Emotional Landscape. Rebecca has generously shared all these juicy ideas with us in the ISFI shared folder in the drive.

To round out the day, we got to watch Taylor Mali tear a dinner-party lawyer to shreds, while restoring our faith in what we do as teachers. I make a difference...What about you?

Included is a picture of Danie's stunning visual from her LA today!

Don't Forget the Hashtag

Thursday Late Marathon Day Blog of the Day

First of all thank you to CC for reminding me there were actual assignments we had to do for this class. (Well, maybe not really thank you because now I have work to do, but at least now I won't flunk out for not doing anything that is required!)  :=)  I realized (thanks Pat!) that as a host Thursday, I was supposed to post the day's blog...oops! Better late than never.

As people were finishing up their learning autobiographies today, I couldn't help but be amazed at the bravery in so many of our stories.
  • Traveling to Israel
  • Giving up your baby and adopting a baby
  • Hitchhiking to Virginia with nothing but the shirt on your back (and surviving)
  • Teaching in New York City (and surviving)
  • Fearlessly coming out
  • Fighting and beating cancer
  • Changing careers
  • Becoming a teacher even after such a difficult time in school yourself
  • Running through town wearing a coconut bra or a toga
  • Going into those needy students' homes
  • Sharing personal, tragic events that would crush anyone's soul
  • Sharing all these things out loud to a group of strangers
  • and so much more...
You are all very inspiring!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Day Three!

Stephen Fry kicked off our day with his diatribe against the self-proclaimed “keepers” of language and reminded us that Shakespeare “chaired the meeting” and “tabled the agenda” of the verbing of nouns.  Brigid shared Diigo with us during Ten Minute Tech.
Our morning batch of Learning Autobiographies were INTENSE (note to self:  bring a box of tissues on LA days!) and a testament to the bravery, trust, and creativity of our Fellows.  We were properly wowed, boy-howdy.  Phew.  The afternoon Learning Autobiographies were equally compelling and reminded us of how great it is to get to know one another in this intimate and deeply moving way.  The talent in this room is enough to knock one’s socks clear off.  Here are some doozie lines from the LAs we heard today:
  • “She had the body for grading papers”
  • “The Russian Department gave great parties”
  • “The sun never sets on a badass”
  • “Girls don’t hunt until they’re married”
  • “Destiny has a way of finding you wherever you’re at”
  • “Comparisons cheat happiness”
  • “Our bodies hum in sympathy with nature”
  • “Own your slippers”
  • “The tentative space right outside the comfort zone”
  • “I’m here at the center of the room to do my laptop dance”
Your visuals complemented your words.  Gigi, thanks for sharing the pictures of your younger selves; CC, that snippet of “Like A Prayer” was tantalizing; and Lucinda, cookies are always welcome!
Though summer has barely begun, we did have a short introduction to the expectations for the Fall which -- sad to say -- will be upon us before we know it.  You don’t have to make any decisions just yet, but you’ll want to let your mind graze over it now and again.  You’ll have a couple of opportunities next week to meet with your mentor groups to kick some ideas around -- and you can always check in with us, as well.  Just a reminder that there are a couple of documents in the shared folder to help you in your thinking, and we posted the presentation slides under the links section of this blog.
Following some much-needed writing time, Patricia presented her teaching demonstration on Writing Across the Curriculum and Writing to Learn, which we think is a great model for the workshop.  (Another great thing about Patricia is that she always has chocolate!)
It was a day of inspiring videos.  In addition to Stephen Fry as the opening moment, we got to watch “Our Story In Two Minutes” and a TEDTalk on the power of simple words.

Thanks for another great day, Fine Fellows!

Rebecca & Brigid

"The Rundown"

A discussion that came from our group....get right to the heart of a matter. Here is Starlee Kine's from "This American Life" take on it.

Images from the Writing Marathon!

 How about chocolate vegetables?
 One group visited the Historical Society and were regaled by this upstanding gentleman.
Happiness = Cupcakes

The Aliterate Reader--At Home

Last evening I was talking (maybe arguing) with my 13 year old son about reading a book this summer. His school "requires" two summer reads. Since many of you teach kids this age, I was hoping you could suggest some terrific books that will hook him. He is a bit of a history buff. In fifth grade he read every World War II book in the school library! In Sixth grade they told him to try a different genre. I'm not sure if it was that or the XBox that made him decide reading isn't his thing.
Thank you so much for any ideas you may have!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Memoir Author, Mary Carr

Mary Carr is mentioned in the Stephen King memoir on the syllabus. Thought I'd share because I was thinking about her today while writing. Such good stuff. #inspiration