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)