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One Word

While surfing the net one day, I came across a very interesting site called http://www.oneword.com

It offers a word a day for a one-minute quick write online. There is a built-in timer that tells you when your one minute is up. However, I have started using it as a 10-minute writing exercise for my grade 6 and 7 students, and I have been writing right along with them. Sometimes I will give them a bit of guidance and sometimes I will simply post the word for them to explore through writing. For example, the other day I suggested they think of our conversations on metaphor to see if they could approach the word of the day as a metaphor. On another day, I suggested they think of personal narrative as they wrote. Most of the time, however, I simply let them write.

Once a week, I will start posting my own selected one-word-ten-minute writing exercises here. Would love comments on these pieces. Thank you!

One word for March 16th, 2015 – Grandfather

I miss my grandfather.

Not my paternal grandfather but my mother’s father. He has been gone for 48 years now and I still miss him.

When I was younger I used to think that he was in heaven watching over me. It has been a long time since I’ve thought about that. Is it because so many things have happened where I felt less than protected? Lonely?

Like right now.

I am in despair. I spent almost all day yesterday planning my classes and it feels like nothing is going well.

Is it the energy in the room?

I need to open the shades, turn off the lights, and open the door.

For some reason, these 10-minute writing exercises on a random word facilitate the development of important ideas regardless of the word that triggers the writing. In 10 minutes I can discover a nagging idea, take action, find solace, and uncover thoughts that have been lying dormant. Love this! 

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Stuck, stuck, stuck

This Slice of Life March Challenge is not going well this year.

I’ve had issues with internet connection.
I haven’t been able to keep up with my students’ slices.
I’m not finding small moments to write about every day.
I’m experiencing what many of my students go through every day: I don’t know what to write about.

I know that one of the best ways to get past writer’s block is to power through it until you come out the other side.
I know that giving up too early can be a mistake.
I know that this is temporary even though it doesn’t feel that way.
I know how important it is to write every day.
I know that there are always small moments worthy of reflection.

And, I’m behind on commenting on the posts of others.

I know all of this and yet I’m stuck.

I’m going to take a and-this-too-shall-pass stance. We’ll see where I am tomorrow.

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life, March Challenge, Day #11

no WiFi · slicing · writing

No WiFi

Missed two days of writing.
The WiFi in the hotel was not working when I needed it.
So, I had to admit that I was going to miss slicing for two days.
I had to let go.
It’s not about the prize.
It’s about the challenge.
Pushing myself to write more.
I am behind on commenting, as well.
So, now that I’ve commiserated with myself,
I’ll pick myself up and just start again.

Another day.
Another opportunity to get it right.

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge, Day #8

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Day #2 – #innovategraded, Saol Paulo, Brazil

It’s 5:00 pm.

Throngs of people wind their way across the room to reach the beverage table.

They linger there as if mesmerized by the drinks and snacks.

Lines snake around and behind chairs, tables, and small groups of teachers talking and laughing.

After a day of workshops, the heat has taken its toll.

My foot is swollen.

I am hot and sweaty.

My mind feels less nimble and alert.

So much to digest.

Day #2 is over.

Cross posted to https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/2015/03/05/sol15day5/

slices

A Sampling of Student’s Slice of Life Stories

Yesterday I blogged about how students were resisting the Slice of Life Story Challenge this month. Today, after a full day at the #innovategraded conference in Sao Paulo, I opened up their Google docs and discovered a treasure trove of amazing slices. Please respond in the comments. I know my students would really appreciate that!

Slice #1 – Go eat dinner
“Wendy, dinner is ready!” Mom yelled out.
OK. I’m coming, just one little piece to work.” 
I don’t want to miss the thing.
“Well, be faster.” Then, she turned to do her “job”.
Finally I finished, but I don’t want to move my poor body anymore. I’m like a snail moving so slowly. My legs are like full of the iron so I couldn’t move it, but still I get into the dining room and get ready to have my dinner.

Slice # 2 – Selling and Buying
My dad and I were eating dinner when suddenly he proposes that our family sells our house in Houston and buy a different one. I said, “OK…How about we get the new house in California?” Then, my mom replied, “Yes! But, not L.A. How about San Diego?“ “Ooh, or maybe San Francisco!” I replied. But in the end my dad said, “I think we’ll just keep it in Texas.”

Slice #3
Today we went to a school called Einstein for an orchestra practice. The orchestra rode on a loud bus until finally we got there and tried to play the song we have been practicing for weeks. It’s a crazy mash up of different songs like Bullfight

I got ready to play. I took a deep breath and looked over at S, the only other cello player. One, two, three. One two, three. I tapped my foot along with my mental counting. After all I was just practicing. “NOW!” I thought. My bow made a soft movement on the string. SNAP! Went my string. Well, it wasn’t the first time.

Slice #4 
Life is like basketball you pass by people and also people hurt you. I like basketball because it helps me take out stress. I get in the zone and forget the world around me like I’m somewhere else. Like also the feeling of the ball brushing my fingertips and I dribble. I like the wind blowing in my hair.

Slice #5 
“For the first 20 minutes you’ll do independent reading,” the substitute for our absent teacher said. “And then we’ll go down to the computer lab to do you reading MAP testing.” The whole class gasped. We weren’t notified of this test. Several people groaned.
            
MAP testing is a test all middle school students do at the beginning and middle of the year. There were two tests – math and reading. I liked the math one better because it was just easier for me.
            
When it was time for the test, I focused really hard and blocked out the sounds of chairs squeaking. I started to get a rhythm in my mind: to read the passage, look at the answers, and click on an answer. Read, look, click….Read, look, click….
            
Finally I was done, and I have to say that I was pretty impressed and pleased about my score. It was above average. I clicked done and enjoyed the last few minutes of class reading The Maze Runner.

Slice #6
I bounced on the seat as the car drove. My music was bursting in my ears, but that’s how I liked it. As I was looking through my phone to pick a new song, because I didn’t want to listen to another Fall Out Boy song, I noticed I had three unread text messages. Then I saw the people who sent them. All people from New Jersey. “Wow,” I thought. “I haven’t texted these people in a long time. Might as well text them.” I responded to all three people and then decided to also text three more. I turned off my phone and sat listening to my music, Sarcasm by Get Scared. After a while someone responded. It was Mary Louise, one of the people who didn’t text me first.
“Hey,” she replied.
“How life in NJ?” I asked.
“Snowing now.”
Although the conversation started boring it became more interesting. Then someone else responded, Sasha. Sasha was one of my closest friends in New Jersey. She was the first friend I made when I moved to New Jersey.
“HIIIII” she replied.
“Dude it’s March 3rd. I’m coming March 27th,” I answered excitedly.
“ya. IKKKKK”
“Sooooo excited!!!!!”
“Me tooooooo!!”
As we kept talking we came to new topics and discussed many different things. I was so happy to be able to talk with my old friends.

Slice #7
Today I was going outside of Ms. Milla`s class and I found Pardo playing el burrito. I said, “Pardo, let’s play.” “Yes,” he screamed happily. Then, we were passing the ball until they threw it right into my nose. Plack!!!!!! It sounded.  I heard people laughing. Hahahaha, it doesn’t hurt a lot. Then, Mr. Muenker said, “David, I think you should`t stop it like that,” and I hear more laughter.

Slice #8 – The Accident

I was running. My eye was on the ball. I could see how it went up in the sky. I jumped to get it, but I didn’t feel the ball hitting my head. I felt as if a rock had collapsed in the right side of my forehead. “I feel bad coach,” I said. He looked impressed. “We need to go to the nurse,” he exclaimed. Then, when I looked in the mirror I saw two big balls on my forehead.

Cross posted to Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life, March Classroom Challenge, Day #4

#innovategraded · @suzieboss · PBL

Project Based Learning with Suzie Boss

Today was day #1 at the #innovategraded conference in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

This conference is all about innovation in education, and how to start this process both in your classroom and at your school.

Today I attended a day-long workshop with @suzieboss on Project Based Learning (PBL).

Here are my top 10 takeaways:

  1. The teacher must plan and implement the driving question, the end product, the first day lesson, and the learning engagements along the way.
  2. When teachers are new to PBL, it’s critical that they design many parts of the project for students. 
  3. The driving question should be action-oriented and appeal to students’ interests. 
  4. The initial activity must grab students’ attention. 
  5. The audience for this project must be authentic and add value to students’ learning.
  6. PBL is inquiry based and allows for students’ individual questions.
  7. PBL is not the same as projects because the latter often do not have lasting learning value.
  8. It is not necessary to do PBL all the time. Depending on a teacher’s particular situation, once or twice a year may be all that she can manage.
  9. It is important for colleagues to collaborate with each other on the design of a PBL project even if not everyone will be implementing it in their classroom.
  10. Finally, it is important to scaffold students’ learning through mini lessons and check-ins along the way.

Tomorrow there will be many 30 – 90 minute sessions on a variety of topics. I look forward to continuing on this learning journey.

If you have experience with PBL, I am particularly interested in hearing your thoughts on developing an effective driving question, ongoing and final assessments, and PBL timelines. 
March Slice of Life Challenge

Slice of Life – Take #1

I had a moment of weakness today, and a revelation.
I lost my composure with my students.
I was desperately frustrated. Is there even such a thing? If there is, then that’s what I was.
I had a grand plan: to ignite an explosion of writing in our class.
I thought my students would jump at the chance to write about snippets of their lives for at least 25 days.
I wasn’t prepared for the backlash.
My students didn’t buy it. They kept pushing back and no matter how hard I tried, they didn’t seem to understand the instructions.
And. I. Slowly. Became. Frustrated. Then. Angry.
But because I had faith in my plan, I persevered. I was certain I could convince them that slicing every day was going to be fun.
I was wrong.
Here’s a dirty little secret: my students don’t like writing personal narrative. They don’t like to write about themselves.  And, if you don’t like to write about yourself then the Slice of Life Challenge will be ineffective as a way to encourage more excitement around writing.
So, I don’t know where to go from here.
I’ll be thinking of possible solutions.

Your ideas are welcome.