Friday, June 15, 2007

1st Week in Review

I've gained so many new ideas about new ways to teach and write poetry, how to blog (something that was very new to me), a way to get students to love comparing and contrasting literature, and some great strategies for eliciting voice in student writing. I've also learned how cool the e-Anthology site is. I really loved the randomness of the Open Mic link and the day by day institute descpritions in A Day in the Life. Because this really is the life--a great way for educators to learn from each other. It's also been a reaffirmation of some of my most dearly held beliefs about education.

This week I was able to bring snacks on Tues., present my demo on Thurs., and to give the minutes on Friday. I LOVE that I have those things behind me. Please don't get me wrong. I loved doing those things, even getting this blank look from my husband at his computer when I told him from my computer how much fun doing a Works Cited page was. It's just that now I get to focus on other's demos and to focus more on my nightly writing.

I've got a ton of questions about writing right now. I've felt my inadequecies as a writer in lots of genres this week. I've realized how very much I can learn about being a writer and how great that will be for my students.

I like how our SWG works. Sometimes we don't have enough time for each member's writing. But, I really think it's a matter of time management more than not enough time. I think our group is respectful of each other and I appreciate the blessings and pressings that have come my way this week.

I am totally not fishing, okay? I am a reader who writes only to communicate, analyze, or critique. This institute both intimidates and inspires me--even if my writing is not exactly reflective of the latter (I'm still not fishing.).

Insights about what has made this week so successful: Casey, Janet, and Keri.

week in review

well.......deep breath......ok....long week...

New ideas...too many - probably teaching students to have ownership in their writing - the blog spot, not leaving out the "I" in their writing, poetry, great stuff.

Ways I contributed...don't have a clue, maybe blogging our letter to Barb?

Questions raised in my mind. How will I keep my excitement for this going - when I leave here will the blogging, reading other work, writing on my own, and teaching be enough?

Feelings I have experienced. I was amazed at the sentence poetry - there were several poems that were so full of love they really touched me. thanks. also exhaustion, guilt, doubt, interesting week.

Thought I have about how our small group works - I think we are a good group - a good mix and I am always surprised at some of our talks - still learning so much about everyone.

Insights about myself as a writer - one day I come home and think, jeeze I'm awesome. The next....I'm really not that unique - common....I feel like my writing needs time and I need experience. This week is giving me both.


Week in Review

New ideas I've gained:
Ways I contributed:
Questions raised:
Feelings I've experienced:
Thoughts about the small writing group:
Insights about myself as a writer:

Thursday, June 14, 2007

i likey

First, I want to say that I really like this already. I love reading what other people write, and what is written makes me think and follow this rabbit hole that is the intranet until my eyes grow tired and my shoulders ache.
Thanks, Barb, for opening up a door, not just a window.

Breakthroughs Quotations

I really liked the quote in the Breakthroughs homework before my demo: "Anyone who loves to mess around with words can write poetry" (Peterson 203), but forgot to mention it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A to the Q about Sentence Poetry Demo

thanks for the feedback about the demo! Here are the answers to a few of the questions asked in the feedback letters. Thank you for playing along and being willing to display your poetry during the lesson. I was impressed!!

How much time was spent on the sentence poetry lesson?

Actually, I only spent one class period (90 minutes) explaining the process. During the class, students wrote two sentence poems (each with a minimum of three drafts). At the conclusion of the class we conducted a very quick author's chair and each student read one of the poems that he or she created (classmates were allowed only to say thank you after poems were read). Thus, not only did the students experience success, but they shared in the success of others. I was very pleased to see that they remembered the lesson and applied it to later projects unprompted.

Did I give instructions limiting sentence length or offer concrete imagery to those who were struggling?

No, I did not limit sentence length. Nor did I dwell on the quality of the initial sentence.

Commenting on student work:

While students worked, I circulated around the room making suggestions, pointing to images that could be strengthened, sometimes reading aloud an outstanding example, (sometimes I said positive comments to a student louder than necessary hoping that other students would hear and apply the same technique. For example, I might say, "ooh, Lucy I like the way you linked those two contradictory words in that image...wait til you see how much Shakespeare does it later on..."

Usually the only students who picked long, cumbersome sentences were the advanced students. (One of the reasons I liked this assignment was because it met every student on a level that challenged them.) Most struggling students wrote very simple sentences, so this wasn't really a problem. I also noticed that the second attempt involved a longer, more complicated sentence.

Gallery Walk?

I actually didn't do the gallery walk during the English 1 class. This was Kelly's idea a few days before I presented (thank you, thank you, Kelly). As stated earlier, we did author's chair. However, I thought the gallery walk was more successful and will definitely use it next year. And, yes, I definitely wish that I would have had more time and could have allowed another gallery walk to see the edited poems.

Did any of the students become individual poets after the assignment?

I don't really know. I was surprised at the number of students who selected the poetry choice during the Romeo and Juliet Multigenre project. Now that I think about it, J.E., A.A. and A. S. all brought in collections of their poetry and asked me for feedback...maybe they gained confidence.

Using Read Alouds to Teach Writing in Genre

Thank you, friends, for being such willing and wonderful participants this afternoon! I know it was out of your comfort zone to join me for reading time "criss cross applesauce, spoons in the bowl" but you gave me your best and I love you for it!

One question today was finding book lists for other fairy tales or other genre in general. Here is a link that will take you to one place to locate such lists. Please post comments if you know of other great links for finding book lists, as I know this was desired by classmates.

You all are amazingly intelligent! Thanks for letting me share with you today!

Our Letter.......

Dearest Barb,

Thank you for bringing us so graciously into cyberspace. We are whole.

You lied to us yesterday -- you are smarter than you are old!

We think that this idea is useful in drawing out conversation among students who may not want to participate verbally in class discussion. We enjoyed having the freedom to "add" to the post by linking music, pictures, etc.

We loved the fact that your class came up with the rules (or netiquette). Because the whole conversation is student-driven, these are very much "best practices." The revision you saw in your students by saving posts. This very much fits into the best practices category. We did wonder, though, how poor netiquette is handled?

Book clubs and questions about assignments seem like great extensions and adaptations of this project.

Could you offer some additional info on time management? This is so cool, that we see ourselves getting sucked into it and burning dinner (like JoAnn did last night - at least she ate).

Do you have any tips on reluctant bloggers, or variety of blogging, duplicate, and so on? Do you come across situations where students just "agree"? Do you have tips to draw out substantive comments and not just "I agree" comments.

We also wondered about facilitating discussion on the blog, making sure that the students have read the work independently and aren't just paraphrasing other students' posts.

Thank you so much for your smart, experienced, presentation.

Heaping love,

JoAnn Satzinger
Susan Martin
Shelly Maledy-Martin
Ashlei Woelk

Hands on is better!

Glad I had the opportunity to work on the blog as you demonstrated. I have seen you talk about this technology but seeing it and actually doing put me over the learning curve I needed so i could implement it in my teaching. In other words, right on!


I felt frustrated at the beginning, but I enjoyed this exercise, because it was something different.

Response to Today's Experience

Fascinating, Challenging, Fun!

Final Thoughts?

You guys are amazing...truly. Final thoughts in three words or less?

Bloggers Beware!

As always, and as Barb said, kids need to be taught responsibility when blogging, which is often difficult for them to grasp. Luckily, we have had numerous examples in recent news that provide the results of bad blogging!
I have blogged in my classroom and there is a certain maturity necessary; some of it is inherent, but often it must be taught.


Friends, I like the opportunities this presents. I’m excited about the free and easy access to other’s ideas. With that in mind, I will share one of my own.
A favorite writer of mine is Chris Rose, who writes for The Times-Picayune out of New Orleans, which is where I grew up. Following the storm he, like others, struggled coming to grip with what had happened and was continuing to happen. He took some interesting steps to combat this (some of which he mentions in the article), and was transparent through the whole process, letting everything come out in his column. All of this was supremely endearing to his readers, including me, and he only recently made his return to writing after about a six week break from writing and the city.
I hope you enjoy.

a professional and personal note

At the national conference (NCTE) several presentations mentioned the prevalence of blogging in classrooms across the country. Really? I thought. hmmm...I called former students and asked about experiences in college and discovered that many were expected to blog as part of the coursework. I am currently negotiating with my administration to blog with the seniors.
...oh, the dog...this is Molly, our havanese (kind of like an eleven pound sheep dog). It was the only breed that I could find online that conformed to my husband's Dog Criteria: no barking, nipping, hunting, no terrier behavior of any kind, no chewing, no shedding...must sit and watch tv with him. Molly's pups left for their new homes last week; and Lane, who is seven going on forty-five, asked if she was old enough to remember the experience. When I said, yes, she sighed, "Good, I was so afraid that I would forget. Let me take one more picture." Thirty-seven pictures later, we handed the puppies to their new owners and cleaned house.

Growing Up?

You know how when you are growing up you have all these big ideas of what the grown up world will be like and how you will do things like accompany your husband to company dinners and prepare nutritious meals for your kid and plant things in your yard? I often thought about these things when the conversation at the school lunch table was dull or crude or inane. "I can't wait to be around intelligent people when I grow up!" I would console myself.

Well the other night I did a grown up thing. I accompanied my husband to his company dinner. And the conversation was dull, crude and inane. Only this time I had nothing with which to console myself, no future times of witty banter to look forward to because this is the grown up world! There is no other level to graduate to! I am stuck in it, and it sucks.

How disappointing to find out that teenaged guys who talk about bathroom humor and pranks involving toilet seats evolve not into calm, charismatic, conversationalists, but into crude, clownish middle aged men who talk about bathroom humor and pranks involving toilet seats.

Oh, the disappointment. Oh, the humanity!And while I do occasionally feed my son tofu, I have never, not once planted something in my yard. Oh, woeful time.

great day!

This is going to be wonderful in my classroom! Thanks!

Blogging/ Breakthrough

I am wondering how you set up the whole blogging interface. I understand the posting part but am a little confused on the set up process. Also how to students post in your classroom. Do you have laptops for each student in your classroom? How do you get music?
Now I realized that I probably should have commented on something that we read. While reading Breakthrough I was happy to stumble across Nanci Atwell support on prewriting processes.
Keri says I am a grandma. What can grandma can add an MP3 file on her post. Not Keri!


I am not comfortable with this technology, at all. I find it frustrating and exasperating, but I have considered using it in my class room eventually if I can ever get away from my feelings of technophobia.


Barb, Thanks for the great new learning tool. My student teacher introduced me to the idea of blogging this year. Now you have fleshed out the idea. I also like your pointing out that blogging is a great tool for catching the students who fly under the radar.

Shut Up! Getting Past Negative Self-talk as a Writer

This is Gail Carson Levine's advice to all writers. She says that we all will or have indulge/d in this sort of chatter when we write. Her advice is to absolutely not do it. That means that as a writer you accept everything you produce as having value either now or in the future. So that means I should just put this out there to you--my first Blog ever--and be okay with it for its sake alone (deep breath).

She also suggests hanging on to literally everything you write--for years. Her advice to young writers is to keep your writing to use when you are older and trying to recapture emotions/voice of earlier times. So I've been thinking about how cool it would be to have these "primary documents" about, say, the pain of being the lead strike-out player on your t-ball team--"The Rainbows"--game after game or elementary school picture day when you had to stand next to the same dorky guy AGAIN just because you were both the tallest in the class.


As a teacher of Mythology, I think modern readers are vastly unaware of major mythological references that appear all around them. No one bothers to think why a vehicle might be called an Electra or where the name for the Tennesee Titans came from. Plus, one of the most annoying questions asked ("Why do we ever need to know this?) quickly falls away when the student find out fun facts such as:

  • The days of the week are named after Norse gods

  • Europe is named after one of Zeus' girlfriends

  • The Olympics were founded by Heracles

  • Words such as "geography", "moraphine", "hypnosis", "music", and the ever popular "hermaphrodite" all reference characters from ancient Greek mythology.

Surprisingly, this is all leading to a point: my demo will center around a technique I've used extensively to get across the major and minor stories of myth and legend. Although I find these accounts fascinating all by themselves, Reader's Theatre provides a great way to get the students interested and excited about the material. So look forward to that.

Calvin is a regular at my Writing Center.

a blogging resource

A resource that I use to think through what blogging means for the classroom comes from Will Richardson. I'm creating a link to today's post, and I'm curious about what you think. He discusses another post which discusses how Web 2.0 should be exposed for its destructiveness. That's not really Will's line of thinking. He thinks that schools should change to reflect the new technological tools, like blogs, wikis, and podcasts, which students are ready use and which he argues are the future.

It takes time to get used to blogging, at least it did for me. But I love the fact that it can discipline you to write every day, and we, as teachers and writers, can cultivate an audience and stay connected to each other to share thinking and writing.
Change is hard, and sometimes your head feels like it's exploding. But sometimes we can only get to the really great insights, the really great stuff, until we go through some tough thinking.
There's a quote from Leu and Kinzer who write that teachers are increasingly becoming irrelevant if they don't consider New Literacies in their classrooms.

What do you think?

cross curricular writing

I want to comment on the idea that I read yesterday about writing across the various disciplines. What a novel idea! Excuse the sarcastic tone, but wouldn't it be nice if students were actually held accountable for writing in classes besides English. I don't think any school is ever going to get this completely right. Teachers should at least try to come together on some sort of understanding when it comes to emphasizing writing. Of all of the work place skills needed, writing has to be number one.

Thank you for reminding me...

To colleagues, writers, friends, and all the fascinating faces and voices of the National Writing Project of the Ozarks - THANK YOU!.

This summer's experience is exactly what I have needed - a reminder that I am still a teacher, still excited about sharing what I do, who I am, who my students. I am on a journey to discover that I am not just some overworked workaholic unfortunately incarcerated and drowning in "and duties as assigned." It is time to compartmentalize and remember why I am in the classroom, why I love to learn, and why I love to teach.

I am anxious to know you as teachers, friends, and writers. To eat with you, write with you, share with you. What do you know? I can hardly wait to find out! What do you want from me? Oh, please just ask!


Maybe I'm just tired. . .

I was a bit put off by the vintage photo of Julie Jensen on our reading for last night, but I quickly moved past that. I appreciated the history lesson, and it made me wonder why we are still fighting the testing versus teaching and learning battle. Then, this morning, I read in the local paper that our schools are creating a new position at each high school that will take some responsibilities from the assistant principals. Oh good, I thought, they can focus more on collaborating with their teachers. . . then I read the quote from school-board-member Bruce Renner, a former teacher, who said that this would allow the principals to do a better job "monitoring" classrooms. That word affected me like nails on a chalkboard. [It might have been "monitor" rather than "monitoring," I don't have the paper in front of me.] Maybe I just don't get it, but I don't need a monitor, thank you very much. I need a colleague who is an instructional leader, someone excited about teaching and learning with me and our students. I'm tired of walking into the building wondering what I did wrong yesterday and what new expectation will be placed on me today. Maybe I'm just tired.

I thought I'd said all there was to say...or...the thing about my knees

I had a rewarding conference session with my Small Writing Group yesterday. Liz and Larry read over a narrative piece I wrote about an evening with my husband's family--a fish fry at a Morton building in the boonies interrupted by Ryan's cousin driving up in an old, pimped out school bus he uses as his main mode of transportation. I thought the bus was the thing, what my story was about, but Larry and Liz pointed out so many other colorful stories related to the characters there that night that I could have included and expanded on. I want to use the piece with my kids next year and show them how I revised it using my peer's comments, how the piece went in directions I hadn't planned on, how the story was not dramatic and traumatic (I read a lot of near-death fender bender and bike wreck narratives) but made for a worthwhile and entertaining read.

I love to write about interesting characters or quirky situations I have encountered--I love to hear similar stories from my friends. Perhaps you could post here about someone you've met or a situation you found yourself in that was strange or odd or unexpected.

What my students often remember from my class is a story I tell them about a man I tutored in the Writing Center when I was a sophomore at Drury. He was about 10-12 years older than I, and took to visiting me often because he thought I was easy to talk to, I guess. He asked me out a few times (once, in particular, to come to a masquerade party at his mother's house, where he still lived) but I always told him I had a boyfriend. He still thought we had a connection, though, and one day dramatically revealed to me that he had been married before and had a two-year-old son--he wondered if, me being as young as I was, I would be ready to become a mother to his child if things went the way he planned...Another time I was wearing a denim skirt and sweater and he told me I had the "cutest knees" he had ever seen. He waited outside the library on Valentine's Day, calling to me with a "psssst" from a used Linclon he had borrowed from a friend. He gave me a rather intimate poem he had written (about my "smell"--not my perfume but the smell of my skin) with a epilogue reading: "P.S. Yes this poem was wrote by me, especially for you." Obviously the hours in the writing lab hadn't been about the grammar for him.

When I found him waiting for me outside the library yet again a week or two later, asking me to do something that weekend, I finally got the guts to be firm and told him, "I'm not going out with you Saturday. I'm not going out with you ever, and I need you to quit asking me." He backed away slowly and said the weirdest thing anyone has ever said to me: "Okay. Okay. I was a hunter. You were my deer. The hunt is off!" And away he went. I only saw him one other time after that, when I was locked out of my dorm and beckoned to a security guard in the distance to come over and help me in. It was him. He had been hired right after the Valentine poem. Kids always remember that story.

Why don't you post one, too? Maybe it will be the beginning to a great piece or give you something to journal about. Some juicy material...


Another Draft

"The revision of writing is a bittersweet, pleasure coupled with pain."
-- Jan Matsuoka, in "Revising Revision..." p 295

On the way home last night, I thought to myself, "What the heck am I doing?"

I meant as a teacher, as wife, as a mother, as a student.

Today is my 10 wedding anniversary, a whole decade of marriage. I have 2 children that I almost always like. But, on that day, standing there with his father marrying us, my mother sitting a few feet away from me, and all our friends and family watching, I thought, "What the heck am I doing?"

I will also begin my 9th year teaching. It seems that now is too late to be wondering what I have gotten myself into with these degrees.

I started my student teaching the fall after I was married. I got used to my new last name in Mrs. Lewis's 10th grade English class. The first thing we did was a scavenger hunt. We'd sign in the boxes that we could answer correctly. The first 5 students who came to me wanted me to name all 8 parts of speech. No more came to me for that box because word had gotten around that I couldn't name them all. I was so ashamed. "What the heck am I doing?" I thought, not for the first time or the last time. I learned all 8 parts of speech that night, too late for the hunt.

Revision has always been key to me. I loved drafts. Sometimes I would write over 10 drafts of the essay I had due. It was incredibly time consuming. Even though there were so many, each was remarkable similar to the others. I wasn't really revising, just spot checking.

Dr. Carman helped me find the Crap Detector. He said to find the sentences, the phrases, I loved best and dump them. I couldn't believe it. Throw away the best lines, the best writing? As I sat at my computer that evening, deleting through my tears, I wondered, "What the heck am I doing?"

Turns out, a lot of the phrases I had fallen in love with were not as good as the replacements. Though, some were. I had to learn to discern what was worth keeping.

As I look back over these years, I want to see growth, change, success, and even failure. I want to be more a teacher, more a write, more a reflector, more a reviser than I was 10 years ago. I have committed to my topic, my husband, but I want to be a better wife, a better human being, a better mother to my children, a better teacher than I was on this day, 10 years ago.

I throw out the crap, keep the kernels, the nuggets, contributing to the whole essay.

So, "What the heck am I doing?" Learning. Writing. Loving. Revising. Who cares if I shed a few tears along the way?

This is cool!

I am looking forward to seeing how everything interfaces on this blog. I plan to use this technology this year with at least one of my classes.