Sunday, July 29, 2012

[Lesson Ideas] Magically Delicious

Here is a presentation I made to help me introduce the concept of Magic Realism at Young Writers Camp.  Feel free to use it, and all images and links should either go directly to the source, or have enough information to identify the source. Please also give appropriate credit to sources if you use this--it's the right thing to do.

Link to Magic Realism Presentation online

See also:
Imagine a Place by Sarah L. Thompson with the art of Rob Gonzalves 

Imagine a Day by Sarah L. Thompson with the art of Rob Gonzalves 

Imagine a Place by Sarah L. Thompson with the art of Rob Gonzalves 

If... by Sarah Perry

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I Won!!!

I won a contest that I didn't even know I signed up for!!!  What did I win?  That's the best part!


Nope, not that.

Nooooo, not that either.

Okay, I'll tell you.

Wait for it...

Wait for it....




I get to jump off a building!!!!

For FREE!!!

Yes, jump.  Yes, a building.  Free?  Well, yes, technically. But it's for a good cause so I'm hoping to raise money anyway.  Curious yet?

I signed up for Over the Edge for Kids Included Together. Participants raise $1000 for the opportunity to rappel 33 stories off the Manchester Grand Hyatt in San Diego, CAKids Included Together supports  the inclusion of children with disabilities in out–of–school time programs.

I signed up after a friend talked me into it and was trying to raise money. I'm a terrible fund-raiser, but thought I'd try anyway. Then, just today, I found out I won a contest I didn't know about and Viola! How exciting!

My team name is Wear the Cape, though I'm the only person on my team so far (hint hint?).  I'm going to ask if I can wear a cape, and I have a fund-raiser idea that includes making capes.

More to come as this unfolds!

Friday, July 6, 2012

[Friday Free-Day] Yo! Snaps

I'm puttering around this post trying to figure out how to describe what became, this Spring, a phenomenon in my classroom. It's quite near indescribable, but it's also amazing and worth sharing.

Where to begin...?

On a Tuesday I "threw a snap" to one of my students. It's something I used to do with my friends growing up.  It makes little sense in the real world, but every once in awhile I have a student that identifies with it.  In this game you pretend to throw, bounce, dribble, and catch a pretend object.  Each time the pretend object is caught, or thrown, or bounced, you make a snapping noise. I found a game called snapball on Urban Dictionary.  Maybe they explain it better? Or this YouTube Video.

Anyhoo, two of my turkey-butts became enthralled with it and threw snaps at each other for the rest of the day.  Their little fingers were all red from snapping all day.

Then I was out sick for day, and I came back to brand-new, highly-developed game called "Snaps." Fifteen to twenty of my twenty-five students are throwing snaps at each other in their spare time.  They are creating "designer snaps" on paper, and then "snapping" them into play through a complicated induction snap.

For the rest of the school year, the kiddos created snaps on paper, inducted them into play, and "tossed" them back and forth throughout the day.

Here is the original page of snaps form that day.  These were later revised and entered into a "Snap Notebook" (revision!!!  of a sort).  Below are the following snaps (left to right):

Row 1: Rasta Snap, Cracked Window Snap, Dr. Pepper Snap, Bacteria Snap 1, Bacteria Snap 2, Plaid Snap, Ribbon Snap, Smart Snap, Iron Man Snap, Row 2: Crying Tree Snap, Star Trek Snap, Boss Snap, Asterisk Snap, Yellow Snap, Rainbow Snap, Quest Snap, Ninja Snap (?), Teeth SnapRow 3: Tiger Snap, Firework Snap (?), Pizza Snap, Boss Snap #2, Striped Snap, Abstract Snap, Church Snap, Cat Snap, Two-tone Snap

 True, it became distracting at times.  Truer still, it was a wonderful learning opportunity that completely tickled my fancy.  When I sat back and looked at it from a different perspective (a la Monopoly with my favorite San Diego Area Writing Project Fellows), I found ways to incorporate all different things into what the muffin-heads were already highly motivated to do:
  • learning, discussion and practice using implicit and explicit rules
  • Naming, grouping, and defining snaps
  • using Google Hangouts to share our snaps with a fellow teacher in a neighboring district (so much fun that was!)
  • using planning tools and the classroom Ipod Touches to design an app to share our snaps
  • understanding and dealing with our disappointment when time and technology interrupted our app-making plans
  • art (drawing snaps takes effort!)
  • imagination and creativity
  • fine motor skills and gross motor skills
  • PE (we had a rousing game of snaps outside one day--we were all exhausted)

So...  that is the Snap phenomenon.  It tickles my heart and my brain.  My turkey butts are amazing!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

[R@ndom] Sign Me Up!

I am not telling untruths here--I received an email from a local public radio station that started like this:

[R@ndom] Under Construction

I'm trying out some layout changes.  Feel free to critique.

[WtC Wednesday] Personal Heroage

Pardon the day-late-ness of this post.  Here is what I managed to write in flu-ridden state yesterday:

"In my searc for adequate definits of the erm "hero, I have found.... little that I likes."

 Ermmm... yeah.  So I am trying again.

I was looking for good definitions of the term hero. I didn't find any I liked yesterday, but am guessing my altered state may have limited my ability to judge appropriately.  In the meantime, however, I have changed my mind about what I'll post for Wear-the-Cape Wednesday.

I'm going to send a
to ALL of the teachers that are working through the end of their school year. It's the end of the marathon my caped friends, and it feels like it's uphill right now. Bless our hearts for doing it.  It matters!


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

[Mentor Text Monday] Maniac Magee

Briefly, I define mentor texts as a piece of a writing used as a model.  There is more to it, but let's start there.  Eventually, I'll post a page with more of a definition or guide.

I'm not sure exactly how Mentor Text Mondays will go, but you can bet on your teaching patootie, that there will be Mentor Texts.  As for Mondays...   that's negotiable.

I recently started reading Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli with my young'uns.  Every page has something amazing.  EVERY SINGLE PAGE.  I'm not even being hyperbolic here.

Here is the first paragraph of the first chapter:

I read it out loud.  They read it again to themselves.  I asked one of my go-to guiding questions, "What do you think I noticed first thing?"  Here is what we found:

This says that the author uses Repetition for Effect, a hyphenated modifier, and some mix of hyperbole, figurative language, and mythology.  We spent some time talking about the differences and similarities, and how to use this in our writing.  There was a lot of discussion about heroes and myths associated with heroes.  Then, we wrote.  You'll see evidence of our discussion of heroes.  You will also see that these are not revised or edited pieces.  This was a practice in writing craft, not a practice in revising or editing.  I'll share that later (thanks to Jeff Anderson and 10 Things Every Writer Needs to Know

Monday, May 14, 2012

[Survey Results] A Windfall

Well my caped friends, the results are in.  Here is the short version:

Survey Topic: Weekly Blog segments
Survey Duration: 5 days
Survey Participants: 44 page views, 10 responses
Summary of Results:
Well, truthfully, if I'm speaking to an audience of 10-44 people, I get to write about whatever I want!!!  Whoot!!!!  Taking into consideration a couple of very popular suggestions, here is the current blogging plan:

Mentor Text Monday (trust me, you'll love it)
Wear-the-Cape Wednesday
Friday Free-Day

I will also start working a few series:
When-I Was-a-Kid Series

Art Lessons and Ideas Series
Technology Tips Series
Think-About-It Series
Because-I-Said-So Series (kidding...)

Please feel free to give feedback any day or every day.  If I know someone is reading, maybe I'll be motivated to write!  Enjoy your lovely Monday.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

[Student Work] Late

From a student journal today.  We've been writing 15 minutes a day all year.   This makes my heart smile.

Late start.
Barely made it.
Happy I'm not late.
The guy in the taco shop took forever,
Singing his songs and drinking coffee.
Irritated already
So please
Leave me alone
Foot cramps
Head ache.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

[Survey] Help a Girl Out

I'm looking for ways to make this blog interesting to more people.  If you have an inkling, please take a minute to minute to answer these questions.  If you have more than an inkling, share it with someone new, have them become a follower.  I like followers.  It supports my need to be adored.

Create your free online surveys with SurveyMonkey, the world's leading questionnaire tool.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

[Blogging] And... We're back

Lost track of time...  coming back at ya with something cool soonish!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

[Friday Free Day] What if...

A boss I really liked posed a question similar to this to me one day...

What if... we stopped teaching specific content for one week, one quarter, one year, and instead focused on the kids where they are at each moment.  Zero in on their learning edge and provide space, time, and resources for them to grow, learn, fill up their space?  

What would happen?

Friday, March 9, 2012

[Friday Free Day] Reminders

Here's a thought for a Friday.* How many reminder or warning bells are in your daily life? And, how many MORE reminders or warning bells are in your life than were, say, 10 years ago?  Here is typical morning in my world, with warning bells and reminders marked with a star.

At 5:30 my clock gives a buzz* to warn me that the loud alarms will be starting soon.  This is a gentle warning that the real warnings will be jarring. At 6:00 my alarm rings* for the first time as a strong suggestion that I should walk the dog. At the same time, my calendar dings* to let me know that 100 days are passing (long story, will share later). At 6:15 comes the stronger alarm bell* with the more overt reminder that it is time to get up and walk the dog. Between 6:15 and 7:00 the snooze alarms ring,* and at 7:00 the big alarm goes off* that lets me know I am now borderline late and a bad dog-owner for not walking the dog. When I start the dryer to finish dryer my clothes from last nights laundry, the dryer beeps* to let me know it started to dry.  At 7:05 the buttons on the microwave beep* to let me know I am pressing buttons to heat up my dog's food (a new trick to pretend it's fancy food). At 7:06 the refrigerator beeps* to let me know I've left the door open. At 7:06 the microwave gives a long beep* to let me know the food is heated. When I don't get it out right away (as I am making coffee) it beeps again* a minute later, and another beep* a minute after that. At 7:10 the dryer ding-dongs* to let me know the dryer will stop soon. At 7:15 the coffee maker gives a long tone* to tell me the coffee is brewed.

When I come back downstairs to pack my lunch and head out the door (late--my calendar has buzzed twice** to let me know I have a meeting at 8:00), the coffee maker rings* to say it will turn off soon. The dryer dings* to remind me I didn't take my clothes out. The refrigerator beeps* because the door didn't shut all the way again.

In my car the warning bell* goes off until I put my seat belt on. The cross walk light beep-bops* to let the visually impaired street crosses know to cross. My car bell* rings again as I forget to turn my headlights off when I arrive at the Rite Aid. The entryway at Rite-Aid ding-dongs* to let the employees know there is an early-morning customer. The sign directs me to "Ring the Bell"* at the pharmacy counter for service, so I do.

And that, my friends, is before 8:00 each day.  What does it say about our lives that this many machines need to ring at us, and that, in my case, I need to add rings and bells from my own phone and clocks in order to get my day started? I think it says something deep and important about the world.  I just don't know what it is yet...  Oh.  And I just got a text message*.  No joke.  I really did.  Ring-ring.

Monday, March 5, 2012

[Teaching Writing] Found Faces

Many surprising things happened today.  I woke up early, but not too early (!!!). I actually GOT up (!!!).  I took Stella the Dog for a walk after I got up (!!!).  And, I saw and took photos of fun things on my walk, AND I've already turned them into a writing prompt for today (!!!). Oh, and I haven't had any coffee yet. Yes, I think I've finished enough work for one day, I may just go back to bed.  Kidding (sort of).

When my dad was little, he had the "back room" at my Nana's house. The closet was made of wood and you could see the wood grain. He used a black permanent marker and drew the outline of a lady that showed up in the wood grain. I'm fairly certain he got in trouble for this. Happily for me, Nana didn't cover it up, and, a generation later, I was assigned the same "back room" and spent many hours contemplating that lady. I was sent to my room on occasion (what's the opposite of hyperbole?), and had plenty of time to imagine other people in that wood grain. Sorta like this:

On my walk this morning, I saw myriad faces. I thought I'd share them, and come up with a writing prompt from them.  Here they are. I did not move a single leaf, rock, or shadow to highlight these friendly found faces.

Try our video maker at Animoto.

Friday, March 2, 2012

[Friday Free Day] Stacks

I just loves me some stacks of books. It's one of the surest signs that I am, indeed, an English teacher at heart. I got to work at the butt-crack of dawn this morning, and was greeted with these lovely stacks.


The books I'm using as mentor texts at my presentation tomorrow morning.

 A partial class set of Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card for my 7th and 8th grade schmoopies. 

 A mis-matched class set of Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli for my 6th grade turkey-butts.


The book I grabbed from the library as I checked out the class sets, thinking I might read it and use it as a mentor texts for some of my more romantic turtle-heads.

Welcome to my Friday!  Share your stacks of books with me on my Wear the Cape Facebook page!  Maybe I'll pick a winner and send out a prize or something!  

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

[Mentor Texts] Leading up to Memoirs

Today we started to write memoirs. While I'm glad to share the steps leading up to these very-first-inkling drafts, I'd rather just show y'all what they came up with.

Here is the mentor text we used.  It's from Knots in My Yo-yo String by Jerry Spinelli.  We are using his memoirs as our mentor text throughout. We read a few excerpts, and then started in with this paragraph:

And here is our marked up version:

We've talked about a lot of these writer's tricks before have made symbols for some of them.  Here you see that we talked about (sort of in order as you read):

--How the author gives a location and then goes into detail using the sense of smell and sound
--The use of the hyphenated modifer high-pitched (H-M)
--The juxtaposition  of the two things we normally think of has high-pitched and hi mom's voice.  We also noticed that this puts a small piece of humor in.
--Figurative Language that extends in the next sentence (FL)
--Repetition for Effect (^^)
--An ellipse

Using this information, they started their own first paragraphs.  These are unedited paragraphs written in about 10 minutes at the end of our discussion.

So...  what we have here is a wide range of ability, reliance on the mentor author's words, and a HUGE range in skills. It is true, if you hold it up to what 7th and 8th graders have to do on command for assessments, it isn't going to cut it. You can take red pens to it, you can talk about how they should know how to capitalize, or how their handwriting is illegible. Technically, all of that is true.

I, however, am celebrating the fact that they are playing with words.  That they set right to work, were eager, were helping each other, and identified writer's craft with a high level of success.  that two of my kiddos with autism used figurative language successfully.  That my kiddos that read at the 3rd and 4th grade level are successfully mimicking a higher-level text.  That students with oppositional defiant disorder COMPLETED the assignment as given.  That my students who failed all of 6th and 7th grade for not turning in a single page of work, did this AND turned it in.

For my kiddos at this point in the year, I call this a win. My poodle-heads are writers. The rest will come.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

[SDAWP] Be Like Sweden

If you are old like me, or like I'm fixin' to be soon, you might remember this commercial:

Rather than launch into a discussion about how this irritated me when it came out, how it's a tag phrase I remember now, and how it is possible they were making a joke (I hope), I will instead encourage you to..

Be Like Sweden!

Sweden launched a Twitter campaign (recently?  I don't know when...).  Each week a new Swedish citizen takes over the Sweden Twitter account and tweets for a week.  It is a week-in-the-life view of Sweden, and it's super cool!  It's here.

My SDAWP cronies decided to be like Sweden.  And... drum roll please... I will be the second SDAWP Weekly Fellow.  So, get your Twitter accounts revved up!  I'm learning Twitter and, in my usual fashion, am diving right in head first! I'll try my best to be interesting.  Failing that, I'll at least be prolific.

If you are already using Twitter, follow me at @SDAWPBarb.  If you aren't and are willing to, sign up here.  If you aren't, aren't willing to, but are morbily curious, well...  I'm not sure what I'll do for you folks.  May the cape be with you!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

[Quote of the Week] QOW #22

The lovies are playing board games, dressing up from the costume bin, and challenging me to various card games. They've earned some free-choice time at the end of the day on a Friday.

J. observes B. is not paying attention during our game of Uno and is causing our game to go more slowly than he would prefer. Granted, J. would prefer all things go quickly, change often, and stay intensely  interesting at all times.  B. is content to sit and watch other things happen around him and is doing this as we play--watching everyone else do everything else.

J:  Boss, B.  isn't having fun right.

B:  I'm not having fun right?  How can it not be right?

J: Because you have to have fun so I can have fun.

B:  (thinks... shrugs...)  Okay.

Me:  You guys rock.

J. and B.:  We know. (impish smiles)

Friday, February 3, 2012

[Friday Free Day] Hey Girl

One of my caped friends sent this blog to me.  It is enough to simply repost here...

Reposted from 

Thursday, February 2, 2012

[Classroom Rules] Chicago

This caped teacher and one of her caped friends watched Chicago a while back on the television box.  We intended to watch something else, but this caped teacher made an error in planning.  Good news though, Rule #5 has revealed itself (see the rest of the rules here).

Roxie Hart has quite shocking language in this show, and Billy Flynn has to tell her to tone it down.  The conversation goes like so:

[Roxie Hart]   Holy s**t! I'm never gotta get this straight!

[Billy Flynn]   Pipe down the swearing. Look, from here on, you say nothing wrong. Now try it again. 

Sometimes a word or phrase strikes me, and this one did.  

Rule #5  Pipe down the swearing

My kids use language quite similar to that of Ms. Roxie Hart.  While I don't allow it, I wouldn't say it is my primary concern.  They hear it at home, in their neighbohoods, and from each other.  It isn't going to work to tell them not to swear.  It does work, or it least more useful to teach them when it's okay to swear, when to pipe it down, and when not to.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

[Student Stories] Going Invisible

I have a couple of students with Autism or Autistic-like behaviors (an actual thing when the diagnosis isn't clear on an educational level).  Without going into a long discussion (yet*), let me oversimplify by saying that some students with Autism struggle with social skills, understanding social cues and non-verbal communication, and it is quite quite common for a student with Autism to be very literal in their thinking.  The teaching standards for Language Arts in the middle grades in my state include lots of figurative language.  Good expository and narrative writing includes lots of figurative language. I am constantly trying to teach these kiddos nuance, metaphor, allusion, and a sense of themselves outside what they can see and hear. Or, failing that, how to navigate the world around them.  Below is a conversation I had recently with one of these kiddos.  On the surface it seems like an odd conversation.  Threaded in there though, are some beads of brilliance on his part.  Let me 'splain...

Kiddo: This week is going by slow isn't it?

Me: (sighing, rubbing my forehead) Yes, it really is.

Kiddo: Is it really, or like 8th-graders-are-literal kind of slow. [BEAD #1]

Me: (starting to smile) Nah, I think it really is.

Kiddo: (mischievous twinkle in his eye) And maybe slower because we have 8th Grade Disease? [BEAD #2]

Me: [smiling] Yeah, maybe it is.

Kiddo: And would it be better if I became invisible? [BEAD #3]

Me: Maybe if we all did, yes.

Kiddo:  See you tomorrow.

Me:  Not if we're invisible

Kiddo: Yeah.

BEAD #1--I always tell them that it's okay if they see things literally at first, because that's what 8th graders are really good at.  I play out scenarios where 8th graders are literal, and then we try to be more figurative.  He realizes that the week going slowly isn't literal, and he's turning that over in his mind.  He caught himself being figurative (yay!).  Also, we use hyphenated modifiers in our writing, and he made it clear he was using one in his talking (you have to find it yourself.)

BEAD #2--Here Kiddo is showing me that he remembers something I said.  He sees that I'm tired, that it was a rough day.  He knows I talked to the 8th graders about having 8th Grade Disease earlier, and he is trying to connect.  This is huge. He knows he was a butt-head himself earlier, and wants to fix it.  The fact that he is trying to reach out of his own head in a social way is a big step for him and a stretch. He also does it quite well, which is super-cool.

BEAD #3--Earlier that week (actually the day before, but as I mentioned, it had been a long week), Kiddo was not paying attention to our conversation about the word "uncanny" and kept talking about how being invisible would be cool.  Even after explaining that invisibility was more of a magic power or super power, he kept blurting out examples using invisibility.  Finally, I tried my "pushing-in-instead-of-pushing-out" trick (I just named that right there. Did you see how I did that?) and stopped fighting him.  I challenged him to try to put invisibility into our conversation five more times before class ended, or before I did--whichever came first (not before I ended, but before I used it five times.  Heh.  That sounds funny so I'm leaving it).  My next example sentence was "It is uncanny how Kiddo has the ability to incorporate invisibility into each of our conversations." and it went from there. Here, he is bringing up an old joke.  This is a big social skill he is learning.  Connecting to a previous conversation like that, and continuing a joke in an appropriate way. I was tickled pink. Or purple.  Or some color that you can be tickled to be.

So you see my caped friends, a ten-second conversation at the end of a long day can, in fact, be full of learning.  What a lucky duck I am to be able to experience it! It's... uncanny! Or invisible.

*NOTE--Two of my caped family members know way more about this than I do.  They study it and work with it and can explain it much better.  I am glad to try, but think I will outsource this particular topic to the experts.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

[Photo of the Week] Pickle Skins

I noticed J. nibbling at his pickles.  Here is the conversation that followed (he speaks very precisely.):

Me: J.  Whatcha doin'?
J: I am peeling my pickles.
Me: How come?
J:  I do not like the skin.
Me:  That's awesome.  May I take a picture?
J:  Oh.  Yes.  Do you like it?
Me:  Yes.  I like it very much.  It makes me happy.
J:  I can make them into the shape of an octopus if you would like it better?
Me: No thanks.  I like them just the way they are.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

[Quote of the Week] QOW #21

Me: Okay dudes, there's something we need to get done today.  Third period started on it today, and it didn't go very well.  In fact, I was kind of frustrated.  I'll tell you what it is, and maybe you have an idea for how it can go better?

A: We could just pay attention.  I bet it would go better if we did that.


Monday, January 9, 2012

[Teaching Writing] Many Good Things A.K.A Fresh is the New Cool.

More specifically, 100 Good Things.

I discovered a new magazine recently.  I was drawn in by the cover (see photo to the left).  True, the word GOOD screams out at you.  This may have been the first thing I saw.  Additionally, the cover is made from a matte-artsy-mod-hipster material and I wanted to pick it up.  Once I did, the articles and ads were equally fascinating.

Even better, I found my first-day-back-at-school-super-cool-lesson idea within the non-glossy-hip-and-cool pages.

Today we began our own 100 Good Things list using this interactive list as our mentor text.

Some examples from the list that caught our eye:
  • Gaming is the new teaching tool.
  • Glitterbombing is the new yarnbombing.
  • Supper Club is the new restaurant
  • Touch is the new click
  • Twitter Spoiler is the new TV Recap
  • Doing is the new Talking
  • AIRBNB is the new Craigslist
  • Pie is the new cupcake

Here are the rough ideas from our list:

  • Modern Warfare is the new Halo
  • Green Lantern is the new Superman
  • Dubstep is the new Techno
  • iPad is the new iPod
  • Teased hair is the new Bump-it
  • Google Earth is the new Google Maps
  • "Smile Bracelets" are the new "Silly Bands"
  • Facebook is the new MySpace
  • Google+ is the new Facebook
  • Texting is the new calling
  • Sears is the new Kmart
  • Fresh is the new cool
  • Astin Kucker is the new Charlie Sheen
  • Takis are the new Flamin' Hot Cheetos
  • Blu-Ray is the new DVD 

Just a little window into the souls of our next generation.  Some hopeful, some scary, yes?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

[SDAWP] Shameless Self-Promotion

I LOVE the people in this publication.  I am equally tickled that this is where I got to be "published" for the first time.  So, in honor of shameless self-promotion...  here I am!