Monday, October 28, 2013

[Mentor Text Monday] Creative Collections--more from UPPERCASE Magazine

Last week I talked about using UPPERCASE Magazine and their focus on "sticky things" as mentor texts. I also alluded to the fact that I would use more from this magazine.

While the theme of this issue is collage, there is a "Creative Challenge" on page 75 that suggests collecting artifacts. There is a great page on which you can cut and paste images physically or digitally.

From UPPERCASE: In our current issue, we provided a page with an image of an empty typecase. Since this is our collage and assemblage-themed issue, we encourage you to glue and modify this page, take a picture or scan of it and send it to us!

The process of collecting items, like in the abecedary in the previous post, has many possibilities in the classroom.

The UPPERCASE blog is showcasing reader collections.  Here are some of my favorite--with an eye to teaching possibilities:
Another creative challenge submission! This box of treasured things is by Lisa Fitzhugh of Wideyed.

Read Vanda Vilela submitted her response to our earlier creative challenge.  Thank you to all who submitted over the past couple of months. I guess it is time I issued a new challenge! I will be posting all the open calls for participation very soon.
Kathryn Cole submitted this one: "Inspired by your call for creating a shadow box, I created one with my favourite shells that I collected at the my favourite beach in Florida and some fresh roses from my yard."
UPPERCASE subscriber Cornelis vanSpronsen writes: 
"I received my copy of UPPERCASE today and was immediately inspired to respond to the creative challenge on page 75. For many years my wife and I have collected special mementos that were both of great importance as well as those that were memorable for just a small moment in time. This is some of that collection. Going through these is like leafing through a photo album but only better because there are memories attached to these things that photos could never capture."
As springboards for writing, illustrations for published pieces, or even the act of collecting and labeling as a writing task. I am tickled by the idea of this simple wooden type case and the fun of filling it up.

Some of us are participating in a photographic collection--SDAWP Photo Voices. On a weekly or monthly basis, we curate our images from a designated time period and display them in a collection (of one or many). Previously I've collected images on symmetry,  the color green, and the color yellow (I did well with colors).

For the month of October, we have the theme "writing." Oddly, I've struggled. Combining my SDAWP Photo Voices theme and this idea of collections, here is my "writing" collection so far:

Where do you think you take this in your classroom? What collections do you have or would you have? How would you fill in this amazing wooden typecase? 

Monday, October 21, 2013

[Mentor Text Monday] "An Abecedary of Sticky Things"

UPPERCASE Magazine, Issue No. 18, "Cut it Out" is all about collage. Yup.  you read that correctly, collage. It's a beautful magazine printed on amazing paper.  The tagline is "a magazine for the creative and curious." Well that's us in a nutshell is it not?

Keeping "creative and curious" in mind, I thought I'd share some mentor text thoughts that crossed my mind during my "1st Draft Reading" last night. I have about a gabilllion ideas, so I'll start with my favorite.

"An Abecedary of Sticky Things" pg. 14

First, a word study.  Abecedary--an ABC Book.  What an amazing word! A-Be-Ce-Dary--see it? Even more fun, it's an ABC book of... sticky things!  The list is creative and gives pause for thought multiple times. I imagine this as one in an array of ABC book mentor texts, though the depth and vocbaluary used in this one makes it my all time favorite. Just look at this list!

I know, right?  What a rich and thoughtful list of... sticky things! We're not talking a Level 1 or 2 DOK (Webb's Depth of Knowledge) list here. Historical reference, science, Dr. Seuss, candy, toilet plungers, and, of course,  bubble gum. This two-page magazine spread is chock full of learning, thinking and creativity.  I can't wait to use it! 

That's pretty cool in itself, I'll grant you. But let's take it up a notch.  On page 101 of the same issue is an article called "Sticky Business: A Brief History of Glue."

Looking for a piece of complex non-fiction text for upper grades? Try this one out.  It's a challenge, most certainly, but link it with the Abecedary of Sticky Things above and you have two texts on a similar topic Common Core State Standards CCR R.9), one is more accessible than the other (differentiation!), one serves as a practice in deeper reading (Common Core State Standard CCR R.1), and one provides a jumping off point for an informational writing assignment (CCR W.2) that also uses write-to-learn strategies. Use technology to draft and display your finished abecedary and you've got a hat trick!

There is only one teeny tiny itty bitty downside to this brilliance. UPPERCASE Magazine is not what you'd call a budget publication. Each issue runs $18. I rarely allow myself to buy it. It is a marvelous publication and worth the money, I swear, but there is a budget option. The folks at UPPERCASE are very thoughtful and provide their articles online for free.  I don't know how long they leave it up, but this issue is on the blog right here.  Pretty cool, huh? So maybe go out and try an abedecary with your own learners? I most certainly am!

Please share here if you do!

Next week... Creative Collections as mentor texts, A.K.A. more ideas from UPPERCASE Magazine

Linking up to the #113Texts Mentor Text Challenge on

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

[Learning] Danger! Curves ahead!

I remember my thinking clearly. I had gotten it into my head that I was meant to be a motorcyclist. My dad had instilled the appropriate amount of fear of what he called “hundreds of pounds of hurtling steel” and I knew the safety class had to come first.  This shows growth on my part since I typically dive in feet first and learn things the hard way.  

I signed up for a one-day introductory class with a class the following week if it went well.  I was nervous, but ready. I had, in my mind, a vision of riding along the beach like Tom Cruise did in Top Gun.  I conveniently ignored the learning curve I was about to climb. I also conveniently ignored what I know about myself as a learner. I need time to observe, time to calculate, time to choose my path.  Learning difficult things in a public and structured way is difficult for me. I knew this, but I ignored it.

We were  a small class—eight people or so.  Most of them had been on some sort of two-wheeled vehicle before.  I… had not.  At least not since I fell asleep on the back of my father’s moving  motorcycle nearly 30 years earlier (don’t worry, he caught me.  Then he banned me from the back of his bike for EVER).  I started to wonder if I had made a good decision.  I was there though. The learning curve had begun.
We read some pamphlets, talked about how dangerous motorcycles were, how they worked, how to have eyes in the backs of our heads .  Then we were allowed to sit on our loaner bikes.  We couldn’t start them yet, but we could sit on them.  I’ll admit, the learning curve was going a little slow for me at this point—my mind was starting to wander. My Tom-Cruise vision was taunting me.  After some practice getting on and off the bikes, we finally got to start them! Vrooom!  I was back on track and engaged immediately. Top Gun, here I come!

That first day we managed to get our bikes started, ride around in 15 mph circles, and do some zigzags. I determined that I was making progress since I wasn’t the very worst learner in the group. By my count, I was in the bottom third, but at least not at the bottom.  I was tense, and felt like I needed more time, but I left that day feeling like a learner!

Two weeks later I went back for my second class. I immediately realized my previous learning had not stuck.  I felt brand new again. I was rusty, to put it kindly.  As we started back into our 15mph circles, I couldn’t get the hang of it.  I was nervous and unsure—making me squeeze the handles too tightly , rev the engine, and squeeze the brakes when I shouldn’t have been.  I was being corrected each time around the circle, and I felt my stress level rise.  My face was hot, my spine tingled, and my heart was beating more loudly than it should have been.  I used my same method of self-measurement as before—was I the worst in the group? Um… yes.  Most decidedly yes.  I just couldn’t get it. I felt my conviction and energy drain and I started marking time until the class was over. I was getting angry—irritated at what seemed like the constant corrections. My learning curve had gone flat and I wasn’t handling it well.

Once class ended it took me over a year to regroup and get back on track with my goal. I ended up deciding to learn in my usual way—feet first.  I saved up and bought a 150cc scooter.  I took it to a parking lot and rode that thing around until I had the feel for it.  Then I rode it every day on the back streets of my neighborhood, then the larger streets, then out into the big bad world.  My learning curve was steep, but on my terms.  I still had the sweaty palms, the tingly spine, and the frustrations, but I was able to work them out on that parking lot and on those streets at my own pace.

I always remember that tingly-spine feeling when I am teaching.  Challenging learning takes an extra dose of focus, of courage, and of perseverance.  While we all agree that we need to push our student to learn in new and challenging ways, it is also true that we need to respect and their learning process.  We can support and guide them in the process of learning while still ensuring that the learning itself is real and rigorous.

This winter, I’m taking that motorcycle safety class again.  I’ve done the prep work, the pre-learning, and I feel ready to learn at their pace. I still have my Top-Gun dreams to achieve!

Friday, October 11, 2013

[Personal Accountability] My Double-Standard

Okay, I admit it.  I have been a hypocrite.  Ooooh, what an ugly word.  I even looked up synonyms to try to soften the blow, but no.  That's the word. Although, on a side note, this definition is pretty lame...
I digress. It's time to admit my hypocrisy.

I have been presenting, coaching, going to events, and talking on blog radio about digital literacy, Connected Educator Month, and the importantce of being connected learners.  All the while, my blog is sitting idle since August, my SDAWP Photo of the Day posts have been barely trickling in, and I tweet only when reminded.

So, today I am making a committment to my corner of the world.

I, Barb Montfort, will post on the blog, post on Edmodo, tweet, or upload to Instagram at least one time per day, every day, for the rest of forever. 

Yes, I said for the rest of forever. I almost changed it to some lesser commitment, but really--I need to walk my talk, right?

Please, hold me accountable. You may follow me on Twitter at @barb_montfort, or on Instagram at @bypenorbythread, or on Edmodo as Ms. Montfort.  Please do.  And nag me.

I aloms