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Saving Summer: Rethinking Themes, Essays, and Media

I’m about to do a dangerous thing: post a document long before it’s “ready.” It is not even close, and I think–that’s where it should be. A finished document would mean there is no room for growth or adaptation; it’s a sketch. Flipping my thinking around about the silo type of units, students would be better served if we took a gravitational, or centrifugal force idea. While we’re spinning, we stay connected and use metacognition to be cognizant of what draws us in. Choices are key, here, with a map for guidance. In essence, every UBD and essential questions demand a variety of genres and modes of texts. We think about big issues in a kaleidoscope way, not linear. I started thinking about units I’ve created in the past, and some of the theme topics, and came up with this document:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/0ByKyQvl3l_F5QWxjM09NbzAyZjA/view?usp=sharing

Ethical ELA is a huge influencer, and sites such as

https://www.discoverartifacts.com/

https://www.commonlit.org/

Nothing should be off limits: essays, short stories, podcasts, films, novels, poetry, letters, texts, tweets, news, classics and modern re-tellings, pop culture, graphic novels, series: sources for texts and media are bordering on the infinite. If you can write it or read it, it belongs.

Oh, and for the curated list, a wonderful collection of essays that may come in handy:

10 personal essays that will teach you how to write

What big questions are ones you come back to again and again in your teaching? No matter how many times I watch Descendants, I see something new.

Descendants from Goro Fujita on Vimeo.

 

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Saving Summer: Hugo House and Shared Writing

 

Summer fills up fast, faster than a kiddie pool in an Orlando backyard, faster than a cup of coffee at an all-night diner, faster than…well, dang. I’m out of analogies. But, there is a remedy for lack of inspiration! One of the highlights so far included time and money well spent at Hugo House at the Write-O-Rama on July 8. Since the dismantling of the Puget Sound Writing Project, I’ve been untethered in

Since the dismantling of the Puget Sound Writing Project, I’ve been untethered in terms of having others to talk about and share writing. It’s been…well, I’ve been in a state of low mourning. I’m glad I went, and I plan on going to other events and joining now that I am aware of this deep resource.

https://hugohouse.org/blog/

The way the day was set up was simply lovely: it didn’t start too early (looking at you, Holly!) and attendees could decide well in advance which speakers they wanted to hear. I ended up going to 1. Get into Character with Bruce Holbert (charming writer!) 2. Mini-Memoirs for Podcasting–it was good, but wish I went to Movie Memoir, too…3. Revising your novel – the tip I took away was…now I don’t remember. (Just write the damn thing?!) 4. Writing for Performance: I wish Garfield Hillson could come and speak to students at my school and finally 5. Your Note to a non-person was a lovely way to end the day. This is just like RAFTS, but the creative constraint was letter writing, which added a useful boundary by which to operate.

Oh, now I remember. One tip for the Revising Novel unit was to write a movie descriptor summary. What a great idea for students! This could lead to what themes exist, etc.

Looking for something else, I came across this site, which I am going to use for writing instruction:

What’s The Logline?

Now, the spoken word section. That was humbling and wonderful –(this may sound odd, but being humbled is excruciatingly thrilling for me: it’s where I learn the most). He gave us good notes, and specifically,  he said mine was really funny but need to alter my pacing. Good to know, good to know.

This leads me to ask, “What is comedy?” -but only because, like I said, he thought my piece was funny.

 

Comedy is “a person dealing with a situation that they’re ill-equipped to handle.” —  and if I go through my rough draft of the spoken word piece, clearly the world right now is too much for me to handle.

These are my raw notes from Evernote:

Spoken word poetry
Writing as ritual
Garfield
Access
Pronouns
Name
Asked important questions first (name, preferred gender pronoun)
Writing prompts:
Blockbusters if you had one superpower what would it be
If your name is the thing you’re called the most what would your name be
Acrostic poem
Blood is thicker but water swallows best
If I had one superpower
I could understand, and speak any language in the world
Dead languages, too, like Latin
And living ones like Urdu and Navajo and Swahili
The French would be astounded when this very American middle age woman opens her mouth and says the most brilliant things with the perfect accent and they wouldn’t be suspicious at all
Spanish students saying jota and pendejo would giggle when I could give them “the look” because I know what they are saying: but more importantly, I could help Moises learn to read in English easier, and faster, so he could pass the test and make his family proud. I could speak to the moms, crying because their daughter stole 800 dollars from them, tell them it’s going to be okay, instead of with my stupid cow face nodding sympathetically
I could speak perfect German, and Russian, just like Angela Merkel, so when I become a world ambassador I could help broker peace deals that would save the world, and in the virtual worlds,  if I could speak Portuguese I could tell the World of Warcraft players from the Quel Thalas server to stop trolling.
In elevators and airports, I could understand people’s small talk, and thus understand their dreams.
On airplanes, I would travel internationally and soothe babies in their mother tongue’s lullabies.
Floating on ships, nothing would be lost in the depths of translation.
I could speak Elvish just like Tolkien imagined, and Klingon that would bring any Trekkie to tears.
And read the Russian masters in Russian, gaining insight into my son’s predilection for dark, Slavic humor.
But the language I wish I could speak most of all would be the words to stop hate: shush the distractions and liars, and whisper intelligence in the unhopeful and ignorant.
No one seems to know this language, though. It has yet to be created.
Any poem can be performed
What does the poem say?
And that is how it’s performed
What does the poem require?
Energy to the words
Emote/Speak
Don’t read flat
I wish I could bring students to this!!!
Garfield
As we edit, put in the feelings and emotional tones
Soft spots: bursts open with feelings and emotions
Locate those moments first
Get rid of lines that are just thrown in there
Purposeful and lead into experience
List poems
Of what is in there and what is not
List of frailty
List of abundance
Writing territories
Create lists
Language
Death
List of all the languages
What do I need before I go on stage?
Why is this important?
Tell students to think about what they need: nervousness, not speaking or speaking
While on stage, why are you doing what you’re doing?
Speak and be in the moment
Exit strategy
Treat yourself in order to get back to yourself
Slump
Feel as good and genuine in your body as possible
Hands
Feet
Slam intentional movements
Point and down
Be careful of “poet” hands
You are all Genius and excellent writers
Several shades of emotions
Nuances of emotions
Record the performance
Make sure not so monotone
Please listen to self
Record self!!
Record self on mute and look at what body is doing
body language and voice can send a mixed message
Be authoritative when it calls for it
What an amazing partner activity
The voice/performance makes the world
Like Shakespeare makes sense when you hear it
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Saving Summer: Why do I need this?

Relevancy: how many students passively sit in class, waiting to be entertained? Engagement is key, but as the wise man said, “I’m afraid that some times you’ll play lonely games too. Games you can’t win ‘cause /you’ll play against you.” In other words: sometimes you’re going to have to enjoy your own company and think/create your own thoughts.

Why Humanities? Why read? Why listen? Why talk?

To be an interesting human.

The other morning scrolling through social media I watched a Buzzfeed talk — and immediately recognized it as a character analysis. “Captain Obvious,” yes, that may be; however, many students watch and critique the media they love, or hate, all the time–they may not know it. The trick is to make school not so “school-y.” Still a work in progress for me.

@BuzzFeedCocoaButter posted this on Facebook. I could not find it on Youtube, so this is a screencasting. My apologies for the quality.

 

CocoaButter does a beautiful job of how this character relates to her personally (“If you could be friends with this character…?”) and how the character relates to the whole of the narrative, including her own parallel narrative in the series.

This article in Edutopia outlines precisely how to teach literary analysis:

Teaching Literary Analysis

https://www.edutopia.org/blog/reaching-literary-analysis-rusul-alrubail

What may be the bridge between this example of literary analysis (with its focus on character) is explaining to students (the teaching part) that CocoaButter didn’t just talk off the top of her head. She went through this process of discussion, gathering evidence, etc. It would be an interesting lesson to see if students can deconstruct her process. But most of all: the topic of Jodie Landon was clearly important to her, and she brought the “So What?” importance to her topic. It’s not enough to summarize and answer questions rotely–students must connect emotionally to their ideas and topics, and then have the tools and platform to share.

“Analyze”

This critical stage is often a learning curve for many students. It’s important that the teacher helps them distinguish between descriptive writing and analytical writing. Descriptive writing answers the “who,” “what,” “where,” and “how” questions. It often tends to summarize the text. Analytical writing, however, answers to the “why” question. When students consider the question, “Why is this point important?”, it pushes them beyond mere description into ideas that are convincing, argumentative, and defend a position.”–https://www.edutopia.org/blog/reaching-literary-analysis-rusul-alrubail

This infographic is going to be a big part of the writing process, too, as well as a path for literary analysis. This is an important step before I bring them to the funnel writing method.

What character has changed how you view the world or connected with you on a visceral level?

Key Ideas and Details:

CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.1
Cite the textual evidence that most strongly supports an analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences are drawn from the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.2
Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze its development over the course of the text, including its relationship to the characters, setting, and plot; provide an objective summary of the text.
CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RL.8.3
Analyze how particular lines of dialogue or incidents in a story or drama propel the action, reveal aspects of a character, or provoke a decision.
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Wish.

I wish I could tell you about my students.

The one who brings home books to her brothers from my classroom library.

The one who desperately tries to ignore the loud ones.

The one who understood completely when I said how many students let others dictate their love of learning.

And the one who did the memoir project, both the written and the podcast version, and asked me not to share.

To me, it was This American Life, Invisibilia, and StoryCorp level amazing. Perhaps, even more amazing because she didn’t have producers, writers, engineers, or Ira Glass prompting her on. Just me, telling her (and everyone) “just tell your story.”

It is enough.

More than enough.

 

I’ve used my goodwill on all-staff emails. There is no time, nor is it on the agenda, to share in a PLC. I know, and I can tell her thank you. I won’t think about the smell of blackberries or the lack of smell of sunflowers again.

 

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