Art Together Now

I’ve written about the OK Go Sandbox before on this blog. For STEM and STEAM teachers, this is a fabulous website provided by the incredibly creative and gifted band, OK Go, to suggest lessons inspired by their music videos. Those videos – masterpieces of science, music, and cinematography – are fascinating to listen to and watch in and of themselves. But combine them with hands-on activities designed to explore topics such as physics and color theory, and you have lessons that are sure to engage your students.

Somehow I missed the band’s release, last year, of their “All Together Now” video, produced near the beginning of the pandemic as each of the members remained isolated in their own homes. They dedicated it to the healthcare workers on the frontlines, and paired it with a challenge to create collaborative art to express gratitude for someone. Curated under the hashtag, #ArtTogetherNow, the art would be posted to this website gallery.

The lyrics of the song mourn the loss of what we had come to expect in our world, but offer hope in the chorus that we will eventually emerge from this crisis transformed – perhaps for the better.

Adobe Social Justice Materials

The Adobe Education Exchange has a page of materials that have been curated to “Learn and Create for Social Justice.” (You may need to log in to Adobe in order to access this page.) Some of the resources are from Adobe for Education, and may be designed for Adobe products such as Adobe Premiere, but there are others that come from outside organizations. Even if your district does not use Adobe, you can get ideas and adapt lessons to suit your available resources. There are also several activities for which your students can use the free version of Adobe Spark.

Creating for Social Justice is one way to empower students to take a stand against racism, bringing importance and relevance to your curriculum. For more ways to give students a voice and educate them about what can be done about inequality in our world, please refer to my Anti-Racism Wakelet, which I update weekly!

woman in white t shirt holding brown wooden board
Photo by Lina Kivaka on


Although I haven’t seen it yet (watching it this evening!), I want to take the opportunity to promote a production of Luna by Ramon Esquivel that is being performed this weekend by students from Advanced Learning Academy and CAST Tech. Several of my former students are performing in the play and working back stage, and one of them wrote this promotional post about it. According to the description, Luna is written for all ages and especially suited for children. The play is being performed live (with social distancing), but is also streaming tonight (Friday, March 26, 2021) and tomorrow (Saturday, March 27, 2021). Having seen several ALA productions, I highly recommend them, and hope that you will help this talented theater department to create even more wonderful shows in the future by purchasing tickets at this link.

silhouette of person standing on field
Photo by luizclas on


In an article by Belle Beth Cooper that falls under the “Life Hacking” tag, she explains how making connections is a large part of how our brains come up with new ideas. She quotes Steve Jobs as once saying, “Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things.” This is one of the reasons I think using hexagonal thinking with my students is so powerful, and also why I have recommended products like Dinkee, Codenames, and Anaxi.

Russel Tarr has a game on called, “Connect Fours,” which is based on a BBC game show called, “Only Connect.” In the game, 16 clues are presented on a 4×4 grid. Players must find relationships between the words, and separate the 16 into 4 groups by their connections. Then they have to identify what the words in each of the 4 groups have in common. This could be used to review vocabulary, name associations between people or events in history, draw lines between stories or themes in literature, etc… Click here to play Tarr’s sample game.

If you don’t have a premium subscription to Class Tools, you will not be able to save any “Connect Fours” games you create. Another option is to use the PuzzGrid website, which is full of user-submitted games. You can challenge yourself or your students to play the ones that are already posted, or submit your own. (I think it’s amusing that, beneath the question asking if your puzzle is “of interest to a general audience,” the following advice appears: “Teachers: please note that your grids are almost never of interest to a general knowledge audience. Please do not choose Yes above. Your grid will still be accessible at the URL.“)

Although playing PuzzGrid can be quite fun for word nerds like me, I think the true value of this would be to have student groups create their own versions for submission. If you are looking for more ideas for games to engage children, don’t forget this article I wrote for NEO on how to mine talk shows for entertaining ways to review or introduce subjects in class.

AAPI Poetry

I generally do my weekly anti-racist posts on Fridays, but decided to change my routine this week due to recent events. Violence against Asians in the United States is on the rise, unfortunately. Although we do not have evidence, yet, that yesterday’s terrible murder of six Asian women in Atlanta was a hate crime, it is not an isolated incident. While I cannot stop hate, I can work on becoming less White-centric and more open to many cultures – and encourage others to do the same. I am sad to say that when I was in the classroom, I usually guided my students toward literature by White authors with whom I was mostly familiar. I would change that now. So, to continue my theme of poetry for this week, I would like to highlight AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) poetry today. I also want to remind you of a resource I mentioned awhile ago, Teach Living Poets, where you can find a diverse group of poets from many races and cultures.

Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month is in May in the United States, and has a page dedicated to this celebration. I think because I have a daughter in college I am particularly moved by, “For a Daughter Who Leaves,” by Janice Mirikitani – which voices the universal bittersweet feeling that mothers have as they watch their daughters become more independent.

Poetry Foundation also has a page devoted to AAPI poets. My sense of humor was tickled by one that I randomly chose by James Masao Mitsui, “New Lines for Fortune Cookies.” Another selection I happened upon was an ekphrastic poem by Victoria Chang, “Edward Hopper’s Office at Night.”

Lists of poetry are overwhelming to teachers who are new to the titles and authors, so these lesson plans from Advancing Justice – LA might be helpful. also has lessons for specific AAPI poems here. KQED has a lesson plan to accompany the video, Discovering Angel Island: The Story Behind the Poems about the imprisonment of Asians attempting to move to the United States in the early 1900’s.

I will be adding this post to my poetry Wakelet along with the others from this week. In addition, it will be added to my growing list of anti-racism resources. And, please remember, that we can only be anti-racist if we actively work to eliminate racism; silently witnesses are also complicit.

Photo by Charlotte May on

AI Generated Poetry

First of all, thanks for your patience as I disrupt my website with design experiments over the next week or so. I’m trying to see if I want to stick with WordPress hosting or migrate to another platform so pages and widgets may be jumping around or changing colors. Hopefully I won’t lose 10 years of blog posts in the process…

As I mentioned yesterday, I am devoting this week’s posts to poetry in preparation for National Poetry month in April. I am putting these posts, as well as other poetry resources, into this public Wakelet. Feel free to bookmark it or follow me on Wakelet if you are not quite ready to use them!

In today’s column, I want to investigate the idea of poetry generated using artificial intelligence – which some of us may not consider poetry. Here, as a matter of fact, is a link to an article that discusses that very question. The debate might be quite interesting to have in a secondary level class; as a hook, the teacher could display several poems and ask students to identify the ones generated by AI and the “real” ones.

The AI poetry generators out there fall into two camps: completely generated by a computer and fill-in-the-blanks. Today, I’m going to stick to the first type. Before you use any of them in class, be aware that the element of randomness means that something inappropriate may appear. For example, one of my favorite generators, Poetweet, creates poems from Twitter accounts. You don’t have to be a Twitter user to employ its craft – just type in anyone’s Twitter handle. Your students would probably want to use a famous person’s account. I tried Chrissy Teigen, who is quite prolific on Twitter, and immediately got a word I would not want to display on my projector screen at school. So, I went with my own account.

created with Poetweet

As you can see, it’s definitely not a poetic masterpiece – though fun to see what words and phrases the generator chooses.

Google has come out with a couple of poem generators in the last few years. One is, “Poem Portraits.” You “donate” a word to a crowd-sourced poem. Using machine training based on 19th century poetry, the algorithm generates a couple of lines to add to the large poem. As a bonus, you can have your “PoemPortrait” made with a picture of your contribution conforming to your face. (You don’t have to do this part – and I chose not to.) Below is my selfie-less portrait with my donated word, “splendid.”

created with Poem Portraits

I am more intrigued by another Google AI Experiment, Verse by Verse. There is more human interaction here, though it’s not technically a fill-in-the-blank poetry maker. You choose three poets who inspire you from a limited group of suggestions, and the type of poetry you would like to make. As you compose each verse, the AI offers suggested lines from your three poets. Here is my poem with my chosen subject, quarantine:

If you are trying to fool your students, you might want to try Poetry Ninja. I haven’t really figured out the difference between “Regular Poem” and “Mushy Poem” on this site, but when you click on the button to randomly generate (no input from you required), you might get something like this:

made with Poetry Ninja

Many students might immediately think that this is a “real” poem due to its length and obscure vocabulary. But once you point out phrase like, “god turkey” and “banana of my disintered shoulder” they may have second thoughts…

Lastly, there is the Bored Humans Poetry Generator. This is another one that demands no work from the user other than clicking on a button – and the output reflects this.

One thing I like about the Bored Humans site is that there is a link to an article by the programmer explaining how the generator came about. There are also many, many links to other Artificial Intelligence by Bored Humans, which I have not had the chance to investigate.

Of course, I have a Wakelet so students can learn more about Artificial Intelligence. Despite its not-quite-there-yet poetry, AI is obviously becoming stronger and more prevalent, so it’s a good topic to cover the advantages and disadvantages with students.