Category Archives: Writing

ELA 12 Days of Christmas

Last Thursday, Richard Byrne shared an absolute treasure trove of Google Drive templates created and shared by Darren Maltais.  You can click the link above to read Richard’s post.  One of the templates that you may want to consider using in the near future is “ELA 12 Days of Christmas,” which offers 12 different creative writing ideas, along with examples. Whether you plan to use some or all of these, you should definitely make a copy of this to help you and your students make it through this occasionally overwhelming time of year!  (I particularly like the Facebook example with comments from Buddy the Elf and Rudolph!) By the way, if you would like math activities for the 12 Days of Christmas, you can try this.

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image from Wikimedia

 

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Interactive Onomatopoeia

When my students were working on their cardboard mini golf courses, I casually suggested using a Makey Makey to make things interesting – and realized that I hadn’t yet introduced this group of kids to the wonders of this invention tool.  When I saw a post from Colleen Graves about making interactive stories and poems using Makey Makey and Scratch, I knew this would be the perfect project for my 4th graders.  They are studying literary masterpieces right now, and learning about figurative language.  It seemed to be a natural transition from discussing onomatopoeia to designing simple Scratch programs that would allow us to add sounds using the Makey Makey.

After teaching some of the basics of Scratch, I showed the students an onomatopoeia poem to which I had added some heavily penciled symbols (the graphite will conduct if you lay it on pretty thick).  I attached the Makey Makey to the symbols and my computer, and started my Scratch program, reading the poem and pressing the symbols at the appropriate moments.  Then the students got to choose their own poems from some I had printed out to program in pairs.  They got to share their creations on Seesaw, and were pretty excited about the way their projects turned out.

This was just the beginning.  Now that the students know the concept, they will be able to apply it to poetry they will be writing in the next couple of weeks.  I’m hoping to also guide them toward creating more complex artwork using copper tape or conductive paint for the Makey Makey triggers.

The Makey Makey was on “Gifts for the Gifted” list in 2014.  Since then, I have seen many more uses for it.  In fact, I just ordered Graves’ book, 20 Makey Makey Projects for the Evil Genius, which may keep my 4th graders busy for the rest of this year!

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image from Josh Burker on Flickr

Adapt Your Classroom for a New “Pet”

My 2nd graders have been learning about physical and structural adaptations in nature.  To exercise their creativity, I asked them to brainstorm wild animals that would make unusual class pets.  Then they were asked to draw our classroom with adaptations for the pet.  The twist was that they could not actually draw the animal in the classroom.  The rest of us tried to guess the “pets” by using clues in their pictures and the descriptions that they wrote.  I was proud of their varied ideas and some of the incredible details they added to the drawings.  I’ve included some examples below.  (I love how the first student decided the most unusual animal he could think of would be an alien from outer space!) . Usually, my students have a difficult time with the “Adapt” part of S.C.A.M.P.E.R., but this activity proved to be really fun and they couldn’t wait to share their work.  I’m definitely putting this in the file, “Do Again Next Year!”

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Send Me a Rainbow

If you teach older students who have their own phones, this might be a fun idea for an impromptu writing prompt.  The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has decided to make more of its artwork available to the public by digitizing it and allowing us to text requests.  Only 5% of its entire collection can be viewed in the SFMOMA’s physical building, but thousands more pieces are accessible through this new feature.  You can text the number 57251, and type, “Send me” followed by a keyword or color.  There’s something suspenseful about the whole endeavor that makes it a bit addictive.

I tried it out by texting, “Send me kindness, ” and received the following, somewhat depressing, reply.

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Maybe kindness was too abstract?  So I tried, “Love.”

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Now remember, this is the Museum of Modern Art, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised by the answer to my next request.

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Not really sure what the museum bot was trying to tell me there…

Anyway,  I soon discovered that trying to use this activity as a “pick-me-up” was a bit too unpredictable, especially after I received a sad portrait of the war in Iraq after I asked for “home.”  However, my daughter and I did have fun using emojis and asking for pictures of bread and dogs.  (It does work with emojis, by the way.)

Not to be outdone by artifical intelligence, I decided to end our texting communication by asking for something that couldn’t possibly be mis-interpreted in a bleak way by a computer. “Send me a rainbow,” I asked.

And it did.

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Refute It

One of the reasons I keep a blog is because I have a horrible memory.  It’s nice to go back in time every once in awhile and look at the posts I wrote so I can rediscover some great resources.  Luke Neff’s Writing Prompts site is one of those tools.  I originally mentioned the site in 2011.  Neff takes interesting images or quotes, and creates unusual, thought-provoking prompts for older students.  I revisited the site yesterday, and found a prompt that really resonated.  I want so much for my students to question and to use critical thinking skills.  This prompt may activate some lively discussion in my class – which is what I am aiming for!

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image from: http://writingprompts.tumblr.com/image/144026412485

For my list of my favorite online writing tools in 2011 (before Google Docs existed!), click here.

 

We are the Possible

A Brave And Startling Truth – Poem by Maya Angelou
We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn are scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.
Maya Angelou

Courage

I’ve been thinking a lot about courage lately.  Some people seem to feel that it is synonymous with confidence, but I disagree.  Confidence that you are doing the right thing does not necessarily make you courageous.  In fact, I would argue that many courageous decisions are made with hesitation, and that tragic outcomes do not make the actions any less brave.  I also know that courage does not have to be “big.”  There are many small, courageous actions taken every day by unassuming heroes – as Mark Bezos reminds us in his tale of saving the shoes, and The King of the Island portrays with beautiful subtlety.

What is courage, then?  With this great Google Slides Hyperdoc created by Sarah Landis, you and your students can explore the complex meaning of this word.  Rich with thought-provoking discussion questions, “Courage” will invite your students to consider the many layers of the word with scenarios, videos, and writing prompts all collected into one digital document.  It is an excellent resource for any secondary ELA classroom.

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https://www.flickr.com/photos/tonythemisfit/6277444659

To learn more about Hyperdocs, visit this site created by Landis and her two colleagues, where they provide many other examples for use in all subjects. Also, Laura Moore has an excellent reflection on Hyperdocs here, which also gives links to awesome Hyperdoc projects.