Category Archives: Writing

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!

writingprompts
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.

She Wears Many Hats (cont.)

We were a week late finishing our 2nd grade GT Mother’s Day project due to a few scheduling conflicts.  However, we did get done with our “She Wears Many Hats” booklets, and I wanted to share some of the completed pages by my students.  We worked hard on brainstorming different types of hats and then trying to bridge from concrete to abstract thinking.  For example, for the construction worker hat, students were tempted to say, “because she helps me build with Legos.”  I gave them examples of how people can build, or make things stronger, in other ways, and they ran with it.  I almost forgot to take pictures, so I only have a few different student works that I caught before they took them home!

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I Love You the Mauvest

Mother’s Day is right around the corner, and I have been looking for some writing activities to do with my gifted Kinders and Firsts.  I found several great ideas, and thought I should share them with you in case you are looking, too!

Two of the lessons are from one of my favorite gifted teacher bloggers, Joelle Trayers.  She teaches gifted Kinders this year, and always has incredible examples of ways to draw out the creativity of her students.  One of her past Mother’s Day projects was to have the students do GT Frames about their moms.  Using 4 of the icons from Kaplan’s Depth and Complexity, Joelle has her students write about their moms using: Unanswered Questions, Rules, Multiple Perspectives, and Big Idea.  You can see some great student products here.  For a second (and just as adorable) project suggestion, check out the Top 10 Lists Joelle’s students made about their moms.  Construction paper mother portraits make this completely frame-able!

A brief Google search turned up April Walker’s Mother’s Day lesson based on the book, I Love You the Purplest.  After reading the book, where a mom uses colors to describe her children when they demand to know who she loves best, students write color poems about their moms.  You can see some student examples here.  I’m thinking it would be fun to have the students use some unusual color words like “chartreuse” or “vermilion” just to add a bit of extra challenge.

While searching my own blog I found an activity I recommended to myself to do – 4 years ago.  Apparently, I found a cute printable celebrating how moms “wear many hats,” and suggested it would be fun to have students think of how their moms do many different jobs. Their mom could wear a fireman’s hat, a chef’s hat, an artist’s hat, etc…  This is one reason I blog, so I can record ideas for the following year.  Of course, it would probably help if I actually looked at my previous posts a little bit more frequently than every four years.

Now I have a plethora of ideas for Mother’s Day.  It’s good that I teach more than one grade level because I’m inspired to try out each one!

I Love You the Purplest

Thing Explainer

Randall Munroe was first brought to my attention when a parent directed to me to his fun website, xkcd.com.  One of my favorite Randall Munroe comics is “Up Goer Five,” a diagram of the Saturn V explained in simple language.  The best part, in my opinion, is at the bottom where it says, “This end should point toward the ground if you want to go to space.  If it starts pointing toward space, you are having a bad problem and you will not go to space today.”  I feel like this is the perfect metaphor for some of my lessons 😉

To my delight, I noticed on one of my “Lists That Can’t Be Missed,” that the author of The Kid Should See This, has recommended Munroe’s new book, Thing Explainer, as a great gift.  I’m one of those geeky teachers who asks for things for her classroom as gifts, and my husband kindly indulged me by putting it under the tree.

The book’s Table of Contents is called, “Things in this Book by Page.” Munroe is kind enough to put the more formal names of each explained thing underneath the titles, which you may find more necessary in some cases than others.  For example, “Boat that goes under the sea,” is a submarine.

Of course.  What do you think “The pieces everything is made of,” refers to?

Periodic table.  Maybe you got that one, but I have a feeling that, “Shape checker” won’t come so easily to you.

You’ll have to buy the book to find the answer to that one 😉

I see a lot of uses for this book in the classroom.  Have students pick a page and do research to find the actual names for each part on the diagram, for example.  Or, don’t show them a picture at first, and have them try to guess what it is as you read the descriptions. Another idea is to, once the students see some examples, have them create their own “Thing Explainer” diagram for something that is not in the book.  (Challenge them to use only the words on Munroe’s list of the “Ten Hundred Words People Use the Most.”  They can check sentences with his simplewriter tool online.)

Included in the book is a nice poster of a “Sky Toucher” which I intend to laminate for my classroom.  If you’re interested in other xkcd merchandise, here is a link to the store (which includes a poster of the Up Goer Five).

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Buy Thing Explainer here!