Create stories from the
words and phrases in the word cloud above…
And feel free to download this free set of 200 warmups.
So… here is my ‘rookie’ showing again…
All these photos were taken. Now what do I do with them?
Beth Carson, and her charming new sidekick, Sanjay, to the rescue.
Paraphrase time: [I’m leaving out eye-rolls, deep sighs, beads of sweat forming on my scalp, full-on blushes]
Beth: Ms. Page, when can we see the other kids’ photos?
Me: Hmm…let me think about that. [A lame ‘dodge’ on my part.]
Beth: Aren’t they on a computer?
Me: Tell me more. [Always good to model curiosity, right?]
Beth [turning to Sanjay, then back to me]: Can we help?
Me: Tell me even more.
Sanjay: Can we look in the cameras’ boxes?
Me: Of course you can.
Beth: We think there are cables we can use to transfer the photos to a computer.
Me: I will love you forever.
I was so taken with my 30 Circles activity, I had forgotten to write about Day 1 with the cameras…
I launched into the photo scavenger hunt and I ended up with photos of kids’ nostrils [my fault: I included ‘take a picture of a dark place’ in my scavenger hunt. So, I’m a rookie, sue me.]
Other scavenger hunt items:
— a four-sided figure
— something that shows an acute angle
— something that contains at least four colors
— something that is moving
— something affected by the wind
— something smaller than your thumbnail
— something taller than you
— something you might include in a story you would consider writing
Lots of fun and the kids were all over the playground–little bands of four chasing after and barking suggestions at the one with the camera. A few near-collisions between the groups. No casualties, including the cameras.
Not easy to rein them in. They seemed deaf to the rather forceful blowing of the whistle.
I enjoyed using the camera myself to complete the scavenger hunt and to document the kids at work.
I think Mrs. Nix had wandered to the nearest wing of classrooms, but I was too busy with my budding photographers to redirect.
All in all, tech is paying off. But I won’t hold my breath. This is me, after all.
So out of the blue I decided to launch into a new creativity challenge for the kids.
It was near the end of the day and they really were dragging.
I reached into my bag of tricks [i.e. my ever-growing library of ideas] and out came, 30 Circles. Normally, I would have given out a sheet of 30 Circles to each kid, but I didn’t want to take the time to print out that many copies.
So, there I went again—one copy for five kids, each taking turns.
And off we went…
They had ten minutes to create a new object out of each of the circles. I showed them how I turned one of the circles into a happy face. Not very original, but that was the point. I didn’t want them thinking plain and boring and obvious.
The challenge? Within ten minutes, complete all 30 circles.
I assured them they weren’t expected to reach that goal, so their more realistic challenge was to complete at least 20. What’s the reward? they asked. I honestly didn’t have one. There was a brief awkward moment…as if they weren’t used to doing something just to, well, ‘do something’.
Then we all shrugged, and I set the timer. [New tech skill! I used and projected on the whiteboard an online timer. Watch out, world! I could be dangerous with all this knowledge and such a reckless (relatively :-] It’s me, after all.) attitude.
I started the timer and played the William Tell Overture on a CD. [I know, I know, old technology.]
I noticed kids waiting their turn either looking around the classroom for ideas [Fine with me! It cranked up their observational skills!] or sketching out ideas on a piece of scratch paper so they would be ready to quickly contribute and move it along to the next teammate.
Four groups reached 20 and for the two that didn’t, I made a big deal over their originality. [One group merged five circles to make Olympic rings and the other created kaleidoscopic images as well as an image of a house as viewed through a camera’s viewfinder.]
Great way to end the first week of school.
So, the first obstacle to my tech ventures.
I got grilled by Mrs. Nix about using classroom money for the cameras. Okay, maybe not ‘grilled’, but at least ‘questioned with doubt in her tone’.
I told her that including their own photos would raise kids’ engagement with writing.
I told her that using cameras would heighten their observational skills.
I told her that using cameras and photos link to at least four Common Core standards. Not my favorite fallback, mind you, but sometimes you have to use the ‘language-du-jour’.
And that’s why I should have stopped there.
I mentioned ‘visual literacy’. Not good. Whenever Mrs. Nix is vaulted out of her own comfort zone, she stiffens up.
“Well, I’ll think about it.”
Uh-huh. That usually means ‘no’.
So, right then and there, I changed course.
Even if she miraculously changed her ‘no’ to a ‘yes’, I didn’t want her thinking she was doing me a favor.
My words: “You know…I understand your concerns. I think I’ll just use my own money.”
At that moment, the lunch bell rang. I’m not always a fan of the bells, but it gave me a seamless escape.
I checked my watch, did the ol’ eyeglasses adjustment, and thanked her for her time. Not huffy. Not exasperated. Just matter-of-fact.
And I was gone. With a few conclusions…
–I’m on my way out. From this school, at least.
–And since I am, why not keep stretching myself? [and a few of the ‘rules’].
This book’s excerpts will soon be also appearing in my 7 C’s Teacher Expo.
Okay, I’ve committed to tech and I’ve already decided on my first venture: cameras.
I’m starting with eight of them and hey, I have a little class money to spend, so why not?
—I can afford the film. ;->
—Cameras beg to be part of an art curriculum. Photos’ visual nature can lead to all kinds of discussions about light and color and other elements of art.
—They are an automatic ticket to squeezing art into the curriculum, something at which I’ve failed miserably.
—Photos can amp up any of the other subject areas, as well.
—I have the feeling cameras are going to give me a much-needed kick in the seat of the pants if/when I drift back to my non-tech comfort zone.
Question: What mixes worse than oil and water?
Answer: Joanna Page and technology.
It’s as if every device in my classroom over the years, every cable that connects those devices—they all conspire against me.
And whenever they’re in the mood to disconnect or—even if they stay connected—to simply not work, well, they don’t!
Just when I’m ready to share a PowerPoint that worked for me at home [note: I found it online. I gave up on making my own years ago.], the projector won’t work. And I end up doing a shadow puppet rendition of a frantic tech-challenged teacher.
It’s as if tech senses my fear and it toys with my few remaining shreds of sanity.
“So, yes, Doctor, I do sound more than a little paranoid, don’t I?”
But sometimes, there’s nothing like a good ol’ delusion to get me through the day…
Well, this whole tech thing has to change…
So, why technology?
1. It’s about time. It’s long past time.
2. What do I have to lose? It’s looking more and more like I’ll be seeking new frontiers next year. Sometimes I feel it in the pit of my stomach on those rare occasions when I’ve walked into the staff room. And sometimes, it’s the deafening silence coming from Mrs. Nix. It’s not as if we ever really flowed anyway, but now, there is this extra layer of rigidity. Shrug.
3. Kids will love it.
4. I’ve been a technoweenie too long. [See #1]
5. The only person who’s more stultified by tech? Mrs. Nix. Therefore, I have to admit, I’m kind of looking forward to seeing the glazed-over look on her face when I launch into any explanation that includes the words ‘digital’, ‘bandwidth’, and ‘cloud’. Keeping in mind I have to get to a point where I’m comfortable with those same terms. Baby steps, Joanna, baby steps.
Okay, so there are some non-negotiables at the beginning of a school year and one of those is school wide reading assessment. Oooh, my favorite.
They have the kids march down to just outside the reading room and squirm and writhe on a cold, hard [and not-so-clean] floor, armed with a book and an understandable antsiness. Is that a word? It should be.
Anyway, I was ready.
Step 1: I brought blankets.
Step 2: I had the kids bring their journals for sketching or writing.
Step 3: I brought playing cards, which were used for either quick addition or multiplication ‘face-off’ [I don’t use ‘War’ to name the game; call me a ‘pacifist’. Even ‘face-off’ carries its own level of aggression, but I show them a face-off in a hockey game, well, I could go on and on trying to calm the waters…]
Step 4: I brought a box of books and assigned to Beth and James the role of ‘circulation director’. Kids could exchange books as needed.
And all went fine. For ten minutes.
And then I found something better .
The library—within ten feet of the reading room—was available! Not sure why that wasn’t offered to begin with, but I marched them in and figured I’d weather any possible blowback later. A library with tables and chairs and comfort and quiet. Seemed like a better lead-in to a reading assessment.
Okay, again, slight exaggeration.
But when I started viewing this school year through a different lens, I asked myself what else I wanted to do differently, what else I wanted to see happen in the classroom.
First answer: Writing.
I want my kids to write more. And I’m rarely going to narrow them down to what the teachers edition or, lord help me, scope and sequence dictates. Writers don’t think that way, if you ask me.
And so there we were on Day 1 and writing–even before the classroom redecoration, in fact. [My thinking: If we’d redecorated first, that would have been too easy a topic for them to reach for. I wanted to see how they responded to a few writing prompts or some self-selected subject.]
And yes I kind of blew them out of the water because a fresh new notebook [all of 18 cents apiece] sat on each student desk and we were writing before we even started the school day–school year, actually. I did give them a pep talk about writing, that it would be more difficult for some than others, that writing was like a muscle–that it needed daily exercise and practice.
But here’s the catch:
*I* have to write as well. I hadn’t quite thought that through. Of course, I figured I would do a few journal jottings, but nope, all the good books tell me that I have to be the model for the students. In the case of Day 1, I treated the front whiteboard as my personal journal to illustrate how a writer’s mind can wander and, during Room 36 journal time, that is just fine.
I also suggested that they sketch out a cartoon-type character, someone with whom they can converse on paper. More on that later.
It would be tempting for me to skate a bit on the writing…but there is one set of eyes fixed on me. Beth. Beth Carson.
She lets nothing get by her. No change from last year, in other words.