The Next Page Entry 36: Class Book #1

The Next Page Entry 36: Class Book #1

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Okay, so here we go. I don’t have as much time to write right now because I have a meeting with Mrs. Nix. I can just imagine what’s on her agenda. She still hasn’t mentioned the after-school parking lot ‘event’, so I’m guessing that will be a top item.

More important, yesterday, I gave the kids a journal prompt of:  “I want to live in a world where…”

The responses were classic, so good, in fact, that I launched us into our first ‘class book’. They’re now almost done with their individual pages–simple in design with just their single sentence and an accompaning illustration. 

They had a head start right then, but they were expected to work on it at home, as well. I gave them plenty of choices for illustration. Hand-drawn is always preferred, but they were welcome to create a collage of words and pictures from magazines and newspapers or take their own photos to be printed out.

Some of their responses:

  • I want a world where…
  • My sister doesn’t always get her way.
  • I’m paid to play video games.
  • School ends at lunch time.
  • My mom and dad are back together.
  • Kids could drive.
  • My dog gets to sit at the dinner table.
  • All books talk to me.
  • Older brothers aren’t so bossy.
The Next Page Entry 35: 100 Words

The Next Page Entry 35: 100 Words

word cloud with 100 words counting

I threw them a curve today.
Journal time: I asked for a 100-word piece. Exactly.
Yes, a little cruel, considering most of the time I’m pushing fluency–even wordiness–so they can see what they’re capable of.
But this time, a little constraint.
I gave them ten minutes of first draft writing.
I wanted a beginning, middle, and end.
I gave them a sample of my own.
I told them my strategy was to write first, then cut back later.
They could work with a partner, especially if they needed a second pair of eyes to simply count the words.

As happens so often, I end up throwing me a curve. Almost immediately came the questions about hyphenated words and whether ‘a lot’ is one or two words. And they needed more time. Of course, they would, Joanna! What are you thinking?

I gave them ten more minutes and told them ‘Give or take five words’ and that calmed things down. A major ‘duh’ moment for me…give the kids some leeway. Otherwise, word count supersedes writing quality.

So, my little 20-minute challenge? It turned out to be a full-blown [is that one or two words? ;->] on-and-off [enough with the hyphenations!] activity to day’s end. Why was I surprised?

Desired results?
Experience working with constraints.
‘Editing for brevity’ skills. [I told the kids my first draft was 119 words.]

My prompts:
“I was 50 words from finishing my novel and the phone rang…”
He/she had only seconds to send her plea for help…
As the clock ticked away, so did my hopes for the million dollar prize…

My sample for the kids: [Side note: A ‘tech-win’…Later in the day, they watched me compose and edit via the projector. It’s becoming a pivotal part of my ‘act’. What took me so long?]

As the clocked ticked away, so did my hopes for the $1,000,000. I strangled the phone as I thought through the question.
“Name one of the more popular of the fluffiest cat breeds.”
Siamese. No way. Sphinx. No, you dunderhead. That’s the exact opposite! Tabby. Not even a breed!
The ticking continued.
I looked at Buddy. Think ‘cat’, not ‘dog’! Then it hit me…Buddy came in once after a grooming. The lady had gone a little nuts with the blow dryer…”Persian! Mom said he looked like a Persian cat!”
“Is that your final answer?”
“PERSIAN!”
“YES!”

The Next Page Entry 8: A Bump in the Road

The Next Page Entry 8: A Bump in the Road

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.

The Next Page Entry 7: Camera time!

The Next Page Entry 7: Camera time!

digital camera being. aimed at shiny image

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?

Why cameras?

—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.