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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Teaching, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 452
1. Classroom Connections: I HEART BAND by Michelle Schusterman + Giveaway

age range: middle grade
setting: middle school band
genre: contemporary fiction
Michelle Schusterman’s website

Fellow band geeks will be thrilled to see themselves in Holly and nonmusicians will appreciate the world of music. A sweet debut.
–School Library Journal

Please tell us about your book.

I HEART BAND is a middle grade series about a seventh grader named Holly who’s pretty obsessed with being first chair French horn in band. Unfortunately, she’s got a rival in new girl Natasha, who’s not only a talented horn player, but spent all summer at band camp bonding with Holly’s best friend, Julia. Band might be a competition, but friendship isn’t, and Holly needs to figure it out before she loses Julia for good.

What inspired you to write this story?

Actually, I was commissioned to write this series. My editor, Jordan Hamessley, is a self-proclaimed band geek from Texas, just like me. She came up with the idea for the series, I wrote the outlines, and we went from there!

Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching?

I was in band from third grade through high school, got my bachelor’s degree in music education, and was a middle and high school band director in Texas for four years…pretty extensive “research” for this series! I had plenty of anecdotes and experiences to draw from when I wrote these books. And of course, my editor had lots of stories about her own time in band too. For each book, we started by meeting for lunch and brainstorming ideas. Because the series progresses throughout Holly’s seventh grade year, there were certain markers we knew we had to hit – all-region auditions, holiday concerts, solo and ensemble contest, the band trip…

After brainstorming, I’d write an outline, my editor would make changes or suggestions, then I’d write the first draft and we’d go from there.

What are some special challenges associated with writing middle grade?

I think one of the hardest things about writing humorous MG is that the humor has to be authentic or kids just won’t buy it. In other words, I can’t sound like a thirty-something year old trying to sound like a seventh grader. My teaching experience definitely came in handy here – lots of time spent listening to how kids talk and joke around. But I’ll definitely catch examples of “trying too hard to be funny” in my drafts during revisions.

What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?

One comment I’ve been seeing a lot in reviews is how I HEART BAND emphasizes the importance of music education in schools. Throughout the series, Holly and her friends learn not just about music, but how to work together to achieve goals and how to handle winning and losing with grace. There’s also an emphasis on friendships, which often go through a lot of change and strain during adolescence.

Giveaway

Michelle is giving away signed copies of books 1 and 2 for one lucky winner. To enter, simply leave a comment below, sharing a memory from your middle school years. US residents only, please. Contest closes Saturday, August 23.

 

 

 

 

 

The post Classroom Connections: I HEART BAND by Michelle Schusterman + Giveaway appeared first on Caroline Starr Rose.

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2. Teaching With Heart



Teaching with Heart: Poetry that Speaks to the Courage to Teach
edited by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner
Jossey-Bass, 2014
review copy is my own, and will live on my shelf at school, ready to offer words of wisdom when I am in need

I have loved the first volume this duo edited, Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teachfor 10 years. The poems and accompanying essays have buoyed me up and carried me forward.

This new volume already has five poems sticky-noted for sharing, and dozens of others that made me nod and smile. In times when we have to keep stuff like this in mind, it is good to have a place to go where our profession is valued, understood, and truly celebrated. This is a book I will turn to and thumb through many times throughout the school year, in good times and when I'm worn down and worn out.

Plus, how much fun is it to find my Poetry Month pal, Kevin Hodgson (Kevin's Meandering Mind, @dogtrax), right there on pages 18-20 in the section "Relentless Optimism" sharing "What Teachers Make" by Taylor Mali (who wrote the introduction to the book)?!?!

In his introduction, Mali writes about still getting a feeling of "imminence" every fall, even though it's been since 2000 that teaching was his day job. He continues,
"For years I couldn't figure out why as a poet I still felt this way. But it makes perfect sense. Because on a very basic level, being a poet and being a teacher are inextricably linked. Whether teaching or writing, what I really am doing is shepherding revelation. I am the midwife to epiphany."
Today is our first day day with students. Nothing could be better than approaching this day as "the midwife to epiphany."



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3. Poetry Friday: To My Students




To My Students

I am the riverbank
and you are the water.
You flow past me
year after year
fresh 
eager
a little wild.

I do my best 
to ensure you
a safe passage
and teach you 
endurance
stability
and the ways of the world.

But you rush on.

Time passes.
You return
to the familiar banks,
the remembered curves and shallows.

I will not know you,
and yet I will have
a deep memory of your passing.
Your passing
wore me down
changed my direction
made me new.

©Mary Lee Hahn, date unknown



Yes, I used that photo for my SOL post on Tuesday. Then later on Tuesday, I filled a giant recycling can with most of the contents of a filing cabinet that then left my classroom, providing a space for a shelf (emptied of professional books which migrated to the back cabinet, which was emptied of...) yadda yadda blah blah classroom setup. That's not the point of this story (but maybe I'll share some before and after pictures next week).

The point being, as I browsed through folders before flipping them into the recycling can, I found a folder of my writing from years back, including this poem. It builds nicely on the fishing theme from my SOL post.

Heidi has the roundup this week at My Juicy Little Universe.


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4. Slice of Life -- Hemming



One of the jobs on Mom's to-do list for me last week was to hem a couple of pairs of pants for her.

I should back up to say that my mom was a Master Seamstress in her day, trained under the iron rule of her mother, who was a Home-Ec teacher. (Raise your hand if you even know what Home-Ec is...yeah, I thought so...) When Mom started to teach me to sew, we nearly came to blows. She is a perfectionist. I am a generalist. But she cared enough that I learn to sew that she bought me sewing lessons from a teacher who was a little less like her and a little more like me. I became a functional seamstress.

Teaching Lesson #1 -- If you are not the right teacher for a student, have the humility to find the teacher who can best teach that learner.

After we got the pants measured and pinned, I went to work. I wanted to do a really good job. I wanted to make Mom proud that I'm at least a functional seamstress, and maybe just a little better than that. But I was having problems. The legs of the pants were tapered at the bottom, so the hemming was turning out bunchy. Since I wanted to do a really good job, I asked for help.

Learning Lesson #1 -- If it's not turning out the way you want it to, have the humility to ask for help.

I didn't even have the question out of my mouth before Mom knew what the problem was: the tapering. She came and showed me that if I switched the pins from horizontal to the hem to perpendicular to the hem my work would lay flatter. Then she confirmed my suspicion that it would help to take bigger stitches. Then she left me to it.

Teaching Lesson #2 -- Give just enough help to get the learning going again and then get out of the way.

Hemming the second pair of pants when smoothly. I didn't have to cut any off, the fabric was more considerate, and I was back in the groove of hand-hemming. My stitches were quick and even.

Learning Lesson #2 -- Just because one task is frustrating doesn't mean that every task like that is going to be frustrating. Don't give up. Persevere when things get hard...but also remember to enjoy the feeling when things go smoothly.

Teaching and learning...and hemming pants. Good stuff.


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5. fiber installation

I neglected to post a picture of this earlier, but I did think it deserves a mention:

6-9 year old class
This crazy installation is made up of yards of finger crochet from a group of girls who were first reluctant to learn and became crocheting fools once it clicked for them - fun!

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6. Another circus

Things are slowing down a bit around here, time for another change of pace and a new routine. 
Art Camp is over, and this year was pretty awesome. Just to wrap it up, I thought I'd post some pictures of our version of Calder's circus.
every circus needs a dinosaur act...

the greatest art show on earth


final installation for the art exhibit

 

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7. You Would Be a Great Online Learning Instructor!

ALSC Online Education

ALSC Online Education (image courtesy of ALSC)

The great part about a professional association is that it brings together some of the best minds of one field. We have members doing some pretty incredible things. We also have members who would love to know about those incredible things that their peers are doing.

The ALSC Education Committee is adding to ALSC’s online course and webinar offerings. If you are interested in teaching a course or webinar, please fill out an Online Education Proposal. How does it work? We’ll for starters you’ll need an idea or topic that you’d like to work with. Then we’ll ask you to provide a few things like:

  • title
  • description
  • learning outcomes
  • target audience
  • course level and prerequsitites
  • instructor bio

You’ll also be asked to submit a few things that will help us get to know you:

  • copy of your resume
  • teaching references
  • course syllabus (only for online courses)

So what’s the compensation like? Online course instructors are compensated $700 for course development and 15 percent of registration fees for their first session; following sessions are compensated at 20 percent of student registration fees. Fees are $115 for ALSC members, $165 for ALA members and $185 for nonmembers. Webinar instructors are compensated $100 for webinar development and 10 percent of registration fees for each webinar presented.

To make it easier on you, we’ve provided a copy of the form below. You can fill this out right from the ALSC Blog. Please consider applying! It’s great to have options and the more proposals we get, the more quality options we can provide to members!

 

Online Education


Contact Information

This form can not be saved prior to submission. All required fields are marked with a red asterisk (*) and must be filled in; screen readers will say the word star.
First Name
*
Last Name
*
Job Title
*
Organization
*
Address 1
*
Address 2
City
*
State
*
Zip
*
Phone
*
Email
*


Proposal

My proposal is for:
*
 Online Course 
 Webinar 
Title
*
Description
*
Learning Outcomes
*
Target Audience
*
Course Level and Prerequisites
*
Instructor Biography Information
*


Additional Information

Please upload a copy of the following documents.
Instructor Resume
Syllabus
Teaching References (name, relation, phone number, email address)
Please list up to three people who can describe your work as an instructor or presenter.


Online Courses

Please fill out this section ONLY if you are submitting a proposal for an online course.
Length of Course
 Four Weeks 
 Five Weeks 
 Six Weeks 
Please describe your pre and post course evaluations
Session Dates
 Fall 2014: Sept. 8 – Oct. 17 
 Winter 2015: Jan. 5 – Feb. 13 
 Spring 2015: April 6 – May 15 
 Summer 2015: July 13 – Aug. 21 
Instructors are not limited, but must pick at least three.

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8. checking in from art camp

 Here's a peek at some work from camp!
 We started with a simple flat wire sculpture. I really wanted students to get the feel of working with different gauges of wire (and realize the difficulties). Some kids strung beads and sequins inside their shapes, but I love the confident simplicity of this little house.
wiresculpture, Aine age 6     
circus parts, mixed media, Nora age 8
These are a few samples from day 2. We made a wagon, talked about movable parts, and started creating our "Acts" for the show. The glue gun was a lot more popular than wire, I'm sure Calder would have  appreciated one himself!

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9. Calder's circus

Getting ready for another week of art camp...


I don't think I'll ever get tired of this video.

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10. Write Effective Web Content — New Online Course Launching Wednesday

I’ve been writing for the Web for nearly two deca […]

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11. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: July 11

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. Topics this week include authors, awards, book lists, diversity, growing bookworms, kidlitcon, blogging, ebooks, teaching, and summer reading.

Authors and Books

The Rise Of Young Adult Authors On The Celebrity 100 List by @natrobe @forbes http://ow.ly/yVSB6 via @PWKidsBookshelf

Nice tidbits about author James Marshall, “Wicked Angel”, on the Wild Things blog http://ow.ly/yXQ4M @SevenImp @FuseEight

Thank You, @NerdyBookClub says @StudioJJK on dedication of new anthology w/ @jenni @mattholm + others http://ow.ly/yVA3v

Read J.K. Rowling's new short story about grown-up Harry Potter + friends @today http://ow.ly/yVyWK via @bkshelvesofdoom

Ludwig Bemelmans’s Madeline Celebrates a Milestone (happy 75th!) @NYTimes http://ow.ly/yVSGt  via @PWKidsBookshelf

Author Interview: Five questions for @varianjohnson from @HornBook http://ow.ly/yYlDd 

Book Lists and Awards

2014 South Asia Book Award for Children's and Young Adult Literature via @MitaliPerkins http://ow.ly/yIP71

Loved Ed DeCaria's answer to What are the best poems for kids? on Quora. He recommends the #Cybils lists http://ow.ly/yVSnQ @edecaria

Get On Board: SLJ Selects A Bevy of Board Books | @sljournal #kidlit http://ow.ly/yVxfQ

Top Ten Schneider Award Favorites of the 2014 Schneider Award Jury by Peg Glisson @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/yS3cf #kidlit

A Top Ten List: Book that Heal by @MsLReads @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/yOoR3 #kidlit #yalit

Read Me a Bedtime Story, recommended bedtime books from @growingbbb http://ow.ly/yRWgb #kidlit

A Tuesday Ten: Diverse Stories in Speculative Fiction | Views From the Tesseract http://ow.ly/yN8qy #Diversity

UK Booktrust Best Book Awards announced, @tashrow has the list http://ow.ly/yKP72

3 family-tested read-aloud chapter books @SunlitPages | Mrs. Piggle Wiggle's Magic, Runaway Ralph, Ramona the Pest http://ow.ly/yKQvF

Great selections! 18 Picture Books Guaranteed To Make You Laugh Out Loud Or At Least Smile @Loveofxena @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/z0xjS 

Diversity

How to Build a Bestseller with Non-White Characters | @chavelaque @sljournal on @varianjohnson + #diveristy http://ow.ly/yKNXn

Sure #WeNeedDiverseBooks but don’t forget #WeNeedMoreWalterDeanMyerses too, suggests @fuseeight http://ow.ly/yKRID

"diversity in fiction is about presenting the world through different viewpoints" Tanita Davis quotes @diversityinya http://ow.ly/yXRq9

Diversity Movement Gains Visibility at ALA Annual, wirtes Wendy Stephens | @sljournal #WeNeedDiverseBooks http://ow.ly/yVx2Z

Growing Bookworms

What do I get if I read this? A call against the use of external prizes in reading programs for kids from @HornBook http://ow.ly/yVxTr

Shanahan on #Literacy: Teaching My Daughters to Read: Part 2, Print Awareness (point at the words at least sometimes) http://ow.ly/yS0uv

How to Read Stories to a Very Active Child, tips from @Booksforchildrn http://ow.ly/yN8KO

Born Reading: An Interview with Jason Boog — @fuseeight http://ow.ly/z0y0Z  #GrowingBookworms #literacy

I liked this post on The #Literacy Benefits of Family Dinners @growingbbb | Some excellent points http://ow.ly/z0wQm 

Kidlitosphere

KidlitCon2014_cube#KidLitCon14 in Sacramento, California, why @semicolonblog wants to hitch a ride i your suitcase to go http://ow.ly/yN8uT

#KidLitCon14 Update: Call for Session Proposals is Up! reports @aquafortis (co-organizer) http://ow.ly/yKPbP

#KidlitCon14 | Call for Session Proposals @book_nut http://ow.ly/yKJPN | Blogging #diversity in YA and children's lit

Wild Things!: Website and Book Launch from @SevenImp + @FuseEight | #kidlit fans will want to check this out! http://ow.ly/yRV91

On Reading, Writing, Blogging, and Publishing

Why digital vs. print reading should not be an either/or conversation, by @frankisibberson http://ow.ly/yS3Zo #eBooks

Insights from @catagator at Stacked: The Three C's of the Changing Book Blogging World, credits, comments, + crit http://ow.ly/yRYJa

Stacked: Reader Advocacy, Speaking Up + Ducking Out: On @catagator Quitting 2015 Printz committee. Go Kelly, I say! http://ow.ly/yKSXG

Schools and Libraries

Why Should Educators Blog? | @ReadByExample shares several reasons: http://ow.ly/yXQom

Should We Be Quantifying Our Students’ Reading Abilities? asks @ReadByExample @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/yKRlX

Too Soon for Technology?: The latest on digital use by preschoolers | @sljournal http://ow.ly/yVwRi #libraries

Summer Reading

Better than the title suggests: How to Trick Your Kids Into Reading All Summer Long @TheAtlantic via @librareanne http://ow.ly/yXOCj

Some experiences w/ #SummerReading programs from @SunlitPages + request for feedback from blog readers http://ow.ly/yVARq

Raising Summer Readers Tip #12: Schedule a few social gatherings that celebrate books and #SummerReading | @aliposner http://ow.ly/yKS38

This one very important! #SummerReading Tip #13: Read aloud to your kids, even if they are great readers! @aliposner http://ow.ly/yN8fr

Raising Summer Readers Tip #14: Remember to make reading aloud interactive! | @aliposner #SummerReading http://ow.ly/yOoM1

This sounds like fun! Tip #15 from @aliposner | Pair books with movies to add some fun into #SummerReading | http://ow.ly/yRXGU

#SummerReading Tip #16 @aliposner : TALK about your plans for reading while on vacation BEFORE your travel begins http://ow.ly/yRY0a

#SummerReading Tip #17 from @aliposner | Raise kids who view packing books as a traveling necessity http://ow.ly/yVAxa

#SummerReading Tip#18 @aliposner | For reluctant vacation readers, wrap a book to read aloud for each day of vacation http://ow.ly/yXPKy 

#SummerReading Tip #19 @aliposner | When en route to your vacation destination, take advantage of captive audience! http://ow.ly/z0yzc 

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

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12. Links I Shared on Twitter this Week: July 3

TwitterLinksHere are highlights from the links that I shared on Twitter this week @JensBookPage. I am posting a day early this week because of the July 4th holiday. Topics this week include: authors, awards, book lists, common core, growing bookworms, events, kidlitcon, publishing, teaching, libraries, and summer reading.

Authors

Rest in Peace, Walter Dean Myers. Here's an appreciation from Tanita Davis at Finding Wonderland http://ow.ly/yIbNs

Just Walk Away: Authors and Illustrators Who Do — @fuseeight http://ow.ly/yIBxa #kidlit

Book Lists and Awards

Roger Sutton makes some excellent points in this @HornBook editorial about new ALSC policy on communication by judges http://ow.ly/yFSbj

RT @CynLeitichSmith: Growing Int'l #Latino Book Awards Reflect Booming Market http://nbcnews.to/1nPPLbF via @NBCNews

2014 Guardian Children’s Prize Longlist | @tashrow has the list http://ow.ly/yFrdp

Children's Literature at SSHEL | #kidlit recommendations for Independence Day: Remembering the Revolution http://ow.ly/yFJcy

Stacked: Get (sub)Genrefied: Alternate History @catagator http://ow.ly/yIBXO #BookList

A few Seek and Find Picture Books, recommended by @greenbeanblog http://ow.ly/yIBq5 #kidlit

Very nice list! 14 Children's Books that Challenge Gender Stereotypes | @momandkiddo #BookList http://ow.ly/yCaBW

Top Ten Books for Young Readers about Encountering Obstacles by @MrazKristine @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/yCcaz

2014 Mind the Gap Awards (books ignored by ALA awards) from @HornBook http://ow.ly/ywTV1 via @tashrow

Common Core / Literacy

#CommonCore IRL: In Real Libraries -- 2014 ALA Presentation from @MaryAnnScheuer + friends http://ow.ly/yFrql

Higher Ed Administrators Seek To Stem States’ Rush Away From #CommonCore @LibraryJournal via @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/yv1kk

Spreading the Good Word about Visual #Literacy @SevenImp chats with Francoise Mouly @KirkusReviews http://ow.ly/yubPV

Events, Programs and Research

RIF_Primary_Vertical"children spend nearly 3 times as many hours weekly watching TV or playing video games as they do reading" | @RIFWEB http://ow.ly/yIALH

Sad! The World Book Night project has been suspended, reports @bkshelvesofdoom http://ow.ly/yIAzA

Book drive for unaccompanied immigrant children kicks off July 10 reports @latimes via @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/yFSo6

Growing Bookworms

One of many reasons to read aloud | Children’s Picture Books Use More Sophisticated Words Than You | Michaels Read http://ow.ly/yIBgc

Why dialogue is important to kids' comprehension development from @TrevorHCairney http://ow.ly/yudra #literacy

RT @PapaJFunk: @JensBookPage This story inspired me more than anything http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/21/fashion/21GenB.html … I'll read every night to my kids while they're in my house...

Kidlitosphere

KidlitCon2014_cubeCall for session proposals @charlotteslib -- #Kidlitcon 2014: Blogging #Diversity in Young Adult and Children’s Lit http://ow.ly/yIAlO

The call for session proposals for #KidLitCon14 is live! Deadline for submissions is 8/1. Theme: blogging #diversity http://ow.ly/yIbCJ

Celebrating @MrSchuReads with a Donation to @ReadingVillage, from @MaryLeeHahn + @frankisibberson http://ow.ly/yFrhx

Miscellaneous

Interesting thoughts @haleshannon on the segregation of ideas (choosing to only hear from people w/ similar ideas) http://ow.ly/yIArf

Interesting article on the cost to our productivity of distractions from Facebook push updates, etc. @WSJ (login req) http://ow.ly/yC8Td

On Reading, Writing, and Publishing

Bertelsmann Getting Out of Book Retailing, reports @wsj (login req) http://ow.ly/yC9Ks #Publishing

Powerful post on books as Lifelines by Heather Preusser @NerdyBookClub http://ow.ly/ywV9c

Schools and Libraries

Teachers should cry in class when reading poignant stories ... Michael Morpurgo says @TelegraphBooks @PWKidsBookshelf http://ow.ly/yFSxJ

Interesting! Pew Research Center – 7 Surprises About Libraries | reported by @tashrow http://ow.ly/yC9TN @PewInternet

Save libraries by putting them in the pub says man tasked by Government to save them The Independent via @bookpatrol http://ow.ly/yx0FW

Summer Reading

Fizz, Boom, Read: Library #SummerReading Programs Blend Learning with Fun and Prizes | @sljournal http://ow.ly/yFICh

Jumpstart your summer adventure – Dig into reading, suggests @wendy_lawrence http://ow.ly/yCbNR #SummerReading

Fun idea! @aliposner Tip-a-Day #5: Designate a place outside your home specifically for #SummerReading outings http://ow.ly/yucI1

#SummerReading Tip-a-Day #6: Take your kids on a “summer is here” new book-getting mission! | @aliposner http://ow.ly/ywVze

#SummerReading Tip#7 @aliposner | Make sure your kids have reading STARs – Space, Time, Access to books, and Rituals http://ow.ly/yzTvR

#SummerReading Tip #8 @aliposner | Create an open-faced book display somewhere in your house http://ow.ly/yzTAI

The Ultimate #SummerReading List for Teachers from @Scholastic via @mattbgomez http://ow.ly/ywSXv 

I love this one! #SummerReading Tip #9 from @aliposner | Create an outside reading spot at your home | http://ow.ly/yCbkU

#SummerReading Tip #10 @aliposner : Make sure kids have easy access to tools for written response to books http://ow.ly/yFrJw

#SummerReading Tip #11: Stock up on “Barebooks” materials for fun and authentic summer writing | @aliposner http://ow.ly/yIBDa

Five Tips for Summer-Long Learning - Tina Chovanec from @ReadingRockets @FirstBook http://ow.ly/yFrbS #SummerReading

Macy’s and @RIFWEB Aim to Boost Summer Reading (hint: only 17% of parents think it’s a priority!), says @StorySnoops http://ow.ly/yCbw3

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.

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13. freeform fibers

This class was kind of funny too. I came up with the idea with older kids in mind, but the way it worked out we were a group of 6-9 year old's.  I had had great plans of room size fiber installations and free form crochet/knit/weaving projects, but for these smaller people we took it down a notch.

 These snakes were knit on an oversized "knitting Nancy". Although a few of the kids grumbled a bit about the time it took to make them, as soon as the eyes and tongues were added they were in love.

The girl faces were embroidered on a hoop, then hand sewn into  little pillows and stuffed.
By the end of the week everyone's patience and attention span had magically expanded and they were crocheting fools. (picture of the "magic tree" installation to follow later)

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14. Notes on Teaching First-Year Composition as a Film & Media Course



It appears that next year I won't be teaching any first-year composition classes at UNH, which will put on hold an experiment I began this past term with FYC. (I'm teaching Literary Analysis this fall and probably a survey course in the spring.) I'll record here some thoughts on that experiment, both for my own future use and in case they are of use or interest to anyone else...


First, I should note the structure of the first-year writing classes at UNH requires teachers to assign 3 essays (an analytical essay, research essay, and personal essay) and take students through a process of drafting and revising each of those essays. Beyond that, for the most part, teachers are free to design their classes as they choose. (Graduate instructors such as I follow a more prescribed syllabus for our first term, after which we are as free as any other instructor.)

In my first term, I taught the course in the most straightforward, familiar way, and did not give it any sort of theme. The goal of the course is to teach skills more than content, as much as the two can be separated, and I wanted to see what would happen if I gave the students a lot of leeway in what they wrote their papers about. I should have known better. (Seriously, the first thing I ever published about teaching was a reflection for English Journal on my first year of teaching, and the basic message of it was: the blank slate is death! But I am incapable of learning from past experience, it seems...) The students wrote pretty flat, boring, stilted essays where they attempted rhetorical analysis, they wrote slightly better but mostly not particularly exciting research essays, and they wrote some really interesting personal essays. I found assessing and responding to their writing, even some of the best writing, challenging though because it was all over the place in its purposes and audiences, and my conferences and draft responses to students who wrote about subjects I knew something about were, I thought, pretty different from my responses to students who wrote about things I knew little or nothing about.

As a graduate instructor, I was required to take a course in Teaching College Composition, and for the final research project, I investigated the use of film analysis in FYC classes (we had to make a Weebly site as part of the course, and I found it a convenient place to park my research). I started out skeptical of the value of film analysis in a comp course, but ended up liking the idea quite a bit, and decided to try an experiment the next term: How little could I change the basic syllabus and yet give the course a film/media/pop culture theme?

The result was this syllabus. I tried to change as little of the structure and language of my first term as I could, because I really wanted to see if I could stick closely to the skill-based concept of the course while also giving it more focus.

The results were mixed. The most successful parts of the course were the ones that were most completely redesigned. Indeed, I had put most of my energy into reconceiving the analysis essay as an analysis of a single film scene, and it went from being the worst assignment in the course to the best. The research papers were worse this term and the personal essays were roughly the same, perhaps a bit weaker, though that may have been the result of the different mix of students (second term comp is very different from first term: a lot of people taking the course in the second term are ones who actively avoided it before).

I was impressed with the overall quality of work in the scene analyses (the guidelines are on the syllabus under "Essay #1: Analysis of a Film Scene"), despite many students struggling with it in their first draft. They mostly struggled against the strict definition of a film scene, because they couldn't imagine how they could analyze such a small thing. That's one of the reasons the assignment worked so well: it pushed them into the position of having no choice but to do close analysis, and they learned a lot by working through their frustration. We spent a class talking about how to use images from the films as evidence within the analysis, and how that can often give us new ideas about what to analyze. This turned out to be a valuable technique for many of the students. The final drafts were, on the whole, specific, focused, and thoughtful.

The research papers ended up being disappointing, especially following the triumph of the analytical essays. Though the students did a great job focusing their scene analyses, they weren't able to transfer what they had learned about specificity and focus to the research essays, and I'd put too much faith in their ability to do this. Despite my telling them over and over again that their topics were too broad, only a couple of students were able to find appropriately narrow topics. I liked using The Craft of Research as a guide to the unit — it's clear and practical, with lots of step-by-step guidelines, and the students found it useful overall, I think, but even following its guidelines, they weren't able to get their topics narrow enough to be able to write papers that weren't full of vagueness, generality, and ridiculously banal statements.

I've talked with colleagues and friends a lot about this, and have come to a few conclusions and ideas for adjustment. First, the next time I teach the course, I'm going to change the name of the assignment. A number of people in the department don't call it the research essay but rather a persuasive essay. That makes good sense not because it's a more accurate label, but because it moves it away from the ossified idea of "research" that many students bring with them from high school. The sorts of research we want them to do in college are somewhat different from the sorts of research we ask them to do in high school, but in their first year of college (and maybe later), they work from what they know. Or, rather, from what they think they know. And that's the problem. They succeeded with the analytical essay because they had no frame of reference for the assignment itself, and so they kept going back to the guidelines and kept asking me for more clarity. That was a good thing, a good process. They kept having to measure their writing against the guidelines in a way that they didn't for the research essay, because most of the students already had an idea of what a "research paper" should look like. In fact, one of the best ones I got was by a student who said he'd never had to write a research paper before in his life, and had felt really lost through a lot of it. Some of the worst ones I got were from students who said they'd done such work before.

Second, I'm going to be more strict with topics. In my desire to give the students as much freedom for creativity as possible, I kept definitions of popular culture loose, and let them write about almost anything they wanted. This defeated a lot of the purpose of having a theme. Next time, I will define the realms very specifically. This, too, may help circumvent some of the sense of having done this sort of thing before and knowing how it's done, since none of the students in the course had had to actually research popular culture before. Narrowing down the definition of popular culture for the course will allow me to be more specific in what I tell them about how to research, what resources are useful, etc., and will give them some practice in research within a discipline.

Ideally, the university would require a separate course just on research, perhaps a course within the student's major, or at least within their college (e.g. the College of Liberal Arts, the business college, etc.). Research involves so much more than just writing a paper that it's extremely difficult to cover it even superficially within the short amount of time of a composition course. But we try.

The personal essays weren't terrible, but I again betrayed the theme and often let students stretch the idea of popular culture beyond reason, to their detriment. Because my tendencies at heart are those of an anarchist, I bristle against having any sorts of guidelines for assignments, and feel guilty for imposing them on students. But the realities of a 15-week course that requires multiple drafts of 3 papers really do make it better to have pretty strict thematic guidelines. Or so it seems to me right now. I need to cultivate a better selection of model essays, too, ones that are much more specifically about film, media, and pop culture.

Which brings me to the main textbook, Signs of Life in the USA. Overall, I like the book, but I'm also not rousingly enthusiastic about it. Partly, that's the fault of the type of experiment I did here. If I were to design the course more to fit the book, rather than try to fit the book into a course for which it was only partly suitable, I would have, I expect, both a better course and a better use of the textbook. This is especially an issue with Signs of Life because it has a very specific approach, one emphasizing semiotics, and I almost completely ignored that element of the book. To fit the book into a course that is not at least partially about semiotic analysis is to get much less from the textbook than it has to offer. Nonetheless, we made great use of some of the material on analysis of images.

Signs of Life is quite weak on the research side of things. I was able to supplement well with The Craft of Research, but it would be nice to have more fully and obviously researched essays in it. There's a ton of great research on media and film analysis, and much more could be brought in. By the time I realized this, I just didn't have time myself to dig up stuff that would be useful models for my students. Next time, I certainly will.

Frankly, unless the next edition of Signs of Life is less specifically about semiotics, I probably won't use it. There's enough excellent material available online and through the databases the university library subscribes to for us really not to have to use a textbook like that at all. I just need the time to gather the material and organize it. That's the value of a textbook for this course, really: to give the teacher a framework to work from and something to fall back on.

While I was teaching this past term, a friend of mine who's in the Composition & Rhetoric Ph.D. program was writing a paper on teachers' uses of popular culture in comp classes, and specifically on the ways that pop culture can be useful or detrimental to a multicultural classroom, and she asked me a bunch of useful questions about how I was approaching the course. Another friend of ours, who is just finishing up her Comp & Rhet Ph.D. and now teaching at a Massachusetts school with a pretty diverse and often low-income population, joined the discussion and offered a very interesting take on Signs of Life: that it's a difficult book to use with diverse populations, particularly populations with a lot of class diversity. Her school, in fact, has dropped use of the book altogether.

At UNH, we really can assume that most of our students have a lot of experience with things like video games, streaming movies, social media, smart phones. (I had one student write a paper in which in his first draft he asserted that all kids in the US have video game consoles in their houses!) But if I consider using Signs of Life again, I'll certainly want to put it through a much tighter evaluative lens, specifically thinking about what its materials assume and expect of students' access to media. I really haven't come to a conclusion about that except that. I do know, though, that it would certainly be nice if the book included essays by writers of significantly less privileged class backgrounds — Dorothy Allison's "A Question of Class" would be a good place to start...

Which reminds me that one of the interesting questions my friend asked was about my use of LGBTQ texts in class, since I have already, apparently, become known for this in the department. (Probably because I spoke up in Teaching College Comp against the use of the "his/her" construction, one I see as setting up a false binary between men and women and erasing the spectrum of gender identities.) I'll end these reflections, then, with some of the material from my reply that seems worth keeping:
I haven't really gone out of my way in 401 to use LGBTQ texts, though I have in other classes. But they're certainly there. Both terms in 401, I've used David Sedaris, and in both pieces ("Now We Are Five" and "Six to Eight Black Men") he mentions his boyfriend, Hugh. One day at the beginning of the personal essay unit this term, I read aloud to the class an essay by Gwendolyn Ann Smith, founder of the Trans Day of Remembrance, called "We're All Someone's Freak" from the book Gender Outlaws edited by S. Bear Bergman and Kate Bornstein. It's a really fun, accessible essay that serves all sorts of purposes, from showing that "normal" is a power construction, that trans identity is not monolithic, and that people are complex. I completely stumbled on using it when I was desperate for a simple introductory activity that wouldn't last more than 10 minutes, and I think I'll probably make it a more formal part of future 401 classes I teach. We didn't discuss the issues in the piece, though I could tell that some of the students were immediately uncomfortable the minute I read the first sentence and they heard the word "transgender". I directed their attention toward the idea of everybody being somebody's freak, which was the idea I wanted them to think about for their personal essays as they considered point of view: basically, whose freak are you, and why? There wasn't time to get into the material as trans-specific material. Most students lack the vocabulary to talk about trans stuff, so it takes some preparation, but it's worthwhile, and because I think this essay is useful, I'll probably figure out a way to do that preparation in the future. I often used GLAAD's media reference guides on transgender issues, especially the glossary, which gives good, succinct definitions and also a great explanation of terms that are problematic and terms that are outright derogatory.

In the past, I've used all sorts of LGBTQ texts. I try to build something into every course, even if it's just something short, in the same way that I try to get somewhat of a gender balance among the authors and to include material from people of various ethnicities, races, nationalities, backgrounds. (Nothing makes the limits of 15 weeks more apparent!) I do it partly for all the basic reasons any liberal-minded person would, but also because one of the big, sometimes unconscious, motivations for me as a teacher is that I want to be a teacher I would have benefitted from having when I was a student. I think I've built up for myself over the years a pretty good apparatus to overcome initial, atavistic instincts and to wade through the swamp of toxic discourse we all inhabit. I hope to help students do some of the work to do the same. Certainly, I want to make my classroom a comfortable place for all types of people, all types of background, and I hope my students can see themselves reflected in at least some of what we do ... but I also want to make sure that people who have somewhat similar backgrounds to mine don't only see themselves. The world's much more interesting and marvelous that way.

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15. a comic book workshop

Despite my outward rejection of comic books (most of my college art colleagues were obsessed with comic books, not me), I have a soft spot for sequential art. 
I haven't officially drawn any comics, but I'm impressed with those illustrators that do, and I continue to find new treasures on the internet ( web based comics, who knew?) Here are just a couple of people I like to look at, preparation for this kids art camp week kept drawing me into this whole new world. Noelle Stevenson, Jillian Tamaki, Gemma Correll, Eleanor Davis etc.
The pictures below are from a week of art camp with 10-12 year old's.  These guys had crazy ideas, worked hard and just about blew me away. Great job kids!










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16. preschool camp

This was an adorable group of 5, most of them around the age of 3. We explored collage, charcoal, paint and sculpture projects and had some crazy times. To be honest, the water bucket was the most popular item, along with chalk paint and storytime projects.




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17. Classroom Connections: WHAT FLOWERS REMEMBER by Shannon Wiersbitzky

flowers

age range: middle grade
genre: contemporary fiction
topic: Alzheimer’s disease

“[Delia’s] frustration, fear and sense of loss will be readily recognizable to others who have experienced dementia in a loved one, and her story may provide some guidance on how to move down that rocky path toward acceptance and letting go. …What do flowers remember? The stories of the people who cared for them, of course, as Wiersbitzky’s sensitive novel compassionately conveys.” – Kirkus Reviews

Please tell us about your book.

In What Flowers Remember, due to a shared love of flowers and gardening, Delia and her elderly neighbor Old Red Clancy dream up a seed- and flower-selling business. The two make quite a pair. He has the know-how and she has the get-up-and-go. But something is happening to Old Red. And the doctors say he can’t be cured. He’s forgetting places and names and getting cranky for no reason. As his condition worsens, Delia takes it upon herself to save as many memories as she can. Her mission is to gather Old Red’s stories so that no one will forget, and she corrals everybody in town to help.

What Flowers Remember is a story of love and loss, of a young girl coming to understand that even when people die, they live on in our minds, our hearts, and our stories.

What inspired you to write this story?

I spent my childhood summers with my grandparents in a small town in West Virginia, not totally unlike the fictional town of Tucker’s Ferry. As a result, my grandparents became like second parents. When I was in my twenties, my grandfather was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I hoped and prayed that he wouldn’t forget me. But of course, the disease doesn’t work that way, and I was forgotten along with everyone else he loved. The moment I realized he no longer knew who I was is something I will never forget. It broke my heart. And it was that nugget which inspired this story.

Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching? 

I did research on Alzheimer’s as I wrote the novel. The Alzheimer’s Association has a wealth of information. While I knew what my grandfather experienced, I didn’t know if that was typical or if there were other signs and symptoms which might be worth including to make it more accurate. Most people only think of Alzheimer’s as losing memories, but it can often cause changes in mood, and even result in a loss of smell. I included both of those in the book.

Shannon_Wiersbitzky_Author_Photo_2012

Alzheimer’s isn’t typically a disease associated with children. Why include this as a topic in a middle-grade novel?  

I never set out to write a book “about Alzheimer’s”. I wanted to write a story that spoke to my own truth, about how it feels to be forgotten by someone you love. Within the context of fiction, I imagined what a young girl might do, and what an entire town might do, if they felt they could, in some way, prevent memories from being forgotten.

The reality is that according to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in three seniors will suffer from some type of dementia. One in three. That is an astounding number. It also means that there are many children who will be impacted by the disease. Whether it is grandparents or parents, or someone else they know and love. I hope the story will help kids (and adults) who are experiencing or have experienced Alzheimer’s in some way.

*Note: A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book are donated to the Alzheimer’s Association.

What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?

There are many topics in the book a teacher could explore:

Memories. Every family has favorite memories. Memories that are passed down from generation to generation. What memories do families keep alive? How? What memories would students never want to forget? Project ideas: Create a memory board. Interview family or friends for favorite memories.

Flowers. Flowers have different meanings and many, like the pansies noted in the book, have different folk tales associated with them. What flowers do students like most? What stories or meanings are linked to them? Project idea: Pick a flower and explain how its meaning links to your own life.

Teaching and Learning. Delia is a sort of gardening apprentice to Old Red. Everyone has a skill they can teach someone else. Project idea: Have each student pick something they’re good at and teach the rest of the class how to do it.

Handling Conflict. Delia and her friend Mae meet up with a local bully at their school festival. Discussion topic: Assess how Delia handled her situation and explore how they have handled their own situations. What might they do in specific circumstances?

You can connect with author Shannon Wiersbitzky here:

Website
Facebook
Twitter
Goodreads

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18. Almost Five Years of Blogging: What’s Changed, What’s the Same

blog notebook

I started blogging in September 2009. By then I’d been writing for over eleven years, and though I had no publishing leads, I decided to jump in feet first: I quit my teaching job and started writing full time.

Though opinions have since changed, anyone who was trying to get published “back then” was supposed to blog.* I’ve often been thankful I started writing long before the blogosphere was born. While it was sometimes lonely writing on my own, it was also simpler, too — fewer distractions, no one else’s writing regimen or sales to compare to my own experiences. I sometimes wonder if I’d started writing then how far I would have gotten. How easy it would have been to try and keep up with everyone else on-line and altogether forget about the actual writing thing.

I remember checking out a book about blogging, and though I didn’t understand a lot of it, one thing stuck with me: with so many voices out there, a blogger needed a unique angle. I decided my blog would be called Caroline by line, a name I hoped would be catchy, would be a play on “by line,” and would help people learn I was a CaroLINE and not a CaroLYN (Five years later, I still get LYN-ed as much as before). I opened a free account on Blogger and committed to talking about writing and reading, but also the publication process as I was learning about it. I also threw in some bits and pieces on teaching. These were the things I knew and loved.

Using a weekly planner I got through Writer’s Digest, I kept record of my blog posts. I posted five days a week until I sold May B. (roughly seven months in), then switched to three times a week. In 2010, I took off the weeks of Thanksgiving and Christmas. In 2012 I gave myself a whole month of sabbath in July. It’s a schedule that I’ve stuck to since.

Though many who started blogging around the time I did have since hung up their fiddles**, I’ve continued on. Not because I’m so great, but because I’ve really fallen in love with it all. After sending manuscripts into the void, sometimes never to be seen again, having immediate feedback from readers was and is the most amazing thing. Some of my most popular posts have been my Running a Book Club for Kids series, this Third-Grade Reading List I created for the said book club, a post on sod houses, and my interview series with author/teacher Donalyn Miller discussing her title, THE BOOK WHISPERER.

I’ve tried regular features. Some have succeeded, some have fizzled, some I’d like to revive: Classroom Connections, a series meant to introduce teachers to new books; Fast Five, an up-close look at five books that share something in common; On Writing and Why We Read, which are simply quotes on the reading and writing life; Navigating a Debut Year for those new to publication; and most recently, Straight from the Source, a series of interviews with authors of historical fiction. Then there was Carpool Conversations, little nuggets I overheard while driving the neighborhood kids to and from school.

Some of you are new around here, and some of you have stuck around since the very beginning. I’m so grateful for all of you and this journey we’ve been on together, from those first days I stepped into the world as an unemployed, unrepresented author to the present, with one book in the world and four more under contract.

If you haven’t before, I’d love for you to introduce yourself in the comments below, perhaps sharing how long you’ve read in these here parts. If there are any topics you’d like me to blog about in the future, I’d love for you to let me know.

Thanks, friends! This blog wouldn’t exist without you.

 

 

 

*Now it seems those of us who write fiction have been cut some slack. It’s you non-fiction folk who are absolutely required / no excuses / get to it / must blog. Or not. Whatever works for you.

**Sometimes only frontier slang will do.

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19. School Visits Galore

In the last six weeks I’ve done seventeen presentations in six different schools. Here’s a glimpse into this very busy, very rewarding time.

April 3 – Literacy Night: Truman Middle School, Albuquerque, NM

At Truman I talked to both kids and parents about the writing life: how long it had taken me to sell my first book, the inspiration behind May B., and finding satisfaction in the things we love. The evening ended with students sharing odes. My favorite? Ode to My Running Shoes.

BoBlunch

April 15,16 – School visit: Dexter Elementary School, Dexter, NM

I’d never been to Dexter, NM — a community southeast of Roswell and 1,200 people strong. Let me tell you, I was incredibly impressed with everything happening there. Librarian Nancy Miles has brought thirteen authors to Dexter in the last fourteen years, all funded by proceeds from the school’s Scholastic Book Fair.

On the fist day, I spoke to K-2, doing a new presentation called The Poet’s Toolbox: Rhythm, Rhyme, and Repetition. On the second I pulled out my tried and true hands-on frontier activity called Buckboards, Bloomers, and Buffalo Chips. Dexter’s Elementary Battle of the Books team hosted a special luncheon for the thirteen “BoB” readers. Check out the gorgeous table display which included May’s apple barrel and  tinned peaches. Nancy printed “The Voice of the Wind” poem as bookmarks and called it courage and hope — the phrase I use when signing May. And speaking of signing… those eager kiddos had me sign those cans of peaches!

As they were leaving the library, a girl shouted, “I love you!” and a boy said, “This is the best day of my life!”

DexterMiddle
17 – School visit: Dexter Middle School, Dexter, NM

Day three in Dexter took me to the middle school, where I ate burgers with the BoB readers and discussed the many things that might have happened to Mrs. Oblinger after she left May. Let’s just say Dexter middle schoolers are very, very creative. I was also informed middle schoolers are definitely not too old for stickers (they gladly took the May B. ones I’d brought along). I once again presented Buckboards, Bloomers, and Buffalo Chips. For one session a BoB team from Roswell came to join the fun.

April 24 – School visit: Chaparral Elementary School, Santa Fe, NM

At Santa Fe’s Chaparral Elementary I led a Poetry 101 writing workshop for fifth graders and met with the BoB kids after school. Here’s a priceless exchange I overheard while setting up for the second presentation:

Student #1: I thought she’d have black hair.

Student #2: I thought she would be sixty.

April 29 and May 6 – School visit: Dennis Chavez Elementary School, Albuquerque, NM

I stopped at Dennis Chavez on two separate occasions, one day to talk about the writing process and another another to talk about the frontier. My favorite part? Several kids asking if I could pull strings to make more copies of May B. show up in the school library.

HolyGhostCatholicSchool

May 1 – School visit: Holy Ghost Catholic School, Albuquerque, NM

This little school reminded me of my beloved St. Matthew’s Episcopal School where I taught in Houma, Louisiana. Along with authors Kimberley Griffiths Little and Stephen McCranie I talked with kids K-8 at the school’s annual Author’s Day. The day began with an assembly celebrating books the children had written. It was a lovely thing.

For those of you interested in some nuts and bolts posts I’ve written about school visits, you can find them here:

School Visits: Seeking Them Out and Setting Them Up
Tis the Season to Skype!
Planning, Preparing, and “Performing” School Visits

 

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20. Last day of school

The last day of the semester…and for me the last semester, too. For the past fifteen years I’ve been teaching in the Art Department at Middlesex Community College, in Bedford and Lowell, MA. Standing among eighteen new students in each class and encouraging them through fifteen weeks of growth has been an awesome experience. I […]

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21. A Solution to Grade Inflation

Wikimedia Commons
I'm in the midst of grading student papers and portfolios, and so this blog post by Adam Kotsko hit home, particularly the end:
...the only real solution to grade inflation is to decouple college from debt and brutal meritocratic competition. Then people could study what they want to if they show an aptitude for it, and we could afford to do that because we’re the richest society ever in human history and maybe we can get by with fewer baristas so that people can enrich their lives, get in touch with their cultural heritage, and learn useful skills. It would cost money, but there are huge piles of money in corporate coffers and rich people’s bank accounts that are doing nothing but either sitting there or else promoting asset-price bubbles — so we could just take all that money away from them and do something that contributes to something with a recognizably human meaning and purpose. And then our grades would not be inflated and everyone would be happy.

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22. festive tiger

Hi guys, I wanted to tell you about my community mural adventure. This was the weekend of the Clemson Festival of the Arts; lots of fun as usual, and perfect weather this year - yay!I drew this tiger to be a "mystery mural project"


after that he was gridded out and transferred to 150 squares of (recycled) mat board



by hand, with a sharpie. yes, I'm very high tech...
 


TaDa! Here's the final mural!
The challenge was to make the individual squares interesting to color, without giving away what the picture was. Fun! (the shadow in the corner is a tree branch)

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23. Classroom Connections: PARCHED by Melanie Crowder + Giveaway

Silver Medal, Parent’s Choice Awards

Junior Library Guild Selection

“A thrilling, imaginative soul quencher. Crowder’s stunning debut is sure to become a modern classic.”—Rita Williams-Garcia, Newbery Honor-winning author of One Crazy Summer

“Readers will want to tackle [this story] with a full water bottle on hand.” Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books, starred review

age range: middle grade
genre: eco-fable
teacher guide

Please tell us about your book.

Parched is a middle grade novel about a boy, a girl and her dog struggling to survive in a dangerous and drought-scarred land.  It’s a slim volume in which the spare prose mimics the bleak setting.

What inspired you to write this story?

Parched began with a single image that appeared in my mind one day. It was an aerial shot, as if I were in a plane flying low over the savanna. On the ground below, a skinny girl and her pack of dogs walked along a narrow game track. I wanted to know who she was and how she had come to be all alone in such a harsh place. As I dug into the story, I discovered that there was a boy, too, also hurting and alone.  I knew they needed each other, but that trust was next to impossible for both of them.

Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching? 
 
I am amazed by how much research can go into a work of fiction! I spent weeks combing through information on geology, flora and fauna and childhood trauma. Then, of course, there’s the fun stuff: biting into a horned cucumber to get that gooey, tart sensation, standing out in the rain and watching the droplets form and drip down a chain-link fence, and watching videos about dowsing (which is absolutely fascinating!)
 
What are some special challenges associated with writing an eco-fable?
 
Well, first, it’s not a broad genre. Parched doesn’t fit easily into any one familiar category. So where do you shelve a book like this? With the adventure stories? Next to the dystopian section? In the children’s section or the teen section? Of course, my answer is, why not all of the above?
 

Second, it’s so easy for books that begin with an environmental crisis to slide into didacticism. But the best thing about reading is activating your imagination and forming your own opinions—I would never want to take that away from my readers. That said, I hope I have struck just the right balance so that Musa, Sarel and Nandi’s story challenges my readers to think about some of these difficult issues.

What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom? 

Parched has natural tie-ins to science and social studies, and you can find a discussion guide for the book that explores many of these possibilities here. If I were a teacher, I would use the book as a springboard for projects in which students research an environmental issue facing their community and then develop service projects such as a stream clean-up day or a penny drive to raise money for a nearby wildlife rehabilitation center.

Kids have great ideas and I love to see their excitement translate into positive action in their world.

Giveaway

Melanie has donated a signed copy of Parched to give away. To enter, leave a comment below about something you learned in this interview. US and Canadian residents only, please. The contest closes Monday, June 1.

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24. Delinquent Blog Writer Turns In Self

dreamstime_xs_40481396blogEver notice when you pick up a bad habit it’s easier to keep it than shed it? Yeah, my bad habit is ignoring my blog. This time, for a couple months. I know. I give no warning. Disappear. Then try to pick up the pieces of a blog that’s feeling the pangs of rejection from it’s very own mama.

Here I offer up my top 5 excuses; or as I like to say to that sweet police office writing me a speeding ticket, my “Mitigating Circumstances.”

1. That cough-up-a-lung illness that was going around. I am a germ-magnet. Not only did I catch it, but it decided we needed to have a “relationship” that lasted 5 weeks.

2. Normally, I teach 2-4 independent studies in the Spring Semester on top of my regular credit hour load. This Spring I did 9. *Thumps Head*

3. Three kids. The oldest is a senior in highschool, the middle one runs on Energizer rabbit batteries, and the youngest is currently channeling Cersei Lannister (the attitude, not the extracurricular activities). I know, it could be worse. Could be Joffrey. Or that Ramsay guy.

4. I started a children’s publishing company with my parents, because you know, I don’t have enough stuff crammed into my life. Then I wrote 2-1/3 books for the publishing company to publish. Yeah, that 1/3 is a WIP I’m still working on.

5. When faced with the choice of writing for the blog or taking a nap, I’ve napped. Because, well, see excuses 1-4.

So why are things different now? Well, my semester is over. My oldest is poised to get his drivers license and his HS diploma. *Fist Pump* My other two kids can play outside all day because the temperature in Rockford is finally above freezing. With a renewed respect for germs, I’m starting to rub elbows instead of shaking hands. And that little publishing company is in its third trimester, ready to birth some books into the world.

LET’S BLOG!

Picture © Iqoncept

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25. Call for Nonfiction: Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction

Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies is seeking work of creative writing scholarship, interviews, and pedagogy for its inaugural issue. The purpose of Assay is to publish the best in critical scholarship of creative nonfiction, to provide a space for work that elevates the genre in an academic setting. While there is no shortage of craft pieces and craft texts, the focus of nonfiction analysis has been on the art of the genre. Critical scholarship that studies nonfiction as literature, not simply art, is lacking in our genre. Our purpose is to facilitate all facets of that conversation, to be a resource for writers, scholars, readers, and teachers of nonfiction.  

Our online format makes research materials more accessible to scholars, but it also utilizes the available technology to expand the discussion. In addition to the written expression of nonfiction criticism, Assay provides the space for both written and video interviews with writers, as well as providing for more informal discussions of reading and teaching in the genre.  

General Guidelines: We seek critical explorations of nonfiction texts, explications of nonfiction pedagogy, and conversations with nonfiction writers, teachers, and scholars.  

Article Guidelines:
Scholarly articles of 15-25 pages, not including Works Cited.
We welcome explorations of all types of nonfiction texts, from traditional to experimental, from travel writing to memoir. We also seek submissions that attend to the incredible variety of nonfiction forms.
We welcome all critical lenses, from craft analysis to ecocriticism to postcolonialism.
We seek a wide variety of authors and texts to represent the range of the genre. We particularly seek articles on women and nonfictionists of color.
We welcome submissions by undergraduate writers, but please query us first.
 

Conversations Guidelines:
Interviews: The subject and approach are negotiable, though we are open to video and podcast interviews as well as traditional print; the interview will aim to add something new to the nonfiction conversation; we will not accept interviews simply because of name recognition; please query us if you wish to do an interview.
Riffs: Riffs include short, informal discussions of a craft element or reaction to a work of nonfiction (book length or otherwise), whether that text is new or not. We generally do not publish book reviews, but if you would like to query us with a book review idea, please feel free to do so. We are open to the conversation. We do, however, seek to build a library of reviews of nonfiction textbooks (please see Pedagogy). Riffs should be 500-1000 words.
 

Pedagogy Guidelines:
We seek to facilitate conversations between teachers of nonfiction. To do this, we seek work that addresses the pedagogy of nonfiction. This may include a reading list with explanation for a nonfiction course, a Riff addressing how a particular book worked (or failed) in a course you've taught, a lesson plan with writing exercises, or other aspect of practical pedagogy, your credo or philosophy of nonfiction. These are only a few ideas; Pedagogy is a flexible forum.
We seek Pedagogy that addresses all levels of students, from first year composition to beginning and advanced creative writing undergraduates, to graduate students.
Pedagogy submissions are generally short (1000 words); we also seek scholarly articles of nonfiction pedagogy, but we will consider them under Articles guidelines.
 

For More Information, please visit us online or email Karen Babine at:

assayjournalATgmailDOTcom (Change AT to @ and DOT to . )

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