Slice of Life Possibilities

 

It’s March Slice of Life Challenge by the Two Writing Teachers:

Write a slice of your life every day —  a moment of an any day or every day experience. Write it so others can live through it.

How It Began

Slice Challenge 2017

When I was a middle school teacher for thirty-one years, I discovered this wonderful motivational challenge. My students loved writing every Tuesday for Slice of Life Tuesday, and twice many of the students accepted the March: Write a Slice a Day challenge.

Some students had occasional mental blocks, so I created a Google Slides menu of suggestions, along with some writing expectations for digital safety and for writing class. We adapted these as needed, but below are the possibilities and the Slice Menu options for 2017.

If any of my former students or others would like to participate, just add a link to your Slice blog post or document in the comments for this post so others can find and read your Slice stories. Please also comment [using your positive netiquette — see slides] and encourage each other.

I look forward to the stories for this year. Write and enjoy your memories.

Down Time

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Where are you in the recess challenge? Scholastic writes a great review of issues and a history.

Before a decision is made, see this NPR program on recess and the brain.

As a teacher, I see how breaks in the day and lessons help kids relax enough to let what they’ve learned sink in and to free the mind to focus again.

Here’s a story in The Atlantic that explains the effects of frequent and free play recesses.

Now, what is your idea about recess and how does your school match the research?

#clmooc #digilit Sunday A Walk in Public Places

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Created in Google Stories on Ipad;  I could not add the picture I took today down on another street
Couldn’t add:
Our side of town was once owned and maintained by the government during the building of Grand Coulee Dam, and our town benefits from that infrastructure and foresight. Parts are still maintained by the city. It’s a lovely neighborhood.
How different is this walk than yours? than my students? than your students? What is the same?
What are some benefits to the public areas in your neighborhood?
What issues are there?
What values are shown by the public areas?
How do people and governments care for these areas?
What norms would make these areas accessible and welcoming to everyone?
Would you be willing to accept norms and accept responsibility for helping care for public spaces?
Question to ponder…. what’s your walk? what’s your take?
What tool would you use to create a walk of your public spaces, and help begin a discussion that promotes and enhances those areas?

Margaret Simon is a dynamic and respected educator who invites other bloggers to reflect on Digital Tools and Strategies each Sunday for #Digilit Sunday  Please read her blog and join.
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#clmooc unflattening

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Mom had an old book of puzzles. I loved it. These were my favorite; simple sketches that suggested something. What do you think the above image is?

Unflattening the world has been part of my life – my mom could see beyond the obvious, and helped me look at the bigger picture. As a young mother rushed in front of us in the grocery line, mom would say, “She needs to get her back home for baby’s nap.” That might not have been true, but mom always took a step back to see a bigger idea and a step into the shoes of others.

Is it a bear climbing a tree? A giraffe walking by your window? A snake slithering across your beach towel?

We need to step around to see. Turn things around, and get a different view. Try to think from another’s perspective. Believe in your own!

These are things we discussed today in a learning / school context with Nick Sousanis, author of Unflattening, who wrote the first ever PHD dissertation as a comic.

We’ve got to focus on students, not the test, not the same-for-all; students are not widgets to be boxed up the same. [Pete Seeger — Little Boxes].   We need to be guiding student to discover who they are and what are their passions, which will inspire learning. Instead we have this:


We have a mission, those in the #clmooc, to spread the word of connected learning, which does not necessarily mean always through technology. We are poets and historians, authors and artists, scientists and coaches, engineers and ecologists. And we must as learners discover this by seeing the world in our own and in others’ ways. Learners, both we and our students are co-learners together.

Nick shared his ability to extend the view of the world –“stepping back to no longer seeing things head-on, but to also see from the sides” and more. Here’s an example. Think of the Buddha. Now in comic form, from our Google Hangout Out On Air with Nick, we can look just at the Buddha, but also step back to see the whole world around because comics are in “sequence with simultaneous recognition” of what might be missed:

nick's buddha

With our every breath, there is always more to think about. So it is with learning, as Terry Elliot always reminds us: [should be adjacent possible]

 


Learning is messy, and our students need the freedom to learn in their way and time — their passions and interests. We must allow the “adjacent possible” which occurs every day to lead us to the learning that is important to the student. And during that journey, all the other content and culture, skills and strategies, will fall into place — not the same for each student, but they will be what the student needs. This is the personalized and connected learning of today.

It’s the process of struggle and questioning, sharing and conversation, feedback and feed forward, that promotes deeper learning that sticks. Yesterday, I wrote about inquiry, and changing my classroom to allow authenticity and creativity to play the largest role in my classroom, and Nick’s invitation to see the world with new eyes and in new ways supports that. It takes longer, but the learning is deeper. Nick’s process blog posts show how learning and thinking take time; he shares the many iterations of his comics before the final version develops. That’s how learning is: time to try, think, reflect, discuss, revise, refine, start over, etc. And he’s creating for his purpose and his audience; it’s authentic. And so school should be.

How would it feel to see in new ways? Nick asked us to take a plan sheet of paper, any size. Fill it with shapes of your day — the way your day is and feels. Here’s mine:

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You can “read” it for yourself, and I have my own story for each line and box and curve and angle. I told about calm, happy, whimsical, social, sad, anxious, all in the day of shapes. Try it. See what your day is. For me, I was able to be thankful for the goodness, and reflective and at peace on the sadness. What a great idea for the classroom to open the mind to another way of seeing and expressing one’s narrative. So many teacher writers have shared the need for diverse pathways to writing [Ralph Fletcher, Georgia Heard, Donald Murray, to name just three], and for whatever we teach, we need those pathways so our students can be thinkers, not just copiers.

We learn by doing, and that is one of the main points Nick shared: let’s not talk about it — let’s start drawing and doing!  Thank’s Nick Sousanis for your time and for inspiring us.

Want to be inspired? You can be inspired too by watching here and adding your “Spaces of My Day” #dayincomics to this Padlet that Kevin Hodgson started.

The Make with Me with Nick Sousanis is part of the CLmooc , Connected Learning Massive Open Online Collaboration, whose principles brought this group together:  we are networked peers supporting each other in our interests and shared purpose, which powered Anna Smith to invite Nick to share his ideas [academic / production-centered ] so we could create and make and transform.

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Connected Learning

Now, go see the world in new ways. Come back and share what you see.

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Photo Credits:

Puzzle Doodles 1 and 2: by Sheri

Screenshot of Buddha from Nick’s presentation in Google Hangout On Air

My Day Sketch: by Sheri

Connected Learning Principles: Connected Learning

John Dewey: by Sheri

#clmooc Puzzling

Puzzles are systems, as Steve Wheeler explains in his blog about the above picture sent to him by Simon Ensor for Steve’s #blimage challenge [send him an image and he’ll blog about it related to learning]. I like what he said, and it’s helping me with my own inquiry.

1–

you don’t really know exactly how you’re going to get to the end (if there ever is an ‘end’), or how long it will take, but you do have a an image on the front of the box that contains the pieces, as a reference point to what it should look like when completed.

True, with learning – we don’t always know where we’re going until we get started. Then as teachers we need to figure out a strategy, a system, to help each student.  As the puzzle pieces in the image show, there’s quite a bit of blue ocean to dive into and catch the wave or current that will get you and the student where they need to be. I see texts and images [media] to read and understand. I see buildings which might be resources needed to learn. I see roads to build or follow to guide us. I see wooden planks, because we might have to build our own support. I see a cup filled with nourishment to sustain the whole child, perhaps feedback or an organizer — or just a snack to beef up a hungry stomach. I see a basket to hold our strategies, or save them to share with others who might need it. I see lots of unknowns that might or might not fit the needs of the learner, but at bottom in center is a child: and that’s who all our efforts are for.

2

Who is to say which method is a) more effective and b) more enjoyable?

 I would say the teacher and learner will decide this [certainly not a test]. Learning is a puzzle and we try one piece and then another. We watch how others work through it and try our own way. Ah, is such a good feeling after a journey of trials. How do we sort out the puzzle and the journey together?

That is what some of us in #clmooc [Connected Learning Massive Open Online Collaboration] have set about understanding through an inquiry, a puzzle, a question of our own.  Margaret Simon is wondering, “How can I create an environment for student writing that encourages individual expression while covering necessary benchmarks?” She included this graphic by Christy Ball as a possible way to to include the student  and the student’s passion in a process that will allow creativity while meeting the standards. We’ve got to find the way that is effective for each child.

Which brings us to another idea, an idea that is like the diverse group of students who flow into our rooms each morning, as random as puzzle pieces dumped out of a box — yet each in its own way beautiful and unique, worthy of and needing the opportunity to develop into a talented and whole person [or puzzle]. How do we make that happen?

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These questions are reminiscent of a postmodern perspective on education – where learning is random and chaotic, has multiple layers and diverse possibilities, and where the rules might just as easily be thrown out of the window. Ultimately, we know that not everything that is taught is learnt, and not everything that is learnt is taught.

When the box cover is followed, we’ll finish an exact replica in our puzzle. Children and their learning are puzzle pieces as well — and our curriculum the box cover, as Steve suggests. However, what we teach is not always what students will learn — they notice what they need to know at that time. And that’s our puzzle – to accept that and go with it, perhaps adding in what we originally taught, or perhaps finding a new path also needed. A box cover is not what we need today. Technology brings us tools to personalize, to allow students to lead the way as we guide and offer feedback [along with peers] in a learning community that extends beyond the classroom walls. Curriculum is not just standards or content, it is also how to learn, reflect, connect, create, collaborate, and curate.

I think curriculum is a wardrobe, each different for each child, and filled with the choices in clothes and accessories needed to learn and succeed at goals. Imagine the choices an author, historian, mathematician, biologist, journalist would make or need. And many students would need to sew their own. Sometimes we could layer the items for a needed effect. One day we may need Rachel Carson’s boots as she explores the Atlantic shore or on another day grab our Flair pens to become architects like Frank Lloyd Wright. But there they are, waiting for us when we have chosen our interests and passions.

And it’s true that each student will take a different path, similar supports in curriculum can be implemented for small group learning, and teachers see where the students are headed and begin to lay out suggestions. Or, as in Narnia, we may find a wonderful surprise.

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This is what I have been considering for my inquiry question, which is “How do I create authentic learning spaces of making and reflecting that empower self-directed learning?” I’ve been reading Creative Schools by Sir Ken Robinson and Digital Portfolios by Matt Renwick, participating in book clubs with like-minded educators for each of them. So when Margaret started her Padlet on Creativity, I bookmarked it as resources for my inquiry as well.

Like the learners in my classroom, I’m puzzling about something for which I am passionate: to enable my students to become thinking, caring, and productive persons who follow their own passions and learn and adapt the passions of their peers in our learning community. And I’m starting by doing something: sharing with my peers and reading and discussing to figure out a path to do so. I get feedback from my peers and I begin to take a direction. Now, I’m not studying or practicing any Common Core State Standards in particular, but I am deeply applying many while I do this. And that’s what John Dewey said:

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In the puzzle of education, we’ve forgotten that is the doing that brings the learning.  So I created my own process to start with — based on many choices the students and I discuss together:

Notice that the standards aren’t even considered until after discussion and when we are sharing out plans for the first time. Just like in this blog, I”m writing for information with an introduction, body, and conclusion, building in evidence and flow — after much conversation, thinking, and doing. The flow around the above cycle is not sequential; I’ll need to change the arrow to dotted to show that there is not a linear flow, but a recursive sense with lots of reflection, feedback, and revision in our process and product.

So, back to the beginning, I’m puzzling through this authenticity and creativity in my language arts classroom, with Michael Weller and others. Some of my thoughts from my Evernote musings are:

YouthVoices would give a focus for both students and teachers — their interests and our curricular requirements.
There’s also Teen [ http://tweentribune.com/teen ] and Tween Tribune [ http://tweentribune.com/ ].
My fifth grade students loved the March Slice of Life challenge, and that is also a weekly Tuesday challenge [ https://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com/challenges/ ]; some connected teachers set up their own challenge among their blogs [ http://mserin202.blogspot.com/2014/08/slice-of-life-writing.html and http://kidblog.org/class/EaglesWrite15/posts/p464617:601 ].
There’s also KQED’s Do NOW, which I have not participated in, but is so engaging and thoughtful [ http://blogs.kqed.org/education/category/do-now/ ]
As I write this, I’m thinking of a menu of choices for writing, with student interest in mind, and an authentic purpose of sharing. 

I’ve also created a BlendSpace for my resources and ideas, a sort of wardrobe to organize and pull from as needed.  And I thank Steve Wheeler, Margaret Simon, Michael Weller for helping put my puzzle, and my students’ puzzle together in a way that’s a system that fits each learner and teacher.


MY #DigiLit Sunday:  MindMeister Maps / Image Writing Prompt

#DigiLit Sunday Sponsored by Margaret Simon: Visit her blog for other DigiLit Sunday bloggers.

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Photo Credits

Simon Ensor puzzle

Christy Ball infographic

Sheri Edwards: Screenshot of Creative Commons “Wardrobe” image search

Sheri Edwards Dewey and Mind Meister MindMap

Margaret Simon: #DigitLit Sunday Badge

Refresh and #C4C15

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Refreshing this blog after stumbling on the fact that one of my PLN friends, Matthew Brewer, is a Teacher of the Year for Washington State! That’s awesome!  But what’s more important is what that means: it means he has important things to share about teaching and learning.  Please read his blog here: Learning by the Lake.

In Customers or Products, he reminds us that education is about the student — and the passions and talents that are their potentials for our futures as well as theirs.

Schools exist as a means to give students the opportunity to experience a myriad of different opinions and points of view as they discover their own natural passions and abilities.

Think about that. I know those in my PLN who live this — their #geniushour programs promote it.

And how about this idea from the same post:

…build a generation of careful and critical thinkers who have tried and failed just enough to know what they can and cannot do and aren’t afraid to push their mental and physical limits. We need students who can identify in themselves their own passions and convictions and can pursue those passions and voice their convictions with energy and enthusiasm.”

I agree completely, and hope that in our work together, that my students find their interests and strengths, passions and talents. I offer choice and team projects based on focus statements that allow students to ask their own questions.

And this idea is something I’m working on

Education is individualized as much as possible

and assessment is a conversation,

not a spreadsheet.

It is the conversations that encourage students to improve, when our class work is valuable enough that students want to improve.

Our Google Apps allow that conversation to continue online through peer and teacher comments on student work, offering feedback on what is done well and suggestions for what could be better. The focus is on the work, not a grade. I’ve also changed my rubric, which I’ve blogged about here [ Ideas for Rubrics: Feedback ].  I think of above and meeting standards as an “I see” comment and below standards as “I suggest” comments. From the comments and conversations, students understand exactly how to improve and revise. My assessment is conversation, not spreadsheets, and my students learn by doing, not “getting done.” My students and their learning is not finding facts, but is finding focus. And it is through that focus that students discover not just a “how to,” but also “how I believe.”

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Congratulations, again, Matthew, on your work and the recognition of that work as “Teacher of the Year.” I’m thankful to be inspired by you.


 

This post is part of

Ben Wilkoff‘s #C4C15 Comments for Community Project

#DigiLit Sunday GiverCraft #EDGamify

DigiLit Sunday is a Sunday post on literacy, an invitation by Margaret Simon, to share literacy strategies and tools for the classroom. This week’s list of bloggers: Sunday, November 16, 2014.

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Something exciting is happening to the balance of my classroom. It’s tipped to student control. We’ve been invited to participate in a Minecraft EDU based on the book, The Giver. The project is called Givercraft and was created at the University of Alaska Educational Technology EDET 698: Gamification and the classroom can be found on twitter at #EDGamify.

The purpose is:

“As educators it is our mission to provide high-quality, developmentally appropriate and engaging instruction to students. Through the use of MinecraftEDU students can demonstrate knowledge and understanding through building, collaboration and creativity. We hope to help fellow educators become familiar with alternative methods of assessment and instruction that integrates multiple subjects including technology.”

I have seen my grandchildren play Minecraft. I have tried it [installed on my iPhone]. All I can do is punch holes. Bam. Not good. So this is my chance to learn what my students want to use to learn with. It’s my chance to see how it works — -to become “familiar with alternative methods of assessment and instruction that integrates multiple subjects including technology.”

I participated in a practice session and failed. Miserably.  Have you ever taken a gaming personality test? I think this is the one I took last year. I’m an Explorer— off the charts. So I get frustrated with all the bangs and zombies and tedious builds. As Wikipedia says, “The Explorer will often enrich themselves in any back story or lore they can find about the people and places in-game” and “They often meet other Explorers and can swap experiences.”  That would be me.

So although I fail the MinecraftEDU teacher practice mission, I am thoroughly excited that my students will be able to create a Giver community based on the details of the book, working as a team to create the world of a “Nine.” And my students are thrilled, and that’s just the first task. The creators have developed modules that will require critical thinking, communication, collaboration, and problem-solving based on evidence from the book to meet Common Core State Standards. Students take screenshots of their work in MineCraftEDU GiverCraft and upload them to a private wiki to explain their evidence. This is awesome.

I succeed at being willing to let go of the control and allow students to take the lead. I’m the guide. I’ve done this with other tech platforms, such as BitStrips for Schools. I create the activities, and students learn the tool that demonstrates their understanding.

What do I mean by tipping the balance to student control? With our invitation, we had only two weeks to read the novel — and even then we had obstacles – my training days, sports, testing. We didn’t think we’d make it, but we will. Tomorrow we finish the book in time to start the game.

The control I tossed to the kids. Instead of worksheets and teacher guides, I handed the kids Post-It Notes. We knew we needed to understand the meaning of the book with evidence to support our ideas. So students listened to the story and added notes to the areas they thought were important. We’d stop and they would share  and discuss the story: its characters, its plot, its setting, its community, its rules, its world. Their ideas. Their analysis. Not my preconceived ideas. They took notes — on their own in their journals to remember the details of this “same and mean” world, as they summarized. This they do willingly, thoughtfully, even as usually struggling readers. I’m impressed.

In Givercraft, they will partner up and help each other with book and journal ready; but again, they will be in charge: thinking, communicating, collaborating, solving together with evidence from the text. They’ve signed their agreements of rules of behavior for GiverCraft and understand  this will be different than the game they usually play; they understand this focus is on learning from reading by creating and collaboration, and from writing by sharing their creations and explaining their evidence.

We can do this, and I [we] will learn how to build more units that take our required standards to a new level that totally engages students and promotes deeper learning. We will be a community of learners.

I’m so glad I dared to learn, just as I expect my students to do every day. It’s a great feeling to do this together, student and teacher.