Monday, September 27, 2010

Making It Real

Knowing that I'm "retired" and more apt to have free time than most members of our PLN, my friend Buffy Hamilton asked if I could do a live demo of document sharing in Google Docs this morning.

Buffy's lead off question was, "What are our favorite social media and web 2.0 tools?"
I contributed a few favorites, while she showed her students some of the editing options.

Since I had mentioned Google Reader, I opened a tab and checked my subscriptions. One item that caught my attention was Stephanie Sandifer's Education Reform Brainstorming posting. Like many educators, Stephanie has been concerned that "current dialogue around education reform
" does not adequately represent all stakeholders. Rather than merely rant or walk away, Stephanie has created a both a survey and a spreadsheet for brainstorming, hoping to built "a space that can become a repository of ideas for everyone involved and invested in improving the schools across our nation."

"EVERYONE is invited to help brainstorm ideas! Teachers, administrators, parents, students, community members, education researchers, anyone and everyone who is interested and who has an idea."

Stephanie mentioned students, those whose lives will be most directly affected by educational reform...or the lack thereof.

So I shared the links with Buffy and her class, a serendipitous opportunity to turn a demonstration into an exercise in authentic learning.

If your students are blocked from accessing these tools from school, please do as I once did with my Current Events classes: have them express their opinions verbally or in writing, then add the student comments yourself to Stephanie's document.

This is an important conversation. ALL voices need to be heard and valued.

"Put Learning in the Hands of Students" by katerha

Thursday, September 16, 2010

In My Grandfather's Voice: Found Poetry

A few weeks ago, I saw a comment on Twitter from Mary J. Johnson, The Primary Source Librarian:

I visited the Library of Congress Primary Source Set that Mary had recommended, then did some background research.

By definition, a "found poem" is a composition made by combining fragments of such printed material as newspapers, signs, or menus, and rearranging them into the form of a poem. Found poetry is fancifully described as the literary equivalent of a collage. In its purest form, found poetry uses only the original text, without alterations or deletions.

There are a number of lesson plans available online that focus on creating found poetry, including

My own foray into found poetry was inspired by some papers I found in my late father's office. Dad's parents, my grandparents, were Italian immigrants. They worked hard, found their version of the American Dream, and proudly became U.S. citizens.

Just prior to the outbreak of WWI, my grandfather had to return to Italy to settle an estate. Unable to leave the country once war was declared, Grandpa was given a choice: enlist in the Italian army, or be shot as a spy! He opted for the former, and served his time, while Grandma managed the family and their businesses. While far from home and loved ones, he kept a journal.

At some point, a photocopy of this document came into my father's possession, along with a translation of a few of the entries from their original Italian. On these pages, I see my grandfather's beautiful script and hear the loneliness and longing in his words.

Here are a selection of "found poems" in my grandfather's voice:

I. Malachin

Last night
at the usual hour
we had a roll call
of the 13th squad
and everybody was present
except for one soldier,
He is a country boy
and he likes to drink wine.
This evening
he is still missing
and nobody knows
where he is
or if anything happened to him.
The Commandant of the platoon
ordered us
to look for him
for some time
and at 11 pm
he was declared a deserter.
Pity for him.

II. Mail Call

The mail came this morning,
but for me, nothing.
I write almost every day,
but for me always nothing.
Word goes around
that in a few days
we have to advance,
and we hope
that God will keep us
in good health and safe,
so we can be together and
I think about my loved ones a lot...a lot.

III. Cold

The icy air really
cuts your face
and freezes your feet.
Just in a few minutes,
your feet
are not just frozen
but like marble.
The night is beautiful,
with so many stars,
a night for lovers!
The stars shine so
in the sky.
If a poet were here,
he would write
some beautiful
poetic words.
I look at my watch
and the time is 2 am.
We have to stay up
for another 3 hours
with this
tremendous cold air
and we feel
the nervousness
of the time.

IV. Battle

We hear the sound
of battle
machine gun fire
and even the air
smells of
gun powder.
We also hear soldiers calling for help
and, to top it all off,
is the feeling
of insecurity,
the end of this
messy and gory raid.
The potent
machine gun light
sweeps across the land
and everything is dead silent.
But this time
the light has a
from the other side,
and it seems that
it is a duel
between the
two giant lights.
Our light is
and the enemy light
tries to confuse us.
After a while,
the lights from both sides
go off.
No winners.

"Grandpa's Journal" by dmcordell

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Book Trailer Awards

From Joyce Valenza, on NeverEndingSearch:

New Book Video Trailer Awards!

"On September 27th, School Library Journal will ask readers to vote for the best video trailers that promote books and encourage reading.

Voters will be asked to select the best video in six categories:

  • Publisher/author created for Elementary readers (PreK-6)
  • Publisher/author created for Secondary readers (7-12)
  • Student created for Elementary readers (PreK-6)
  • Student created for Secondary readers (7-12)
  • Adult (anyone over 18) created for Elementary readers (PreK-6)
  • Adult created for Secondary readers (7-12)

There will be four nominations in each category, selected by a committee of librarians. Winners will be announced at the School Library Journal Leadership Summit on the Future of Reading on October 22, 2010 in Chicago.

The primary purpose of these awards is to recognize the important role that video plays in bringing readers to books as well as the wonderful creativity of the producers.

Only videos produced between January 1, 2006 to July 1, 2010 are eligible for consideration.

To suggest a video before the September 17th deadline, please send an email to


  • the name of the video
  • the video’s creator(s)
  • the author and the title of the book that the video is promoting
  • the URL for viewing the video
  • no more than 200 words about why this video would turn the viewer into a reader of the book

Anyone is free to suggest a title. Start nominating! And please spread the word."

Teachers, if you are searching for alternatives to the traditional written book report, having your students produce book trailers might be the perfect way to foster critical thinking and creativity while encouraging a love of literature.

There is a wealth of information available online. Book Trailers for Readers has an instructional video, tips, and links. You'll find an Assessment Rubric, among other resources, on the Reading-Active-and-Engaging wiki. Also helpful is the trailers and videos page of the incredibly rich bookleads wiki.

As you watch the sample below, a trailer for Gary Paulsen's Hatchet, consider the higher thinking skills that it displays: the student/creator had to analyze the story, decide which key elements to emphasize, select images that accurately convey the story, and script a compelling narrative.

If you and/or your students produced book trailers during the required time frame (between January 1, 2006 to July 1, 2010), please consider submitting them for the contest. If you've never tried this type of activity before, look through the above resources and give it a try.

"Light books" by