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Deb's Appointment Calendar

If I am your family's consultant, I will have added you to this calendar so that you can see when I'm available for meetings.  If you have a google calendar, my Appointment Calendar should show up under Other Calendars. Let me know if it doesn't work!  Here's the link: Deb's Appointment Calendar

Resources for Parents

Elements of Writing to Celebrate

Alliteration: Always Avoid Angry Alligators; "Soooo," said the serpent, "Seeking someone specific?" 

Simile: As scared as a fish on a line; Crows perched along the telephone wire like commas on an endless line of text.

Metaphor: The sun stepped across the sky, her shining gown brilliant with gems.

Onomatopoeia: Whooosh! Blam! Clink! Oink, Woof, Owwweeee!

Strong Verbs: Smashed, overlooked, balanced, wriggled, outsmarted, vanished...

Dialogue: "What did you say?" whispered Paolo urgently, clutching the phone, "Please, I can't hear you!"

Reasons to Compliment Your Child's Writing

  1. Thinking on the Page: "I'd never have known you thought that if I hadn't read it." 
  2. Sense of Humor: "I laughed out loud here!" 
  3. Internal and External Story: "I love how you got me right inside her head"
  4. Sensory Detail: "I could feel the numbness you were feeling in my own hands as I read this!"
  5. Simile and Metaphor: "A cat the size of a house? I can really see that!" 
  6. Emerging Sense of Genre: "This felt like a newspaper article!"  "This could be a poem!"
  7. Making Literary Connections: "J.K. Rowling uses lots of little details to make us feel like we are right there where Harry is. I see that in your writing too." "This reminds me of Aunt Spiker and Aunt Sponge! What wonderful villains you've created!"
  8. Strong Verbs: "Lurking, dodging, bursting, exploding. Look at how many strong verbs you've found!"

I Choose C


 

Lupita's Speech


 

Lucy Calkins on Being a Good Writer

 


 


 

Deb's Writing Resources

To get the most current information...

CLICK on my other pages:

Math, Squirts, Urchins, and Groupers

Small Moment Writing Planner
Small Moment Writing Planner

Writing Small Moment Stories

For the second year in a row I will be getting a stress-free writing sample from our students as part of the opening two weeks of class.

I'll use the same small moment storytelling tool (above) that I used last year. I'm excited to see what we might learn by comparing last year's samples with this year's samples.

All students can write the story through planning, telling, diagramming, drawing, and writing words or word approximations. It's a safe and fun process and we get to know one another as we work. 

calhobbesFFF1.png
 

BEGIN: 2014-2015 School Year


End 2013-2014 School Year

SQUIRT Inquiry: Dolls, Stuffed Critters, and BUILDING

Elana and I will continue the DOLL and STUFFED ANIMAL INQUIRY GROUP, with an addition of some students more interested general BUILDING. The group has been making washing machines, airplanes, a town, Peter Pan houses, and all kinds of other amazing things for their dolls and stuffies. Many have been keeping journals, writing as their critter or doll. 

images-6.jpg

See below ESSAY class information for older SQUIRT INQUIRY updates!

ESSAY FOCUS GROUPS for URCHINS and GROUPERS:

FORMulaic Writing ~ A Google Form to Write your Essay Draft

Try writing your own BASIC (aka ZOMBIE) essay using this form. It should automatically send you an email of your rough draft essay.

Remember, if you use NO CAPITALIZATION for the beginning of your entries, and no punctuation, you'll have less to correct in the draft. Generally, though, you'll need to change the first letter of the whole essay into an upper case letter. 

If you begin with a name or the word I, capitalize it! 

EXTRA BONUS: How to create a CHOOSE YOUR OWN ENDING FORM

 


 

Essay Group Final Projects

Grouper Essay Focus Group

 

I will NOT be at Ocean on May 7th (at a training). Zelda will be in for me. You will work independently or in pairs on a final project. This project is your Classwork and Homework for the rest of the month, though we may interrupt our proceedings to have “essay ice cream” next week if this week goes well.  (If Skye gets your vote, he can have ice cream as well).

 

We’ll have a Grouper Celebration and sharing of our projects on May 21st.

 

As you consider a final project, consider picking a topic that matters. Remember, you're coming up with a STRONG OPINION to argue. If you want to go for humor, it can still address something important... but it doesn’t HAVE to.

 

You may use any tools you want to create a visual essay project, serious or spoof. Pivot Animation, Google, iMovie, or any combination. It needs to connect to an essay. Here is an example that started with a simple spoof essay, added text and pictures in Google Presentation, and voiceover in iMovie. It’s by Amy.

 

If you are working on a FILM you need to use one of the school laptops and log in as ocvideo1 (password is video) and use iMovie. You or your partner must have some experience with iMovie if you choose this option.

 

We might have the Chromebooks to use in addition to the school laptops. If you are not using iMovie, login to your account and use the online tools such as Google Docs and Google Draw and Google Presentation. If you are working with a partner, make sure to add both of you to the document or presentation (under SHARE) so that you can both access it from any computer with internet.

 

The first step is to write an essay, or to choose one that you’ve already done. If you haven’t done one that you want to use, start figuring out an essay today.

 

Find a topic. You can write a SIMPLE essay with the formulaic structure that we explored, or you can go deeper. You can quote sources, include SCORER bits and pieces, and connect the information back to your own experiences or life.

For the rest of the information on the project go to the shared Document

April 29 & 39; May 6 & 7

GROUPERS:

Homework #11 for essay focus groups #1 and #2 WEDNESDAY

Here's another topic you can take on as an essay topic or project that has a great deal of relevance in Santa Cruz right now, as we are in a severe drought and will be under water rationing this summer. 

"It may be too late to pray for rain. For most of California, 2013 was the driest year in reorded history, and so far, 2014 is looking like more of the same. The state is now running into three dry years in a row. Statewide, according to an April 1 survey, the seasonal snowpack was 32% of the average. 

Meanwhile, California's big rivers, including the Sacramento and San Joaquin, have dramatically less surface water, groundwater levels throughout the state have dwindled, and most reservoirs are far below their historic levels...

Gov. Jerry Brown declared a water emergency on Jan 17, calling for statewide 20 percent voluntary cutbacks, and some communities are rationing....Now, even a series of serious downpours may not be enough to make up the difference....Santa Cruz, for example, is almost entirely dependent on rainfall for its water supply, and the San Lorenzo River, which supplies most of the water, is at a near-record low.  

Dry, dry again, by Dan White in UC Santa Cruz Review, Spring 2014

Possible opinions you might argue:

  • Water conservation matters, and everyone can make a difference.
  • We need to come up with long-term solutions for water.
  • My family does a good job of conserving water.
  • Desalination is the answer.
  • Desalination is not the answer.
  • Reverse osmosis is the answer.

Here are some links about water issues:

Drought News

Overall, 2013 had the least rainfall of any year since California became a state in 1850.

WaterLab Research on Water Recycling

Sentinel article on conservation

Santa Cruz council gives final OK for water rationing

Moss Landing Desalination

Call to Action

City of Santa Cruz Drought Page

City of Santa Cruz Water Supply Outlook 2014 

UCSC Drought Reserves

 

Here're some links to articles about the ship captain we were convicting in Essay Group #2:

I tripped

Details of crash

CBS News

I've repeated the information from last week in case you decide to tackle a project using one of the links or ideas that I provided for a final project:

1. Try out this form to write an essay. It can be very light and silly if that helps!

2. Find a topic that you are interested in learning more about, something important, something you care about.

3. Consider a final project ~ serious or silly. You'll write an "essay" and enhance it with photos or film or animation. You can work alone or with a partner. We will share them on MAY 21 at our end of semester celebration. We have three more class sessions at Ocean before then, but this is six weeks away (science camp, testing, and the celebration day take up the remaining class days).

As you consider a final project, pick a topic that matters. Remember,  you're coming up with a STRONG OPINION to argue. If you want to go for humor, it can still address something important... 

Here are some ideas and resources for possible essay topics:

Fracking

Melting Ice Caps and Glaciers Calving

Global Warming 

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Animated Essay on Plastic Bags

Sustainable Farming

Drinking Water and Water Filtration and Ryan's Wells 

Saving Energy

Bottled Water vs. Tap Water

The Story of Stuff

URCHINS: Bring costumes, props, and be ready to film on Tuesday, May 6th!

(See last week's post for details)

April 22 & 23

GROUPERS:

Homework #10 for essay focus groups #1 and #2 WEDNESDAY

Due 4/23

1. Try out this form to write an essay. It can be very light and silly if that helps!

2. Find a topic that you are interested in learning more about, something important, something you care about.

3. Consider a final project ~ serious or silly. You'll write an "essay" and enhance it with photos or film or animation. You can work alone or with a partner. We will share them on MAY 21 at our end of semester celebration. We have three more class sessions at Ocean before then, but this is six weeks away (science camp, testing, and the celebration day take up the remaining class days).

As you consider a final project, pick a topic that matters. Remember,  you're coming up with a STRONG OPINION to argue. If you want to go for humor, it can still address something important... 

Here are some ideas and resources for possible essay topics:

Fracking

Melting Ice Caps and Glaciers Calving

Global Warming 

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Animated Essay on Plastic Bags

Sustainable Farming

Drinking Water and Water Filtration and Ryan's Wells 

Saving Energy

Bottled Water vs. Tap Water

The Story of Stuff

Urchins (for 4/22) "The Zombie Essay Club"


We've got a script for our ZOMBIE ESSAY COOKING SHOW video. Next week, we'll try to film it. Feel free to bring zombie costumes (or Ninjas, or Skeletons!) and I'll work on the "skins" for the pieces that we're adding to the skeleton. We'll see how far we get!

Try out the essay form. Make a silly essay, and see how it turns out. If you like, try to create the essay from the script, the one with the opinion "Zombies should really learn to cook." Whatever the topic you choose, if you provide the Opinion, Three Reasons, and Three Examples, the computer will automatically be able to make a ZOMBIE ESSAY ~ an essay that is simple, not too fancy, maybe with some flesh missing, or some teeth, or an arm.... NOTE: It DOES NOT need to be about Zombies!


made by tossing a "skin"

(opinion, reasons, examples)


over the skeleton

(because, and; one reason, is that, because, for example, and; another reason, is that, because, for example, and; although, because, and, most importantly, because, for example, and).


 

APRIL 15-16

Homework #9 for essay focus groups #1 and #2 WEDNESDAY

Groupers ~ Due 4/16

1. Try out the form to write an essay. It can be very light and silly if that helps!

2. Find a topic that you are interested in learning more about, something important, something you care about.

3. Consider a final project ~ serious or silly. You'll write an "essay" and enhance it with photos or film or animation. You can work alone or with a partner. We will share them on MAY 21 at our end of semester celebration. We have three more class sessions at Ocean before then, but this is six weeks away (science camp, testing, and the celebration day take up the remaining class days).

URCHINS: Homework #5 for

Essay Focus Group



 

Urchins (due 4/15) "The Zombie Essay Club"


Try out the essay form. Make a silly essay, and see how it turns out. We'll be coming up with a film project to demonstrate how to make a ZOMBIE ESSAY ~ an essay that is simple, not too fancy, maybe with some flesh missing, or some teeth, or an arm....


made by tossing a "skin"

(opinion, reasons, examples)


over the skeleton

(because, and; one reason, is that, because, for example, and; another reason, is that, because, for example, and; although, because, and, most importantly, because, for example, and).


You can use the same skeleton with many different skins. How can we show this in a movie? Come back with some ideas and we'll write a script, build our skeleton, dress like zombies..... 

We should make a "zombie essay" movie to help other kids learn how to write a simple essay because we've learned a simple structure we can use over and over to write an essay, we can teach other kids how to do it and show how fun it can be, and we can be very silly in a movie.

One reason we should make a movie to help other kids learn how to write a simple essay is that we've learned a simple structure we can use over and over to write an essay. For example, we've used it to write essays about Minecraft, about our dogs, and about boys wearing tutus.

Another reason we should make a movie to help other kids learn how to write a simple essay is that we can teach other kids how to do it and show how fun it can be. For example, we could act out finding an opinion and finally choosing the one about boys in tutus, we could act out the reasons, and we could act out the examples. 

Although we should make a "zombie essay" movie to help other kids learn how to write a simple essay because we've learned a simple structure we can use over and over, and because we can teach other kids how to do it and show how fun it is, most importantly we should make a movie to help other kids learn how to write a simple essay because we can be very silly in a movie. For example, we can wear sparkly tutus, we can roll up our jeans to show our pwetty legs, and we can dance the Swan Lake Apocolypse.

 

Homework #8 for essay focus groups #1 and #2 WEDNESDAY

Groupers (due 4/9)

Here's an example of a truly beautiful essay. This actress won an Academy Award for her performance in Twelve Years a Slave. This video is from her acceptance speech honoring Black Women in Hollywood. Watch the speech and use the form to respond. Watch it more than once.

THINK ABOUT:

How does she use: 

Stories

Counter Opinion 

Opinion

Reasons

Examples

Recommendations

This Form will allow you to respond 

Text of her speech so that you can read it as well.

 

Homework #7 for essay focus groups #1 and #2 WEDNESDAY

Groupers (due 3/19)

This week we looked at a persuasive essay performance task on the new Common Core practice test for 7th grade ELA (English Language Arts). The homework is to spend some time reading the three articles and attempting to answer the questions on the first page. If you write your answers in a Document, we can see share what we came up with in class and try submitting some to see the next page.

Here's the link

Here's what you'll see: Screen shot 2014-03-15 at 5.18.54 PM.png

This is how you sign in at this point. I don't think you can save it, but I WAS able to take screenshots after all.

Click on SIGN IN and you'll see 

Screen shot 2014-03-15 at 5.27.38 PM.png

We're looking at the GRADE 7 test. Select that and Click YES and you'll see:

Screen shot 2014-03-15 at 5.28.41 PM.png

Select the bottom right hand test, the G7 ELA Performance Task. You'll see:

Screen shot 2014-03-15 at 5.29.48 PM.png

You can play with the settings if you like. Masking, which is not available for the practice might be very useful as it lets you see only one line of text at a time. For some, this helps with the amount of text on the screen.

At the bottom, click SELECT and you'll see:

Screen shot 2014-03-15 at 5.31.56 PM.png

Select YES, START MY TEST.

 

Screen shot 2014-03-15 at 5.34.12 PM.png

I think you MUST complete the SOUND CHECK to continue. Then, you'll see:

Screen shot 2014-03-15 at 5.35.38 PM.png

You can spend some time here if you like. This has information and things to try. 

If you click on BEGIN TEST NOW you'll get to the first page of the test. It's in two columns. The LEFT column contains the instructions, the task, and three articles you are supposed to read. The other side poses the questions that you will answer AFTER you read the articles. I'd recommend that you look at those BEFORE you read the articles and see if you understand what they are asking for. 

There is a highlight function somewhere and a NOTES tab. You can experiment.

Homework #6 for essay focus groups #1 and #2 WEDNESDAY

Groupers (due 3/12)

This week we shared some great essays and arguments, and practiced a bit more with QERMT. (We're focusing on QUE)

For homework, please find (or invent) a quote to work with. It can be about an issue you care abour, or can be more playful (like quotes from literature where the character responds to the quote of another character, I've put some quotes below. 

  1. Write the quote and attribute it to someone, to a particular book, article, or webpage.  (QUOTE)
  2. Paraphrase the quote: What person quoted's last name means is that ____. He/she believes ____ because ____. (EXPLAIN)
  3. Agree or DISAGREE. In my experience______.  OR I vehemently disagree because _____. NOW, state why, and what you DO believe. (MY OPINION)

QUOTES you might ARGUE with

Horse Training Quotes

"I know a number of people who have horrifying “bad trainer” experiences, ranging from horses being starved into submission to horses being beaten or spurred to the point of having permanent scars." ~ Victoria Potter, horse trainer, in http://www.horsetrainingadvice.com/

"With a horse that intends to hurt you, you’ll get better results from whacking him good and hard two or three times than you’ll get from lightly tapping him 20 times." ~ Larry Trocha, horse trainer,  http://www.horsetrainingvideos.com/dangerous-behavior.htm

 

Harry Potter Quotes

"I should think you'd be a little more grateful. We've raised you since you were a baby, given you the food off our table, even let you have Dudley's second bedroom, purely out of the goodness of our hearts." ~ Uncle Vernon, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets 

I am sorry, dear, but to question my practices is to question the Ministry, and by extension, the Minister himself. I am a tolerant woman, but the one thing I will not stand for is disloyalty. ~ Dolores Umbridge to Professor McGonnagal, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

"It is the view of the Ministry that a theoretical knowledge will be sufficient to get you through your examinations, which after all, is what school is all about." Dolores Umbridge, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

"Voldemort's pretty evil and all, but he's a mere rapscallion compared to the thoroughly grotesque Dolores Umbridge. Party apparatchik, twin-set wearer and cat person, she's unquestionably the nastiest woman ever to wear pink tweed and a nightmare teacher in every way." http://www.empireonline.com/features/greatest-harry-potter-characters/2.asp

"Harry, Harry, Harry. Can you possibly imagine a better way to serve detention, than by helping me to answer my fan mail?" Gilderoy Lockhart, 

 

Gestation Crates Defended Quotes

Nebraska Pork Producers President Shane Meyer, who runs the Plymouth Ag Group approximately five miles southwest of Beatrice, said gestation crates make for healthier pigs.

“I’ve been raising pigs my whole life, I’ve raised pigs on dirt in dirt lots and dirt pens, I’ve raised animals inside pens and inside stalls,” Meyer said, “I’ve been doing this for 30 years, and I think there is a reason we put them in the stalls.”

“Basically, you keep the animals from fighting.”

Sows are territorial by nature, Meyer said, and will work to establish a pecking order. Removing the more aggressive sows can help the problem temporarily, until the left over sows again fight for dominance.

“The problem is, if you take the boss sows out, two new boss sows arrive,” Meyer said. “Until you get down to one and you take away the opportunity of the fight, they are always going to fight.”

Pigs are capable of inflicting serious injury on one another, Meyer said. They will bite ears and tails, injure legs and joints and bruise the body during the melees.

“What we have is too many people who have never raised a pig before in their life trying to tell people who have done it for many, many years how to raise a pig,” Meyer said. “That’s what’s wrong with what’s happening."

 

Defending Battery Cages Quotes

"If California legislators are permitted to mandate the size of chicken coops on Missouri farms, they may just as easily demand that Missouri soybeans be harvested by hand or that Missouri corn be transported by solar-powered trucks," Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster. 

 

Nuclear Weapons Quotes

"The cornerstone of our strategic policy continues to be to deter nuclear attack upon the United States or its allies. We do this by maintaining a highly reliable ability to inflict unacceptable damage upon any single aggressor or combination of aggressors at any time during the course of a strategic nuclear exchange, even after absorbing a surprise first strike. This can be defined as our assured-destruction capability." ~ "Mutual Deterrence" Speech by Sec. of Defense Robert McNamaraSan Francisco, September 18, 1967

 

Reagan Quotes

"Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do." ~ Ronald Reagan, 1981

"You've seen one redwood, you've seen them all" (may have been a paraphrase of "A tree is a tree. How many more do you have to look at?" ~ Ronald Reagan, 1966, opposing expansion of Redwood National Park as governor of California

 

Education Quotes

"It is the view of the Ministry that a theoretical knowledge will be sufficient to get you through your examinations, which after all, is what school is all about." Dolores Umbridge, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Educational theorist John Dewey said, "Knowing we cannot teach students everything, it is most important we teach them to learn." In today's education community, this quote would likely be amended to say, "It is most important to teach them how to take a test." Brian Kurz, When in doubt, just pick "C" 

Our expectations need to be for teachers to inspire all of the different learners in their class. Relying so heavily on test scores will lead to having teachers who simply tell kids, "When in doubt, pick 'C.'" Brian Kurz, When in doubt, just pick "C" 

"What are my answer choices? You know, a, b, c, or d?... Oh, I understand. In that case, I choose "C." My fifth grade teacher told me to always choose "C" when I did not know the answer." Job Applicant in Why We Need the Common Core: I Choose "C."
 

Homework #5 for essay focus group #2 WEDNESDAY

Groupers (due 3/5)

Today we reviewed how to RESPOND to the text of an OPINION ESSAY. I read the group a RESPONSE ESSAY to an OPINION ESSAY (about Dr. Ack U. La on human curfews). Here's a tool that can help you remember the parts of this essay. It's called QERMT (pronounced Kermit).

Quotation (In her article "Night Life," Dr. Ack U. La argues that, "Human life is brutish and short.")

Explain (La argues that human life is of vastly less value than the life of a vampire, and that we should want to be bitten)

Reason (She believes that a short, mortal life restricted to daylight is boring and pointless)

My Opinion (La's racist views are about subjugating humans and her skewed logic is dangerous)

Tie Back (Therefore, we should continue to monitor Dr. La's articles in which she will say the unsayable, argue the unsupportable, and recommend the unthinkable. We need to keep tabs on her ridiculous assertions so that humans can better understand the fringe delusions of the Vampiric world and better protect ourselves from them).

Homework: 

  1. Select or invent a fictional or historical person.
  2. State an opinion this person would hold, and at least one reason for that opinion.
  3. Express this opinion in the person's own words, using quotation marks. 
  4. Attribute the quote (the author, using full title the first time, and last name only thereafter, AND the source ~ book, website, article name, report, study). Use academic language: asserts, claims, reports, believes, states, denies, argues...
  5. Write your explanation of what the author means (La asserts that becoming vampires would be a vast improvement for humans because human life is cheap and meaningless).

Please give this a try, or do something that you believe is BETTER practice for you. Some extensions of this assignment include:

  • Do the same for two or three fictionalized quotes from the paper or article that you are "responding" to.
  • Write an opinion essay in the voice of this person, making the assertion, arguing this opinion.
  • Write the full RESPONSE essay, as if the person you've selected really DID write an opinion essay.
  • Write an opinion essay of your choice.

I encourage you all to try SOMETHING. Practice will make a difference. 

Homework #4 for essay focus group TUESDAY

Urchins (due 3/4) "The Zombie Essay Club"

 

For any topic of your choice write a practice essay. Remember to come up with A STRONG OPINION, three REASONS for your Opinion, and three examples for each REASON. That's what you will bring to the essay. Consider using a quote, statistic, research, or a specific story as your examples.

 

You add your parts to the SKELETON: #1) BECAUSE, AND #2) ONE REASON, IS THAT, FOR EXAMPLE, AND #3) ANOTHER REASON, IS THAT, FOR EXAMPLE, AND #4) ALTHOUGH, BECAUSE, AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY, IS THAT, FOR EXAMPLE, AND

 

IF YOU LIKE, you can use the following SKELETON. We will work with it more in class so that you better understand what I mean. The image of the skeleton above (here's a link) shows the words that you add to your OPINION, REASONS, and EXAMPLES in each paragraph. You can use the same "bones" over and over.

 

THIS WEEK (3/4): Zelda will be in for me, as I will be at James and the Giant Peach rehearsal. You will SHARE your essays with the group and then begin to build the giant skeleton.

Homework #4 for essay focus group #1 WEDNESDAY

Groupers (due 2/19)

Today we reviewed each team's reason and three strong examples to back it up for the given opinion (Ice Cream, today).  We worked to use specific, well-worded examples. 

  1. Stories
  2. Statistics
  3. Quotation from an expert.

Please write another essay of your choice using the pieces we practiced: Opinion, three reasons for the Opinion, and three examples for each reason. Play with making ALL the parts stronger through word choices, and consider the kinds of examples we practiced today. You can put it together how you like, but here is the formula we played with in class:

 

Paragraph #1

Opinion

BECAUSE

Reason #1,

Reason #2

AND

Reason #3

 

Paragraph #2

ONE REASON

Opinion

IS THAT

Reason #1.

FOR EXAMPLE

Example #1,

Example #2,

AND

Example # 3.


 

Paragraph #3

ANOTHER REASON

Opinion

IS THAT

Reason #2.

FOR EXAMPLE

Example #1,

Example #2,

AND

Example # 3.


 

Paragraph #4

ALTHOUGH

Opinion

BECAUSE

Reason #1

AND

Reason #2,

MOST IMPORTANTLY

Opinion

BECAUSE

Reason #3.

FOR EXAMPLE

Example #1,

Example #2,

AND

Example # 3

Homework #3 for essay focus groups WEDNESDAY

Groupers (due 2/12)

Today each team wrote one reason (Trying to come up with a reason that NO other group comes up with) and three strong examples to back it ip for a given opinion (Ice Cream, today). Extra points to teams using for their examples

  1. Stories
  2. Statistics
  3. Quotation from an expert.

Please write another essay of your choice using the pieces we practiced: Opinion, three reasons for the Opinion, and three examples for each reason. Play with making ALL the parts stronger through word choices, and consider the kinds of examples we practiced today. You can put it together how you like, but here is the formula we played with in class:

 

Paragraph #1

Opinion

BECAUSE

Reason #1,

Reason #2

AND

Reason #3

 

Paragraph #2

ONE REASON

Opinion

IS THAT

Reason #1.

FOR EXAMPLE

Example #1,

Example #2,

AND

Example # 3.


 

Paragraph #3

ANOTHER REASON

Opinion

IS THAT

Reason #2.

FOR EXAMPLE

Example #1,

Example #2,

AND

Example # 3.


 

Paragraph #4

ALTHOUGH

Opinion

BECAUSE

Reason #1

AND

Reason #2,

MOST IMPORTANTLY

Opinion

BECAUSE

Reason #3.

FOR EXAMPLE

Example #1,

Example #2,

AND

Example # 3

Homework #2 for essay focus groups WEDNESDAY

 

Groupers (due 2/5)

Please write an essay of your choice using the pieces we practiced: Opinion, three reasons for the Opinion, and three examples for each reason. You can put it together how you like, but here is the formula we played with in class:

 

Paragraph #1

Opinion

BECAUSE

Reason #1,

Reason #2

AND

Reason #3

 

Paragraph #2

ONE REASON

Opinion

IS THAT

Reason #1.

FOR EXAMPLE

Example #1,

Example #2,

AND

Example # 3.


 

Paragraph #3

ANOTHER REASON

Opinion

IS THAT

Reason #2.

FOR EXAMPLE

Example #1,

Example #2,

AND

Example # 3.


 

Paragraph #4

ALTHOUGH

Opinion

BECAUSE

Reason #1

AND

Reason #2,

MOST IMPORTANTLY

Opinion

BECAUSE

Reason #3.

FOR EXAMPLE

Example #1,

Example #2,

AND

Example # 3

Homework #2 for essay focus groups TUESDAY

 

Urchins (due 2/4) "The Zombie Essay Club"

 

 

 

 

Choose your own topic. Please bring back your opinion, three reasons, and three examples per reason. We will use these "brains, guts, and heart" to flesh out our essay skeleton next week.

 

 

1. The Opinion


 

2. Three Reasons for the Opinion

a.

b.

c.

 

3. Three Examples for each Reason.

a. Reason 1

example:

example:

example:

b. Reason 2

example:

example:

example:

c. Reason 3

example:

example:

example:

 

 

 

Homework #1 for essay focus groups,TUESDAY and WEDNESDAY

due 1/28 (Urchins) and 1/29 (Groupers)


 

 

Here’s an example of an opinion essay:

 

I should teach a writing class about opinion writing because kids have lots of opinions, too often kids think writing essays is hard, and I can help them learn how to effectively use fancy language to write opinion pieces.

 

One reason that I should teach a writing class about opinion writing is that kids have lots of opinions. For example some kids don't like to be told what to do, some want ice cream every day, and some think I talk too much.

 

Another reason that I should teach a writing class about opinion writing is that too often kids think writing essays is hard. For example they don't get much practice, they don't realize they can have fun learning the form, and they have the opinion that writing opinion pieces is not worth their time.

 

Although I should teach a writing class about opinion writing because kids have lots of opinions and because too often kids think writing essays is hard, most importantly I should teach a writing class about opinion writing because I can help kids learn how to effectively use fancy language to write opinion pieces. For example, I can have them use a computer form to write essays, have them cut essays up to figure out the parts, or let them choose silly topics and make funny commercials to get the hang of it.

 

Homework

Look over the sample essay. You can get a secretary (a parent?) to jot down your answers, or you can cut and paste, or color code your answers. Your job is to THINK and to get your brain ready and warmed up!.

 

From the sample essay, find the following

 

1. The Opinion


 

2. Three Reasons for the Opinion

a.

b.

c.

 

3. Three Examples for each Reason.

a. Reason 1

example:

example:

example:

b. Reason 2

example:

example:

example:

c. Reason 3

example:

example:

example:

 

SQUIRT Inquiry WEEK #2

The kids shared things they've made for their doll or stuffed animal, and they picked out a fortune cookie fortune for their critter.

I read them the beginning of Betty Doll by Patricia Polacco, a story about a doll and her life with her human family. I also read a bit of an American Girl Doll book, Meet Molly, so that they could compare a story written about the doll as a person, not as a doll. 

They gathered more supplies for making things for their doll or stuffie. Some took this home, along with the journal. Please help them to embellish their doll/stuffed animal home and to write (or dictate) about their doll in the journal... and to BRING all their stuff back to class next Monday.

They were excited, and requested that next time they have the whole time to make things and write.

SQUIRT Inquiry WEEK #1

The kids introduced their doll or stuffed animal, and I showed them the journals where 

  1. They can (or the doll or stuffed animal can) write/tell/draw about the doll's (animal's) life with them ~ adventures, history together, where they go, what they do, things like that
  2. They can (or the doll or stuffed animal can) write/tell/draw about the doll's (animal's) life BEFORE. What is the history of the doll (animal) apart from their child... Some dolls have a history from another time, some may have been born somewhere, or maybe they've been lost, belonged to someone else, lived in the forest..

We'll be reading stories and comparing when they are about the doll or stuffed animal's life with a particular child and when they are about the doll or stuffed animal apart from their life with their "owner."

We began to choose the materials each student will use to create a house, habitat, and belongings for their doll/stuffed animal. Next week we will begin creating, each doll/animal will choose and read his/her fortune, and we will start our journals. I may read to them from one of the books we'll be sharing.

If they brought home a box, please have them bring it back. They are welcome to modify it!

SQUIRT Inquiry

The week of Feb. 3 I will be starting a DOLL and STUFFED ANIMAL BIOGRAPHY and CRAFT inquiry group. We will look at stories and biographies about dolls and stuffed animals, and we will write the biography of the dolls or stuffed animals that the kids bring in. In addition, we will create crafts for the dolls and stuffed animals.

At the semester...

Focus Groups:

URCHINS

We investigated essay-writing, specifically finding and asserting an opinion, backing it up with three good reasons, and further giving three examples of each reason. We looked at formulaic ways to take those basic ingredients and create an essay that sounds formal. We constructed and deconstructed essays repeating an exact formula with a variety of content. We played with serious language and light, frivolous content, invented studies, quotes, and statistics. We also experimented with using the same formula to argue some opinions with slightly more serious content and actual facts and research. We had FUN, we worked together, and we created a funny cooking show script, costumes, props, and movie to help others have fun and learn the basic ingredients of an essay as well. Hopefully, they understand that the formula/form is a basic blueprint, and not the definition of an essay.

 

I will begin working with a new group of students on more opinion writing next week!

GROUPERS

We, too, investigated essay-writing, specifically finding and asserting an opinion, backing it up with three good reasons, and further giving three examples of each reason. We looked at formulaic ways to take those basic ingredients and create an essay that sounds formal. We constructed and deconstructed essays repeating an exact formula with a variety of content. We played with serious language and light, frivolous content, invented studies, quotes, and statistics. We also experimented with using the same formula to argue some opinions with more serious content and actual facts and research. We looked at opening hooks and closing recommendations and SCORER (stories, counter-opinion, opinion, reasons, examples, recommendation) as a more complex tool to generate and organize content. Timed freewrites, and one serious topic by the end of class. Topics included: global warming, fracking, industrial egg farming, falcons, raceway closures,Tyson Farms abuse of pigs, garbage in the Pacific Ocean, migrant workers, why school can be harmful to kids, and radiation in the Pacific Ocean

 

I will begin working with two new group of students on more opinion writing next week!

FOCUS GROUP for GROUPERS

Form for Response Essay

Writing an INTRO to your ESSAY   <— Click to watch a YouTube video and then try writing an intro with a Grabber (Opening Hook), the Topic (and the Reasons you will explore relating to your Opinion about the Topic), and your Thesis (YOUR Opinion about the Topic).

  • The Grabber gets the reader's attention
  • The Topic introduces the subject and has three Reasons or Main Ideas presented from weakest to strongest that will make up the Body of the essay
  • The Thesis states your opinion or argument about the Topic (positive or negative, W5, Strong stance backed up by the main ideas/reasons)

The Grabber Types

  1. joke
  2. proverb/quote
  3. anecdote/personal story 
  4. surprising fact
  5. curiosity/question

 

FOCUS GROUP for URCHINS: Fancy Pants Essay Club

WELCOME TO THE FANCY-PANTS ESSAY CLUB!


If you can each find a pair of pants that you can decorate (and wear… so maybe the thrift store?), bring them and we’ll decorate them, put fancy-pants words all over them, and stuff the pockets with fancy-pants words. Then, we’ll make T-shirts and write opinions all over them. Finally, we’ll make something with reasons and examples ~ necklaces? bandanas? Whatever we want!

 

We’ll become The Fancy Pants Essay Club and make a short movie about essay writing. Or a song. Or a show. We’ll share it at the end of semester celebration in January, all decked out in our fancy pants and opinion shirts… oh, and we've done an Ice Cream Essay, so we'll be planning an Essay Ice Cream party as well!

 

SO, if you can, bring in what you’ve written AND some clothes to decorate!

 

FOCUS GROUP for GROUPERS

We've been exploring the same FORMulaic writing as the URCHINS, going in a couple of other directions. This week we watched this video as an essay, investigating the opinions, reasons, and examples in it. In addition, we looked at good opening hooks through the context of an article about the bee crisis. Finally, we began to investigate the following mneumonic for developing parts of an essay:

Stories

Counter Opinion

Opinion

Reasons

Examples

Recommendations

Here's the link to the new FORM for SCORER if students want to try it. The responses will come to me and I will send them to you. I hope to solve that part of the puzzle so that you can get your responses automatically, but I don't have that figured out yet.

Here's the link to the I LOVE ICE CREAM ESSAY FORM to create the essay draft we've been using. That draft currently comes back to a spreadsheet that I have to check in order to share it with the author. I'll check regularly and send them as soon as I see that you've got a draft of something new. Once the draft comes back to you, you can begin to revise and elaborate. 

Here's the link to the ESSAY PLANNING TEMPLATE. You will need to make a copy so that you can fill out your own. Instructions at the top of the Document!

INQUIRY GROUP for GROUPERS

We've been creating a series of short video pieces about Princess Rainbow who is plagued by various difficulties. We are shooting with a green screen while the editing team madly tries to keep up! Be sure to come to the annual OCEAN FILM FESTIVAL to see what we come up with!

FOCUS GROUP for URCHINS

We've been working with FORM-ulaic writing, learning how to construct the basic parts of an essay, entering them into a Google Form, and having the COMPUTER put the parts together the same way, over and over. Here are the parts:

  • An Opinion
    • ​Three Reasons for the Opinion
      • ​Three Examples for each Reason

​We wrote about the controversial topic, "I love ice cream" as our group practice.  We are exploring the form using invented content AND finding reliable content (including lots of studies, expert opinions, and quotes from published writings).  We wrap it all up with fancy-pants language and have an essay DRAFT to revise and extend. We are also practicing TELLING essays, and we hope to make some essays into digital commercials with images and sound. 

INQUIRY GROUP for URCHINS

I'm working with a combined MAKERS and THEATER group. The theater group is busy filming commercials for many invented products, some of which are made by the makers who are busily deconstructing and re-constructing various electronic and mechanical things along with cardboard tubes and string. 

FOCUS GROUPS for SQUIRTS

I've been working with about half of the students during their Focus time, which falls every other week (when they are NOT at Messy Camp). We read Jack's Tale, meeting the author of a simple fairy tale as she explains to her friend, Jack, that he will be her main character.

Jack demands that she promise him nothing bad or scary will befall him in the story, and she explains that authors don't make that kind of promise. "Start at the beginning, go through the middle, until you get to the end," she advises. "And Jack, watch out for the middle!"

Now the kids have been working on their own story called Deb's Tale. Deb is worried. They have made a lot of trouble for her. A LOT!

 

INQUIRY GROUP for SQUIRTS

We have been exploring the SMALL MOMENT story form (see below) about our lives. The kids have performed their stories with puppets. They've met Lamby and her shy, shy Hamster friend. Lamby has shown them how to add a line in for each word in a story frame and then read the lines back, adding any letters that they can. Lamby particularly likes M because it looks like MOUNTAINS!!! He does NOT like W because it looks like the sharp, sharp teeth of the WOLF. He is a little nervous that he doesn't write well, but the kids have assured him that he's doing great. 

We have one more class before we switch groups, and the kids will sorely miss Lamby and Hamster. Puppy, another new writer, may come to the last class... He's pretty shy. We experimented with the free version of an iPad app (technical difficulties notwithstanding) called Sock Puppets last week, and it was a hit. 

Class Weeks 1-2

I've had the pleasure over the last two weeks to introduce a writing tool to all of the students who attended our class days, K-8. Everyone got to try it out, and we initiated a conversation about how everyone is in a different place as a writer. We compared writing to how we might all go to a swimming pool with different swimming skills, but we can all still jump in the water together.

We continued the metaphor, noting that it can be scary to jump in over your head if you aren't ready yet so we support one another, we watch out for one another; each swimmer can have a blast right now AND keep learning over a lifetime. Not all of us will eventually swim the English Channel, but we can have some fun and keep improving how far we can go on our own. 

We spent time practicing what authors DO, including planning, talking, drawing, and telling the basics of a story to get the details fresh in our minds. We looked at different ways authors can begin to get their story down on paper, including using post-it notes. 

The writing tool we used focuses on a small moment in time, narrowing a story down. We start by identifying the big thing that happened. This can be anything, from accidentally flooding the bowl of cheerios with too much milk or when your dog slobbered on your face, to a moment when you fell out of a tree or wiped out on your bike or completed your first back handspring. The key is to plan the story based on that one moment, the moment just after, and the moment just before, and just before that.

Four moments, with the Big Thing That Happened as the key moment. Ask your kids about the tool ~ the four boxes (below). Try it out with them, finding a moment in your own life to map out this way, to practice telling, to write down!

We'll come back to this tool a few more times this year to see how far each of the kids can "swim on his own." In the meantime, we'll be offering "swim lessons" by way of our Focus Groups. 

2013-2014 School Year


Welcome Back! I'll use this page to give loads of writing coach support. I'll keep you up to date with the work I do with your kids here at Ocean. I'll also be offering at-home extensions and support as I develop it for both writing and math.

I invite you all to let me know about any great resources, classes, ideas, books.... let's create a dynamic support network!

Deb

Week of April 29-May 3


 

OCEAN SEA SQUIRTS (Monday)

Filmmaking Inquiry Group ~ April 29

This week we continued to work with iMovie. A few kids made trailers, and we experimented with filming puppets using the iMovie on-board camera so that the footage was immediately available for the project. We looked at a Green Screen effect and next week will film our group reacting to the Green Screen action and putting them together. We may also do a trailer together, telling a specific story.

 

 


 

OCEAN SEA URCHINS (Tuesday)

Writing Club Focus Group ~ April 30

This week we got a few books formatted and printed so that they can go to the Student Author Fair on Saturday. We'll also be featuring these authors and their stories with an Ocean Author Tea, date and time TBD. Chime in on preferred time and date, offer to help, and plan to come see all the Ocean Student Authors read excerpts from their stories.

Gamer and Fan Fiction Focus Group ~ April 30

Today we didn't write a word. Instead, we went through each character to decide what that character's personal heroic journey will be in this final battle, how we will band together to save the world from the virus we've set loose, and each character (author) decided what artifact he will take with him at the end. The artifacts imply a sequel, but will also serve as a story for each author to tell over the summer and bring back to the group next year. We also made some illustrations and will be sending a copy of the story (To Be Continued) to the Student Author Fair on Saturday. I will also be hosting an Ocean Author Tea to celebrate all of the Ocean Student Authors (Time and day TBD; let me know what works for you and how you'd like to help). They'll have a chance to read excerpts on the microphone. Meanwhile, we are hot on the trail of a conclusion before the end of the school year. So little time, so much epic battle yet to complete!


 

Week of April 8-11


 

OCEAN SEA SQUIRTS (Monday)

Filmmaking Squirt Inquiry Group ~ April 8

Today we selected new Inquiry Groups. I started a Film Inquiry. We played with iPads as video cameras and took a look at iMovie. Next week, we will make our first short film! We might get something done in time to submit it to the 3rd Annual Ocean Film Festival on May 3rd.

 

 


 

OCEAN SEA URCHINS (Tuesday)

Writing Club Urchin Focus Group ~ April 9

Today we will continue to work on our stories... We finished reading Revenge on the Boys at lunchtime, and read some of A Dragon's Eye. We look forward to sharing Polkadot Pox, Creature's Curse, The Friend, The Friend 2: The Firestone Cave, The Girl Who Lived in a Tree, and Disposable Dangerous Creatures as they get finished. 

Gamer and Fan Fiction Urchin Focus Group ~ April 9

Today we will try to move toward our inevitable and yet ever-surprising epic battle scene, though we have many plot twists to resolve. We left off with quite a mess in the Ocean library: Herobrine is temporarily contained in bedrock; Scores of Dragons and a Basilisk are hungry and not terribly patient; Sue is armed and ready with her plastic baseball bat; Harry Potter (Alex) has just cursed a Creeper (V'Lad) as he transformed into a newly created Pokemon trainer;  two Minecraft Steves (Brian and Kief) are hard at work trying to contain Herobrine; and, sadly, a temporarily dead Girahim (Ellis) lies motionless on the floor. Meanwhile, Strider continues to play Minecraft, oblivious of the havoc he is wreaking. We left off before break with:

Chapter 12

Ssssssssssssssssssss. The creeper began to expand. It turned pale as porridge.

 

“Levicorpus!” Alex screamed. The creeper rose into the air and was upended. Suddenly, it was V’Lad again, long hair swinging, mouth wide, screaming. From his his bloody mouth dropped a tiny creeper and from his pocket, a deck of Pokemon cards.

 

 

OCEAN GROUPERS (Wednesday)

Blogging Grouper Focus Group ~ April 10

This week, we will briefly show our blogs using the projector. We will practice adding comments. We will all do another five-minute freewrite and read back what we came up with, getting any feedback we ask for. We will learn how to add one another's blogs to our own, adding all of them to the group blog (here's the link). Remember, if you want to make your blog public, you need to bring a signed consent from your parents. Otherwise, we should all be added to one another's blogs, and we can look at how to "follow" blogs within your Blogger manager.

Week of March 4 - 6


OCEAN SEA SQUIRTS (Monday)


Playing with Words Inquiry Group ~ Squirts, March 4

Today we began to craft a group story, and we talked about writing stories at home, making books, the book-binding workshop coming up, and the Student Author Fair in May. I will be hosting an Authors' Tea at Ocean as well.

In our story, each author got to select his or her character. We have a character who can help others to shapeshift, we have a half-good, half-evil omnicient rock star, a Rosalow (a creature composed of many animals), a magic kitten, a unicorn, a fairy, and a robot who will all come from their own worlds in a cacphony of crazy coincidence and great purpose and land in the Amazon rainforest to save Earth from Global Warming. We have two weeks to tell this tale, so....Yikes!


OCEAN SEA URCHINS (Tuesday)


Writing Club Focus Group ~ Urchins, March 6

This week we will share Sabrina's story and keep writing! This week, we will look at how to punctuate dialoge and how to help the reader follow who's speaking and to see them as well as hear them.

Gamer and Fan Fiction Focus Group ~ Urchins, March 5

Today we will see what happens when Herobrine is accidentally summoned from the Shapeshifter Mod of Minecraft, how Lenny the Lentil can fight off Demise from Zelda, and what will become of Strider and V'Lad the Creeper. Meanwhile, the dragons are continuing to roast things in the library, Alex has just turned into Harry Potter, and Sue is still hard at work with her baseball bat. Let's see what will happen this week!


OCEAN GROUPERS (Wednesday)


Blogging ~ Grouper Focus Group

This Wednesday we will continue to design our blogs. This link will take you to our shared document. Remember to check out the Fair Use and Creative Commons information. Please, this week, complete the request I have made of each of you: 

  • I have read at least three posts of a blog I like and posted the URL here
  • I have commented on at least one post
  • I have looked at the blogs created by my classmates and read at least one post on each
  • I have commented on at least one comment or post by a classmate

Highlight each one on the document as you complete them, adding relevant links so that I can see what you've done. For example, if you have commented, leave me a link to your comment. If you have read a classmate's blog, link me to the post you read. 

I will meet with each of you this week to help you find a topic for your first freewrite, the basis for a blog post! Here's the link to our blog. We will be using the post 

How to create content: The Topic Funnel*


Week of February 4-8

Ocean Sea Squirts (Monday)


Playing with Words Inquiry Group ~ Sea Squirts

We rolled a pile of giant letter dice to create made up words. We wrote them down and defined them. 

Ocean Sea Urchins (Tuesday)


Writers' Club Focus Group ~ Urchins

We got to hear Zoe's hilarious story, and everyone had writer's block. From that writer's block, came new story ideas, and just a bit more written. Yay!

Gamer and Fan Fiction Focus Group ~ Urchins

We managed to get Sue into the story. She got out her yellow baseball bat and began whacking flaming monsters like popcorn bombs to the dragons. The Minecrafters will find the Enderdragon and create crafting tables next week. Brian, Kief, and Strider will finally get back into the story!

OCEAN GROUPERS (Wednesday)


Blogging ~ Grouper Focus Group

Remember to bring in a link to a blog you like. Here are some more to check out, if you are still searching. I got them from here

Here are some blogs from older students:

http://jamiehalvorson.wordpress.com/

http://atzescs17.edublogs.org/

And from around the world:

http://biancasblog.global2.vic.edu.au/

http://brontesblog.global2.vic.edu.au/

http://comesomersaultwithsarah.blogspot.com/

http://mattnsps.edublogs.org/

http://autumngoestoparaguay.blogspot.ca/

http://blogs.goaj.org/gamekid/

http://zackapplegate.edublogs.org/

 

As you are reading, keep the following in mind:

  • What do you like about the blog writing? Style, visuals, content, language, author’s voice?
  • What don’t you like about the blog writing?
  • Do you recognize techniques that extend the traditional forms of writing?
  • Be always conscious about your own learning as you are reading.
What Makes a Good Blog?
What Makes a Good Blog?

Week of Jan 28-31

OCEAN SEA SQUIRTS (Monday)

Playing with Words Inquiry Group ~ January 28

This week we played a crazy game. We rolled a giant DIE and then pulled words from books, threw magnetic letters at a white board, pulled out story cards, and did other things to generate words for our nutty story about Grandpa going wild on an airplane with a kitty.


OCEAN SEA URCHINS (Tuesday)

Writing Club Focus Group ~ January 29

We moved our group to the first time slot of the day, and had a wonderful session. We could still use more secretarial support; we have Phoebe which helps tremendously. Everyone should now be able to view and comment on everyone else's stories through their Google Accounts. This includes Gaby, who is back in Guatemala. Take some time to read your friends' stories! Zoe finished hers today. Huzzah! 

Gamer and Fan Fiction Focus Group ~ January 29

 

This week, everyone was here. We unleashed dragons and more dragons, Girihim has released monsters, and the Minecrafters are planning how to lure a dragon out of Minecraft, ride it into battle, and then, hopefully, get the rest of the dragons (including Saphira, Smaug, a Basalisk and a Hungarian Ridgeback) to follow them through a portal into Minecraft and away from the school. We think Sue will be using her plastic baseball bat on the bokoblins, batting them toward dragons like popcorn. It was a day of a lot of planning and a little writing.

Here's some of what we wrote today: 

 

With a shrieking and tearing of paper, Smaug rose from the pages of The Hobbit, The Norweigian Ridgeback and the Basilisk burst from the Harry Potter collection, and suddenly, the room was a raging swarm of furious dragons, books tumbling from the shelves and spilling their contents into the room.

 


OCEAN GROUPERS (Wednesday)

Grouper Focus Group: Blogging ~ January 30

This group will begin by looking at student blogs. The homework for this week is to find the URL of one student-generated blog that you really like. Next week, we will look at what makes a good blog. We will all reply to one post of the blog we selected. We will look at the different blog platforms and determine what kind of content we are interested in generating for our own blogs. I will post links to the blogs that we select on this page, and eventually we will make an Ocean Bloggers Webpage.

Here are some blogs I like:

From the Edublog winners in the sidebar to the right

From one of my homeschool writing students

A homeschooler who I found through Stone Soup magazine (comic blog)

My favorite math doodler (video blog)


New Wednesday Focus Group: Blogging

This group will look at and respond to student blogs from around the world. We will explore several ways to design and set up blogs. We will engage in writing activities to help each student begin to create high quality content, themes, and a purpose for his or her own blog. We will begin to design and post content to our blogs and respond to one another. We will promote blogs from around the world on our blogs. We will promote one another's blogs. We will investigate going live to the rest of the world with our blogs. We will design at least one Google Site as well. 

            Second Semester 2013           


Week #13


OCEAN SEA SQUIRTS (Monday)


Playing with Words Inquiry Group ~ January 14

Last week we experimented with words we could make from the letters of all our names combined. This week, we investigated the words we could make from Theoden's name. Each of the kids had his or her own set of post-it note letters (different colors for vowels and consonants) of his name. Theoden liked knowing that he can be ten, teen, ot; he can nod, say "no," be a hen, live in a den, and of course, be "the end." Lots more.. they all took home a word as well. 

 

OCEAN SEA URCHINS (Tuesday)


Writing Club Focus Group ~ January 15

The girls continued to work on their stories today. We have many dragons, loads of trouble, and extensive dialogue unfolding through a wide range of stories. I will be offering some editing services and will be sharing the documents with everyone in the group.

They want to read and listen to one another's stories, but they also want time to write. By sharing their Google Docs with their club members, they can share the stories at home. I may combine their work into a Writing Group Blog, and we will definitely have an Author's tea to share their work with a wider Ocean audience.

This group will continue during second semester, and we would love to have some extra secretarial support. If anyone is available from 9:30-10:20 (our new group time) to scribe for our young authors, it helps them get more of their stories from their heads to the page. Please let me know if you might be able to help.

Gamer and Fan Fiction Focus Group ~ January 15

Today we did loads of planning, but didn't get much further in the actual writing of the story. We are deep into many plot threads, and got a bit tangled!  We welcomed Ari into our group the minute he arrived. He came to Ocean for a visit and within moments was a fellow collaborator, full of plans and ideas. We even decided how to bring him into the building action of our tale: as Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone flies off the bookcase (when the Drakon's tail lashes wildly across the shelves), we will unleash a "book within a book" from Hagrid's Care of Magical Creature's class. 

The book, about how to train dragons, will fly out of the library just as the roof of the building is torn off (still not written!). In that moment, Ari and his mom will be arriving. Seeing the dragons raging, the building in ruins, hearing the sound of battle and chaos, his mom will be having sudden second thoughts about Ocean. But as she's about to drag Ari away, the book about dragons will land on his head. The Creeper blood flying from the end of Kief's sword will allow Ari to transform into a dragon trainer.

This is good news, as we seem to be planning to liberate all the dragons we can think of from where they are currently hiding within stories on the fantasy shelf—Saphira, Smaug, the Basalisk, the Drakon, perhaps a many-headed Hydra and more will join the battle on the field. Wands, of course, will scatter from Harry Potter as well, so Percy Jackson (Alex) and others may be able to grab one as they are air-lifted to the battle. We aren't sure who might get Ron's wand. Oh my! That could have dire consequences!

Meanwhile, Kief and Strider will begin crafting more diamond swords, bows and arrows, and armor to fight off the Endermen pouring through the Minecraft portal. Just as Herobrine emerges, Ellis, as the evil Girahim, will attack Brian. Sue, still frozen in time, will find her life in peril, and V'Lad, still in Creeper form, will head toward the history section.

This group will continue through the second semester, though we will meet during the second Focus Group. They will go to Science first thing on Tuesdays.

OCEAN GROUPERS (Wednesday)


Documentary Narrative and Interview Focus Group ~ January 16

Today was our final class. The Solar Panel Documentary will continue into next semester, and we may yet venture to the Boardwalk when the Undertow is being constructed to get new footage as well as B roll. This footage will be available if anyone decides to continue with this project at a later time.


Week #12


OCEAN SEA SQUIRTS (Monday)

Playing with Words Inquiry Group ~ January 7

Today we will solve riddles using the letters in all of our names. We will read some more of The Boy Who Loved Words and we will tuck more words into our hats, socks, sleeves, and pockets.


OCEAN SEA URCHINS (Tuesday)

Writing Club Focus Group ~ January 8

Today we will write! If time, we will share any VoiceThread that Deb has created. We will share the docs. with eachother.

Gamer and Fan Fiction Focus Group ~ January 8

Today we will battle dragons and the Drakon will tear the roof off the library!


OCEAN GROUPERS (Wednesday)

Documentary Narrative and Interview Focus Group ~ January 9

Things on the list for Solar Panel Group:

  1. Write thank you email/card to Keith and arrange next interview/filming opportunity with Erica (engineer) and/or at their next Wednesday morning meeting.
  2. Arrange interview with Lisa Dilles (Green Acres Principal).
  3. Arrange/request interview with Tamra Taylor (Superintendent)
  4. Get footage of work done over winter break
  5. Upload and review all footage
  6. Make a Trailer for my January meeting with DLT

Things on the list for Boardwalk Documentary:

  1. Review any iMovie project so far
  2. Review footage of dismantling
  3. Review articles, photos, and historical materials
  4. Begin to develop storyboard
  5. Make a Trailer for my January meeting with DLT

Things on the list for Uploading Footage, Harddrives, and Clearing Devices:

  1. What is on iPads and is it on all four MacBook Pros?
  2. What is on the Flip Cameras and is it on all four MacBook Pros?
  3. Upload or transfer this (how much?) footage to all three small hard drives so that we have footage for any new iMovie projects on other computers?
  4. Clear the iPads and Flip Cameras
  5. Develop Written/Screencast Protocols for doing all of this that is better managed in the future.

Week #11


OCEAN SEA SQUIRTS (Monday)

Today with the Squirts ~ December 17

Another delightful  time! We had our Continent of Consonants and our Volcano of Vowels (this time with an actual Volcano, with the red Y's sliding down the sides, ready to flip over when they hit the table and become green Consonants). The kids played with the letters on the table, trying out different combinations. I set up a game using all our letters on magnets that we never even got to! Ah well, next week.

We played with tongue twisters (began to learn How Much Wood Would a Wood Chuck Chuck, if a Wood Chuck Could Chuck Wood?

We found rhymes for the kids' names (some of them!). We decided they could take things home if they rhymed with their names. Cory was easy. A story! Yep. Cory got all the glory. But she didn't want the story to be gory.

Ellwyn argued the Erin was a good enough rhyme for her, and she DID want to take her home. Rosa realized that it would be tricky to take home Mariposa,  even if she was sposta, because she wasn't in class today. Ella was delighted with the idea that she could take home Bella, and Jasper looked skeptical when I pointed out that he would be able to take home Casper. "Really, you'd like it!" I pointed out. "You have things in common." He didn't seem to believe that he could help himself to another whole kid just like that. Maybe his backpack was already full...

We couldn't come up with anything for Theoden, except that IN THE END, Theoden could Always Win. Ellwyn pointed out that she has Win in her name. Ha! Theoden could take home Ellwyn. Hmm. That should work... they rhyme, don't they? But it isn't satisfying... maybe because we weren't matching all the sounds? Zounds! Next week we'll start to talk about and count syllables. Every one of them has a vowel sound, so we should be able to hunt them down by noticing when our mouths open. Rhymes like to match all the syllables. Every syllable is fillable. 

We realized that this rhyming business was really not that exciting with names, which can be sort of difficult to rhyme with things other than... names. Unless, your name is Cory, cause then it's a different story.... or Niall. He can walk a mile, for a while, in style! And he could take home a smile. Once again, even though he's not in our group, his name made it into our group's.... NAME GAME.

We tried to say each name with only consonants. It was flat and hard, trying to make words without opening our mouths, sort of like how the Consonant Continent was spread out on the flat, hard table. The Volcano of Vowels allowed us to howl. We could open our mouths, like how the earth opens its mouth with an erupting volcano. Then, we sang everyone's name. Yep. The vowels let us sing! (Oh, and wail. And scream...).

We read the first bit of The Boy Who Loved Words and everyone had me jot down a word or two on lovely paper. They decorated their words (to tuck into pockets, sleeves, shirts, socks, boots, or hats) and...

We ran out of time! Off they ran with their words. We didn't even get to sing another round of Apples and Bananas. Oh well, next week!

During the snack break, Theoden immediately made a book of words. He put his decorated words from the group (Nature and Money) in it. Later, at share, he was telling me about the dinosaur he discovered called a Theosaurus. I asked him if he knew about a book of....WORDS called a Thesaurus. We must make sure to show him one! Yep, this is very, very fun. 

Playing with Words Inquiry Group ~ December 17

This week, we will have lots of fun! WIth the letters in our collection (from our first names), we will find some words, make up some words, and probably read: The Boy Who Loved Words. Each child will choose a favorite word to hang on our word tree or to throw to the wind. We may make a poem or a song from some of our words. 

We will, sadly, run out of time long before we are ready!


OCEAN SEA URCHINS (Tuesday)

Writing Club Today ~ December 18

Today we got a bit of a late start. We invited Gaby to join us, and got everyone logged in to their Google Docs. It's still a little bit new for most of the girls, so it takes a bit of time. We then took a little time for Aliya and Gloria to continue to read more of their hilarious story to the group. Zoe also read more of hers to some of the group while Shayla got to work with Priscilla, Sabrina had me to be her writing assistant, and Molly added to her story under her own power.

I can't say what is happening in most of the stories, but Sabrina just plummeted from the sky and crashed into the mysterious island where the dragons have her held hostage until she finds their missing gem. She's unconscious at the moment! 

We did not, of course, do a thing with VoiceThread. I am clearly mistaken about our priorities! This group simply wants the time to write and share their stories.  So, even though they all have a VoiceThread account now, I may need to record audio versions of their stories and set up the forum for them.... I have to say, though, that hearing Aliya and Zoe read their stories aloud today confirms that it's their voices we want to hear in the Voice Thread, not mine.  

They all asked that we use the story time at lunch to read their stories aloud... so after James and the Giant Peach, move over Roald Dahl! We have authors galore creating magnificent stories. I suspect we'll need to have an authors' tea later this year! Oh, and through Google Docs, I'm going to see if we can keep Gaby involved in the writing club from Guatemala when she returns there after the semester break. 

Please help them work on their stories in the interim between our short sessions. They all have such strong authorial voice, such terrific imaginations, and such a passion for creating stories. Google Docs allows for amazing connection between co-authors, between author and writing coach (parent or teacher), and between writers and their writing club audience. We are just beginning to dip our toes into this vast Ocean of possibility.This coming weekend, I hope to add my commentary right inside their Google Docs.

Writing Club Focus Group ~ December 18

This week, as promised last week, we will put our stories onto VoiceThread and practice making comments: one specific thing we really like, and one idea for the author. We will continue to write.

Gamer and Fan Fiction Today ~ December 18

Today we missed Kief! We did a great deal of planning and wrote a little more than half of Chapter 5. We've left the boys facing three fairly small dragons. Several of the kids are transforming into villains, although we are working out ways for that to end up being a good thing. Very tricky! Sue is frozen, Alex is finally Percy Jackson, and the battle is underway.

Sadly, the library at Ocean is about to face flames, flood, horrible battles, exploding ice, and an über-villain called "Demise," who will possibly help them defeat the Drakon that is soon to rip the roof off the building with several of our students, in their good and evil manifestations, hanging from its foot. Fortunately, we will have the Kief and Strider Minecraft Crew hard at work creating diamond armor to help defend us from "Him," and we are pretty sure that V'Lad will become Captain Underpants, at least for awhile. 

Oh, how will we have time? Everyone stayed pretty focused today. Great work!

Gamer and Fan Fiction Focus Group ~ December 18

 

This week, as promised last week, Sue will be frozen by Ellis, who will be transformed into the villain, Girahim.

Alex, transformed into Percy Jackson, will battle the Drakon.

Brian will choose the transformation of his choice as books fall from the library shelves. He will probably use Ellis as a shield, able to freeze various horrific creatures, until he can get to the bookshelf. He will choose wisely, as he begins to understand what is happening.

Kief will quickly craft diamond swords and armor for himself and Strider so that they can join the battle.

V'Lad will unleash more words from books, perhaps smashing into the history section. A Gladiator or Samurai may unknowingly crash into Captain Underpants or The Diary of a Wimpy Kid in the rack which balances precariously next to books about ancient Rome, Greece, and Japan. We suspect this may not be good news.

The Epic Battle begins! All authors choosing to interrupt this epic writing task will be excused from the group by the Great Overlord.

OCEAN GROUPERS (Wednesday)

 

Solar Panel Installation: Printable Schedule with Specifics

Link to my Documentary Focus Group Google Site for this class

Documentary Narrative and Interview Focus Group ~ December 19

This week, Netta, Carly, and Tegan will write interview questions AHEAD of CLASS. I will take these three students to interview Kieth, to meet the engineer, and possibly to film their meeting! Here's the email from Kieth:

On Wed, Dec 12, 2012 at 11:59 AM, Keith Houchen <khouchen@losd.ca> wrote:

 

Greetings,
 
Your project sounds exciting. I'd be glad to meet with you and I also thought you might like to meet the Project Engineer. Her name is Ericka Wagner. We have weekly construction meetings here at my office every Wednesday from 10a to 11a. You are welcome to come by next week if you'd like. On a side note, tomorrow at Live Oak Elementary School the actual solar arrays will be going in along with some of the main structural steel. This will be happening in the morning. The area right outside Ocean will get the steel supports this Friday and the solar panel arrays next Tuesday. Feel free to email me with questions anytime.
 
Sincerely,

Keith Houchen
Director of Buildings, Maintenance, Grounds, and Transportation
Live Oak School District
960 Bostwick Lane
Santa Cruz, CA 95062
(831) 212-4862
khouchen@losd.ca
 
I have not gotten footage of any of this new work, though I encouraged the girls to go check it out on Thursday after Spectra. Some of the crew are taking photos and video. We will gain access to a CD of this after the project is completed in January. We need to look at the installation plans and see who can collect some footage. We also need to decide on who else to interview. Finally, we will need to look at how and when to continue this project after the semester break when our focus group will change. 
 
Alexander can continue to edit the footage of the interview with Brian. Hunter, Truxton, and Abe will finish uploading footage from the iPads and Flip cameras, with the plan to have most footage available and labeled on each of the MacBook Pros so that we can make movies. I have shared with Hunter a Google Doc with the protocol, and Sue will supervise while the rest of us are at the interview. 
 
If Abe knows how to collect both an iMovie project and the footage it needs as a working, not-yet rendered iMovie student project so that we can back it up on the small hard drives (one for each classroom) or so that we can transfer it to another computer, we need a screencast that walks us through the steps, or a Google Doc with screenshots similar to what I made for the Uploading Protocol. That is an alternate project for Abe. If he brings footage from his documentary, he may work on that. Please be prepared with a plan and a commitment to make good use of the Focus Group time. 
 
We have the interview with Brian and loads of footage about the Hurricane. I have a short play on film from the Squirts Theater Inquiry group that needs to be edited. We have footage from the Squirts' inclusion and how to treat one another role play skits that would make a great movie. I have footage from the teachers' film training in Yosemite that want's to become a part of a larger documentary about technology at Ocean and the grant that's been paying for it. We have footage about the train Focus Group.
 
If we make this footage available on each computer, perhaps we could create some short documentaries in the remaining weeks.
 
I thought of an interesting investigative documentary project, sparked by the (disturbing) documentary I posted on the Documentary Focus Group Google Site about the chocolate trade. I was inspired by a homeschooler (Oliver Mueller-Tuscher) to investigate and "source" chocolate almost eight years ago. Costco has a brand of chocolate chips that they claim is ethically sourced, Starbucks claims their cocoa is ethical, and several of the chocolate bars at Trader Joes say that their cacoa is ethically harvested. I was thinking we might try to contact someone from each of these stores to thank them for that effort, and to ask them how they know that the claims are true. We might also ask other stores if they know where the cacao for their chocolate comes from and if they've ever tried to "source" their chocolate.
 
So that was another overly ambitious thought!
 
 

Week #10


OCEAN SEA SQUIRTS (Monday)

Today with the Squirts ~ December 10

Today we completed the rest of the names in the group. Jasper made sure that we added the all important "s" to his best word: Robots. He wasn't going to limit the wonder and glory of having such an important letter in his name (the "R"). He decided to use Junk, Apart, Stuff, Parts, and Electricity, along with his Robots. Rosa went for the most unappetizing food choices (Rotten Old Soggy Apples), much to the delight of her friends. We also did Erin, who Eats Rodents In her Nightgown, and Ellwyn who had great fun playing with her chance to make up some nonsense words. Sadly, I can't remember the excellent outcome. 

We took all the consonants (green) and the vowels (red) from our names and spread them onto the table to make a Continent of Consonants and a Vowel Volcano. We found our letters and made our names. We let the letter Y be two-colored, so that when we use it we can decide if it's being a consonant (green) or a vowel (red) in each word. They swapped letters, made nonsense words, and then...

We ran out of time!

Perhaps best of all is that they are expanding this to the other kids during snack, asking permission for letters so that they can eat their Sandwiches or Fruit (Sofia), and when they needed an M for making things, Maude came to the rescue. Later, a whole group of kids from other Inquiry Groups made sure to figure out where to borrow an S to Sing, an R to run, and a D to dance. What fun!

Playing with Words Inquiry Group ~ December 10

We will continue the acrostics of our names, collect all the letters we have, make a Continent of Consonants and an Volcano of Vowels. From these, we will play even more games!


OCEAN SEA URCHINS (Tuesday)

WHOOPS! We are off to the Aquarium this week.... Fast Forward to next week for all this fun!

Writing Club Focus Group ~ December 11

This week we will put our stories onto VoiceThread and practice making comments: one specific thing we really like, and one idea for the author. We will continue to write.

Gamer and Fan Fiction Focus Group ~ December 11

This week, Sue will be frozen by Ellis, who will be transformed into the villain, Girahim.

Alex, transformed into Percy Jackson, will battle the Drakon.

Brian will choose the transformation of his choice as books fall from the library shelves. He will probably use Ellis as a shield, able to freeze various horrific creatures, until he can get to the bookshelf. He will choose wisely, as he begins to understand what is happening.

Kief will quickly craft diamond swords and armor for himself and Strider so that they can join the battle.

V'Lad will unleash more words from books, perhaps smashing into the history section. A Gladiator or Samurai may unknowingly crash into Captain Underpants or The Diary of a Wimpy Kid in the rack which balances precariously next to books about ancient Rome, Greece, and Japan. We suspect this may not be good news.

The Epic Battle begins! All authors choosing to interrupt this epic writing task will be excused from the group by the Great Overlord.


OCEAN GROUPERS (Wednesday)

Solar Panel Installation: Printable Schedule with Specifics

Link to my Documentary Focus Group Google Site for this class

Documentary Narrative and Interview Focus Group ~ December 12

This week, Alexander will continue his transcript of the content of the Interview with Brian. We will discuss ideas for how to tell a story from these bits, experiment with moving them around, planning B roll, etc. Hunter will begin documenting the process and protocol for uploading footage from the cameras, and of clearing the devices. We will decide how many places we need to put footage to encourage editing options. Carly, Netta, and Tegan will get new footage (we may take a short field trip) and will review the footage I will try to get on Monday and Tuesday. They WILL PLAN and REQUEST AN INTERVIEW WITH KEITH!!!! Abe and Truxton will be gainfully employed in projects of their choosing. 

SOLAR PANEL INFORMATION:

 

Dec. 6, 2012
Greetings,
 
Attached is the latest 3 week schedule for the Solar Project. In a nut shell here are the high points + :
 
Steel erection begins next week, SLMS, LO, GA, DO(Ocean), then Del Mar.
Panel unit installation follows the next day in the same order.
EXPECT PARKING, DROP OFF & PICK-UP CONFUSION!
Electricians will continue to be on the sites connecting the wiring, before, during and after the above.
The lighting upgrade is slated to begin 12/17 or 12/26. Lighting work will happen over the Christmas break and probably into the new year for a week or two. After the break lighting work will happen after school and into the evening.
 
THE TENTATIVE DATES FOR PG&E CROSS CONNECTIONS ARE:
 
SLMS, Saturday January 5, 2013
Live Oak, Saturday January 12, 2013
Green Acres and DO/Ocean, Saturday January 19, 2013
Del Mar and Cypress, Saturday January 26, 2013
 
We are still waiting conformation from PG&E on these dates. The cross connections can only be done on a Saturday. Power will be off for the whole day. Please tell your staff not to come in on these dates.
 
If anything changes I will notify everybody ASAP. As always, if you have any questions email me.
 
Thanks,


Week #9


OCEAN SEA SQUIRTS (Monday)

Today with the Squirts ~ December 3

My new Playing with Words Inquiry Group was very excited and engaged today. We had Cory, Rosa, Ella, Jasper, Erin, Theoden, and Ellwyn. We ONLY played with names, making acrostics with some of our names (we didn't finish!), coming up with great words, ideas, and silliness. We began a collection of vowels and consonants (we may make a continent of consonants) from the names we explored so far. We'll use the collection to make words later. 

We declared that the letters in your name give you the power to eat, use, and do things that start with those letters. Cory can eat candy, but Ellwyn has to ask Cory first. Then again, Cory can't eat the candy until she borrows an "E" from Ellwyn (or Erin or Ella... or Jasper or Theoden, too!). We were grateful for Jasper, so they could get permission to go play, and we discovered that Niall, who isn't in our group, IS in Erin's name. Theoden has himself, Heather, Ellwyn and Dad in his name, but today he decided to use his letters for food. He'll be having tea, hamburgers, and.... EVERYTHING DELICIOUS. Or EVERYTHING EDIBLE. He wasn't too keen on just everything when we pointed out that this would include chairs and shoes, planets, stuff like that. 

We had a terrific time!

Playing with Words Inquiry Group ~ December 3

Starting this week, in addition to my Literary Theater Focus group each week where I read stories and we act them out, I will begin Playing with Words as a new Inquiry with the Squirts. Depending on who signs up for the group, we will engage in a variety of word games, puzzles, storytelling, and writing activities. This will be a celebration and investigation of language, of word and story making, un-making, re-making, and sharing.

The first day we will play with our names, we will celebrate some of our favorite words, and we will make up some nonsense words. We might create a story or a poem together, and we might label things in the room or on one another with post-its. We might have a scavenger hunt as well!

I'm reading Your Child's Writing Life: How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity, and Skill at Every Age by Pam Allyn. It is wonderful, wonderful! 

I'll keep you posted here about the group!


OCEAN SEA URCHINS (Tuesday)

Writing Club Today ~ December 4

Everyone worked on stories today, and then we got to read some aloud. These stories are wonderful, original, funny, surprising, and crafted with voice. This is a fun group. We didn't practice feedback today, I didn't mention strong verbs or alliteration or simile ~ and they didn't seem to need it. I did set them up on VoiceThread but I didn't even tell them about it yet. Maybe I can set them up fo use it from home as a way to leave comments for one another and otherwise have some fun. 

Writing Club Focus Group ~ December 4

I'm reading Your Child's Writing Life: How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity, and Skill at Every Age by Pam Allyn. It is wonderful, wonderful! 

Last week, we got the rest of the girls signed up with Google Docs. They all worked more on their stories and then... we ran out of time!

The plan for this week is for the girls to share their writing with one another. Here's what I said about that last week... which either makes me behind or ahead, depending on how you look at it!

 

"The girls will share what they have written so far in class. We will practice finding one thing we really like, trying to be specific, for each reader. I will point out strong verbs, opening hooks, dialogue, and simile this week. They will all practice getting to their work from different computers. They will keep working on their stories."

 

We may also finally sign up to try out Voice Thread as a way for them to give feedback. Or, we'll run out of time and still have a plan for next week. We're having fun, and very grateful to Joy (and last week, Priscilla) for their "writing slave" time! 

Gamer and Fan Fiction Today ~ December 4

Today we finished Chapter 3! We are a wild bunch, so I began excusing anyone from the group who can't focus or who is distracting anyone else or making too much noise. They are welcome to draw, move around, build with Lego, but not if it gets in the way of our work on the story. We are creating a story that is rich with adventure, imminent peril, all of the authors, and their favorite game and literary characters, monsters, and weaponry. Even the words of the books can fly out and strike them in the face, Who can resist a line like this: 

Kief spun toward Sue, grinning with glee, the sparkling sword grasped tightly in his upraised hand. In that moment, two things happened that would change everything.

 

Gamer and Fan Fiction Focus Group ~ December 4

 

I'm reading Your Child's Writing Life: How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity, and Skill at Every Age by Pam Allyn. It is wonderful, wonderful! 

Last week the boys worked a bit more on the story and we added Ellis. We are just about at the end of the second chapter. This coming week, we hope to complete the third chapter. That will most likely take us through what we actually have planned out and into brand new territory. 

I have invited each of the boys to take a "portal" home with them. This means that they imagine this portal will open between some specific place at home and whatever fictional world they choose. They are meant to follow the portal and see what comes out, or what happens when they go in. V'Lad lead the way with a spectacular example, and we look forward to any and all epic tales that they want to share. 

OCEAN GROUPERS (Wednesday)

Documentary Narrative and Interview Focus Group ~ December 5

Last week we mailed Carly's amazing thank you letter to Brian. Netta figured out how to use my new tripod. Alexander began to create notes about the content and time code for the video of our interview with Brian. Abe messed with some silly video and began making a short mocumentary. 

This week, the SOLAR PANEL group needs to write their interview request and questions, and to go to the district office to ask who is spearheading the solar panel project and how to contact them. Alexander will continue his work with the interview footage. All others MUST work on short film projects or continue uploading footage in an organized manner. 


Week #8

OCEAN SEA URCHINS (Tuesday)

Writing Club Focus Group ~ November 27

Last week we got most of the writers signed up with Google Docs. This means that from their school gmail account, each of them can access the story or stories from any computer with internet access, they can share the story with other students in the group, and the changes will be saved automatically, as will the revision history.

We will complete that transition to Google Docs this week, and the girls will share what they have so far in class. We will practice finding one thing we really like, trying to be specific, for each reader. I will point out strong verbs, opening hooks, dialogue, and simile this week. They will all practice getting to their work from different computers. They will keep working on their stories.

Next week I will sign them up for VoiceThread with their school gmail accounts. 

https://voicethread.com/register/

http://ed.voicethread.com/?#q.b409.i848804

All the girls benefit from working collaboratively, either with a partner, a typist or a supportive coach. 

Gamer and Fan Fiction Focus Group ~ November 27

The boys are well into their story. We began illustrations last week. This coming week, we will continue with illustrations and try to write one more chapter.

All of the boys benefit from rich, side-along writing coaching. This involves typing or writing for them, and asking questions. What did you see? What did you hear? What did you smell? What did he say to that?

You can help them slow down, mostly through asking questions. We want "show don't tell" storycraft. They need us to facilitate for them. I have terrific tools to share for at home fluency practice, but this class focuses on authorship. They have wild stories to tell, true and fictional. 

OCEAN GROUPERS (Wednesday)

Documentary Narrative and Interview Focus Group ~ November 28

Alexander will work to listen to the interview footage (with Brian) and take notes (including timecode). He will research images and footage to use as B roll with the interview, and identify the best bits. I recommend index cards to organize the narrative.

Netta, Carly, and Tegan will get new footage of the solar panels. They will review the footage Sue got, the sound, and take notes on index cards. They will set up an interview!

Abe, Hunter and Truxton will either work on footage from the Ocean Documentary, or they will assess footage that we have so far and determine what kind of spoof documentary they can pull off. They will assist with uploading and organizing footage as part of the process.

Notes
Calendar

Homework #5 for essay focus group #1 WEDNESDAY

Groupers (due 3/5)

Today we reviewed QERMT and how to RESPOND to the text of an OPINION ESSAY. First, we compared an OPINION essay (Dr. Frank N. Stein on Monster Neck Bolts) with a RESPONSE to an OPINION ESSAY (about Dr. Ack U. La on human curfews).

Quotation (In her article "Night Life," Dr. Ack U. La argues that, "Human life is brutish and short.")

Explain (La argues that human life is of vastly less value than the life of a vampire, and that we should want to be bitten)

Reason (She believes that a short, mortal life restricted to daylight is boring and pointless)

My Opinion (La's racist views are about subjugating humans and her skewed logic is dangerous)

Tie Back (Therefore, we should continue to monitor Dr. La's articles in which she will say the unsayable, argue the unsupportable, and recommend the unthinkable. We need to keep tabs on her ridiculous assertions so that humans can better understand the fringe delusions of the Vampiric world and better protect ourselves from them).

Homework: 

  1. Select or invent a fictional or historical person.
  2. State an opinion this person would hold, and at least one reason for that opinion.
  3. Express this opinion in the person's own words, using quotation marks. 
  4. Attribute the quote (the author, using full title the first time, and last name only thereafter, AND the source ~ book, website, article name, report, study). Use academic language: asserts, claims, reports, believes, states, denies, argues...
  5. Write your explanation of what the author means (La asserts that becoming vampires would be a vast improvement for humans because human life is cheap and meaningless).

Please give this a try, or do something that you believe is BETTER practice for you. Some extensions of this assignment include:

  • Do the same for two or three fictionalized quotes from the paper or article that you are "responding" to.
  • Write an opinion essay in the voice of this person, making the assertion, arguing this opinion.
  • Write the full RESPONSE essay, as if the person you've selected really DID write an opinion essay.
  • Write an opinion essay of your choice.

I encourage you all to try SOMETHING. Practice will make a difference. 

FORMulaic Writing ~ A Google Form to Write your Essay Draft

Try writing your own BASIC (aka ZOMBIE) essay using this form. It should automatically send you an email of your rough draft essay. Remember, if you use NO CAPITALIZATION for the beginning of your entries, and no punctuation, you'll have less to correct in the draft. Generally, though, you'll need to change the first letter of the whole essay into an upper case letter. 

If you begin with a name or the word I, capitalize it!

Homework #3 for essay focus groups TUESDAY

Urchins (due 2/11) "The Zombie Essay Club"

 

For any topic of your choice (it can be the one you did for Homework #2), put the essay together. IF YOU LIKE, you can use the following SKELETON. We will work with it more in class so that you better understand what I mean. The image of the skeleton above (here's a link) shows the words that you add to your OPINION, REASONS, and EXAMPLES in each paragraph. You can use the same "bones" over and over.

 

Paragraph #1

Opinion

BECAUSE

Reason #1,

Reason #2

AND

Reason #3

 

Paragraph #2

ONE REASON

Opinion

IS THAT

Reason #1.

FOR EXAMPLE

Example #1,

Example #2,

AND

Example # 3.


 

Paragraph #3

ANOTHER REASON

Opinion

IS THAT

Reason #2.

FOR EXAMPLE

Example #1,

Example #2,

AND

Example # 3.


 

Paragraph #4

ALTHOUGH

Opinion

BECAUSE

Reason #1

AND

Reason #2,

MOST IMPORTANTLY

Opinion

BECAUSE

Reason #3.

FOR EXAMPLE

Example #1,

Example #2,

AND

Example # 3

 

 

LOOKING FOR PARENTS

Interested in examining the impact of regular writing "coach" practices on the independent writing fluency of your kids... a great opportunity for reluctant writers or to help writers begin to revise more.

I will work with interested parents on coaching ideas, and will partner with you during the year. I'm looking to see growth in the young writers' independent writing as a result of consistent one-to-one parent coaching and support. 

If you are interested, please complete this form

Thanks!

Screen shot 2014-09-25 at 11.42.06 PM.png
 

 

Being a Writing Coach

1. You are building a writer, not a piece of writing.

2. Writing is a process; when we support kids to understand, learn, and practice the process we support them to respect the complexity of developing as a writer.

3. Developing fluency, accuracy, and craft takes time; most kids need to separate the tasks of finding words for their thoughts and getting words to the page.

4. Helping your child is a good thing; it is not cheating.

5. Becoming independently fluent, accurate, and able to craft writing for a reader is the goal, learned much like independent fluency, accuracy, and craft as a pianist or a driver. Mentoring is helpful, the process takes time, and practice is essential.

Quote of the Week

This week's quote is from Lucy Calkins, Small Moments: Writing with Focus, Detail, and Dialogue

Asking children to focus on a small moment immediately, even as they choose what to write about, will significantly improve the quality of their writing. This will help children steer clear of writing that starts at sunrise and ends with bed, with lists of activities in between.

If the children are having a hard time coming up with story ideas, still resisit giving them topics. Sure, share the kinds of topics they might choose, Small Moment stories, but leave the choice to them. How to chooses a topic is something writers must learn, even small writers...

You will also want to channel children to write words to accompany their drawings...If the child hasn't written any words, start with labels. "Who is that?" you ask, and when the child says, "Me," say, "Write that, then, so readers will know." Then fix your eyes on the paper, not noticing if the child looks into your eyes with that pleading "Help" look. Tap the page. "Just put it right here," you can say, fully confident the child can write me. Most first-graders can do this, but whatever the child does, this will show you what she can do and allow you to adapt your teaching.

Once you've coached the child to label and she has produced at least an initial letter, channel the writer to write a sentence caption under the picture as well...."Tell me what this is that you have drawn? Oh! Cool! So, just write that right here. Just write it as best you can." Then if the child writes something that looks like chicken scratch, "Look, you wrote it! Where else do you want to put some writing?"

 

What you bring to the ESSAY

 

1. The Opinion


 

2. Three Reasons for the Opinion

a.

b.

c.

 

3. Three Examples for each Reason.

a. Reason 1

example:

example:

example:

b. Reason 2

example:

example:

example:

c. Reason 3

example:

example:

example:

How the Essay Skeleton Works

Paragraph 1

Paragraph #1

Opinion

BECAUSE

Reason #1,

Reason #2

AND

Reason #3

 

Paragraph 2

Paragraph #2

ONE REASON

Opinion

IS THAT

Reason #1.

FOR EXAMPLE

Example #1,

Example #2,

AND

Example #3.

Paragraph 3

Paragraph #3

ANOTHER REASON

Opinion

IS THAT

Reason #2.

FOR EXAMPLE

Example #1,

Example #2,

AND

Example #3.

Paragraph 4

Paragraph #4

ALTHOUGH

Opinion

BECAUSE

Reason #1

AND

Reason #2,

MOST IMPORTANTLY

Opinion

BECAUSE

Reason #3.

FOR EXAMPLE

Example #1,

Example #2,

AND

Example #3

WRITING CONNECTIONS:

This column "Quote of the Week" is filled with writing about developing writers... Scroll down and down and down to read some great stuff!

Quote of the Week

Learning to Write: A Conversation With Susan Wise Bauer

By Diane Wheeler

When it comes to the teaching of writing, Susan Wise Bauer is a terrific person to talk to. As a successful author, college writing professor, homeschool mother, and conference speaker, she has a valuable perspective on what we can do to equip our eager, and not-so-eager, writing students. In our conversation, Susan offers general information on the process of learning to write, as well as advice for creative writing, SAT prep, and more.

TOS: In The Well-Trained Mind and in your writing series titled The Complete Writer: Writing with Ease, you give a full explanation of your recommendations for teaching writing. But for those who have not read your books, could you give us a short summary of your suggested approach for K–12?

Susan: Writing is a process that involves two distinct mental steps. First, the writer puts an idea into words; then, she puts the words down on paper.

In the elementary years, you should teach those two skills separately. Teach students to take ideas and put them into words through using narration; ask the student to tell back to you in his own words what she’s just read in her history or science or literature. As the young student narrates out loud, she is practicing the first part of the writing process without having to worry about the second part of the writing process: putting those words down on paper.

Separately, the student begins to master the second part of the process: putting words down on paper. This skill is developed through copywork and dictation. Copywork and dictation allow the student to master the second step of the process without having to worry about the first (and difficult) task of putting ideas into words.

Eventually, elementary students will learn that in order to write, all they need to do is put an idea into words (something they’ve practiced extensively through narration) and then put those words down on paper (which they’re accustomed to doing during dictation).

In the middle grades the student learns to organize sentences into short compositions. By now, he can put ideas he’s already read into his own words and get those words down on paper without difficulty. But until the student can begin to think about the order in which ideas should be set down, he’ll continue to struggle with written composition. So in this phase of the writing process, the student learns how to outline. Writing programs suggest all different ways for students to brainstorm for ideas: drawing webs, free-writing, clustering, and even making collages. But whatever brainstorming method the student uses, he cannot start writing until he knows in what order his ideas should be put down. The outline gives him this order.

The student’s ability to plan out and use an outline will not reach maturity until the high school years. The middle-grade years are training years—a period of time in which the student learns the skills of outline-making.

Before asking students to outline their own original ideas, the thoughtful teacher gives them plenty of practice in outlining other writing. Careful educators never ask a student to do a task that has not first been modeled; a beginner can’t do something that he has never seen done.

So between fifth and eighth grade, the student practices outlining pages from history and science (never fiction, which follows different rules). In the early stages, while the student is learning to outline, he can continue to practice writing narrative summaries. But by sixth or seventh grade, the narrative summaries will give way to a more advanced form of writing: writing from an outline.

After making an outline of a passage, the student will put the original away and then rewrite the passage, using only the outline. Then he’ll compare his assignment with the original. This is preparation for mature high school writing; before the student is given the task of coming up with an outline and writing from it, he needs to see how other writers flesh out the bones of an outline.

The persuasive expression of ideas is the central focus in high school writing. The ability to assert an opinion, and then to defend it with reason and rhetoric, is central to the teenager’s sense of himself. During the high school years, the student should learn how to come up with a thesis statement (a proposition you can defend, a statement you can prove or disprove, or an assertion that has to be supported by evidence).

He should also study rhetoric and practice the progymnasmata (exercises used in ancient and medieval rhetoric to develop skills in argumentation). Among other skills, these classical exercises teach the student how to write a variety of narratives (condensed, amplified, biographical, and more), use different modes of narrative (direct, indirect, interrogative, comparative), master the art of description, learn how to use such sentence-level strategies as parallelism, parataxis, multiple coordination, and so on.

Throughout the high school years, as he works through the progymnasmata, the student should write three to five one-page papers per week, taking his topics from literature, history, science, and his other high school courses. Every time the student has to complete a one-page paper, he has to go through the process of formulating a thesis statement, deciding on a form and a strategy, constructing an outline, and writing from it. This constant repetition is much more valuable than two or three long writing projects undertaken over the course of the year.

In the last two years of high school, students should also pursue those longer projects, completing at least two lengthy research-style papers on a topic of their own choosing. These longer papers make use of the skills developed by the short papers, and they also stretch the student toward a more detailed and complex form.

Rather than rushing to push children into more mature tasks, the progression I’ve outlined takes the time and trouble to prepare students for writing. The goal is to turn the young writer into a thoughtful student who can make use of written language rather than struggle with it.

TOS: What about getting a late start? For a child who is comfortable using a pencil (the physical act of writing) but has not been made to do copywork, dictation, or narration at a younger age, where does he start?

Susan: First, make sure that the student is able to tell you in complete sentences what he wants to write; if he can’t, you’ve got to go back and practice narration with him. Also make sure that he can write two or three sentences at a time from dictation; if he struggles, you should take some time to work on dictation. Students who can’t write from dictation often have a difficult time getting their ideas down on paper, even if they’re able to articulate those ideas in speech.

Once those basic skills are in place, start teaching outlining. Every student should practice outlining and rewriting before moving on to high school composition exercises.

TOS: Talk about the importance, or lack of importance, of creative writing in the life of a student.

Susan: After more than fifteen years of teaching writing at all levels (including university students), I’m convinced that creative writing isn’t necessary for all students. Everyone should learn basic expository writing, but learning to write imaginatively isn’t a skill that you have to have in order to lead a satisfactory adult life.

There are many students (I think a lot of them go on to careers in engineering and computer programming) who simply don’t operate like creative writers. Asking them to write creatively requires them to work against their natural gifts. They easily grow frustrated and begin to identify the entire task of writing with this mysterious “being creative” that they just can’t seem to figure out.

So if students want to write creatively, let them. If not—don’t push it.

TOS: What advice do you have for a parent with a student who does have a serious creative writing interest? Are there contests, publishing venues, or writing curricula that you would recommend to strengthen a gifted writer?

Susan: If a student is anxious to take a creative writing course, there are several I’d suggest trying out: the Wordsmith series for middle-grade students, the One Year Adventure Novel for middle-grade students or high school students (one of my sons did this course and got quite a lot from it), and Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel and accompanying workbook for advanced high school students. Probably the best strategy for young students is to write as much as possible and exchange stories with friends, so that they can begin to get the experience of seeing readers react to what they’ve written.

TOS: What importance should parents place on preparing their students for the SAT test’s writing component? How much do colleges focus on that portion of the test?

Susan: You should put about the same importance on it as on preparing for other sections of the SAT—which is to say, it’s worth spending some time on, but don’t assume that a high score on the test has anything to do with writing ability (or vice versa). Doing well on the test will make college admissions easier. That’s the only reason to prepare for it.

The writing section of the SAT is graded by scores of high school teachers all over the country, each of whom is given a copy of a rubric and told to evaluate the essays. The rubric rewards multisyllabic vocabulary, predictable structure (after all, the essay topics are all on subjects which “require no previous knowledge”). The grading is uneven and unpredictable. So get an SAT prep book, learn how to write an SAT essay, and do your best—but don’t confuse the ability to do so with real writing achievement.

As far as how much weight colleges put on that score—it’s difficult to say. I know that many admissions officers have deep concerns about how useful the test is, but how it’s treated as part of an application is obviously going to vary from school to school. The best thing any student can do is to include an excellent real writing sample with the college application.

TOS: And finally, what is the status of your writing curriculum? And how is the writing project of a lifetime, The History of the (Whole) World, progressing?

Susan: I’m working hard on the first level of our middle-grade writing program, along with an accompanying grammar handbook. And I’m spending the rest of my time researching the history of the Renaissance world. I don’t dare give a delivery date for either—but believe me, I’m anxious to finish both.

TOS: I am sure that both will be well worth the wait. Happy writing, Susan, and thank you for helping us in our work as writing instructors.

Sidebar:

For further reading, I recommend perusing Susan’s blogs:

• The History of the (Whole) World is Susan’s blog documenting the “progress in writing, revising, sending to my editor, re-revising, fact-checking, galley-reading, and promoting a four-volume history of the world” and can be found here: http://www.susanwisebauer.com/blog/.

• Susan also has a blog at The Well-Trained Mind website (www.welltrainedmind.com/blog); this blog focuses on different aspects of implementing a classical education at home.

• And you can always find Susan’s materials for history and writing at Peace Hill Presshttp://www.welltrainedmind.com/store.

Diane Wheeler lives in Placerville, California, with her husband John and their family. She enjoys reading, cooking, photography, and coffee. Diane blogs at acircleofquiet.blogspot.com.

Copyright, 2011. All rights reserved by author.

Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, Winter 2010-11.

Used with permission. Visit them at www.TheHomeschoolMagazine.com and view a sample copy of the magazine.

Quote of the Week

This week's quote comes from Julie's Daily Writing Tips by Julie Bogart

Revise your understanding of revision!
  • Frustrated with your child's reaction to your comment on your child's writing?    
  • Wondering why the writing doesn't improve after you are clear about what needs to happen next or next time?    
  • Wishing you could eliminate the tears or reduce the tedium of the revision process?
I know how you feel.
 
I remember staring across the table at my sweet oldest son Noah utterly exasperated that he wouldn't write. I felt disrespected and couldn't understand why all those words that I knew were inside of him could come out in conversation but not in his writing.
 
Worse, when I'd give him ideas of how to make his writing better, he would stare back at me blankly... as if the words I had just spoken were in Chinese!
 
We both wound up in tears, on a few occasions. 
 
I thought to myself: 
 
I'm a writer. I know how to do this! 
Why can't I get it across to my bright, verbal, son?
 
Then one day, I realized I had it all backwards.
 
Noah didn't need lectures or red ink. 
 
He didn't need pressure or even my good ideas.
 
He needed a partner! 
He needed conversation. 
He needed an ally.
 
In fact, he needed to experience the true revision process. That process wasn't about punctuation or spelling. Rather, when I took a closer look at my own writing, I realized that when I revised my writing, I was engaged in a process of:
 
Creative Re-imagination
 
I couldn't help Noah write until he caught a glimpse of how it felt to revise-how it feels on the inside! I had an advantage. As a writer, I knew what true creative re-imagination feels like. But not all parents do. 
 
Once Noah caught on, writing became a meaningful and satisfying activity for both of us. I wanted other parents to have that experience. I set about writing materials that focus on developing those skills in the parent so that they can be made manifest in their kids.
 
Revision, not editing
In Brave Writer, we separate the concepts of revision and editing. Revision is "casting new vision" for the original piece of writing. It's a "re-imagining" of the original content. 
 
You have what you want to say, now you consider all the various ways it can be said. 
 
Your freewrite/draft is the jet stream of thought. It's all of it rushing out of the writer onto the page willy-nilly.
 
* Revision is not, now, taking that freewrite/draft and fixing commas or identifying run-on sentences. It's not addressing tone or spelling mistakes. Those practices fall under the category of "copy-editing." 

 

* Revision is that drastic over-haul of the original that literally changes the draft sometimes so completely, the original is hardly recognizable in it any more (except maybe some sentences or the germ of the idea).

 

* Revision is where you hunker down and look at specific thoughts expressed insufficiently in the draft, and then determine how to expand them, how to enhance them, how to deepen the content or insight or facts-basis.

 

* Revision IS writing. In fact, most writers would say that revision is the craft, is the heart of being a writer.

 

What we parents do wrong
What I find is that parents tend to skip this part of the process. They move right to editing and call it revision.
 
When asked to give revision notes or support, parents draw a blank or they praise what's good or they give general comments like, "Be sure you think about your audience" or "It's a good idea to make sure your points are in a solid sequence."
 
General feedback isn't helpful to writers. What helps is to become a child's creative partner. What you want to do, what you need to learn how to do, is to create a dynamic partnership of idea generation. 
 
For instance, you might see a flat-footed opening line (note: they are all flat-footed in the first draft - it's completely rare that the first line stays the same in well revised writing). 
 
Your job isn't to point out that the sentence is flat-footed or could be revised. It isn't to assign the task of making it better to your child. It's literally to brainstorm ideas for improvements with your child. 
 
Let's say the child is writing about white water rafting, you might try something like this:
 
"I wonder how we can make this opening line grab the reader's attention. Let me think, let me think. What if we start with the experience. Let's get in the boat. Are you in it? What's happening now? Close your eyes. What do you see? Blue? What shades?"
 
You're jotting things down as they come out of your child's mouth.
 
Then you say, 
"How about the water? I can imagine there's a spray. Is there? Yes? Where did it hit? What is a water spray like? Does it remind you of anything? Oh good one! The spray of a garden hose when your brother aims it at you.Yes! Let's jot that down."
 
You're wool-gathering. You're collecting images, experiences, thoughts, curiosities, comments, ideas.
 
You aren't telling the child what to do. You're helping the child think freshly about what is already on the page. You're providing the dialog partner the way you would in conversation:
"Then what happened? Oh wait, how did you get there? That must have been amazing! What did your brother say?"
 
But now, you are focused on writing and you are providing the conversational partnership that the writer, that is your child, needs. You're thinking in writing categories but having discussions about the draft (natural ones). 
 
You aren't an English teacher. 
 
You are an interested friend, partner, ally.
 
Do you see the difference? Stop the generalizations and get into conversations. Help get those words out.
 
Then, when you go back to that opening sentence, you have a selection of things to choose from that might grab the reader's attention.
 
Together, you can find the right one and write it in a way that makes magic.
 
For blocked writers, try this: 
Have the revision conversation about the original writing, but don't make any changes to the draft. 
 
Talk about the freewrite/draft:
 
---talk about what images or experiences or facts or memories correlate with the draft---
 
...and then go have brownies. 
 
Don't make a single written change to the original. 
 
Let the child have the experience of revision without the pain of re-writing. Practice revision conversations for a while, to allow the child to warm-up to the creative re-imagination process before moving to rewriting.
 
Gently lead your young writers, step by step.
 
Remember: If there are tears, the lesson is over.
 
For more help in becoming a creative re-imagination partner to your child, check out The Writer's Jungle! 
 
It is designed for homeschooling parents like you, to help you become the revision partner you always hoped you'd be.

Quote of the Week

This week's quote is from Writing With Ease by Susan Wise Bauer

Written language is an unnatural foreign language, an artificially constructed code... The rules of this foreign language must be learned by the beginning writer—and they have to become second nature before the beginning writer can use written language to express ideas. 

This is why so many young writers panic, freeze, weep, or announce that they hate to write.

Try to put yourself in the position of the beginning writing student: Imagine that you've had a year or so of conversational French, taught in a traditional way out of a textbook, with practice speaking twice a week or so. After that first year, your teacher asks you to explain the problem of evil— in French.

You're likely to experience brain freeze: a complete panic, a frantic scramble for words, a halting and incoherent attempt to express complicated ideas in a medium which is unfamiliar. Even another year or two of study won't make this kind of self-expression possible.

Rather, the conventions of the French Language need to become second nature, automatic—invisible to you—so that you can concentrate on the ideas, rather than on the medium used to express them. 

The same is true for young writers. Ask a student to express ideas in writing before she is completely fluent  in the rules and conventions of written language, and she'll freeze.

She can't express her thoughts in writing, because she's still wrestling with the basic means of expression itself.

I have become convinced that most writing instruction is fundamentally flawed because children are never taught most of the basic skill of writing, the skill on which everything rests: how to put word down on paper. 

Writing is a process that involves two distinct mental steps. First, the writer puts an idea into words; then she puts the words down on paper.

Quote of the Week

Today's quote comes from the free eBook resource Freewriting Frenzy: Help Your Kids Fall in Love with Writing by Julie Bogart (see left-hand column of this page, under Resources for Parents to link to the full PDF).

The crazy thing about writing is this:

Writing requires messy, disconcerting freedom in order for writers to grow. They need as much freedom to make mistakes in writing as they had in speaking. They need more years to make those mistakes because writing is harder than speech, and they need even more support, gentleness, and enthusiasm for their efforts.

That’s right: spelling errors should be recorded in the baby book, because they are just as adorable as those misspoken words. Your kids will learn the mundane, conventional spellings of their educated peer group eventually (I promise!). But their invented spellings will only last a few years while they get their feet under them.  Enjoy that stage of growth. Celebrate it!

Freewriting is the name of the writing method that allows kids to take those risks on paper. Freewriting is the methodology that leads to automaticity in writing—coordinating those left brain mechanical skills with the right brain language and insight generation.

When we speak, we don’t think about how to say the words or what word order to use or how to conjugate verbs. We focus on what we want to convey, giving all our attention to meaning. In writing, kids find themselves distracted by how to form the cursive ‘r’ or how to spell accompany, or whether to use a colon or semi-colon. They can be distracted from their  meaning by a cramped hand or the narrowness of the lines on the page.

Freewriting is the method that allows kids to ignore the conventions of handwriting, punctuation, and  spelling while they give their full attention to meaning generation. They get to write exactly what is in their heads (even, “I’m stuck, I’m stuck, I hate this! I wish I were  sitting on the roof of my house!”). As they get comfortable using the pencil or keyboard to act like their mouths in  speaking (the vehicle through which meaning comes), they will find that their writing sounds more and more like them. It will eventually mirror the sophistication of their oral development.

Mechanical skills can be taught using someone else’s writing (through copywork and  dictation practices – more about those in The Writer’s Jungle and on the Brave Writer website). For now, focus on freedom and liberate your kids from the drudgery of fitting into a format. To make freewriting a more meaningful experience, this product includes some  fabulous freewriting prompts and activities. Use these once a week to keep the pencils  moving. Psst. You ought to freewrite too. It makes a big difference in your ability to be supportive, compassionate, and competent in the role or editor, too.

Quote of the Week

This week's quote is from If You're Trying to Teach Kids How to Write, You've Gotta Have This Book! by Marjorie Frank

Easing into Writing... Four Tips

1. GET KIDS TALKING... about dreams or schemes or people or sounds or feelings or social issues or wild inventions... anything!... Creative talking is a stimulus to creative writing. If kids can communicate orally...  they DO have something to write. If a student thinks she CAN"T write, start with what she CAN do; often the CAN is speaking... Get the communication flowing to build the I CAN feeling.

2. BE CAREFUL NOT TO CHOKE OFF EXPRESSION OR LIMIT THINKING BY THE WAY YOU PRESENT THE ASSIGNMENT OR RESPOND TO THE IDEAS. Sometimes we say too much or give so many examples of one kind that our kids hear the message, "this is what the teacher (parent) wants" instead of "What are all the possibilities?" Begin... word-play activities in ways that leave open options for many directions. 

3. EXPRESS YOURSELF.... FREELY! ...Talk about your wild ideas. Make public your embarrassing moments, your fondest memories, your secret desires, your most haunting fears.... honesty is a very effective opener for kids' bottled up notions and feelings.

4. START WITH SHORT, FUN, NON-THREATENING BITS OF WRITING... By SHORT, I mean exercises that fit into small segments of time and end without being over-worked or dragged on until someone gets bored. By FUN, I mean possibilities with a strong kid-appeal: suggestions that challenge thinking, move along snappily, get them involved immediately, and capitalize on the natural attraction to words. By NON-THREATENING, I mean tasks that assure success for every writer or that sneak kids into writing without the fearsome anticipation of a "formal writing assignment."

Quote of the Week

Today's quote is again from Peggy Kaye, Games for Writing: Playful Ways to Help Your Child Learn to Write

When children tell stories, they let loose a stream of words and ideas. But when they write, they get self-conscious. Just like adult writers facing the blank page, children wonder if their ideas are interesting, their stories dynamic, their writing style clear. To express their thoughts on the page seems an impossible task. Some children find the challenge paralyzing. They have writer's block even before they have learned to write.

What can adults do to help in such a situation? Give the child a thousand opportunities to write. It's not necessary for children to compose full-length stories. Youngsters can write brief lists and scribble stray thoughts. Anything they write will do some good—as long as they get a few words down on paper. The more children write, the less self-conscious they become. Words flow, skills grow. In writing, as in everything else, practice makes perfect. Less than perfect is acceptable, too. 

But how to get your child to do the correct amount of practice? How to overcome the stumbling blocks of spelling, handwriting, and fear. Here is where games come in.... If you fuss about spelling or handwriting—outside of a spelling or handwriting game, that is—you will bring the fun to a halt. Your child won't want to play anymore. Will that help him to spell more proficiently or write more legibly? It will not. So let the mistakes pass.

Do you remember when your child was learning to talk? You were amused by his grammatical errors and idiosyncratic vocabulary. You didn't correct him. You sensed that a noncritical approach was the right one. It is the right approach now, too.

Writing... requires a thousand steps before the first word ever gets written down. And just as you helped your child through the steps that led to speech, you can help with the thousand steps that lead to writing.... Some of the best writing activities for young children don't involve paper or pencil at all. How can that be? To make up a story and to write it down are not the same thing, yet both are components of what we call writing....

It's a good idea to let your child dictate stories to an experienced writer such as yourself. When you do so, your child gets to see his words on paper. That's exciting! Better yet, you can read his stories over and over again.... That makes his stories just like tales in books. 

Quote of the Week

This week's quote comes from Edudemic by Jeff Dunn. (I have glanced at some of these blogs, but have not vetted them.) 

Thirty Incredible Blogs Made by Kids

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 18 months since starting Edudemic, it’s that teachers love to blog and communicate. But what about the students? Students as young as 6 are actively blogging right now... While I had a wonderfully nurturing education experience, I sincerely envy the students of today. They’re given a chance to explore and interact with fellow students from around the world with little to no effort.

That’s why I am so thrilled to bring you this must-see list of student blogs. Written by students as young as 6 and old as 14, they’ve all got something to say. These student blogs were all nominated during this year’s Edublogs awards so be sure to vote for them if you find one particularly enjoyable. Do you know of a student blog that you’d like to see added to this list? Let us know about it in the comments or on the Edudemic Facebook page!

Quote of the Week

Today's quote is from Susan Wise Bauer's Writing With Ease: Strong Fundamentals

"Using Audiobooks to Develop Language Skills: Play audiobooks (unabridged) for the child in the car, around the house, and during rest time...

Written language is different than spoken language. Allowing a child to listen to audiobooks begins to get the structure of written language into the child's mind.

It also familiarizes the child with written language which is on a more difficult level than the child is able to read. When the child encounters written language, it will resonate; he's already been exposed to it.

When he begins to write, his mind and ear will be well stocked with the structures of phrases, verbs nouns, and so on. Audiobooks prepare a child to both read and write....

...It is perfectly normal for children to struggle with the mechanical act of writing; this does not symbolize a learning difficulty (particularly for boys)...

...The two most basic skills of writing are taking thoughts and putting them into words, and then taking words and putting them down on paper, separately, until both skills are fully mastered...

If the student cries (when writing) on a regular basis, it's a sign that the writing he's doing isn't developmentally appropriate."

Quote of the Week

Today's quote is from Peggy Kaye's  Games for Writing: Playful Ways to Help Your Child Learn to Write.

"Many children have a harder time writing, and while the problems they run into are infinite—for writing itself is infinitely difficult—the problems can be summed up in three words: spelling, handwriting, fear.

Each of these can present horrendous difficulties for a child, yet each can be overcome, with the right approach.

Spelling. When it comes to spelling, English is a nightmare. There are logical languages, like Spanish, that are phonetically regular. If you can pronounce a Spanish word, you can spell it correctly. Not English.

Think of the word comb. Shouldn't it be spelled come, since it rhymes with home? Alas, come is a word that rhymes with dumb. There's that b again! You see the problem...

The best way to help your child overcome the dreadful burdens that accompany writing in English is to tell him not to worry about spelling as he writes. Encourage your child to sound out unknown words, and when your child comes up with a unique spelling, accept his inventions without hesitation. Fud for food? Yes, it's acceptable.

Many parents are skeptical on hearing this advice. They wonder how their children will ever learn proper spelling. The answer is: word by word and story by story... it is far more important to encourage a child to be a fluent writer than a good speller....

Handwriting... Generally speaking, adults should encourage children to sacrifice beautiful letters in favor of a rush of words. You should assure your child that forming graceful letters is a fine thing to do, but getting all his thoughts recorded on the page is finer still....if you let your child know that  you are proud of his efforts and delighted with the risks he is taking you will help him to enjoy writing and take pride in his own achievements."

Quote of the Week

"How your child puts together words is as singular as her fingerprint. This specific constellation of words might never be used again—get it down on paper or screen now!

No one else will see what your child sees in the same way. Praise these idiosyncrasies, the moments when your child's voice comes through in her writing, drawing and storytelling. Tell your child how much you love the way she weaves dialogue into her stories or the way she uses humor to draw in her reader.

Tell her you love that her stick figures have gigantic fingers! Let her know you love the way she made her own hair really curlicue because she has stick-straight hair and you know she's always wanted that curly, curly hair.

Praise eccentricity and be on the lookout for really unusual, outside-the-box thinking and praise it! That takes courage, to be risky on the page."

Pam Allyn, Your Child's Writing Life: How to Inspire Confidence, Creativity, and Skill at Every Age

Quote of the Week

Today's quote is from Pam Allyn, who's book Your Chlid's Writing Life I'm reading: 

"Writing foster's a child's emotional growth. Writing is a way to pay better attention to our lives and to build the confidence to trust our opinions and our voices.

Children own things that happen to them, especially difficult things, when they can express them in their own words.

Childhood can be a challenging place to navigate... when children can write about what is on their minds, they formulate thoughts they didn't know they had. They inspire others.

They control the problem or question when they try to write it down, and so it becomes more manageable to them.

...If we can teach our children from a young age that remembering, wondering, observing and imagining give them power in the world, think what we can do to help them love and honor not only their own voices but the voices of others."