Thursday, April 29, 2010

Creative Writing #8 lesson plan

Magazine headlines...
 I asked each participant to choose a number from 15 - 100. They looked in the magazines I brought, chose a headline, 4 altogether, and tried to write a story from this. It wasn't ALL I THOUGHT IT WOULD BE.

Using the speaking feather, pass around talking stick for sharing.
Mine headlines were...
  • America's treatment of bankruptcy firms
  • a spoonful of ingenuity
  • prince of the absurd
  • learn
'From this I wrote, In terms of Amercia's treatment of bankruptcy firms, we require a spoonful of ingenuity to learn from our mistakes.'

I realized that in using the Economist, we ended up with pretty dry stories. I shall have to rethink this one!

Narrative Leads & Short Story Structure

Lesson 12 – Narrative Leads from Nancy Atwell's book
This is the way to start a story.
Handout – only 3 types of leads: reaction, action, response

We read the handout and spoke about how the narrative lead has to grab the reader, and suck them into your story. You have to figure out how much to put in and how much to leave as a secret for the writer.

Lesson 32 – Atwell
Product DetailsShort story structure
•    Create a narrative lead: show protagonist (main character)
 in action, dialogue, or reaction  Introduce the main character’s character
•    Introduce the setting: time, place, relationships of main character’s life
•    Introduce and develop the problem the main character is facing
•    Develop the plot, conflict, towards a climax, e.g., decision, action, conversation, confrontation
•    Develop a change in the protagonist, e.g., acknowledgement or understanding of something, a decision, a course of action, a regret
•    Develop a resolution: how is the conflict resolved, or not?

I am so excited. I have printed our cards, and will do a first writing activity.
Use 3 AWAD cards I made, they were to create a narrative lead. I typed out a word from the daily email. Each participant chose 3 word cards, without looking, from the stack.

In addition, I asked them to choose one object from my bag of items to include in the story.

Then, they chose one character photo to include in the story.
Again, passing the talking feather, we shared.

iTunes download info

I listened to a great show, with good information on writing. It was featured on iTunes.
Several tracks with interview with best-selling novelists. Tackles the practicalities and pitfalls of writing fiction. This led to a discussion of iPods, Facebook, etc. It was interesting.

We managed to do two sessions of writing, after having a discussion of meeting timings, etc. Lots of great pieces arouse from this!


Start Writing Fiction 101 a174

If you fancy something interesting to listen to on the bus or around the house the OU is one of the first UK universities to make its podcasts available for free on iTunes U. Visit The Open University on iTunes U. There's a dedicated OU page on YouTube, once again we're the first UK university to have this arrangement with YouTube. 

The topics of this show include: How to keep going, Characters and genre, Story structure, Imaginary geometric considerations, Research, Secrets, Redrafting and editing. Excellent series.

As written previously, I use a few visual aids. Of course, I have to take this with me each time as there is no place to leave them!

 Finally, one participant suggested homework: an assignment about how this class has helped them. I hope to post it soon!

Happy writing!

Creative Writing Class #8 visual aids

I was determined to write down my thought on our class last night, before I forgot or left out details.

It was a good one, with lots of discussion. I spoke to them of iPods, iTunes, YouTube, Skype, and AWAD. It was an interesting time, as these are things unfamiliar to some.

I was speaking about what it means to me to volunteer in this capacity. Several things come to mind. Firstly, I can use 30 years of teaching skills, all accumulating towards  a better understanding of the teaching process. Plus, I have learned lots about the learning process. I have been prompted to write with them. We do not write in a void, as amateur writers, and this promotes my thinking about writing.
Next, I do not have a boss to tell me how, when, what where to teach. We can create out own curriculum in a true constructivist fashion. I can change my lesson plan, as needs be, and listen to what they need.

We are learning more about ourselves as we write together. It is a thoughtful process. I am being  more creative in all aspects of my life. I have had tons of courses and education, and I truly feel this knowledge and experience needs to be shared. There is wisdom in putting yourself out in front of a group.

The group dynamics are interesting, since participants come and go with parole, or short-term forays into the community. We are finding a shared sense of community, in which we are free to put our writing out to each other, without risk of put-downs. This kind of participation is important for a sense of security and well-being. In terms of writing we have each other's backs. All are positive and supportive of the writer and the writing process. Many amateur writers do not have this benefit. I have seen, first hand,  the benefits of support groups in many aspects: caregivers, those with medical issues (MS, Alzheimer's, etc.) as well as our bereavement group for children, and there is strength and safety in numbers.

One thing I learned to use, is a 'talking stick'. On my trip walking through Wahta, I found a hawk feather(right), which I added to the item I bought at one of the stores. (See photo above!)
The way this works is that the speaker has the feather, I need not determine who will speak. The feather is passed from person to person. Those disinclined to read a story can quietly pass it on, others remind those talking that the speaker is the only one talking. It makes my role as facilitator easier. There is the expectation, and the prediction about when the feather will come to someone's hand, and rather than me 'picking on' someone to share, there is a certain amount of personal courage for those to speak. It really transforms the group. In fact, the metal parts at the bottom jingle, and when you want someone's attention, the speaker simply has to shake it and the bells ring! It was a powerful tool for me!

But, back to my other tools. I used the 'feelings' handout (top, right), as well as posters to remind participants that you need not and should not write with a dictionary beside you. It is a process best not hampered by monkey mind telling you your writing is less than perfect.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Creative Writing Session #7

Our session this week was in a different location. We talked about how to reorganise with this in mind. No longer do we have a whiteboard. Perhaps an easel, if we need one. I was pleased that we had one man come back -he'd been absent for a few weeks. Another joined the group. I am up to 5 participants.

In the new room
How will we change? We worked out changing the times. With the late sunsets, it is not so bad driving home. I just have to be careful not to hit deer or moose on the way home in the dusk.

They are all counted at several times during my sessions, I tried working out my timing around this. We thought we would go later in the evening.

Describe your room
I asked them, first, to describe their rooms. This is interesting, as they are in an institution, and all the rooms are the same. One finished the assignment with 3 words: boring, beige...I forget the 3rd!  Of course, if they weren't incarcerated, this wouldn't happen, but I thought I might work this premise to determine how they each dealt with the assignment.

We persevered with this task, and I asked them to remember the 'S' words. Each man has uniquely placed his personality in the room by decorating it a certain way.

While they were writing, I brought out a little gift bag in which I had placed several items: keys, a small feather, a die, a medal, and so on. And I walked around the tables and had each man pull out an item, which he had to incorporate into his piece of writing. It was a hoot! It really called up some creativity from their writing.

One man's goal is to improve his narrative descriptions, his dialogues are fabulous. Another is wonderful at descriptions of surroundings, and wants to work on dialogues. We shall see!
I went around the participants, and asked for volunteers to read what they had written. As ever, unique. One began with self-depracating language, and I said it isn't a competition, that all are at different places in their writing, and that we valued all of them. 

Ways to develop character

This was a bit of a review/add on. We added some ideas: how important naming can be, as well as what we day or don't say. Point of view.


—DASH, comma, where to place "quotation marks", and the handout included some info, as well as a brief worksheet.  (See handouts, lessons 71 - dialogue, Atwell)

The really bad words

SO, absolutely, yeah, just, kind of, all, sort of, big, little, totally, completely, quite, very, definitely, really, would.... I dictated the list, and suggested that they refrain from all of these words!
Sometimes, one man pointed out, it fits for a character, but he admitted that he often finds he has used one word over and over in the course of a first draft!

Lesson 20 - Atwell

 This generated a bit of a discussion around writing with a dictionary beside you. Most do not have regular access to a word processor/computer, they must bargain with other inmates who are playing solitaire on a computer. We suggested that one writes more quickly, and the ideas flow more smoothly if you give yourself permission to do a first draft with no monkey mind controlling thoughts about the quality of the work. I prefer doing a first draft on paper, with a pen. You have to figure out what works for you, incorporating music, writing alone, writing in a group, using prompts.

I realised that not all had read their quick piece of writing and I determined to figure out how to fairly honour their wishes NOT to read their work, while pushing it as an expection. I came up with a great idea, and bought a talking feather at one of the Wahta stores. I will use it go make the passing of the sharing flow smoothly around the table, with a simple act. While I was out walking I found a red tailed hawk feather, which I added to my talking stick. How serendipitous.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Superhero Powerpoint Project

Superhero owerpoint roject

These are examples of "SuperHero Projects" my gr. 4/5 students created in 2004. I was one of the co-writers for an ECOO publication. It outlined some of the strategies for creating these projects.
Abbey Emily  Kaisa Kara Pauley Philip Jenn Jordyn

Other things to remember for PPT:
  • no more than 10 bullets per page
  • unifying content by clour and design i.e. sub-topics
  • graphics that enhance - rather than overwhelm
  • consistent backgrounds, colours and text
  • suitable font formal vs casual,
  • you can add sound, change slide transitions, make them move about!

This project is a multimedia integrative project designed to meet Junior and Intermediate Expectations. It includes activities intended to foster creativity in the areas of:
• Language Arts skill development: writing, listening and speaking.
• The Arts: Visual Arts, Music, Drama
• Technology Integration
These activities are created in a holistic, multimedia format founded on current brain research and a constructivist approach.

The educator must be careful that they do not use it too much. Teachers balance a huge curriculum and must pick and choose their opportunities.
  • Biography on an Influential Writer
  • English - Language Arts / Writing (Composition)
  • Interactive Map of South America
  • Social Studies / Geography   
  • Musical Theatre
  • The Arts / Music
  • European Influences
  • Social Studies / History
  • Venus Transit Social Studies
  • Social Studies / History   
  • Adding Hyperlinks and Navigation
  • Educational Technology / Multimedia Education  
  • Artist's Critique
  • The Arts / Visual Arts
  • Book Review
  • English - Language Arts / Literature
  • Emerging Civilizations
  • Social Studies / World History  
These lessons are all avilable on-line at Kidz On-line.
Teachers can either teach the basics, or they can send students to on-line tutorials. These are seemingly boundless! I prefer to create a simple template, which scaffolds the process. Students can take the concept as far as they can and many of my fearless students manage to figure out all the bells and whistles. It is a good way to encourage children to think succinctly. Many, when presenting projects, read the entire text. In fact, some adults do the same thing. As student participate in research projects they may better understand the rules about PowerPoInt presentations. They need to keep the text succinct; readers do not want to read paragraphs.
PowerPoint Tutorial | PowerPoint Tutorial 2 | Kidz On-line Training | PPT FAQs |

Monday, April 19, 2010

Children and art

I read an article in which he suggests that teacher do not foster creativity. I agree. Most of the art activities they prepare tend to be the same in the long run. Not me. I let the kids design their own crafts and create unique items from the materials and supplies we had on hand, often fitting with our theme of the day.

On the Importance of Creativity

Fostering Creativity in Children Through Arts

By Ashfaq Ishaq, PhD, FRSA Executive Director, ICAF

Creativity is a quintessential attribute of human beings. When combined with our ability to record and benefit from accumulated knowledge, it makes us the highest-order species on the planet. People throughout history have envisioned their surroundings in new and instructive ways, producing ideas, inventions and works of art that have radically changed life and added to our understanding of the planet and its place in the universe.

He also said,

Traditional schooling and parenting do not generally foster a child’s creativity. Limits are placed on children’s creativity by educational systems that encourage conformity and imitation in learning rather than spontaneity and creative imagination. 

“The mission of the ICAF is to prepare children for a creative and cooperative future. Creativity can be encouraged in a variety of ways, and the arts are a dynamic channel to foster a child’s creativity.” 

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Jamie Oliver has proven his point

I wrote on My Reflections page about the work Jamie Oliver, the Naked Chef, is doing in the US:
Jamie Oliver comes to the continent
It's not a bad show, another reality TV show,  with the players acting more as perfect foils to his plans to reduce obesity in children and improve school cafeteria food. (Did anyone else question this?!)

Not that it matters. His point is well-taken. Cafeterias, especially in high schools, present much of the cup and a quarter of 'veggies' as boiled in oil fries. THAT has to change. Even if parents refuse to becoome educated about this, and teens continue to abuse their bodies this way, school food must change.

Many small school in Ontario do not have cafeteria food, and hot meals at lunch, yet parents would be wise to transfer his knowledge of simple, wholesome food to the box lunches their children take to school.
Yet, many school fund-raising programs involve selling salty, oily popcorn, or pop and potato chips. This appalled me, when I was teaching, but I never made a dent in making change.

Jamie Olive, apparently, is making change in the UK. Good on him!
Here is an excerpt, read the entire article here:

Jamie Oliver's school dinners shown to have improved academic results

Absences down after chef changed junk food menu - a result which is a boost for celebrity as he struggles for US support.
He has been ridiculed by the chat show host David Letterman, accused of high-handedness by a local radio DJ and reduced to tears by recalcitrant fast food-consumers during his war on American obesity. He has even dressed up as a giant pea pod in an attempt to turn the US on to his healthy eating agenda.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Vigilance during bus duty

Young girl hit by SUV in crush of kids leaving London school
Source: London Free Press

CHILD STRUCK: One neighbour said a collision was inevitable

School. Crosswalk. Young child bleeding and screaming in pain.

The scene was gut-wrenching Thursday outside Ealing elementary school after a driver in a red SUV struck a girl leaving school.

"It hurts," the girl cried out as children gathered at a nearby corner to watch what moments earlier had been the chaos of students leaving the school.

Police weren't sure exactly what happened but shooed away a clean-up crew so they could match blood on the crosswalk with statements of witnesses.

A neighbour says a collision was inevitable along the narrow street because before school lets out parents park illegally on both sides, and when the bell rings, kids dart between vehicles.

"I'm surprised it hasn't happened before," Brenda Barfoot said.

The injured child appeared to have a broken leg and was taken by paramedics to hospital to be checked for other injuries.
This happens every day in many, many schools. Bus duty sucks. Many parents have no concept of safety, even when their own children's lives are at stake. I have seen so many close calls and parents ignoring both signage and duty teacher/principals. But they'll blame the school system for sure!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Full day kindergarten

I am dismayed.

CP24- Ontario announces $1.5 billion all-day learning for 4 and 5-year olds ...
12 Jan 2010 
TORONTO — Thousands of four- and five-year-old children in Ontario will get a better education -- and strengthen Ontario's economy -- by going to school full time this fall, Premier Dalton McGuinty said Tuesday.

I truly believe that the early years are best taught by ECE grads, not teachers. I can remember, when I took my ECE 4-year degree, student teaching in kindergartens. They truly didn't understand the play by learning approach as educators. This may have improved over the years, but young children differ so in their needs.

They need play time, snack time, circle time, and a rich environment, hot meals, good food, nap times, with language, discipline, structure and routines.

They need a teacher with experience in ECE, training in pedagogy, classroom management, discipline, all sadly lacking at the Faculties of Education. When I taught at the uOttawa, Social Studies Section of the student teacher's primary/junior program, they said that they talked about discipline in their tutorials, but not with their professors. Yes, they were taught how to teach Science and Tech, but not how to ensure that learning occurs while you manage a classroom of students with a wide range of social, emotional, physical, and behavioural disabilities.

They need time to just be. To sit, to do, to relax and interact with significant adults, as well as peers.

Kindergarteners do not need to type of art activities that many teachers create, for example. The exact same product, to show off or staple to the bulletin board. A routine governed by bells, principals, and prep time. A routine governed by the education act. They need the caring, warm environment that is easily replaced in a licenced, supervised, day care, with full-time staff that let the child develop, and incorporate home-like routines.

They need opportunities to work with clay, water, sand, scissors, paste, glue, at their own rate, in their own time. They need to role play, learn songs, stories, rhythm and rhymes in a child-centred, activity-based open concept classroom. Plus, they need a substitute caregiver who understands that play is learning, discipline and structure have its place. But most of all, we cannot force pre-reading (pre-literacy) and pre-numeracy skills down their throats.  Especially on my tax dollar. Parents, too, need affordable, licenced, trained day care providers, in a home-like setting. My pregnant daughter, with her M.Sc., is a product of full-time day care, depends upon her day care provider to be a staple balance in the village it takes to raise a child. Our granddaughter, shown in these photos, thrives in her day care program.

  • We need working parents to be able to find caregivers who can provide a safe learning environment in which these skills are not taught, but facilitated, at the speed at which the learner is able to handle them.
  • We need ECE grad who understand pedagogical practices, with sociology, psychology, and an understanding of the Key Experiences in Early Childhood.
  • We need caregivers who can manage a child in day care, who are trained, responsible, and understand ages and stages.
  • We need caregivers who understand that 'curriculum' is a dirty word in early childhood, and that the Ministry of Education cannot enforce cookie cutter learning expectations for 3 and 4 and 5-year olds.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


We created a skit, written in class time, by brain storming ideas. This skit was about sharing.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Class Clown

There is always at least one in the room!

With discipline being a marketable commodity, I worked hard at balancing the laughter and the work vs. play ethic. We were planning on making a board game, and my class clown was having issues.

For some kids, I would give them 5 paperclips. They were allowed to interject a comment 5 times in, for example, a morning. As they were about to interrupt, I would question them. "Do you really want to use your paperclip?"

More often than not, they would stop and pause. It made for lots of fun.

Learning and Memory

memory in middle age and beyond

Much has been written about how to improve your memory. With normal aging, and for those without 9 - 5 jobs, we are at risk for losing parts of our memory.

As we age, our bodies decrease the amount of the chemicals. Many hormones affect the ability of our brain to function effectively. Dopamine effects our “context processing” or our ability to process context for a thought, memory or behavior (APA, 2001).

As with muscles, we must use and work our memories. For those with dementia, basically a build up of plaque that prevents normal brain functioning, not using their brains means that they deteriorate faster.

There are differences between long-term (LTM) and short-term memory (TM). Both are required to fully function.

How do we build memory?
Memory is built from sensory information (see the graphic), and kinesthetic experiences that are held in various parts of our brain. Some new memory is associated with previous experiences, such as PTSD events that recur with familiar people, places or things. We drive a car using memory of previous experiences and training. Of course, even those who no longer drive, would be able to remember how to, just like riding a bike. These memories are deeply stored.

But, if you do not use it, you do appear to lose it! I have great fun when my adult children visit. We thrive on revisiting their youthful antics with a granddaughter around. She has learned, at 2, the names of our three cats. She has an extensive vocabulary.

Procedural memory, the how to proceed, is built over time.
Our granddaughter know that to go outside you needs boots and a coat. In group care, e.g., day care, they teach kids to be independent. Here is the means by which we teach them to put on their coats!

Here toddler, two-year-old, knows how to build toast with PB and J.

Using rhythm and rhyme paired with memory, builds in mnemonic devices. Toddlers, as in the example below, can be taught skills when rhymes are present.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Tidy up song

Transitioning between activities is more fun when singing!

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