Thursday, June 23, 2016

June 23

The opening moment for the first day of the summer session featured The Atlantic magazine’s video-interview of George Saunders, who discussed the importance of letting yourself be surprised by your story; revising as an act of love; and fiction as a means of regaining wonder, awareness, and beauty.  
Next, we did another round of introductions, sharing our names and a “bucket-list” activity we have planned for the summer, including trips to Ohio, NYC, Chicago, Tucson, Vancouver Island and the Pacific Northwest, north of Augusta, Syracuse, and the Botanical Gardens.  People also plan to get outdoors by kayaking, camping, hiking, and breakfast beach picnics at Kettle Cove.  A few of us are excited to not be working during the summer for the first time in a long time.

We followed introductions with a review of portfolio requirements to keep clear a vision of what we want to accomplish during the summer section.  A reminder: portfolio requirements are on the blog!  Also, the written piece does not have to be perfect by the time you present your learner autobiography.  Remember to include revisions and to make sure the final version is highly revised and polished.  Multigenre is OK.

Keep working on your creative piece, and remember that a reflection letter is to be written at the end of the summer course for inclusion in your portfolio.  The portfolio itself is due on Friday, the last day of the summer session (the nonfiction/position piece is NOT a part of the summer portfolio).

A sketch-and-writing-enhanced video of a talk by Sir Ken Robinson about changing educational paradigms got us started on our discussion of Graves’s Testing is Not Teaching.  The video reminds us that our current educational system based is based on the dated mores of  industrialization, arbitrary groupings, and uniform structures. Divergent thinking is limited by our current paradigm, which, partly through the mania for standardized testing, suggests there is only one correct answer to questions.  He also argues that the ADHD epidemic is fictitious; students struggle to pay attention because school is boring. We need to get back to purpose, flexibility, and collaboration.

To discuss TiNT, we used the Quiet Conversation activity.  Quotes we had selected individually were written on large pieces of chart paper around the room.  Each of us circulated, writing responses to quotations and to other responses for about fifteen minutes.  Then we each chose a single quote as a focus, joining groups with similarly-interested peers, and discussed in small groups “action plans” in response to the dilemmas Graves offers.

Some ideas from the share-out were as follows:
-Student goal-setting - growth mindset and finding out what students bring to school with them
-Authentic audience - expand the audience by breaking down classroom walls
-Increase student talk and decrease teacher talk - let kids struggle (like wait time during questioning
-Have teachers value stepping out of discussions to watch students struggle with a common text - notice who’s doing what in the conversations
-Genius Hour to let kids be experts they are - empower them
-Let kids teach mini-lessons

-People who are making policy decisions should spend a day teaching in the classroom - invite politicians into the classroom   
- bottom-up reform is ideal, but time is short and “trouble-making” can carry consequences: still we must make some noise in some ways or decisions we dislike will be made for us

-Anxiety around testing - depends on how we as teachers introduce and approach standardized tests.  High expectations can stress students out.  If we tell them it’s important, why is it important?  
-How can parents be informed about the right to opt out?  (yet isn’t it a dilemma if the tests are connected to funding?)

- a video of quaking aspens at the beach introduced us to “shadows”
- Build a classroom where there’s trust so we can open and question
- Let go of our own questions
- Let them be “bad writers”
- What’s going on here?  What did I mean?  Why did I say that?
- We don’t want to take away the shadows, though - allow for individual interpretations and divergent thinking - there is more than one correct answer
- Balancing freedom and control - tap into what students know (like Sam from the pig farm) - model not knowing
- First three words you hear become a script or a story

Finally, before lunch, we began an activity called the Writer’s Toolbox, during which we brainstormed elements of writing in focused rounds, sharing out and shaping a shared list between each round.  The categories included “Nouns”, “Verbs”, “Character Names/Character Types”, “Settings/Places”, and “Conflict”.

After lunch we were reintroduced to our mentors, Lorry Stillman and Sarah Collins. Each mentor group gathered to ask questions and have discussions about the ISFI summer program.

Writing Time - This is an open writing time to write whatever you want.  People scatter to spots that are comfortable.  Below are optional prompts using the “Writer’s ToolBox”.

#1 Pick 3 from 3 different categories and use them to begin a short story
#2 Pick 3 different verbs and use them to write a poem

Google Docs - tips & tricks/Contributing to the Blog - digital collaboration.

  • ISFI 16 Folder - feel free to add stuff to the folder
  • Writer’s Toolbox for inspiration
  • Google Drive Tips - links - everyone add to any of the categories. A resource for all of us.
  • Contributing to the Blog - the little museum of our summer institute

Inner Critic Activity
There are many ways to deal with the inner critic, that voice inside that keeps bringing you down. One is pretending s/he is not there at all. Another is using mantras such as “I am a writer, I can do this.” With this activity we personified our inner critic by drawing it and noting down what it says to us. We shared our inner critics in small groups. It’s good to acknowledge the inner critic and not allow a negative thought process to hi jack what you are doing.  

Marathon Prep - Overview and Introduction
  1. Move around S. Portland with your group. (Map provided.)
  2. Write
  3. Share with group members
  4. Listen and Thank writer
Chris, Bobby, Shawne
Courtney, Matt, Darren, Mercedes
Jane, Kim, Susan, Dustin

Closing Moment:

Creating a Community of Writers in the Classroom

By Annette Christiansen Education Week Teacher, January 19, 2016

Join the Fun

I realized a few years ago that I was generally assigning writing rather than teaching it. If I did show students something I had written, it was after it had been refined and polished. I now know this robbed my students of seeing the process, of watching me wrestle with finding the right word, of seeing that sometimes the words flew to the page but other days, it was drudgery. For some students, the idea of instant perfection can be crippling. Students should realize that no one writes like F. Scott Fitzgerald in draft one. By letting go of my own insecurity and honestly sharing my own struggles as a writer, I helped my students grow in their own confidence. By having them help me with my revisions, I empowered them to look critically at their own writing.

Hosts - Bobby and Shawne

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