5 Must-Have Entries for Your Pandemic Journal

Rarely, do you see me without a notebook. I have kept a journal for the past 20 years and have filled hundreds of notebooks with handwriting expressing my successes, failures, hopes, dreams, and even mundane daily tasks. There is no replacement for the feeling I get when my favorite pen glides across a new page in my journal! 

Keeping a journal provides a safe spot for expressing ideas, wrestling with questions, and writing yourself into history. It is both therapeutic and creative. Journaling is inexpensive and accessible; the writing that occurs is self-regulated and shares patterns, behaviors, and experiences that have defined us. 

Journaling also provides a unique primary source during historical moments in time for future generations to read and understand. Journals become a  collection of thoughts and experiences from the people who lived through it. Currently, we are all living in another one of these historical moments and a Pandemic Journal is a perfect place to record how we are living through these uncommon times, as well as a creative and meaningful way to encourage our students to write. 

Here are 5 Must-Have Entries for Your Pandemic Journals:

  1. Pandemic Picture – Inspired by the work of photographer, Gregg Segal, Pandemic Pictures depict a person surrounded by the items that are most important to them during this pandemic (and can be photographed). For instance, I told my daughter to collect 15 things that she couldn’t live without, were important to her, that she loved, or that brought her joy while sheltering in place. Her collection was filled with creativity, art supplies, music, technology, as well as TP, hand sanitizer, and a mask. This one photo represents her 12-year-old life during COVID-19 and will ignite memories to be shared with others in the future.

2. T-chart – Create a t-chart somewhere in the journal that will allow you to add to it throughout the pandemic. On one side list “Things I Love Right Now” and the other “Things I Miss Right Now”. Bike rides with my children, exploring nature, and the growing bond between siblings are a few things listed on my “Love” side. Flying and travel, extended family and friends, enjoying appetizers and drinks at a restaurant are just a few of the things I miss greatly. Having this space in my journal will allow me a dynamic spot to add to as time goes on.

3. Letter to Future Self – Letter writing has seen an increase during the pandemic. In your journal, write a letter to your future self explaining your current reality. How would you explain what you are experiencing? What would be important to remember? What hopes do you have for the future? Writing to your future will provide a time to not only grapple with current conditions but provide hope to what things will be like in the future. 

4. Listicle – A listicle is a piece of writing that is wholly or partly created by a list. This is another entry that can be ongoing, a place to record, in list form, things you want to remember. For instance, the price of gas (wow, is it low), what is missing from the grocery store, what people are hoarding, when businesses and recreation are closed and opened, how social distancing looks in the stores with the plastic guards and dots on the ground. There are many small things that have shifted in our daily lives, it will be important to note these differences. 

5. Interview – By our very nature, humans are social. And during these times, sheltering-in-place and social and physical distancing have become the norm, and in some places the mandate. Connecting with others is important for our physical and emotional health, and although we may not be able to meet for dinner or attend a celebration in person, talking with those we care about can be another entry to document in our pandemic journal. Interview a relative or friend and write down the conversation. What does their daily life look like now? What do they miss doing? What have they learned about their neighborhood, family, city, etc.? What sort of social norms are developing? What is closed? What is open? These interviews become part of a living history and help to stay connected to others. 

Journaling is not new, what is new is the current reality people across the globe are living through. Everyone’s life has been impacted by COVID-19 and it is important for us, and our students to capture our experiences and feelings to write ourselves into history. I encourage you to begin your own Pandemic Journal if you have not already done so, it is not too late. I would also encourage you to have your students and children write their thoughts in a journal during this time. It is not only therapeutic but a creative outlet that will benefit future generations to come. 

Have any other Must-Have Pandemic Journal ideas to share? Drop me a comment below!

25 Online Poetry Resources

I love teaching poetry. There is something beautiful about the structure and the word choice that portray the exact image and message the poet intended. From Sonnets to Blackout Poetry, having students read, write, and recite poetry allows them to see how to bend language in a playful way to communicate sarcasm or notice the enjambment of words to communicate “this should be read rapidly”.

Poetry is closely tied to music, and it is through music that I often hooked students into considering the magic of poetry. In fact, one of the activities I had them do was locate poetry devices in song lyrics (You can see an example here ). This activity launched them into reading & analyzing, writing, and reciting poetry.

Poetry does not have to be intimidating to students or adults. Connections can be made to music, real life, and social justice. Helping students unlock the mystery of poetry can be as simple as summarizing lines or stanzas, identifying speaker, setting, and situation, and reaffirming that while we may not know the exact intentions of the poet, there are ideas and understandings that are more correct than other ideas.

As April quickly approaches, and many will be celebrating National Poetry Month, I have created a list of some of my favorite poetry websites, resources, and apps to support teachers as they navigate the poetic sea – Enjoy!

Traditional Poetry Websites

  • The Poetry Foundation – is an independent literary organization committed to a vigorous presence for poetry in our culture. It exists to discover and celebrate the best poetry and to place it before the largest possible audience. It works to raise poetry to a more visible and influential position in our culture. Multiple pages are connected to this website and it is a great place to start.
  • Poetry 180 – Poetry 180 resides on the Library of Congress website. It is designed to make it easy for students to hear or read a poem on each of the 180 days of the school year. Hosted by former Poet Laureate, Billy Collins, a perfect way to incorporate poetry daily into your classroom.
  • Poets.org – Poets.org is produced by the Academy of American Poets. The site was launched in 1996, becoming the original online resource for poems, poets’ biographies, essays about poetry, and resources for K-12 teachers.
  • Library of Congress Poet Laureate – The Library of Congress Poet Laureate website also resides on the Library of Congress website. Students are able to learn about the position of US Poet Laureate, about the current Poet Laureate, and their projects.
  • NCTE Poetry – NCTE Poetry Resources – The National Council of Teachers of English has multiple resources for teachers who want to use poetry in their classroom. Included are interviews with Poets, books to consider adding to your collections, as well as lessons to use with students.

Nontraditional Poetry Websites

  • Split This Rock – Explores and celebrates the many ways that poetry can act as an agent for change: reaching across differences, considering personal and social responsibility, asserting the centrality of the right to free speech, bearing witness to the diversity and complexity of human experience through language, imagining a better world.
  • Power Poetry – Power Poetry promotes a safe space where poets can share their work, as well as encouraging more growth in the organization. Power Poetry is the world’s first and largest mobile poetry community for youth. It is a one-of-a-kind place where you can be heard. “Power Poetry isn’t just about poetry: it’s about finding your voice and using it to change the world!”
  • Song Meanings – In the larger tradition of poetry, there is a strong relationship to music, instrumentation, and oral culture. Textuality, bookishness, I would argue, is the reason why contemporary poets have not been able to ignite a larger following and perception of poetry. Delve into the lyrics, text, and meanings of your favorite songs and learn how poets can SING better.
  • Teen Ink – National teen magazine and website devoted to helping teens share their own voices while developing reading, writing, creative and critical-thinking skills.
  • Poetry Out Loud – Poetry Out Loud encourages students to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about literary history and contemporary life.
  • Poetry4Kids – The funny poetry playground of children’s author Kenn Nesbitt. You will find lots of funny poems and poetry books for children, classic children’s poetry, games, poetry lessons, and activities, plus a rhyming dictionary, videos, school visit information and lots more.
  • Poetry in America – Poetry in America, created and directed by Harvard professor Elisa New, is a new public television series and multi-platform digital initiative that brings poetry into classrooms and living rooms around the world.
  • Google Arts and Culture – Explore collections and exhibits all about Poets and Poetry on the Google Arts and Culture website. Google Arts and Culture allows students to explore collections from around the world – a perfect primary source.
  • Glossary of Poetry Terms – A website that is part of the Poetry Foundation and is a comprehensive glossary of poetic terms, theories, and schools of poetry. A perfect Reference tool for all your budding Poets.

National Poetry Month Resources

  • National Poetry Month – National Poetry Month each April is the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K-12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, bloggers, and, of course, poets marking poetry’s important place in our culture and our lives.
  • Dear Poet Project – a multimedia education project inviting young people in grades five through twelve to write letters in response to poems written and read by some of the award-winning poets
  • Poem in Your Pocket – April 18th is Poem in Your Pocket Day, part of National Poetry Month. Share your poem with everyone you meet. During the day, carry it with you, and share it with others at schools, bookstores, libraries, parks, workplaces, street corners, and on social media using the hashtag #pocketpoem

Unique Poetry Resources and Apps

  • Bot or Not – When AI (Artificial Intelligence) meets poetry you have Bot or Not. A fun game that tests your identification skills to decide if the poem in question was written by a human or by a computer.
  • Poetry Machine – Students can create an original poem on this website using one of the 48 templates listed. Everything from acrostic and haikus to animal poems; there is something for all young poets.
  • Instant Poetry 2 – Poetry 2 is an iOS app the reminds me of magnetic poetry. Create your own poem with images and drag and drop words. Upload your own image to use, or refresh to get a list of new words. Write and share poetry with anyone! 
  • Rhyme Zone – A website that allows students to search for rhymes, synonyms, and definitions. Perfect for poetry and writing lyrics.
  • Poemix – Remix text into simple poetry. Source of text can be anything from your favorite book to tweets. Fun and simple to use.
  • Mesostic Poem Generator – Type in your name and a short bio and this program will create a mesostic poem for you. It is similar to an acrostic, but with the vertical phrase intersecting the middle of the line, as opposed to beginning each new line.
  • Poem Generator – Poem Generator allows students to choose the structure, enter words based on prompts and parts of speech and the website does the rest. With 14 structures to choose from, students can have fun exploring and writing.
  • Blackout Bard – Blackout Bard is a free mobile app that parallels blackout poetry in a digital form. Students can choose a block of text, blackout words, and style the remaining ones to create and share a poem.
  • Facing History and Ourselves – Facing History and Ourselves Poetry Section can help students explore and connect with issues of identity, group membership, and belonging, as well as provide models and inspiration for how they might tell their own stories.

Have I forgot to list any of your favorite resources, websites, apps for Poetry? Be sure to comment below and remember to share your National Poetry Activities that your students are doing this year.

Affinity Spaces: What Video Games and Virtual PLNs Can Teach Educators About Informal Learning

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On any given night, you can find my children (grades 5 & 9) along with millions of others, playing video games. From Fortnite, to Minecraft, to Roblox; many hours are logged in these virtual spaces playing… and also learning. The learning taking place is not necessarily organized by specific disciplines but instead, a collective intelligence which blends content knowledge, creative problem solving, design thinking, along with collaborating and communicating with peers around the globe.

This informal learning is similar to my own when I think about jumping on Twitter to connect, consume, and share with other passionate educators, my virtual PLN. So what can we learn from video games, #EdChat, and other virtual spaces? All of these spaces include similar characteristics that James Paul Gee calls Affinity Spaces. While technology has led to an explosion of these spaces, they are possible to replicate face to face although it is difficult because, “institutional constraints, pre-existing status, geographical boundaries. A Classroom where students did not choose to be there and the teacher grades everyone.”

As educators, the goal is not for everyone to use video games in the classroom, but instead, understand the features of Affinity Spaces and work towards creating similar conditions in our classroom.

 15 Features of Affinity Spaces (by Gee)

  1. Organized around a common passion – A common passion, not race, gender, or socioeconomics, is primary and respected by all in the space.
  2. Not segregated by age – Older people can be beginners and younger people can be veterans. Passion, skill, and learning are respected
  3. Common space shared by all (Newbies, Veterans, Masters, etc.) – Everyone is accommodated in the same space. Newbies are not segregated from those that are considered masters of the game.
  4. Everyone can consume and create – Affinity spaces allow everyone to consume not only game-based creations but those created by players in the space. Consuming and creating are encouraged to allow everyone to build if they choose to.
  5. Content is transformed through interaction – The content is not fixed and constantly is transformed through interaction.
  6. Development and pooled broad, general knowledge as well as specialists – People are enabled to create and share knowledge and skill within the space.
  7. Individual and distributed knowledge encouraged – People are enabled to gain individual knowledge and share and spread specialized knowledge.
  8. Use of dispersed knowledge is encouraged (hacking and smashing to gain the desired product) The use of onsite and outside resources and tools is encouraged and supported to gain the creations people seek.
  9. Tacit knowledge is used and honored – Affinity spaces support people to learn by doing rather than memorizing tutorials or reading lengthy directions.
  10. Many different ways to participate – Participation in the space is varied and on multiple levels.
  11. Multiple ways to gain status – People can gain status, if they want to, in many different ways.
  12. Leadership is porous and leaders are resources – There are no bosses. People can be both leaders and followers.
  13. Roles are reciprocal – People sometimes lead, sometimes follow; mentor or be mentored; ask questions or answer them. The bottom line is there is always more to learn.
  14. Learning is individually proactive -Affinity spaces view failure as a means to success. Help is available, but individuals are still responsible for own learning.
  15. Encouragement from audience and feedback from peers – Feedback is welcomed from others interacting with your creations, while peers play an important role in providing critical advice to move individuals forward.

While all of these features are not required, an Affinity Space has most of these features. And upon reflection, most of the popular video games that our students play have these features. That is why we have students, and in my case children, who play hours on end. I, too, see some of these features in the spaces I spend my time as an educator. It is time to pay attention to attributes that make this type of learning successful for students and ask ourselves how these features can be reimagined in our own classrooms. Education is not merely producing consumers but those that can create and produce for the betterment of their space.

Source: Gee, James Paul. Literacy and Education. New York: Routledge, 2015.

Writer’s Workshop in the High School Classroom

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Typically, the discussion around Workshop takes place against the backdrop of the elementary classroom. When I tell other educators I also used workshop in my high school classes I am inundated with endless questions… How did you do that? What curriculum did you use? How much time did you have?

First, before jumping into the weekly schedule and content I used, I always explain a few things up front.

Logistics and Important Information About My Classroom:

  • Class periods were 42 minutes and I met with the students every day for one semester.
  • I worked hard at the beginning to build a community of writers, one where students would be willing to take risks in their style and content and share with a wider audience than the traditional lone teacher.
  • All students submitted a writing portfolio at the end of the course, sharing their chosen pieces, paragraphs, lines, etc. which demonstrated mastery in standards.
  • All students were required to complete, at least, three typed-pages every week of original work or one that was heavily revised and edited.
  • Students were part of a blogging community and required to post something every other week and comment on 2 other blog posts every week. This public sharing of work provided a different audience than the traditional lone teacher and helped grow writers faster than anything else I had done throughout my writing. (This community was high school students from across the US and in 4 different classrooms.)
  • Students chose content and type of writing each week. Portfolio asked for examples in multiple types, subgenres, and media; but students had complete control over the when, what, and how during the semester.
  • Along with typical types and subgenres of writing, students also created and wrote in contemporary modes including images, videos, music, infographics, etc.
  • Every two to three weeks students turned in a “publishable piece” to be assessed.
  • Finally, I wrote with my students. I modeled my thinking, shared my pieces, and asked for feedback!  

 

I used the traditional Workshop model where I tried to keep my direct instruction at a minimum so that students could write, apply the learning, and collaborate with each other and me when needed. The following is a typical weekly schedule. During student Independent Writing time they had three options: write, collaborate with peers, collaborate with me. As long as their actions were done with intent, the climate and culture in my classroom allowed them to decide what they needed most at that moment to move them forward as a writer, and then do it!

A Simplified weekly schedule of Writer’s Workshop for a 12th-grade writing class:

MondayInspiration. Brainstorm. Share Every Monday I would take time to launch students into writing. I called this “Monday Inspiration”. There were many methods I used to get kids excited about writing. Students were inspired by a mentor text, video, image, or other types of communication. I would pose a question or prompt to contemplate and write about. Students would take part in an inspiring writing activity that typically had them developing lists, sketching, moving, and so forth. All inspiration and accompanying thinking were recorded in their digital Writer’s Notebook section we labeled, Writing Territories, a term from Nancy Atwell. After the 10 to 15 minute inspiration, students would continue to brainstorm and write about the topic or in the genre at hand. This beginning may be something that they continue to develop throughout the week, or remain in their Writing Territories to call upon if they “don’t know what to write about.” At the very end of the class period, I would make sure to leave time to share. I learned early on, students loved sharing their thoughts, writing, and ideas on Monday after the inspiring start. The sharing was sometimes done as a whole class or in a small group.

TuesdayIndependent Writing. Peer Collaboration. Small Group. 1 on 1  On Tuesday, students were writing or creating independently on a piece of their choice. While they could continue the piece they started on Monday, students in my classroom always had a choice in Type and content of their writing. During this time, I worked with small groups, to teach a skill, reinforce something previously learned, or meet individual needs, collectively. I also had time to meet with a few students 1 on 1. This allowed me to know them as writers, address specific needs that either they or I identified, and to just do a check-in on their process. Along with working independently, or meeting with me, students also had the option to work with a partner or small group. During a writer’s workshop, students are at multiple points in the writing process. Some continued pieces week to week, others may just be in the beginning stages; students would revise, edit, and provide feedback to each other and their “virtual classmates” in the blogging community based on their needs as a writer.

Wednesday Language Study. Independent Writing. Portfolio. Blog. On Wednesdays, the class period began with a lesson over grammar, usage, or mechanics. Teaching grammar in isolation does not lead to use in writing. With this in mind, I used student writing, identify common errors made by the class and this is where I would focus my teaching. After the lesson, students continue to write or work with peers. Wednesday was also time for students to work on their writing portfolio, a collection of their best examples and reflections throughout the year and aligned to the standards or teaching goals. Students could also add a new post to their blogs or leave a comment on another student blog from our community.  

Thursday –  Independent Writing. Revising. Editing. Small Groups. 1 on 1. Thursday was spent much like Tuesday. Students chose how they spent their time based on their writing needs. Some worked independently, others worked with a partner or small group. During the revising and editing stages, students used a variety of strategies to accomplish their goals. These strategies were taught via whole class and small groups. They also prepared for Friday, making sure they had something of substance to share the following day. I spent my time working one on one with students, teaching specific techniques that would move them forward as writers.  

FridaySharing with Feedback. Fridays were typically spent sharing writing. To help build a community of growth, we started off sharing in small groups of 3 using the PQP strategy (Praise, Question, Polish by Bill Lyons). This allows the writer to receive the specific feedback needed. Another method used was Go, Fish, a whole class strategy that allowed every writer to give and receive feedback. An Author’s Spotlight was used to highlight individuals and often included multiple pieces by 2 or 3 writers. Important things about students sharing their writing: Everyone shared what they wanted to with the rest of the class, feedback was specific (more strategies were taught for this) and used to move everyone forward, finally, sharing their writing honored the process and provided a different audience than the traditional lone teacher.

It is possible to use a workshop framework in a high school classroom. In fact, I cannot imagine teaching writing a different way. Students had a choice in content and writing type. They also shared their work with classmates and to a larger, public audience. Students were writing for real, not just writing for school, and created in multiple mediums to communicate their voice through video, text, visuals, and more. And although this post shared a basic structure, I hope that it provided you with enough information to see the possibilities when considering how to structure a writer’s workshop in your own classroom.

New Course Offering: The Tech-Savvy Teacher

Influential educators Shaelynn Farnsworth and Steven W. Anderson introduce a course where you can find the answers to these questions and more. In partnership with Participate, explore what it means to be a Tech-Savvy Teacher.

From Shaelynn – In 2008, the district I worked in adopted a 1:1 Laptop Initiative. Through this initiative, every student and staff member in grades 9-12 were given a laptop. Students and staff members were not only able to use technology in the classroom but were able to bring their computer home with them each night. Ubiquitous technology shifted the educational landscape in our building. Along with reimagining learning, I also quickly learned that traditional and evidenced-based practices looked different in the classroom. Every day brought a new opportunity to provide my students relevant and engaging learning. It also helped me become a better educator as I analyzed and reflected upon my classroom and craft.

From Steven – When I was leading a large technology program in NC as Director of Instructional Technology we invited a group of teachers to spend an afternoon talking to us about a new Bring Your Own Device Initiative we were undertaking. What my team and I wanted to understand was what teachers believed would need to change when the devices are the smartest in the room? We thought we’d hear questions about how to teach or was to incorporate the technology more seamlessly. What we got were questions about the latest apps or websites that were flashy and fun.

Using technology today isn’t just about what app to use or what new website looks like fun. Technology use in the classroom requires a pedagogical shift from the traditional methods of teacher-driven learning to modern day student-driven discovery. Not only do educators need to understand how to choose the best technology for learning but the research behind the collaboration or student reflection or formative assessment. Once we understand the why of learning, the how, layered with appropriate use of technology, because fundamentally easier.

Steven Anderson and I are pleased to offer a new course through Participate. This course focuses on 6 Areas of Development we have identified on having a high impact on student learning and teacher professional learning when integrated with intentional technology.

Course: The Tech-Savvy Teacher

Length: 8 weeks

Cost: $79

Audience: Educators, Coaches, Administrators

Benefits:

  • Specially designed tasks blending high-impact technology with each component
  • Research supporting each of the 6 Areas of Development
  • Examples and stories from our own classrooms
  • Collaborative, reflective tasks to help you connect with other educators while engaging in low-stress, professional learning
  • Feedback from Steven and Shaelynn
  • Access to collections on the Participate Community
  • Badge upon completion of the course

We understand the needs educators and administrators have when technology is integrated into the learning environment. Our focus isn’t on the tool, it’s on the reimagining of learning and teaching. Each we week we will explore the research related to specific aspects of pedagogy and discuss what the effective integration of these tools really look like. While there will be tool and resource exploration each week, the main focus is on pedagogy and how best to be a Tech-Savvy Teacher!