Claymation Plus!

Andrew Cahill is one of those former students I try to keep my eye on.  He creates animated films and has been ever since I knew him as a quiet sophomore in my English classroom.  He’d occassionally share his finished products with me, and when I first saw his Kent State film (a simple but moving line drawing film) I became a great fan.  It still remains my favorite.

For those of you working with students creating their own films with claymation, you’ll enjoy watching the following two films available now on YouTube.

The first, Spontaneous Generation, won Best Animated Film at the 2008 Ann Arbor Film festival last spring

Spontaneous Generation

And I love this new film which won the Guilt by Association Music Video Contest to the song, “Don’t Look Back in Anger” by Devendra Banhart

Don\’t Look Back in Anger


blogging unplugged

I’ve been struggling with this pull between my physical world and my blogging world for some time now.  As a final attempt at exploring this struggle, I’ve done a great push this past week with blogging, and although I love the connectedness to others, the collaborative learning process, it takes me away from connecting with those right in front of me, and no matter what I give up in learning from my online community, connecting with those around me is what’s important. So, I’ll be lurking online occasionally, reflecting in writing a bit and even commenting and questioning others at times. I feel fortunate that so much of my work is collaborating with others, reflecting together, questioning together and pushing each other’s learning and thinking.  My immediate physical world has many of the great advantages that the blog world has to offer.  So, that’s where you’ll find me these days. Come visit!

Exploring Issues of Power in Schools

Earlier this week, I guest blogged over at Joel’s blog, and quite a discussion is taking place. Check it out and join in. Here’s an excerpt of my original post:

Power. I can’t stop thinking that it is all about power. This thought surfaced after reading the article, “Why Content Literacy is Difficult to Infuse into the Secondary School: Complexities of Curriculum, Pedagogy, and School Culture.” The article is a bit dated, 1995, and thank goodness I read it amongst a community of learners. It was a challenge to get through. It is less what the article says, and whether I agree with it or not, and more about the conversations that grew from the collaborative reading process.

In secondary schools, sub-cultures grow out of the separation of content areas and a sense of hierarchy is created through this separation. This, along with the structures within a school, help create this inequity of power. As long as this separation and hierarchy exist, school change will be difficult. In fact, I wonder whether those changes that do happen can be sustained if they exist in a culture and structure that contradicts them.

And from my comment in the discussion . . . But, for me right now, it is this term–content area teachers. Who does it include and who does it exclude. And what does this term say about those who aren’t included in this group? Do they have no real content to teach. These are the issues of power in schools I’m trying to explore.

So, here’s a question I have for teachers out there. What does power look like at your school? Who holds it? Who doesn’t? How does it effect the school culture–educationally? I’d love to hear from you. And, I’d love for you to invite more teachers into this conversation. Spread the word.

Virtual Backyard

So, yesterday I told you a little about my own physical backyard. Today, I’ll take you into my virtual backyard. I suppose you could try to explore this on your own by strolling through my blogroll; however, I’m not sure that would tell you the true story. Many of us have blogrolls and bloglines that go on forever, but what are the five sites or blogs that you consider to be the backbone of your online life or learning. Here’s mine.

National Writing Project website As as National Writing Project teacher and leader, and the professional development coordinator for my local writing project site, the Western Massachusetts Writing Project I visit both of these site pretty much on a daily basis for communicating with colleagues, finding resources and building new programs aimed at building teacher learning and leadership to improve learning in our nation’s classrooms.

Kevin’s Meandering Mind Kevin is a colleague of mind who remains one of my best online mentors. I go to Kevin’s blog to learn about new technologies, the ways technology can be used in the classroom, neat tools, interesting educational reflections and conversations, and inspiration from his writing, poetry and music. And Kevin is who brought me into the blogging world. A huge resource for me.

Author! Author! When I’m looking to learn about the writing and publishing world (which I always am) I go to the no nonsense blog of Anne Mini. So, if it is information and guidance about agents, manuscripts, queries, or the synopsis your looking for, here’s my number one resource. She’s helped me write a great query and synopsis–or say the agents! Still waiting for the same response to the writing in my novel!

Planet Esme is the place I go to learn about new books for my reading world.  Since I write for children, I spend a lot of time reading children’s books, especially middle grade novels.  But this great resource also points me in the direction of great resources to share with the hundreds of teachers I work with.  Check out her Book a Day blog  And don’t forget about The Fire Escape by author Mitali Perkins, a great resource and exploration of children’s multi-cultural literature.

CISA (Communities Involved in Sustainable Agriculture) is my online resource for buying local, for food festivals in my area, and for linking to my own CSA farm Simple Gifts where my purchased share brings local, organic food right to my table every week during the late spring, all summer long and right into the fall.  Be a hero, buy local.

So, there it is, my online backyard that supports and sustains my online world.


What’s in your backyard?

I’ve been struggling this year between a pull to be out in my own backyard and in my blogging backyard.  Well, the two just came crashing in on each other.  I spent the last two days cleaning up the ten or more felled trees in my physical backyard until my back gave out mid-day yesterday.  Now, I’m in bed with a back full of pulled muscles and an injured SI joint.  So, I have plenty of time for my blogging backyard.  But, it got me thinking . . .

What’s in your backyard?  One fabulous thing about blogging is that I can so easily connect to people across the country and across the world.  And most of these folks I have no idea where they live or what their back yard looks like.  In fact, I get a better sense of what’s in their virtual backyard than their real one.

So, feel free to take this time to let me know, what’s in your backyard.  Goodness knows, I’m not leaving this bed anytime soon, so I’ve got lots of time to read your posts and comment too!

Here’s a peek into my backyard.  A few days ago it looked a lot different.  It’s amazing how ten minutes can change your world.  My yard is usually an acre of grassy soccer field, vegetable garden with a long row of ripe raspberries and blueberries, a wooded area with a lot of tall trees, and just beyond the yard a many acred field with deer, hawk, and fox that abuts UMass, Amherst.  At the moment, in my yard there are at least ten felled trees: a pin oak, a sugar maple (so sad as it produces much maple syrup each spring), a line of four white pines (really tall, really big), a line of 6 Hemlock, another maple and a nut tree.  Okay, that’s more than ten.  What didn’t fall?  Thank goodness we still have plenty of trees including the four largest trees–two Tulip Poplars, a very old oak, and a clump of white pines.  Not only would it be sad to lose these trees, but losing these would most likely mean losing our house too.  But, a momma deer and her two babies seem to find solace and comfort amidst the rubble and for that we’re thankful.

Boys talk books

On the way to dropping off my 15 year old son and two of his friends at NUTC, National Ultimate Training Camp, we stopped for ice cream and their conversation turned to summer reading.  The conversation went like this:

Boy 1: I finished reading all three books of The Golden Compass series this morning.

Boy 2: You actually read in the summer?  I only read when I have to for school.

Boy 1: But in the summer, you can read whatever you want.  You should try it, there’s a lot of good books out there.

Boy 3: Yeah, I only read the first one, The Golden Compass.  It was good.  I haven’t really read that much this summer. Michael Chabon.  I read slow.

Boy 1: I like waking up early and reading.

Boy 3: I’m too tired to read in the morning.    I mean I read sports article’s on ESPN, but not books.

Boy 1: Sometimes I wake up and read until lunch, stop to get something to eat and go back to reading for the rest of the day.  I love that.

Boy 3: Yeah, I did that with The Wanderer and Summerland.

Boy 2: I’d much rather watch movies.

Boy 1: But reading is like watching a movie only better because it lasts much longer and has a lot more detail.  It’s like a really great movie in your mind.

Boy 3: It’s true.  Sometimes it’s like you forget you’re even reading because the movie totally absorbs you.

Boy 1: Yeah, and then sometimes like you realize you’re totally absorbed by this movie in your mind and as soon as you realize it, it goes away and then alls you have is words.

Boy 2: See, that’s my problem.  When I read, I only get words.  I can’t make the pictures happen in my mind.

Boy 1: Maybe you’re just not reading the right books.

Boy 2: You know what books I loved reading.  In third grade, I read like every Goose Bumps.  Those were cool.

Boy 1: Well, then how ’bout that guy.  You know, what’s his name?

Boy 3: Stephen King.

Boy 1: Yeah, he wrote all those like Pet Semetary, right?

Boy 3: Yeah.

Boy 2: I like reading the newspaper.  The newspaper is the best.  But books, not for me.

Not a bad summertime conversation.  They all brought books with them to camp. Tiina Booth, the director of NUTC is a high school English teacher after all–and it was on the list of things to bring.  Doubt they’ll have much of a chance to read; they work so hard, they’re usually asleep before they can get horizontal.

Mother Nature

Just as I hit send on yesterday’s post, the skies darked, the winds picked up, the thunder and lightning cracked across the sky.  Ten minutes later, the clouds parted and we had 12 trees down including an old oak that crashed into our neighbor’s house.  The blueberries–undaunted.  One ripe berry nourishes.  Let’s hope!


I’ve been struggling with my ability to blog lately. Mostly, this is due to the fact that I don’t consider true blogging just writing posts on my blog, but visiting other blogs, commenting and learning from a community of learners. My problem, is I start visiting other blogs and they bring me to new places and before I know it two hours have passed. I’ve sunk into the broad and deep world of bloggers and that leaves me less time to learn from the people directly and physically in front of me. So, here’s my new experiment: speedblogging. I’ll post for 5 minutes a day, visit one blog and comment and be done. Will it work? I’m fairly forgiving of myself, so even it this gets me back here once a week, I’ll be happy.

The Sap is Flowing!

Actually, it’s been flowing for a while now. We’re about ready to pull our taps from the two sugar maples in our yard because quite honestly we’re just tuckered out. Days and nights of boiling sap have filled our pantry with 2 gallons of syrup. That’s a lot of sap! Precisely, 640 gallons to be exact. We had to finally switch from our usual method of boiling on an outside propane burner (was getting a wee bit expensive) and switched to an open fire which proved to be easier than we thought and may end up being our method of choice for future seasons. Needless to say, this has been a banner season. Hopefully, this saves some local farms who struggled through last year’s tough season. Sweet stuff!