Four Years Ago, I Was In Mexico….

Four years ago this month, I visited the monarch butterfly’s overwintering grounds in Michoacan, Mexico.  Today, the same towns I visited are under attack from drug lords and gangs.  It breaks my heart that travel restrictions prohibit other teachers from traveling there with the Monarch Teacher Network  right now.

To celebrate the beauty and magic of that trip, I wanted to link to the posts I shared after my trip. Join me in reminiscing by reading some of my updates from the trip, linked below.

Monarch Teacher Network: Day 1 in Mexico

Monarch Teacher Network: Day 2 in Mexico

Monarch Teacher Network: Day 3 in Mexico

Monarch Teacher Network: Day 4 in Mexico

Monarch Teacher Network: Day 5 in Mexico 

 

My trip to Mexico, and all of my dealings with the Monarch Teacher Network, made up some of the most powerful professional development I have ever participated in.  I still act as staff at the annual summer workshops here in NJ and I hope to start traveling with some of the workshops in the next few years.  Check out the website- if they are offering a workshop near you I highly recommend it.

Weekly Diigo Posts (weekly)

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From Text Messages to Essays….

My husband and I were out to dinner this weekend at a local hibachi restaurant and we were seated with a group of high school girls.  I would guess they were freshman or sophomores.  The girls spent the entire dinner on their cell phones or making comments about each other, which my husband could not understand. “Why are girls so catty?” he kept asking me.

I, on the other hand, was fascinated by the care they took when crafting their text messages.  One of the girls was in the middle of some sort of fight with a boy and every time he texted her they all crowded around her phone and dissected his short text messages.  But what I was intrigued by was the time they spent in crafting the perfect response.

*Imagine this conversation taking place with all four girls constantly talking over each other.*

“What should I say?” the girl with the cell phone asked her friends.

“Just say that’s ok”.

“No!  Not ok.  Say something else…”

“That’s not cool?”

“You’re an idiot? Ha!”

“Try that’s fine!”

“Yeah, that works. But don’t use an exclamation point. You don’t want him to think you’re excited.”

“Right. You don’t want to be nasty but you want him to know you’re annoyed. Not angry, just that you’re annoyed at him.”

“Ok. So I wrote ‘That’s fine.” period.”

“Perfect!”

This took about three or four minutes.  But I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  These girls took such care to choose exactly the right words and punctuation in order to convey the tone they desired.  They knew what they wanted the audience (the boy) to think when he read the words they crafted.

How do we get these girls, and all students, to care this much about the writing they do in the rest of their life?  I don’t just mean in school- having a teacher read your essay isn’t exactly a real audience. But what about the words they write online? The Facebook updates, the tweets, the tumblr posts…..all of these deserve the same care in word choice and punctuation.  We need to capture this scene and transfer it to all writing.

One way to do this in school is by providing opportunities for students to write for a real audience.  A great way to do that is publishing online. I’ve started doing that this year and the response has been great.  My students just finished writing creative nonfiction literature responses about books that have influenced their lives and in my search for the perfect online publishing space I discovered posterous.com

Posterous is a lot like tumblr but I find it to be a bit more academic.  There are more controls (moderated posting and moderated comments for instance) but the ease of use is still there, which is key.  And the best part, for teachers, is that students can email work directly to the blog account and with a quick once-over I can post them. It’s practically instant!

I gave my students the option of publishing this last writing piece and about 25% of my freshman followed through. Those who chose to publish are thrilled with the response and love getting comments.  If you are interested in taking a look, the essays can be found here.

Where online do you publish your students? I’m always looking for more outlets and I’d love to hear from you!

Weekly Diigo Posts (weekly)

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Weekly Diigo Posts (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Boy21

I was fortunate enough to meet author Matthew Quick at NCTE back in November.  I picked up a copy of his book and promised myself I would read it soon.  Then I got the opportunity to head Mr. Quick read a bit from the book and speak about writing it and I was hooked.  I read Boy21 a few days after coming home from NCTE and I’m still thinking about it. I expected to like the book due to Quick being a Jersey boy and the Jersey roots of the story. I’m also a basketball fan and figured it would be good for me to have another go-to sports book for some of my readers. After reading Boy21 I realized it is much more than a sports book. As one of my students said upon completing the book, “Mrs. G, it’s not just a book about basketball. It’s about life. And it’s really good.”

Finley lives in Bellmont, a dying town where racism, the Irish mob, and poverty are a part of life.  Finley is one of the few white kids in his high school, where his team mates refer to him as “White Rabbit” because he’s the only white guy on the varsity team.  He’s a hard worker who may not be the best on the team but just may be the most disciplined and most dedicated.  He hopes that basketball will be a way out of Bellmont for himself and his girlfriend Erin, who is a fantastic basketball player.  They practice together all summer in preparation for their senior year. But things take a turn for the bizarre when Coach shows up one night and asks Finley to look after a new student (and hopefully a new member of the basketball team).

Russ is a weird kid.  Coach explains to Finley that his parents were recently murdered and since then Russ has been shutting the world out.  He’s moved back to Bellmont to live with his grandparents and get a fresh start.  But when Finley meets him, he realizes that Coach was not entirely truthful.  It turns out Russ is one of the top-rated high school players in the country, or at least he was.  Now, he refers to himself as Boy21 and has a bizarre obsession with outer space.  Oh, and he no longer has any interest in basketball.  Coach wants Finley to look after him and convince him to play basketball again, even though that means Finley will probably lose his spot on the team if Russ decides to play.

And then something terrible happens to Erin, and Finley and Russ must deal with the tragedy and loss in their pasts, and the possible losses they may suffer in the future.

As my student said so eloquently when he handed back our classroom copy of Boy21, this is a book about life.  Smart, funny, raw, and touching, it’s a book I can confidently recommend to all of my readers, from reluctant to voracious.  The characters are real and their lives are not perfect.  I found myself wanting to dive between the pages and rescue Finley, Russ, and Erin. But at the same time, I knew that none of them would allow themselves to be rescued.  Boy21 is a book I am looking forward to handing to a lot of my John Green fans, because Quick’s book is smart and witty while still making the reader’s heart break and put itself back together again.

Highly, highly recommended!

 

 

*ARC courtesy of the publisher, from NCTE

Weekly Diigo Posts (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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