Playground Uprising

Your Story …
October 26, 2007, 7:27 pm
Filed under: creative writing, Education, writing

Creative Writing

In the coming weeks one of my classes is going to wade – and then sink right down into the world of creative writing in the elem. school classroom.  In anticipation of this event, I have been combing through my books and various websites for refreshing ideas. Below I share a couple of my favs with you  …. And I would love for you to respond with a couple of your own. Until then …

  • Bodystorming:  a student lies down on a large piece of butcher paper and a partner traces a leg, an arm, or the whole darn body … the student then reflects on her traced body part and recalls words, sounds, and any conclusive memories … which she then records in the outlined form (idea taken from a presentation by the Virginia Writing Project).
  • Sausage poems: Poems for vegetarians and carnivores alike. A string of words with matching endings and beginnings. Choose either letters or sounds for the word boundary matches (it gets confusing if both are allowed)”
    Example: Good dogs shouldn’t tell lies”  (taken directly from:
  • Basket poem:  (check out:
  • Message in a bottle: (taken from Houghton Mifflin series) Have children think about a part of the world they are studying in Social Studies and then create a story about their adventure, set  in a specified time period and accompanied by a map of the area. Upon completion – creations are placed in plastic bottles and set afloat in the water table.
  • Seven days of daring deeds: seven groups write one story about an unfolding adventure over seven days. (see:
  • Pass it on: students sit in a circle with a clipboard, paper, and pen in hand. A story starter is given: “It is Halloween night ….” The students write for three minutes and then pass their story to the person on their right … the receiver continues the previous writer’s storyline until it is time to pass again.
  • Interior / Exterior Boxes: You will love this =
  • Given the situation:  Give students a variety of situations and ask them to respond in a paragraph or less. For example: You just got an offer to teach at a school in Japan ….


ON …Randy Pausch: Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

Have you heard of Randy Pausch? Regardless of your answer stop reading NOW and go to:

Glad you are back … more upstanding and hopeful than but an hour ago.

“The brick walls are there to stop the people that don’t want it badly enough … they are there to stop the other people.” An inclusive person by nature, I love Dr. Pausch’s version of other, as if the margins and the constitutions just might not apply to us. Perhaps we are more and meant for bigger – perhaps the graduate school rejections and fruit instead of chips in the lunch bag were all preparing us for something just a bit smarter: a belief in revision. A timely sentiment as the semester, well on its way, has me questioning my daily leave from of a block builder and magazine eater as I trot up 95 to teach my second family of approximately one-hundred, 20 year olds – soon to be transformative teachers and I pray they will set forth on the Pausch path… and as you await their arrival, their push for change – enjoy your families and your life and in Dr. Pausch’s words “keep having fun.”

** Here is the link to the Wall Street Journal article (the one my dear husband brought home to me) that first brought me in:

** And this is Dr. Pausch’s webpage:

The Day I Turned Uncool
September 26, 2007, 5:53 pm
Filed under: Education, Friends, getting old, uncool, work


Each semester, during my Language and Literacy course, we devote one day to a Book Club celebration – anything for an excuse to bring coffee cake. In preparation for the festivities we select a book of interests. In past semesters we have enjoyed the likes of The Memory Keepers Daughter and The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nigh-Time, to name a few. Well last semester my class decided they wanted to read The Day I Turned Uncool: Confessions of a Reluctant Grown-Up, about a teacher who stumbles upon the part of his life’s timeline where he finds lawnmowers more enthralling than a night out at the local pub. Hmmm … my class ranges in age from 19-23 and I have yet to spy a wrinkle or a bottle of prune juice in the bunch. I on the other hand am beginning to wonder if the more expensive facial cream (that would be the one with wrinkle guard) is perhaps worth the extra cash and recently found myself touting the merits of sensible shoes to a far more fashionable colleague. This mounting granny chest of evidence points to the fact that my uncool calendar just might have flipped a wee bit earlier than anticipated and to confirm my growing proclivity for the outdated – I just opened my tape player (as if that doesn’t say it all) to find a treasured collection of Christmas songs sung by the everly famous uncool Kenny G. Care for V8?

This I Believe
June 13, 2007, 1:12 pm
Filed under: Belief, Depression, Education, Family, writing



This I Believe …

Yesterday my class examined personal writing, in particular the Personal Essay. NPR’s series “This I Believe” served as the focus for our craft study. If you have not heard this weekly segment aired on NPR, and especially if you have, I encourage you to explore the site:

There you will find brave men and women telling, through voice recordings and written text, stories that will change who you might become. Some are famous, some live next door, some say things that make you think, “this man is talking to me,” and others document experiences you can’t imagine owning.

Andy Blowers’ personal essay on Depression, “The Person I’m Suppose to Be,” served as our model. He wrote, “At 16, my first episode hit me hard enough to think I’d literally gone to hell. Now, at 35, when I start dreaming of haunted houses and worrying uncontrollably about the future, I know another episode is looming. I’ve got a week’s notice, maybe two. And then it’s as if I’m drifting off to exile inside myself with only a shell remaining.” I selected this piece because it spoke to my experiences and personal essays at their core are intimate. (Andy’s story:

Following our investigation, the students had twenty-minutes to write their own “This I Believe” personal essay. In response to Andy’s belief, “I believe pain tells us something critical about ourselves and life: that developing strength and empathy and bravery is more essential than our personal comfort. And when I think of it like that, I’m more willing to accept suffering on its terms,” I wrote:

This I Believe …

I believe that madness is hard to define, easy to slip into, and often undistinguishable from daily reality. I know this because my mother is mad. In other words, she is mad at herself, and her situation, and the perceived predicament that has put her here, with her anger, her anxiety, her mania, and her psychosis. And it is this expression of madness that makes me know that she needs help that I cannot provide and have difficulty accepting because I don’t know when she is angry, and when she is mad, and when the darkness pervades so as to completely dismiss her from my reality, therefore, giving her a pass on the unkind word, or inappropriate stance, or threatening move forward. But it is the undistinguishability of this madness that makes me believe that though the presence or absence and origin are important to her doctors and psychotherapists and case workers they are increasingly less important to me, that meaning and understanding reached a 33 year plateau in books, and conference calls, and appointments, and now lies solely in listening, whether it be to sanity or departure, and praying for more peaceful tomorrows.

Now a request for hopeful response:

Students …. if you are bored enough to actually check out my site today I would love for you to post your own “This I Believe” essay. You have important things to share.

For the world at large: I too invite you to tell me what “you believe.”

Fireman on Vacation
February 20, 2007, 11:14 pm
Filed under: Children, Education, parenting


I took the pipsqueak and the Dean of Destruction to the office today. “What were you thinking?” you must be asking yourselves about now… well I suppose the logical answer would go something like this …. “no thinking involved and in hindsight it might not have been a bad idea to call upon a brain cell or two.” Nonetheless, my colleagues and students had not met the little pipsqueak and Mac was outraged at the idea of being left out of the commotion (I meant to tell him that he is the commotion) and so before I knew it the three of us were heading up 95. As a professor one of my primary research areas is children’s writing and since maternity leave has slowed my endeavors, I have fixed on harassing my own child. Today’s misadventure prompted me to share an original by brother bear Mac (Mac has come to accept that his crazy mother races for a pen and paper every time he starts to spin a tale). So here’s the one from today.

Fireman on Vacation


Once upon a time me and Charlie were going to the hospital.

(Pauses to shove seven goldfish in mouth)

It was not for potty time. But once we got there …. there was a big fire inside and then it went away by itself.

(Pauses to ask for a cookie … takes approximately two bites of his grilled cheese, constructs the Leaning Tower of Pisa with banana slices, and polishes off the last goldfish …. Quite the healthy dinner I know).

The fire started because they had a big battle fight. Everyone didn’t die because they drunk the water from the fire hoses.

You need to look at the picture at the top now people.

I had Charlie in my hands and I rescued him and I threw the bad guy into the sea. You know the one that was standing there by the train tracks. Then I put him on the track and the train ran over him and he went SPLAT, splat like a pancake.

Now that is the end. It is a pretty long story.

And I was even nice to Charlie.

Now how many bananas do I need to eat to get one of daddy’s cookies.


In the beginning
January 21, 2007, 4:53 pm
Filed under: Education

Well here we go on a journey. This is my first post on my first blog. I have my friend Stacey to thank for introducing me to the genre. She suggested I read several blogs written by mothers on mothering and what I saw was women with voices talking about the everyday in ways that invited me, us, into their world, while at the same time making me feel that perhaps it was OK to have tantrums alongside my four year old and laugh (though secretly) at his evolving four letter vocabulary, because I was not alone in this thing, these feelings, or those experiences. That is what public literacy, to me, is all about.

Or in the words of Patrick Shannon, “We raise our consciousness about the world by putting what we know, or think we know, in public view for multiple audiences. These acts of making our literacy public affords us opportunities to negotiate the names assigned to things, ideas, and values in the world … we become vulnerable through public literacy.”

And yes, this blog will in fact make me vulnerable, but I think it is within this vulnerability that we grow. As an assistant professor of education I ask my students to journal each day about their life experiences, inside and outside of the classroom, because I know who they are outside of the school walls and how they interpret their environment directly impacts the type of teacher they will someday become.

I also know that when I teach pre-service teachers how to become teachers of writing that this skill cannot stand alone, but must evolve into an identity. To teach writing one must become a writer and to become a writer one must write everyday about their everyday.

So that is what I will do here. I will write about my experiences as a mother, a wife, a professor, and a writer and I will hope that I receive responses that challenge me to think beyond where I am. I will make myself vulnerable and I hope this show of faith will invite my students to take the same leap.

And so we are off.