Saturday, April 21, 2012

Tweets of the Week

In a tough world, kids need to be there for each other. We do, too.

 Life can be tough; and this certainly isn't a kids' world.
The need to be there for kids is
unprecedented. Kids of all ages.

Students can sharpen their brains with better focused emotional and social training. We can, too.

You know you have crossed a bridge to narcissism when you quote yourself, but I think these might help with the previous tweet:

Writing is a wonderful form of self-expression.

The comradery of poetry. When your comforting friend is Tennyson.

 Empathy through reading about a character.
Makes you want to grab a book with pages, huh? I'm thinking Beverly Cleary.

In Berkeley, California. The edible schoolyard. The Garden as teacher. I wonder if they have fresh garlic.

It's organic, man.

Never underestimate the autistic or any student.

She fits right in--where is she anyway?
The girl in the article has autism and is now a black belt.

Teaching kids to be science heroes. You go Landry Middle School!

My alma mater! Girls and even guys need opportunities! Kids: our greatest resource.
Just a little plug.
Here is the quote of the week, from the President of Mount St. Mary's in Los Angeles.

 “This is a great moment for all of us to come together and talk about the really relevant issues of access and affordability in higher education on a national platform.” McElaney-Johnson said.

 I am very concerned about access and affordability for K-12 also. There is a trend toward technology, along with less responsibility for transportation of students, that will further create a social divide in education. We'll create a new ghetto that busing won't effect. How many students will never have at-home access to technology, therefore, no access to school? No access to charter schools or online schools?  Many students can't accommodate the distance to technology at their school or library. Some areas are too dangerous for kids to be out and about looking for computer access. And millions of  kids live in rural areas.

We cannot leave these kids behind. Kids are our most important resource.

An OCD Bee!
This is to honor our busy-as-a-bee gardeners up in the East Bay, and their bombus pennsylvanicus (American bumble bees.) Here is some music to inspire a beeline:

Love both the young musicians. What fun.

I never watched the program Clash of the Choirs, but this rendition of the Flight of the Bumble Bee by  Rimsky-Korsakoff is really creative.

And a poem by Emily Dickinson about a garden and cycles.

New feet within my garden go,
New fingers stir the sod;
A troubadour upon the elm
Betrays the solitude.
New children play upon the green,
New weary sleep below;
And still the pensive spring returns,
And still the punctual snow!

Good Day Sunshine

July 1963; first sunny day in England since James I.

Laughter in the morning is the best
Good day sunshine,
Good day sunshine,
Good day sunshine.
I need to laugh, and when the sun is out
I've got something I can laugh about,
I feel good, in a special way.
I'm in love and it's a sunny day.

Maybe the clouds will form a daisy chain, too.
That must feel so good.
Good day sunshine,
Good day sunshine,
Good day sunshine.

                                                     We take a walk, the sun is shining down,
                                                     Burns my feet as they touch the ground.

In the moment...
She knows she's lookin' fine.

Good day sunshine,
Good day sunshine,
Good day sunshine.

                                                    And then we lie, beneath a shady tree,
                                                    I love her and she's loving me.

                                                     She feels good,
                                                     she knows she's looking fine.                                    

                                                     I'm so proud to know that she is mine.

                                                     Good day sunshine,
                                                     Good day sunshine,
                                                     Good day sunshine.
                                                     Good day sunshine,
                                                     Good day sunshine,
                                                     Good day sunshine,
                                                     Good day sunshine.

The animation is good if you're not quite awake yet.

 If you live somewhere it is overcast or raining,
       my sincere apologies from SoCal.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Good Morning, Spring, Time To Get Up

Spring, just waking up from a dreamy winter's sleep

Morning by Edvard Grieg

Written for the play Peer Gynt by Ibsen, who thought this music was too cheerful for his play. Oh well, morning is like that.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Raven--Flying To A DVD Near You

E. A. Poe; with this portrait, no wonder he would be the prime suspect.
 A film called "The Raven" will be debuting April 27, and it looks like an excellent briefing of Poe's various horror stories. He invented the genre way back in the 1840's.

His stories are completely compelling to read. In California, "The Tell-Tale Heart" is standard reading for Eighth Graders, who can really appreciate the fantastical machinations of the deviant mind. Seventh graders read "Annabelle Lee," but I think they are too young to be exposed to a character that emotionally disturbed. Grade 9 reads "The Cask of Amontillado," Grade 10 reads "The Masque of the Red Death," Grade 11 reads several selections including "The Raven." There is no 'poe-verty' in the California State Standards. (Sorry about the pun.)

Poe, a journalist in Baltimore, Maryland, for awhile, no doubt was exposed to truly extreme crimes that would make "Criminal Minds" seem like Sesame Street. He had a tough enough start in life as it was, and combined with intelligence, talent and America in the 1840's, et voila, the ingredients for very, very strange stories and poems. Attending West Point prior to the Civil War probably didn't help either.  I find his life sad, but his stories, especially the murder mysteries, complicated and interesting. The Rue Morgue...

Jeffrey Combs-great job.

 In Vegas last year was a great performance of Poe's works called "Nevermore." The actor Jeffrey Combs, of Star Trek fame, presented a one man show. It was great. I'm pretty picky about my famous authors, but he really nailed it. In a frenetic version of "Bells," his Edgar Allen Poe was especially convincing as the character became increasingly intoxicated.

Scientifically cool?

  In 1963, a B movie was made of "The Raven," with Peter Lorre, Vincent Price and Boris Karloff. It was called a horror/comedy. You'd think that would be an oxymoron. Jack Nicholson was in it, too, before the 'here's Johnny' line.

This preview reminds me a little of Johnny Depp's attempt at Ichabod Crane in "Legend of Sleepy Hollow" which diverged greatly from Washington Irving's hilarious story. However, I am not expecting the supernatural in this film, but the premise of "The Raven" to base its horror on the depravity of the human heart, whether its  tell-tale or not.

Here is the trailer. John Cusack plays Poe, but, thank heavens, doesn't resemble him that much.

Good Morning, Good Morning, Good Morninguh!

 The Beatles "Good Morning," Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Writing Prompts to Sooth Kids' Toxic Stress

Tell it like it feels.
We've heard of talk-therapy. In a class, writing can serve as an emotional release for students. Having a voice, using it in a confidential framework--a personal release of events and circumstances that a kid may really need. That is a gift from a teacher.

Research indicates children need practice expressing their feelings, identifying what is an appropriate response, and who is their support system. Writing assignments can really help.

Writing is a powerful outlet.
As a middle school teacher, I would ask the students to follow the pattern of a five paragraph essay (with appropriate preparation and explanation.) Each of these prompts includes a 'three' for the internal paragraphs. Yes, I'm practical enough to want to prepare them for the California State Writing Examination for Grade 7 in March.

Writing, however, can function as an outlet for a student's deep feelings.

 Here is my Number One All Time Favorite Writing Prompt; it works especially well at the beginning of school. The students are given a promise of confidentiality.

"Three Things I Want You To Know About Me."

Students can describe sports' preferences, music, family life. With seventh graders, I found they would frequently write about very serious things, too, that their dad was in prison, or how their mom had been diagnosed with cancer but is okay now. Kids can be eloquent, if someone just asks them something important. As a teacher I got to know the students very quickly, and I don't just mean that they couldn't spell or punctuate. It felt good for them to write about something important, something they chose to tell Teacher about.

Kids can be eloquent if allowed.
Although it is not just kids suffering in poverty that need a release through writing, here is more research on the importance of giving students access to expressing their personal thoughts as a release to toxic stress, and the tools to deal with emotions.

Angels' fan in the midst of Dodgers' fans.

Let's not be always so serious all the time. Life for kids now is pretty stressful in general. So here is a topic that can generate fun, friendship and comradery. If you wish, the students can create powerpoints. One year I did a powerpoint of my own, the students thought it was pretty funny.

"Three Of The Coolest Things I've Ever Seen."

The Chivas forever.
Its amazing. Some of my students have seen the pyramids in Mexico City. They can describe, in detail to make Howard Cosell jealous, a header in a soccer game that scored the winning goal. A homerun completely unexpected. A teacher can also learn a lot about music from essays like this. The students want to share these essays, so I set up groups for them to discuss; we have a good time, showing respect for other's opinions is our number one goal. (Always Dodgers and Angels fans describing a homerun or great catch. Lots of debates between these two groups as to who is best.)

Here's a link with so many other ideas for fun in class.

 Middle school kids have a very basic sense of humor, so teachers had better be ready for this one. Actually, age doesn't really mature a sense of humor in most people. So I just tell the kids to keep it 'G' rated, and try to minimize the bathroom humor with this topic.

"The Three Times I Laughed The Hardest"

I laughed so hard...
There's  lots of falling, farting, and SNL skits with these essays, but sometimes a kid's just got to be silly, and laugh awhile. Everybody does. That will sooth toxic stress for a bit.

Here's a link for help with explaining the technicalities of writing.

 The anecdotes the kids can come up with.

Can't Touch That

Oh, the Three Coolest Things I've seen?

Close runner up--Janet Jackson's "Rhythm Nation."               

So cool.

Reading the Signs of Love

Natalie's sign for love
Thank you, Paul McCartney, for the lovely song and even lovelier music video.

  "My Valentine" video. And these are the correct signs for love.

Apparently there were some errors with the signing.

And actually it appears the video has been removed! I'm sorry--maybe it's on McCartney's site. Its so cool--reminds me of when I had an activity with singing and signing in my Special Ed. class.

Johnny's sign for love.

My Valentine - Featuring Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp
Directed by Paul McCartney
Featuring: Natalie Portman and Johnny Depp
Guitar: Eric Clapton (because George Harrison was unavailable)

What if it rained?
We didn't care
She said that someday soon the sun was gonna shine.
And she was right, this love of mine, My Valentine
As days and nights,
would pass me by
Paul at the Grammys singing to Nancy.
I tell myself that I was waiting for a sign
Then she appeared,
a love so fine, My Valentine
And I will love her for life
And I will never let a day go by
without remembering the reasons why
she makes me certain that I can fly
And so I do,
without a care
I know that someday soon the sun is gonna shine
And she'll be there This love of mine My Valentine
What if it rained?
We didn't care.
She said that someday soon the sun was gonna shine
and she was right This love of mine, My Valentine

Monday, April 16, 2012

Tweets of the Week

Lots of activity in the world of education.

It is the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens' birth! Let's check out his life, which was very Dickensian.

PBS has two productions of his currently available online to view, one enormously famous book, one almost unknown story. If you can't tell the difference between the two titles, read my previous blog.

This looks good and creepy. Its a mystery.

You can already buy this one.
The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

Its rather gothic.

 Here is the other PBS Masterpiece presentation by Dickens:

Great Expectations.  Don't forget you can also read the stories.

Here is a lovely, long link about librarians and literacy. And such alliteration! You can get to know your librarian while you're checking out Great Expectations.

Developing the 'green corners' of the playground.
Living, teaching, and growing in the real world of nature. Kids needs to be outside! Using nature as a lesson plan.

It is obvious that not all teachers have the resources (natural or otherwise) to have an outdoor playground. But we can interact with nature on some level.

 Here is a quote from the University of Michigan (and it has nothing to do with football, well, not exactly.)

"According to approximately 26 percent of the parents recently surveyed by the University of Michigan's C.S. Mott Children's Hospital, there is not enough playground space at schools for kids. Polling parents across the country, the study shows that more playgrounds in schools would make parents happy as well as help fight against childhood obesity.  One in every sixth child is affected by childhood obesity and taking a child to a outside to a park or recreation area to for them to spend time on a playground, that helps fight against childhood obesity."

Here is a link from Edutopia concerning the outdoor exposure kids are missing. Excellent CG on a video game is not enough.

"It's not just that the outdoors is uncool" to kids who prize gaming devices over games of catch, says Martin LeBlanc, national youth director of the Sierra Club. "It's that it doesn't exist for them."

That looks so inviting.
That is a very profound thought. Kids who never experience any natural setting. That's practically abuse.

In many areas when kids want to go outside, there is the question of air pollution and also street violence. Let's do something about these, too.

Here's a nice instructible about urban gardens for kids.
Sprouts for the sprouts.

One more link. We learn through all modalities. The fine arts are important whether you play like Mozart or will be a da Vinci. If nothing else, its fun and a good emotional release.

Love those curls.

Such a happy guy.
 Mona Lisa and those young gentlemen in all those portraits, you can just eat your hearts out!

Mini-Series Review: Charles Dickens' Great Expectations

Gillian Anderson, as Miss Havisham, the best crazy eyes ever.
This is Charles Dickens' at his creepy best; Great Expectations is even more disturbing than "A Christmas Carol," because this isn't a supernatural story, just people being enormously terrifying and bizarre in the real world. The BBC really outdid itself in setting the tone and mood of this serving of Dickens.

This link should be good for awhile so you can see this magnificent story online.

Ray Winstone, as Abel Magwitch
For those who were not involved in reading Dickens in school, let me say that although these stories translate well to film, Dickens really is worth reading for his personable style; his characters are alive. The setting is so compelling, you practically choke on the smoke, fog, and yuck in the London air. You can just about smell Abel Magwitch's B.O.

Dickens can really scare you, and make you worry for his innocent-victim-of-circumstance  characters. I still worry about David Copperfield (David Copperfield). Somehow that story didn't seem finished. And it was so sad about Nancy (Oliver Twist.). Dickens' own personal story is very Dickensian, so he wrote with a heart of experience as to the abandonment, terror, and anticipation of youth.

Oscar Kennedy as Pip the younger.
Douglas Booth as Pip the Elder.
Dickens, as always, is concerned about the economic class struggle of Victorian England and compares and contrasts the souls of the characters to evaluate who is noble and who is despicable. In this story, a little boy named Philip Pirrup (Pip) is lead through a series of manipulations that test the value of all his relationships and motives. He must grow into a gentleman.
Pip turned out to be a pip.

Pip's acquaintance with Miss Havisham is astonishingly awful, almost a horror flick. Gillian Anderson perfects the role. I never once expected her to say, "Mulder, is that you?" which is not a simple task when you are well known for another role. (X Files.) But she was also excellent in Bleak House by our author Dickens.

Please don't be satisfied with only the film or mini-series versions of Dickens. The books are great to teach a class, or read aloud. Dickens himself would travel giving lectures, reading his stories and doing all the voices of his characters. He came to America, too. And there are many documentaries on Dickens, at least five on Netflix.

You can also download some stories from this site, to read or listen to.

Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham
A movie version of this story is in production due the end of the year, as this is the two hundredth anniversary of Dickens' birth.  When it comes out, we can compare and contrast Gillian Anderson and Helena Bonham Carter, the two Miss Havishams. (Though the pic at the right looks a bit like Tim Burton should have produced it.)

This youtube link from PBS Masterpiece almost gives away everything, but maybe it will tempt you enough to read or watch this classic. It is just a really good story.