Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Something bigger

at Two Writing Teachers!
"Are we going to work on our stories today?"

"Do we get to write today?"

"Mrs. M, will you look at my story?"

For the past week, my classroom has felt different.  As soon as my students walk into class, their eyes shine as they ask if we'll be writing today.  They search the "in class" section on the board to see if writing time is posted. Students who never do homework pull out folders and laptops, eager to show me paragraphs and pages they carefully crafted last night or over the weekend... voluntarily!

Ever since we became part of the StoryBox Project, my students have started to see themselves as real writers with stories to tell and information to share.  Some are writing about their countries or telling the story of how they came to America. Some are describing special friends and family members, sharing stories about their favorite activities, or even writing poetry.  Others are articulating their hopes, dreams, and struggles.  All of them are excited: excited to explore who they are, excited to share a piece of themselves with others, and excited to be a part of something bigger than our classroom.

Won't you join us?  Together, our words mean more.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The StoryBox Project: connecting the world through story

(This is part 2 of my description of my students' first day with Kevin Cordi's StoryBox Project!)

So after my students and I contemplated the power of words and shared our thoughts, and after I told them about experiencing the StoryBoxes at CAWP, I reached behind my desk and revealed the surprise: 
the CAWP StoryBox!
My students are now part of an international network of people who value stories and want to share them!  We are keepers of the StoryBox, charged with appreciating it, adding to it, and passing it on!

I began pulling out stories and reading where they were from: Tennessee, West Virginia, Australia, schools around Columbus... so many exciting stories!  But I also pointed out that despite the variety already in the box, it's mostly empty, because this box is just starting its journey... so we have the opportunity to get it off to a good start!
Drop Off Box
(This picture links to the electronic story submission form.  Join us by sharing your own story!)
As I stepped back from the box, my students immediately dove in.
Some grabbed CDs and ran to the computers to listen to audio-stories.  Others grabbed a story and sat down with a partner to read together.  Still others clutched a packet of stories and curled up to lose themselves in it.

At the end of class, I knew we had to do something special to cement the excitement and gravity of the StoryBox.  I displayed Kevin's StoryBox Pledge on the screen, and we all stood up and recited it in unison.  When I was planning this, I had been slightly nervous that high schoolers would think that was dumb, but the solemnity of their voices and the pride in their eyes showed me that I had nothing to fear. (One class did make me close the door though, presumably so no hallway wanderer would look in and, as an outsider to our community, think we were weird!)

To remind them of this special day and keep them excited about the project, all students got to choose from a selection of bookmarks I made:
On one side, each bookmark has the StoryBox Pledge and one of the 8 quotations about writing/stories that I had shared at the very beginning of class. On the other side, students are reminded that their words are a gift.
(Just the quotation at the top is different on each of the 8 styles.)
Please make this project even more meaningful by submitting your own story or requesting to have the StoryBox visit you!

"We all have stories that are meant to travel—to be read or experienced by someone else." 
-- StoryBox Founder Kevin Cordi

Follow the journey of the StoryBox on Twitter with #storyboxproject and check back here for more posts about our experience with this exciting project!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Recognizing the gift of words

A few days ago, when my students walked into class, they were greeted by a bouncing me chirping that I had a surprise for them.  On the screen, they found a selection of quotations about writing and stories to contemplate:

Next, I invited students to think even more about the power of words:
(This summer at CAWP, the wonderful Kevin Cordi always told us that words are a gift.)
I shared two examples:

  • The daily emails and weekly letters that my husband and I sent each other when I lived in Spain.
  • When I wrote an article for the TBDBITL game-day newsletter about how much band meant to me, and the editor put it on the front page!  For the whole next week, band members were talking about how special it was and how my words made them think and feel.
Next, students got a few minutes to sketch or brainstorm their own special memories, and then we came back together to share as a class.  Some highlights (and remember, I teach high schoolers!) were:
  • The boy who drew a flower and explained that it represented his mom, who always ends an argument or admonishment by reminding him that she loves him no matter what he does.
  • Several students who described how they cherish calls and video-calls to family members back in their countries.
  • The shy girl who shared that when she left Japan, her best friend told her to look up at the sky while they're apart, because the same sky covers the whole world.
  • The boy who didn't want to share, and then showed me his paper privately.  He'd written: "when my mom and dad say they love me."
  • The girl who said that when she'd been going through a rough time last year, a friend had told her to not give up, because "strong bends but doesn't break."
Those brief, courageous moments of sharing certainly brought our community closer, and then it was time to reveal my surprise!  I reminded them that I went to a writing camp this summer, and then began to show pictures of a special day at the CAWP retreat: the day Kevin brought StoryBoxes to share!  

You can probably guess the surprise now, but there's more to share, and this post is already too long... Guess you'll have to read more tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Following the words

at Two Writing Teachers!
I've been meaning to write about an exciting project happening in my classroom, and I was going to write about it today...

but then I drove home with the windows open, and the sky was so blue, and the air had that delightful fall feeling that's somehow warm and chilly at the same time,

and then lines of a poem were bouncing through my mind, begging to be wrestled with and laid out into something real.

So please check back later this week for a peek into the cool things that are happening in my classroom for the next few weeks!  Meanwhile, here's the poem, which started out as a nature poem, and then when I decided the first line was going to be "now", it turned into something that wanted to feel like "After Many Springs" by Langston Hughes.

Autumn Echoes

when the tired sun sinks low a little earlier,
stretching long shadows that twine together
reaching for something they can't quite grasp

and wispy clouds spread like freshly carded cotton
suspended in a sky so blue you might fall up
and soar away like diving into clear water,

the playful breeze carries whiffs of chill,
teasing ghosts of goosebumps across my arms
that vanish almost before they appear.

What are those faint echoes shimmering on the wind?

Fleeting shouts and giggles,
splashes of color on a silvery bell,
spindly shadows marching as one.