Friday, December 16, 2011

January Continuity at Kealakehe Elementary

Staying with our journey around the island, the January continuity will be on Saturday, January 7 at Kealakehe Elementary School, P3 Classroom from 1-3:30. It's a perfect time to spend time with the family in the morning and get some you time in the afternoon.

For fellow Hiloans (East Side!), Costco run.

Shawna will be our hostess with the mostest and Cathy Riehle will invite us into her classroom for drama and playwriting. Shawna also promises us another mystery presenter.

In addition, our two LWP directors, Michele and Avis, will be sharing some news from their time at the NWP meeting as well as sharing some thoughts on the future of the Lehua Writing Project.

Hope to see you there, after all it was such fun the last time. Check it out here.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Celebrate Picture Book Month

Just sharing a post from my middle school book blog: 

Celebrating Picture Book Month in the Middle

"I have always believed that literature begins in the cradle -- the poems we say to the babies, the stories
we tell them -- prepare them to become part of the great human storytelling community. We humans are
the only creatures in the known universe who make and remake our world with story."
- Jane Yolen from her Picture Book Month essay

Dianne de Las Casas is hosting a Picture Book Month site for the month of November, so I thought I'd concentrate on some of my favorite Picture Books that we use at the Middle School. We may have a different intent in bringing them into the classroom, but I think that it works because it continues to connect us to the "great human storytelling community."

Summary: Vashti is a frustrated artist who is ready to give up in her art class when her teacher challenges her to just make a dot, then sign it. When her teacher honors Vashti's efforts and helps her to see her work from a different perspective, Vashti is inspired to push herself and with practice and confidence, her dots do become great pieces of art. At the end when she meets a young, frustrated artist Vashti is able to turn around and become a mentor for this young child.

What it looks like in the Middle:
I love to start the year off with this book, read it aloud, then ask my students why I read it. What does this story have to do with this class and what I expect from you?

That's usually all I need to ask. Some of what the students get from the book about the coming year:
  • Just do it (in this case, since it's English, just write)
  • When you write it, put your name on it, own it
  • Don't edit yourself ahead of time
  • Work will be honored and published
  • Push yourself to do better
  • Mentor others

What are your go-to picture books and what do you do with them at your level?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Renshi Poetry in the Social Studies Classroom

Renshi is a Japanese linked poetry form. The authors link their poems by starting with words from the last line of the poet before them. Sometimes there is no particular theme, and the theme evolves as the poets link their poems, and sometimes, like this one, the poets have a particular theme or event that they are all writing about.

At the Bamboo Ridge Press site, four poets, Christy Passion, Juliet Kono, Ann Inoshita and Jean Toyama are currently working on an online renshi around the Massie Affair. They started in August and the four will go for one year. Each poet has two weeks from the post of the author that they follow to post their new renshi.

What really excites me about this is the possibility of meaty, important writing in your non-language arts classroom. If you are familiar with some of the tools used by History Alive!, this is like Jumping into the Slide, only in writing. Basically, the students become the participants and put themselves in another's shoes as a way to fully immerse themselves in history. Check out the poems and you'll get it right away.

Historical background for this Renshi: The Massie Affair
The Massie Case is still one of the most controversial events in Hawai'i history. On September 12, 1931, Thalia Massie, wife of Naval officer Thomas Massie, was allegedly assaulted and raped in Waikiki by five local men. The trials highlighted the delicate racial balance of the Territory of Hawai'i.

Grace Fortescue, Thalia Massie, Lieutenant Thomas Massie (Advertiser file photo)

When a mistrial was declared and the five local men accused of the assault were set free, Lt. Massie, Thalia's mother Grace Fortescue, and two enlisted men kidnapped and murdered one of the defendants, Joseph Kahahawai. The four white defendants were represented by Clarence Darrow (of the Scopes Trial fame). They were found guilty of man-slaughter, and Territorial Governor Lawrence Judd commuted their sentences to one hour served in his company.

Joseph Kahahawai (Advertiser file photo)

The Massies and Grace Fortescue left Hawai'i by steamship and there was never a retrial on the rape case. The young couple divorced soon after returning to the Mainland.

Thalia Massie committed suicide in Florida in 1963.

Interested now?
Go check out the poetry as it unfolds this year. 
Ann Inoshita, one of the poets also held a Renshi workshop for teachers and students, so her tips and examples are here

Monday, October 24, 2011

Key Elements of a Fabulous Continuity

Our October 22 continuity event was a major hit with 12 participants representing 4 years of Summer Institutes (not bad considering we're 5 years old). We changed the location to UH Hilo but we still had one teacher from Waimea and one teacher from Kona attending. Yeah!

What made this continuity so successful?
The elements of a successful continuity. . .
1. Variety = Two teacher consultants sharing demo lessons from different grade levels and with very different teaching styles. It's not that hard with the "taskmaster" present to keep the day flowing.

Lynn Nagata brought us into her elementary classroom and took us through a poetry writing workshop with "happy memory poems".  Since she does this every year, she was also able to let us see her student anthologies.

Tamara wanted to try theatre of the absurd with her middle school students and she really challenged our thinking. We didn't think we could do it, but we were all able to write our 20 line monologues for our own Theatre of the Absurd in 20 minutes. Along the way, all of us, including Tamara, went on a journey of discovery by talking pedagogy and practice, parameters and assessment possibilities.

2. Joy = Writing and Sharing - we wrote together, we learned together, we shared together, we laughed together, we rejuvenated each other.

3.  Food  - duh. What's a Writing Project event without food. Sorry, no pics, I was busy eating.

Three elements to a successful continuity - Variety, Joy, Food. I hope all your professional development opportunities have the same elements for success.

Aloha, "The Taskmaster"

The next continuity session is scheduled for January 7 in Kona (tentatively at Kealakehe elementary). 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Why I Write: To Awaken the Spirit in the Downtrodden

 Twin brothers Al Mills and Nnamdi Chukwuocha use poetry and social action "to awaken the spirit of awareness buried deep within the souls of the downtrodden." Their poem, "Why I Write," aims to teach children about the importance of self-expression and how it can help them through their struggles and challenges.

Watch the Twin Poets in action—teaching and reciting.
The poem "Why I Write" isn't just a poem for Al Millis and Nnamdi Chukwuocha; it's their story of devotion to art and community and speaks to their goal of helping children grow up in the face of poverty and violence in the tough Riverside neighborhood of Wilmington, Delaware.

This NWP series of essays on "Why I Write" is so inspiring! We're going to start our day this Saturday on this exact prompt, so come ready to write.


Saturday, October 15, 2011

Student Voices: What Makes a Great Teacher

If you're not using the NWP site for resources,  there are so many goodies that will confirm what you're doing, give you more insights, give you research that can back up your teaching, etc. 

Check it out. In the meantime, here's an interesting article from the website.

Summary: The latest report from The College Board's Student Voices series gives students the opportunity to be a part of the national dialogue on education and to provide input on what it takes for teachers to be effective in the classroom.

In our national conversations about how to reform education, we sometimes overlook our best and most obvious resources: students. Policymakers and educators seldom seek their advice on how to improve our nation's classrooms. This is unfortunate. Without students' input, we have little chance of successfully improving the teaching and learning process.
In order to start reversing this trend, The College Board Advocacy & Policy Center , along with the National Writing Project and Youth Communication , has compiled an exciting new report that helps answer a critical question on school reform: What makes a great teacher?

Read the article, get a pdf of the 10 practices that students think are most important for effective reading, and get other resources to inspire you.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ms. @ 40 Essay Contest

Ms. Magazine Essay Contest

In celebration of the 40th anniversary of Ms. magazine in January 2012, Stanford University's American Studies Program, the Clayman Institute for Gender Research, and the Program for Feminist Studies is sponsoring an essay contest that has writers look at some iconic Ms. magazine covers and write about what it means to you. 

 Over the years, Ms. magazine has covered everything from feminist grassroots oganizing to in-depth investigative reporting to national politics. The letters to the editors from readers over the past four decades reveal the magazine's incredible impact on the everyday lives of women around the country. 

"For women throughout the country, it was mind-blowing. Here was, written down, what they had not yet admitted they felt, had always feared to say out loud, and could not believe was now before their eyes, in public, for all to read."
   --Carolyn Heilbrun, Gloria Steinem biographer

More information, entry link and a picture of all the covers are linked here, but here's the gist.

What: 150-word essay about one of the covers
By when: October 15, 2010
Prize: Ten $100 cash prizes for the best short essays judged on originality, vision, awareness of feminist issues, and quality of expression
Winning entries will be shown next to the covers at Stanford University for their celebration

This information came my way via TC Esther Kotke, but NWP was asked to disseminate this information to our teachers (sorry, I've been out of the loop and didn't get this message earlier to you).

I'm typing this as I'm sitting in my 2nd of three grad classes this weekend, so maybe you too will have some time to write something down by October 15.

Good luck and happy writing.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

October 20: National Day on Writing

To celebrate this year's National Day on Writing (Thursday, October 20), the New York Times National Learning Network, the National Writing Project and  Figment is accepting student work on the question "Why Do You Write?"

They want to hear all the diverse answers in the form of a poem, a short story, a play, a personal essay. . they want it all.

Submissions are going on from September 28 through October 29. 
Want other ways to get involved in the National Day on Writing?
Check out the NCTE site for more tips and ideas for you and for your students. The easiest thing to do is to write, but you can also involve your students, involve your staff, involve your families, involve your community. Invite an author. Tweet. Comment. 


Write (not just on one day, but every day)

Monday, September 26, 2011

Renew Yourself with October's Continuity Session

It's almost fall break and we're all looking forward to a little down time  - so enjoy, relax, feel the sand in your toes and the sun on your face because after that week, it's back to school.

Let Lehua Writing Project extend that joy for a little longer. Come to the October continuity session and renew yourself  because "me" time is sacred!

Continuity is all about teachers teaching teachers. It's about being niele and peeking into each others' classrooms to see what they're doing, to check out their student work, and to steal, borrow, pilfer (it's all good) whatever we can to bring back to our own classrooms.

We'll be in Hilo this time at UHH UCB331 from 8:30-11:30 on Saturday, October 22. If you're coming from the west side, north side, south side, make a day of it. Go to our Farmer's Markets, plan to go out to lunch, bring a colleague, do some shopping, rejuvenate.

We invite you to peek into Lynn Nagata's elementary inclusion class for Happy Memory Poems and Tamara Morrison's middle school English class for playwriting and the "Theatre of the Absurd." She'll also be sharing out mana'o on Lee Cataluna's playwriting workshop at UHH.

If you're coming, email me at - I'll try to send out evites too, but come - let's catch up.  I haven't seen you folks in a long time and I miss the fun.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day

Every day is a day of thanksgiving, but if no one has spoken your name in kindness, offered a lending hand, given you a free smile or a warm embrace today, then know that today we speak your name, we honor your strength, we marvel at your stamina and we acknowledge the hard work you put into every day, not for any monetary gain, but for the intangible rewards of being a teacher.

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day to our Dear Friends, Colleagues, Heroes

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Summer Reading List Item: A Place to Stand

Thank you Esther Kottke for sharing this video on Facebook.

This is a teaser trailer for Jimmy Santiago Baca's memoir A Place to Stand. If you're looking for a non-fiction book to read this summer, this looks good.

From Reviews:
Anyone who doubts the power of the written word to transform a life will know better after reading poet Jimmy Santiago Baca's wrenching memoir of his troubled youth and the five-year jail stint that turned him around.

Congratulations also go out to Esther for being accepted to the High Desert Writing Project this summer. She will be as valuable an asset to them as she is to us. Hoʻomaikaʻi!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Why Hawai'i Needs Writing Project

We are an island state in the middle of the ocean. When the wind shifts from tradewinds to southerly Kona winds, the whole state is covered in volcanic haze. When there is a threatened dock strike, every roll of toilet paper, from Kauai to Ka'u is whisked off the shelves by customers envisioning a cut off of all our supplies. As a small state, one community's suffering is all our suffering. 

If you look at our students and our schools in a clinical, statistical way, we are labeled as "less than," "deficient," "not meeting." We are a majority of minorities. We are a marginalized people. But look closer.  We are a rich quilt of ethnicities. We are a mirror for a better world. We each possess voices that need to be heard. In our hearts we contain old knowledge that hold answers for these times. In our na'au, our gut, we are centered to the teachings of the world.

Hawaii needs Writing Project (National Writing Project, Hawaii Writing Project, Lehua Writing Project) because this is a network of teachers that understands and values the knowledge of our people.

This is a network that uplifts the marginalized people and gives them a voice, even while others try to take that voice away.

This is a network of educators and community supporters that understands that all our answers are already within us. We don't have to worry if the planes aren't flying or the ships aren't coming in. Writing Project shows us that we have everything we need right in our own backyard.

We need Writing Project because they understand that literacy is the bridge to freedom from oppression, from colonization, from conformity.

We need Writing Project because they adamantly believe that the quality of the student comes from the quality of the teacher. I'm sure the National Writing Project leaders don't know the following Hawaiian proverb, but they live it - and that's what Hawaii needs - an educational support group that can help us to bring out the mana, the power, that already resides in us, so that we can pass that mana onto our own students.

I maika‘i ke kalo i ka ‘ōhā. The goodness of the taro is judged by the young plant it produces.

One voice is not enough. NWP bloggers have been blogging about their own thoughts on the power of NWP as well as their outrage that our government is not supporting national literacy programs like National Writing Project. If you want to read more blogs, go to the #blog4nwp archives. 

Tell us about your experience with Writing Project by posting your own blog or commenting on this one.

Always remember, you are not alone. ‘A‘ohe hana nui ke alu ‘ia. No task is too big when done together by all.

Cathy Ikeda

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lehua Writing Project Spring Conference Feedback Form

Feedback Form

Lehua Writing Project Spring Conference

Local Hawaiian author, Kimo Armitage speaks at the Lehua Writing Project Spring Conference.We had a fabulous day with literacy teachers from the Big Island attending our Conference at Kealakehe High School in Kailua Kona. It was nurturing and inspiring to be around so many teachers dedicated to writing and the teaching of writing. Mahalo!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

It's Not Too Late to Invite a Friend

Aloha e nā kumu,

This is just a reminder that besides the 15 gung ho education warriors that are slated to come to the first (and perhaps last) Lehua Writing Project Spring Literacy Conference, there is still time for you to come join us AND even invite a friend to come along. The conference is this Saturday (see the previous post) and I'll even include the invitation link for your convenience.

Invitation link

True, we are all busy. We have obligations. We have commitments. It's far. The guest author, Dr. Kimo Armitage, and I are flying in and out from Honolulu. We know about far.  So why is it important?

We must continue to seek out professional development in order to "regain our educational standing in the world." Linda Darling Hammond wrote an article in the Washington Post from the first ever International Summit on Teaching held in New York and she says that the United States has been "pursuing an approach to teaching  almost diametrically opposed to that pursued by the highest-achieving nations."

Going to a conference or a workshop to learn how to better implement the prescribed "literacy program" mandated by your school is NOT professional development. Let's name it for what it is. That kind of training is further colonization and oppression of the students who we claim to love. We as educators are being disrobed of our intellect, our curiosity, our critical thoughts until we stand naked and raw.

Let us not teach with complacency, but as Paulo Friere says, let us teach with "rage and love, without which there is no hope." (Pedagogy of Hope) Choose professional development that will give you the ammunition you need to never back down when you feel that policies and practices are not in the best interest of your students (past, present and future). Some relevant mana'o from the article for us:

    The first ever International Summit on Teaching, convened last week in New York City...was, perhaps, the first time that the growing de-professionalization of teaching in America was recognized as out of step with the strategies pursued by the world's educational leaders.
    How poignant for Americans to listen to this account while nearly every successful program developed to support teachers' learning in the United States is proposed for termination by the Obama administration or the Congress: Among these ... the National Writing Project and the Striving Readers programs that have supported professional development for the teaching of reading and writing all across the country.
    Jeannine and I hope you can make it to the conference. We will need to discuss our next steps this weekend, as well as probably try to work with Hawaii Writing Project on Oahu. We know we can offer a summer institute and this spring conference. What comes next is just our passion for good teaching, our commitment to improving literacy, and our aloha for the teachers who help na pua o Hawai'i, our greatest asset. 

    Me ka ha'aha'a,

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Tweets from Japan

    Paul Bryant, SI10, shares a link to some translated tweets from Japan. I am putting an excerpt here, but if you want to read more, here's the link

    Writing in the 21st century may have evolved, but the power of writing to showcase our humanity, our hopes, dreams, tragedies and triumphs does not change. We are connected through time as well as geography by the words that are written and passed on.

    Tweets from Japan (English Version)

    Here are tweets from Japan amid of the earth quake crisis (translation by @vida_es_bella, otherwise noted).
    * ディズニーランドでの出来事
    ディ ズニーランドでは、ショップのお菓子なども配給された。ちょっと派手目な女子高生たちが必要以上にたくさんもらってて「何だ?」って一瞬思ったけど、その 後その子たちが、避難所の子供たちにお菓子を配っていたところ見て感動。子供連れは動けない状況だったから、本当にありがたい心配りだった
    * At Tokyo Disneyland
    They distributed sweets that are part of their merchandise.  High school girls with heavy makeup took away more candies than they would possibly eat and that raised my eyebrows.  Later, I saw those girls giving the candies to kids at evacuation areas.  Families with kids had limited mobility and couldn't get to where the candies were distributed.  Go girls!
    snacks at shops were offered @ Tokyo Disneyland. High school girls helped distribution to families with kids.

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Bill Severs NWP Federal Funding

    On March 2, President Obama signed a bill to keep the government running until March 18. The bill cuts about $4 billion in spending from the FY 2011 budget, eliminating a number of education programs, including the National Writing Project, Reading is Fundamental, the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and Teach for America.

    These cuts, which jeopardize the work of the NWP—the nation's leading effort to improve writing and learning—impact NWP’s federal funding beginning October 1, 2011.

    For the latest information on the budget, and other programs affected, visit Education Week's blog.
    The National Writing Project is not giving up and according to NWP President Sharon Washington, we are able to continue funding until the summer, so our summer institutes will not be affected.

    If you are interested in tangible ways to help, NWP Works! is a ning set up with information, the latest news and ways to get involved and stay involved.

    Wednesday, February 16, 2011

    March Continuity: Blues Rift Writing with Tamara Wong Morrison

    You're invited!
    If you haven't been able to make our other two continuity sessions (with Risa Carles and Shawna Fischer), there's still one more before the spring conference. Join us on Saturday, March 5 at NHERC from 9-12. *Major apologies to Shawna for misidentifying her in an earlier post.

    Poet, teacher and writing project alum Tamara Laulani Morrison will be doing a demonstration lesson on composing in-character BLUES RIFTS. See how she helped her students to writea blues rift as the characters in their novels (Of Mice and Men and To Kill a Mockingbird).

    Hele mai. Come. You deserve to read, write, share, laugh, be energized, be rewarded, be inspired.

    Ho'omakaukau? Ready?
    Look out for an evite from Jeannine or just email me at

    Hope to see you there!