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.