Elements of Structure Series: Part 11: Tough questions: students and humor

This video is PG-13. And no, the number doesn’t work. A student shared this with me a few weeks ago. To spark a conversation, I thought it would be interesting to see what other students thought about it, too. Students also watched this one, too. No commentary from me, just questions. As this writing, they’ve only seen it once in the context of notes, but haven’t had a chance to do a QFT or discussion about it. But — I have my own questions. A lot of them. Would I have shared this with students who were predominately white? Or would…

Series: Elements of Structure Part 10: Top Ten (But it will go to 11…)

Not in any particular order, this is my own curated list of what I perceive as the hugely influential, double-edged swords of structure from 2016. Warning: I will not apologize for analyzing politics in this post (see #4). If you’re fed to the teeth and just want some ideas, skip over words. We’re all feeling like children whose parents are in the beginning stages of a dysfunctional divorce: still a lot of yelling, we don’t know if we want to live with mom or dad, lawyers have been contacted, and broken glass to clean up. And no one’s seen the…

Series: Elements of Structure Part 8: Zines and Chaps

Zine magazines and Chapbooks – two formats that have specific structures that speak to the urgency of getting something out there, fast, with beauty. In this recent post, The Resurgence of the Zine Culture, the writer makes a strong case for zines returning popularity. “It’s as simple as folding some paper and letting your creativity flourish. Splatter paint on it, write words haphazardly across the page, photograph everything. You can write about cats or “Doctor Who” or the ways media is suppressing black voices. There are no rules and no limits.” Seriously: the potential for this!! Students crave a balance…

Series: Elements of Structure Part 7: World Building

Recently my arrival at some conclusions has left me feeling a bit off, beginning with my inability to make decisions or plan, as if I thought I knew what my destination was, only to find out I am on the other side of the rails. In conjunction with the dawning light that while I work at a Title I school, my judgment, motivation, professionalism and even integrity will always be criticized at worst, and questioned at least. Can I build up my students’ learning with the help of colleagues and collaboration, or will continue to be singled out? Which is…

Series: Elements of Structure Part 6: It's like…

  Analogies. Anecdotes. Allusions. How do we connect with readers? I am cursed with reading. I used to love it: diving down deep into a novel or story, sprinkling my mind with pixie dust and faraway vistas. It seems all I read lately are op-ed pieces that make my blood pressure rise. My tether to fantasy and imagination frays and twists: reading for pleasure is challenging.  A recent article in the Washington Post by Charles Lane, “Griping about the popular vote? Get over it.” Lane begins his piece as any hack, by using a sports analogy. I hate sports analogies. Sports…

Series: Elements of Structure Part 5: Radio and Podcasts

I need to interrupt this regularly scheduled blog post to talk about something…odd. Call it a coincidence, call it fate, call it noticing patterns and ‘close reading’ of the minutiae of my life. Two days ago I chose to catch up on some podcasts, and Stuff You Missed in History Class came on featuring a teacher named Jerry Hancock. His expertise is the history of Sears in American culture, economics, etc. And while that was fascinating, what struck me was his introduction about his teaching life. He clearly says because his school is doing academically well “they” leave him alone,…

Series: Elements of Structure Part 2: Shock and Awe

Part 2 of the Elements of Structure Series When I clicked on this link this morning, I did not know who the producers were. I had no idea about bias, message, or author’s purpose. I just sat and watched it, thinking it a sweet narrative. Normally I’m not so blinded by the surprise, the hidden but the overarching message. I didn’t think I was susceptible to misdirection: why? Because I know what it means–how can we be tricked when we invented the magic? But I was, and the effect was devastating. No spoilers here. I’ll allow you the same effect–would love…

Series: Elements of Structure Part I: Effect

As we weave in the CCSS into our instruction, create engaging work, etc. it’s my nature to dive deeply into the subject area–to me, that’s what great teachers do, even if they know a subject intimately. It’s the artist in me: there’s always more to observe and try. With that in mind, I am writing a series on structure, craft, and style. The first idea I want to share comes courtesy of my intelligent and wonderful colleague, Tami Gores. She and I are both working with coaches, and also have a common ground understanding of my friend and mentor, Holly…