Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Updates on the All-School Write

I started this entry last week but never had time to get back to it...Oct. 12
Frustration! When I got here today, I went to my mailbox expecting at least a few responses on the cards we had passed out, but nothing! So, I typed up the ones I received last week and found that, minus the anonymous ones and ones like, "I lik ur hair," there were 20 I could designate for the newspaper and for prizes.

Prizes are another story altogether. I struggled with deciding between school-related items (pencils, pens, pencil boxes, notebooks, etc.) and hokey Halloween items -  finally settling on the Halloween items. They're either going to come across as extremely hokey/dorky or clever/cool just because students don't usually get small insignificant prizes for writing...right?

I distributed the prizes to the appropriate homeroom boxes and then decided to stay and drop in on the newspaper group. That was when I found out that A, the instructor, had visited my mailbox on the previous day and, to my surprise, had pulled all additional cards I had been looking for. His perception was that they were "pretty negative," but he had found about 6 that they would publish in the newspaper. Of course I had to relate that I had just finished sending prizes out to the 20 people from last week and that some of them needed to be included in the publication as well. No problem, he said. They would just add another page to the paper.

Long story, short, the next day I had all of the cards...sent out more candy and thank-you's and transcribed and sent the second set of responses  to the principal. He loved them and asked if I would display blown-up copies of the responses on a bulletin board in the cafeteria.  The results are in the photo above. I ended up with between 40 and 50 really thoughtful responses and I am content with that.

Other bonuses from the all-school write: Publicity - I gained a permanent bulletin board in a prominent location to display student work and writing opportunities. I used the postings on the bulletin board as an opportunity to send emails to all staff encouraging them to read the responses and to do some writing of their own on the National Day of Writing, October 20. Although there is not school here, I suggested that with 3 days away from students, that they might like to do a little writing.  I asked them to think of a time when they were younger and struggling with difficult circumstances or a tough decision. I suggested they write a letter to that younger self with advice from their older self on how to deal with the situation. (idea from NWP/MWP)

So, I have really gotten my money's worth out of the all-school prompt.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Staff Connections

Publicity and buy-in from staff, students and community is going to make The Write Place a viable and dynamic part of the school. I have a million ideas of what I'd like to see happen, but at the moment, it seems like there are so many logistical pieces in the way. One, of course, is that I am not on site every day so feel a little bit peripheral when I'd like to be integral, or at least have The Write Place be integral. Another piece is the schedule: students attend most of their classes every other day, so I'm constantly referring to the schedule to see what's when. The school has extended hours, which are optional, so that students have potentially 10 class options over two days plus a homeroom. It seems overwhelming. So, for example, students meet twice on even weeks and three times on odd. I have taught under that schedule and found it extremely hard to get continuity. But maybe that will not affect the writing center's effectiveness.

Monday I met with the arts teachers: Video Production, Chorus, and Band. I loved talking with them because of my own arts background. I see such a correlation between creating something visually and creating a piece with words. I always took my students in art and English through similar processes when creating new pieces. Anyway, these teachers would like to create Moodle blogs for groups of their students to give feedback/peer reviews of each other's work. They would also like to have their students write artist's statements about the work they do. I have promised to find examples of critiques so that students will have models to follow. I have some sample artist's statements as well. Our meeting was brief, so I think I will follow up with each of the teachers individually so that I can see some of the work that students have been doing.

Tuesday I introduced myself to staff and presented the all-school write at each of the morning staff meetings that are held at 7:30 and 8:30 am monthly. I had intended to be a little more compelling - maybe present a short video clip of students or others talking about writing, but I didn't realize when the meeting was until just the day before it, and it didn't seem worth waiting another month. As it turned out, all presentations were brief, and teachers were anxious to get to class. I hope a few take time to write a response to the prompt.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

All-School Write

Today was our first "All-School" write.
            a. The students
            b. Mingling with the students
            c. Being visible to the students
            d. Working with the newspaper reps
            e. A few thoughtful responses
            a. The venue selected to introduce the task: The lunchroom
            b. The time of day selected to introduce the task: Lunchtime

In preparation for today, I contacted the principal and the AV guy. The principal first, so that I was sure this would be sanctioned by the administration and I just didn't know the logistics of presenting a schoolwide prompt. My thoughts centered around posting the prompt around the building (which is huge) and then advertising through homeroom about the writing opportunity. The principal felt that students probably would not respond to the postings around the building...I'm not sure. Anyway, he suggested that I hand out cards and pencils to everyone in 3 lunches along with an explanation of the prompt. I think everyone knows the downside of doing anything during school lunches, but I was willing to give it a try...The AV guy was ready with the prompt projected and a microphone available. Even with the microphone, the principal could not get students to be totally quiet during the 1st lunch, but 3 of us walked among the tables and distributed cards with prompts attached, and we did receive back about 20. During the second lunch, it was very quiet, but the group was almost entirely ELL. I introduced the prompt at this lunch, but when I walked around, no one had a clue as to what they were supposed to do with the card. During 3rd lunch, N. from the school paper met with me ahead of time to go over what she would say. We had to introduce the topic ourselves without the benefit of the principal somewhat calming the lunchroom. Controlled chaos is what it felt like. We distributed cards and prompts but really only received a couple back.

Things I'd do again: Attach the prompt to the notecard (a last minute decision that really paid off). I would contact the custodian beside the AV guy, because we waited quite a while for someone to raise the curtain and move the screen out. I also would only have the prompt itself on the screen in the future. Today, I had all the background/directions up as well as the prompt.
My foot is slowly opening the door...