#NETA14InstaWalk … or InstaParty?

You are cordially invited to our party, our #NETA14InstaWalk party, that is.

MissionPossible

Later this week, educators from all over the region will be flocking to the the La Vista Convention Center for the premier Midwestern educational technology convention–> #NETA14 and this year, Eliu PaoPao and I will be hosting the first ever InstaWalk. We want YOU to join us.

What is an InstaWalk? you might be asking. An Instawalk is a photo scavenger hunt of sorts designed to infuse #NETA14 with an element of fun and whimsy, whilst offering yet another brilliant opportunity for attendees to network. Also, we’ve decided to gamify it by offering badges to those of you who carry out the given tasks.

To participate, follow these steps.

1. If you don’t have the Instagram app on your mobile device, download it from the app store and establish an account.

2. We will post the scavenger tasks in a couple of places: here on my blog, on Paopao’s blog and on NETA’s Instagram. Either check back here, or follow the NETA Instagram to see the prompts.

3. Fulfill the scavenger tasks throughout your NETA14 experience. Snap; share; search; interact.

4. Make sure to add #NETA14InstaWalk to all of your photo captions. This will send your photo to an Instagram backchannel that will allow everyone to see our photos in one place. Some of these photos will be regrammed on the NETA Instagram account. (Please note that if you have a PRIVATE Instagram account, you photos will not show up in the backchannel for everyone to see. They will only appear to those users who follow you. There are pros and cons to private accounts.)

5. This is for fun, so don’t let it stress you out! If you can’t fulfill one of the prompts, NBD. It’s not a contest; it’s strictly to make our conference experience more fun, so we hope you enjoy it! Everyone who plays is a winner, and even those who don’t play can enjoy the fruits of our labor.

6. If you’re more of a lurker, you can also watch the fun unfold by searching for the #NETA14 hashtag on Instagram (via the EXPLORE function) or clicking on the tag when it appears in the caption of a photo. However, I want to encourage you to pop your comfy lurking bubble and at least try one of the tasks. This will be a very supportive environment to test the waters of social media, if you haven’t done so before.

In addition to posting your photos, we also encourage you to comment on and “LIKE” others’ photos as well. Interaction is the goal here! You can also share your photos via Twitter or Facebook. Josh Allen has set up an IFTTT recipe to share these photos via the NETA Facebook page and Twitter and Elui and I will share some of them via our personal Twitter feeds also (@epaopao & @morgetron).

Paopao and I will be keeping our eyes on the #NETA14InstaWalk backchannel, and we will be delivering badges to everyone who earns them via shared Google Drive Folder! If you earn a badge, we will tag you on the badge post on Instagram and then, eventually contact you to download your very own copy of the badge to display wherever you want to display it. Remember EVERYONE who plays, wins.

#slowchated Poetry is for everyone (AND this is a party)!

This post is cross-posted here: #SLOWCHATED BLOG.
 

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You can find poetry in your everyday life, your memory, in what people say on the bus, in the news, or just what’s in your heart.

~ Carol Ann Duffy

April is National Poetry month, which means that April is a month that ONLY English teachers should be interested in … right?

EL-WRONGO-BONGO.

Poetry is for EVERYONE … even you, and you, and especially you … and your grandma, and your best friend and your grandma’s best friend. So let’s get this party started with some personal definitions of poetry. Nothing says PAR-TAY like defining words. #W00t! <smashes generic cola can into forehead>

Remember: It’s a party, so be raw; be honest. If you hate poetry, tell us why. If you love it, wreck a guitar and tell us about it. Wear a jaunty hat, and flirt with the idea of wearing false eyelashes–just for this week–just for our party. Also: Glitter. There can never be too much glitter. Consider all of this as you think up your definition of poetry.

I’m going to to ease you into this with a question, but FAIR WARNING, much of what I’ll be asking of you this week will not be so much questions as they will be TASKS or better yet … PARTY GAMES. Consider DAY 1 the ice-breaker-mingly-honeymoon-fancy cheese-and-crackers phase of the party.

Day 1 (Q1): What is Poetry? #slowchated

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti said, “Poetry is eternal graffiti written in the heart of everyone.” Carl Sandburg said, “Poetry is the journal of a sea animal living on land, wanting to fly in the air.” Bob Dylan said, “I think a poet is anybody who wouldn’t call himself a poet.” Emily Dickinson said, “If I feel physically, as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry.” Rita Dove said, “Poetry is language at its most distilled and most powerful.” Marianna Moore said, “Poetry is the art of creating imaginary gardens with real toads.” Leonard Cohen said, “Poetry is just the evidence of life. If your life is burning well, poetry is just the ash.”

How do YOU define poetry? Feel free to be straightforward or … poetic. I want to hear from some English teachers, of course, but I for sure want to hear from EVERYONE else too.

DAY 2/QUESTION 2:

Q2.1: What is your fave poem or if you hate poetry (WHY?) what is your most palatable poem? (Provide a link, if possible.) #slowchated

Q2.2: Tell us WHY said poem is your fave or more palatable than others … For a bonus points, do an interpretive dance. #slowchated

(Yes, it’s THAT kind of party.)

Check back for updates throughout the week. In the meantime, check out these resources.

POETRY RESOURCES for ALL Y’ALL.

20 POETS on the MEANING of POETRY

WHAT is POETRY? 50 DEFINITIONS and COUNTING

POEMS.COM

POETRY 180

POETRY ABOUT POETRY

POETRY FOUNDATION

IDEAS for EVERYDAY FOR THE REST OF THE MONTH+

POETRY EVERYWHERE!

Don’t use the phone. People are never ready to answer it. Use poetry.

~ Jack Kerouac

Why School? (as inspired by Mrs. Ripp’s 5th graders)

 

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Dear #phsCONlit students,

Today, we are going to be reading some of Pernille Ripp’s 5th graders’ blog post about this question: WHY SCHOOL?

1. Think about your own answer to this question (Why school?) and the follow-ups that are easily derived. (What has it done for you? Is it important? Is it for everyone? What alternatives are there? What works well? What could be better?) Answer these questions either mentally, on paper, or in your own blog.

2. Then … (and only after you’ve given it some significant thought) read what the 5th graders had to say. There are links to their blogs below.

3. Respond to their blog posts in the comments.

4. Remember: Comments need to be high quality. Here are some guidelines to follow when posting.

The best kinds of comments are …

A. questions that extend the conversation

Why do you believe the unicameral is such a positive thing?
OR
Do you believe that this will change the way we do business in America?

B. observations about the content or style of the post

I noticed that you are very passionate about aliens!
OR
I’d never thought about deer habitats from the perspective of a deer before I read your post.

C. counter-points to a position (done respectfully)

As someone who has experienced hunger first-hand, I disagree with your stance on welfare.

D. personal or observational connections you made to their post

This reminds me of the time I made my teacher laugh so hard, she cried.
OR
Your writing reminds me of David Sedaris’s!

Mix up your response types too. READ the OTHER COMMENTS already posted and try to add something NEW to the conversation.

LINKS:

MRS. RIPPEMMYMICHAELDANIELLESAFFRONALEXNISAZACHKEVINCIANABRUNOJACKLOGANCHARLESALLINATESYDNEYCOLINELLAMORGANMACKENZIE

#NETA14InstaWalk: Another Dynamite Opportunity to Network at This Year’s Conference

The NETA convention always presents plenty of opportunities for educators from all over Nebraska and nearby states to connect on a personal level, from Tweet ups to a Twitter hashtag (#NETA14 this year!) to surrounding oneself with like-minded learners and educational movers and  shakers–in the flesh. Recently, NETA Board Member, soon-to-be President-Elect and Bald and Bearded Wonder, Josh Allen  approached me about hosting NETA’s first ever InstaWalk. Of course, being the social media-obsessed lady that I am, I totally geeked out about the prospect and so here we are.

We’ll be modeling ourselves after the ASCD Instawalk, but we will be putting our own Midwestern twist on it.

Essentially, the NETA14 InstaWalk will be a photo scavenger hunt for all conference attendees. We will share our photos via Instagram, using the #NETA14 hashtag and then we will regram some of the tagged photos on NETA’s very own (and very new) Instagram account (@nebedtech). I will also share some here on my blog. Naturally, I will be participating too because I do love me some Instagram. I have three accounts–> one personal one (@morgetron), one for my classroom (@mizmorgetron) and one for a special project that my Contemporary Literature students undertook this semester (@dollyfamilyrules). This will be yet another way to network with other attendees (and presenters), but will serve also as a virtual tour for anyone who can’t make it to the event this year.

To participate, follow these steps.

1. If you don’t have the Instagram app on your mobile device, download it from the app store and establish an account.

2.  On both Thursday and Friday of the conference, we will post the daily scavenger hunts in a couple of places … here on my blog and on NETA’s Instagram. Either check back here, or follow the NETA Instagram to see the prompts.

3. Fulfill the scavenger tasks throughout your NETA14 experience. Snap, share, search, interact.

4. Make sure to add #NETA14InstaWalk to all of your photo captions. This will send your photo to an Instagram backchannel that will allow everyone to see our photos in one place. Some of these photos will be regrammed on the NETA Instagram account. (Please note that if you have a PRIVATE Instagram account, you photos will not show up in the backchannel for everyone. They will only appear to those users who follow you. There are pros and cons to private accounts.)

5. This is for fun, so don’t let it stress you out! If you can’t fulfill one of the prompts, NBD. It’s not a contest; it’s strictly to make our conference experience more fun, so we hope you enjoy it!

6. If you’re more of a lurker, you can also watch the fun unfold by searching for the #NETA14 hashtag on Instagram (via the EXPLORE function) or clicking on the tag when it appears in the caption of a photo. However, I want to encourage you to pop your comfy lurking bubble and at least try one of the tasks. This will be a very supportive environment to test the waters of social media, if you haven’t done so before.

Krissy Venosdale hosted ASCD’s InstaWalk this year, and, thanks to Twitter, I will be picking her brain for pro-tips! Josh also suggested I reach out to Eliu Uati Paopao as a co-host and we will be putting our heads together this Wednesday for a brainstorming session via Google Hangout.

In addition to posting your photos, we also encourage you to comment on and “LIKE” others’ photos as well. Interaction is the goal here! You can also share your photos via Twitter or Facebook. Josh will be helping me to set up an IFTTT recipe to share these photos via the NETA Facebook page and Elui and I will share some of them via our personal Twitter feeds also (@epaopao & @morgetron).

We’ll be offering a Scavenger Hunt Preview sometime soon, so stay tuned for updates and make sure to follow us on Instagram –>

@nebedtech!

Instagram

#slowchated Week 5: Balancing Life as an Educator AKA The Wild Ride

This is cross-posted here –> SLOWCHATED.

Now that week 6 is nearly coming to a close, I am ready to publish (the overly long) reflection of Week 5. (Brevity in writing is NOT one of my strong-points. Brevity in speaking is a specialty, so don’t ask me to TELL you about Week 5; you’ll just have to read about it here). Please note: I consider this a draft, but since it is overdue, I’m going to go ahead and hit “PUBLISH” and go back and edit later, which WILL include re-working the jacked up format.

Jeffrey Farley (@FarleyJeffrey) summed Week 5 up best:

During Week 5, we managed to explore this wide topic deeply (& sometimes irreverently) & the moderator (yours truly) was tricky–a cheater really–who had all sorts of sneaky question maneuvers. For example, Question 1 was really two questions. I posted Qs1 with the intention of focusing on the positives we see in education. On the daily, there are so many negative stories in the media that it’s easy to get bogged down with a poor attitude towards our profession. WE know what GOOD STUFF is happening every single day, but it’s a rarity for the media to share it–especially the NATIONAL media.

* Q1.1: Eds-> Tell me something good! In your current position, what brings you joy?

* Q1.2: Edu-Friends-> What are some positive observations you’ve made about education?

The responses to these questions were heartening. Here is a sample. (To see more you can check out the archive. It’s included at the end of this post.) We saw plenty of references to … … supportive administrations:

… staff camaraderie …

… teachers treating students as their own:

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… a little system-bucking, here and there:

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… and of course, plenty of references to our students:

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Day 2 was more practical …

Q2: What are some steps you have taken (or should take) to ensure your work-life balance? #slowchated

Like so many educators, Kevin Ashworth (@SLOlifeKevin) noted that TEACHING is what brings him joy:

Plenty of others chimed in with some sage advice as well.

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Day 3 was opposite day.

* Q3: What are some factors/habits that guarantee teacher burnout?

In short, if you want to burnout, devote your life to nothing but curriculum and standards, never forgive yourself for messing up, hang out by yourself ALL THE TIME, NEVER HAVE FUN and be sure to grade EVERYTHING.

Day 4 proved to be another day of tweaking the format:

* Q4.1 Edu-Newbs: What challenges have you faced regarding work-life balance?

* Q4.2 Edu-Vets: If you were to give a piece of advice to a newb teacher about work-life balance, what would that be?

I will let the tweets speak for themselves. (Remember the archive has so many more. This is just a sample.)

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The Day 5 question was admittedly a loaded question. It made all sorts of assumptions about the #slowchated participants, but it is an open forum, so anyone had the right to challenge it. Some embraced the question and others did question the question, which led to some spirited dialogue.

* Q5: How do you remain positive in a climate of edu-cynicism, edu-ugliness, & edu-enemies?

And I appreciate those who questioned the question …

… and the resulting dialogue …

During week 5 this video went viral, which only served to solidify my belief in the sentiment behind the loaded nature of the Week 5 Question:

I was disenchanted to find out via Facebook friends that this exact style of training had been used recently in a Nebraska district. *Sighhhh* (I sent this video in an email to my principal and director of learning begging them to NOT jump on this bandwagon.)

This question definitely brought out my inner-snark. I get so disheartened when I see report after report about how those in power are attacking our profession under the guise of accountability, so I am at some times swayed into negativity. It’s what gives me my fight though. It’s what keeps me here–because I believe that I can do some good and I can advocate for our profession and my colleagues and my school. My tolerance for policy that is NOT GOOD for students is NIL, so I have to be here to change it. Giving up to the incessant cynicism directed towards our profession will not do anyone any good though it does serve a purpose, I suppose. It forces us to think critically and reflectively about our own practices AND justify them when necessary. Entertaining our own cynicism from time to time can keep us sharp. It can keep the fire burning to fight the good fight.

Question 5 sparked deeper thought from another #slowchated participant as well. Ross LeBrun couldn’t stick to the 140 character limitation, so he wrote this–> HOW MUCH PENCILS? in response to the DAY 5 question.

Day 6 brought us full circle and focused us back on THE GOOD STUFF because THERE IS SO MUCH GOOD STUFF IN EDUCATION!

* Q6 (is not really a Q): Tell us about something you recently witnessed IN YOUR SCHOOL that you consider a POSITIVE ED STORY

I will leave you with another mere sampling of stories that will make you feel good about our profession. Check out the archive for others AND look for them in your own school. You WILL FIND THEM!

And here is the ARCHIVE:

And Change-o Was Her Name-o.

When I started this blog last year–the inaugural year of my school’s 1:1 iPad initiative, I thought the name I chose was so clever. I mean iPad … iTeachiLearn. Get it?

How delightfully clever am I, said I, gleefully clicking my heels in celebration as I hit “publish” for the first time.

But then the other day I was poking around Twitter, when this link came across my feed:

 

I heard a record player’s needle scratch vinyl as I realized … uhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh … I’m not the only one. I went and poked around Dave Mulder‘s website: iTeach and iLearn and I was just like “OH MANNNNN” especially when I realized that his blog was older than mine.

Then, I did what any modern-day tech-savvy teacher should do PRIOR to establishing a new blog and Googled “iTeach iLearn” and OF COURSE, Dave’s blog came up and so did a bunch of other stuff that used the same or similar title: There’s an ORG with the same name, as well as an un-uploaded book, an RTI Tier at a school in Washington, a spiral-bound book about iPads, a slideshare slideshow, a barely established Pinterest Board, a NING, and an archive of student podcasts.

Let this be a cautionary tale, friends. Always Google your intended name, pre-establishment.

So, I’ve been thinking and thinking and thinking … actually that’s an exaggeration. I had TWO names picked out prior to establishing this blog and I ended up going with iTeach iLearn because of the 1:1 iPad connection. However, though iPads have certainly played a role in my blogging experience, they are not the focus of this blog, so my original name choice is probably more telling anyway. Now, I’m going to reveal to you my new blog name, (which I did Google and came up with ONE similarly named blog, but nothing else, so I’m forging ahead), and the name is … (drum roll, please) … Small Teacher, Big World, same tagline. New name. Same tasty flavor.

And now you know why.

P.S. Dave Mulder plays the ukulele and loves Jesus. I WANT to play the ukulele player and totally love Jesus. Coinkydink? I think not–>We’re actually the same person. DUNdunDUNNNNN.

Just kidding. We’re are definitely NOT the same person, but we both obviously have excellent taste in blog titles.

I have a favorite author today because he made my students feel important.

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a typical interaction between someone else and me about favorite books—>

PERSON: So, who is your favorite author?

ME: I can’t pick one favorite author. I have many favorites.

PERSON: Well, if you HAD to pick one, who would you pick?

ME: I CAN’T! There are too many books. Too many writers. There is so much good writing in the world.

PERSON: Just pick one.

ME: Would you ever demand that I choose a favorite child?

PERSON: Seriously. Just pick one.

ME (shrieking): I TOLD YOU. I CAN’T PICK JUST ONE!!! (At this point, I turn into a werewolf and devour everyone in sight.)

However, today, if you asked me who my favorite author was, I would, without hesitation say, “Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter’s Bone.” (Winter’s Bone was made into a movie that starred Jennifer Lawrence pre-Hunger Games.)

 Last week, I got it in my head that I wanted to tell Daniel Woodrell about the inspired work my students were doing after reading Winter’s Bone. I searched for and maybe even found his home address (but I wasn’t 100% sure). After some thought, I decided that would be creepy of me to send him a letter to his home anyway (and maybe a waste of time because it might not have even been the right David Woodrell), so I searched for an email address. Nothing came up for him, but when I searched “contact Daniel Woodrell”, I found his literary agent’s assistant’s email address and decided that this would be the most professional way to approach an author with whom I am personally unacquainted.

On Friday, I sent an email to David’s agent’s assistant that explained the project and provided a link for them to go take a look-see.

To give you some background, Winter’s Bone is about Ree Dolly, a 16-year-old girl taxed with looking after her mentally ill mother, and two young brothers, on next to nothing, after her dad goes out one day and doesn’t return. The family lives in the Missouri Ozarks and the action begins when the local sheriff rolls onto Ree’s property to inform her that her father put their house and land up for bail the last time he was arrested (for cooking meth). If he doesn’t show up for court, the house and land will be sold to the highest bidder and Ree and the rest of her family will be living in a cave. Ree has no choice but to go looking for her dad, and in doing so, must face family members who live very rough lives, by some very harsh rules, and one of those rules is that you best be minding your own business, if you know what’s good for yougirl <insert chest poke here> so this poses a challenge for someone who needs information.

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In the assignment, the students found Dolly Family Rules either stated outright or inferred from characters’ dialogue and actions in the text. They each selected one rule and took a picture that somehow represented that rule. Then, using the Aviary app, they overlaid the text with the rules (or the text and the inferred rule) on the photo. They sent the finished products to me and I posted it to an Instagram account I created specifically for this purpose.

Today, I was very pleased and surprised to see that Daniel Woodrell sent us an email!

Today, I was very pleased and surprised to see that Daniel Woodrell sent us an email! He told us that he loved to know that his lonely words found companions in us. He also said that he likes the project and complimented my students’ photography. Then, he revealed that he spent some time in Nebraska back in the 70′s. He even made mention of Aksarben. Needless to say, this simple 6-sentence note that Daniel took the time to sent made ten students and one teacher very happy today. <Swoon.>

Here is my Contemporary Literature class’s Instagram account: DOLLY FAMILY RULES.

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Work Life Balance + Staying Positive in a Not-Always-So-Positive Climate #slowchatED

 

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Image: J. L. Comstock. A System of Natural Philosophy: Principles of Mechanics (Pratt, Woodford, and Company, 1850) 72

 

This week, during #slowchated, we will be discussing work-life balance for educators, as well as ways to stay positive in a not-always-so-positive climate. (What I mean by “climate” is not necessarily the current climate of your individual school–though I do realize that for some a negative school culture is very much a reality–but rather the societal climate/attitude towards the current state of education. Think: Policy, lawmakers, Common Core, and bad press.) What can we do to stay positive when it seems so many have a negative view of educators, or don’t understand what it means to be a teacher in this day and age? What can we do to make sure that our well-being isn’t compromised in the name of our careers? We often talk about nurturing the whole child, but how about nurturing the whole teacher?

You will notice that when I moderate, I cheat in the question department. I want to be inclusive to everyone who might join in, so I sometimes throw out questions for two or more target groups. For example, for Monday, I asked one question for educators in general and another for “edu-friends”– anyone who might be here to support educators or give his/her two cents. Of course, if educators want to answer the Q1.2 or if edu-friends want to answer the Q1.1, that is totally okay. As each day begins, I will post the question(s) for that day below. Stop by to see the updates, or jump into the chat HERE –> #SLOWCHATED.

One of the most convenient things about #slowchated is that you can join in at any time during the week. Unlike most Twitter chats, this chat is asynchronous. It is available at your leisure. It can be as intense or as relaxed as you’d like it to be.

MONDAY:

* Q1.1: Eds-> Tell me something good! In your current position, what brings you joy?

* Q1.2: Edu-Friends-> What are some positive observations you’ve made about education?

TUESDAY:

* Q2: Eds-> Tell me something good! In your current position, what brings you joy?

* Piggyback Q of the Day:  What time management strategies do you use to keep your schedule in check?

WEDNESDAY:

I’m going to take a page out of the @lit_teacher moderation handbook and do opposites today. Yesterday we talked about steps we take (or should take) to ensure work-life balance. #slowchated Today we’re going to talk about the opposite.

* Q3: What are some factors/habits that guarantee teacher burnout?

THURSDAY:

I’m cheating again with 2 questions today.

* Q4.1 Edu-Newbs: What challenges have you faced regarding work-life balance?

* Q4.2 Edu-Vets: If you were to give a piece of advice to a newb teacher about work-life balance, what would that be?

FRIDAY:Warning–> This is a LOADED QUESTION.

* Q5: How do you remain positive in a climate of edu-cynicism, edu-ugliness, & edu-enemies?

SATURDAY:

Yesterday’s line of questioning induced a bit of my inner snark. Today, let’s refocus on the positive side of education. Take a moment to reminisce about what led you to teaching. (Feel free to share those factors with us. *another sneaky bonus Q!*)

* Q6 (is not really a Q):
Tell us about something you recently witnessed IN YOUR SCHOOL that you consider a POSITIVE ED STORY!

Drama Games For Every Classroom*

*This post was inspired by this week’s #slowchated.

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Why school? Because: Relationships. Relationships are why education is.

It is for the above-stated reason that I spend so much time at the beginning of a semester (even for year-long classes at the beginning of second semester) front-loading rapport-building activities. As far as I’m concerned, content and skill development can wait because without a student-teacher rapport, learning will suffer. I have a friend who lives by the mantra: “They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” If you invest this time connecting to students, you don’t even have to think about classroom management later on. When you earn your students’ respect, you set the stage for smooth production.

In my current position, I teach English and drama. Some of the same games we use to build performance skills in drama class are also brilliant community-enhancers and can be used in any classroom for such a purpose.

Why do drama games work for building classroom community? They’re fun. They’re a little silly. They give license for people of all ages to play together in a low-risk situation that has no other goal than to strengthen the relationships in the room. (SRSLY, doods. Everyone wins. Every. Single. Time.)

In this post, I’ll discuss drama games that have worked well in non-drama classes for the purpose of relationship-building. Some of these games came from books that I have acquired over the years and some came from workshops that I’ve attended. I will give credit whenever memory serves me well enough to do so. Many of these games are much like oral literature in that they are passed by word-of-mouth over time and tweaked by each new recipient, so the way I present them are versions of the way I learned them, but I’m certain they have changed from the way I was taught in a subtle or maybe even sometimes drastic way, just as I’m sure that the way I was taught was personalized by the teachers in some way, shape, or form as well.

☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆☆

THE GAMES

☆☆☆ —> THE MAGIC SUBSTANCE

The Wizard
Photo Credit: Sean McGrath via Compfight

Source: A Drama Workshop (but I can’t remember which one–sorry!)

Premise: Suspend your disbelief. Sit in a circle. One person (the starter) in the circle has a magical substance. It can take any form or shape. The starter should play with the substance for a while, changing it’s weight, size, texture a few times before passing the substance to the person sitting next to him/her. (S/he may choose to the left or to the right.) That person must receive the magical substance as it is delivered to him or her, but then s/he must change it somehow before passing it to the next person. Each person, in turn, must receive the substance as is and change it somehow before passing it, until it comes back to the starter.

Note: You may not change the substance into a thing. For example, you can’t change it into a cell phone or a gun. It must just be an indefinable, but constantly-morphing, magical substance at all times.

 

☆☆☆ —> DEFENDER

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Creative Commons License Photo Credit: Ol.v!er [H2vPk] via Compfight

Source: Theater for Community, Conflict and Dialogue: The Hope is Vital Training Manual by Michael Rohd (with a foreword from one of my all-time favorite educators, Dr. Doug Paterson from University of Nebraska at Omaha)

Premise: Move around the space freely. While in motion, everyone must SILENTLY and WITHOUT OBVIOUS FANFARE choose a Defender and an Enemy. In the time remaining (5 minutes or less) continue moving (still silently) around the room, but the object is to always keep your Defender between yourself and your Enemy.

Note: In some cases, individuals will select a Defender who has selected him/her as an Enemy. This only adds to the complexity and challenge of the game. Encourage students to choose others who they would not normally choose. (For example, someone may choose their best friend as their “enemy” for this game, or someone with whom they’ve rarely talked as a defender.)

☆☆☆ –> BLOB TAG

 

Source: I don’t remember. (EEK!)

Premise: One player is The Blob. (In traditional tag, this person would be called “IT.”) Everyone else must try to stay away from The Blob. The Blob must try to tag everyone else. Once The Blob tags someone else, that someone else, hooks arms with The (original) Blob and becomes a part of The Blob him/herself. Each person who is subsequently tagged becomes part of The Blob until EVERYONE is part of The Blob.

Note: You will want to set boundaries in the space, especially if you are in a large one. A stage, a commons area, a gym, or an outdoor space works well for this.

 

 

BONUS: Blog Tag + Costumes (This was taken during Homecoming Week on Cartoon Day.)

 

 

☆☆☆ —> BUNNY

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Source: A Church Youth Leader, somewhere in Minnesota … 

Premise: Form a circle. Choose someone to be the Starter. The Starter places his/her two thumbs on the side of his/her head with the rest of his/her finger stretched outward. (Think of the nanny-nanny-boo-boo gesture.) S/he wiggles his/her hands and says “Bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny, bunny.” On the 7th(ish) “bunny” s/he takes his/her hands off of his/her head and puts his/her palms together and “sends” or “zaps” the bunny to someone else in the circle. Whomever the Starter points to then receives the bunny, by placing his/her hands in the aforementioned “bunny” stance AND the person to the receiver’s right, places his/her right hand on the right side of his/her head and the person to the left places his/her left hand on the left side of his/her head and all three people chime in with “Bunny X 7ish” until the middle person zaps the bunny across the circle again. If any of the three receivers do not react quickly enough, or make the wrong gesture, that person is OUT and steps out of the circle. As more and more people get OUT, the circle tightens until it gets down to three. The last three will be the quickest paced portion of the game because ALL three people will be involved in ALL of the bunnies. When it gets down to TWO, you must have a VEGETABLE DUEL. (A vegetable duel can be used to settle all sorts of classroom scores, by the way.) For the vegetable duel the last two people must stand back to back, until the duel master spurs them to take four swift paces away from one another. Then the duel master must call out the name of a vegetable. Upon hearing the name of the vegetable both duelers must turn and do an impersonation of the chosen vegetable. Whoever makes the best impersonation of said vegetable (as determined by duel master or by clapping vote–house rules) WINS.

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☆☆☆ —> CIRCLE DASH

Colorful lights
Photo Credit: Kevin Dooley via Compfight

Source: Theater for Community, Conflict and Dialogue: The Hope is Vital Training Manual by Michael Rohd

Premise: Form a circle with one volunteer in the middle. The object of the game is to get out and stay out of the middle, but it’s also to challenge yourself with taking a (safe) risk with the help of another student. When the person in the middle isn’t looking, make eye contact with someone at least one person away from you. Make eye contact with that student and give a slight nod, raise your eyebrow, or make some sort of tiny gesture to indicate that you want to trade places with that person. Once you and the other person have silently agreed to trade spots, make a run for it. When you are in transit, the person in the middle will try to take one of your spots. If s/he does, then you will take his/her spot in the middle and try to take someone else’s spot, when s/he trades with another student.

Note: This is the only game during which I have been positively FLATTENED by a student in her zeal to trade spaces with the student who was standing next to me. It hurt like HELL, caused bruising, and the student felt awful about it, but it was also really really funny. The students couldn’t believe I wasn’t mad. I explained, “That’d be like me getting upset that I got tackled in a mosh pit. It’s all good.”

—> BABY I LOVE YOU

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Source: A Childhood Game

Premise: Everyone sits in a circle. Someone volunteers to be the Starter. The Starter turns to the person on his/her left (his/her choice) and states, “Baby, I love you, but I just can’t make you smile” using any voice or facial express s/he desires. However, s/he may not touch the receiver. The person who receives this message must follow these guidelines: Eye contact is required. No sucking in cheeks or biting lips. S/he must not smile or laugh. If s/he smiles or laughs s/he is out. If the Starter gets that person out, s/he must repeat the process with the next person in the circle. If the Starter does not succeed in making the Receiver smile, then the Receiver must go through the process with the next person in the circle. As more and more people get OUT the circle must tighten and those who are out can become the audience. When it gets down to the “stone cold killahs” you can choose new bizarre phrases for them to try out on one another. (For example: “I baked you a muffin” or “I’m a cotton-headed ninny muggins” could work, but you know what will make your group giggle.) The last person standing is the winner and should be celebrated as such with joyous aplomb.

Note: I usually play the games with the students, but this is one from which I abstain, simply because it is too weird for kids to be telling me they love me, even in jest.

 

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☆☆☆

Other Resources that I <3 <3 <3 (in no specific order)

  • Games for Actors and Non-Actors by Augusto Boal (translated by Adrian Jackson)
  • 3-Minute Motivators by Kathy Paterson
  • Theater Games for the Classroom: A Teacher’s Handbook by Viola Spolin
  • Children Tell Stories: Teaching and Using Storytelling in the Classroom by Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss

Playing with Beowulf

the beastie prowls
Creative Commons License Photo Credit: jason via Compfight

“Playing” and “Beowulf” don’t typically appear in close conjunction with one another. Really “playing” and English class don’t go hand in hand often enough, in my opinion. This assignment is designed to combat the perceived stuffiness associated with old texts. Through play, we can find and make meaning–even when we’re beyond the age usually affiliated with “playing”.

What is one thing the big kids like to play with? Social media! In this assignment I ask my students to celebrate and showcase the language of Beowulf (in translation) through the currently popular Vine app. In doing so, they will be zeroing in on and mastering a tiny portion of a text that can otherwise seem daunting to a reader–especially a young one–and thereby providing a stepping stone upon which they can launch into deeper understanding of this text as well as other similarly difficult ones that they will inevitably encounter in this class and beyond. What follows are the instructions I provided my students and an example Vine that a student and I created.

BeowulfVine

This assignment is designed not only to look at the text “under a microscope” for greater understanding of it, but also to celebrate the language and story of Beowulf, the oldest written English-language story in existence. For this assignment, we will use the Burton Raffel translation from our textbook.

PROCEDURE

THINK. What was the most engaging part or aspect of the story? Who was your favorite character, and why? Are there any words or lines that especially stand out to you? What were some examples of kennings and alliteration the author/translator used?

CHOOSE. Identify a line or lines from the text on which you’d like to focus.

PLAN YOUR VINE. How can you bring this line of text to life in a creative, celebratory fun manner in 6 seconds or less? Will you use a costume? an accent? props? Will you need to recruit friends to be a part of your video?

TIPS. Use the following checklist to guide your planning.

Make sure …
… you know how to pronounce all of the words in your chosen line(s).
… to speak clearly and enunciate each word, so it is easy for your audience to understand you (especially if you decide to use an accent).
… to project your voice and speak loudly enough that the camera picks up your voice (without overpowering the microphone and speakers).
… to use a costume, props or “special effects”. It will make it more fun for you and your audience.
… experiment with different ways to deliver the line(s).
… practice it BEFORE you commit it to video.

Your final product should show evidence of planning and celebration! Have fun playing with Beowulf and friends.

 

EXAMPLE:

UPDATE: Here are some of the results from this year’s group (2013-14 semester 2)

Here are some quote choices. You are welcome to pick others, but these are some of the ones I thought would lend themselves well for Vining.

page 40

The corners of the earth were made lovely with trees and leaves …

So Hrothgar’s men lived happy in his hall/Till the monster stirred, that demon! that fiend! Grendel!

page 42

He was spawned in that slime, conceived by a pair of those monsters born of Cain.

The Almighty drove those demons out, and their exile was bitter, shut away from men.

The monster’s/Thoughts were as quick as his greed or his claws.

At daybreak, with the sun’s first light, they saw/How well he had worked …

page 43

So Grendel rules, fought with the righteous/One against many, and won …

So mankind’s enemy continued his crimes/Killing as often as he could, coming/Alone, bloodthirsty and horrible.

He never/Dared to touch King Hrothgar’s glorious Throne, protected by God–God,/whose love Grendel could not know.

page 44

Beowulf, Higlac’s/Follower and the strongest of the Geats … /Heard how Grendel filled nights with horror.

None of the wise ones regretted his going, much/As he was loved by the Geats: the omens were good …

So Beowulf/Chose the mightiest men he could find, the bravest and best of the Geats, fourteen/In all

page 45

“Whose soldiers are you,/You who’ve been carried in your deep-keeled ship/Across the sea-road to this country of mine? …”

page 46

“Nor have I ever seen,/Out of all the men on earth, on greater/than has come with you …”
“… No commoner carries/Such weapons, unless his appearance, and his beauty/Are both lies …”

“You! Tell me your name,/And your father’s name; no spies go further onto Danish/Soil than you’ve already come …”

“We are Geats/Men who follow Higlac. My father was a famous soldier, known far and wide/As a leader of men.”

“A soldier should know the difference between words/And deeds, and keep that knowledge clear/In his brain.”

“I believe your words. I trust in your friendship. Go forward, weapons and armor/And all, on into Denmark.”

page 47

They marched, Beowulf and his men/ … until they could see the gables/Of Herot, covered with hammered gold/And glowing in the sun …

“Hail Hrothgar!/Higlac is my cousin and my king; the days/Of my youth have been filled with glory.”

“Now Grendel’s/Name has echoed in our land: sailors/Have brought us stories of Herot, the best of all mead-halls, deserted and useless …”

“My people have said, the wisest, most knowing/And best of them, that my duty was to go to the Danes’/Great king.”

“They have seen my strength for themselves,/Have watched me rise from the darkness of war,/Dripping with my enemies blood.”

page 48

“I swam/In the blackness of night, hunting monsters/Out of the ocean, and killing them one/By one … /Now Grendel and I are called/Together, and I’ve come”

“Grant me, then,/Lord and protector of this noble place,/A single request!”

“I have come so far,/O shelterer of warriors and your people’s loved friend …”

“…I alone and with the help of my men,/May purge all evil from this hall.”

“I have heard/Too that the monster’s scorn of men/Is so great that he needs no weapons and fears non.”

“My lord Higlac/Might think less of me if I let my sword/Go where my feet were afraid to …”

“… my hands/Alone shall fight for me, struggle for life/Against the monster.”

“God must decide/Who will be given to death’s cold grip.”

page 49

Out from the marsh, rom the foot of misty/Hills and bogs, bearing God’s hatred, Grendel came …

He journeyed, forever joyless,/Straight to the door, then snapped it open …

By morning, the monster’s mind was hot/With the thought of food and the feasting his belly/Would soon know.

But fate, that night, intended/Grendel to gnaw the broken bones/Of his last human supper.

And Grendel’s great teeth came together/Snapping life shut.

page 50

The infamous killer fought/For his freedom, wanting no flesh but retreat,/Desiring nothing but escape.

That trip to Herot/Was a miserable journey for the writhing monster!

The high hall rang, its roof boards swayed,/And Danes shook with terror.

That mighty protector of men/Leaped out, knowing the fiend was no use/To anyone in Denmark.

… the sharpest and hardest iron/Could not scratch at his skin, for that sin-stained demon/Had bewitched all men’s weapons …

page 51

The monster’s hatred rose higher/But his power had gone. He twisted in pain/And the bleeding sinews deep in his shoulder/Snapped …

The battle was over. Beowulf/Had been granted new glory.

Grendel escaped/But wounded as he was could flee to his den … Only to die

He, who had come to them from across the sea/Bold and strong-minded, had driven affliction/Off, purged Herot clean.

… the Danes/Had been served as he’d boasted he’d serve them …

Beowulf,/A prince of the Geats, had killed Grendel/Ended the grief, the sorrow, the suffering/Forced on Hrothgar’s helpless people/By a bloodthirsty fiend.

No Dane doubted/The victory, for the proof, hanging high/From the rafters where Beowulf had hung it, was the monster’s/Arm, claw and shoulder and all.