Archive for the ‘everyday learning’ Category

killing trees

I’m really trying to go paperless, let me just say that up front.

I really am.

But I’ve learned, especially with my students, that one of the skills they sometimes lack is a sense of organization, which is why I allow them to keep their class folders in my room.  Maybe I’m an enabler.  Maybe.  But there’s something to be said about modeling correct behavior, and if I help them to maintain a neat folder with all of their information, handouts, and graded papers, maybe–just maybe–they’ll do it on their own in other classes or in later grades.

In previous years, my co-teacher and I provided them with a spiral-bound notebook.  This worked great for keeping things from getting lost but didn’t do much for containing loose-leaf papers.  At the end of last year, I picked the brain of my astute student teacher and we began developing a folder template, which is still a work in progress.  If you plan to mimic the folder, feel free–share and share alike–but I would suggest including everything you needed as early on in the process as possible.  This weekend I spent hours organizing one class’s folders, taking handouts from one pocket and placing them in another, opening and closing the prongs to add in loose leaf paper. Oy.  But! they’re nice and neat and grading will be SO much easier when students know that if they want me to grade something, they’ll place it in the left-side pocket.

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I bought the folders with the prongs because I wanted to be able to include important handouts that the students couldn’t claim to have lost or never received.  Handouts = killing trees, I know, but there are some things that as teacher I need to be able to justify students having received.  You know.

So, here’s the front of the folder.  I use the 5160 Avery mailing label templates.  I use a blank one for their name and then a “Please put all handouts & bellwork in the prongs.”  I actually had some who asked what this means.  Demonstration is everything.  Now, all of their handouts are in the prongs with the bellwork.  I’m still trying to decide if I want their notebook paper in there first or the handouts first (since one of the handouts is about how I would like for them to format their bellwork.)  I will probably have an update on this preference when they have several pages of bellwork and whether or not the other pages get in the way of the grading and writing.  The stickers that follow are ones my co-teacher and I developed last year for their notebooks.  We wallpaper the front of their folders with these stickers because we always had to flip back and forth to record their scores.  This keeps the labels on the same side of the folder as their names and also has a place for us to record notes scores.  The last little circle (or stars, actually for this year) are their True Colors results.  If you’ve never done this personality / learning style survey, you should really check it out.  Not only does it tell you their learning preferences, it provides you with information about how best to interact with them, signs they’re having a bad day, and working styles.  It tells you how other people misread their personality eccentricities and what message they’re really trying to get across.  Great stuff.  There are plenty of variations out there on the Internet, you just have to find the one that works best for you.  We’re going to mark their folders in times when we want them to work in groups; we may  have all of the “like” colors working together on one project, while other projects may call for one representative from each learning style.  Originally, we were going to have the whole folders be the color of the learning style, but we wanted to have the folders before students arrived and we had no way to anticipate how many we would need for each one.  We actually have our folders the same color of the crates in the back of the room that keep them organized, so students who have the red folders should file them away in the red crate.

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Photo Aug 25, 2 37 32 PMHere are the insides of the folders (for now.)  As a department, we opted to provide students with two hall passes per 9-week grading period.  These are transferable to bonus points for that grading period only at 10 points per pass if unused.  I urged students to write their names, in ink, on the passes and then stapled them inside the folders.  They must exchange these coupons for hall passes–it says that on the ticket.  I don’t want them waving it around the hallway saying it’s their hall pass.  On the other side, the Oops passes are another department-wide policy.  Students receive 3 Oops passes per 18-week semester.  This allows them to avoid the late penalty for submitting assignments 1 day late.  These are also transferable for bonus points at 5 points each.  They may be submitted during either grading period for the bonus points.  In the middle, I have a “Ready for Grading” label so students know this is where they “turn in” items that are not personally collected by me.  If something is missing or I believe they misplaced an item (I saw them working on it in class but it is not in the folder), I write them a little message on a sticky note.  This has worked INCREDIBLY well so far.  The next time I look at their folders, the sticky note is usually gone and the missing work is in the pocket.

The right side of the folder has more organizational stickers.  The label “Graded Items” lets them know that I’ve already graded and recorded that work.  They can either leave it in the folder or take it home.  One label allows them to record their Achieve3000 Lexile levels.  This is a program our corporation has adopted to help students improve their reading comprehension in non-fiction.  Last year, almost all of my students raised their Lexile levels.  In order to help them see and be part of their own improvement, I want them to record their Lexile levels at grading period marks.  The last piece of information on the remaining labels involves their Acuity login and scores.  Acuity is a program that, after testing students, identifies their deficits and assigns work that specifically targets those areas of concern.  Acuity testing takes place three times a year:  once in October/November, January/February, and April/May.

I’ll continue to update the folder template as well as post about my attempts in my elective to do paperless bellwork with Google docs, but that’s an entirely different post, and it’s a school night.

Until next time.


Nuances of Character

In my SAT-ACT prep class, I tried to design a well-rounded curriculum, and this week one of the items on our to-learn list involves Nuances of Character.  Here’s my KidBlog post for their first short written response.

Today, we’re looking at nuances and attitudes of character.  According to Google, a nuance is “a subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound.”  Sometimes characters fall into stock categories (the knight, the princess in distress, the wise mentor.)  These are called archetypes.  Nuances can be small things about characters that make them stand out from other characters.  Let’s look at Fiona from Shrek.

Princess_FionaFiona does not represent the stock character of the “princess in distress” for several reasons.  Although she is apparently in distress, she can definitely fend for herself, unlike other stock princesses.  And while she wants a handsome prince to rescue her from her tower, she eventually accepts her fate that her prince is Shrek who doesn’t fit the fantasy she had planned for so many years.  She hides a deep secret about herself and her past which is sometimes revealed when she fights the robbers in the woods, sings and explodes a bird, or belches after breakfast.  These are all subtle nuances that make her different than other princesses in distress.

Write about 100 words about a character from a book, television show, film, or cartoon that displays subtle nuances of being different than other stock characters.  For reference, the above paragraph is a little over 100 words.  Obviously, don’t use Fiona as your example as that’s already been taken.

collage writing assignment

Since my AP students will use KidBlog this year and it’s not viewable to the public, here’s their first writing assignment.  Feel free to borrow / revise for your own classes.  I would always appreciate a backlink or a shout-out through Twitter @missyfeller.


Think of collages you’ve made in middle school or even high school.  You page through magazines already picked over by earlier scavengers, looking for the perfect images to illustrate your point.  Even though you’ve selected a random mix of words and letters, photos and illustrations, some unifying element, often unspoken, exists.  These things, though seemingly disconnected, belong together.

Such is the case with collage writing.

Although collage writing represents one final piece, it is composed of several short selections from disconnected prompts linked together by an underlying theme–one you may identify outright or leave for the reader to discover.

During our first day together, we watched, took notes over, and discussed Riding the Rails, a PBS documentary about the teens of the Great Depression who sought adventure, work, and escape by illegally jumping freight trains and traveling cross-country.  The PBS website has plenty of information connected to this documentary for further study, such as Added Obstacles for African AmericansRailroads and their Musical Heritage, a timeline of the Great Depression, and a transcript for the film.  I would recommend you check out at least one of these additional articles for your first writing assignment.  For your prompts, I’ll pull from the Teacher’s Guide for this documentary.

In addition, I would like for you to read and process “Homeless” by Anna Quindlen.  I will refer to some of the prompts from this link in this writing assignment.

After the selection by Anna Quindlen, we’re going to read a selection from last year’s Imagery.  We’ll look at that together during class.

I also need you to understand, as we discussed last year, that writing is a process.  While creating the product, whether it is an essay, story, poem, song,etc., we must also acknowledge and respect the stages our writing must go through in order to move toward a more comprehensive, “finished” piece.  You should never create only one draft of a piece of writing and submit that as the “final” piece.  For one, it is probably so glutted with mistakes you’d be embarrassed to claim it as your own.  As AP students, that is inexcusable.  And while looking at what other people have written is okay as a starting point, you should never commit the ultimate sin of writing by stealing their words unless you would like to live in infamy or go through a whole lot of hassle.  Consider yourself warned.

When we finish this unit, you’ll have a collage with over ten sections all unified by a theme or tone you determine. (In case you forgot, the theme of this first grading period is “I could never obtain the one thing I always wanted.”)

During your initial drafts of the first few sections, you’ll have about 5 minutes to gather your thoughts and record them on the screen (or on paper, if you prefer).  At this point, do not worry about grammar, spelling, punctuation.  Focus on the topic, the emotion, the essence of what you’re trying to convey.  The rest (yes–I do want you to correct your grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes) will come later.  I’ll deliver these topics to you one by one and I want for you to write.  Write.  Don’t sit there looking at the blank screen with the excuse that you have no idea what to write.  And don’t waste your and my time writing things like “I have no idea what to write.”  Do the work.  You’re in AP for a reason–prove it.  Aim for at least a paragraph per prompt–you can always go back and add more later (and by the way, I want for you to do this.  Writing is a process, remember?)

Prompt 1:  What do you know about homelessness today? What are the reasons for homelessness? Why do you think people were homeless in the 1930s?

Prompt 2:  Write a diary entry or letter from the point of view of a teenager during the 1930s who has run away to ride the rails. Explain why you left and what you are experiencing. What are your hopes? What are your fears?

Prompt 3: What are your plans for college?  Where will you live?  Explain your choice.  Or, if you do not plan to attend college, what are your plans for after high school?

Prompt 4:  Compose a reflective paragraph collecting your thoughts about one of the supplementary resources from the PBS site.

Prompt 5: Do some preliminary research about hobos online.  Write about the most interesting thing you find.

Prompt 6: Which facts or opinions in Quindlen’s essay did you find most important or significant or disturbing?

Prompt 7: What do you think Quindlen wants the reader to do or to believe when she says, “It has been customary to take people’s pain and lessen our own participation in it by turning it into an issue, not a collection of human beings”?

Prompt 8: Quindlen believes that homelessness is a major problem. Her source is a series of interviews. Do you think interviews are a credible source? Are they enough, or are statistics also necessary? Give your reasons.

Prompt 9: Respond to the student’s piece about homelessness. What is your reaction?

Prompt 10: Compose a persuasive paragraph proposing a realistic, doable action you and your peers could do to help address homelessness in Evansville.

Once you’ve written your first drafts for each of these prompts, begin the process of selecting FIVE of them to edit and revise.  Editing involves spelling, grammar, punctuation whereas revision means looking at the paper as a whole, deciding what works, what to throw out, what to rewrite completely.  If your first draft looks identical (or really, really close) to the next draft you submit to me, you will lose some if not all points for the first draft.  Separate the sections with ***.  They should not be presented as one, fluid composition.Yet.

NOTE: This essay will be viewed by other students in this class.  Peer editing and discussion will be part of your grade.

You’re going to post your five (or more, if you choose) in your own blog (do NOT reply to this post with your collage.  Reply with questions ONLY!).  From the dashboard, control panel, or course blog home page, selectcreate a new post.  Then, I would like for you to post your most recent draft (the best one you have).  Comment to your own post with your original, first draft.  If you do not post the original, first draft, you will be docked points.  Give your post a title, tag with #collagewriting #homelessness #greatdepression and any other relevant (school appropriate) hashtags you would like to use.  If you use a picture (you don’t have to but most blogs use them), make sure it is free to use under creative commons and include a backlink to the image source.  You can also use hyperlinks with the text to make your writing more dynamic and interactive for the reader.  Imagine that this may end up on a public blog for student voices, or that you might turn this into a podcast.  Keep that imagined audience in mind.

If you can’t figure out KidBlog, here is a tutorial video from the student dashboard.

Here’s the point break-down:

  • rough draft (10 sections complete, posted on time, different than most recent copy) –> 10 points
  • first revision (5 sections edited and revised, posted on time, professional with few errors) –> 20 points
  • followed instructions (title, tags, picture cited if used, posted in correct place, commented with original draft in correct place) –> 5 points

This collage essay will undergo many more stages within this unit.  This part of it–the rough draft and the first revision–will be due on or before our next meeting which will be Tuesday, August 20.  If you do not have it on that day, you may turn it in on Thursday, August 22 for 20% off, but after that day, it will not be accepted.  You may still want to complete the essay since you’ll be submitted a second revision in the next week after we read Of Mice and Men.

Any questions, you know where to find me.  Reply to this post with questions, message me via MyBigCampus, send me an email, or request (from me) a pass to visit during enrichment.

I look forward to reading your first essays.

getting in character

I start the unit with a poem.  We all know it, and each time we read it, or hear it, it serves as a haunting reminder of forgotten intentions, of dreams pushed aside by so-called “priorities.”  I once heard that if it is important enough, you’ll make time for it.  Who determines this sense of importance?  I asked my students, then, what happens to a dream deferred?  Where does it go?  Does it still exist, somewhere, after its assignment to second-best?

These conversations pull at my heart–to hear young people already making the difficult choices only adults should have to face.  It’s no wonder, then, that they so thoroughly enjoyed the small group discussions inspired from the first activity of our Raisin in the Sun unit.  After assigning them to family units of four, each family reported to a small group table to privately discuss the portentous contents of an unmarked envelope:  a letter from an insurance company and a fictitious check for $80,000.  The task:  decide, based on the contents of the letter, what your family needs to do.

Here is the letter they received:

No Dream Deferred Insurance, LLC
406 Clybourne Street
Chicago, IL 60628

Younger Family
1958 Hansberry Drive, Apt A
Chicago, IL 60633

Dear Younger Family:

My sincerest condolences on the loss of your loved one.  It’s unfortunate that as insurance agencies, we are charged with placing a value on the lives of people who undoubtedly are worth much more than what we can offer.  However, with that said, please accept the enclosed check of $80,000 as fulfillment of the life insurance policy.

After speaking with you immediately after the passing of your loved one, I found myself very impressed by the ambitious dreams of your family.  I wish your oldest the best in his aspirations tobecome a business owner – it is a risky venture that may yield profitable results, if the cards land in his favor.  To his wife, I also wish her the best of health as she carries your second grandchild over the next seven months.  Your young Bennie reminds me of my daughter; she, too, is a passionate philanthropist studying in the medical field while still finding time to explore various hobbies and interests.  I wish I could have spent more time with your grandson – he is obviously a very energetic 10-year-old and the apple of your eye.

It’s fortunate that, under the same roof, you can support and care for one another in this time of need.  I also hope that the community of your neighbors and landlord offer their assistance inhelping you work through this difficult time.  Despite the struggles your family faces, I hope you continue to pursue the dreams your spouse spoke so passionately about before the onset of his latest illness.

If you do decide to leave your current housing, I hope you will keep in touch, and also let our agency know if we can be of any additional assistance.


H. Lorraine, agent


Their final decisions were as different as they were:  some opted to stay in the current housing.  Though not ideal, moving somewhere with higher rent could cause more turmoil.  Some opted to move.  Others invested money in savings accounts or bonds; none pursued Walter’s dream of owning a business.  While taking the money and equally dividing it among household members seemed the most fair, it was not without its problems:  did Walter and Ruth count as one or two people?  Did young Travis count?  What about Bennie’s costly medical schooling?  And, what about the unborn child?  What would be his fate?  One group, interestingly enough, said they would put him up for adoption.  The other family units looked on and did not pry into their reasoning behind this difficult decision.

We started reading on the third day of the unit.  My student teacher and I assigned readers; each reader chose his or her own understudy.  We also placed the readers at the front of the room, sitting on the desks, facing the rest of the class.  This enabled them to see one another and play off each other’s characters.  By the end of the unit, each student had become that character; we associated his tone, his demeanor, with the voice of the reader, and so the best culminating project, we decided, would be a talk show featuring each character played by his or her reader.

In a class of 24, we had the students work in groups of three, with the eight major characters choosing their own talk show host and camera operator.  The “Dream Deferred” poem had to be used, somehow, within the 5-10 minute video production.  We asked for a minimum of five questions with depth, ones that demonstrated a real understanding of the struggles of the character, providing sample questions that Edna Pontellier would have answered from The Awakening, another book from last semester:  Do you love your children?  What do you want out of life?  Did you have an affair with Robert Lebrun?  We wanted them to avoid basic biographical information, birth date, number of people in household, etc.

Although the quality of the videos did not meet the students’ expectations, we definitely were impressed by the  dedication toward creating a believable set (some borrowed the furniture in my room and set up a talk show set in the hall for their recording; others recorded in the television studio downstairs) and realism of the characters.  Most worked without a script and spoke from the heart–and since these were the readers who played the characters during the entire unit, these stories became an extension of those characters.

Developing a reading voice is not something easily taught–it must be experienced.  Reading the part of The Nurse from Romeo and Juliet in the six years I taught that play–I became that character, I empathized with her, I felt her sense of entrapment, even learned to agree with her that after Tybalt’s death, Juliet’s marriage was as good as over, and it was time to move on, difficult though it may seem.  Several elements helped allow this unit to be successful, starting with how we set up the readers.  This is easily replicated in other classes, with other texts.

  • Set up the room in a way that the non-readers can see the readers, and that the readers can see each other.  This allows for them to play off one another, even look in one another’ direction.
  • During discussion of the text, provide opportunities for both the readers to speak about their own characters, and to forbid them to do so as well.  There were times when I asked Bennie’s character or Walter’s character to explain his or her mindset; other times, I asked the non-readers to speak on behalf of the character about his or her mental state.  This allows for accountability for all.
  • Point out what the readers do that help reinforce reading in character.  Volume, tone of voice, dramatic pauses–acknowledge these conscious choices and praise these efforts since they help reinforce the characters and make them real.
  • Choose strong readers, especially when helping demonstrate for others the reading voice.
  • Sometimes take a part, yourself.  I always enjoyed playing the part of Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet, because then I got to duel with foam swords with the students.
  • Have fun.  Enjoy discussion.  Stop at the pivotal moments, when the tension is at its peak, engaging students in discussion and a desire to continue reading.

creativity collage writing | a riverbend writing project post

Creativity involves understanding the “rules,” which are the foundation for art but also knowing, intrinsically, when it is appropriate to break said “rules.”  Creativity is letting go of restraint, silencing the inner critic, and allowing oneself to simply “be.”

Just as we are the collective sum of all of our own experiences, the people we’ve met, the books we’ve read, conversations we’ve had—creativity originates within the Self.  It involves who we are, and people who consider themselves to be uncreative perhaps haven’t learned to appreciate their stories and the value these stories hold for them and others.


Understanding that we will never be like previous writers is a critical first step in allowing oneself to be creative and be a writer.  The inner critic, though ever-present and often a deterrent to writing, (“You’re not good enough,” “You will never be good enough,” “Your stories are not interesting enough,” etc.) inhabits a distinct purpose:  to keep us mindful about our writing that we endeavor to tell our own stories in the best possible way, striving for greatness while at the same time accepting we may never achieve it in the same way as other literary giants.  They were great in their time, with their stories, their experiences, just as we have the potential to be great in our time with our stories.  We must love our writing, love our craft, love our characters in a way only we can.  We must not allow the threat of the inner critic to silence our creative spirit.


Flashback to seven weeks ago.  For months on end, plagued with visits from specters of my own, I no longer wrote.  I thought of writing, often, but ghosts as vivid and real as the ones described by Goodman kept my hands from the keyboard and pens and instruments of imagination.  I questioned whether the time spent composing would amount to anything, that anyone beyond me would see value in the stories I longed to tell.  It’s not that I viewed other authors with a sort of idolatry—I instead failed to value my own characters enough to continue to impart them with a voice and a life.

Then, sitting in an audience of peers and teachers and generic audience members and pawns, I witnessed an individual speak about his writing, his book in his hand, printed, with paper and a cover and a dust jacket and in his hands.  And something amazing happened: a flash of lightning, a spark, an epiphany—whatever literary metaphor you wish to assign.  The humble, timid, creative spirit contemplated to initiate a battle against the specters.


I tend to divide my approaches to writing according to the genre I’m attempting to indulge:  poetry by hand—because it feels more organic, thoughtful, calculated; almost everything else electronically.  Keeping up with my imagination as it plows forward, I don’t want my sluggish handwriting to miss any details.  I want to write in notebooks again.  I feel like I enjoyed writing more then, cared less about the inner critic, but I cannot fetishize notebooks in the way I used to.  I used to purchase notebooks for their beauty and their texture, but when I ended with stacks of notebooks and the threat of writing something not worthy of the beauty of its container, I lost the materialistic desire for writing—that romantic, first-year-marriage worship of it.  Writing and I, we have become old lovers: we inhabit the same house but we rarely indulge in displays of affection.

Maybe I should buy a new notebook.


A nineteen-year-old sits in an upper-level creative writing course, surrounded by juniors and seniors and a professor glaring down from Mt. Olympus.  A mortal, daring to mingle among the gods.  The professor smiles, but rarely, and his laughter lacerates the skin like a thousand tiny paper cuts. “This,” he says, from the towering throne, gripping the manuscript, “is a stupid high-school pipe dream.”  The words frost the air, freezing the eyes until they burn.  The demigods watch, silent and dispassionate as the god speaks.  “You are forbidden to work on it for this class again.”  The mortal accepts the bleeding papers and sits at the base of the steps to Olympus, watching in horror as the god, who was never actually a god, transforms into a ghost.


Imagination:  (1) stream of consciousness; (2) the inner conversation that goes on when not speaking aloud to others.  (3) The old-fashion film strip running constantly through the brain. (4) The mechanism which organizes existing experiences, cuts them apart, reorders them, and presents them to the consciousness anew. (5) The toppings of the sundae, not the ice cream.


Imagination is the voice of creativity.  Since creativity is the sum of who we are, imagination is what we are able to do with that information.  To process it all, summarize, find new synapses, pull only the best parts and interpret life through new eyes.  A story is never retold the same way, even by the same person because new experiences, new conversations, new joys and disappointments separate the tellings.  I imagine that people who do not consider themselves to be creative must feel they lack the experiences which enable us to tell stories in interesting ways.  How unfortunate, to only see the world through someone else’s interpretation of it.


When people write, they record parts of themselves on paper.  Achilles’ mother convinced him to go to war because he could finally achieve the thing he lacked: immortality.  He had to be the best warrior.  No one remembers the shitty ones.  In our writing, whether fiction or nonfiction, poetry or social commentary—we pluck a part of who we are and through our imagination interpret these experiences to retell to others, and this is precisely why we fear criticism so much.  We are terrified someone may tell us that we and our experiences are not valid.  It’s not about fearing someone may point out a comma splice or misplaced modifier, no.  It’s the fear that someone may tell us that our life is not worth reading about.  It’s Achilles, wanting nothing more than to just be remembered.


Youth is the greatest enemy of the storyteller because it slows us down from having the experiences we deem great enough to talk about.  But we all have stories to tell, some just need to be laundered within the imagination a little while longer than others.  A 250-word response to “write about a time you were stressed” brought me to tears, the story of a thirteen-year-old abandoned at a bus stop by his mother.  The boy who lived “without cover” in a bush next to a man with his dog.  I told him his story was wonderful, beautifully written.  He didn’t view it as such.  Where was the failure? In the experience or in the telling?


I met the most creative person I know by chance, though I’m told, in life, there are no accidents.  She is a professional storyteller by trade, a talented artist, and a free spirit.  She drifted into my classroom in her jeans and tattered shirt, aware of this, yet comfortable.  It is who she is when she’s not donning a costume for others.  She told a true story of her family, how her grandparents emigrated into the country, their struggles, their joys.  She assigned each of my students the role of her family members, helped them transition into the part until they became, to her, those people.  She touched them familiarly on the shoulder, spoke to them with a twinkle of recognition, positioned them around the room, signed to them though none of them needed the interpretation.  She taught us the sign for “friend.”  Some students struggled to keep up, attempted to sign with her, following the fluid motions of her hands; her enthusiasm for her story became infectious—we cared about the people in her story, the people we had become.  She embodied creativity, and after she left, and we returned to routine, we rationalized that what had happened during her visit was indeed strange but wonderful.  She had allowed us to temporarily join her in her own world, in her experiences, without trepidation, without fear of judgment or criticism.  We could not judge her, for she was so entirely convinced of the validity of her story, we had no choice but to concur: yes, this story is beautiful and hers.

I want that sense of legitimacy for my students and not in the 140-character “I’m enjoying my third Diet Coke” sort of way.  To tell stories that matter.  To harness the courage to tell the stories that matter more than the daily routines we allow ourselves to lazily slide into. To be.

mi llama es frustracion pero al menos tengo un delicioso desayuno

I used to look forward to snow days, the extended time to write.  But somehow I’ve written myself into a rut again–not to a place where there’s a lack of ideas but instead a lack of intelligible words with which to speak of the ideas.  I wrote 1,183 words during the Child’s naptime yesterday, stopping before he woke to work on a blog post and give the muse a rest.  We really didn’t work well together–and I knew that as I sat down to the keyboard.  I’m sure all artists get that way sometimes.  When, as we’re working on the piece of art, we are constantly thinking, “geez this is terrible,” but yet driven by the need to create, we press on.  I also took some time to follow along on Twitter for the Writers Digest Conference–anonymously cheering the hopefuls on, wishing I could be there too.  But I’m not ready.  I’m not ashamed to admit that.  But boy o boy when someone tweeted that YA sci-fi was making an aggressive come-back, I nearly did a backflip out of my chair.  Well, get on it, already.  Stop talking about it and do it. I know, I know.  But you can’t rush true art, and I’m doing this because I’m really trying to discover the essence of this Story with characters I no longer consider just two-dimensional.  It’ll happen.  And if it doesn’t, I have to just accept that this was a part of my growth as a person.

Rosetta Stone:  I’ve been a bad student lately.  I hadn’t logged in for over a week, so I took it upon myself today without Rosetta’s prompting to go back and review a few lessons before continuing where I had left off.  I’m nearly through with Lesson 3, Unit 2, which I’m not at all worried about.  Well, I take that back.  Not having the English translation or any explanation for what I’m learning is sometimes difficult.  At first it was awesome.  Now, sometimes I feel like I’m floundering alone in the dark, with a 50-50 shot at getting a question right.

I had a couple tripping points today, one being:  What is your name?  –>  ¿Cómo te llamas? Y ¿Cómo se llama usted?”  Based on the pictures and the combination of adults and children, and who was the one speaking, I’m assuming one is a familiar voice and one is a formal voice.

I’m hoping to sit in on a Spanish 1 class this week to see if I understand anything.  In any rate, I WILL get through Lesson 3 of Unit 2 this week.  That much, I promise.

I started the day today with French Toast casserole — not a new recipe for me but OMG if you like French toast and/or bread pudding THIS IS THE BEST STUFF EVUH.

Here’s the recipe:

Basically, it’s cubed bread, milk, eggs, cin-sugar mix, salt, vanilla extract, and deliciousness.  In 45 minutes or less, it’s one of my favorite ways to start the morning.  With or without maple syrup.  I’ve made mine in a cake pan before (crunchy) or in a bread pan like these (gooey).

Happy baking, happy writing, and happy learning!




watch your language

Maybe it’s my background as an English teacher or maybe it’s because I’m a word junkie–one who, in college, actually enjoyed writing down new words on index cards for my linguistics class.  I find language fascinating.  I’m in the early stages of learning Spanish via Rosetta Stone, thanks to the awesomeness of my boss for selecting me as one of the lucky few to pilot it.  Today, I finally passed my unit one, level one test, after three tries, and after somewhat mastering the verb “to hold.”  Rosetta Stone teaches through full immersion, no English translation (ever), and provides pictures to help the student understand what she is learning.  Though it is very repetitive, I have found it easier to master and retain vocabulary.  I think the difference for me has been in training the mind to begin thinking in the second language.  As a French student in high school, I  always had stopped to consider my answer in English, then translate into French.

Spanish, in a way, seems to make more sense than English, though how they determine what gender to ascribe to non-gender items is beyond me.  A dress is male but a skirt is female.  But beyond that, I’ve found the grammar rules easier to follow since in English often there lacks a rhyme or reason for verb conjugation.

El bebe agua.  Ella bebe agua. –> He drinks water.  She drinks water.

Ellos beben agua.  Ellas beben agua. –>  They drink water (all boys or mixed gender).  They drink water (all girls).

El lee un libro.  El lee su libro.  –> He reads a book.  He reads his book.

Ellos leen los libros.  Ellos leen sus libros. –> They read the books.  They read their books.

Our goal is to finish a level by May.  Level one has four units, each with ten activities, including the review.  I’m already considering what language to learn next.

What about you?  What language(s) do you know?  If you could learn any new language, what would it be, and why?