November 19, 2011

NEW! 6-Traits Resources Digital Magazine

I've launched a new digital magazine as part of my ongoing project to broadcast great resources about writing and the 6-Traits. This magazine format is easy to read and will open your ideas to many new sites and ideas.  Below is a brief glimpse at the latest topics I've posted.  Visit and click follow if you'd like to be informed when new content is posted.

I hope all of the loyal followers of this blog, also become followers of the new magazine.  I'd also love to get suggestions from all of you.

Here's where you can contribute:
I hope to hear your voice!  Here, there,everywhere!  ~ Dennis

November 11, 2011

Word processing taught me how to spell.

I overcame a severe spelling problem thanks to spell check.

I discovered (on my own) that spell check was providing me with individualized feedback on my spelling.

I was missing the same words over and over again. (Just as I'd done with spelling lists all through school.)

By paying attention to spell check feedback I was able to get a visual fix on most of my problem words.  Eventually I could tell by sight when I was misspelling something.  Overtime the number of errors decreased and my sight based error recognition improved.

To this day I have trouble spelling, especially when I'm tired.  I still misspell 'receive' about half the time.
(photo: NEO Loaner Program)

Main point: Let's explicitly teach our students how to improve their spelling by seeing spell check and grammar check as individualized instruction from a slightly crazy robotic tutor.  We can't always trust what the machine says.  However it does give us a series of learning opportunities.

I recall arguing with English teachers when word processing first became widely available.  Many were convinced it was the end of writing (and civilization).  For me it was a technology that changed my life.  (Now, as a Certified Geezer, I still depend on my word processor and spell check to make my living.)

Dennis, who is blurry eyed in Valley Center

 (Five spelling errors corrected when I first checked. Several more after I revised. This did not include three spell check prompted stabs at receive.) 8-)

November 3, 2011

Synesthesia, Painting, Poetry, Sentence Fluency, Rhythm with Toby Lurie

Poetry - Painting - Song 

Later in my teaching practice I started writing grants to bring writers and illustrators to my school district. This helped me build a relationship with painter, musician and poet, Toby Lurie:

Toby is an amazing, creative, and unpredictable guy. (The link to his site will introduce you to his work. He shares many QuickTime audio clips of his work that trigger creativity.) It is fun to find him on the Internet after all these years.

I recall meeting him for the first time. Toby was wild white bearded poet with a dangerous gleam in his eye. One look at him and I realized that he was going to draw some lightening.  I was the language arts coordinator for a conservative Nevada school district. I knew Toby was going to make waves and I was glad to aide and abet in a little artistic subversion.  We were at the district's biggest high school.  I'd planned a full school assembly, but an uptight vice principal sand bagged me and side tracked us to a remote spot in the school where they kept the 'tough' kids.

As I was about to introduce Toby to a huge class of hyper-active alternative ed high school kids.  I didn't have a clue what he was going to do. The rowdy group had the bored vibe of caged cats.  I was sure this crowd of edgy and angry adolescents would tear us apart. 

Just as I introduced Toby, he whispered in my ear, "Tell them I don't speak any English."  I followed his lead and got out of the way.

Toby proceed to emote with sounds and facial gestures and within seconds he captured everyone's attention. He spoke gibberish but it didn't matter. This guy knew how to communicate with sound alone, words were an afterthought. The kids were riveted by the odd man capering and grunting in front of them.

By the end of the assembly everyone was up moving and chanting,  found poetry echoed off the walls and we were all swimming in Toby's unique tone patterns.  Sometimes it's good to be in alternative ed!

To really appreciate Toby's work you need to hear and see him. This new video Synesthesia Part 1 will give you a taste. 

Synesthesia part 1 from Terrence Vaughn on Vimeo.

Choral Reading, Toby Style

Several years later on one of his return visits, Toby taught me a great method that ties perfectly into the concepts of rhythm and sentence fluency. After a writing session, Toby had each student pick a single line from their work. Then he called 6-8 volunteers to come to the front of the room. They lined up shoulder to shoulder and started to read their lines in order from left to right. The first boy read. Then the second. Suddenly Toby would point back to the first and have him repeat the line. Toby would would mug and gesture and flail his arms like a demented conductor, all to draw more emotion and voice from the reader.

We soon understood that Toby was conducting a word orchestra and hearing special music.

The kids began reading their lines louder or lower, deadpan or angry, happy or weeping. Once the whole group of young ones had read once, Toby layered together a sound poem based on the melodies of repeated lines and varied voice.

Sometimes Toby had the same student read two or three times in a row or come back to one particularly powerful line repeatedly. No one in the chorus knew when they'd be called on and everyone was amazed at the nuances and lunacies that spilled out of it all.

Toby created a wild reader's theater  of word choice, sentence fluency, voice, organization, and ideas all wrapped in a spontaneously generated poem. It was hilarious, energizing,  fun. Everyone loved it.

All of this points to the powerful mix of music, performance, and poetry that supports sentence fluency (and all the other traits as well).

I  used this method myself two or three times a year for the rest of my classroom teaching career. I got so I could conduct a pretty good sound/word poem, but I could never top the Maestro!

Synesthesia part 2 from Terrence Vaughn on Vimeo.