Archive for the 'Just for Fun' Category

A Get To Know You Poetry Activity: TWO-TONE POETRY

leaves-fall-colors-rainbowBy Elizabeth Jorgensen

Most English teachers have heard of the Where I’m From poem activity based on George Ella Lyon’s professional example. I begin my Creative Writing class with this exercise each year. But as the school year progresses and students become more comfortable sharing, I encourage them to try Two-Tone Poetry.

I start by discussing how we all have multiple sides to our personalities. I am, of course, different with my friends than I am with my students. And I’m different at parent teacher conferences than I am at The Band Perry concerts.

“Most of us are at least two-tone,” I tell my classes. Then, I encourage my students to talk about the different sides of their personalities.

We also discuss how colors can trigger feelings or moods. Moods—like colors—can be warm or cool; they can attract attention or blend in. I tell my students how we interpret and analyze colors, combined with our self-knowledge, can be a good place to start a Two-Tone poem.

I ask students to write a Two-Tone poem that speaks of their two tones and at least two different sides of their personality. In these drafts, I ask for stylistic devices, action verbs, a purposeful structure and original names for the colors (elephant grey, sunset pink, pickle green). I tell my students they could also choose to work with a pattern (chevron, argyle, plaid) instead of a color.

Here are three student examples:

Most of the time, I am eggshell white—

whispered answers hidden beneath books,

innocent gazes given from across rooms.

I am invisible:

blended behind schoolhouse walls,

left unused in paperback Crayola boxes.

But when she sees me, I am electric blue—

squeals of laughter spew in heartbeats,

and secret adventures hide in memories.

I am both eggshell white and electric blue:

swimming through a sea of wonder,

gabbing jaws beneath black knit stars.

~

Part of me is lemonade yellow—

sporadic and spunky,

loud and lively, and

in people’s faces.

But deep within, there’s another side no one sees—

ash black, like the tip of a charred marshmallow,

hurt and resentful,

damaged and filled with hate.

My heart screams, telling me to hang on to the yellow.

But, they both are who I am.

Both…oh…

so me.

~

Most days, I am amethyst purple—

            go with the flow,

            under the rainbow,

            unnoticed like a shadow.

I go about the same routine,

            wake, work, watch, repeat,

            riding down the road of life from the backseat.

            My spunk…it’s obsolete.

But on some days, I am ruby red—

            rebelling against reality,

            laughing carefree,

            swinging from the fruit tree,

            drinking iced tea,

            singing like a bumblebee.

That’s when my spunk returns

to me.

Summer Reading

Bokeh-Bible-6-900By Elizabeth Jorgensen

During break at my school’s College Essay Workshop, Hope, a former student, asked, “So, what are you reading this summer, Ms. J?” A stack of books sat on her desk, bookmarks sticking out of the pages, tattered and frayed.

“This summer, my book club read two books: Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan and The Good Girl by Mary Kubica.” Then, I flipped the question back to her: “So, what are you reading this summer, Hope?” Hope wants to be a reading specialist and told me her summer goal was to read 30 books.

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly.” She held up the book and I saw three women walking hand-in-hand down dirt path. On the top of the book I saw “New York Times Bestseller.”
“I’ve never heard of it. What’s it about?”

Hope told me it’s about women in World War II. She raved about the varying points of view and the arc of the story. She said she loved that it was based on a true story. I told her it sounded like The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah and Hope said The Nightingale was also on her to read list. When the workshop ended, I texted Kathy, a member of my book club, who loves WWII historical fiction, to recommend Lilac Girls.

Summer reading lists are ubiquitous. From People Magazine to The Washington Post and Barnes & Noble’s recommendations, there are plenty of new (and classic) books to choose from. On my summer reading list was something by Lauren Groff. My sister, Olympian Gwen Jorgensen, competed with fellow American Sarah (Groff) True and I often heard about Sarah’s sister, the New York Times bestselling author Lauren.

I met Sarah’s (and Lauren’s) parents at competitions and heard about their childhood and the connection intrigued me. I chose to read Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff when I read this in an article in The Guardian: “Fates and Furies, already a New York Times bestseller, was picked as Amazon.com’s book of the year, with the internet retailer describing it as ‘dazzling’ last month…Groff’s novel has been feted in the US: the Los Angeles Times called it ‘audacious and gorgeous,’ and the Washington Post said it was a ‘a clear-the-ground triumph.’”

The book didn’t disappoint. Groff’s book grabbed me with intense scenes and descriptive language. The woven story, flashing back and forward, first the husband’s perspective and then the wife’s, is about secrets spouses keep.

On the plane to visit my sister, I toted Wonder by R.J Palacio. I read it in the hot tub while my sister swam laps and before we went to bed. I found this book on an Amazon deal—scoring the hard copy for $3.99. According to Amazon, Wonder is “soon to be a major motion picture starring Julia Roberts, Owen Wilson and Jacob Tremblay! Over 6 million people have read the #1 New York Times bestseller Wonder and have fallen in love with Auggie Pullman, an ordinary boy with an extraordinary face. The book that inspired the Choose Kind movement.” It’s a young adult novel I look forward to recommending to my students.

There are a few weeks left in summer and I’m hoping to add additional books to my summer reading list—and I’ve decided (on Hope’s recommendation) to start with Lilac Girls.

Welcome Back, Dr. Terry Burant!


The College of Education is excited to have Dr. Theresa J. Burant return as our new Director of Teacher Education this year! Whether she’s teaching, swimming, or dancing to country music, Dr. Burant is loving her return to Milwaukee. Read on to learn more about one of our newest faculty members!

Tell us about yourself!

Terry Burant: I am a Milwaukee native, although I left for the west coast as soon as I earned my high school science teaching credentials. I started teaching and coaching swimming in southern California and taught in New Mexico, earned my Ph.D. at the University of Arizona in Tucson, then taught at the University of Wyoming. Although I am new to the position of Director of Teacher Education at Marquette, I’ve been teaching here off and on since 2001.

In addition to this amazing opportunity in the College of Education at Marquette, being in, around, and on water drew me back home to Milwaukee. I lifeguard, swim, and canoe as often as I can. I also walk and (sort of) run along Lake Michigan; even my workout studio is on the river in the 3rd ward. One of my favorite rituals every summer is swimming in Lake Superior near the Apostle Islands. My lifelong dream is to paddle the perimeter of Lake Superior; moving back to Wisconsin gets me a little closer to that dream!

I’m also a huge lover of Summerfest and music of many kinds; every summer I try to see how many times I can get to the fest. I only made it six times this summer; so, this gives me a goal for next year. One of the highlights this year was spending about five hours with my niece, in the pouring rain on opening night, to see Frankie Ballard (a country singer). Now that I live near my niece again, I’m sure I will be seeing more country shows with her as she’s my go-to country girl! I started taking her to concerts when she was 12, and she’s now 27; we’ve seen so many artists over the years. It’s impossible not to have a great time with Sarah next to me singing and dancing!

While it might not be fashionable to say this, I also love Wisconsin winters. After living in sunnier places for so long, I look forward to those long stretches of gray and damp days from November to March when I can wear my favorite coats, boots, hats, and scarves. Pretty sure you will find me back in the Polar Bear club on New Year’s Day. I’ve been told that my winter enthusiasm is a little annoying so I apologize in advance.

What is your favorite educational experience?

TB: In a formal school setting, the first one to come to mind is my Urban Studies class at Wauwatosa East a long time ago. Our teacher made the city and its issues come alive for us; his enthusiasm, humor, love for the city, and inquiry-based methods remain with me today. Another would be my doctoral program at the University of Arizona. I had the most helpful, wise, and caring committee members. This school experience felt like the best of kindergarten as I was free to design and explore topics and projects of interest to me, although, of course, the responsibility for learning was literally all on me!

What do you see as an exciting opportunity for the College of Education this academic year?

TB: We have so many; but, the new Core Curriculum gives us the perfect opportunity to rethink our programs and review where we’ve been and where we hope to go. We have such a talented, thoughtful, and passionate faculty and staff, and I look forward to our work together in the coming year.

I’m also excited to reconnect with alumni and make connections between and among them and our current students. I’ve always been happiest playing a connecting role, and I am driven to strengthen the Marquette College of Education’s presence in the city. I wholeheartedly believe in cura personalis and hope that this will be evident in my daily work.

Can you tell us about the time you talked to Taylor Swift?

TB: I will always be a Swiftie! It’s kind of a long story; but, while teaching chemistry, I was explaining the steps of a problem to my students and somehow the abbreviation for the steps brought T. Swift to mind. On the spot, I got a little carried away and dramatic in my explanation and created an acronym associated with her as an aid for my students’ memories. Over time, we started calling the problems “Taylor Swift” problems (although I was, of course, careful to make sure that my students understood what the problems were really about and were using the language of the discipline as they described their work). A few weeks later, Taylor was in town at a radio station and I called her up to tell her how my Marquette High sophomores had problems named after her in our class. With that signature T. Swift enthusiasm, she exclaimed, “that’s the best story ever!” and she gave us an autographed picture for our classroom. So yeah, I’ve been to see her three times in three different cities, and I look forward to whatever she’s cooking up next!


You can learn more about the College of Education along with our undergraduate and graduate programs by visiting us online!

Book Club Provides Reprieve, Relaxation, Rejuvenation

images (2)By Elizabeth Jorgensen

Four years ago, as we enjoyed dinner, my best friend clutched her sauvignon blanc and said, “Kathy and Rachel and I are talking about forming a book club. Are you interested?”

Thinking of all the novels I wanted to read, but pushed aside for grading college essays, poems and exams, I answered, “Yes.” And with that, our group of four set out the rules: two books every two months. A rotation allowed each of us to select novels and host the event, complete with questions and discussion prompts. Some years, we met our two-books-every-two-months quota; other years, life presented challenges and we fell short. But we always start book club the same way: with an update on our lives. Then, while sharing a home-cooked meal or takeout pizza, we dive into the books and start our discussion.

We are support for each other and for our love of reading. We challenge each other and learn more about our lives and the way we enjoy literature. As the women in my book club birthed children, often a baby squirmed or slept, cradled in my arms. To our original four members, we’ve added two. And now, we rotate through the six of us, each member bringing a different viewpoint, preference and voice.

Before my book club, I read a handful of books a year, and they remained in my comfort zone. And rarely would they lead to discussion or dissection. But my book club has reminded me of the joy of reading—of connecting with a story, of experiencing another reality and of discussing themes of literature with my peers.  And now, when students or colleagues ask for book recommendations, I reference my much fuller repertoire:

 

2016-2017

The Sellout: A Novel by Paul Beatty

The Rules of Attraction by Bret Easton Ellis

Among the Ten Thousand Things by Julia Pierpont

Fly Away by Kristin Hannah

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

 

2015-2016

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline.

Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932 by Francine Prose

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

Cemetery Girl by David Bell

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

After You by JoJo Moyes

 

2014-2015

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey

Defending Jacob by William Landay

Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker

This is Where I leave You by Jonathan Tropper

The Winner by David Baldacci

The Light Between Oceans: A Novel by ML Stedman

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Every Fifteen Minutes by Lisa Scottoline

 

2013-2014

…and When She Was Good by Laura Lippman

The Silver Star by Jeannette Walls

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

Identical by Ellen Hopkins

Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Tenth of December Stories by George Saunders

The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

 

Happy Thanksgiving

adobe-spark-14

The Lost Art of the Implausible Multiple Choice Distractor*

board-361516_960_720By Nick McDaniels

*Note: Implausible Multiple Choice Distractors are not an art nor are they lost.

Sometimes, well, all the time, really, we in education, take assessments too seriously.  We research and practice writing the most effective multiple choice (or is it selected response?) answers (alternatives?). We add trial questions for next year’s test to this year’s test and we make sure that our data is as accurate (marketable?) as possible.  Of course, by we, I mean the corporate ed-reform testing giants and those complicit in their acts.

I, however, a run-of-the-mill classroom teacher and one of the fortunate few who still has the ability to write his own assessments, often try to deviate from the standardized-assessment norm. In fact, I’d say I regularly deviate by a few standard deviations from the standardized-assessment norm. But just because I think that standardized-assessment, the endless wave of question stems and A through D alternatives, is one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse of good public education, doesn’t mean that I think that all multiple-choice questions are evil. In fact, I employ multiple choice on many of my in-class assessments. But that’s not what this post is about, really.

This post is about finding a way to use multiple-choice assessments in classrooms without triggering the multiple-choice test fatigue which has befallen our young people. I have not found a fool-proof solution to making my multiple choice tests seem less painful, boring, etc…. But I do regularly employ a cardinal sin of multiple choice alternative creation. I seize an opportunity for a play on words, a joke, etc… as a throw-away answer in almost every test I create. And students regularly start laughing during my quizzes. Enjoying a test? What? How could this be? Because, perhaps, I stopped taking my own tests so seriously?

In throwing away an answer every now and again, I am reducing my student’s chance of getting that one question wrong by 25%. I’m not really providing that much of an advantage am I, on a 20 question quiz?

I encourage you, as a teacher, to find a way to bring some joy back to assessments. You can do it! Here’s a corny example from my last Constitutional Law quiz:

Which Constitutional Clause was utilized by the Supreme Court to radically expand Congressional power during the 20th Century?

  1. Necessary and Proper
  2. Commerce
  3. Supremacy
  4. Santa

And when the first student reached this question of the quiz, his belly shook like a bowl full of jelly. Not really. But he did smile. That’s more joy than we see during most assessments. Lighten up. Have fun. And throw an answer to the wind every now and again; a Nobel Prize winner once said that the answers are blowin’ there, anyway.

 

Tales are forever…

talesBy Dhanya Nair

Last week, I ambled to the Milwaukee public library to get some books for my three-year-old nephew. I was pleased at the wide variety of children’s books at the library; along with Snow White and Cinderella, there were folk tales from South America and Africa and books which focused on the experiences of immigrant children. As I browsed through rows of fairy tales, folk tales, animal tales, nature tales, mysteries, and tales of horror, I felt a twinge of excitement. I was surprised at my excitement because I was not engaging in anything new; libraries have always been my safe haven. Later, I realized that I was excited because I was going to be the controller-of-tales. I would influence my nephew’s flights of imagination during his short stay at my home.

I found myself thinking about the tales I used to read as a child; Enid Blyton’s Famous Five used to be one of my favorite books. The Famous Five was about four siblings and their dog: Julian, Dick, Anne, Georgina (George), and Timmy (the canine). They would routinely find themselves involved in a local mystery during their vacations. Nothing about their geographic settings were familiar to me; they often sought adventure in places like Wales and Cornwall and ate scones, jam tarts, cold cuts, roast potatoes, and kidney pies. I remember being fascinated by the adventures of the five, and today I marvel at their amazing ability to transport me to a place which was inaccessible to me. The Indian tales which I used to read always had an element of magic in them, whether they were from the Ramayana, Mahabharata, Jataka, or Panchatantra.

Magic is the word I associate most with childhood tales, these tales are often also associated with an emotional landscape. When I reflect back on my childhood, I remember the stories and rhymes which my aunt and mother narrated to coax me to eat food or fall asleep. I also vividly remember the eagerness with which I would await cartoons and other kids’ shows on Sundays (my childhood was spent in simpler times, when delayed gratification was the rule and not the exception). Tales are also often the perfect gateway to a rich alternate world, where most children find comfort and refuge. My nephew is adept at pretend-play and often adopts the voices and words of the characters from his beloved tales.

My fascination with tales is child-like, however, I am not ashamed at admitting that they hold a strong sway over me. Tales are powerful, the world around us is filled with them. They not only serve as vehicles of morals and values for children, but also reflect the times we live in. Salman Rushdie conveys the importance of tales in his wonderful book, Haroun and the Sea of Stories. In the book, Haroun’s father, Rashid, is a master storyteller and is much sought after by political parties to weave positive stories about their candidates. Rashid is called the “shah of blah” in the book and I will always remain grateful to the various “shahs of blah” whom I have encountered in my life.


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