Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Extending the Conversation

I have started a new round of blogging, this time with my English students. We are using ClassBlogmeister as a place to reflect on their readings as they do research on a variety of topics.

Today, we started talking about leaving comments. I began the class asking a few students to share what their topics are about. For each student, I made a generic, related but throw-away comment, like "I like black holes, too." Even as we were talking, the students would make faces at my comments, knowing that what I said really wasn't that important.

Then, we talked about why my comments weren't well received. Ultimately, students felt that I wasn't being very helpful. I agreed, and we discussed how bad comments can stop us but good comments help to develop a conversation, a give and take between the people and ideas.

During fifth period, once students had been working for awhile on their entries or leaving comments for classmates, one of my more reluctant bloggers turned to me and said, "Now I get it. I can see why this would be helpful." Then, while visiting with a student after school, I was asked, "How do I comment on a comment?"

They have been bloggers for about four days, now. Already, some of them are grasping what they can do with this tool.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Podslam.org is an impressive new project highlighting slam poetry. The current theme is black history month.

Welcome to podslam.org's first feature, presented by Just Media and Cafe Nuba. We have 15 of Denver's best spoken word artists. They were asked to spit something relevant to black history month, but you can be the judge of that.

Each artist's poem can be accessed in a number of ways, including audio and video. The videos are nicely produced green screens, so for each performance the artist appears in front of a dynamic background, which changes to support what is being said.

Local schools have been getting more involved in holding poetry slams. There were three last year and one this year so far. Students from our school have participated in all of them, and we are considering ways to work even more slam poetry into the creative writing units. The podslam poets I have already watched can serve as great models of the performance aspects of slam poetry. Pacing and body language are difficult to teach, and seeing the high quality performances of these poets will go a long way toward helping students improve their own craft.