Today is the National Day on Writing–a day to celebrate all that writing offers. My students were excited this morning at the thought that they would get to write today. In fact, they were already excited about the writing they had done last night in their Learning at Home notebooks. We started the day listening to a short story by a student about a leaf, a leaf personified, who travels from a tree branch to a construction site and eventually back to a leaf pile with the help of the leaf blower. We could have spent the entire morning listening to stories written by students…but we had writing to do!
Inspired by Red Sings from the Treetops by Joyce Sidman, we began writing our own color-inspired poetry earlier this week. Today we took those bits and starts and worked to craft them into a whole piece. Some students were spectacularly successful, some had moments of brilliance, and others veered away from color and still wrote some interesting accounts of things they are interested in. They wrote, read to a partner, and eventually created a short video of themselves reading their poem on Flipgrid. And while their first attempts are not ready for “prime time,” I am proud of all they accomplished today and their enthusiastic and creative approach to our day.
Here are a few glimpses:
In winter, yellow sighs, I’m done. None of my sunlight can peek through clouds as dark as the oceans’ most shadowy blue places. It’s time white takes his place..
(Third grade boy)
In summer yellow shines from the sky while blue splashes . Colorful plants explode with power and beauty. In summer blue wraps around my ankles. Red rises from green…
(Third grade girl)
In the morning gold wakes me up with his paws and barking, “I’m hungry.” And with his pink tongue, gold wets my face…
(Third grade boy)
At the beach, green is sly. It slithers by surfboards, sneaks by me and ties a slippery knot around my legs…
(Third grade girl)
Students left today wanting more…begging for more opportunities to write and share. My students remind me that writing can be playful and creative, an opportunity for social interaction and experimentation. They remind me that there are lots of reasons #whyiwrite!
Fall is subtle in San Diego. Instead of a riotous celebration of trees dressed in their best fall colors I notice that the lifeguard towers have been moved from their strategic summer shoreline positions to a collection near the road. Instead of grabbing a sweater and drinking warm apple cider, we scan the horizon for evidence of wildfires as hot winds gust and whip the dry grasses and dust into a frenzy.
But in spite of these easy to miss markers of fall, there are seasons in San Diego. Not the two (spring and summer) that so many use to describe our temperate climate, but four distinct seasons that you might only recognize if you take the time to notice, document, and reflect.
It’s like that in my classroom too. As teachers (and maybe as parents and learners too) we all wish that learning came with recognizable markers of growth. That we could watch the leaves of learning change from green to yellow to brilliant crimson, celebrating new knowledge, expertise and confidence. We’d love for snowplows to mark the new pathways that allow for connections between new concepts and older understandings. But learning is often subtle. It is incremental, sneaking its way into our synapses and those of our students without fanfare.
To pay attention to these subtleties, I turn to my camera. My camera has become my go-to tool for focusing my attention, allowing me to notice and document changes in my environment. Through its lens, I pay attention to changes in light and shadow, notice moods and action, and see what might otherwise be overlooked. Combined with writing, reflection becomes a daily habit with camera in hand.
Writing helps me pay attention. It helps me record the small details that don’t seem to amount to much and notice how those details change, accumulate, and grow over time. And when paired with photography, writing helps me leap from concrete to abstract, considering why a photo of lifeguard towers stored for the fall and winter draws my attention to my students and their learning. Writing pushes me from the tediums of day to day, to examine the reasons I keep returning to those same topics. And even more importantly, when I write, I am reminded of the power of writing not just for myself but also for my students and that helps me search for ways to support them as they find their own reasons to write.
I write to support my students as writers, knowing that the power of the pen will open possibilities for thinking, learning, and problem solving. And when I pay close attention, I will not only learn about them but also from them. That’s why I write.
We live in a colorful world, filled with blue skies, green grass, flowers of infinite variety and so much more. But some days, it is by draining the color away that we truly notice details.
I like the way that black and white photos bring the focus to contrast and highlight light and shadow. This lifeguard tower, empty now that summer has passed, becomes an intricate maze of ladders in black and white as the shadows blend with the actual steps.
I’m still working on my nighttime photography, something I just don’t get enough practice time with. The other night the full moon was rising just before I headed to bed and I stepped out onto our deck to observe. It’s hard to get a clear moon picture, especially with my phone camera. Even though there was little color in the original, black and white seems to highlight the glow of the moon against the silhouette of the roof.
Low tides at the beach offers expanses of wet sand, another vehicle for reflecting light. The tide was quite low last week, creating perfect conditions for long walks and interesting photos. I love the way the wet sand reflects the cliffs in the black and white version of this image.
These white stairs to nowhere are a favorite photography subject of mine. They sit at the beach below the Self Realization Fellowship and I imagine they were once an operational path to the beach. Now, in their brilliant white, they create an interesting contrast to the sky and the cliff. (I wonder if they are painted regularly, they seem to maintain that clean white quality over the years.)
Those weekend low tides also meant that intertidal creatures were on display. This sea anenome was hanging out in a shallow pool of water in the exposed rocks on the shore. You can see some of the other life forms that it shares its home with too.
And sometimes the beach itself is an exercise in monochromatic tones. I used Color Splash to take away color in order to bring attention to this light blue soccer ball and its reflection. Just a hint of color brings the focus to the ball, seemingly abandoned on the shore while people play in the background.
So play around with black and white this week, in your photos and in your writing. You might take some new photos with black and white in mind or play around with some existing photos, noticing what changes when you drain the color out. How does that work in your writing? What does black and white writing look like? How does focusing on light and shadow change your writing?
Share your #blackandwhite this week, in images or words…or both. You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #blackandwhite.
So play around with your images…and your words. Share your favorites with the rest of us!
Change happens. Sometimes when you least expect it. It’s still warm and sunny and shorts are my go-to weekend attire, but on my beach walk Sunday I was thankful I had grabbed my sweatshirt. The breeze was chilly…and honestly, it has felt fall-ish all weekend.
On my way to work each morning I drive along the coast. Lately I’ve been noticing the field of pumpkins, bright orange and framed by the row of palm trees. I read something today that informed me that these are grown by people at the Self Realization Fellowship (located just to the west) and they become a magnificent display of creatively carved jack-o-lanterns on Halloween each year.
Seasonal change is subtle in San Diego. I’m starting to see posts and photos by friends who live further east and further north. The trees are turning and color is dominating the natural landscape. Instead of brilliant reds and oranges, I am noticing that the beach is wide open with many fewer tourists visiting and maybe many locals occupied by piano lessons and soccer games instead of those long lazy summer days on the shore. I love this time of year with the sun warming my shoulders, my feet in the surf, and long stretches of open space in front of me. The shore birds seem to enjoy it too, less skittish as I come near with my camera.
There is lots of change in store decor these days too. Supermarkets are filled to brim with pumpkin flavored this and that and those pop up Halloween shops are opening. A trip to Home Depot over the weekend revealed lots and lots of fall flowers. The bees were happy, flying around and doing their pollinator thing, regardless of the change around them!
And all change isn’t seasonal. My teaching life is profoundly changed this year too. After 23 years co-teaching a multiage class, I am on my own with third graders this year. I am adjusting to the change in workflow and loving the intimacy of time alone with my students. The rhythms are different, but the work is familiar and fulfilling.
What does change look like in your place, in your life? You might consider the seasonal changes…or not. There are lots of changes that we experience, some because of the change in the weather and some because of other changes in our lives.
Share your #change this week, in images or words…or both. You can post your photo alone or along with some words: commentary, a story, a poem…maybe even a song! I love to study the photographs that others’ take and think about how I can use a technique, an angle, or their inspiration to try something new in my own photography. (I love a great mentor text…or mentor photo, in this case!) I share my photography and writing on social media. You can find me on Instagram and Twitter using @kd0602. If you share your photos and writing on social media too, please let me know so I can follow and see what you are doing. To help our Weekly Photo community find each other, use the hashtag #change.
Take a look around and notice change in your life this week. Pick up your camera, phone, notebook and pen and document all that you see and experience. Be sure to share…I look forward to seeing and thinking about your change too!