Tag Archives: words

Words Have Power

Words have power.  They can hurt…and they can heal.

Our students have been learning about our local history.  They’ve studied the lives of the first settlers, learned about the homestead act, and are fascinated by the stories of those who lived here before us.  And they’ve taken these stories and invented their own playground game.  They call it history.  Essentially, they role-play the lives of these early settlers–some playing the adults, others the children.  (Our school is a part of that history–one of the early schools of the area)

But at lunch recess today, it all went wrong.  Things got rough, and mean words and hurtful actions happened.  We got a heads-up from one of the playground monitors, and expected to see tears as we headed out to our students.  But things were surprisingly calm…until we started to walk back to the classroom.  As the story unfolded, we got a glimpse at both our students’ creativity and imagination…and the escalation of energy, excitement, with some poor choices sprinkled on top of it all.  It became clear that this was not a scuffle between two students, it was a result of good intention, poor choices, swelling anger, and overreaction.

So instead of the plan we had in mind for the afternoon, we decided to address this incident with the entire class…to help our classroom community grow and hopefully give students more tools to use to resolve their own problems.

After talking through the pain and frustration and hearing a variety of perspectives, my teaching partner Margit pulled out a book she had bought a few weeks ago…one we were saving for a time when it seemed useful…and she began to read.  Grandfather Gandhi by Arun Gandhi and Bethany Hegedus tells the story of Gandhi’s grandson and his feelings of anger…and of not living up to his grandfather’s reputation and expectations.  The ultimate message is that anger is a normal emotion that we all experience–it’s how we deal with it that matters.  Gandhi explains to his grandson that anger is like electricity.  It can split a living tree in two.  Or, he explains, it can be channeled and transformed.  A switch can be flipped and it can shed light like a lamp.  We can all work to use our anger instead of letting anger use us.

IMG_4977

We talked about the difference between being a bystander–one who stands by and sees things escalating and chooses to do nothing.  Or we can be upstanders, people who make a positive difference and think about how they can help.  People who notice when things are escalating and make an effort to change the dynamic.  For our young students, that might mean summoning an adult or using kind, calm language to help their classmates remember to pay attention to the choices they are making.

Our students took some time to breathe out the pain of the negative lunch interaction and breathe in some warm light…and turned to a partner to talk about what they learned from Arun Gandhi’s story of his grandfather.  One student asked me, before heading out for afternoon recess, if they could still play the history game or if it was now off limits.  I responded by reminding that the game itself wasn’t bad…and that I believed they could play the game as long as they remembered what had gone wrong before, and made different choices.

Our students are wonderful.  They are inquisitive, imaginative, and caring.  And they are kids. They get excited, wound up…and sometimes they make choices that get them into trouble. The words we use as adults are powerful too.  We can use them to punish or we can use them teach.

As we sent our students off for spring break today, I could feel the caring and the healing in our community.  We all learned today.  Words hurt…and words healed…and we all learned.

The Gift of Words

Inspired by a blog post on Edutopia by a colleague of mine from the UCLA Writing Project, our class began to explore the idea of gifts.  This is a hard time for young students, this season seems to make them want everything!  There is talk of what Santa will bring, what antics and gifts the elf carries, along with lots of decorating and baking and performances and outings…

So last week we began by reading a beautiful picture book that my teaching partner found at Powell’s books in Portland called Immi’s Gift by Karin Littlewood.  This gorgeous book about an Inuit girl is perfect for setting the stage for expanding the idea of gifts beyond what can be purchased.  And honestly, our students, even before reading the book had many ideas about those “priceless” gifts…of time, nature, acts of kindness…  And this simple book is filled with beautiful language, ideas, and images.

And then we gave the students the invitation to become word-sleuths…to be on the lookout for words, phrases, sentences..that were worthy of gift status.  Words that were special to them in some way.  They collected these words on yellow stickies and then carefully wrote them on some pretty pieces of paper to hang on the “My Gift of Words” board in our classroom.

My Gift of Words

The collections are growing–and students are not only finding words others wrote, they are writing their own too!  This third grader came in on Tuesday with this line that she had written in her notebook on her way to school.  (And I suspect also influenced by another book we read, What Does Peace Feel Like? by Vladimir Radunsky.)

peace like salt water

Here’s a glimpse at some of the other word gifts hanging on our board.

And suddenly, not only are my students noticing and appreciating words everywhere, but so am I!  At a meeting at school on Monday, one of my colleagues used this Michelangelo quote to call us all to action and urge us to dream big.

The greater danger for most of us lies not in setting our aim too high and falling short; but in setting our aim too low, and achieving our mark.  Michelangelo

A word fairy has been leaving inspirational quotes in our mailboxes at school this week…and a friend of mine just gave me this beautiful necklace with a quote from Albert Einstein on it.  (I love the sentiment!)

necklace

And the cherry on top of all these words is that at The Writing Thief MOOC our most recent make is a scavenger hunt for mentor texts!  It feels like I have been bathed in words this week, they are falling like raindrops, gathering in puddles, splashing ideas and inspiration into my thinking and writing and living.

And I see it with my students too.  They are tuned into words, catching them in their nets, and sharing them with each other, their families, and with us.  In this season of giving, the gift of words has been spectacular…and a tradition that I hope carries on into the New Year!

What words are inspiring you this holiday season?  What words have you given and received as gifts?  What are your favorite mentor texts?  And feel free to join us over at The Writing Thief MOOC and share some of your favorite words, phrases, sentences, and books…you’re all welcome.  Come join the fun!

Macro or Micro?

A picture is worth 1,000 words…or so they say.  And then I’ve been thinking about words and the meanings and shades of meaning they carry with them.

Today’s #sdawpphotovoices prompt was macro.  I love using my macro lens to zoom in on tiny details, those that are almost too small to see without the lens.  It’s definitely challenging to use the macro lens.  You must get close…nearly touching the object to be photographed.  And then you have to get the focal length just right, bringing the object into focus.  And…you have to hold very still to get a crisp, detailed shot.

I always think about macro photography as small and detailed.  You move in close, discovering the smallest of details.

succulent flower

But as I was thinking about the word macro, I realized that macro means large…it’s micro that means small!  I get that the macro lens makes what is small look large by magnifying it…but should it actually be called the micro lens?  Isn’t it kind of like a microscope?

Using the internet, I went looking for some information about where the macro in macro photography came from.  I learned a lot and it’s always interesting to find out that unexpected word meanings come from some historical reference…in this case using macro to distinguish it from photo-micrographs.

I also learned that macro comes from the size of the actual photograph in reference to the size of the object photographed.  And that relationship of the object to the completed photographs is one of the things I like best about using my macro lens.

I really love the way the macro lens changes the use of space in the photograph.  Negative space appears as I angle the lens to lean in close and focus.

macro flowers

I love the way these blossoms line up behind each other with the one in the foreground in focus.  I think you would be surprised to know that these flowers are barely noticeable in the pot where they live.

succulent in a pot

The macro lens even seems to have an impact on the color my eye is able to see.  At first glance these blossoms look white.  But with the macro lens, the pigments are enhanced and the pinkness emerges.

pink flower-macro

There is a magical quality to these macro photos that takes tiny and makes it big.  So, while macro means very large in scale, scope, or capability in a general definition, my understanding of macro as it relates to photography is more nuanced.  Yes–there is a largeness in scale involved…but also a sense of the small, and that is where the magic lives.

So, a picture may be worth 1,000 words…and the words create new meanings for the pictures too.  What words fascinate or perplex you?  How can an image change your understanding of the word?  Or better yet, how do words and images work together to create new understandings for you?