Make Cycles

Our course is organized by “make cycles,” a term I borrow from Connected Learning. You can find the tasks for each cycle in the drop down menu above.

Google+ Community

We will share most of our work in a Google+ Community. We will upload images, respond to each other’s ideas, and share links and “makes” here.

Author: kjaxon

Make Cycle 4 is shared

Make Cycle 4 is shared

Hi nice people,

Make Cycle 4–creating writing assignments–can now be viewed. Notice that you have a partner for this activity: you will each create an activity for each other and try out the activity. So, in other words, you’ll play the role of the teacher and then the student. Designing activities is challenging, but it is also pretty fun to see how someone tries out your activity ideas.

Make Cycle 4 takes us from Monday (14th)-Wednesday (16th). One more left after that: a response to Chapter 8 (Jan 17) and a Reflection assignment (Jan 18). You. Got. This.

Happy Saturday! (Your argument Make is due tonight.)


Updates & Reminders Day 7 (Jan 10)

Updates & Reminders Day 7 (Jan 10)

Howdy everyone,

My “morning” updates are turning into early afternoon updates… so many things to do! I’m currently working on a Spencer grant–so I can secure some funds to study the influence of artifacts (like your Makes) on the way people learn in a discipline–doing some grant reporting, updating a website, and prepping three classes for spring. Fun stuff.

Grade update for yesterday’s post and Make were just sent. If you notice that you received a 22/25 on your Make, it’s because there wasn’t enough in the reflection portion. For me, hearing about your process is just as interesting as the product. The reflection is also the place where you can think about writerly decisions: how did the platform or genre shape your choices? Why that theme or that font or that color choice? Why that repeating line? The more you think about your goals and intentions as a writer, the better you’ll get at helping little kids do that too. I put some examples again below from Ayla, Shelbi, Adriana, and Sheenna who did some nice work with the reflection portion. I should see more than “the platform was great and I enjoyed this.”

Make sure you’re responding to a peer each time…we are always missing a few comments each time from a few people. Leave yourself time to engage with the ideas of your peers; again, giving feedback is challenging and this is a place to try out giving feedback to writing. When possible, find one that has not been commented on (I realize this is more challenging when you’re posting early). Appreciate your comments a lot.

Most likely, I won’t do a grade update again until sometime Monday. I’m traveling to Atlanta for a National Writing Project meeting on Sunday, so email response might be just a tiny bit slower (same day for sure, but maybe not same hour).

When I read that we were doing an expository make on almost anything we were interested in, succulents came to my mind right away. I freaking love succulents, you guys. More so, I love growing succulents, so I thought that would be a good base to start with. I wanted it to be simple, while still providing all of the necessary information needed at the same time. Like the dragonfly book, I wrote this in the form of a children’s book with lots of pictures (all my own), and basic language. I wanted to add a couple of interesting facts as well. I also wanted to have the story be more focused on the reader, by aiming the title at them and referencing to them throughout the book (like the dragonfly book). I think I had a hard time coming up with an ending that didn’t feel too abrupt, but I knew that I wanted to have the first and last page be very similar by restating the question. I enjoyed making this! –Ayla

I wrote about stars following the poem I wrote last week about stars. I originally wanted to relate it back to a child with dreams while looking at the stars, but once I started writing it, it became something else. In each image, I included the technique of having one repeating theme. It is very small, but it is a galaxy on every page with an image. I found after looking at the book when I finished that it might be a little to plain and factual for a young child. If I did it over again, I would focus more on the fictional character and her dreams with some facts about stars instead of the other way around. –Shelbi

I decided to write about the stages the butterflies go through, although most of it was first hand experience I also had to do some research for timelines and names. This can definitely be modified but I used Are You a Dragonfly? as inspiration by seeing how they used discussed the different stages while still having it in terms that could be understood by children. Also, side note I did in fact get to house and watch ten little caterpillars grow into butterflies and it is so cool and I think it would be a great idea to incorporate as a little side activity to teach the students about the stages of a caterpillar into a butterfly. Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar could even be used as a supplementary text to introduce the idea to children! –Adriana

For my make this time, I just more or less tried to mirror the same idea that was presented to us within “Are you a dragon fly?” I tried to present factual information using a repetitive phrase. I asked a question within the book hoping to draw the readers in a little bit. I wrote the book with the ages of about k-5th in mind. Ironically, when my older daughter realized I was making a book about sloths, she told me that she too was researching sloths at school for her own project and that she had chosen sloths on her own. We had never even conversed about this and yet we somehow chose the same exact mammal even having been given an open prompt. I thought that was memorable! I did try to make some of the pages a little fun and light hearted. I really don’t feel confident about this make. I struggled with it more than I had expected. However, I was able to learn more things about sloths than I had ever known before this project. I personally love animal facts! –Sheenna

I am loving the winter session. There is something about only focusing on one class that is just heavenly. I’m wondering if you’re having the same experience? Maybe we should do 3 week courses over 16 weeks: you could do 4-5 classes in a semester, but only have to give your attention to one class at a time. Faculty would never go for it, but it has me thinking…

Happy Thursday!


Day 6 Updates & Reminders

Day 6 Updates & Reminders

Hello nice people,

Just sent a grade update for chapters 2 & 3; y’all are rocking these responses and I am so enjoying reading your insights. Thank you.

Due today: Mentor texts and Make 2! The ones that are up already are super cool (*Note: Make sure if you’re using Storyjumper or Piktochart that you check share settings. You usually have to share from a Share button and not just copy the URL. You should see a thumbnail of your project if shared correctly. When in doubt, you can google “how do I share my project in Piktochart..”)

I just released Make Cycle 3: Compelling Arguments. Notice that the drop down menu under Make Cycles is updated now to only include Make Cycle 2 and 3 (our current make cycles). Make Cycle 1 is now archived on the Make Cycle page.

You got this Winter Session gig. Nice work everyone


Reminders Day 3: Jan 4

Reminders Day 3: Jan 4

Howdy nice people,

Today’s update comes in video form (see below)

Today in a nutshell:

  • Watch Mac Barnett’s TED talk
  • Try out some lists to generate ideas for writing
    • write a response about Barnett and share portions of your lists to G+.
  • Create a “make” (I talk about this in the video). Remember to write the reflection portion of the Make too. See assignment description in Make 1.

And here is the link to Scieszka and Barnett’s Battle Bunny site that I mention in the video: LINK HERE

Also, if you’re looking for great children’s books to read as you continue your journey as an elementary teacher, great resources on The Nerdy Book Club. They just released their year-end winners, which is my favorite thing. Link.

Happy Friday! I’ll post Make 2 later today (first discussion for Make 2 is due Monday night)


Friendly Reminders: Day 2 (Jan 3)

Friendly Reminders: Day 2 (Jan 3)

From the email I sent Thursday, Jan 2:

Hi everyone!

I am absolutely enjoying reading your responses already. Loved the introductions and your insights into your literacies. I left comments on all the things from yesterday. Thank you for the thoughtful work!

I don’t think updates will always be this long, but since we’re just getting started I have stuff to tell you. Please read carefully:

  • Preferences for G+ notifications: If you teach the class, like me, then you might like getting an email every time someone posts or responds in our G+ community. But if not, here’s a super short video that shows you how to turn off email notifications: Link HERE (And, you can always simply Google: “How to I turn off the email notifications in G+?” Also known as LMGTFY.)
  • Composing offline and pasting in G+: You might consider composing your responses in Word, Pages, Google Docs or whatever you use regularly. You can then copy and paste the response in our G+ community just in case a browser times out or something awful like that. And you can always edit posts in G+ by clicking on the 3 small dots in the right hand corner of your post.
  • Grade updates: After I finish this email, I’ll be sending you each a grade update from yesterday’s work. Like I said, I don’t use Blackboard for anything, so you’ll get an email to your Wildcat Mail with your grade summary. I’ll try to do this daily, but it might be every couple of days. As much as possible, I try not to nickel and dime grades with things like 8/10. So, if you give me your best effort, then I’ll give you all the points. That said, I expect some in depth responses and will continue to share examples (see Meagan and Arika’s examples below; nicely done!). And we are moving way too quickly to take late work as you probably noticed. Y’all are doing some great work so far.
  • Respond to a peer each time: Post one; respond to one. Most of you are doing a great job commenting on your peer’s ideas. I’ll reach out to a couple people who are not commenting yet. We’re building a writing community, so thank you for your support of each other’s ideas.
  • Today’s tasks in a nutshell:
    • Read Chapter 1 from About the Authors & Unit of Study A and B. Respond to prompts about this reading in G+.
    • Read/watch 3 “mentor texts.” Respond to some prompts to generate ideas for your own writing (in G+).
    • Prompts can always be found in the Make Cycle page. Link HERE too.

It is so strange to only have 20 students! I’m used to 140 in a semester, so this is kind of awesome for me. Thanks again for jumping in. Here’s to a great couple of weeks thinking about writing.


Examples from yesterday:
Meagan’s response 
Kobi Yamada’s What Do You Do With An Idea?
I am curious about and inspired by many ideas. I keep a physical calendar where I write down my daily tasks, appointments, thoughts, and plans. I keep track of quotes that move me, names of people who inspire me, and thoughts that make me reconsider how I do things. I write down what I see and want to change, what I want to do better, and what I want to work towards (usually on different color post-it notes). Listening to Yamada’s What Do You Do With An Idea? particularly moved me. Recently, I have been playing around with an idea that wakes me up in the middle of the night. I related to Yamada’s main character, “I decided to protect it, to care for it. I fed it good food, I worked with it, I played with it, but most of all I gave it my attention.” I had never considered humanizing an idea – to bring an idea to life and make an idea a priority – and now I can visualize the power and significance of doing so.
Writing is a powerful way to revisit profound thoughts, moments, or memories. When I wake up in the middle of the night with an idea that can’t wait until morning, I make a quick note that I read the next day. I have not always been the type of person who writes down their thoughts or ideas, but I regret when I do not write them down. I have restrained myself from following through on some of my ideas because they seemed too big or too time consuming. There are times I wish that someone would tap me on the shoulder and ask me what they can do to make my ideas come to life because I know they are good ideas. I am not afraid of hard work, but the amount that I don’t know is overwhelming. Reading improves our writing by building vocabulary, introducing new ways to convey messages, supporting proper grammar and punctuation, and, when reading aloud, informing pronunciation. Reading is also a vital component of learning. When I need or want to know something, I generally have to research and read to learn more. There is a saying that some teachers use, “ask three, then me,” which encourages students to engage their critical thinking skills – use the textbook, ask a friend, or do a Google search. Reading and writing are important skills that inform our ability to interact in our culture.
Andrea Lunsford’s, “Our Semi-Literate Youth? Not So Fast”
I want to begin by announcing that I will be incorporating the word “twaddle” into my vernacular, mostly because I laughed out loud while reading Lunsford’s introduction. I have heard many adults, often far-removed from their own academic experiences, express concern for the future. To pick apart the first narrative, teenagers have not changed as much as adults like to think. Research on childhood development provides evidence that teens are beginning to view the world through a different lens, often resulting in the need for privacy and independence, want of separation from their parents or authority figures, thinking more about themselves and how they fit into the world, and development of new interests. I was like that and you probably were too. If an adult were to have told me when I was a teenager that my thoughts or feelings were “narcissistic twaddle,” I likely would not have known how to respond. A more logical argument is that adults have changed (think “can’t teach an old dog new tricks”). Teens continue to experience similar adjustments and growth during this stage of development, but the experiences that inform how adults think and interact are complicated; sometimes riddled with misunderstanding, disappointment and indignance.
Lunsford’s argument is for teachers to take an active role in the digital revolution and adjust to the changes of a technological world, “What students need in facing these challenges is not derision or dismissal but solid and informed instruction.” Remaining informed and relevant is an enormous task for a teacher. Learning occurs both inside and outside of the classroom, through assigned work and self-interest missions, on digital and physical mediums. I consider myself to be digitally literate, although I do not have Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts. I like to learn and, when I don’t know about something, I read to learn more. I also try to practice what I’ve learned to improve my practical knowledge.
John McWhorter’s, “Txtng is Killing Language. JK!!”
I appreciated how McWhorter articulated, “Language is speech. Writing is reflective. Texting is writing like we speak.” In making distinctions between speaking and writing, we are better able to discern the value of each form of communication. As he pointed out, teachers across the ages have been concerned with language development. The prevalence of text messaging can be the platform of a great and valuable lesson plan. Why not have students print a page of (appropriate) text messages between friends and decipher in formal writing? Why not have students consider the different ways in which they can convey the same message – casual, formal, or speech? Teachers have the opportunity to celebrate and embrace how students are using language. My husband recalls a business management class he took in college that focused on writing emails. There is value in teaching students how to shift from casual to formal and consider their audience in their writing.
Arika’s About the Authors Chapter 1 response (one of today’s discussions)
Make Cycle 1: About the Author 1
I am currently working in a First Grade classroom I have been able see this age range of writing for a few months now. However, there are a few students in the classroom that write quite a bit, but if her majority of students write like in the book then that is amazing. I did notice that the students’ writings in the book were very well thought out and they truly enjoyed writing about their topic. The things that really surprised me about the examples was the use of labels and the alterations to the fonts for emphasis. The final thing that surprised me was the obvious attempts at sounding words out rather than asking how to spell the words. The students in my classroom are always asking how to spell words. As I was reading the first chapter it made me want to send a text to the teacher I work with and tell her we need to change how she does things, but I resisted. She does the daily journal with the writing prompts. All I could think about is that the handful of students who do not do their journals would probably benefit from this “making a book” idea so much! This has made me extremely excited about teaching writing to little kids. I have also been tutoring my aunt’s grandson for a while, focusing on reading and writing, and as I reflect back I realize that when I had him write his own book he was much more motivated to work with me than practicing spelling words, writing random sentences, etc. I guess this comes naturally to me, which would be why I fell in love with this idea of “making a book”.
I am embarrassed to admit that I barely noticed only two of the bullet points. I found myself going back to the pages and looking specifically for those things. I was impressed. A teacher needs to know how to read like a writer and write like a reader to be able to notice all these significant details in a student’s writing. The teacher has to have confidence in herself to be familiar with the many different types of books these children will be reading. The teacher has to carefully choose her examples to share with students so she knows exactly what to notice. I am concerned with my ability to notice all these things. I know as time goes and the more I do it, it’ll become second nature to me. That does not stop me from being concerned about failing those students beforehand. I would probably have a “cheat sheet” with me as I read them to remind myself of all the details to look for rather than just reading a book.
As a first time Para-educator and a future teacher, I was drawn to the first paragraph where it states that “unassisted” writing is required by the county to assess grades K-2. I was unaware of this major assessment at such a young age. One thing that really interested me was how just saying the term “making a book” changes the whole outlook on writing in general and it is the perfect way to draw these younger students to want to write. Having the ability to not only write and draw a picture, but to choose the topic all together and to be able to take which ever part of any book and multiple books to make their own is empowering for them. The entire time I was reading this chapter, and still as I am reflecting on this chapter, I kept thinking about the “what if’s” for the handful of students who do not participate in the journal writing every morning in my class. I love the personal experience examples the authors share, such as, the students talking about their books hours later because they are so interested in it. It makes my heart happy to hear such young students being fully involved in their writing and genuinely wanting to write. I am sincerely thankful for the side notes under the images stating what is truly being said in the books also.
Welcome to English 333: Winter Session 2019!

Welcome to English 333: Winter Session 2019!

Hello everyone! I am so excited to write and work together in January! Please check out this site and the various pages. I’ve created a welcome video (below) that I hope offers some insights into our course and how we’ll work together. I will update the video each day(ish) on the main page starting Jan 2.

One book to buy for our class: About the Authors: Writing Workshop with Our Youngest Writers by Katie Wood Ray and Lisa Cleaveland. PLEASE ORDER ASAP. We’ll use this book by day two, Jan 3! (I would not order used, as it can take 6 weeks to come from a seller.)

You should also check out:

  • The Syllabus page
  • The Make Cycles page, which is where you’ll find assignments released starting a couple of days before class starts. I’ll update those “Make Cycles” every 2-3 days from that Make Cycles page (you’ll start to see a drop down menu). Make Cycle 1 will be posted a day or two before we start on Jan 2.
  • Your first assignment will be due by Wednesday night (Jan 2): I’ll share a prompt/info a day or so before class starts as I mention above, but you can expect that our first day you’ll post an introduction to our group in the G+ community, plus some reading and responding.
    • Here is how to join that G+ community, which is where we will share almost all of our work this winter session:
    • You’ll want to be logged into the Portal/Google Drive before clicking on the link to join our community. How To video (from another class I teach, but same process) HERE.
    • Once you are logged in, then Join our G+ Community<–LINK

Let me know if you have questions and I look forward to seeing you online! I’ll be away from email from Dec 23-28, but will reply to email promptly after I return on Dec 29. For questions about enrollment or fees, etc, please contact RCE: LINK HERE

Watch the video below for more insights into the course. 😉


Make Cycle 7: Revise & Reflect is posted

Make Cycle 7: Revise & Reflect is posted

Hi all,

Love seeing the response to your writing assignments coming in from your partners. Great job on this assignment everyone!  Reflection due tonight (Sunday) on this assignment sequence.

Our LAST MAKE CYCLE is posted! 😉 You’ll respond to the last chapters of About the Authors and revise one of your previous Makes, ending with a Reflection & Manifesto assignment. I look forward to reading them.

And I am grateful that you are going into the teaching profession; we are lucky to have you.

You might appreciate seeing the news report on the work we did yesterday with teachers who are impacted by the fire. Yesterday was very emotional, but also incredibly rewarding as we start the long process of rebuilding…

Just do the next right thing

Just do the next right thing

Hi everyone,

I hardly know where to start really. I made a video just to make the reconnecting a bit easier perhaps.

I’ll start by saying I hope everyone is safe and your families are safe. For those of you who live in the area, we know that everything has changed. I am overwhelmed by both the seemingly endless need but also the incredible generosity we are experiencing. So many of my friends have lost everything, but they are the same people showing up to volunteer everywhere. Please please feel free to reach out with anything you might need moving forward. I can always connect people to resources.

We are going to just jump back in to the ideas in our class and I hope that will actually be comforting. I continue to play with due dates, so here’s where we stand. *NOTE: all of this information is on our website on the Make Cycle 6 page:

  • By tomorrow night (Nov 26), you should have the two assessment prompts (one on Chapter 7/Appendix G and one on Common Core) completed. I’m also fine with accepting these two prompts (you can even combine the prompts into one, longer response) anytime this week if needed.
  • AND, your writing assignment for your partner is due tomorrow night too (Nov 26). Please make sure to check share settings if sharing a Google Slide or Docs. Set to “anyone with link can view” to be sure we can see your assignment.
  • The response to your partner’s assignment is due Friday, Nov 30. I moved this back a bit to give you more time. See assignment description about posting.
  • Reflection on these series of assignments due Sunday, Dec 2 (this is the same).

Here are some links you might find comforting, interesting, helpful:

  • Link to my dear friend and colleague, Sarah Pape’s, Op-Ed in the New York Times about the Paradise fire. Link HERE
  • Link to another friend’s blog about the fire and our work as teachers. LINK HERE
  • Link to Chico State’s FAQ’s for students regarding the fire and resources. LINK here
  • Link to Facebook group supporting teachers impacted by the fire. Link HERE

Look forward to our continuing work. Take good care