Weekly Video Updates

Make Cycles

Our course is organized by two week “make cycles,” a term I borrow from Connected Learning. We will read, discuss, and write based on the mentor texts we’re reading. You can find the weekly 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. Peter Kittle’s class will be joining us too.

Example Student Work

Example Student Work

I’ll link and upload some of the cool work y’all are doing here, so we can celebrate each other’s projects. The examples may also help when you’re stuck or need some inspiration.

Spring 2018

The responses below are from our work with the mentor texts in Make Cycle 1: 

Christina Barbaccia

In the book, Chrysanthemum, by Kevin Henkes, I notice that the author uses repetition throughout the book. For example, in the beginning, the author explains that “When chrysanthemum was old enough to appreciate it, she grew to love her name…she loved the way it sounded…Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum Chrysanthemum” (Henkes, 1:01-1:32). The author uses this repetition in the beginning of the story to emphasize the fact that the main character really loves her name and feels good about her name. However, when Chrysanthemum starts school, he uses repetition again to show that Chrysanthemum feels embarrassed about her name. Several times in the story Victoria and her friends make fun of Chrysanthemum’s name:

“It’s so long, It would scarcely fit on her name tag. I’m named after my grandmother, you’re named after a flower” (Henkes, 2:17).

Using this repetition, the words have the tendency to resonate in our heads and affect us emotionally. The author also uses the same basic structure: Chrysanthemum goes to school, Victoria and her friends make fun of her name, Victoria tells Chrysanthemum to change her name, she goes home back to her mother and father and explains that “school is no place for me” (4:54), then her parents make her feel better, and finally Chrysanthemum goes to bed. The author repeats this structure because it gives the idea of routine. It shows that ordinary school days can become awful when a victim is being teased day after day. The day when the kids meet Mrs. Twinkle is a special part of the story because it is a totally different event from the norm. When Mrs. Twinkle says, “My name is long too..it would scarcely fit on a name tag and I’m named after a flower too. My name is Delphinium” (7:25), Chrysanthemum instantly feels better about herself and she likes her name again. Another thing I notice is that the author italicizes certain words. For example, in the quote, “Her name is so long, it …I’m named after my grandmother, she’s named after a flower” (Henkes, 7:08-7:19) the author italicizes the words long and flower. The author makes those words stand out because it gives the effect of a teasing tone as the girls are making fun of Chrysanthemum’s name. It makes these taunting words stand out and it gives the idea of how these words are absorbed into Chrysanthemum’s head.

In the poem, “A Girl named Jack,” by Jacqueline Woodson, I noticed that Woodson also uses italics to make some points stand out. She uses italics to mark who is speaking and to show the tension of the name choosing. For example, the father says, “Good enough name for me…Don’t see why she can’t have it too” (Woodson, lines 1-5) and then right afterwards it says, “We won’t have a girl named Jack, my mother said” (Woodson, lines 13-14). This technique helps the reader visualize the conversation between Jack’s father and his mother-in-law. It also helps the reader sense tension between these characters as they are debating about the name Jack for a girl. There is also some repetition near the end of the poem; she mentions “just in case” (Woodson, lines 40 and 42) twice because it shows that the new mother is uncertain if her daughter will like the name Jack. The mother decides to name her daughter Jacqueline just in case her daughter preferred, “something…longer and further away from Jack” (Woodson, 42-46). The mom is concerned about her daughter being made fun of by her peers because she has a boy’s name. The mom wants to give her daughter the option of having a more feminine name just in case the daughter doesn’t like going by Jack.

In the last mentor text, Second Daughter’s Second Day, by Jacqueline Woodson, the main feature that stands out is the italics she uses throughout the poem. The first part that stands out is “so much is covering this mass Ohio ground” (Woodson, 0:39). The author is explaining that the fight for equality for African Americans was taking place when she was born. When she was born, Martin Luther King Jr. was planning the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and it was also when President John F. Kennedy was elected into office. Another part that is italicized is the fact that she already has identified herself as a “negro here and colored there”(Woodman, 1:05-1:06). By society’s standards, she would always be segregated into the colored sections and always referred to as a negro. However, she does have the potential to change that. The author may not know how she’ll do it but she does realize the potential is there to change the world. There is one line that really stands out to me and it is when Woodson brought up Ruby Bridges going to an all-white school. There is a space underneath the paragraph which reads, “She was six years old.” (Woodman, 1:51-1:53). It can be scary to fight for what is right especially if you’re fighting alone. There will be others that will try to discourage one from fighting for what is right. But this sentence also shows me that anyone, no matter what age, has the potential to change the world; one just has to have the courage to continue fighting for what is right and don’t give in to what others are saying.

These texts are good models for writing because they show me that writing doesn’t have to have complicated structure or sophisticated language. Sometimes certain things like consistent sentence length can help young readers follow the story better. Two things I would borrow for my own writing would be to have some repetition because it is used for many things. For example, it can represent routine and it can emphasize an event that’s out of the routine. Repetition can be used to emphasize a certain point, and it can be used to help create structure. Another element I would borrow is the use of italics on certain words. This is another technique that helps make certain words stand out more and calls the reader pay attention to certain words. Italics can also mimic a certain tone of voice and help the reader visualize the same tone the author is trying to convey. These techniques can help me emphasize certain parts, help make certain words stand out to create a certain tone of voice and help me better convey my message to my young readers.

Samone Burge

Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes- was a lovely book about loving yourself and what makes you unique, even when others don’t. I found the text interesting because it was very rhythmical and filled with patterns. The first half of the book, everything was said in threes. “Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum, Chrysanthemum” (Henkes). I could certainly relate to being picked on about my name from a young age. I remember being called Timon and Pumba a lot in elementary school, because my name rhymed with Timon from the movie Lion King and that was a popular movie at the time. I was also often called Simon as if I was a boy, and I never liked that. I also remember there being several girls in my class that were from different countries and they all chose to have second names because they knew that people would not be able to pronounce or relate to their actual names. They had “school or American names” to help them fit in, which I always felt bad about because their real names were so beautiful and really defined them like Chrysanthemum’s name defined her.

This story is a wonderful way to show children that even when someone’s picking on you, you are still special, nothing they say can ever take that away from you. The story also teaches children that it’s better to be kind because, ugliness is always trumped by kindness in the end.

A girl named Jack by Jaqueline Woodson was a great poem because it was so real. The way the characters talked and discussed the idea of a baby girl being named Jack was so true to everyday life. I felt like I was sitting between the mother and father right there in the hospital room. I also really enjoyed the very natural humor peppered throughout the poem. I couldn’t help but smirk at the very sister like comment made by the dad’s sister: And my father’s sister whispered, “A boy named Jack was bad enough” (Woodson).

The whole debate over what to name a child took me back to when I was naming each of my kids, and there would be disagreements and sometimes arguments over what the children should be named. I even had a few text messages in the past that said, “Please don’t name him/her so and so, name them this instead.” I really felt like this poem could have been anyone’s story, it was so real.

Second Daughter by Jaqueline Woodson- was my favorite. I loved the way it was written in a very just the facts way. I love how she is speaking about her birth as if she was there but on the outside looking in as she was born. I love how she describe all the happening within the hospital room as if she remembers them for herself. “Another buckeye, the nurse says to my mother. I am already being named for this place.” I love how she reflects on all the life changing historical events that took place not long before or after she was born, and how she doesn’t know which part she will play in changing the world compared to these powerful leaders surrounding her birth, but it seems she will take a place in the change of the future. I love how the poem tells her earliest story while simultaneously telling the story of the civil rights movement. I love that because of this, her story is everyone’s story, and it’s my story too (Woodson).

Lisa Valdez

“Chrysanthemum wilted.” This is such a perfect line, and each time I read this sweet book, I am stunned by how something so simple can be so intensely descriptive and meaningful. I can just see little Chrysanthemum withering like a shrunken violet as the other children make fun of her name, something that she was extremely proud of and loved, up until the moment that it became a target at the hands of the other children in her class. I love the way this book continues with the flower theme throughout — when Victoria picks on her, Chrysanthemum dreams that she becomes a flower, until “Victoria picked her and plucked the leaves and petals one by one, until there was nothing left but a scrawny stem.” This gives us an indication of how vulnerable and stripped Chrysanthemum felt when her name, the thing that makes her uniquely herself, was attacked. Continuing with the theme, Chrysanthemum is chosen as a daisy , instead of a princess or fairy, further providing ammunition for her classmates, until Mrs. Twinkle reveals that, like Chrysanthemum, her name is also after a flower, and that it contains all the same attributes that the children were ridiculing. I love that the tables turn and Chrysanthemum is no longer the wilted flower – she “Blushed, beamed and BLOOMED.” Mrs. Twinkle reminds me of my own kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Walker, who was a total hoot. She wore bell bottoms, big chunky heels, mini skirts, great big hoop earrings, a beehive hairdo, and bright psychedelic patterned clothes. She had an infectious laugh, and allowed us to be ourselves, much like Mrs. Twinkle, she was an indescribable wonder.

“A Girl Named Jack” reminds me of the old country song, “A Boy Named Sue,” which was actually a poem by Shel Silverstein before Johnny Cash recorded it. “Sue” learned to be tough because his name was always a source of ridicule. Years later, his father tells him,

“Son, this world is rough and if
a man’s gonna make it, he’s gotta be tough
and I knew I wouldn’t be there to help you along.
So I gave you that name and I said ‘Goodbye’.
I knew you’d have to get tough or die. And it’s
that name that helped to make you strong.”

Jacqueline’s father may have been thinking along those same lines when he stated that she “couldn’t help but grow up strong” if they “raise her right she will make that name her own,” and “people will look at her twice.” I think his pride in his daughter (and likely his great desire for a namesake son) prompted him to argue for the name “Jack”. He was upset when her mother and aunts quashed the idea and chose a more appropriate, feminine version of the name for her, likely to spare her ridicule in the future.
This poem reminds me of something my dad always used to tell me – he said to name my kids with full names, and give them nicknames, or people will try to change it, just as Jacqueline’s mother feared. My dad’s name is “Larry”, and yet people have always tried to make his name more formal. When my parents invitations addressed as “Lawrence”, he would turn to my mom and jokingly say, “I’m not invited, so you have to go by yourself.” I followed his advice, and gave my kids traditionally spelled names, for that reason.

“Second Daughter’s Second Day” seems somewhat harsh when looked at through the lenses of today, but as someone born just two years after she was, the world was a very different place than it is today. She was born in the midwest, and was surrounded by the protests going on in the Southern states. The phrase “negro here and colored there” is very true for the time. Even today, we are all products of who and where we come from, to some extent. I was born in Marin County, CA, and did not have the same perspective as someone in the south or midwest — the west coast, especially the San Francisco Bay Area was more of a melting pot, and different nationalities were more widely accepted.

I really like the way the poem evolves from describing the second daughter as a nameless little being just born, to a little individual, ready to choose her own life path. I think the imagery of her little fists balling up is tied in with the images of the feminine heroes of the civil rights movement, showing that even the littlest person has the potential to make a difference.  I would like to play with descriptive imagery in my Make, and also perhaps tie in some history, which I love.


From Fall 2017

Alice Mylod-Vargas response to:

  • What are some features of these texts (Chrysanthemum, A girl named Jack, and Second daughter’s second day) that resonate with you? What are some of your favorite lines? Why? How might we use these texts as models for our own writing? What elements would you borrow?

I found the italicizing of words in “A Girl Named Jack” very interesting. Whenever anyone said something, it would be italicized as to make the reader aware of who’s talking. I find this element interesting and would like to copy in when wanting to emphasize certain parts of my writing. I found the line “But the women said no” interesting because it shows the power the wife had over the husband. Although he wanted to name his child one name, the wife did not compromise.

In “Chrysanthemum,” I felt that the length of the sentences helped place emphasize on the important parts in the book. Most of the time, the sentences were very short and each sentence would end with “ [insert name] said”. This pattern was kept throughout the book. I would like to use this pattern technique. I appreciated how the author places emphasis on the words especially the last line, “Chrysanthemum did not think her name was absolutely perfect, she knew it”. The reader became drawn to the italicized words which I feel the author wanted to happen.

I loved the structure of “second daughter’s second day.” I felt that it was very impactful. In particular, I liked when the author leaves multiple spaces in between the line, “She was six years old.” It drew that readers attention to the fact that Ruby Bridges was only six years old when called names and spit at due to her skin color. When writing a poem, we can use these techniques to portray which lines we feel are especially important by the structure, phrasing, and patterns used.

I felt that all these texts used great and simple techniques that created a strong and positive effect on the reader.

Rafael Sevilla’s response to Lunsford, McWhorter, Yamada:

One of the things I struggle with as a parent is constantly thinking about how to inspire my girls, especially my oldest, as to how to be themselves and never shy away from expressing what they feel. “What Do You Do With An Idea” has become something I want to share with her because it really does a good job explaining that they should never fear making their ideas become reality, no matter how silly they think they could be. Writing is such a perfect way to convey emotion and deep thought. Reading and writing can do so much for culture. It can inspire a kid to take an idea and run with it and make it into reality.

I did not know nor learn English until I was 7 years old. I struggled a lot, and on top of it I was made fun of how I spoke when struggling to learn it and speak it. It wasn’t until I grabbed a book from my school library and told myself that I would learn this language no matter what. Reading helped me learn the language faster than I could have ever imagined, and combined with putting that reading into use when I wrote, the pace I learned English in quickened. I wouldn’t be where I am today with the English language had I never began to try my best at reading and writing it.

I believe in my introduction I wrote that texting and social media are to some effect detrimental to our literacy; I do in some ways firmly believe that. Yet, I am more so speaking about how people keep their heads down on their screens and avoid reality. I can agree with Lunsford. I also think we can all adapt to the situation we may find ourselves in when it comes to communication through writing. Some of my closest friends marvel as to how I can be the way they always have known me to be, with zero filter and then with a flip of a switch be articulate when the situation presents itself. I consider myself a pretty good writer. I know their is always room for improvement, but I can hold my own when a paper is due and put my best effort into writing something that catches the eye or makes people feel something.

As a whole I think all the writing we do or have done in this generation, we may be with the help of social media and other technology more adaptable to changes in literacy and changes in audience. I personally find it a challenge I love taking in doing this sort of thing. I love to be informed to I pick up a physical copy of my local paper everyday, I also read websites like The New York Times, Washington Post, Fox News, ESPN, TMZ, KRCR, and HuffPost. I do most of writing at work, but I also like taking care of birthday cards for our friends and family as well as little notes to my lady to let her know even though we may not see each other much in our hectic lives, that she is still always on my mind. I do the same for both my girls. Reading and writing serve me a huge purpose outside of school because I love to read and write every chance I get. It helps me unwind and get emotions off my chest. Social media really has a minimal role in my life since November, the month after my father died in 2015. I logged off from every site I had a profile with. I put my family in front and my faith forward and stacked up school work and my job and have been focusing on that since then.

Surprisingly after watching McWhorter’s TED talk, I really agree with his point about how we are communicating over text messages. I really never looked at that way. I really love when I can see the other side of an argument I really never agreed with in the first place. He makes a very valid point as to how we can write the way we talk, and their shouldn’t be anything wrong with that. There is however a fine line and that’s where being able to adapt to situational changes in literacy comes in. I love to write so much I realize usually very late when I start to get or have already gotten overly wordy. So if you comment on my post and took the time to read it thank you.