Thursday, March 24, 2011

Synesthesia, Painting, Poetry, Sentence Fluency, Rhythm with Toby Lurie

Poetry - Painting - Song 

Later in my teaching practice I started writing grants to bring writers and illustrators to my school district. This helped me build a relationship with painter, musician and poet, Toby Lurie:

Toby is an amazing, creative, and unpredictable guy. (The link to his site will introduce you to his work. He shares many QuickTime audio clips of his work that trigger creativity.) It is fun to find him on the Internet after all these years.

I recall meeting him for the first time. Toby was wild white bearded poet with a dangerous gleam in his eye. One look at him and I realized that he was going to draw some lightening.  I was the language arts coordinator for a conservative Nevada school district. I knew Toby was going to make waves and I was glad to aide and abet in a little artistic subversion.  We were at the district's biggest high school.  I'd planned a full school assembly, but an uptight vice principal sand bagged me and side tracked us to a remote spot in the school where they kept the 'tough' kids.

As I was about to introduce Toby to a huge high school class of alternative ed kids.  I didn't have a clue what he was going to do. The rowdy with the bored vibe of caged cats.  I was sure this crowd of edgy and angry high schoolers would tear him apart. 

Just as I introduced Toby, he whispered in my ear, "Tell them I don't speak any English."  I followed his lead and got out of the way.

Toby proceed to emote with sounds and facial gestures and within seconds he captured everyone's attention. He spoke gibberish but it didn't matter. This guy knew how to communicate with sound alone, words were an afterthought. The kids were riveted by the odd man capering and grunting in front of them.

By the end of the assembly everyone was up moving and chanting,  found poetry echoed off the walls and we were all swimming in Toby's unique tone patterns.  Sometimes it's good to be in alternative ed!

To really appreciate Toby's work you need to hear and see him. This new video Synesthesia Part 1 will give you a taste. 

Synesthesia part 1 from Terrence Vaughn on Vimeo.

Choral Reading, Toby Style

Several years later on one of his return visits, Toby taught me a great method that ties perfectly into the concepts of rhythm and sentence fluency. After a writing session, Toby had each student pick a single line from their work. Then he called 6-8 volunteers to come to the front of the room. They lined up shoulder to shoulder and started to read their lines in order from left to right. The first boy read. Then the second. Suddenly Toby would point back to the first and have him repeat the line. Toby would  would mug and gesture and flail his arms all to draw more emotion and voice from the reader.

We soon understood that Toby was conducting a word orchestra.

They began reading their lines louder or lower, deadpan or angry, happy or weeping. Once the whole line had read once, Toby layered together a sound poem based on the melodies of repeated lines and varied voice.

Sometimes Toby had the same student read two or three times in a row or come back to one particularly powerful line repeatedly. No one in the chorus knew when they'd be called on and everyone was amazed at the nuances and lunacies that spilled out of it all.

Toby created a wild reader's theater display of word choice, sentence fluency, voice, organization, and ideas all wrapped in a spontaneously generated poem. It was hilarious, energizing and fun. Everyone loved it.

All of this points to the powerful mix of music, performance, and poetry that supports sentence fluency (and all the other traits as well).

I  used this method myself two or three times a year for the rest of my classroom teaching career. I got so I could conduct a pretty good sound/word poem, but I could never top the Maestro!

Synesthesia part 2 from Terrence Vaughn on Vimeo.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

WritingFix Writing Traits for Primary Writers

By now I'm sure you're all familiar with the WritingFix website. It is a treasure trove.  I encourage you all to bookmark the site as your Primary Resource! 

Here is a link to WritingFix's  Writing Traits: Traits for Primary Writers.

This is a Nevada Print Guide and Teacher Workshops sharing materials from Northern Nevada's teacher inservices and print guide.

There are many lessons and resources for Primary Writers on this page.  I also want to direct your attention to: Six By Six: Traits Writing for Little Writers.   This inexpensive book offers thirty-six writing lessons (six lessons for each of the six traits...six by six).

Also consider joining the Primary Teacher's Group on the Writing Lesson of the Month Ning. (There are 12,000+ Teachers on this network!)

In our online class, Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits,  we quickly develop a community of practice dedicated to sharing ideas, resources and methods about the 6-Traits.  By the end of the course teachers know how powerful a like minded community can be.

WritingFix and their online groups will help any teacher seeking to improve their writing instruction find a supportive online community.

Join and online community of writing teachers! It's free and who knows where it will lead?  8-)

Thursday, March 17, 2011

J.Peterman: Word Choice & Voice

The J. Peterman Catalog is real and online!

What a great way to teach word choice and voice!  From the online catalog:

The Victoria Falls Jacket

It has the look of a true jacket. Substantial and trim, not flimsy and baggy. You could navigate down the Zambezi and then proceed directly to high tea on Stanley's Terrace without raising any eyebrows.

Victoria Falls Jacket (No. 1636). Four buttoning, flapped pockets outside, three inside. Crisp notched collar with chin strap. Airy mesh half-lining. Pointed yoke, deep inverted pleats, and stitched-down Norfolk-style waist in back.

Carry on, gentlemen.

Men's even sizes: 38 through 48.

Color: Tobacco.


J.Peterman Writing Idea.
Uploaded to YouTube by Barry Lane.

This is a brief Interview with Dena and Corbett Harrison (the write couple).  Corbett is the Webmaster and writer behind the great 6-Traits oriented WritingFix website Dena discusses how sharing the J.Peterman catalog with her students generated some great writing.

Great Voice and Word Choice Example:

For a prime example the J.Peterman overblown speaking style:

Seinfeld - Peterman Background

Larry David, Seinfeld and J. Peterman (The real J.Peterman.)

This topic was suggested during a discussion on Word Choice in my Teaching and Assessing Writing with the 6-Traits online class.

I had some fun running down these resources. I'm not sure how they might play for the current generation of kids in the seats who may not be Seinfeld fans.  Not many will know who J.Peterman is.  That's why I tried so hard to find the right video  example of word choice and voice!

Let me know what you think?

~ Dennis (In exotic Valley Center)

Larry David, Seinfeld and J. Peterman (The read J.Peterman.)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Organization: Ruth Culham

A poem about Organization from the 6 + 1 traits of writing: the complete guide By Ruth Culham


Ideas with focus and details galore. . .

In your head, on paper, on the computer, and more.

Time to think about order, how to get it down right,

There are so many options, you can get writer’s fright.

The ideas need purpose, direction and shaping,

Decisions on how will be all to your making.

Reason and logic, compare and contrast,

Detailed analysis or present to past,

Information you’ve given in just the right doses,

Events proceed logically – no hocus pocus.

Organization is the name of this trait,

From beginning to end and a middle, top-rate.

Transitions, pacing, sequencing, too,

There’s plenty to think out, lots of writing to do.

Five-paragraph themes may seem ever so neat,

But as a way to organize, they’re hardly complete.

Formula writing is nothing so hot,

Try writing with insight, freshness, and thought.

If you think that it’s easy, we’ll just see about that,

Getting it right is like herding cats.

The ideas are out there-now grab them and shake,

Good organization takes skill and imagination to make.