Orwell Diaries

A few weeks back I shared a link to a blog which is posting George Orwell's diary. They are posting each entry exactly 70 years from it's original date of publication. I fell behind immediately, but tonight decided to empty my Google Reader and go back and read the 14 or so entries so far.

It's an extremely interesting site, both because of Orwell's reputation but also because of the insight into his writing process. The entries I've read so far are all between one sentence and one paragraph, and they are simply observations about his day. He is accounting the different species of snake, owl and moths he is encountering, the weather, and other natural observations. What's really cool is that the creators of the site have linked any reference to specific objects or places to their Wikipedia entry and have created a Google Map with push pins in the places he mentions.

I guess that Orwell starts to get political in his September entries, but so far it's been all snakes and weather descriptions. If you get the chance, it's rather fascinating.

Mary Jo Gill in My View

Make sure to venture over to the Buffalo News to check out WNYWP fellow Mary Jo Gill's personal essay "Rainy Days at the Beach Aren't So Bad After All."

It's a wonderful account of her recent summer trip. If you've ever stepped into the muck of Lake Erie and wondered what you were stepping in, this humorous essay will resonate.


Great Opportunity at Notre Dame

Notre Dame Club of Buffalo and Western New York to Sponsor Attendance at Excellence in Teaching Conference on the Notre Dame Campus October 17-19, 2008.

Application deadline: Monday, Sept. 15, 2008
Educators in kindergarten through senior high school from both private and public schools are invited to participate in the Excellence in Teaching Conference to be held on the Notre Dame Campus on October 17-19, 2008. The conference is designed to stimulate more charismatic and effective styles of teaching. Ideas learned in this workshop help deepen the participants’ appreciation for their vocation and contributions they make to their students.
Once again in 2008, the Notre Dame Club of Buffalo and Western New York will sponsor one teacher’s participation in the conference. Sponsorship will include payment of the registration fee and lodging plus a stipend to be used toward the cost of transportation. Selection criteria will include financial need of the school and the teacher’s willingness to serve as an ambassador to enhance the relationship between Notre Dame, his/her school and its students. A participant does not need to be a Notre Dame graduate. Teachers involved with honors/advanced placement students from Catholic high schools with a significant population of ethnic minority students are particularly encouraged to apply. To see the conference brochure go to: http://www.alumni.nd.edu/atf/cf/{5F212737-0C98-46E9-B450-01EFD9518DEB}/eit_08_brochure.pdf
To apply, please forward a completed application (attached), including an essay and letter of recommendation, to Nancy Langer at the address listed on the application. Questions may be directed to the Excellence in Teaching Committee c/o Nancy Langer at NMLanger@aol.com or (716) 984-5146.

Call For Manuscripts

Have you been part of a tour at the Albright Knox and been inspired to write a poem about a work that "spoke" to you? Would you like to try putting into words what a piece of art means to you, to describe it or how it makes you feel or what it makes you think? If you have, please submit a copy of your work to WNYWP for possible inclusion in an anthology of poems and short pieces about works at the Albright Knox. We hope to interest the gallery in such a work to be placed for sale in their shop. Send submissions or questions to Suzanne Borowicz at borowics@canisius.edu or to Julie Ricci at julricnow@roadrunner.com.

Announcing the WNYWP Book Club:

The WNYWP will be reconvening it's book club. If you're interested, we'll be holding book discussion groups three times this school year. Our first meeting will be a discussion of the classic novel The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway. We will meet on October 28 at 6pm...place TBA. If you are interested, please email Greg to let him know and then start reading. Hope to see you then.

Greg Staniszewski


Letters to the Next President

The National Writing Project and Google Docs announced an exciting partnership last week, combining on a project titled "Letters to the Next President."

Letters to the Next President: Writing Our Future is an online writing and publishing project that invites young people to write about the issues and concerns they would want the next president to address and, with the support of their teachers, to publish their writing for a national audience.

During the presidential campaign, U.S. high school teachers and mentors guide students through the process of writing a persuasive letter or essay to the presidential candidates. Students' work should encourage the candidates to give attention to issues and concerns that students feel are central to their future. Topics are chosen by the students themselves to reflect their specific personal, regional, and age-related interests, and teachers will be able to support student writing and publishing in a way that most directly fits their local curricula and educational goals.

Sounds like a great opportunity, especially with the historic frenzy that is this year's presidential election. Follow the link above to find out more, and also read about how you and your students can participate.

Important: You must register by September 8th


Jessica Wagner in My View

Congrats to Jessica Wagner, 2006 fellow, who just had her essay "New School Supplies Offer Us a Fresh Start" published in the My View section of the Buffalo News. Here's an excerpt

The sweltering heat of August itches like a tight wool sweater. The lush lawn becomes sharp brown blades that torture bare feet. The shapeless days of summer begin to turn into restlessness. But in the midst of all this unpleasantness, the anticipation of returning to school bubbles inside my chest.
Make sure you click on the link above and read the whole essay.

As we are all getting ready for new year, it might be a good opportunity to take stock in what we've done and where we're going. Blogger and Colorado Writing Project fellow Bud Hunt recently published an open letter to teachers which makes many valid points.

First. I hope you take lots of risks for the sake of learning this year. Not just for your students, but also for you. Make it a goal to try to learn something in a sustained and meaningful way that has little to do with your classroom life. I’ve been trying to learn photography this year, and while I’m nowhere close to proficient, it has been helpful to be in the mindset of a learner who’s struggling. That’s how many of our students feel everyday.
Use the comments section below to share any thoughts about Jessica's essay, or share your own back to school stories, past or present.


A Big Ol' Congrats

As you may have heard, we all owe a big congratulatory shout out loud to Mary Jo Gill, Kathy Moldenhauer, Carla Thompson and Ruth Hassler, all of whom have been to the NWP National Evaluation Scoring Conference to be held in Chicago in late September. They will join "teacher-consultants from across the country to learn to use and apply the NWP's Analytic Writing Continuum as they score middle school students' writing."

Great job fellows!


Zombie Haiku

Sorry, but this is too cool not to share. Ever wonder what kind of verse the undead would write? If so, then follow the link to the following video to check out some zombie haiku. It's a three minute video, but it contains some morbid tongue in cheek zombie violence, so if you're easily grossed out you might want to skip this one.

I'm posting it however, because it's a cool idea. Instead of Zombie haiku on video, what about American historical haiku, or paramecium haiku, or isosceles triangle haiku? Seems like a cool way to get creative writing across the content areas and still reinforce important concepts. Go a step further and it could also make a nice, short video project. Anyways, for what it's worth, click here for some gruesomely hilarious undead haiku.

This was originally covered at Boingboing.net...which, as I've said, an excellent blog to check out if you're new to reading blogs.


Some Notable Recent Links

Over the past week I've come across a interesting writing relating links. Check them out if you get a chance.

  • George Orwell diaries - While reading Boingboing.net, a "directory of wonderful things, I came across this story. Beginning August 9th this website will Orwell's diary entries, one per day and chronologically. Seems like an accessible way to wrestle with the ideas of one of the 20th century's greatest thinkers.
  • Storychasers - On his blog Moving at the Speed of Creativity, Wesley Fryer shared about a new project he is starting to record stories.
    Storychasers is a multi-state (and potentially multi-national) educational collaborative empowering students and teachers to responsibly record and share stories of local, regional and global interest as citizen journalists.
    This evolving project has a multimodal bent, as they are seeking out documentaries and newscasts. Seems like an interesting effort to get involved with, either directly or in spirit.
  • Blogging Tips - David Warlick's 2 Cents discussed Teaching Tips 50 Useful Blogging Tools for Teachers. If you were hip to the blogging at the Summer Institute, or just looking for a good resource, check it out. Lots of good stuff here.
  • Telling Stories of our Shared Humanity - TedTalks recently published Nigerian Poet Chris Albani's presentation.
    Chris Abani tells stories of people: People standing up to soldiers. People being compassionate. People being human and reclaiming their humanity. It's "ubuntu," he says: the only way for me to be human is for you to reflect my humanity back at me.
    This is a powerful story and worth 16 minutes of your time.
  • Tell Me a Story - Radiolab just published a recent Robert Krulwich commencement address arguing for the importance of storytelling in science. It's a good listen for content areas outside of English (well, maybe us too), as it highlights the importance of compelling storytelling as a way to influence people towards truth.


Photos from the Albright Knox Art Gallery Tour

Hi all. As promised, I have posted a number of photos from our AKAG tour a couple of weeks ago. I'm still working on titling and crediting all the artists (I have it all written down, but haven't transferred all info yet). If you see something you don't have the info for, comment there or here and I'll make sure to get it to you if I know it.

See the slideshow here.

July 30, 2008


A scrumptious breakfast was provided this morning by Jon & Patti. Our healthy choice was raspberries, blueberries, yogurt, and granola (I found myself thinking twigs, no! delicious, yes!). We also had our choice of delicious doughnuts.

Read & Respond

Greg shared with us a William Stafford Poem from the beginning of Early Morning: Remembering my Father, William Stafford by Kim Stafford. The poem titled “The Way It Is” Had us all thinking about threads. Mark shared how his thread lead him astray and returned him home again. Brenda searched for the meaning of our threads. Chris thanked her mother for her thread ( I’ll admit this one made me tear up a bit), and Ellen picked up her thread from her father and hopes to snare her students with her thread.

Red Carpet Inquiry Groups

The computer room was abuzz today with music, movie dialogue and calls for Jon’s help in the final editing process of our Research Project Imovies. A few snippets that peaked our interest included:

· Joel, Patti, and Sean’s Repeating Law & Order theme and Jack Nicholson (or is it Sean?) shouting “You can’t handle the truth!”

· Mulu, Chris, Ruth & Nicole’s computer droning “Bueller, Bueller”, a scary teacher asking students for hall passes, and something about a crazy French lady

Lunch & Book Talk

What better combination could there be but books and food? Everyone met at the Dock at the Bay in Hamburg for lunch and conversation about Early Morning: Remembering my Father, William Stafford by Kim Stafford. Many read their favorite poem or ideas from the book. Brooke shared her thoughts about Happy Problems. A lengthy discussion about kindness and taking the time to write letters to others was shared Before everyone left full of good food and dessert we had a group picture taken out on the deck.