What We Did? First Full Week

Here’s some of the cool stuff we did in the first full week.

One of my favorite lessons of the year comes when I introduce the writing process to my English 101 students by creating with Playdoh. Here are some pics from the pencil holders they create with the stuff.

I first came across this lesson almost 20 years ago, and I did it for a while. When I started teaching freshman composition to high school upper classmen, I knew that I had to bring it back. In a over-tested culture where students learn to write for examinations, I knew I needed a way to have students engage in the steps to the writing process, and pull in diverse learners while doing it. This is a lesson that works.

Taking a quick tangent here, I have a tentative plan to do a 1/2 day design thinking workshop for all of my students in the fall to teach them the design thinking process over the course of the afternoon and then to build aspects of the process into the course content.

In Media Maker, students have begun to create their blogs and are starting to write about topics that they’ll be following in the first five weeks of the semester. A few students have already started to write beyond the requirements of the class and are starting review of favorite games and systems. Using help from Eric Bateman, the librarian, we took pictures of students and are getting ready to use the pictures to create a school wide bulletin board of our work, and QR codes to link pictures with the work were doing. Tomorrow, we’re learning some photoshop basics to get those pictures ready for publication.

As I’ve written about in the past, IB is going to be focused on satire in the first five weeks. I’ve flipped a satire lesson–around the techniques of satire. This was paired with Margaret Atwood’s short story “Rape Fantasies,” and were starting their own blogs to share developing thinking on the Atwood’s novel A Handmaid’s Tale.

Given that it was the first full week of school, the Friday after a late night at Open House, I was dreading the last two periods of the day. However, with the IB students having blogged before class, and having read each other’s blogs, students came fired-up for discussion.

Moving to online writing with two class, and approximately 30 students, I’ve been challenged to see how to follow student work. Certainly Edublogs is a great platform to use to have students publish writing and media to the web, but it is also a cumbersome tool for use as a teacher in attempting to follow, moderate, comment, and look at what students are producing. When we were analog, it was picking up a notebook and turning to the right page. Now we have to find the content, follow links. I’d love suggestions from fellow educators on work flow management when students are blogging.



Vermont 100 Race Report

Author’s note: The following post was started on July 14th just a day before leaving for the race this post was written for. It was to be the first section of a longer post and race report on the entire race. However, late in the afternoon of July 16th, I withdrew from the race at mile 47, Camp 10 Bear 1. 

This is the first in a series of posts to write about the experience of training and failing at the 100 mile distance. Through these posts, I hope to explore the nature of failure and reflection. 

As an English teacher, these posts will form the backbone of some model writing I’m doing for my students this year in several classes that are writing personal narratives, “This I Believe Essays,” as well as blogging and podcasting. I hope to repost entries on my Edublogs page and in Medium. 

Here’s the low down on my Vermont 100 race from start to finish.


In terms of my training and running, using Relentless Forward Progress worked for the 50k runs and the 50 milers I’ve done in the past, so I continued to use the training plans found in this book to help me prepare. I also read Krissy Moehl’s new book, but I read it too late to put her plans into place.

About a week out from the race, I got super serious about packing and the finer details of the trip. I created a pile of gear to use when we got to Spring Hill for camping, and a pile of running gear, and pile of clothes to be worn once I got the deed done and we were headed home, with a brief stop in Woodstock, Vermont for celebration!


Using string bags helped me to organize gear for my crew. A separate string bag for medical.

In terms of gear, the plan was to start with one pack and set of clothes, and then to change outfits every 25 miles to give me a sense of a fresh start, and to keep the pack that would be accommodate the gear that I needed at the time. Normally, I run in the Camelbak Marathoner, but I also snagged an Ultraspire Omega so I had something with some more storage. I would use the Omega if I needed rain jackets, lighting or other gear. Now, I love my Camelbak but sometimes you need more storage.

I found that the race director, and I’m sure the entire staff, put together a really solid website and detailed pages and materials. While I couldn’t really preview this course, all the pre-race materials helped me and my crew be ready for this challenge. I would also tell people who are preparing for this race to scope out YouTube because there are some great videos there to help you get a sense of what this race will be like.

In my original plans, the crew was just going to be my wife, Michelle, but a week out and looking at the complicated directions between aid stations, as well as thinking about the enormity of crewing for 24 hours, we decided to enlist the help of our close friend, Meg, who was able to clear her schedule and join us on this adventure. Knowing that Michelle wasn’t going to be driving around the back roads of Vermont by herself in the middle of the night, gave me a sense of ease, and would allow me to focus on the run.

Friday Night…