Alive with possibilities

This is a tough time of the year.  Things are almost done.   Then standardized testing took much of our momentum away.

What’s hard, though, is that you can feel how alive with possibilities and potential each student is.   With deadlines approaching, the spark of genius is visible all over the school.

That’s awesome.
And disheartening.

Awesome because the students are seizing hold of their own projects.

Disheartening because you can feel how awesome those projects would be if they had grabbed hold much earlier.

Philadelphia Young Playwright’s deadline is tomorrow.  We’ll have plays that could be truly amazing that will have their last scenes written late tonight.   The judges will start and get that sensation of hey I’m reading something awesome and then it will all fall apart because the play had not been workshopped nearly enough.   Similar things are happening with the individual projects as components of their projects that cannot be done overnight (building and maintaining a partnership with a community group) remain undone.

Circle: 05172017

Thinking about habits and motivation.  Reading Charles Duhigg’s follow up book to the Power of Habit this weekend and took these two quotes as a starting point for today’s discussion:

If you can link something hard to a choice you care about, it makes the task easier…Make a chore into a meaningful decision, and self-motivation will emerge.   

Moreover, to teach ourselves to self-motivate more easily, we need to learn to see our choices not just as expressions of control but affirmations of our values and goals.   That’s the reason people ask each other “why” — because it shows them how to link small tasks to larger aspirations.  

Good student thoughts later…

Duhigg, Charles. Smarter faster better (New York: Random House Books, 2017), pp.30-31.  

Two questions

Our evil genius program evaluator had the students complete a survey; responses from two questions below. (N=17, which is all but two of my advisees).

I thought the result from Column I was particularly interesting given that my advisory all passed Gateway and half of every day is taken up with a project they choose and that they design.   I would hope that the result from the first column would look more like the second column, i.e., I feel like I’m taking their input all the time but maybe I’m not.

Am I giving them enough space to design and work on their own? Is my understanding of the structure necessary to complete a project being mistaken for actually overwhelming what they want to do? Is it a question of students working hard and me not appreciating it?  Or is it a question of students misidentifying activity as actual work?  Are my expectations too high?

Given that feeling, I figured I had to build a circle activity to hear what the students thought.  Two writing questions:

How much freedom should an eleventh grader have in terms of their education?
Should there be any limits or restrictions?



Playwriting: Dialogue Drill

We’re in day four of converting our feature articles to short plays. Today I wanted them to start thinking about dialogue and how it fits the conflict of their play. I had them restate the conflict (I’ve done some version of this every day this week) and then we passed each other’s papers to write out lines that someone who was responding in a happy, sad, angry, or scared way might say.



We then had students work in groups of two and use these sheets to stage a scene. Each time they used a line from the page they had to make a specific gesture (waving the paper) to show that it was a line from the paper.

Playwriting: Turn up the heat

Turning up the heat in two parts (one take a movie, identify the central conflict, then explain the ways the director turned up the heat on the conflict, then identify the climax, and the resolution. We then took this frame and applied it to our plays.

Two examples:


(There are three plays on what happens to kids and communities when a school closes).


This is going to be a great play! Two characters played by the same actor, each dealing with standardized tests but in different settings, one urban, one suburban.

Wednesday Circle

Still working our way through the Power of Habit and I’m tying various circle activities to this text. Today I brought back the of visualization, asking them to draw/write their project as an immense success.

With the drawing concluded, we passed the paper to the next person who wrote out potential routines someone could build to reach this level of success.

Then we passed and asked some ways that the person will feel good when they finish the project.

Finally, we passed and asked them to list two things to think about to help them keep going.

Circle: Time. Again. And Again.

We come back to time management over and over again. For my students it’s not really about time management, it’s about choices. Are you choosing to do the work or are your choosing to do something else? Are you choosing to revise your work or are you choosing to wait until the last day and then write it in one setting? Do you understand that feedback allows improvement or is revision a process of clicking “resolve comment.”

(I can’t get things to paste into the WP application right now so the picture will have to wait.)

Here was the prompt:

They know they only have so much time.
They know good work takes lots of time.
They know they need to use their time well.
But they don’t always do so.

What helps you raise up?
What gets in your way?


Circle: What’s in your dna?

If they’re all singing it, you may as well make it a circle activity. We did the drawing below and then had a conversation about what’s born and what’s made, what habits are given and what habits are created, what we inherit and we make for ourselves.

The conversation quickly turned to the ways in which we hold things simultaneously — I had written joy and pain (Rob Base) which the kids quickly noted was in the song we listened to next.