Showing posts from March, 2013

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 31 -A Complete Month of Writing Slices

Today’s post represents the successful completion of my fifth March SLICE of Life Story Challenge. Each year it is like returning to visit with old friends. A reunion of like minds creates a sense of shared celebration.

As always, I make discoveries, for part of this journey involves exploring self. I am able to learn of common incidents by reading the words of fellow writers. These experiences allow me to contemplate and connect, despite the geographical differences. An enhanced appreciation is gained from the close examination of special moments in our lives.
I make discoveries, -words, phrases, ideas; the optimism that resides in the attitudes of my fellow writers. Involvement in this writing project enables me to give and receive feedback with respect to the words generated by fellow participants. As writers and life long learners this psychological stroking is vital. It feeds our willingness to persist. Taking part in this project requires a large amount of self discipline to wri…

The Urge To Write

You can listen to this extract from my book, 'Igniting Writing-When A Teacher Writes, Hawker Brownlow Education 2011
It focuses on 'The Urge to Write'

Slice of Life Story Challenge- March 30 - Risky Business, Writing

This quiet Saturday finds me temporarily alone in the house in a reflective mood and a chance to scan through my poet's notebook. I happened to stumble across some raw words which I have reworked for today's post...
Risky Business
I sit at my desk some mornings Confronted by slips of paper Scribbled lists And a head full of loosely connected thoughts Fragments of a dream perhaps I link them tenuously in my morning mind Sorting them Before writing…
I must remain courageous I must a risk taker be And write to the edges of thought and idea Remembering always The best writing Requires such daring
Memories like ghosts float by Lingering for just enough time To explode in my head I recall I record And words spill across the pages of my humble notebook
I am living life twice Scribing questionable versions of reclaimed truths My voice My choice I must remain courageous

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 29 -A Fiction Fragment

It is said that fiction is merely reality with a twist, so today I present a deliberate piece of fiction. A piece that finds its origins in events witnessed during my regular summer walks. It is a fragment of fiction. Recently in my notebook I have trying to weave some word magic, turning fact into fiction under the heading, ‘Fiction Fragment.’

‘Luther Longhurst loved his front veranda. He felt free and in charge each time he parked himself there. As verandas go, it was a small space, pokey even, with room for a single fold away director’s chair and a planter pot holding some straggly, unloved geraniums.

Each morning when the summer air was at its freshest and the moist scents of the garden rose form the earth, Luther would step out his front door and onto his humble little veranda. He unquestionably owned the space.

The foldaway chair vanished under Luther’s large frame. He owned it. Taking his seat the big man immediately highlighted the relative fragility of the chair.

Luther’s time in…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 28 -In Pursuit of Peas

Out of necessity I journeyed into the supermarket today.A single item was required. -A single item central to a recipe I had identified for our evening meal. If I could have avoided going in, I would have danced with delight. But alas, I was forced to accept the painful reality that spending time wandering the aisles was unavoidable. And so I blundered in…
The sight that greeted me was dispiriting. People in profusion. Checkout lines disappearing down the aisles. -Shopping baskets and trolleys absorbing space. An oncoming wave wandering shoppers of epic proportions began to swirl around me.
I dived in. Ducking and waving between shuffling shoppers I plunged deeper into this consumer hellhole. The frozen food section at the very rear of the supermarket was my target. I found the object of my desire, - a single packet of frozen peas and immediately began the return journey. Checkout bound, with quarry in hand, I felt as if I was part of a horror movie where everyone and everything around…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 27 - Clinging To The News

In the early gloom of morning, I gather the newspaper lying at the far end of the driveway, in front of our house. I spend the next couple of minutes extricating it from the highly resistant plastic wrap protecting it from the elements. For someone who is keen to get in touch with the news of the moment, this problem solving activity creates some level of frustration. I grimace. I rip and tear. Finally, the plastic yields to my will. The news is mine…

Once the paper is freed from its cling wrap cocoon, it is down to some serious reading. The smell of the newsprint and the sheer pleasure I gain from reading the world is all I need to get my brain swirling.
Recently my newspaper of choice made a deliberate decision to shrink from a broadsheet to a tabloid configuration. It saves the publisher money and it makes the paper much easier to manage the fold and read for newsprint addicts. The change of size is an adjustment.My news is now condensed and has a new look and feel.

Newspapers do no…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 26 - Feeding Readers And Watching Them Grow

Today I had the privilege of awarding books to a group of Grade 5 readers who have worked consistently to further develop their personal reading performance across this first term of the school year. These students have embraced a series of challenges starting on the first day of school this year as part of a concerted effort to improve reading outcomes.
Reading for longer periods to improve reading staminaReading in different settings –school, home, outdoorsReading across a range of genres –going out of your comfort zoneReading to learn and learning to readEngaging in quality conversations about books at school and at home. There has been constant modeling of what it means to live a literate life. Conversations in every classroom have centred on all things to do with books.

Supporting these broad aims their teachers and I used assessment data to inform the teaching program around reading comprehension. In particular, the data indicated that the teaching needed to f…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 25 -This Hotel Room

Most weeks, I stay at least one night in a serviced apartment situated close to the schools where I regularly work. It is easier, less demanding, than driving back and forth each day. It saves spending up to 4 hours in my car each day. Usually, my wife Vicki also stays as part of her work as a educational consultant, as her work takes her to schools in the same area for part of the week. We usually catch up on Wednesday evenings at least. This week however, our work is taking us in different directions, so I am on my own.

Accommodation on your own is a somewhat empty experience. -No one there to greet you when you enter the room at the end of the day. This room has no familiar, comforting voices. No familiar artifacts in the room to remind you of the people you love and care for. It’s a shell; temporary and fleeting. It’s a room; not a home. An old song starts up in my head.

This Hotel Room Steve Goodman, 1975 Sung by Jimmy Buffett They got an air conditioner for when I'm hot
A rad…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 24 -A Worthy Reason to Walk on a Sunday Morning

This morning Vicki and I woke early. We hastily dressed and prepared to face the challenges of the day. Firstly, drive to the other side of town and take part in the annual Relay For Life conducted by the Anti Cancer Foundation. It’s at the local high school. The relay kicked off at 4.00pm Saturday and continued through until Sunday morning. So while the majority of people in our community were safely tucked up in bed,a group of committed souls were steadfastly trudging onward, ever onward through the night. Our allotted walking time was the final two hours –Sunday morning from 8.00am until 10.00 am when the relay was scheduled to end.

We were greeted by our fellow team members, some of whom has stayed on after a long night of walking. -Rugged up and staring into the distance in that special way that tired people do. We immediately took up our place in the parade of people walking continuous laps of the course set out in the open space of the school’s extensive grounds.
Two hours pass…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 23 - Plentiful Poetic Pleasures

I have been looking closely at poetry today. -Inspired by the writing efforts of fellow Slice of Life participants. Elsie's efforts at Spine poetry had me searching the shelves of my library, shuffling books and creating possible pieces. Creative juices flowing, I grabbed my camera to capture and edit my efforts.

My mind racing, I experienced the spark of another idea, and began cutting assorted words and phrases from magazines and newspapers with gusto. Edward Scissorhands? Maybe a little less frenzied in my snipping, but enthusiastic certainly. I arranged the assembled words into a form that appealed and before you could say, ‘Existentialism!’ I had managed to create some collage poetry. All good fun, and more ideas to share with teachers and students alike. So, now I will print off a couple of examples to put in my notebook as reminders.
More positive poetic practice on this Saturday afternoon…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 22 -Improving My Vision As A Writer

Fridays are my planning days when I get an opportunity to delve more deeply into my passion for reading and writing. I linger a little with the siblings of the literacy family. I love this day. I crave it. It involves research and discovery. It involves planning and pondering. It is the day I attend to outstanding emails. I use it to tie up loose learning threads and provide some closure to the week’s work. But as the song goes- ‘Feel it all with a willing heart; every stop is a place to start…’ (La Vie Dansante, Jimmy Buffett)

And so Fridays often take me to new places and spaces in my learning journey. I submit willingly. it's a sweet surrender.

Today, I was exploring some new books purchased during the week. I was flitting between books as I often do, trying to ‘envision’ ( a word I learnt from Katie Wood Ray) potential curriculum. I was looking for writing that would require me to come to a screeching halt and consider ways to share such magical words with teachers, students -a…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 21 -A Rainbow Connection

The sighting of a rainbow this morning as I walked around my neighbourhood, prompted a connection to a poem I wrote some years ago. The poem was written as part of a poetry festival at the school at which I was teaching, at that time. As I photographed the rainbow, the memory of that poem came into focus. Words and pictures blended in my head. It was my rainbow connection…
Here’s the photo:

Here’s the poem:

People Are Poets The sounds of the people fresh and alive Words full of wonder that have to survive
Out in the playground, on any street The power of poets, give us words to repeat. Let the words ring out Let the poet inside you sing People are poets Only a poet can colour the wind.
Its the happiest moments captured in time. Emotion and passion, rhythm and rhyme. Words that can warm me or make me feel cold Poets are fearless, outrageous and bold. Let the words ring out Let the poet inside you sing People are poets Only a poet can colour the wind.
It’s the music of thought, rainbows trapped in a jar W…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 20 - Experimenting With Muddled Proverbs

A group of young writers were looking closely at one of my notebooks yesterday as they performed their roles as text detectives on the hunt for ideas.  They were lifting potential ideas for inclusion in their own notebooks.
They stumbled across a page where I had indulged in some word play with proverbs. I had deliberately mixed and muddled them to observe the effect.  They found humour in the resultant words. 
It occurred to me that this action demonstrates the writer experimenting with ideas, - such an important part of working within the pages of the notebook. I discussed this with the students. I wanted them to know that they too should experiment, take writing risks and try ideas out.  I also explained how much fun I had playing around with the proverbs to create something a little different.
Muddled Proverbs An apple a day killed the cat
A bird in the hand gathers no moss
A stitch in times saves two in the bush
If at first you don't succeed, carry a big stick
Don't count your chi…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 19 - Swapping the Doona

This morning we changed the ‘doona’ on our bed. The thing that apparently distinguishes a doona from a duvee, a quilt, an eider down and other such bed coverings is that a doona has a removable, washable cover. The origin of the word doona is Swedish and came into use in the 1960’s as part of an advertising campaign instigated by Ikea in Australia. 
However, that’s incidental information. What I really wanted to share with my audience, was the process that takes place in our house in relation to the changing of the doona.
Doonas in our house are changed according to a theory loosely related to that which exists in Goldilocks. You see we have three doonas of different weights which are pressed into service according to the prevailing weather conditions. As seasonal changes begin to impact the likelihood of a doona changeover correspondingly increases.  The doona currently on our bed is, according to my dear wife, ‘Not quite right.’ It is summer weight and we must now change it to a sligh…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 18 -Fat Chance of Good News From Mississippi

I get my news from a variety of sources,. It comes to me across the day and night. – delivered by print media, particularly at the start of the day, electronic media such as my phone and Ipad to television news from then on throughout the day until I retire at night. I embrace them all as sources. Even when I’m driving, I seek out news reports. I also use social media such as Twitter and Facebook to uncover news trends. It’s fair to say I’m a news junkie. I crave knowledge of events and I particularly like quirky news items that spark my interests or get me thinking.
So it was today, when I read about recent events in Mississippi. Mississippi, the most obese state in the US, has just passed a bill prohibiting any city, town or county from introducing legislation that might in any way prevent people ingesting foodstuffs that might contribute further to obesity. In other words, Mississippi has enshrined the right of people to gorge themselves to death, if they so please.
Restaurants will…

Slice of Life Story Challenge -March 17 -A Time for Harvesting Tomatoes

It’s St Patrick’s Day and in an ironic twist I found myself participating in a traditional Italian family tradition.Today my friend Anna and her family conducted their annual tomato bottling day and Vicki and I were privileged to be invited to take part. The day started early, for this is important work.

This gathering of the family continues to honour Anna’s mother, Maria who taught her children the enduring practices of preserving tomatoes in preparation for use in honoured Italian recipes. Recipes that continue to permeate the daily lives of this proud family. Impressively, the younger generation of grandchildren featured strongly in the day's proceedings. The future viability of this family tradition seems assured. it runs deep. Maria would be well pleased.
As the day unfolded, I found myself recalling how my parents also engaged in this wonderful act of preserving the summer harvest. Fruits and vegetables preserved in large glass jars –sealed tight and boiled, in readiness for…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 16 - Embracing A Slow Saturday

On this Saturday we woke to grey, low skies and the promise of rain. A promise that has been fulfilled. Steady rain has been falling most of the day. Quiet, unobtrusive rain. It falls gently, not wishing to be noticed it seems. You only become aware of it if you take the time to look out the window. This rain is most welcome though. After a period of unseasonal heat and very little rain, this modest moisture is most welcome. A slow Saturday ensues. We take our lead from the weather. A slow Saturday is a good thing. It is embraced with little resistance following a demanding working week.

This slow Saturday means we are not out of the house until almost noon. No problem. We linger over a coffee in our favourite coffee haunt, before easing into some shopping in preparation for our evening meal. Then it’s home for a casual lunch.
In time my mind turns to the preparation of our dinner tonight. Vicki and I will make it a team effort. I prepare the ingredients for making ‘koftas’ before plac…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 15 - A Load of Piffle!

As I drove home this afternoon caught in the freeway crawl and stutter, I had ample time to listen to the radio. I was hoping for some light relief. The announcer asked people to call in and talk about things that had fallen out of use, or gradually faded from view. I immediately had a connection to a conversation I had with some teachers the day before. We were discussing vocabulary development and the challenge that idiomatic language often presents for English language learners.

As we talked, the conversation turned to the fluid nature of language. Words come and go. Words fall out of use. Words that featured strongly during one’s childhood, may rarely be heard in latter years. For me, I think of words like, skedaddle, bonza, piffle and scallywag.
Each generation develops its own preferred word set it seems. –

And so in an attempt to pay homage to at least one of those old words and prolong its use, I have written the following homage to that great little word-  piffle…

A Load of Piff…

Slice of Life Story Challenge March 14 - The Joy of Discovering A New Book

At least once a week I get a book shop fix. I frequently visit Book and Paper in Williamstown close to where I stay when working in schools in Melbourne's Western suburbs. I usually grab a grab an after work coffee before wandering into the book shop further along Williamstown's Ferguson Street.

I have been visiting this great little shop for the last four years. There is a sense of trust and a level of comfort in this book browsing experience. All my reading needs in the one small shop. 

Today when I entered the shop, Sue, the owner greeted me with a knowing smile as she checked in new stock. She then purposefully moved out from behind the counter and walked to the back of the shop before quickly returning with a book and handing it to me. 'I think this book is one you'll love Alan.'

I like that awareness; that sense of knowing me as a reader. Sue is familiar with my work and my purchasing history. This familiarity is re-assuring. It's a hard cover picture story bo…