Posts Categorized: WITS People
Join WITS Executive Director Robin Reagler and WITS Board Member Shannon Buggs at the 2015 Leadership in the Arts Summit! Look below for information about how to register for this informative and inspiring event.
April 6, 2015
Student Center Ballroom
9:30 – 5pm
Registration opens at 8:30am,
program begins at 9:30
The upcoming Summit focuses on the best practices and ramifications of audience engagement initiatives that move the arts from a transactional exchange to a long-term stewardship model. With the shifts in demographics, technology, funding streams and an increase in “competition,” many organizations nation-wide are attempting a broader array of tools to engage audiences. Efforts range from increased artist engagement, marketing efforts, technology-initiatives, and advisory groups and special event programming. These initiatives call for new competencies, new levels of partnership and working outside of comfort zones.
The day will be moderated by Dr. Paul Bonin-Rodriguez who gave the opening keynote at last year’s summit.
The presentations will be livestreamed for an online audience.
The 2015 Leadership in the Arts Summit is sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and the UH Arts initiative with support from the UH Center for Public History Lecture Series and the Houston Endowment.
Mischievians Invade Meadow Wood Elementary!
By Gloria Alvarez
My cooperating teachers at Meadow Wood Elementary, Tabitha Peña and Hali House, are the best a WITS writer could ask for: enthusiastic, supportive, and eager to extend WITS lessons to their own teaching. We exchange book suggestions, ideas for revision, and strategies for reaching underperforming students. They open their classrooms to me and work alongside the kids during WITS.
One recent effort so inspired Ms. House that she made it her own. I’d brought in William Joyce’s The Mischievians, a book about those mysterious creatures swipe TV remotes and cell phones, mislay or devour homework, and generally cause embarrassment and trouble.
We both love Joyce’s work, including Rolie Polie Olie and the Christmas tale Santa Calls. I’d chosen The Mischievians because it’s so funny: everyone relates to the misplaced iPad or mismatched socks. The illustrations are just as clever.
The story follows a Q & A format: the questions in a child’s voice and the answer like a formal encyclopedia entry. We read sections of the book, the students brainstormed new Mischievians, and finally they wrote their own questions and answers.
The students completed their drafts and read some aloud. We will revisit the stories in several weeks to select and revise pieces for our class anthology. For now, for me, the lesson was over.
But not for Ms. House. She promptly purchased her own copy of The Mischievians for the classroom and displayed it on an easel at her desk. Ms. House read their pieces, providing feedback and editing advice. After allotting class time to revise and recopy their work with illustrations, she created a bulletin board to display all the finished pieces.
“They turned out great,” House said. “Everyone had fun with it.”
I think so, too. I was beyond thrilled that a lesson—a new, untested lesson at that—had struck such a chord with both students and teacher. Here are some samples.
The TalkeyMer TalkyPants Mischievian
Q: Whenever I’m supposed to be quiet, I whisper to my neighbor. Then my voice gets louder until I get into trouble. Why does this happen?
A: There is a Mischievian on the loose called TalkeyMer, TalkeyPants.
Q: Where are they?
A: There are four of them in your mouth: Down, Up, Right and Left.
Q: How do they make you talk?
A: They jump up and down and make your mouth talk. Once your mouth is moving, your voice wants to talk. They jump harder and harder until your voice gets louder.
Don’t miss former WITS writers Lacy, Nancy, Jameelah, and David at the upcoming Blaffer Art Museum Innovation Series event on Feb. 17, 4 p.m.
Here is information about this special series from the Blaffer website:
In both the arts and the sciences, if we do our jobs well, it never leads to a final answer — always to more questions.” — Janet Biggs
The Blaffer Art Museum Innovation Series is the most ambitious lineup of public programs the museum has ever organized around a single exhibition. Janet Biggs: Echo of the Unknown features works inspired by the artist’s memories of the effects of Alzheimer’s on family members. Combining video, sound and objects, this multidimensional exhibition draws on heroic stories of public figures coping with the disease and research conducted with neurologists and geoscientists to raise fundamental questions about how we become—and lose our sense of—who we are.
Designed to amplify the exhibition’s role as a catalyst for cross-disciplinary learning, the series’ lectures, presentations, gallery talks and interactive programs will highlight collaborations across the UH community and beyond.
Please attend “Memory & Identity: Five Writers Talk about the Difficult & Dynamic Relationship Between the Two” with Peter Turchi, author of A Muse & A Maze; Lacy M. Johnson, author of The Other Side; Nancy Pearson, author of Two Minutes of Light; Jameelah Lang, Ph.D candidate, UH Creative Writing Program; & David Stuart MacLean, author of The Answer to the Riddle is Me: A Memoir of Amnesia.
WITS Student Rohan Gupta is the BUZZ Kid of the month. He writes about writing and how his WITS experience has changed his life in the most recent issue. Here’s an excerpt:
I love writing, and it’s important because I put my ideas into it. Writing is permanent. It can be cherished forever. My writing will change as I get older. It will make more sense, and I’ll use bigger words. Writing is fun. It comes in many different forms, and can be found everywhere. As you can see, my life of writing will always go with me.
To see the entire article, click here.
In the latest issue of KIRKUS REVIEWS, WITS writer Lacy M. Johnson’s THE OTHER SIDE: A MEMOIR is listed as one of the top memoirs of 2014. Founded in 1933, Kirkus has been serving book lovers for over 80 years. Kirkus Reviews magazine gives the scoop on notable books about to be released and provides thoughtful reviews of the best fiction, nonfiction, children’s,and teen books. Congratulations to Lacy!
Former WITS writer Laura Long will launch Houston Poetry Fest this week. Come out for a reading of her work on Thursday, October 9th, at 5:30 PM or Friday, October 10th, at 7:30 pm at the University of Houston-Downtown.
Check out these new publications by current and former WITS writers! Congrats to all of you!
Copper Canyon Press recently published Jericho Brown’s book of poems, The New Testament. Jericho currently teaches at Emory University and lives in Atlanta, Georgia.
Anaphora Literary Press just published Merrilee Cunningham’s book Something Will Come to Us, a poetry collection about love, cats, dogs, the city and the country.
Boot in the Door Publications published the novel Phantom’s Dance by WITS writer Lesa Howard. It is a re-telling of the Phantom of the Opera story and follows a girl’s journey to succeed at a prestigious dance academy.
After the two poets read, a discussion will follow with the poets about their work. Speak!Poet is moderated by Winston Derden, who co-produces the event with Stephen Gros. The event is free and open to the public.
Congratulations to Meta-Four Houston student Jordan Simpson, named by the Houston Press to their top 100 Creatives list. Last year Jordan and his team-mates won 1st place in the Texas Youth Poetry Slam. This summer they will represent Houston at the International Brave New Voices Festival in Philadelphia.
Writers in the Schools (WITS) depends on the enthusiasm and energy of many wonderful partners.
Today we recognize one teacher and one student in our Student-Teacher Spotlight.
Mrs. Borrego and 2nd grade student Livni Hernandez both participate in the Writers in the Schools (WITS) program at Eugene Field Elementary.
Below they answer a few questions about their WITS experience:
Why is writing important for 2nd graders?
Mrs. Borrego: Writing is an important skill for 2nd graders because it helps them to develop their critical thinking skills, creativity, and communication. I always say, “Writing says a lot about my students,” meaning that I can see the growth they have made throughout the year just by looking at their beginning, middle, and end-of-year writing.
What are you most proud of about your student writers this year?
Mrs. Borrego: I am proud of the imagination that my students have put into their writing and the usage of words. They have made tremendous growth, from not being able to write a complete sentence to writing whole passages.
How has WITS helped you to accomplish your writing goals?
Mrs. Borrego: WITS has taught me how to bring creativity into the classroom by bringing in prompts, reading books, and providing students with a word bank.
What do you like best about creative writing?
Livni: What I like best is thinking about everything you like and writing about it. The hardest part is that sometimes you have so many ideas that they can’t fit onto one page.
If you could publish a book about any topic you wanted, what would the title be?
Livni: The title of my book would be “The Broken Heart” because it will tell you a sad story and make your heart break.
What was your favorite WITS lesson this year?
Livni: My favorite lesson was writing about a pair of high-heeled shoes because I got to imagine being those sparkly shoes for a day.
My Life as a Pair of High-Heeled Shoes
I am a pair of high-heeled shoes that are as glittery as diamonds on a pretty costume. I am as beautiful as a mother’s face and as smooth as dolphin’s skin. I shine like silver on a shield.
One day a girl wore me to a party with lots of beautiful lights. Then she wore me to a wedding with love. I looked perfect on her.
Then, on the way home, it was so late. My owner fell. One of my tall heels broke off into the street. Oh, no! The girl didn’t fix me. She just put me in the dumpster, and I never saw the world again.
The idea of the thoughtshot comes from The Reviser’s Toolbox, a great book by Barry Lane.
After a student finishes a story, encourage him to find places where he might add thoughtshots. Barry Lane breaks down thoughtshots into three categories: flash-forwards, flashbacks, and internal monologues.
I have found that lessons on flash-forwards and flashbacks go a long way. Students become adept at finding places in their rough drafts where they can add a related memory from the past or ruminate about the future.
Be sure to show students examples from books that they are reading or texts in their language arts curriculum. These models will reveal to them the “code words” that signal a flash-forward (I imagine, I think, If, etc.) or a flashback (I remember, Once, In the past, When I was young, etc.).
Some WITS teachers encourage students to use arrows in their writing to indicate where they are adding a flashforward or a flashback.
Here is an example by a student, inspired by the Judith Viorst book Alexander and the Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, who revised his story to include a flashback and a flashforward:
When I walked into class today, the teacher said, “Test!” My eyes popped open wide. This was not the kind of news I needed on a Monday. Then, I accidently forgot to put away my backpack, and Molly tripped on it, and the teacher gave me the eye! When I sat down, I missed my chair because SOMEONE had moved it.
Now, the teacher is blabbing on and on about how nice everyone looks today, which reminds me that the teacher told us last Friday to wear a shirt and tie on Monday for School Picture Day. I’m wearing a Hawaiian shirt with orange flowers because Mom forgot to do the laundry! I bet this photo will turn out worse than last year’s when my hair was green. I can picture my parents pulling out today’s photo at my wedding. “Look who you’re marrying!” they’ll say, and everyone will laugh! I knew this was going to be a horrible, messed-up, rotten egg kind of day.
Revision is difficult to teach, but given a few (but not too many) techniques, students are able to make their stories better.
-Marcia Chamberlain, WITS Houston