Friday, April 11, 2014

FEATURE FRIDAY 2 - Kim Kroll - Teacher, and Animal Handler?

What I love MOST about TpT is meeting new people, and finding out how very much I like them and have in common with them. Kim Kroll is one of these people who loves animals, and language arts as much as I do. About five or six days ago, thanks to a thread I started that was a call to action and support for secondary English and Writing teachers on TpT, Kim and I started chatting. . .

                                                                          Kim Kroll

Kim and I have never met but lived not that far apart for years - I'm from NJ and she's from Delaware - and apparently, I missed a fantastic opportunity to meet a really wonderful person. Kim has recently moved to San Antonio Texas. From what I understand, the stars at night are very big and bright over there. . .

Have Any of You Been There??
San Antonio is one of the most lovely places. I went there at probably a less than ideal time (summer) but the Alamo, the River Walk, the long list of restaurants, thriving artist community, access to recreation and let us NOT forget the EVER WEIRD and VERY COOL AUSTIN that is nearby makes it a place with a unique and piquant cultural flavor.

What is Kim Kroll up to?
Did you ever feel so busy, days go by and you just can't keep track? I imagine you have, and Kim has too. A new arrival to San Antonio, she has had a very long and satisfying 20+-year run as a Delaware teacher, eleven years of this with 6th and 7th graders.

 Kim is still hard at work, teaching . . . though not where you'd expect.

The San Antonio Zoo? How Cool is that?

Sure, I'll admit it, I wanted to be a snake handler and work in a zoo when I was younger. Or last week. Ask Kim Kroll about snake handline. . .Yeah, she's checked THAT off her "to do" list. Working with lemurs? Watching an addax give birth...

Sure. . . Why NOT? Kim Kroll DOES that now, after a life of teaching students, she is lifting up rosy boas aloft for children (like me, age undisclosed) to touch and learn about. You are aware that they are not slimy, right?And Kim hasn't even BEEN at the San Antonio Zoo that long - a bit more than three months. She says she can't imagine how much more she will learn, but  adds that "I'm sure it's just a matter of time before I find ways to work [my new-found knowledge] into my TpT products!" After what must have felt like a lifetime in a classroom, Mrs. Kim Kroll is now creating her products at night after working days as an educator at the zoo.

My take is that life affords all of us opportunities we never saw coming. Some wondrous, though they are terrifying at first. It's up to us to open our hearts to them and make of them what we can. We can turn a blind eye, or hard back against it, or embrace it as Kim and her husband have done (Kim's husband is in the military) and open ourselves up to a new challenge and grow as a result.

What Kim and I BOTH LOVE About April -
(no it's probably not the pictures below. . .)

Kim joked that she was swinging with the monkeys at her new job - and it sounds like a lot of fun. About the amount of fun students want to have once the April comes around. No matter how good we are as teachers, haven't we all had that moment when the student turn longingly towards the windows? Who can compete with the smell of new grass, the turn of sunlight stronger than before, signalling schooltime is nearing its end?

Students need to be engaged, busy and learning until the end of the year, so the more active they are, the better. April is a great time for poetry and fiction writing both. The economy of words, critical thinking, focus on spelling, grammar and usage is STILL EVERY BIT AS IMPORTANT in fiction and poetry as it is in your traditional essay. Cut your students' attention span some slack, why don't you!? Give them something fun to write about.

When the students look like this . . . 


Maybe you should help them out a little bit . . .

The "Exquisite Corpse" turns into "Collab-O-Writing" for a Broader Age
One of my all-time favorite activities always used to be called - and correct me if I'm wrong - an exquisite corpse. This is an unbelievably fun activity that lasts up to two days. I went through the process myself in graduate school and really enjoyed it.THE IDEA, which you may already know, is that students write multiple stories together at the same time. By the time I was overjoyed to try the exquisite corpse, the instructor did almost nothing. The reason is because the The exquisite corpse is really a concept for higher level students (again - graduate school), where everyone already has a finely-honed ability, style, and well-developed understanding of story.  Even the name indicates an aura of jargon-y nonsense. I suppose a fifth grader might think of gory Halloween when the word "corspe" is thrown is thrown around, but the term is generally confusing for students and not very descriptive of its function or rules.
           Of course the exquisite corpse has its problems. Problems multiple and messy in fact when tried in a timed environment with school-aged students, anywhere from five to ten papers in circulation at once, and fast and slow writers all working together.

This is perhaps another reason why I liked talking so much with Kim. She had thought up of a way to engage students of a very WIDE AGE range, using a similar technique to the exquisite corpse, but adding elements that made it easy for the teacher to use, AND incorporated transition words during the course of the writing process, clearly something that a regular exquisite corpse couldn't do. Called "Collab-O-Writing" Kim created a usable and very beneficial material out of a fun but otherwise theoretical concept that wasn't very functional in the middle school and high school classroom. Once I saw it, I realized that it:


          Collab-O-Writing #2 With TRANSITIONS. COMPLETE packet (Fun
                           Kim's Store                                               Visit Kim's Cool Product

  1. has common core applications
  2. TEACHES transitions within the context of story writing 
  3. Employs skills transferable to the essay writing process
  4. Is undeniably fun and engaging
  5. Is streamlined for ease of use for students and the teacher
  6. Had many extended uses (team story collections, rewrites and final drafts, reading aloud, team or class publication options).
  7. Last but certainly not least "Collab-O-Writing" is simply a clever portmanteau word! Thanks Kim!

In short, Kim, who not that long ago lived nearby (though I had never met her) had unwittingly improved upon MY VERY FAVORITE (and I thought used only by me) class writing activity, then moved all the way to Texas, stealing my favorite "What-would-you-be-if-you-weren't-a-teacher" job?
  Kim, my hero of the week!

I don't much care that it's April and I should be doing poetry, I LOVE LOVE this product and think it's worth a nice look-see. Finish your coffee - if you are with me now at press time - and stop by to pay her a visit. She did move to San Antonio not that long ago. Check in at her "house" at TpT and pay her a visit - we all like a visit now and then . . . 

And EVERY FRIDAY for Feature Friday - Secondary English Teachers from TpT!

WE'll KEEP the Coffee Brewing! 

Gina - ThePerfettoWritingRoom
Do you want you join TpT but havent? Let Me Refer you!

Take a gander at PerfettoWritingRoom's Store

TELL US - WHAT is a COOL, FUN, Interactive Writing Activity for Students, Grades 8 and Up??Let's Get the Conversation Started!


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