The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Inclined Plane---Or Raising Chickens, C. Hope Clark-Style

          Yesterday we were conducting an experiment, using simple machines. Our third graders (both classes together in the same room at the same time; our mental health examination will follow later this week!) were working with an inclined plane.  Each group of 5 or 6 created a ramp, measured the "work" that was being done, recorded data, and then would increase the steepness of the ramp.

          This work was designed to give a bit of relief to kids, who spent all morning 95 minutes answering 9 questions (no exaggeration). The state MAP testing began yesterday. And if you believe all the stories in the papers about how the blame should be placed on the teachers ("Yeah, those lazy teachers! If they just taught those kids...") or you think that the achievement is flat-lining because of incapable/uncaring students ("Yeah, those lazy kids!  If they just wanted to learn..."), think again.  

        If all the school districts in the state are failing (and they are; every school is auditioning for  the 2012 run of Man of LaMancha, because the state is dreaming the impossible dream when they set the expectations for us), can the blame be placed on the teachers, the children, or the test?  You do the math...

photo by RCAHMS

        Anyway, I digress. I'll wipe the spittle off my face, and get back on track.

         The students determined the amount of work being done by measuring the rubberband as they dragged the weight up their ramp.  And this morning, I thought of C. Hope Clark...

           In her blogshe regularly compares various tasks or activities to the writing process. Struggling with a knot in your shoelace? Hope can connect it to the writing process.  Burned your toast this morning? Hope can create a wonderful analogy about getting published, with your toast as a centerpiece. Did you have to remop your floor last night because someone tracked in some mud? Hope can help you out by telling you a story that will metamorphisize the filthy floor into a wonderful metaphor about revising...

         In fact, I think she is so gifted at it, she could blow her nose, compare the snot in the kleenex to what we "discard" as writers, and by the time you get to the end of her post, you're amazed.

          So I'm going to try my hand at it.

          The 49 nine-year olds took a ruler each time, and measured the length of how much the rubber band stretched. That's how they measured how much work was being done.

          As writers, how do we measure the work we do?  Do we solely count up the places where we've been published?  Do we tally up the hours we spend on writing every week?  Do we count up the "tasks" we accomplish every week  ( __ queries sent off, ___ submissions mailed, ___ many rough drafts started, and so on)?

         And what work do we consider the most difficult?  The students discovered that the same amount of work was being done each time (the length of the ramp was unchanged) but the work was easier to do when the ramp was gentle versus steep. What is the most difficult work you do as a writer?

        (Hope, how did I do?) 


  1. My biggest difficulty is keeping at it for more than short periods of time! I'm trying very hard to improve that! Great post, Sioux!

  2. Great post, Sioux, and I am sure your students are inspired by your methods. Sounds fun. Oh those MAP tests!
    I have difficulty finding markets more than doing the writing.

  3. I measure the work I do by how satisfied I am with it, and then by whether or not it seems to move my readers (or make them laugh).

    The most difficult thing is to choose which spirit to let out each time. ;-)

  4. ROTFLMAO !!!
    I laughed aloud at my "abilities" to write about writing. Thanks for the confidence! LOL

    Hope Clark

  5. I came here via Hope's blog and I must agree with your comments about Hope. I am constantly amazed at her editorials and her amazing ability to look at the mundane and ordinary through a writer's lens. I often have those why-didn't-I-think-of-that moments when I read her newsletters. Thanks for this post - it was a good read.



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