Tag Archives: middle

22 rules of storytelling – according to Pixar’s Emma Coats

On Twitter, Pixar storyboard artist¬†Emma Coats¬†has compiled nuggets of narrative wisdom she’s received working for the animation studio over the years. It’s some sage stuff, although there’s nothing here about defending yourself from your childhood toys when they inevitably come to life with murder in their hearts. A truly glaring omission.

 

#7: Come up with your ending before you figure out your middle. Seriously. Endings are hard, get yours working up front.

#13: Give your characters opinions. Passive/malleable might seem likable to you as you write, but it’s poison to the audience.

#14: Why must you tell THIS story? What’s the belief burning within you that your story feeds off of? That’s the heart of it.

#16: What are the stakes? Give us reason to root for the character. What happens if they don’t succeed? Stack the odds against.

 

Read the rest of themThe 22 rules of storytelling, according to Pixar

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DIY: build your own Battlestar Galactica space flight simulator

Six families of makers from the Bay Area are working on building a fully-operational motion controlled flight simulator based on the fighter ship from Battlestar Galactica.

Using the fuselage of a small plane, the team has already built a motion platform that rotates a full dizzying 360 degrees in both the pitch and roll axes. They’re still a ways away from finishing the project, including furnishing the interior of the cockpit to look like the ship from the show, and programming the open source flight simulator software to work with their rig.

The goal is to finish The Viper by this year’s Bay Area Maker Faire on May 19th.

The project is even more impressive when you consider that the team that’s building it mostly consists of middle and high school students, with some help from their parents and mentors.

via Tested

 

You can learn more about all this by visiting the project home, The Viper, or through the Kickstarter fundraising project. Oh, and check out my favorite part of the whole thing, the test model built using legos…I would love to see NASA doing that :)

Kids in 3rd grade are 8 years old and 20% have cell phones

Kids in the third grade are, on average, eight years old. Nowadays, 20 percent of third-grade boys and 18 percent of third-grade girls already have a cell phone, according to a 2011 study of 20,766 Massachusetts elementary, middle, and high school students.

By the time the kids reach fifth grade, 39% of the kids have cell phones, and phone saturation is nearly complete by middle school, when more than 83% of the students have a device.

“Adults — digital natives or not — can’t imagine what a childhood mediated by mobile, social technology that didn’t exist 10 years ago is actually like.”

via The Atlantic

// Photo – Parcel Brat

No! Every Child Cannot Get Straight A's

In a previous post I asked the question: Can Every Child Get Straight A’s?

Oh wow, did I get some interesting responses. Every single person, except one, said no. The only person to say yes was my lady’s father, thanks Ravendad.

The overwhelming outcry was that students should not get straight A’s. Or, that it was an unreasonable or an unimportant expectation. Innumerable explanations were given in the comments and on Facebook. Here are some of them:

  • “There has to be losers in life”
  • “If you lower the bar enough, yes”
  • “Some kids just aren’t great at school”

Those were real comments. Others did give more complex answers with references to various experts (or pundits). But, I think the point stands, we have very low expectations for our children.

It’s no surprise that our education is barely competing worldwide with so few adults expecting us to do well. Many of us would probably like to blame this on schools or teachers. The documentary, Waiting For Superman, provides amunition for just that by pointing out all the problems and inadequacies they have.

Which is exactly where I draw the line. I get so worked up when adults blame our problems on schools, I even walked out on that movie in protest.

We do not have an education problem. Our schools are doing fine, if not exceptional. In every aspect of education our teachers, principals, and schools are improving. They are establishing uniform standards, trying new teaching methods, and in some cases radical reforms.

The results have been pathetic. Tiny gains or no gains all across the board.

Which has befuddled the entire country. You mean that money, radical changes, and firing teachers can’t fix education?

To which any educator will give you the “no duh” response. There is something more important than that, something so overwhelming that it makes anything else impotent. Parents.

There is no single factor more important than parents.

To which I propose we switch our conversation away from education reform and into parent reform. Now, this is not another finger pointing exercise, we have enough of that already. This is an attempt to engage in discourse that is productive. Like two children beating each other up, nobody wins. But if you can get them to talk first, to understand each other, then they grow and everybody wins.

If given the stage here’s an example of what I would say:

During the teenage years the child brain suddenly becomes the adult brain. Experiencing a large growth in ability. Beneath the raging hormones is a mind that will soon be able to perform geometry, calculus, write abstract essays, and more.

Very few understand this and even fewer understand how to respond to it.

Fortunately, our middle schools do and they focus almost entirely on skill building. They teach the rigor necessary to enable those powerful minds.

During grades six to eight, the content suddenly becomes repetitive. Topics that were covered in earlier years are rehashed, only to be covered again in high school. Which leaves teachers free to focus on:

  • Writing outlines
  • Organization
  • Punctuality
  • Forming paragraphs
  • Structured notes (math, science)

If successful the classroom turns into an escape from the chaos of puberty by establishing daily routines and regular practice. You would be surprised how relaxing it is for teenagers to have a well disciplined and quiet place to practice writing outlines. It’s like a hush comes over the class.

The same is true for parents. I had so many successful parent-teacher conferences where the sole discussion was on how to organize a backpack. At first the parents would look at me with shock. Where was the typical laundry list of problems or successes. Instead, I would explain about their child’s growing brain and the need to build basic skills. Then a few weeks later they would come back and thank me profusely.

It is these basic skills that form the foundation for future success in high school and college. If delivered at the right age it is almost magical. Providing students with exactly what they need, simplifying the parents challenging role, and allowing teachers to, well, teach.

Further, I can provide an example of this at every age, every grade, and every stage in life. I can offer to adults and parents critical knowledge that will save them countless hours and headaches, while making straight A’s a reasonable achievement.

Now, not everything I would say is perfect and backed by all educators. But, it does set the foundation for productive discussions. I would love national debates that introduce these largely unknown facts to parents. Instead of the pointless and unhelpful debates we have now.

I can only imagine how much improvement we would see if our education reform suddenly was about education and not money or blame.

What do you say, did I make a convincing argument for parent reform?

No! Every Child Cannot Get Straight A’s

In a previous post I asked the question: Can Every Child Get Straight A’s?

Oh wow, did I get some interesting responses. Every single person, except one, said no. The only person to say yes was my lady’s father, thanks Ravendad.

The overwhelming outcry was that students should not get straight A’s. Or, that it was an unreasonable or an unimportant expectation. Innumerable explanations were given in the comments and on Facebook. Here are some of them:

  • “There has to be losers in life”
  • “If you lower the bar enough, yes”
  • “Some kids just aren’t great at school”

Those were real comments. Others did give more complex answers with references to various experts (or pundits). But, I think the point stands, we have very low expectations for our children.

It’s no surprise that our education is barely competing worldwide with so few adults expecting us to do well. Many of us would probably like to blame this on schools or teachers. The documentary, Waiting For Superman, provides amunition for just that by pointing out all the problems and inadequacies they have.

Which is exactly where I draw the line. I get so worked up when adults blame our problems on schools, I even walked out on that movie in protest.

We do not have an education problem. Our schools are doing fine, if not exceptional. In every aspect of education our teachers, principals, and schools are improving. They are establishing uniform standards, trying new teaching methods, and in some cases radical reforms.

The results have been pathetic. Tiny gains or no gains all across the board.

Which has befuddled the entire country. You mean that money, radical changes, and firing teachers can’t fix education?

To which any educator will give you the “no duh” response. There is something more important than that, something so overwhelming that it makes anything else impotent. Parents.

There is no single factor more important than parents.

To which I propose we switch our conversation away from education reform and into parent reform. Now, this is not another finger pointing exercise, we have enough of that already. This is an attempt to engage in discourse that is productive. Like two children beating each other up, nobody wins. But if you can get them to talk first, to understand each other, then they grow and everybody wins.

If given the stage here’s an example of what I would say:

During the teenage years the child brain suddenly becomes the adult brain. Experiencing a large growth in ability. Beneath the raging hormones is a mind that will soon be able to perform geometry, calculus, write abstract essays, and more.

Very few understand this and even fewer understand how to respond to it.

Fortunately, our middle schools do and they focus almost entirely on skill building. They teach the rigor necessary to enable those powerful minds.

During grades six to eight, the content suddenly becomes repetitive. Topics that were covered in earlier years are rehashed, only to be covered again in high school. Which leaves teachers free to focus on:

  • Writing outlines
  • Organization
  • Punctuality
  • Forming paragraphs
  • Structured notes (math, science)

If successful the classroom turns into an escape from the chaos of puberty by establishing daily routines and regular practice. You would be surprised how relaxing it is for teenagers to have a well disciplined and quiet place to practice writing outlines. It’s like a hush comes over the class.

The same is true for parents. I had so many successful parent-teacher conferences where the sole discussion was on how to organize a backpack. At first the parents would look at me with shock. Where was the typical laundry list of problems or successes. Instead, I would explain about their child’s growing brain and the need to build basic skills. Then a few weeks later they would come back and thank me profusely.

It is these basic skills that form the foundation for future success in high school and college. If delivered at the right age it is almost magical. Providing students with exactly what they need, simplifying the parents challenging role, and allowing teachers to, well, teach.

Further, I can provide an example of this at every age, every grade, and every stage in life. I can offer to adults and parents critical knowledge that will save them countless hours and headaches, while making straight A’s a reasonable achievement.

Now, not everything I would say is perfect and backed by all educators. But, it does set the foundation for productive discussions. I would love national debates that introduce these largely unknown facts to parents. Instead of the pointless and unhelpful debates we have now.

I can only imagine how much improvement we would see if our education reform suddenly was about education and not money or blame.

What do you say, did I make a convincing argument for parent reform?