Category Archives: Technology

Character Voice

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Today’s #TeachersWrite task, provided by Phil Bildner, encouraged us to explore a character’s voice through thought/speech bubbles. Fun! It was a creative challenge I couldn’t wait to dive into… then I realized I could make the task into a presentation instead, showing other teachers and students how to do the same thing using technology! (I am a tech integrator, after all!)

I decided my tool of choice would be Google Slides (instead of pencil/paper) and I got to work. It didn’t take long at all to select an image and create a character’s voice. Best of all, it made learning enjoyable!

If you would like to do this task with your students through integrated technology, check out my simple, how-to slideshow. Feel free to share with your students as well!

Character Voice How-To Guide

Special thanks to Phil Bildner for this innovative task and Kate Messner for hosting another year of fantastic writing experiences!


Flaw or Fortitude?


Ahhh… I can feel the cool refreshment of the clear, sparkling water as I dip my toes once again into #TeachersWrite summer camp. Today’s assignment, from author Lisa Papademetriou, the author of A Tale of Highly Unusual Magic, encourages us to experiment with characterization. We are to write a scene exemplifying a character’s virtue then rewrite it as a flaw. I’ve been toying with the art of fictional writing, so I’ll complete today’s assignment with a character I’m developing in that realm: Marissa.

Character Virtue

It is only dusk, but Marissa sees the fireflies appear, their golden orbs blinking as darkness envelopes her shoulders with a wisp of cooler air. She stretches her long legs away from the bench, pulling herself up to walk back to the cabin. She already knows what to say. She will be gentle with her rebuke, her words of kindness wrapping her daughter, Erin, like a soothing salve for the open wound left by her daughter’s friends. “Time heals all wounds,” she whispers to herself as she approaches the walkway now shrouded by night.

Character Flaw

“You ALWAYS say that!”

The door slams as Marissa stares perplexed at the space that once held her daughter. There were no hugs. No head on her shoulder, no shared mother-daughter bonding. The stifling silence is an impenetrable wall of anger, an unexpected quandary that freezes Marissa’s heart to the core.

What had she done wrong? She always knows the right things to say. Her daughter, Erin is an open-book when it come to skirmishes with her friends. Typical teenaged angst, usually about bodies or boys, always healed by a few words of a wisdom and a double scoop of mint chocolate-chip ice cream piled into a delicately laced waffle cone.

This time is different. The anger is real. The door is locked with silence and hate. Marissa no longer holds the keys of comfort, her words absorbed by the wooden door separating mother and child.

So tell me, fellow readers, which scene resonates with you? Can a character’s strength also be a flaw? Does this entice you as a reader to turn the page? I would love for you to share your comments below!

#TeachersWrite Day 4: Expanding Voice and Characterization

Today’s Teachers Write task comes from author Tracey Baptiste, challenging us to dive into character voice. There are 4 separate exercises; each task concentrating on a different aspect of character voice, some timed for quick responses. We were asked to choose a character from a work in progress, one who we are still trying to develop or figure out.

Since I write nonfictional stories about my experiences with random acts of kindness, this type of task is a challenge to me because I don’t really have a character in mind for a work in progress. I’m still trying to figure out what type of writer I want to become! But I am intrigued by complicated characters, those who appear to have it all together on the surface, but are brimming with chaos inside.

Below are my contributions for today’s writing assignment, all rough drafts with no edits.

Exercise 1: Character Visualization (timed tasks)

Your character appears in a doorway and walks into a room. What is your character wearing? (2 minutes to write):

The pearl necklace lies delicately around her neck, a dainty reminder of her youth that is quickly passing behind. Her yellow dress radiates with sparkles, the stiff tulle peeking from below the hem, grazing her knee with each step. She stands tall, supported by her black heels, a curious color choice for a 16 year old in spring. She wobbles a bit, unfamiliar with the height of the shoes that were borrowed from her mom moments before.

Your character looks around the room he or she entered. Describe the objects seen in the room (2 minutes to write):

The carnations were arranged with bright colors of pink and yellow, a false tone of joy to overshadow the gloom. The picture frames were neatly arranged on tabletops; the guest book half filled with signatures of friends and family, the ink smearing from the cheap pen. The walls were somber gray, with subdued silhouettes of calm scenes that no one cared to see.

People start to approach your character. Who are they and what is their relationship with your character? (4 minutes to write):

As she entered the room, the eyes followed; after all, everyone was there to lend her support. She, however, didn’t want their support, didn’t want their attention, didn’t want to justify their pity. She wasn’t here for them. She was here out of obligation, a forced requirement that did nothing to build her up nor tear her apart. She wanted to scream. Hit something. Hit someone. Make the past 48 hours reverse in time.

But she walked forward. Eyes dull, she nodded as Uncle John gave her an awkward hug, his arms not quite knowing how tight to squeeze. Aunt Jill patted her hand, which only made her feel even worse, like a 10 year old receiving a correction for misbehavior.

This was not her fault. She had done nothing wrong.

Exercise 2: Becoming Your Character – The Interview

What do you love the most?

Freedom. Independence. Choice. I want to be who I am, not struck down by your expectations and limited views of success.

What do you hate the most?


Who are you jealous of?

The sea. The waves that crash on the shore – loud, roaring, unconstrained. Even as the pull of the sea draws back, it comes again, even stronger. I want to be the sea.

If you could do anything right now, what would it be?

Take off these shoes and rip away the three inch heels so no woman anywhere would have to ever wear them again.

What is your biggest secret?

I can see through people like a blade slicing skin.

Exercise 3: Flip the Switch (Same questions for the same character, but imagine he/she has suddenly been transformed into his/her antithesis.)

What do you love the most?

Safety. Security. My family and friends. They are my rock and I need them for all that I do.

What do you hate the most?

The way she looks at him.

Who are you jealous of?

My sister. She’s the favorite and everyone knows it. I live in her shadow constantly, but it’s understandable. She’s beautiful with a certain poise and grace I could never master. Social graces surround her, not me. I’m the ugly duckling who trips over their feet even when they’re not wearing shoes.

If you could do anything right now, what would it be?

Fill a bath high with bubbles and soak for hours in the tub.

Exercise 4: Conversion 

Describe the scene as if it were written for a play manuscript. Discover what emotion remains or is removed from the character.

Picks up pen. Begins to write with shaking hands. Eyes squinting, tries again with success. Returns pen to the holder and scans the room. Sees black in every form of fashion: dress, skirt, suit, shoes. Notices a speck of red in the crowd and moves towards the blaze of fire. The back of her hair, a cascade of auburn curls haphazardly tossed over her shoulder, held to the side by a plastic black clip, contrast with the red dress. She reaches her destination and gently touches the girl. Her head turns, eyes shift, recognition. The pause between acknowledgment and acceptance is brief, but unnoticed by others. They hug from obligation, their arms like bars crossing over a cage. Their smiles are forced, but believable. They are sisters, but enemies.


I was surprised that my character developed so quickly with hidden layers of anger and defiance. I assumed when I started this task that despite my wish for a complicated character, I would be limited by my own writing experience and only develop a flat-line, transparent voice. Today’s task forced me to dig deeper, to allow my mind to work it’s own power, and create a character and voice I had yet to meet.


Photographic Summary

This morning, as I was scanning my Twitter feed following breakfast, a blog post by Katherine Sokolowski caught my eye.

Intrigued, I clicked on the link and saw another Twitter post, which sparked her story:

Wow! Talk about a great catalyst for reflection! Like Katherine, I immediately started scanning the photos on my phone. What photos represent me as an educator?

My first thought was this photo:

This was taken when I gave my first Ignite presentation at the ISTE 2014 conference in Atlanta, GA. That conference COMPLETELY changed my journey as an educator and technologist. I learned how to use Twitter for my own professional development and connected with hundreds of amazing educators including superintendents, principals, district leaders, and teachers. I ventured into new experiences, like screen casting instructional videos for websites, and honed my writing skills by publishing articles for ISTE’s EdTekHub and providing peer reviews for Corwin Press. This photo represents my growth mindset, my willingness to learn new things, and my joy in learning and leading with others.

Another photo that caught my eye was this one:

These three ribbons on my VSTE conference nametag also represent key characteristics in my role as a technology integrator:
1. YOLO: You only live once, so take chances. Try something new. You might be surprised what you learn in the process.
2. Play Well With Others: Be kind to everyone. Always. Recognize that we all have experiences and insights to share no matter how tech saavy we profess to be.
3. Hacking is NOT a Crime: Allow yourself to be open to new ways of thinking. Don’t get stuck in a rut of old assumptions. Who knew “hacking” could be so much fun?

A third photo tugged at my heart so I had to include it as well:

This is my life mission, only discovered after I turned 40. I believe there is good in this world, a modern day Pollyanna some might say. Doing random acts of kindness is a small way to put more good back into this world while inspiring others to do the same.

Which leads me to my final photo, which is actually more meaningful than all the other photos combined:

This photo was taken 13 years ago, when I was a third grade teacher with about 5 years of experience under my belt. We had just finished reading Where the Red Fern Grows and I surprised my students with a camping day as a reward. They were asked to bring a sleeping bag, a pillow, and a flashlight. Nothing more. I stayed late the afternoon before and transformed my classroom to a campsite, complete with a tissue paper campfire. The look on my students’ faces the next morning was priceless.

Yes, even 13 years ago we were accountable for statewide testing. No, my students didn’t come from an affluent neighborhood. I made a choice as an educator that day: to make learning fun. Engaging. Memorable.

See, at the end of the day, that’s what drew me to teaching in the first place. I had amazing teachers who made learning exciting and enjoyable; becoming an educator myself was a way of paying it forward to inspire others with the love of learning.

So tell me… What photo (or collection of photos) summarize YOU as an educator? Tag me in your Twitter or FB post so we can start this new year off with a bang!