I was on the Write Away Podcast! Critique Groups!

For about a year, I’ve been in a writing critique group with three other excellent folks who are also doing this whole writing thing. One of our members, Rae Harding, connected on Twitter with Natalie Lockett, a YA writer who recently started a writing podcast called “Write Away.” Natalie was recording a podcast on peer and professional critique, and she asked us if we’d like to be on the podcast and share about our critique group and how it’s impacted our writing.

If you are a writer, check out this podcast. If you just like the sound of my voice, listen to episode 3.

Of course, we said yes!

If you are a writer (and especially if you are an aspiring author), I highly recommend finding/creating a critique group. It can be as simple as finding other authors and asking them to join you in a group! That’s basically what happened with ours.

There are dozens of reasons to be part of a critique group. Here are a few:

  • Get feedback on your writing
  • Get to know other writers and form a support network for your writing career
  • Learn by critiquing others’ writing

Check out the episode here!

Or find Write Away podcast on iTunes or Spotify! We were on Episode 3: Peer and Professional Critique.

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What Alice Would Say

“Do you want to go see your mommy today?” I ask.

Madi squints her eyes up real tight like she does when she’s figuring something out. “I don’t know. It’s not very fun there.”

Madi and I are both sitting on the couch. She has her copy of Chicka Chicka Boom Boom splayed out across her legs. I loosen my tie.

“It’s been a few days, Madi. I know it can be sad, but we should go see her. ”

I scoot over closer to her. I think I’m supposed to put my arm around her or something. I pat her shoulder instead. I don’t know how to do this, to comfort someone, but it’s a start.

My sister Alice was always the jovial one. She would light up when she saw me, especially after I got back from a long business trip or hadn’t visited in a while. She made people feel special just for being alive.

“Is there anything you’d like to tell mommy?”

Madi pulls her legs up close to her body, and the book slides down to the floor, bending the pages.

Alice would know what to say here.

“How does it make you feel when we go see her, Madi?”

Madi shrugs.

“Does it make you feel sad?”

A moment passes. She gives a subtle nod.

I swallow, wishing I had something to say. “Godfather” had been a celebratory term four years ago when Alice asked me. According to the doctor, it would not be long until “godfather” became just…

Father.

It doesn’t feel right to say it. It won’t for a long time.

“I feel sad too,” I said. “You know, it’s okay to feel sad.”

Madi leans into me, and I put my arm around her.

Despite the pain, I think this feels right.



Author’s note:

I wrote this tiny story in a half hour during a meeting of the creative writing club that I co-lead with another teacher at my school. We gave the kids a prompt, and we both decided to write stories for it as well. Here was the prompt:

Put a character in a situation entirely new to the character, e.g., college, a new school, a new job, a new city/country. Let the character improvise a new identity, as most of us do when we enter a new world. This exercise should be about the new situation but how the character adjusts herself and her mind to the new situation.

As my wife Carol and I have started the adoption process, I think I may have been subconsciously processing the idea of suddenly going from “not-a-parent” to “parent” and how strange the associated emotions might be. I think I have a lot of the insecurities that the uncle/godfather in this story has, and I’ll have to face those when the time comes.

Best Books I Read in 2018!

Hey! I read (or listened to on audiobook) a lot of books this year. Here are my top five!

5. Able-Bodied Like Me by Matt Glowacki

A quick read that reflects many of my thoughts about living with a visible physical disability!

I believe this is the first book I’ve ever read about disability. It’s just never been something that’s never interested me, reading-wise. I have my own beliefs about disability, which, when asked, I’ve shared with individuals and groups of people.

But when I heard that civility speaker Matt Glowacki, who I used to play wheelchair basketball and softball with back when I lived in Missouri, was writing a book, I got excited. Matt was born without legs and has used a wheelchair to get around for most of his life. I knew Matt was someone who would share some similar views on disability and what it’s like to be a person who uses a wheelchair. While my experiences don’t align exactly with Matt’s (not all wheelchair people are the same, haha), there are so many things I identified with.

Although this book is fifth on my list, I’m going to recommend it more strongly than any other book on here. If you want to know what it’s like to have a disability like mine, go read this book. Also, it’s short and really interesting! Buy it here, or ask to borrow my copy!

4. In the Woods by Tana French

The book that (might have) changed my mind about mysteries.

I have only ever read TWO mystery novels in my life, and both have been part of a book club I’m in through our local independent bookstore, Novel. It’s simply a genre that’s never interested me. I love fantasy, where heroes and legends are born and the fates of whole worlds are on the line….compared to that, discovering who murdered some random person has always seemed to me kind of boring.

In the Woods by Tana French may have changed my mind. I found myself tearing through the pages to figure out what the heck was going on. I have a few qualms with some minor plot points, but in the end, I cared about the love story, I was so frustrated (in a good way) with the protagonist’s stupid decisions, and I: was excited that this became about more than just solving a murder. Also, the ending, love it or hate it, is far from the cookie-cutter kind of ending I expected. Who knows? At some point, I may pick up Tana French’s second book of my own accord…

3. Killers of the Flower Moon by David Grann

A fascinating true-crime book that shows the extent to which corrupt people in power will oppress others.

Another book club book that I would have never picked up on my own. This impressively-researched true crime story is insane. You know when you watch a movie and the villain is really evil, and you think, “Nobody can really be that evil, right?” Well, the bad guy(s) here are that bad.

It tells the story of the systematic murder of wealthy Osage Native Americans in the 1920s and how the FBI rose to prominence by “solving” this case. I won’t spoil anything else here, but I’ll just say that the lengths that we white people have gone to exploit Native Americans is mind-blowing.

2. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls

Powerful memoir, and a story worth telling.

I knew I’d end up reading this book after reading the first sentence: “I was sitting in a taxi, wondering if I had overdressed for the evening, when I looked out the window and saw Mom rooting through a dumpster.”

This memoir tells the story of Walls as a little girl growing up in a dysfunctional family. Her relationship with her father was interesting to me. He loved her, in a way, but he was also neglectful and manipulative. This is Walls’s journey to desire her independence, then fight for her independence, then reconcile with her family who has failed her and her siblings in so many ways. It’s also beautifully written.

Before I reveal my number one…Honorable Mentions!

These were great and definitely could have made this list:

  • Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson
  • Looking for Alaska by John Green
  • High Fidelity by Nick Hornby
  • Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain

…and my least favorite book of the year!

Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons

Okay, so I think it’s generally a terrible idea to hate on things that other people love. People who do that are the worst. But I just could not enjoy this book. Once I got about a quarter of the way through it, I looked up reviews and saw that people LOVED this book, and it seriously blew my mind. I found it incredibly boring and (for a novel marketed as a comedy) not funny. It turns out it was parodying over-dramatic doom and gloom novels about rural English life in the late 20’s/early 30’s, which I didn’t even know was a thing, so I think that’s why most of the humor was lost on me.

And finally! My number one book of the year!

1. The Book of Strange New Things by Michel Faber

Aliens, science fiction, philosophy, Jesus, and the immense literal and metaphorical distances between us.

Remember when I said I don’t like mysteries? You heard me wrong. I don’t like murder mysteries all that much. This story had me asking, “What is really going on here?” the whole time. It’s about a man who is hired by the government to be the first Christian missionary to another planet, where humanity has made contact with an alien species. And the alien species craves Christianity and its stories and, in particular, the healing power of Jesus.

To be clear, this is NOT a “Christian” book. If you like labels, it’s a literary science fiction novel. Although the author is not a Christian, he does a good job of showing beliefs of Christians without caricaturing them. He also avoids making the book preachy or religious or overly-allegorical, like many Christians authors might do. In sum, I’d highly recommend this book for both Christians and non-Christians.

While the protagonist is off successfully sharing the Gospel, he has a hard time connecting with his wife, who is alone on Earth, struggling to keep her faith while natural disasters start tearing the world apart. He’s having huge successes, while his wife falls into despair, and it’s difficult for them to share and relate to each other’s vastly different experiences. It’s like the challenges of dating long distance times a thousand. In real life, the author’s wife died from cancer prior to writing this book, and this story line serves as a powerful metaphor for the inability to fully empathize with a loved one who is going through a life-ending struggle.

If you like science fiction and/or literary fiction and/or thinking about how another sentient species might view a foreign religion that promises them hope, then pick up this book. Or borrow it from me!

Here’s to another year of reading!

Let me know what your best book of the year was and why I should read it in 2019! And if you’re curious, here’s my full list of books I read this year.

Never Go to Bed Angry

I wrote this for the NYC Midnight flash fiction challenge the same weekend I was finishing “Haunted Mansions Are Never Wheelchair Accessible.” I almost gave up on this story because I wasn’t feeling the prompts (ghost story / walking trail / contact solution) and because of the Crippling Self-Doubt Monster, the terrifying, real-life antagonist in many writers’ lives. But I’m glad I did. Enjoy, and remember to never go to bed angry!

Never Go to Bed Angry

Before they got married, Jen told Connor that they should never go to bed angry with each other. Connor saw a lot of wisdom in the idea, so for twelve years, he shared every problem, insecurity, and hurt with her. As he wrapped his arm around her waist each night in bed and kissed her cheek, he fell asleep with no trace of anger in his heart.

Until tonight, when the nothingness of sleep finally swept away his anger and pain…

***

Connor hiked in silence next to his wife through the cool shade of the towering northern California redwoods, which usually calmed him. The green canopy two hundred meters above made him feel like a kid in a blanket fort, hiding from the world and whatever evil lurked outside its walls.

Jen moved her hand over toward Connor’s, and he pulled away, averting his eyes as Jen lowered her hand back down. Even after her affair, he felt strange not taking her hand as they hiked.

Jen cocked her head to the side with a sad smile that he used to find irresistibly cute. “You know,” she said, “before we came here this time, I thought this place would feel just sort of normal. We’ve been here so many times. But it still reminds me of how big God is, how through every terrible thing we go through, he still remains faith—”

“Stop it, Jen.” He looked at her and held up a hand. “Just stop it.”

***

They sat on a massive, fallen branch and ate their packed lunches in silence. Connor found it hard to ignore her as tears slid down her cheek. He wanted to hold her, but he couldn’t shake the thought of another man holding her instead.

Jen pulled a tiny bottle of eye drops from her pack and held it above her reddened eyes.  Her hand shook as a drop missed. She was terrible at this and always had Connor do it for her when her frequent allergies came.

“Damn!”

She missed her eye again and threw the bottle into the dirt. Connor stood, grabbed the bottle, and brought it over to her. “Here, just let me—”

“No, it’s fine. Forget it. I don’t need them.”

Something rustled behind them, and they both looked up to see a deer walking toward them.

“How does it not see us?” Jen whispered.

Connor held up a finger to his lips as the deer cocked its head and opened its mouth. Connor thought it looked happy, like it was…smiling at them…

The deer shuddered, an unnatural spasm, and ran off, disappearing behind the trees.

Jen frowned. “The hell was that?”

Connor shook his head and ignored the chill running through his body. There was something off about this part of the forest. He had sensed it ever since Jen’s silent offer to hold his hand earlier. He looked down and realized his arm was around her, pulling her tight.

He let go.

“Let’s head back to the car.”

***

Getting back to the main trail proved harder than he’d thought. Jen hated seeing tourists when they hiked, so they made a point to escape into less-traveled areas whenever possible.

“I’m sure it’s this way,” Jen said. “Just trust me.”

Connor resisted making a comment about how trusting her hadn’t worked well for him recently.

“I guess this trip was a stupid idea,” she said, adjusting her pack on her shoulders.

“It was just a deer, Jen. Not a huge deal.”

“No, not that. Just, this trip in general. Thinking this could bring us back to before. Do you remember our first trip here?”

Connor stared at the forest floor. Of course he did.

Jen continued. “That was my first time, you know.”

“First time? We’d been married for over a month.”

“Well, it was my first time doing it in a national park.”

Connor actually laughed out loud at that. “You’re ridiculous.”

“And my first time seeing you run through a forest with your pants down, tripping every five steps!”

“Christ, Jen. But I mean what were the odds of a ranger passing close enough to hear us in a forest this size?”

They were both smiling when they heard the thud of something dropping to the ground up ahead, followed by an agonizing, inhuman moan.

Connor ran toward the sound.

“What are you doing?” Jen called to him.

“Just stay here!”

As he ran, he could make out something on the ground between the vertical brown columns of the forest. A body of some sort, brown and heaving…

The deer seemed to look at him even in its dying state. Blood drained from deep gashes on both sides of its neck, like something had strangled the poor beast with sharp, claw-like fingers. Hope left the creature’s eyes, and Connor couldn’t help but empathize with it. He knew the feeling of having your foundation suddenly stripped away, the sensation of falling, choking…

He stumbled back.

“Connor!”

Connor turned at the sound of Jen’s voice, but she was obscured by a pale, ghostly figure standing next to him. He didn’t know what the man even looked like, but he recognized him all the same.

Connor pressed a finger up against its chest. “Get the hell away from me, you bastard.”

It grabbed his hand, ripping off ribbons of flesh as he pulled away.

“Jen! Run!”

Connor scrambled backward, collapsing against a fallen redwood. The figure glided toward him, baring its smiling teeth.

“Jen, can you hear me!?”

He’d spent the twelve best years of his life following this advice: Never go to bed angry. He couldn’t end his life mad at her, despite how much her betrayal gripped his neck, choked him at night when he couldn’t sleep, flooded his dreams with the nightmare of her having sex with another man, with nightmares of these attacks in the woods. He had to let this go.

“Just know I still love you!”

The ghost’s hand reached out…

“We would have made it through this!”

Skeletal fingers wrapped tight around his throat…

“I forgive you, Jen! I’m not angry any—”

Haunted Mansions Are Never Wheelchair Accessible – (My First Published Story!)

Read it here.

I almost didn’t finish the story.

I started writing it soon after The Arcanist (an online flash fiction literary magazine specializing in sci-fi, fantasy, and horror) announced their Ghost Stories contest. I’d already submitted a few stories to The Arcanist and received rejections for each, so I knew this was a long shot. I had an idea I liked, but self-doubt crept in and I abandoned the story about a third of the way through.

A few weeks later, I re-opened the file and remembered why the idea had intrigued me. There are huge problems with disability representation in media, and the problem that bothers me the most is that the story arcs for people with disabilities are usually about them overcoming the disability. It gets old. We disabled people don’t sit around our whole lives trying to overcome disability.

So I wrote a story about a ghost who only focuses on disability and a protagonist who is pretty tired of it. I hope you enjoy! Let me know what you think.

The Stories Lost in Flame

A score of people wandered the smoldering ruins, treaded carefully over scorched and splintered wood, searched for any words that remained. They wore their brown robes hiked up short over their ankles, their feet shod with sturdy-soled boots instead of sandals. They wore their faces long and solemn.

The apprentice stooped amidst a pile of ashes and picked up a small stack of paper lined with careful script. The edges were dark and curled, irregular like the shoreline of an island.

“The person who did this deserves to…I would make them suffer…I would…”

Her hands shook. She held the paper tight despite the embered edges of the paper forming tiny blisters on her fingers. A thin streak of ash appeared across her cheek as she wiped tears away. She breathed in the acrid fumes from the library ruins, searching for hints of something sweeter in the air.

Master Dienum towered over her nearby, his posture straight and his face empty as he worked his mouth in that way that old men do. He lowered his hood, revealing wisps of gray hair encircling his bald pate. The bags under his eyes failed to move as he squinted down at the apprentice.

“Give a frail, old master a hand now,” he said, holding out an arm.

“Of course,” she said, then hastily blew on the edges of the papers to cool them before placing them down into her satchel. She stood, took his arm, and lead him carefully over the debris. The old man, although always strangely distant as if his mind dwelled in another world, had been a role model for her. He had curated for the sprawling library for longer than her parents had even been alive. Now, this ashen mess was all that was left of his life’s work. She half expected him to go now as well, like a story she had read of an elderly woman passing away just weeks after her husband’s death.

Another story…

Dust…

Lost forever…

They hobbled along toward the north wing, where people were saying the fire had started. Master Dienum looked out across the landscape, flanked by stone pillars and huge sections of charred wall.

“The coward deserves to die,” the apprentice said through gritted teeth. “Master, what would you do to the wretch who did this?”

“I haven’t thought about it, really,” he said, sighing. “Do you know what first came to my mind when I heard reports of the fire?”

The apprentice considered how the old man could have reacted upon hearing of his life’s work consumed by flames. She shook her head. “Sisyphus, maybe? The futility of our work on this earth?”

“Goodness, no, nothing that philosophical. I thought, ‘Hmm. Now, I can spend more time growing my strawberries.’”

The apprentice opened her mouth, but nothing came out.

“Every spring, I plant a few.” He waved his free hand and gave a helpless laugh. “Every year, the damned things wither and die, barely producing a crop. Just a few tiny fruits.”

“Master, I don’t understand…”

“I still have a book about gardening at my house. One of a few survivors of the fire. It didn’t make a difference though. Still can’t keep a strawberry alive.”

“I am sorry, I don’t follow your metaphor, Master.”

“Bah! No metaphor. Don’t look for meaning where there is none. It’s not a lesson.” He gestured north toward the origin of the fire. His head and arm shook, showing his age and fraying nerves. “I’ve seen a lot of men die bitter and alone. Miserable, pitiable old things. I have too few days left to waste them that way. Too few days to see this place rebuilt.”

They walked in silence. A beam a few dozen feet away shifted and crashed to the ground, interrupting the subdued murmurs and sniffling of the other librarians and apprentices.

The destruction in the north wing was utter and devastating. The apprentice couldn’t imagine a single volume surviving. She breathed in the smoky air, trying again to smell the…

The smell of honey.

Her jaw clenched. Had she smelled it? Or just tricked herself into thinking she had?

She scanned the debris. Ash. Charred wood. No sign of the expensive beeswax candle her mother had given her. She swayed, unsteady. Of course there was nothing left of it. It was a candle. Why had she brought a candle here?

To think that she was capable of such stupidity. Of such destruction…

“Master Dienum, I have to tell you—”

“I have my answer,” he said.

“What?”

“To your question. If I knew who burnt this place down, what I would do to the person responsible.”

The apprentice braced herself. She wanted to hear his wrath, the controlled, profound righteous judgment of a gentle man, to witness his anger, to hear spoken aloud what she deserved.

His face grew serious.

“I would sentence him to a life of hard labor. Toiling on endlessessly for the rest of his days.”

There it was. Underwhelming, but justice nonetheless.

“I would have him rebuild and take precautions to never let such a tragedy happen again. Have him journey wide and far to acquire new and old accounts. Find new stories, new encyclopaedia, new references and histories. Write his own stories. There is power in the words printed on these pages, power in the sharing of knowledge. Humanity needs this place.”

He looked at her, a fire burning in his ancient eyes.

“Of course, I expect we will never know who caused this. But, if this person were here, that would be my judgement.”

***

The apprentice rested her quill in the inkwell and read back through her account of her last interaction with the old curator.

“It’s so short,” she whispered to herself. A story measured in hundreds of words, not hundreds of thousands of volumes.

But it was a start.

The beginning of a new story to replace what had been lost.

Why You Should Always Buy the Biggest Pizza Pi!

Yesterday was Pi Day, and as a high school science teacher, this is a big deal. Not as big of a deal as it is for math teachers, but until the practical but not-yet-widely-accepted Tau catches on, it’s the best mathematical constant we can celebrate during the school year.

My wife Carol and I about to devour some “banarama” and “shady wake” pie at Muddy’s Grindhouse here in midtown Memphis! I also made sure to share some Pi puns with my students during the day and remind them what Pi means (it’s the ratio of circumference divided by diameter of ANY CIRCLE EVERRRR).

But that’s not why I’m writing this post. This post will use my second-favorite mathematical constant to bolster your economic future. If you readily look for applications of geometry in your everyday life, then you may already know what I’m about to say. If not, then this may be the most important statement you are reading at this very moment. Here it is:

You should always buy the biggest pizza.

For this post, I’ll be using prices from this menu from the Memphis Pizza Cafe on Broad Avenue. Here are the prices for the 10″, 13″, and 15″ “Hey Meat!” pizza:

Screen Shot 2016-03-14 at 9.41.08 PM.pngScreen Shot 2016-03-14 at 9.41.00 PM.png

At first glance, it seems like each inch of pizza diameter costs you about a dollar. It’s just under $10 for the 10″. But the deal seems to get worse as you add more inches. The 15″ costs $16.35, which is more than $1 per inch! It’s a WORSE deal than the smaller pizza!

Pizza prices are misleading though. Most pizza locations (unless they use the ambiguous sizes of small/medium/large) list pizza sizes by the diameter of the pizza. But of course, you aren’t eating a linear pizza, you are eating a circular pizza. The AREA, not the diameter, is what you care about. And it turns out that each additional inch of diameter nets you an increasing amount of area. For example, adding an inch to the diameter of the 10″ pizza increases the total area by a little, but adding an inch to the diameter of the 15″ pizza increases the total area by a lot!

The equation for area is:

A = π r², where r is the radius (i.e., half the diameter)

Here is my calculation for area of the 10″ diameter pizza:

A = π r²; r = 5″

A = (3.1415)(5″)²

A = 78.5 in²

The 78.5 in² (10″ diameter) pizza costs $9.90. Divide the cost by the area, and you get $0.126/in², or 12.6¢/in². Not bad, only 12.6 cents for every square inch of pizza!

I did the same calculation for the other two sizes, getting the following results:

10″ pizza: 12.6¢/in²

13″ pizza: 9.91¢/in²

15″ pizza: 9.25¢/in²

These numbers would be like the “unit price” you find at grocery stores, telling you the price per unit (such as ounce or gram) that you can compare to other brands/sizes. Look at that! The 15″ pizza costs you only 70% the price per square inch of the 10″ pizza!

So, unless you hate leftover pizza, it’s always the best deal to get the biggest pizza possible! Share that pizza with some other folks and bask in the glory of savings! Thank goodness for π and for geometry!

Can people in wheelchairs kick ass?

 

A friend of mine shared this photo. It stirred up in me a lot of thoughts about disability (I have a complete L2 spinal cord injury, meaning I’m paralyzed from the waist down). Everything I wrote here applies to a non-disabled person thinking about a disabled person, or a disabled person thinking about a more-disabled person. If you have questions or comments on this topic, please feel free to share.

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Can she* really “kick [someone’s] ass”? I don’t think I would ever talk like that unless I really felt that I had the upper hand in a potential fight and felt the need to try to intimidate another person.

I also don’t resonate very well with unrealistic claims. There is a need for balance of optimism and reality. If the girl in the picture has studied martial arts or learned to shoot a gun or some other similar thing, then okay, maybe her statement is empowering and true. But if not, she probably can’t do much ass kicking, and her physical disability undoubtedly decreases her ability to win a fight.

I would get comments in college all the time from people about upper body strength. They would say something about how my arms must be really strong because I push a wheelchair all the time. Those were actually, in a counter-intuitive way, back-handed compliments. It diminished the hard work I had put in to weight training, cardio training, and two-and-a-half-hour basketball practices five days a week.

I don’t want to be special or inspirational because of my disability. We can think very highly of disabled folks because of our low expectations. It’s soft bigotry. It would be similar to a person being very impressed by a black person getting an A on a test but not being surprised by a white person getting the same grade. That lower expectation placed upon the black person is similar to the low expectations placed upon disabled people. If someone thinks it’s simply astounding that I can open a door, drive a car, or push up a ramp**, then that person (even with good intentions) is being the opposite of empowering. Instead of sending the intended message (you are awesome and do lots of cool stuff!), it sends a very demeaning message (I thought you sucked, but actually you are surprisingly okay!).

I don’t mean to be harsh. I appreciate compliments. But I also think it’s important to spread this message. Here’s what you. Instead:

1. Look for actual positive attributes of the person. Ask this question: If the person were not disabled, would I still think this attribute is noteworthy? Then compliment that.

2. Don’t feel sorry for anyone. Don’t say, “You’re amazing…if I were in your situation, I’d probably give up.” That’s pretty insulting to the people you’re speaking to; you have no place to claim that the other person’s life is that terrible. That also underestimates your own perseverance.

3. Don’t belittle the experiences of disabled people by portraying them as heroes or saints just because they have a disability. See them as real people. Viewing someone as a hero can be just as demeaning as viewing someone as inferior.

————–
*After writing this post, someone informed me that the girl in the picture is batgirl. So maybe she can kick some ass…

**Another friend asked me about folks that are recovering from an injury in rehab. That is a very different situation. Most of my post applies to people who are no longer in the adjustment phase. For a person in rehab, opening a door or driving a car can be a huge accomplishment. But, years after learning how to open a door while in a wheelchair or drive with hand controls, those tasks are common-place and no longer great accomplishments.

I’m picking up a new hobby: Animation!

I just made this .gif file!

car falls apart 3

Hype!

I downloaded an animation app for mac called Hype. My first thought was to check out Adobe, but $50/month is a bit steep for me (or $20/month with the teacher discount). Hype is just a $50 one-time purchase.

Why?

Well, the short of this is that I want to do simple animations/videos/simulations/etc for my classes.

This video…

I kept this first one simple because, well, I’m brand new to this and wanted to make an easy first project to show off. I’ll have my students make a motion map and position and velocity graphs for it as a Do Now (warmup) this week.

Tic Tacs, Aliens, and Action Potentials!

Here are manipulatives I made and bought (i.e., tic tacs) to help students memorize the steps of action potentials! I have resources and a more detailed description of the lesson cycle posted below.

  

Developing the Action Potential Model

We go through the action potential steps together first. We have a section on cell membranes at the beginning of the year, so they have a good understand of the basics of facilitated diffusion and active transport. A lot of the “direct instruction” here is me telling them what channel opens in each section, then they figure out what the ions will do. I’ll post a photo of the “notes” we build in this process once I figure out how to convert a Doceri file into an image file…

Practicing the Steps 

Next, we use the manipulatives to practice the steps of the action potential. The goal here is for the students to familiarize themselves with the process and memorize the steps. It’s more or less repetition, but that’s not allllways a bad thing.

Applying the Action Potential Model

For this, I use a case study I found from the National Center for Case Study Teaching in Science (NCCSTS) called Escape from Planet Soma.  Here’s the edited version of Escape From Planet Soma that I made. I removed a couple sections that go beyond the scope of my class.

The case study works well because students have to analyze what happens when a toxin throws off one of the action potential steps. For example, preventing voltage-gated sodium channels from opening will prevent depolarization, therefor no action potentials can happen.

The case also requires students to connect this all back to various functional types of neurons (sensory, inter-, and motor) and neuron properties (effects of myelin, etc.). That all really gets back to the idea of interleaving as well!