Around the World in Eight Photos

So many conversation and writing possibilities here! Beautiful, poignant photos.

The Blog

Join us as we explore the world though the street photography tag on Here you’ll find no airport lineups, no grumpy customs agents, and you never get the middle seat.

On belgianstreets, photographer Andy Townend recently shot “stripfeest,” an annual comics festival held in Brussels, Belgium. We loved how Andy captures this young reader fully ensconced in his comic book. An avid photographer, Andy is also a regular contributor to The Daily Post‘s Weekly Photo Challenge.

Photo by Andy Towned Photo by Andy Townend

We were intrigued by the untold stories in Michael Wilson’s photo, “the flower seller,” on his site, BrooklynBystander. Taken in Adelaide, South Australia, the photo below documents a brief moment of commerce. We look at it and wonder: who is it that these gentlemen bought flowers for — perhaps a friend, a relative, a lover, or maybe themselves?

Photo by Michael Wilson Photo by Michael Wilson


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If you are a writing teacher….

IF you are a writing teacher...How did you start your journey? Are you a hostage–you HAVE to teach writing? Or, are you a cheerleader for all who write? Do you write yourself, or “just teach it?” If you were given the choice tomorrow, would you gladly hand off the job of writing teacher to another “unlucky” faculty member, or would you shout, “No way am I giving this up!!” Do you (as author Gary Paulsen says) “read like a wolf eats,” because your muse is fed by reading good books, good writing? And, why are these questions important, anyway?? I guess I’m curious because I know the buy-in to writing that is necessary for the passion-driven tenacity to happen in students. I’ve seen fabulous writing teachers in K-12 schools who inspired students to take risks and write, who listened closely, encouraged their words, and took risks to share their own words. I’ve also seen teachers who shouldn’t have been there. If you are reading this blog, found this site through intentional or random searching, you are probably a writing teacher a middle grades student needs. Hoping so.

The Shepherd’s Journal

The Shepherd’s Journal is truly the marriage of writing of the natural world and prose/poetry writing. My writing group created a Shepherd’s Journal a couple of times during winter writing retreats, so many years ago now. Here is an example from one year. Our little group emerged in part from Sunbelt Writing Project fellows; others, invited writing pals. Some of us teachers, others not. The journal is easy enough to do: students in your classroom would choose a month of the year and compose thoughts about the natural world and create a poem or passage. The shepherd, historically, and yet today in many countries, followed the natural signs of each month; lives depended upon watching closely.

To make this a lower risk writing task, have student groups work together!

To make it lower risk–have students “find” poems or passages in prose that reflect the months. Not necessarily to find a poem titled, “January,” but to find a poem or passage that creates images of that cold month that launches a new year.

Here is ours—-(Except for mine, all last names of the contributors have been removed…all rights reserved–please do not copy text; please do use the idea!)

Our Shepherds’ Journal

22 February 2003


Cold-cold-cold this month does bluster and blow

With wintry gleaming sun sharp crystal

As the icicles adorning the houses’ eaves

With snow and ice outlining each forest limb

And lonely tombstones’ epitaphs as if

To recall the Winter’s tale that January weaves.


It is the stories of the Dead we read …

The solitary voice of our hinterlands

Whose echo and countenance haunts and stalks

Under cover of dark-hearted Winter’s cloak

Our buried longings and distant dormant lives

Are revisited in the evening embers then reborn with icy morning walks.



Some February days in Alabama the soft wind’s a caress, whispering “spring, spring” on hurried, pale winter faces. Strong rains strike on tornado-dark days.   Outside my bedroom window the trees are brown tracery against gray sky, the same as January, the same as December—not a green edge of dogwood or sycamore leaf, still. Each time I take my wool winter dress coat out of the closet, I wonder: The last time? . . . before spring cleaning and the sultry months that even now—Suddenly, a 70o day!–are building steam.

Pines sing, the sun’s hot. Bright-white clouds, only their undersides gray, sail across sky deepened by just a tinge of cold, a graver blue than the skies of summer.   The surface of Lake Martin, the trees on its opposite edge, and that sky dance in a palette of silver grays and gray blues, shifting, transmuting in the now-warm, now-cold wind. Where I sit, on a rough wooden picnic table just dry enough to let us write outside, Andy’s fingers dance on the keys of his laptop. We’re sharing the picnic table top, the multiple-personality wind, the caws and honks of occasional birds and rush of passing cars woven into the sssshssshsssh of the pines. Andy speaks lines to himself, a quiet sound as writing-companionable as the waves of pinesong. Kim’s at the next table over, legs stretched out, soaking in the winter sun, the page of her writing tablet brilliant-white, Vanna White’s teeth white—in the midday winter sun. We’re alone together, in our clean-skied Lake Martin winter-into-spring.



Magical March brings warmth for which our souls long…like medicine to cure the colds of winter. March winds whip away frost, sweep away leaves, and blow in the beginning of spring, reassuring all creatures of a new season. Birds come home and begin singing us awake before the alarm clock. Lovers come together and begin kissing before breakfast. Parents prepare picnics, plant flowers, and begin working on spring projects. Kids fly kites, sail toy paper boats, and begin planning for a week out of school. Lonely souls awaken to the idea that life is about living!, and the lucky ones find a way to start.



Oh glorious days of constancy!

The fickle winds of winter

Are truly gone as April

Spreads its warmth.

The birds sing rejoicing


Songs to celebrate spring.

Reds, yellows, greens, and

Browns swoop down to

Alight on fence posts and

Preen in the warming

Glow of the sun.


The beauty of a world

Reawakening to growth—

Flowers bursting with color,

Children chattering as they

Shake off their winter’s blanket

And emerge, open and alive.


The throaty neigh of a galloping

Horse as she kicks up

Grass seeds all

Over the field.

Life, reborn and free,

Celebrating every day

With unabashed glee.



The sun shines down in streaks of gold between the castled clouds of gray.

The wind at first comes blustering, then like a mood it softly fades.

The greening of the earth begins and flowers bloom and children play,

A melody that’s soft at first bursts forth in joyful song.


Animals move into the light to warm the winter chill away

And ducks come sailing down to rest upon the glassy lake.

The forest strummed by gentle winds plays songs of celebration then

Like the skilled musician, it pauses and it plays again.


I came upon a meadow filled with lavender and white,

A delicate gown of buttercups dancing in the light

The sun shines down in streaks of gold and breezes gently sigh,

Then one good puff turned the buttercups into a million butterflies.


It’s May and all across the land the earth bursts forth in green,

And sings in celebration at the coming of the spring.



If you love the outdoors, you find reasons to be out there.

June is good enough reason.

In June, you feel new and rich and important.

And, if you have the habit of keeping a daybook, it will fill with wonders in June.


Your pen forgives and forgets the impetuous temper of spring and journeys boldly

and confidently into June—who stands as a sentinel, guarding the promise of summer.


You find words for June mornings. You say the morning sun shakes you gently and whispers you awake—

you also tell of it shouting your name, impatiently calling you into the day.

And, you take a brush and capture June’s sunlight with soft, proud, yellows in broad, lingering strokes.


Storm clouds of spring give way to fat chubby cumulus clouds

And you notice that the words in your daybook hide your cares and free fall through blue skies.

As June’s days wane, your words ride mare’s tales across the horizon.

New landscapes emerge in June, in the planned structure of gardens and in surprise-filled fields of


The words in your daybook dot the landscape of June.


You welcome, no, you need, the promise of birds in June.

You build and you fill feeders and delight that feathered friends choose your habitat to visit.

In your daybook, you write: “June 15th –a pair of cardinals seem to be warming up to me.

Still skittish, they abide my presence today…” In June, the songbirds balance your busy life.


Your June daybook memories recall moonless nights on a northern lake where lights from thousands of stars

illuminate the tree-line across the lake, and you, in a small boat, are enveloped in a warm summer night.

In your daybook you note how once in a while on these moonless nights, a shooting star would stream across

the sky, adding some movement to what seemed like a magnificent painting of the night sky.

Your only hint, you write, of the world we live in, is a few slow-moving satellites sneaking through the stars.


And, you marvel that you are not sure how it is that you are so fortunate to be out in this small boat listening

to the water gently slap its sides, and gazing up at a night sky so beautiful that it reaffirms your belief that

the best of this life cannot be earned, but is given freely to those who watch closely.


Yes, you write, if you love the outdoors, you find reasons to be out there.

And June is a good enough reason.

Pam Stockinger


July is sluggish in summer’s heat

Sun takes over the land

Grass withers and browns beneath our feet

Cats and dogs lie limp on the porch

And children toasted and tired

From long hours of play

Reluctantly wave goodbye

And run toward Mamma’s cooling treats

Flags wave across the sky

Banners of our freedom

Moon looks down upon us all

Smiles and closes another day

With a satisfied sigh.



Strong, full of fire,

August roars in.

The sun mercilessly beats down

On the sun-baked people,

Whose souls are truly touched

By the burning warmth.


The heat’s only reprieve is

the afternoon rumbling

Of thunder and rain.

The blue quickly covers the sky

Again when lazy, puffy

Clouds float toward the evening.


The parched grasses steam in

Relief as the afternoon rain passes.

The dewy moisture evaporates

Quickly as the sun takes back

Its reign.


Dogs dig in the dirt scrounging

For the cooling moisture the

Earth offers.

A somnolent twitch of

the ears or flick of the tail

Urges nosy flies on

Their way.


The only creatures truly

Active in this month are

the insects: flies, mosquitoes,

Moths, dragonflies, ants

Immune to the heat, they

Go about their business of




The stillness of a summer day gives way to season’s change,

When once again the wind returns to chase the summer heat.

The ducks come by again and pause to rest along their way,

Following the sun to where the land is still at play.


Grassy fields of golden hay dance the winter in.

The sun grows cool and chills the air as evening comes too soon.

And when the air begins to move, the forest sings again

And animals fuss about their nests beneath a sanguine moon.


New flowers bloom, their colors bright, but overnight they fade,

Like stars against the darkened sky give way to light of day.

The forest fills with orange and gold, the air is filled with leaves.

That plant their seeds within the earth until the rains of spring.


It’s fall and all across the land the earth lies down to spend

A winter waiting for the spring to bring it life again.



Once I heard one wizened say “nothing…nothing gold can stay”

Another described what’s best – Time, Friendship, or Emotion-

By sighing wistfully “Ahhhh! It was golden

Which only goes to verify the all-too-truly-true

Nothing-gold-can-stay Frostian and philosophic notion.


But then we have October turning…returning…

Revisiting earth with rolling gold a’golden…

A thousand gilded gourds and glistening maple leaves

Pilgrim geese V o’er grateful farmers -gathering ripened ears and sweetened bales

As once they harvested in ancient Autumns olden .


Samhain in mystic smoke billows up the sky from ritual

While Nature’s flames burst harvest homeward

Amid green leaf and scarlet berry whilst wanton elements

Fire and Earth and Air and Water shift shapes and

Crisp footed old Jack frost sweeps o’er morning meadows

Call All Souls for October’s closing to come forth to make our mischief merry!



Signals the year is tired and old

Tree stand bear, with no protection

Tiny rabbits scurry and cuddle

Ashes from last night’s fire grow cold

We need a spark to perk us up!

From winter’s dark depression

Inter family gathered ‘round

Table bearing tradition

Our stories fill the evening hours

And send us off to happy dreams

And restful sleep

Under Mamma’s loving quilt.



December delights in delivering closure on another year of life’s blessings. It invites the cold of winter to nestle just outside the warm circle around the fireplace. The cold teases our toes and tickles our nose—like the gentle kiss of an Eskimo. We begin getting used to layered clothing, wool socks, and warm scarves when we leave our abodes. Birds have said their goodbyes. Forest animals are moving, busy, busy, busy before harsh weather moves in. Pets are allowed inside to make a bed for cozy nights, tucking themselves beside the ones they love. Eyes of young and old begin to dance as the season’s sparkles tantalize. God sends gifts of time with family, memories of those not with us, and promises that our hope is not in vain.









..and this is why I write, why I sketch, why I play with words and images

…a quote from a mentor who inspires me. Her book, A Trail Through Leaves (a gift to me from a treasured friend) is one I revisit from time to time, and upon each visit am startled by wonderings and images new to me, though I have held this book closely for so many years…



“A long-running journal is an invaluable document, because it records something other than the time-and-goal-dominated anxiety that drives us through our days. We can tease out of it evolving evidence of sub-lives, parallel existences, omens of shifts that won’t be realized for decades, recurrences of themes glimpsed periodically through the years….The trail of words and pictures that I am leaving is more complete than most people’s, but it is still a trail of tips and ice bergs, little slices of light and color that are all I can capture of the big masses moving underneath. But threading through are moments of the ordinary-made-extraordinary by the simple act of choosing and isolating them.”

                                                                                                Hannah Hinchman

                                                                                           A Trail Through Leaves: The  Journal As a Path to Place




Write in the Middle

This is a great series! I use this as I teach writing instruction to my middle grades undergrads. Very beneficial!

Write in the Middle: A Workshop for Middle School Teachers

A video workshop for middle school teachers; 8 one-hour video programs

Arts Integration: Resource Roundup | Edutopia


So many rich resources. Edutopia  just rocks!

Arts Integration: Resource Roundup | Edutopia.

The Writer’s Desk

The Writer’s Desk

Author Ralph Fletcher’s blog, The Writer’s Desk. His skinny little book, Breathing In, Breathing Out, remains an inspiration to me. His writing style is simple and direct and kids can relate well to him, as he does not leave them in the language jungle trying desperately to find their way out. He connects. This blog, appropriately named, opens windows into his writing life. Each day or so he provides snippets of his thinking about writing, pieces of his notebooks, tips for writers of all ages, and more. Check him out!

If you are viewing this picture….

….you are “reading”….


We sell students short and narrow channels to imaginative and creative thinking when our reading comprehension demands only include the written word. So much can be imagined, described, and inferred from this photo ( taken on a very strenuous climb in northern woods). Prior experiences will come into play as students view. Reading visuals can often result in composition of powerful writing. If you want to teach inference, you can support with using visuals.