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Two teachers think about and write about their lives as readers -- readers of children's books, professional books, and adult fiction, nonfiction and poetry. Yes, we still want to try to have read the Newbery, but our reading lives are much bigger than just that.
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1. In the Early Morning Dark, In the Fall

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Graham and Sheila


In the Early Morning Dark, In the Fall

I step out onto the front porch
thinking it must still be raining,
but the steady patter I hear
is the oak being deconstructed
by a light breeze.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2014



Cathy has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Merely Day by Day.


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2. I Shouldn't Be Blogging


I shouldn't be blogging.

I should be grading papers.
I should be reading students' blog posts.
I should be sending post-conference follow-up emails to parents.
I should be watching training videos for my new school laptop.
I should be deconstructing standards and digging into resources.
I should be reading so I have something to blog about.
I should be doing amazing things in my classroom so I have something to blog about.
I should be reading the blogs of our faithful blog readers.
I should be cleaning the house.


Okay. That helped. It always does. Best One Little Word ever.

Remember at the end of last summer, when we went to Vermont on a fly fishing trip...and didn't catch any fish? And how I vowed to "catch" a "trout" every day of the school year so that no matter what kind of picture the high stakes testing paints of my students, I will be able to look back on a year full of great moments of learning and joy?

I've got a "creel" full of fish.

We're 40+ days into the school year, and in my special little purple Moleskine I have 40+ "trout." Some days when I look back, they make me laugh, or swell up with pride. Some days I get a little teary.

At the exhaustion end of Parent Conference Night, a dad told about organizing his 30th high school class reunion, and how much it meant to him and the others who attended that some of their elementary school teachers attended. Even their first grade teacher was there. "You are making a difference in these students' lives, you know," he said. "You have no idea right now how the seeds you plant will turn out, but you are planting seeds for the future."

The next day, I got an email from a student who was in one of my looping classes 10 years ago. I helped to get her on an IEP back then. She's a junior in college now and she wanted to come interview me for one of her classes. She just switched her major. To education.

All the "I shoulds" will have to wait. I have some seeds to plant. I have some fish to catch.

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3. Some Favorite New Books for 3rd Grade Transitional Readers

I have been on the lookout for short reads for my 3rd graders. I still have a handful of students who are struggling with finishing books.  Finding quality books for 3rd graders is always a struggle. So I am always thrilled when I find something with a little more to it than most.  And with a humor that is perfect for 8 and 9 year olds. I've found several great ones for kids pretty new to chapter books lately.   Here they are:













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4. Digital Literacy K-8: Empowering Our Students


Saturday, I had the opportunity to work with Ruth Ayres, Bill Bass and Colby Sharp in Indiana. We worked with 50ish Indiana teachers through the All Write consortium and learned together about digital literacy.  I loved Saturday. The teachers were incredible and the conversations at each table that I joined pushed me to think about things I haven't thought of before when it comes to digital literacy.

I left with lots of new thinking. How can you work with Ruth, Bill and Colby and not come away with new thing to think about. Each of these 3 people grounds me in different ways.  We each bring something different to the conversation around digital literacy and that alone is worth it.  Ruth continues to remind us that staying true to our core beliefs matters.  Colby reminds us that kids' voices are the most powerful voices there are.  And Bill's belief that technology can change classrooms to empower all children reminds us that we can't take our time with this.  The most powerful thinking happens when different voices come together.  I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to learn from and with these 3 amazing people on a regular basis.  

We created a Weebly site so participants had all of the resources at their fingertips. The site grew and evolved as the day went on.  Such fun to update a site as new things came up in conversation.  You can find the site: Digital Literacy K-8.    Some of it might make no sense to you but there are pages that I love (Colby's iPad screen is one of them:-). There are pages that give me things to follow up with--things I didn't have time to explore Saturday. And there are slides and quotes that reground me, remind me why digital literacy matters.

People always ask me how and why I sometimes spend Saturdays working. And some days I wonder that myself. But then I have a day like yesterday--and I think "How could I not?" When else would I have the chance to be inspired?  Learning with amazing teachers,  laughing with friends, learning myself. What could be better?






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5. Poetry Friday -- My New Hero

"Time to Dust"


Delight in Disorder
by Robert Herrick

A sweet disorder in the dresse
Kindles in cloathes a wantonnesse:
A Lawne about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction:
An erring Lace, which here and there
Enthralls the Crimson Stomacher:
A Cuffe neglectfull, and thereby
Ribbands to flow confusedly:
A winning wave (deserving Note)
In the tempestuous petticote:
A careless shooe-string, in whose tye
I see a wilde civility:
Doe more bewitch me, then when Art
Is too precise in every part.


Herrick is writing about those who are careless in dressing, but I am taking this poem to heart as a person who is careless in housekeeping, and Herrick is my new hero. Last weekend, I finally got around to dusting took five minutes to Swiffer a few key surfaces in the house. After reading Herrick, I quit beating myself up for the cobwebs, cat hair, and kitchen table clutter. I am choosing to "see a wilde civility," become bewitched, and find the wonderful imprecise Art of our home. (Also giving thanks that Mr. Mary Lee cares less than I do about a clean and tidy house!)

Michelle has the Poetry Friday roundup at Today's Little Ditty.

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6. The Jacket


The Jacket
by Kirsten Hall
illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova
Enchanted Lion Books, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

This is a book about a book who wants nothing more than "for a child to discover him. / To disappear into his pages. / To laugh at his story. / To love him and care for him in a way all favorite books know."

That day finally comes for Book, but unfortunately, the girl who loves him also loves her dog, who loves to roll in the mud, which spells disaster for Book.

All is not lost, though. The girl is creative. Can you guess what she makes for her book to cover the mud stains? Yup. A jacket!

Directions for making a book jacket are included. ("*Don't forget to cut eye holes for your book's eyes!")


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7. Mister Horizontal & Miss Vertical


Mister Horizontal & Miss Vertical
by Noémie Révah
illustrations by Olimpia Zagnoli
translated from the French by Claudia Bedrick
Enchanted Lion Books, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

Mister Horizontal and Miss Vertical couldn't be more different.

Can you guess who likes gliding, boating and "walking in the desert, with sand as far as the eye can see?" And who likes bungee jumping, rockets, and "New York, the city of sky scrapers?"

More than just a concept book about horizontal and vertical, this is a book about opposites, and a fabulous mentor text for writers of all age and experience who need to practice describing their characters in a variety of ways.


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8. The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

I haven't had time to read as many upper middle grade/young adult books that I'd like to this year. There have been a few 2014 books that have been on my radar but that I haven't had a chance to read.   I am trying to make time to read more of these books lately--at least the few that everyone seems to be talking about.

Last week, I read The Crossover by Kwame Alexander.  I had started this book a few times but didn't get past the first few pages. I picked it up last weekend and was hooked in just a few pages. (I always find it so interesting how important timing is when we read books!)

This is a novel in verse. It is a powerful novel in verse intended for upper elementary/middle school kids.  It is one that is being talked about as a good one for boy readers but I see it as an amazing book for all readers.

The book is about basketball. But more importantly it is about basketball player Josh Bell and his twin brother Jordan. They are stars on their school basketball team and basketball is clearly their passion.  The story revolves around the two of them and their parents--a family you come to love immediately. And a family that will stay with me for a very long time.

But things are changing for both boys-as they grow older, discover girls, and face life issues.

This is an amazing book. A must read for anyone who likes to keep up with great books for this age. A must read for teachers and parents trying to stretch their upper middle grade readers to try something new. So glad I took the time to read this one. Once I was hooked, I didn't get off the couch until I had finished.

An incredible and powerful read.

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9. Books and Breakfast: Shelter Pet Squad #1 by Cynthia Lord

On Friday, we had our first Books and Breakfast Book Club.  Kids who signed up were dropped off at school 30 minutes early.  We had donuts and chatted about the book.

For this first Book Club, I chose the new book Shelter Pet Squad: Jelly Bean by Cynthia Lord. I wanted a book that was accessible to most kids in my room (either on their own or with help from a parent). And I wanted a book with something to talk about.

I love Shelter Pet Squad and am excited about this series as you may know from my recent blog post about the book.  

About 2 weeks before the Book Club, I gave each student a copy of the book. They had 2 weeks to read it and to jot down thinking, knowing they'd be talking to others about the book. I had no idea how it would go this early in the year so it was very open ended.


Then a few days before the Book Club, I put up a poster inviting kids in the group to jot down questions that might be worth talking about on Friday. I wanted this to be simple and I hoped that this was enough preparation for them.  The board filled as the week went on.
On Friday morning, I typed up the list of questions and kids used this list if they needed it.  I had about 12 kids attend the book talk. Some used the list and others had other connected conversations. The conversations were fabulous and we all had a great time.  The event was definitely a success!  We sent a few tweets to Cynthia Lord and heard back.  


Below are the questions that students discussed:

Shelter Pet Squad #1

What is your favorite part?
What do you like about this book?
What’s your favorite thing about Shelter Pet Squad?
Who is your favorite character?
What is an interesting part you like? 
Did you choose this book because you like animals ?
What did you think about to pick this book?
What is your most favorite chapter?
What is so important about this story?
Why did you decide to read this book?
Do you have a pet?  If you do, did you get it from a shelter?
Why do you think the author wrote this story?

We had a great time and can't wait until our next morning book club. Next Up: Sisters by Raina Telgemeier.

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10. Poetry Friday -- The Stars


Flickr Creative Commons photo by JosMetadi


When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer
by Walt Whitman


When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

We are learning about the Solar System in science, and while the facts about the planets are intriguing, it's the students' questions and wonderings that are the most compelling. (How I wish we could have had a sleepover at school this week so that we all could have watched the lunar eclipse together!) They are grappling (and rightly so) with the sheer vastness of our galaxy...and the universe, and with the ways scientists can know distances between or temperatures on the sun and the planets. We watched this video of a hexagonal hurricane on Saturn and they were fascinated by the way the scientists replicated the storm in the lab. The idea that scientists build models to explain and understand the world is new to them.

I need to write about our Genius Hour at some point. What I'm aiming for, but not achieving (YET) is for the work they do each Friday afternoon to come from their own curiosity and desire to explore. I'm beginning to understand, at the ground level, the data that shows that school dampens a child's natural curiosity. What I'm hoping to see, over the course of this year, is that it can be reignited, with time and scaffolding.

I'm hoping for students who would rather slip out of my classroom and look up "in perfect silence at the stars."

In a change of venues, Tricia has the Poetry Friday Roundup today at The Miss Rumphius Effect.


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11. That Look of Surprise



Enzo Races in the Rain/Enzo Picture Book #1
by Garth Stein
illustrated by R.W. Alley
HarperCollins, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

I love that look of surprise when you hand the right book to the right reader at just the right time. A review copy of Enzo Races in the Rain had just come, and I had a reader who was more than half of the way through Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog, the kids' adaptation of The Art of Racing in the Rain.

When I put this book in her hands, the look on her face was priceless! Like I was a magician, or something!

She read it right away, noting all of the ways it is different from Racing in the Rain. She was surprised that the story in the picture book didn't even get to chapter three in her book. (If I had seen that the full title includes "Enzo Picture Book #1, that would perhaps have explained that...) We noticed the careful marketing -- the cover background and font colors are exactly the same as Racing in the Rain (and the adult version, as well) and the dog looking out at the reader from the picture book matches the dog on her book. Except for the checkerboard collar. But we developed a theory about that.

My reader took the picture book home to read to her 5 year-old brother. After reading it again to him, she noted these similarities and differences:

SAME                                    
•Enzo is in both                    
•Pile of stuffed animals is in both (although the "evilness" of the zebra is not dealt with in the picture book)
•Enzo is born on a farm

DIFFERENT
 •The Farmer in the picture book is The Alpha Man in the chapter book
•Zoe is already born in the picture book, but is born later in the chapter book
•Enzo doesn't run with cars in the book

The biggest difference she noted was that Racing in the Rain is not about a dog running with cars in a rain storm (as portrayed in the picture book). It is about a dog whose owner is a race car driver. The checkerboard collar seems to be the only evidence of auto racing.

My reader's little brother didn't like the book much. But that's likely because he's more into superheroes than dog stories.

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12. Fox's Garden



by Princesse Camcam
Enchanted Lion Books, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

This newest book in Enchanted Lion's Stories Without Words series is magical and perfectly suited to being a wordless picture book -- it is the story of a fox who needs a safe place to give birth to her kits. 

The snowy nighttime scenes have the silence of secrecy as the fox moves towards a secluded house. She is chased by a woman and a man, but quietly observed by a boy as she finds shelter in the greenhouse. The boy brings her a gift but doesn't interfere. In the end, the fox repays the boy's kindness.

The quote opposite the title page captures the quietness of the story:

"On the fresh snow,
as in my heart,
footprints, traces."


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13. Shelter Pet Squad: A Great New Series by Cynthia Lord

I was very excited to see that Cynthia Lord had a new series for middle grade readers. The new series, Shelter Pet Squad is perfect for my 3rd graders and several of them have read it already. This Friday, we'll be having a morning book club about the book and lots of kids have signed up.

This book is different than other series books for this age group and I can't wait until there are more books in the series.  This series is perfect because it talks about an issue kids care about and creates a great story around it.  It also focuses on the idea of volunteering and the kids in the book have a cause they believe in.

The book is a good length for kids newer to chapter books. My kids spent about a week reading this one and there is lots to support kids at this transitional stage of reading.  The chapters have titles which I think always helps in comprehension.  The chapters are short--10ish pages---so kids can typically stop at a good point and start back at the beginning of a chapter.  The endpapers give kids lots more to think about--how to make the crafts for pets that the characters in the book made, some info on Cynthia Lord's pets, some information on volunteering at the animal shelter and more.

This book acknowledges that young children care about important things and can make a difference in their communities. So many books for this age focus on the goofy sense of humor that many kids have at this age. Those books are necessary but so are books like Shelter Pet Squad that shows young children in real life leadership situations.

According to Cynthia Lord, the next book in this series is due out on August 15. I can't wait and I imagine the kids in my class will feel the same when I share the news with them.

Definitely a new series to check out!

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14. Poetry Friday -- Pumpkins

This:

Flickr Creative Commons photo by Liz West


And this:

A.E. Housman said, "Knowledge is good, method is good, but one thing beyond all others is necessary; and that is to have a head, not a pumpkin, on your shoulders and brains, not pudding, in your head."


And last of all, this:

Carl Sandburg, from Smoke and Steel, 1922

V. Mist Forms
13. Tawny

THESE are the tawny days: your face comes back.
The grapes take on purple: the sunsets redden early on the trellis.
The bashful mornings hurl gray mist on the stripes of sunrise.
Creep, silver on the field, the frost is welcome.
Run on, yellow balls on the hills, and you tawny pumpkin flowers, chasing your lines of orange.
Tawny days: and your face again.



Happy Friday, Happy Poetry, Happy Autumn.


Jama has the Poetry Friday roundup at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

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15. September Mosaic


























The first fourteen pictures this month are from the Casting for Recovery retreat. That will explain all of those splashes of pink. We had perfect weather and a fabulous group of ladies.

15-17 are my Equinox Amazement photos. The day after the equinox, the sun shone right down the middle of our East/West street. The next day, the sun was noticeably further south because its light was further north. The third day, you can barely see the light going down the sidewalk across the street. We are tracking how far the sun is shining in our south-facing window at school each afternoon when we gather for read aloud (where the sun-patch is on the floor before I lower the blinds).

#18 -- Bono Pizza. Locals, if you've never experienced Bono Pizza, you owe it to yourself and your tastebuds to give it a try. Click over to their website and look at the pictures. I promise you'll drool!


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16. Celebrating Sylvia Vardell!


Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Will Clayton

Even though our blog birthday was on January 1, we are celebrating it all year! On our 8th Birthday, we decided to celebrate 2014 by celebrating others who inspire us every day. Each month, on the 1st (or so) of the month, we will celebrate a fellow blogger whose work has inspired us. We feel so lucky to be part of the blog world that we want to celebrate all that everyone gives us each day.

This month, we are celebrating teacher and blogger, Sylvia Vardell. Sylvia blogs at Poetry for Children, which is one of the most amazing poetry resources for classroom teachers you can imagine! Sylvia works tirelessly to promote poetry for children at every professional conference she attends, through the journal articles and professional books she writes, and, of course, through the Poetry Friday Anthologies she edits with Janet Wong.

On her blog, Sylvia has thoughtful posts like the recent one on Poetry and Social Justice.

She also has a series called Poet to Poet, in which she features one poet interviewing another about his/her new book. 

Plus, she shares readers' guides she's written, like the one for the fabulous novel in verse, Crossover.

To honor Sylvia, we made a donation to the American Academy of Poets (poets.org), an organization that supports educators with tips for teaching poetry, a monthly educator newsletter, and events such as Poem in Your Pocket Day and National Poetry Month.

Please help us celebrate Sylvia for all she does for poetry and for teachers!
 

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17. The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee


I have had the release date for The Farmer and the Clown on my calendar for months. This was a book I was excited about and one that I wanted to make sure to get right away. Well, I received a review copy of the book last week and loved it even more than I thought I would!

The book (by the amazing Marla Frazee) tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a farmer and a clown.  And can I say that the clown is so adorable!  Happy and fun on every page.  I fell in love with this book on the first read and everyone I had it too squeals or "aw"s while reading.  This week, we read it twice in the classroom. I purchased the kindle edition so that we could read it on the screen. I am so glad I did this because the details in the illustrations, some that I missed during my first few reads, are critical and would have been so hard for kids to see without the projection.  This book is simple, but it leaves the reader with so much to think and talk about. And it leaves the reader with a feeling of joy.

I have said many times on this blog that I LOVE wordless books.  This is pretty new for me as I've learned to love them in the last 5-6 years.  This is by far, one of my favorites.  I love the characters and I am amazed at how well they are each developed in this wordless book. I like the story and the characters and the art.  I love Marla Frazee and have yet to read one of her books that I didn't fall in love with.  This one is definitely one of my Caldecott hopefuls.

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18. Science, Literacy and Technology at the Columbus Zoo!

Last May, we took our 3rd graders to the Columbus Zoo on a field trip. We have a great zoo in Columbus so it s always a great trip. But last year, the educators at the zoo created a new program. Our kids would have the opportunity to observe animals and collect data using iPads.  We were excited about the program and knew that it tied in with our science curriculum.  When we got back to school last spring, we realized that this would be a great fall trip. That the program would be a great kick off for learning around scientific observation, using technology to collect data, life science and more.  So we booked this year's trip in September and our classes went to the zoo on Friday. Not only was it a great day but we learned a lot that I know will carry into our learning thoughout the year.

The trip was great. The educators at the zoo kicked off our day with a half-hour session for the whole group. We learned about animal observation. We learned about the 4 elephants at the Columbus Zoo. We learned their names, how to tell them apart, a bit about their personalities, etc. Then we learned the codes for each thing an elephant might be doing--moving, socializing, eating, etc.  We learned a bit about why it is important to tell where the elephant is for each observation-which area of the habitat.


Then, each class had the opportunity to use iPads to track one elephant's behavior for 30 minutes.  The app is set up specifically for these observations and kids got a chance to see what this type of animal observation at the zoo was like.  (The iPads were not working for our class's session so we asked questions and learned lots about the animals, as Kelly answered our questions about the elephants.


September was a great time for this trip.  It impacted the ways that our students think about science and observation. They understand that scientific observation happens all the time at the zoo right in our city. They know that the observations we take tell a story of the animal.  And they learned that technology is one way to keep track of observations.


I read 2 books this week that set the stage for our day at the Zoo. One was Elephant by Suzi Eszterhas.  This book tells the story of a baby elephant and how he grows.  Her Eye on the Wild series is a great series for middle grades and this made for a good read aloud.  The other book that we read was Tiger Math:  Learning Graphing From a Baby Tiger and they begged me to read this one each day. This is the story of a baby tiger who refuses to eat.  The book chronicles the first months of the tiger's life and the work the zookeepers did to keep him alive, help him grow and monitor his progress. There are graphs throughout the book that the scientists share to help tell the story of Tiger. I love that the authors of this book talk about the story that graphs tell. Kids loved this and they learned math and scientific observation.  There are several books in this series so I am going to try to get them all for the classroom as kids were fascinated by the ways math and science worked together for animal observations.  I think they'll enjoy them even more now that we've been to the zoo.

We are lucky to have the Columbus Zoo right here in our city!


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19. Circle, Square, Moose



Circle, Square, Moose
by Kelly Bingham
illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Greenwillow Books, September 23, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

Did you love Z is for Moose? Moose disrupted Zebra's presentation of the alphabet in that book. He's back, this time causing problems in a shape book.

Zebra comes to the rescue to extract Moose from the shape book, but that doesn't go so well.

Leave it to Moose to patch up his friendship with Zebra AND end the book with a rhyme.

Want to hear Paul O. Zelinsky speak? Come to the Dublin Literacy Conference on February 21, 2015! Consider presenting about your literacy best practices!


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20. Mix It Up!


Mix it Up!
by Hervé Tullet
Chronicle Books, September 16, 2014
review copy purchased for my class library

Even fifth graders LOVE Hervé Tullet's Press Here, a book that seems magically interactive.

In Mix it Up, readers will explore color mixing without ever getting their fingers dirty. By following the directions in the book, colors are made to appear, disappear, smear, drip, blend, lighten and darken.

Fun stuff!


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21. Poetry Friday -- Autumn



Autumn
by Linda Pastan

I want to mention
summer ending
without meaning the death
of somebody loved

or even the death
of the trees.
Today in the market
I heard a mother say

Look at the pumpkins,
it's finally autumn!
And the child didn't think
of the death of her mother

which is due before her own
but tasted the sound
of the words on her clumsy tongue:
pumpkin; autumn.

Let the eye enlarge
with all it beholds.
I want to celebrate
color, how one red leaf

flickers like a match
held to a dry branch,
and the whole world goes up
in orange and gold.




Amy has the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Poem Farm. I'll be at the Ohio Casting for Recovery retreat all weekend, so I'll catch up with your posts (hopefully) at some point next week.

If you would like to make a donation to Casting for Recovery, Orvis is matching all donations until September 23. Secure donations can be made here. You can designate the Ohio retreat (or your state's retreat).

Happy Fall! Happy Friday! Happy Poetry!


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22. It's Monday! What Are You Reading?




Join Jen at Teach Mentor Texts for this week's link up!




I am trying to read everything I can by Mac Barnett and I somehow missed President Taft is Stuck in the Bath earlier this year when it was released.    It was a really fun book and I loved the endnotes about the real story of President Taft.  And if you are not a huge Mac Barnett fan yet, you MUST watch this Ted Talk that he did about the power of story. Thanks to @PaulWHankins for sharing this talk!





I discovered Winter is Coming by Tony Johnston during my last Cover to Cover visit.  This will be a great book to use during Writing Workshop-I love all of the amazing language and the idea of capturing things in a notebook.  Looking forward to sharing this one later this fall.



I've been hearing lots about The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc and was not disappointed when I picked up my copy.  This is a great story of friendship that will invite lots of conversation. It reminded me a bit of two of my favorite picture books, South and How to Heal a Broken Wing.  Definitely one I'll use to talk about universal themes. 



I reread Sisters by Raina Telgemeir this week.  I planned our first 3 Books and Breakfast events (book clubs before school around one book each month) and I chose Sisters as the 2nd book.  I wanted to include a graphic novel early on and this one seemed to give us lots to talk about.  I showed this book trailer to my students on Friday and there was a lot of interest in this book.





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23. Building Read Aloud Routine in 3rd Grade



The first eight weeks of school is critical.  Building routines and setting the stage for learning across the year happens in those first few weeks. Read Aloud is one of the most important routines in our classroom.  It is the time when we come together around a book and enjoy it together. But it is far more than enjoying a book. Our conversations help us build and grow our thinking and give us strategies for understanding longer, more complex books.  I know if the conversation is to grow over the course of the year, I need to choose books carefully for read aloud.

During the first three weeks of school, I thought it was important to read short read alouds that matched the kinds of books kids would be reading at this age. I think it was Joanne Hindley who taught me the importance of not always reading books above a child's independent reading level because what we read aloud is often what kids think we value. So if I want kids to read books that are right for them independently, I want to share those books often and throughout the year.  The books I read early were books that set up the routine of daily read aloud from a book we had to carry in our heads over days. It also introduced kids to various authors and series as a starting point to our talk about series and authors.  And, we so loved seeing Mercy Watson appear in Leroy Ninker! These were the books we shared during the first few weeks of school:

Lulu and the Brontosaurus
The  Meanest Birthday Girl
Leroy Ninker Saddles Up
Bink and Gollie
Chicken Squad

Currently we are reading aloud The Quirks. My students last year love the Quirks and I blogged about it  here and here  because I loved it so much.  It is a little bit of a stretch for some kids as they are many characters to keep track of and some little things that readers miss unless we stop to talk. So we are stopping to talk often and learning how to hold onto a story over several days.  Getting your head back into a book every day is critical and an important skill for this age.  During this read, we've also changed read aloud a bit. We moved to sitting in a circle facing each other on the floor. We've worked at building on a conversation rather than just sharing what you are thinking and moving on to the next person. And we've added a reader's notebook component where kids can stop and jot their thinking. At the beginning of third grade, I find students want to say everything they are thinking and learning to capture thinking in writing helps them learn to analyze and prioritize their thinking--figuring out the thinking that helps them dig deeper into their reading.



Next week, I plan to begin Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George. Jessica Day George will be visiting our school in October and we are very excited!  The kids are very familiar with fairy tales but this will most likely be the first novel-length fairy tale they've read.  For this read aloud, I am going to share the audiobook. I decided on this for a few reasons.  I want to talk about audiobooks as a way to read. So many kids build fluency with audiobooks and the text in front of them. I also think audiobooks are important for all readers-I am a reader who gets carsick so the only way I can read in the car is with audiobooks. I figure some of my students may want to add audiobooks to their reading lives. The audiobook will also give me a chance to keep a readers's notebook as we read.  I will use an iPad app such as Notability and track my own thinking as I listen to the audiobook. I have found that this is a great way to model a variety of ways to track thinking without interfering much with kids' own thinking/process.


Following Tuesdays at the Castle, we'll jump into Global Read Aloud a few days late. We'll be reading Edward Tulane with classrooms around the world. I am anxious for my students to see the power of this event and the way our thinking can be impacted by others.  

By the time we get to the end of October, we'll have a great deal in place when it comes to the read aloud routine.  And these strategies and behaviors will begin to show up in students' independent reading.  Whether these are the perfect choices or not, I know that each book will change us as a community of readers in a different way.


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24. Fall Leaves


Fall Leaves
by Loretta Holland
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
September, 2014
Review copy from the public library, via my amazing literacy coach, Brooke!

The best compliment I can give this book is that I have read it at least 5 times and I am still finding new things to love!

When Amazing Literacy Coach Brooke handed it to me with a, "Have you seen this? I think it would make a fabulous mentor text." I read through it quickly, seeing the short phrases in large font with informational text in smaller font below.

On the next read, I really thought about the word choice for the words in large font. The book begins with, "FALL ARRIVES" and on the next page, "BIRDS LEAVE," then "LEAVES TWIST" and "RAIN FALLS."

I started to form a theory about the pattern of the words on my second read, but I had to read the whole book again from start to finish to confirm it: (spoiler alert) every page has either FALL or LEAVES in the text! Fall can be used as the noun (the season) or the verb (to fall). Same with leaves. So cool! And the text is satisfyingly circular.

On the fourth read, I studied the illustrations and marveled at the use of color, light, and movement that Loretta Holland used to perfectly capture the mood and feel of fall. On Goodreads, I tagged this book "Potential Caldecott."

Finally, on the fifth go-round, I read the nonfiction text under the large words on each page. The science behind each phrase is clearly explained and includes the large words (in italics).

Brooke was right. This would make a fabulous mentor text. Not since Nothing Like a Puffin have I read a picture book that calls to me to use its pattern to write my own version. The hardest thing will be to find two words that can both be used as nouns and verbs. I'm off to my notebook to brainstorm...




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25. Poetry Friday



How To Be a Poet
(to remind myself)
by Wendell Berry

Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your work,
doubt their judgment.

Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
There are only sacred places
And desecrated places.




My One Little Word for this year is BREATHE. It's been a perfect word to remind myself to slow down, to notice all the good in people and in the world around me, to make space in my busy days and weeks just for me.

On a somewhat related note, if you haven't seen FALL LEAVES by Loretta Holland, get your hands on it asap. It is a poetry/nonfiction hybrid with gorgeous-GORGEOUS illustrations. (my review here)

And head over to Laura's place, Writing the World for Kids, for a peek at one of her new books and the Poetry Friday Roundup!


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