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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. If You Plant a Seed

If You Plant a Seed 
by Kadir Nelson
Balzar + Bray, 2015
review copy from the public library

Just yesterday, I talked to my students about not judging or making assumptions, and yet, count me guilty as charged! I saw this gorgeous cover over and over again during #pb10for10, but it wasn't until my reserve came in at the library and I held it in my hands did I notice who the author/illustrator was. Kadir Nelson...does BUNNIES???

Well, come to find out and do a little research, this isn't the first time Kadir Nelson has done a book featuring animals, instead of people, but not surprisingly, the animals are every bit as expressive as his humans. LOVE the two double-page wordless spreads just before all selfishness breaks loose -- first with the rabbit and mouse (just about to enjoy their harvest) looking at the birds looking at them, and then a full-on view of the expectant and hopeful looks the birds are giving rabbit and mouse. A great place to turn-and-talk.

This is a story about what happens when we plant selfishness vs. what happens when we plant kindness. A good reminder for gardeners of all ages in the garden of Life.

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2. Failure

11 Experiments That Failed
by Jenny Offill & Nancy Carpenter

I can't wait to start celebrating failure with a new group of fifth graders.

I can't wait to ask them these questions as they work:
Did you have to change your plans?
Did you fail?
Did you struggle?
Did you get a new idea?
Did you cooperate?
Did you listen?
Did you share?
Did you think?
Did you solve a problem?
Did someone help your thinking along?
I can't wait to share this book with them, and talk about a character who designs and conducts completely original experiments that mostly seem sure to fail right from the outset.

Connecting to the character in this book, I can't wait to share about the 15 year-old Iowa boy who is running for president, and who is the most successful independent candidate since Ross Perot. Last time I checked, there's no way a 15 year-old can be elected president.

So, why bother performing experiments that are sure to fail?
Make a point.
Get one step closer to an experiment that won't fail.
Have fun.
Discover something new.
Tell a story.
Happy Failure!

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3. The Yarn

If you have not had a chance to check out Colby Sharp's and Travis Jonker's new podcast series, The Yarn, you must check it out!!!

I am not a good listener so I have never paid a whole lot of attention to podcasts.  I have tried a few but never got that interested in anything. I liked to SEE things while I listened. I have several friends who have recommended podcast series but I just didn't get it. They all seemed a little long and boring to me.

But then last week, Colby Sharp and Travis Jonker released their first season of their new podcast series THE YARN.  If you go to their Twitter page (@theyarnpodcast), this is described as: "A narrative of adventures. Travis and Colby go behind the scenes of children's literature in this narrative style audio show." The podcasts are produced by BkPk.Media, a site that shares narrative style podcasts centered around education.

I have to admit, I only listened to the podcast because Colby is my friend.  I knew it would be good, but remember,  I didn't like podcasts. And I had to learn how to subscribe to and play podcasts on my phone. It was big work.  But SOOO worth it.  I was expecting to like it because Colby and Travis are incredible,  but I wasn't expecting to LOVE LOVE LOVE it! The podcasts are GENIUS. I had no idea what was possible in a podcast until I listened to the first episode. Not only are they packed with fascinating information--the story behind the book told in such a distinct and brilliant way--but these podcasts are entertaining and powerful all at once.

The first season of The Yarn focuses on the new graphic novel, Sunny Side Up by Jennifer Holm and Matt Holm. I was lucky enough to pick up a copy of this at the Scholastic Reading Summit and it is an incredible read. The podcasts add more to the story, give the reader more to think about and are just really fun to listen to.  It's like you are hanging out with Travis and Colby and all the cool people they talk to.

I had to listen to the first podcast twice because I was blown away by the way that it was crafted. I kept thinking it was a genre or something that was totally new to me--a type of story I have never experienced and one that I am totally hooked on now.  After I listened to it twice, I made my husband listen to it. He loved it. Then we went to dinner with friends (Tony Keefer, Julie Keefer and Katie DiCesare) and we spent the first 15 minutes of dinner talking about how amazing the podcast was! 

Not only did I enjoy the podcasts as a listener, but as a literacy teacher, the whole digital creation piece was fascinating to me. I couldn't help but think about what an amazing mentor this would be for young writers.  And I can imagine the power of sharing these episodes after reading Sunny Side Up. 

So, you've heard enough from me! Now, if you haven't already started listening, you'll want to do that right away! You can access/subscribe to the podcasts on iTunesStitcher and Travis's Blog.
And if you get totally obsessed with these podcasts like I did, you can read a bit about the launch of the series and learn about the episodes in this season at School Library Journal's blog.  You can also get lots more information about the series by listening to the podcast on Let's Get Busy where Colby and Travis talk about the origins of The Yarn (another amazing site filled with brilliant podcasts by Matthew Winner at The Busy Librarian blog that you'll also want to check out.)

And I just found out that we, as listeners,  have the chance to support more seasons of The Yarn by donating at their Kickstarter site. Check out what Colby has to say about the podcasts and the Kickstarter and think about giving a bit for them to continue this great venture! 

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4. It's Monday! What are you Reading? and Summer #Bookaday

I love Donalyn Miller's idea of #Bookaday Challenge. Each summer, she puts out a challenge to herself and to others to read an average of a book-a-day over the summer.  I know I read a lot, but I also know that many of my teacher friends read far more than I do.  And summer is a good time for me to catch up. This summer was a busy one so I knew lots of my books would be short reads. I counted the days of summer and set my goal for 82 books.  I met that goal easily once I got started.  Last week, I was at 99 books. (For the most recent list, you can check out my goodreads account.) Here is how my numbers ended up last time I checked:

57 Picture Books
2 Wordless Picture Books
1 Poetry Books
16 Middle Grade Novels
2 Young Adult Novels
2 Adult Novels
16 Nonfiction Children's Books
3 Graphic Novels

Since Donalyn started this challenge years ago, I have realized how important summer and vacation reading are to me as a teacher and a reader. That extra time to read is critical and it takes far less time every day than I imagine it will.  Setting a goal of a book each day was overwhelming at first but I've discovered that it is very doable.  I have used the library lots and I spent many mornings reading a stack of new picture books.  It doesn't take long to get through a stack of picture books and discover a few gems. At the end of this summer #bookaday, I am reminded again of how important it is for me to be read and keep up with new books, I believe strongly in the power of Teacher as Reader and always have.  I need to be a reader myself in order to teach reading but I also need to read lots of children's books so that I have a menu of books to share with students each year.  (Lucky for me, I LOVE reading children's books as I believe they are the best books out there!) As I choose books and share books with students, I know that knowing 99 more books will help me be a better teacher. Is is probably the most important work I do each summer.

Even with all of this summer reading, I still have a huge TBR stack. Seems like the more I read, the more I want to read! But I have so many more possibilities when I make choices about books to share with students in read aloud, mini lessons, conferences and small groups. I can't imagine going into the year without all these new titles in my head.

Some highlights from my summer #bookaday that I haven't blogged much about already:

Picture Books

Little Elliot, Big Family (coming October 6!)

Early Chapter Book


Middle Grade Novels

Graphic Novel

Wordless Picture Book

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5. Poetry Friday -- Unharvested

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Gilly Walker

In this last weekend before school starts back up, I will be spending lots of time planning. I think I'm finally to the point in my career where I won't worry about accounting for every single moment of every day. I have learned to appreciate what Robert Frost describes here:

by Robert Frost

A scent of ripeness from over a wall.
And come to leave the routine road
And look for what had made me stall,
There sure enough was an apple tree
That had eased itself of its summer load,
And of all but its trivial foliage free,
Now breathed as light as a lady's fan.
For there had been an apple fall
As complete as the apple had given man.
The ground was one circle of solid red.

May something go always unharvested!
May much stay out of our stated plan,
Apples or something forgotten and left,
So smelling their sweetness would be no theft.

Catherine has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Reading to the Core.

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6. World Building

These weeks before school actually starts are some of my favorites. This is the time when we can live entirely in our imagination. We create inviting spaces we hope the students we haven't yet met will love as much as we do. We choose first books and first activities envisioning the response we hope to elicit. In our minds, a caring, connected community works joyfully and collaboratively.  I have to believe that this dreaming, imagining and visualizing are part of what helps to make all that come true as the school year begins, unfolds, develops, changes, and gels. (And, to be truthful, the beginning, unfolding, developing, changing, and gelling are ALSO my favorite weeks -- sometimes months -- of school!!)

I can't show you all the little teaching movies that are playing in my mind these days, but I can give you a peek at my new classroom. I'm really excited (to say the least) to be trying out some really new (for me) ways of thinking about seating and spaces.

Here's a pano from the doorway:

On the left, you see our office space. OUR. I try to keep my pile to a minimum, and students learn to respectfully move my stuff aside if they want to work on the big computer that sits at that desk. On the right is some common work space. My classroom library is mostly around the perimeter of the room. Fiction to the left, nonfiction on the tall shelf by the smartboard, picture books by the window, poetry and nonfiction overflow to the right. There are three shelves anchoring tables/desks: wordless picture books, word study books, and (in the "new" shelf my neighbors generously left at their curb as "trash" -- minor damage on the bottom shelf that was fixed with wood putty) folk tales and mythology.

Here are some snapshots around the room from left to right:

In front of our office space, you can see a shelf for shared supplies, and a little reading/work/meeting space around a low round table.

These two standing desks are new. Eight spots in my classroom without chairs. The idea for including standing spaces was inspired by several tweets from my principal, and by discussions with my brother, who works at a standing desk. I can't wait to see what my students think of this! As I've set the classroom up, I've found myself working at them all the time. Lots of professionals work standing up at least part of the time -- artists, chefs, scientists, conductors, singers, teachers...so why not students?!?

This table of six has stools instead of chairs. Good for building core muscles!

In the back, on the tile, we have building/making/Genius Hour materials.

This pano makes my room seem as big as an auditorium! I took it standing at the smart board and looking out into the room. I started over my left shoulder at the picture books. They are actually parallel to me, not perpendicular as they seem! Same with the nonfiction on the right -- they are beside the smartboard and are looking out into the room like I am. If you focus on the center of the room, you can see the five primary work spaces, and in front of the smartboard, our meeting space for minilessons, sharing, and such.

It's going to be a great year! I can't wait to meet my students and get started!

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7. Power of Series and Wordless Picture Books

Last week, Gretchen Taylor (@GretchenETaylor) and I did a session on Series Books and Wordless Picture Books.  We had a great time and gave teachers lots of time to look at wordless picture books. Here are the slide from our session.

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8. Math Monday: Well Played

I have been reading lots of math professional books as we've implemented Math Workshop in our district.  This summer, I read Well Played:  Building Mathematical Thinking Through Number Games and Puzzles, Grades 3-5. This was a perfect read for me this summer as we move forward with Math Workshop.  I love that Stenhouse provides such an amazing online preview on their site. I was able to dig in and know that I wanted to own a copy of this book. I know it is one I will revisit throughout the school year.

The book is more than just a set of games.  As Kassia Omohundro Wedekind states in her Foreword,
"This is a book about math games and puzzles, but it is also a book about building communities of mathematicians who work together to problem solve, talk about math and figure things out."

The book begins with thoughtful chapters around the use of games in the math classroom. Early on in the book, the authors state, "...many students experience games or puzzles as fun activities or time fillers, but do not consider them as essential to their learning or as an important part of a lesson for which they are accountable."  The authors go on to show us how to make games a more critical piece of our workshop and to help students have ownership of the games, their goals and the conversations they have while playing.

There is a great section about discussions and the authors give lots of practical tips for teaching kids to have productive conversations while playing game.  There are so many examples of these conversations, questions that push thinking and ways to differentiate throughout the book.

Much of the book is organized in chapters by math concept and there are many games that support kids across levels and operations. The authors give great games and give great variations of several of the games.  The games focus on engagement and problem solving and give kids ways to use math vocabulary throughout.

The games throughout the book are introduced in a way that you can really visualize how they might look in your classroom. Directions and materials are given as well as an example of how one teacher introduced the game in a real classroom.  (The appendix is large and provides blackline masters for all of the games, directions, etc.)    The game pages include Tips, What to Look For when observing kids play the game, Exit Card ideas and Extension of ways to change up the game.

An amazing resource for intermediate math teachers!

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9. Poetry Friday -- 10 New Poetry Books

For my Picture Book 10 for 10 post, I chose my 10 favorite poetry books for 2015 (so far). You can read a little about each on Monday's post.

If you missed this fabulous event, for which nearly 100 teachers, librarians, professors and parents shared lists of 10 picture books (with or without a theme), you should check out the posts in the +Google Community. Hide your credit card and keep a tab open to your local library!

Heidi has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at My Juicy Little Universe.

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10. Fun Times in Word Study!

Last summer, Take Away the A by Michael Escoffier was my fun new Word Study book for the year. I wasn't the only one who got jazzed up by it. I handed it off to Carol Wilcox when I arrived at the Denver airport so she could use it in PD and then mail it back to me.

Here's this year's fun new Word Study book by Michael Escoffier:

Where's the Baboon?
by Michael Escoffier
illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
Enchanted Lion Books, October 2015
review copy provided by the publisher

The entire text of this book is pretty much a series of questions. You can answer the question by looking at the letters in red, or by studying the illustrations. In the first spread, the mice let us know we are heading to school to search for hidden words. Our first question is, "Who is the headmaster? (You guessed it -- hamster!)

It's amazing how much the reader learns about the animals and their school just through a series of questions. And I probably shouldn't have been as surprised as I was by the ending. (Hint -- the plot line is circular, and the title is a part of the story. Also, someone is having a birthday...)

This book will have readers and word-lovers looking for words-inside-words and writing stories consisting of questions.

Fun times in Word Study!

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11. The Kids' Book of Simple Machines

I was excited to get a review copy of The Kids' Book of Simple Machines by Kelly Doudna. We are starting a Makerspace at our school and I want to extend Genius Hour and #EdCampKids to include more Makerspace type challenges.  The Educator Collaborative MakerSpace Camp was a great experience and really helped me think about revamping. (If you missed it, the keynotes by Laura Fleming and Troy Hicks are available on The Educator Collaborative Youtube Channel. Our school is implementing a schoolwide Makerspace and I am thinking how to incorporate much of the Maker thinking into the classroom.  I think one challenge for me has always been keeping the exploration  fresh while still making sure the students own the inquiry and thinking.  So I am looking for books and resources that might invite students to try something new or to think about new things.

The Kids' Book of Simple Machines is packed with information, projects and activities. I am not usually a fan of "activity" books as the activities often do the thinking instead of letting the child do the thinking but this book is a good combination of things.  The book starts out sharing information about simple machines, giving basic information about the 6 simple machines.   There is lots of text so I am thinking this book works for grades 3-6.   There are lots of great photos so it is inviting and accessible.

One of my favorite sections is the 4 pages on "What You Need". There is a visual list of the items you need to do the activities in the book but the items can be used for so much more. It is a great list of everyday items that can be used to create and explore.

The rest of the book is divided into chapters--each about one simple machine. Each chapter explains the basics of the machine, shows lots of places we see it in everyday life and then give readers projects to try. The projects give kids a way to explore the machine but the part I like best follows the project.  Following each activity or project, there are sections called "Think About It!" or "That's Notable!" or "Push It Further!" These little sections give readers challenges that push thinking and lead kids into new explorations.  I think they can invite good thinking and they are a good model for exploration.

Overall, I am thrilled with this book. I don't see it as one that kids will read cover to cover but it is one that is packed with lots of opportunities for kids to learn by reading, doing and creating.  The content-specific vocabulary is woven into the text in a way that makes it very accessible to kids and the photos are used in a variety of ways so that readers can make sense of the content.

Overall, a great book that I am excited to add to our classroom library!

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12. #pb10for10--Books to Start Conversation about Kindness

Kindness is something that we talk about all year.  So many books invite conversations about what it means to Choose Kind.  And for young children, building understanding across time is key. I have always used books such as Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson to invite conversations about the importance of kindness.  This book is a powerful one that we read and reread several times during the year. But I want my students to see kindness play out in many ways.  I want them to see kindness played out in a variety of situations.  And I want them to see that it is always a choice. So I am keeping a list of books in which the characters Choose Kind (or not) in different ways. Some are more obvious than others but I think this list of books will be a great list to visit and revisit during the year. Some of the titles focus on being kind to family and friend,s while others focus on choosing to be kind to strangers. Some are big acts of kindness while others are small everyday situations.  Some are new books and some are older titles. These are the first 10 books on my list and I hope to grow it as the year goes on.

Bella and Bean by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

To the Sea by Cale Atkinson

Sidewalk Flowers by JonArno Lawson

The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee

Hank Finds an Egg by Rebecca Dudley

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13. #pb10for10 -- New Poetry to Add to Your Collection

First, a huge shout-out to Cathy Mere (@CathyMere, Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community) and Mandy Robek (@MandyRobek, Enjoy and Embrace Learning) for creating this 10 for 10 event FIVE years ago! Their blog names say it all, don't they? These two ladies are a force for good in the world.

On to my ten picture books for this year...

As you are getting your classroom library ready for the new school year, take a close look at your poetry shelves and see if you might need one or more of these 2015 poetry books to fill out your collection.


Over the Hills and Far Away
This is a collection of Mother Goose/Nursery rhymes from around the world that will stand the test of time. It is fun to study each spread and think about the way the collector chose and grouped the rhymes. The illustrations are gorgeous.

A Pirate's Mother Goose
A very fun collection of parodies of traditional rhymes, pirate style! Great mentor text for writing your own version of a well-known rhyme.

Monster Goose Nursery Rhymes
While we're doing this Mother Goose thing, let's have another collection of parodies, this time using monsters and beasts as the characters. Another great mentor text.


The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects
This collection is incredible. Paul Janeczko has chosen 50 poems, from the Early Middle Ages to Contemporary, each featuring an object, and each very accessible to children. Great introduction to famous poets (and some famous poems) throughout the ages.

National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry
J. Patrick Lewis and National Geographic have done it again! Another anthology with spectacular photography that will draw children in and invite them to see the image through new eyes by reading the poems.


Presidential Misadventures
Come for the presidential facts, stay for the clerihews (a mentor text if you want to try to write some).

Random Body Parts
Puzzles in verse with factual sidebars and a glossary of science terms and poetry forms in the backmatter.


There Was an Old Dragon Who Swallowed a Knight
A fresh new take on an old rhyme. I have a whole collection of "I Know an Old ____ Who Swallowed a ____" books, and this will be a fun addition!


Sweep Up the Sun
This is an exceptional example of metaphorical writing. On the surface it is a book about birds. Read it again and again and look for more. This might be your go-to book for graduation gifts this coming spring! I used it for repeated/close reading with my fifth graders. Each time they found more and more levels of meaning.


Flutter and Hum
Gorgeously illustrated book of poems in both Spanish and English. Fascinating afterword that tells about Julie Paschkis' writing process. Word lovers will pore over the illustrations and soak up new words in both English and Spanish.

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14. Poetry Friday -- The Lion

Why Nobody Pets the Lion at the Zoo
by John Ciardi

The morning that the world began
The Lion growled a growl at Man.

And I suspect the Lion might
(If he’d been closer) have tried a bite.

I think that’s as it ought to be
And not as it was taught to me.

I think the Lion has a right
To growl a growl and bite a bite.

(read on at The Poetry Foundation to find out what the lion really wants...)

The lion who lives in our house is having trouble keeping food down this week. It's so hard when they can't tell you what's the matter and you have to guess. We're guessing we'll stay with an all chopped poached chicken breast diet for another day, and then maybe change brands of dry food.

Tabatha has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at The Opposite of Indifference.

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15. July Photo Mosaics -- New Possibilities

For years, I've been making a monthly mosaic of my photos using Flickr albums and FD's Flickr Toys.

Recently, I learned about a new mosaic maker that is fun, intuitive, and free! FotoJet won't be good for showcasing 30 photos at a time, but I can imagine using it to make cards and other smaller projects. Here are some flower photos from this June and July:

While I was home in Colorado in July, it was County Fair time! Ever since I was a kid, the businesses around town have purchased ads to support the fair. These ads are painted on the businesses' doors and windows. Perhaps because I haven't seen them for many years, they really caught my eye. I loved finding the painter's sense of humor in them, like in this one at Dorman Renewable Fuels where the clown is filling up his truck directly from the corn plant, and the one at Safeway that incorporated another sign on the window:

I shot a few short clips of video while I was home, too. One day when I was out running errands, I heard the iconic sound of an ag plane, and looked up to see that it was working fields right at the edge of town. My dad was an ag pilot until after I was born (not a safe job for a man with a family), so I always feel a tug in my heart for him when I watch these amazing pilots.

The rest of my videos (carousel, rodeo, locust tree) are on Flickr.

Here is my traditional July mosaic (see Flickr for notes about each photo):

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16. Books I Am Adding to the Classroom Library Part 2 : New Books in Favorite Series

Yesterday, I shared some new series I discovered this summer that I think will be a good match for 3rd graders.  Today, I wanted to share some books other series books I'll be adding to the classroom library--new titles in series that I know 3rd graders love.

I Am Lucille Ball by Brad Meltzer

Owl Diaries: Eva Sees a Ghost by Rebecca Elliott

I Will Take a Nap by Mo Willems

The Three Little Pugs by Noah Jones

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17. Books I Am Adding to My Classroom Library: Part 1 New (to me) Series Books

Last year was my second year in 3rd grade. It took me a while to figure out the kinds of books that would best support 3rd grade readers. It took me a while to learn what kinds of books hooked 3rd graders. It took me a while to catch up on series books that were a good match for third graders. By the end of last year, I felt that my classroom library was solid.  I had lots of great picture books, some lots of great nonfiction, good graphic novels and many series that could hook readers.  But I am always looking for new books.  Books for 3rd graders are not so long so kids tend to read through a book or two a week. And I believe in choice so I need to give kids a menu of options every day as reader.  So keeping the library updates is always important.

Here are some of the new series that I'll add to the classroom library this year. I'll get a few in the series to see how kids like them and then add to the basket if they are a hit.

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18. Poetry Friday -- Glimpses of a Journey

I have spent the month of July with Mom, getting her and her home of 60 years ready for her move to assisted living. Besides taking lots of photos, I saved a bit of time each day to take a snapshot in words. Here is a haiku-mosaic of July:

The move

the to-do list grows
fills heaping bowls of sadness
tears overflow

a childhood filled
with mother's sacrifices
daughter's turn now

shelves and shelves of books
multi-storied richness
wealth measured in words

going through dresser drawers
layers of memory
the archaeology of a life

two children
visitors at the museum
of their mother

an inveterate archivist
saver of minutiae
savoring each scrap of life

one more time

transplanting is tricky
handle roots with loving care
mix old soil with new

Meditations on the cycle of life and my place in it right now

midseason lily
surrounded by bud and wilt
enjoy it now

leaf breaks free
flutters away from tree
wind brings it back

Being in Eastern Colorado

ripening wheat
indiscriminate thunderheads
farmers remain hopeful

unseasonably cool
north breeze, low clouds, drizzle
roofer's gun pops

typically blue skies
smudged with a grimy haze --
Canada burns

antelope grazing --
green and lush prairie

Keri has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Keri Recommends.

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19. Kindergarten Luck by Louise Borden

I have been looking forward to the release of Kindergarten Luck by Louise Borden for a long time.  I received a review copy in the mail from the publisher last week.I love all of Louise's books and we love that she is an Ohio author.

Kindergarten Luck is about a boy named Theodore and his lucky day.  On a gloomy day, Theodore finds a shiny new penny face up and his day goes from gloomy to lucky.  The book follows Theodore through his day in Kindergarten where lucky things happen!  From having great pancakes for breakfast to being line leader at school, Theodore has a great day!  At the end of the book, Theodore pays his luck forward so that his friend can have a lucky day too.

This is a happy book with lots for readers to talk and think about.  It seems like a book that should be in every Kindergarten classroom. It is also great for older kids too when talking about paying things forward and finding those positive things throughout the day.  The illustrations are fun and happy and the end pages are an added piece of fun!

This would be a great gift for any kids in your life who are getting ready to start Kindergarten!

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20. Friends with Fins: Informational Videos

I'm always looking for good videos for my students.  As we expand our understanding of what it means to be a reader in this digital age, I know videos are an important part of learning.  I want my students to have lots of experience with quality video.  I've heard over and over again from my students that they enjoy watching video for entertainment, but they don't really know how to watch video to learn. So I know part of my work is helping them to read video.  I think lots of kids pick up bits of info when they are watching for entertainment, but finding good informational videos for kids is sometimes a challenge.  Short videos that are crafted well so that kids can learn information as well as study the video for the craft are things I am always on the lookout for.

Recently I noticed that Jaclyn Friedlander, a Marine Life and Ocean Conservation Expert has been adding weekly video episodes to her blog. (I interviewed Jaclyn on our blog about her picture books a while back.)

The Friends with Fins videos are PERFECT for my students. They are short, engaging and packed with lots of fascinating information.  Many connect to our science standards and I'll watch them a bit more closely to see which align with our science standards.  So much of our life science is about habitats and animal adaptations and so much information connected to that is embedded in these videos.

I also plan to use the videos in Reading Workshop as we think about learning from video clips. And I will use them in writing workshop as they will be great mentor texts for informational writing. They are crafted well and there is lots to study as a writer/moviemaker.  The way that Jaclyn shares information is accessible to young learners.  There are so many possibilities for these videos.  I like them individually, but the collection of the videos on the site provides so even more to learn from.  Not only are these a great link to science standards, but Jaclyn is passionate about ocean conservation and uses her blog and social media to spread that message.

Jaclyn plans to add a video most weeks to the site will continue to grow.  (All of the videos are also available on her Youtube Channel as well. And her books are now available as Kindle or iPad versions.

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21. #PaperTownsMovie

Since Paper Towns--The Movie--comes to theaters tomorrow, I thought today was a great day to share the fun we had at #PaperTownsOH last week.  Lots of John Green fans in Ohio!

The crowd was a big one and according to twitter, fans began arriving at 5 a.m. to get a spot in line!  The line looked to be a fun place. John Green even had 50 pizzas delivered to the crowd which was hugely appreciated since many had been standing in line for hours. 

My daughter has always been a huge John Green/Paper Towns fan. She has the original book and heard John Green at Cover to Cover when it was released a while back. It was extra fun for her to have her book signed a 2nd time by John Green!

Thanks to Cover to Cover and Penguin Random House, we got tickets without having to stand in line.  We had great seats and had a chance to go backstage to meet everyone afterwards.  It was quite the treat.  Here we are with John (Penguin Random House), Laura (Beth's sister), Beth (Cover to Cover).

We got a sneak peek at 19 minutes of the movie (which looks to be spectacular!) and we got to hear from John Green and the actors/actresses in the movie. It was great fun with lots of screaming fans, of course!

John Green!!

The stars of the movie!

A signed Paper Towns poster!

Looking forward to seeing the movie!

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22. Poetry Friday -- Renga With Friends

About a month ago, Steve Peterson (@insidethedog) invited me and Jan Burkins (@janmillburk) to try writing a renga with him. Renga is an ancient collaborative poetic form, and is actually where haiku was born!

Steve gave us these directions and resources:
  • 3 line haiku-like poem 
  • 2 longer lines (sort of like a tanka form when you put them together). Another person writes this. 
  • 2 lines are inspired by the haiku immediately above. 
  • then, 3-line haiku poem inspired by the 2 previous lines, 
  • and so on like a game of telephone until we reach 35 lines total.
And some resources

     a description of the form.
     some examples.
The order of play went Steve, me, Jan (repeat). Here's our first renga:

in the prairie dawn
a spider's web snares the sun  --
cricket rejoices

meadowlark joins the chorus
breeze bends ripening wheat heads

whose lanky bodies
bow, sun’s church--peace be with wheat
and also with corn

they gather on folding chairs,
jello melts while the preacher prays

white-robed acolytes
shoulders shaking with giggles
two clouds hide the sun

even the adolescent stalks are sober today
word of fire in the neighboring field

this dark sky --
thunderheads poke fingers
at a thirsty land

near the abandoned homestead
ditch lilies toss flaming heads

who called this place home
does the ground remember
stories brought to earth

a faded calendar tacked
to the wall above the stove

try to imagine
the layers of memories
beneath the dust
how much memory is imagination
how much dust is history

sun slants through wavy glass
in the stale air
motes rise to dance

down the road, far down the road
reverberations can be felt

After we came to the 35th line, we gathered via conference call from Mountain, Central, and Eastern time zones to discuss the process and the product.

Steve found that although he instigated this poem writing adventure because of a desire to try collaborative writing, and to practice the haiku and tanka forms, he found himself meditating on Jan and me as he chose the words he thought would best fit with what we were trying to say.

For me, it was like trying to catch a tune and sing along.

Jan was continually looking for the meaning in each set of 5 lines alongside the meaning of the poem as a whole.

Our memories of church and our ideas of "prairie" were very different, but we realized that Rosenblatt's reader response theory was alive and well as we wrote together -- each of us as reader/writer could bring ourselves to the text and make our own meaning, independent of the two others.

For me, the prairie in the poem is the flat, dry landscape of Eastern Colorado, where I've spent this month with my mom. Wheat harvest has been in full swing, but no one is complaining about the rains that might have delayed some of the harvest -- they were good for the corn. Those white-robed acolytes are my childhood friend Barbie and me, trying to be solemn in our candle lighting duties, but invariably giggling all the way down to the altar and back. The end of the poem is woven with images of change, home, memory, and loss -- all of which have been bitter and sweet in this month of helping my mom transition from her home of 60 years to a new home in assisted living.

Jan and Steve found echoes of current events that I can see now, but that didn't occur to me as we wrote.

We have plans to play with revising this poem, and we are fifteen lines into another. It has been fabulous to take risks together, to watch the poem unfold, and to hear each other's actual voices over the phone after listening so closely to each other's writerly voices on the page. Thank you, Steve and Jan!

Margaret has the Poetry Friday Roundup today at Reflections on the Teche.

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23. A Great Day at the Scholastic Reading Summit!

I was lucky enough to attend the Scholastic Reading Summit in Cincinnati last week. I really didn't know what to expect but I figured that if Donalyn Miller, John Schumacher and Cynthia Lord would be speaking, it would be a great day. And it was!

I pulled into the hotel parking lot the day before the Summit and saw the Scholastic Book Fair trucks! It is always a happy day when those trucks are in the area. Way better than any ice cream truck--that's for sure!

It was an extra treat to have time to go to lunch and to visit a bookstore with these 4. At one point I was looking at books alone and I thought to myself, "You are in a bookstore with John Schu and Colby Sharp. What are you doing by yourself? Go follow their every step and pay attention to every word they say in here!" So I did and I bought a good stack of books. Shopping with this crew is fun... expensive, but fun!


Starbucks and great friends! What could make for a better morning?
The incredible people of Scholastic!  
We heard the mission of getting books into every child's hands, we heard research about reading and we heard book talks from these amazing individuals working to get all kids reading.


The morning keynote was given by Donalyn Miller. I've been lucky to hear Donalyn speak a few times this year and it is always a treat--she always reminds us of our most important work with children. Incredible opening keynote!

Some of my favorite takeaways from Donalyn's keynote are below:


For the morning session, Katherine, Colby and I heard John Schu. If you have never heard John Schu, I would make that your new goal.  Even though I follow his blog and I read every tweet, watch every video and listen to every online book recommendations, there is nothing like hearing John talk about books in real life!

John knows the best books and has great stories behind every one. He notices things I never pay attention to.  And his session is great fun!  He is definitely the Oprah of books! A great session!


The Scholastic Book Fair was open all day.  Yes, that's right..great speakers, great people and great books! I have been looking forward to reading this new book by Jennifer and Matthew Holm for a while  so I was THRILLED to get it at the book fair!

And who knew that this amazing nonfiction series is available in Spanish? My 3rd graders LOVED this series and to find them in Spanish was a real treat!


A great session about conferring with Donalyn Miller. Some of the best learning form this session is below:


Colby Sharp talked to us about his reading life. He shared an important message in a very powerful  few minutes.  He said:

"I hope that this fall your hearts are focused on finding the right book for every child. When we do that, everything is possible." Brilliant.


I have loved Cynthia Lord and her books for a very long time.  To hear her speak was another great thing about the day.  She was amazing! My favorite line from her talk was:

"I know that feeling when you open a book expecting to find a story, but instead you find yourself." WOW!

If you weren't able to attend a Scholastic Reading Summit this year, I'd highly recommend one in the future. It was a fabulous day!  In the meantime, visit the Open a World of Possible site. We watched a few videos from the site and I LOVED them. Excited to use a few with students in the fall.  Here's one of my favorites:

You can also revisit the Scholastic book Open a World of Possible that I blogged about this fall--I'm revisiting it to find pieces to share with students this fall.  You can also follow the #ReadingSummit or the #sharepossible hashtags on Twitter.

A great day  that left me inspired and ready to start a new school year!

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24. #cyberpd

Tomorrow, at 8 PM EST,  there will be a final #cyberpd chat with participants talking about Digital Reading: What's Essential in Grades 3-8.  I coauthored this book with Bill Bass and we were honored when  the  #cyberpd team --Cathy Mere (@cathymere), Laura Komos (@laurakomos) and Michelle Nero ) @litlearningzone-- told us that they had chosen the book for this year's #cyberpd talk.

If you have followed #cyberpd over the years, you know what an amazing and powerful conversation it is. If you haven't heard of it, it is definitely something you'll want to look forward to next summer. This year was the 5th annual #cyberpd event and the group continues to grow! If you want to know more about this year's event as well as about past years, you can read all about it on Cathy Mere's blog.

As the authors of the book that the #cyberpd community was discussing, I must admit, we were VERY nervous. It is one thing to have your book out there in the world. It is another thing to have a group of people who you learn from daily and respect incredibly, read it together and discuss it on a public forum.

As the weeks went on and I followed the conversation on Twitter and on the Google Community,  I found my list of notes and thoughts growing. I jumped onto the Google Community every few days, thinking I'd just pop in for a few minutes-- and then I'd realize I'd spent 2 hours reading posts, jotting ideas, exploring things mentioned, etc. I learned so much and have so much to think about around digital reading as we go into this next school year.  I was amazed at how people took the thinking we had in Digital Reading and expanded it, connected it to their own classrooms and schools and connected with others to make the ideas bigger.  There were visuals created by members of the community that clearly synthesized ideas about digital reading. And the community Pinterest Board continues to grow.  People collaborated to solve problems around the ideas throughout the month. (I love that primary teacher Deb Frazier is asking the community to help her bring resources together for young readers.)

Bringing so many readers together to discuss a book and an idea over a few summer weeks is a hugely powerful PD, that's for sure!  It was a bit surreal to have written a book on digital reading and then to see the power these digital tools were having on the readers responding to the book. (Cathy wrote about the power of the Google Community in a recent blog post.) I've been thinking a great deal about authenticity lately and the whole idea of #cyberpd and the ways the tools help us read more deeply than we ever could before was visible every day in this community.  We know that our thinking grows when we put our heads together and the power of digital tools to expand the possibilities of thinking together and growing ideas was evident every day in the #cyberpd community.

Digital Reading is a hard topic. We are all learning about it as we go, so we know our book has no "right" answers on the topic. Instead, it is our best thinking about it...for now.  Our goal, when we wrote Digital Reading, was to expand the conversation about how these new tools might change our work with children in classrooms. We wanted lots of smart people who were grounded in good literacy practice to find the conversation about the role of technology to be a worthwhile one.  We wanted to think with others about the ways digital tools could expand the ideas about literacy in our classrooms.

We can't thank the #cyberpd community enough for choosing our book and for inviting us into the conversation. I know that we've both learned so much over the past few weeks and have connected with so many people who have pushed our thinking. We look forward to the final chat on Tuesday. We hope to see you there!

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25. 2 Nonfiction Picture Books

I am looking for more informational picture books to read aloud early in the school year. I am looking for books that might spark some notebook writing as we launch writing notebooks. I found 2 that I think will work out great for this early in the year.

A Chicken Followed Me Home! Questions and Answers About a Familiar Fowl by Robin Page
The premise of this book is that if a chicken followed you home, what would you wonder? Each page spread focuses on one of those questions and then gives readers an answer about chickens in general and then about the specific chicken that is following you home. This is a great Q and A format and it will also be good to talk about wonderings and questions you have throughout the day or about specific topics.  I love Robin Page's work and she is an author I want my students to know.

I'm Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton is one that will make kid laugh. The author hates spiders and is trying to love them. But she just wants to squish them (and she does squish a few). But as she learns more about spiders, she starts to realize they aren't so bad. A fun way to learn about spiders and a fun type of writing to try in notebooks early in the year, I think.

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