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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. A December Filled With Poetry




Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole
by Bob Raczka
illustrated by Chuck Groenink
Carolrhoda Books, 2014

This is a very fun book.

You might have seen it reviewed (with a spotlight on the author) by Michelle at Today's Little Ditty. It's worth looking at again.

Bob Raczka Santa has written a haiku a day for the entire month of December, and they are collected here to give readers a peek into the secret life of Santa, beyond what we know of him in his workshop and sleigh. We get to know his love of nature, the way he and Mrs. Claus decorate for the season, and (through the illustrations) that he has a big orange cat that looks much like the one that lives in our house!

Buy a copy and make this a December tradition in your house! Maybe you could write companion haikus each day in December from the point of view of the elves or the reindeer!


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2. Poems for Very Short People




by Lin Oliver
illustrated by Tomie dePaola
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014

(In case you are wondering about today's post title, yesterday's post was "Very Short Poems." Go check it out. I'll wait.)

Welcome back!

Is it ever too soon for children to learn to love the rhythms, rhymes, and fun of poetry?

NO!!

Here's a great book for a baby shower gift. It will be as much fun for new parents to read over and over again as it will be for a new generation to listen to, look at, and slap their slobbery little hands all over the happy babies they see in Tomie dePaola's illustrations.

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3. Very Short Poems



Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems
selected by Paul B. Janeczko
illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Candlewick Press, 2014

I don't know whether I love this collection more for the poetry or for the illustrations. Either way, it's a winner.

Beginning with Spring, each of the seasons is explored through eight or nine poems from a variety of both adult and children's poets.

Each poem is a snapshot, a glimpse, a moment. They are perfect for showing children the power of just a few words to describe or evoke or illuminate.

And did I mention that the illustrations are beyond lovely? They are classic Melissa Sweet. I wish I could frame every page.

This is a collection you will want, and a fabulous gift book. Share the love.

Check out Mary Ann's review at Great Kid Books.


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4. Poetry and Imagination



Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems
by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian
illustrated by Jeremy Holmes
Schwartz & Wade, 2014

As I noted last Wednesday, J. Patrick Lewis' anthology title says it all: "Everything is a Poem." Last Thursday, we looked at science in poetry, Monday we looked at nature in poetry. Tuesday, the focus was on history in poetry, yesterday we took a look at biography in poetry. Today, let's have fun with imagination in poetry.

The subtitle of this book says it all: "Crazy Car Poems."

If that didn't get your attention, check out the co-authors -- J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian. Now you KNOW you're in for some fun, right?

If you're still not sure, here's a bit from the introduction poem, "Introduction:"

"...But someday our fantastic cars
Might look like cool dark chocolate bars,

Banana splits, hot dogs or fish --
Or any kind of ride you wish..."

This book is all kinds of imaginative fun. The plays on words are groan-worthy, and the illustrations are a blast.

Poem-Mobiles was reviewed by Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup (check out the picture of the Teddy-Go-Cars -- doesn't that make you want to use up some of the leftover Halloween candy making Snickermobiles?)


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5. Biography in Poetry



Hello, I'm Johnny Cash
by G. Neri
illustrated by A.G. Ford
Candlewick Press, 2014

As I noted last Wednesday, J. Patrick Lewis' anthology title says it all: "Everything is a Poem." Last Thursday, we looked at science in poetry, Monday we looked at nature in poetry. Yesterday, the focus was on history in poetry, and today we'll take a look at biography in poetry. In one final post in this series, we'll have fun with imagination in poetry.

I grew up listening to my parents' Johnny Cash albums, and his Greatest Hits CD (The Essential Johnny Cash) is one of my go-to "setting up/cleaning up/putting to bed the classroom" sound tracks. I didn't know that much about his early life until I read this collection of poems.

Here is an excerpt from the final poem, "The Man in Black:"

"Hello,
I'm
Johnny
Cash"
is how he started
every concert from then on.
that simple statement
said it all.

Johnny Cash,
the poor country boy
from the cotton fields,
traveled the world
many times over,
where he sang
for presidents
and the homeless,
businessmen and farmers,
soldiers and prisoners alike.
It didn't matter how famous he got,
he never forgot
what it felt like to be cold,
miserable, and hungry.
Momma didn't have to
remind Johnny
that his gift was special.
He knew he was not its owner
but its caretaker.

Here's Johnny Cash in 1958, singing "I Walk the Line." Check out that wink at about the 50 second mark! **swoon**

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6. History in Poetry



Harlem Hellfighters
by J. Patrick Lewis
illustrated by Gary Kelley
Creative Editions, 2014

As I noted last Wednesday, J. Patrick Lewis' anthology title says it all: "Everything is a Poem." On Thursday, we looked at science in poetry, and yesterday we looked at nature in poetry. Today, the focus is on history in poetry. Upcoming posts include biography and imagination in poetry.

This gorgeously illustrated book of poetry for older readers teaches about 369th Infantry Regiment in World War I. Originally mobilized as the 15th New York National Guard, this group of 2,000 black American soldiers became famous not just for their tenacity on the battle field, but for the music they brought with them and which helped them to survive.

The tragic death of the band leader, James "Big Jim" Reese Europe, just a year after Armistice Day, gives this little-known story from WWI an extra measure of poignancy.


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7. Nature in Poetry




by David Elliott
illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
Candlewick Press, 2014

As I noted last Wednesday, J. Patrick Lewis' anthology title says it all: "Everything is a Poem." On Thursday, we looked at science in poetry. Today, the focus is on nature in poetry -- specifically, birds. Upcoming posts include history, biography and imagination in poetry.

My students and I have loved David Elliott's short, pithy poems in his collections On the Farm, In the Wild, and In the Sea. In this book, the essence of seventeen species of birds, from the ordinary sparrow to the exotic Japanese Crane pictured on the cover are captured in Elliott's words and Becca Stadtlander's gorgeous and evocative illustrations.

Sadly, last June, Holly Meade, David Elliott's illustrator for the other books in this series (On the Farm, In the Wild, In the Sea) died at age 56. David Elliott dedicates this book to her.


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8. Science in Poetry



Winter Bees: & Other Poems of the Cold
by Joyce Sidman
illustrated by Rick Allen
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2014

As I noted yesterday, J. Patrick Lewis' anthology title says it all: "Everything is a Poem." Today we'll look at science in poetry. Upcoming posts include nature, history, biography and imagination in poetry.

Joyce Sidman's Winter Bees is the perfect book to usher in this year's first Polar Vortex. Every day, compliments of the TV weather reporters, we are getting a science lesson in meteorology. Sidman's book will answer questions about how animals survive in the cold.

Each of the dozen poems, most about animals ranging in size from moose to springtail, but also including trees and snowflakes, is accompanied by a short sidebar of scientific information that expands the scope of this book to topics such as migration, hibernation, and the shape of water molecules, and introduces such delicious vocabulary as brumate, ectothermic, furcula, and subnivean.

The illustrations are simply gorgeous. You will want to spend as much time with them as you do savoring Joyce's poems. Watch out for that fox -- s/he wanders throughout the book!

As you and your students explore this book and Joyce's others, don't forget to check out Joyce's website. It is a treasure-trove for readers, writers, and dog lovers.


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9. Everything is a Poem




by J. Patrick Lewis
illustrated by Maria Cristina Pritelli
Creative Editions, 2014

What is more fun than a whole shelf full of J. Patrick Lewis poetry books? An anthology with all of his best poems collected between its covers!

Knowing that Pat has published a shelf-full of poetry books, one wonders how on earth he picked these "bests" that can be found in such wide-ranging topics in the table of contents as Animals, People, Reading, Sports, Riddles and Epitaphs, Mother Nature, Places, and A Mix?

Inspired by his title, I have prepared a series of posts that will spotlight 2014 poetry books that feature poetry in science, nature, history, biography, and the imagination. Stay tuned!


Over at No Water River, Renee reviewed Everything is a Poem last summer. For a peek at the illustrations and some of the poems, head on over there now.

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10. Reading a Poetry Book With Nonfiction Eyes




The Poem that Will Not End
by Joan Bransfield Graham
illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker
Two Lions, 2014

Like many new nonfiction picture books, this book has lots going on on every page. There is the main text -- the poem-story of how Ryan O'Brian's brain is taken over by rhythm and rhyme -- accompanied by the poems Ryan O'Brian writes as he goes through his day. There are detailed and entertaining illustrations that elaborate on Ryan O'Brian's adventures. At the end of the book, there is more information about the different forms (19 in all!) and the different voices (narrative, lyrical, mask, apostrophe, conversational) he uses in his poems.

So, in the same way that a multi-text nonfiction book can be read and re-read for many purposes, this is a book that readers can return to again and again. It will be interesting to share this book next to a nonfiction book in a minilesson in reading workshop on text structures. In writing workshop, I can share it as a resource for examples of poetry forms and voices. On Poetry Friday, we can be entertained by the main story, or any one of Ryan's poems.

Lots of possibilities here!


Last January, the book launch blog tour began with Sylvia at Poetry For Children. Check the links at the bottom of her post for other blogs on the tour.

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11. The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart




by Dan Gemeinhart
Scholastic, January 2015
ARC provided by the publisher

This review copy came to me packaged in an interesting way. In a heavy ziplock bag labeled "THREE THINGS YOU NEED TO READ The Honest Truth" were these items:


a postcard from Mount Rainier, a carabiner, and a package of tissues. Actually, even the ziplock bag wound up being important to the story.

This is the story of a kid named Mark, who has a best friend (who happens to be a girl but who is NOT a girlfriend) Jessie, and another best friend who is a dog named Beau. It is a story of the deep and powerful bond of friends.

Mark writes haiku in his notebook. He takes photographs with an old-school camera that uses film. This is the story about the healing power of art.

This is a story full of spirit and heart. It's a story that makes you rage at the unfairness of life and cheer for all the angels that take care of strangers every day in a million small ways.

This is a story of a boy who runs away from home to climb Mount Rainier. It's about the need for big goals so that you can prove to yourself and the world that you are still in control of your life. It's about surviving the storm so that you get a chance to glimpse the sun coming out from under the clouds at the other end of it.

I apologize for reviewing this book so far in advance of its release date. You will want to read it. It's Dan Gemeinhart's debut novel. We will all want to read more from him.

On a separate but related note, I am going to invite my students to "market" a book they've read this year using the "three things you need to read this book" idea. Once upon a time, that might have seemed like a trite way to ask students to respond to their reading. Now it's marketing. Hmm...



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12. A Workshop of the Possible*


As part of a continuous collaboration among educators interested in digital learningMargaret Simon hosts a weekly Digital Learning round-up on her blog:  DigiLit Sunday.  Stop by Reflections on the Teche (today's link-up) to read, discover, and link.  


You may be following the conversation that is happening around the blog world this week--on whether technology has a place in our elementary classrooms. Troy Hicks and Kristin Ziemke responded to a post by Nancie Atwell and then the conversation continued with brilliant posts from Cathy Mere and others.

 Let me start by saying this .  Nancie Atwell is my hero. She taught me about workshop and gave me my grounding as a reading and writing teacher.  And I can't wait to read her newest edition of In The Middle.   Disagreeing with Nancie is a hard thing for me to do.  I do disagree with her on this one, though.   However, I was where Nancie is.  I did not come to using technology in the classroom quickly or happily.  I did not see its power until very recently.

My Own Journey
As a writer, I remember the day that I said that I could never imagine myself composing on a computer-that I liked my yellow legal pad, that I could see myself using the computer for a final draft, but I could not imagine those first steps of the writing process without paper.

But that was when the ways we could tell stories were limited. That was when I told stories of my classroom with words and a few photos. That's when I carried overhead transparencies of those photos to tell my story at conferences and workshops.

I think back to that day and realize that I could not imagine using the computer for composing because I had no idea what was possible.  I had no idea that one day I'd be able to tell my story with words and images and videos and hyperlinks. I had no idea that I'd be able to carry my photos and notes and links with me on a phone that is small enough to fit in my purse.  I had no idea that I would no longer need a publisher to have an audience for my stories or that I could connect with others who were telling stories of their classrooms. I had no idea that these stories would connect me to people around the world.

I feel like an elder telling of the time I had to walk through the snow to school, but I am old enough to have gone through this process and to work through what these changes mean for the classroom. Nancie Atwell taught me about authenticity and ownership and it is something that has stayed with me and that has kept me grounded.  It is also one that has been challenging to uphold these last few years as technology seems to have changed everything.  It is the message of authenticity and ownership that has forced me to open up my mind to how technology is changing literacy.

I did not start using technology in the classroom quickly or without a fight either. I kind of came in kicking and screaming.  I used technology a bit, but the ways I saw technology being used in the classroom went against everything I knew about authenticity and ownership. It went against all I knew about literacy learning.  I saw kids watching videos and kids playing games and kids typing projects that they could have handwritten in half the time.   I did not see the reason to take one minute from what I was doing in order to add technology to my already successful workshop.

Then I was put on an NCTE committee to study digital literacy.  I was on a committee with brilliant people who understood the power of digital tools and the impact these tools were having on literacy far better than I ever could. Listening and learning with this group of people helped me to see that this conversation was not about technology but it was about literacy.  I'm not sure what was said, but I remember a moment in the meeting where I thought, "OH, that's what is possible?" From then on I realized technology was a game changer and that because of it, the very definition of what it means to be literate was changing. I realized that these tools could empower our students as readers and writers in ways that were not possible before.

Since my kicking and screaming days,  I've forced myself  to dig in and to see what I was missing. I have learned from so many people and dug into what is possible. Troy Hicks' work on Digital Writing Workshop and Kristen Ziemke's work with first graders have been critical to my current stance.  I found people who understood both literacy and technology and listened to their thinking. I learned from Bud Hunt, Kevin Hodgson, Sara Kajder, Bill BassChris Lehman, Will Richardson, Angela Maiers, Kathy Cassidy, Katharine Hale and so so so many others.  And I have only been able to learn from these people because of the ways writing has changed--I am able to follow their blogs, have conversations on Twitter and respond and reflect on my own blog.

I've always believed in a workshop of the possible, in a workshop where children in our classrooms can discover what it means to be a reader and a writer. I want my students to discover all that is possible so they can be intentional and thoughtful.  And I want their reading and writing lives in school to be authentic and the classroom experiences to help kids see what it means to be a reader and a writer today.

In the Classroom
My kids don't see technology in the same way that I do---instead they see it as one tool for communication. Even at age 8, they are fluent in their use of these tools and intentional about the ways they use them to meet their needs.  I have students who blog regularly and the growth they've had as writers because they have an audience every day is stunning. I have writers who use their iPods to set reminders so that they do not forget their weekly blog series post.  I have readers who annotate on iBooks and then use those annotations to write book reviews to share with classmates.  Of course, this doesn't happen with the teaching focused on writing--craft, organization, genre, etc. The key is that the teaching focuses on the writing, not the tool.

This is a photo I took last year because I was so amazed by what I saw. Students spread out on the floor using digital and traditional tools together to work through something. I see this over and over and over each day. The tools are not the focus, but they open up possibilities for learning in so many ways.



Just this week, I saw how much the technology is embedded in all that our students do as readers and writers. 12 students met before school to discuss the graphic novel, Sisters by Raina Telgemeier while enjoying donuts.  In the discussion, one of them realized that this was a personal narrative (a writing unit of study we are in the midst of this month). Kids dug into the book again to look at her other books and realized that they too were most likely narratives--stories from her childhood.  They asked if we could tweet the author to ask whether she planned to write more stories from her childhood.   They also decided they might want to try some narratives in graphic novel form so I did a 2 minute intro to Comic Life that kids could explore at another time.

During the 30 minute talk, students:

-read a paper copy of the book and used sticky notes to annotate.
-sent a few tweets to the author with questions they had about her writing.
-invited a class from another state (via Twitter) to have a morning book club via Skype sometime in the future
-tried out Comic Life as a way to play with what they knew about writing narrative in another format
-discovered the power of real photos like the ones the author added to the end of her book, to add power to a narrative
-handed books to friends who hadn't been part of the morning chat
-looked up other books by this author online
-used sticky notes and conversation to write blog posts about the book and the club

The way the world works is changing and so then is literacy.  Technology allows us to do things as readers and as writers that we couldn't do before. For our kids, this is no big deal. Moving between devices depending on what they need to do as readers and writers is natural for them.  It is no big deal in our classroom to have a book club going on where a few kids have a paper copy of the book while others have an iBook version.  It is no big deal when one person decides to draft a piece of writing in a notebook while another uses the Notes app on his iPod touch. It is no big deal when one child blogs next to a child with a writing folder.

Our jobs as literacy teachers is to harness authentic literacy and to move kids forward with a variety of tools. Our classrooms have to change and our teaching has to change if we want to run a true workshop--where readers and writers are immersed in authenticity.

Not An Either/Or Conversation

I so worry when we make this a yes/no conversation--when I read articles that say exactly how much time kids should spend on technology. I worry about libraries that are getting rid of books to make room for computers and devices. I worry when someone says mobile devices have no place in our primary classrooms. This can't be an either/or conversation.

I took this picture in a recent workshop:

Once I started noticing how often we use a variety of tools AT ONE TIME, I see images like this everywhere. A reminder to me that this can never be an either/or conversation.

An Important Conversation
This is a conversation we need to keep having-across levels.  For those of us committed to literacy workshops, it is a topic we can't afford to ignore.  As literacy teachers, we need to be open to what is possible. Over the past several years I have learned what is possible with digital literacy.
And we can't be afraid to disagree with each other, to ask questions and to study.  We have to be okay with not having a for-sure answer. We have to dig in and figure out how to remain authentic and how to use these tools to help our students grow as readers and writers.  We each have our own vision of what is possible in our workshops. But my thinking is we haven't even scratched the surface.


*The title of this blog post was borrowed from another one of my all time professional books: A Workshop of the Possible by Ruth Shagoury Hubbard 

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13. Poetry Friday -- Shadow


Flickr Creative Commons Photo


Shadow

The shadow before me shimmers,
then waddles,
then has a white stripe
and a tail that's lifting
as I'm backing away
hands up
not a word.

I'm just a tall shadow
that will disappear as suddenly
as it appeared.

We both walk away
more wary,
changed.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2014



Early morning walkers in our neighborhood can't afford not to be watchful.


Speaking of watching...I'll be watching for many of YOU at NCTE! I was going to try to plan an official Poetry Friday Meet-Up, but it's going to be a busy couple of days. Hopefully I'll see you at one or more of these Poetry and Poetry Friday Peeps' events:

THURSDAY: 
Elementary Section Get-Together where our very own Margaret Simon of Reflections on the Teche will be recognized as the Donald Graves writing teacher of the year!  4:30 PM - 6:00 PM in Gaylord National Resort, Maryland 1/2/3/A

SATURDAY:
NCTE Committee on Excellence in Children's Poetry is presenting a review of the 2014 Notable Poetry Books (2013 pub. date) 11:00 AM - 12:15 PM in Gaylord National Resort, National Harbor 12

Books for Children Luncheon with speaker Jacqueline Woodson. The 2014 NCTE Committee on Excellence in Children's Poetry will announce the children's poet who has been selected for the 2015 NCTE Award for Excellence in Poetry for Children 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM in Gaylord National Resort, Maryland C

CLA Master Class: Reading Poetry Across the Curriculum (roundtables hosted by Paige Bentley-Flannery, Jacqueline Jules, Heidi Mordhorst, and me; chairs/respondents include Laura Salas, Janet Wong, Sylvia Vardell, Tricia Stohr-Hunt, and Katie Button) 5:45 PM - 7:00 PM in Gaylord National Resort, Chesapeake J/K/L

SUNDAY:
Poem as Storyteller: Collaborating with Authors to Write Narrative Poetry (Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Irene Latham, Katie DiCesare, Ann Marie Corgill, Kathy Collins) 12:00 PM - 1:15 PM in Gaylord National Resort, Chesapeake 4/5



Diane has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Random Noodling this week.



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14. October Mosaic

































Row 1: Kitten at the car museum (your inference is correct), last of the summer bumblers, Red Sky in the Morning...Sailor Take Warning, October Fest at the Crest, spectacular fungi in our neighbor's garden.

Row 2: First blush of color in the trees, amazing package from Steps and Staircases Lisa, grumpy bunny at the Fairfield County Fair, truth in advertising (at the fair), wacky rooster (at the fair).

Row 3: Budweiser Clydesdales and their dog (at the fair), rides and midway (at the fair), wine tasting near Circleville, dried fruit and nuts to cleanse our palates, Ohio cheese tasting (Food for Thought event) at Old Worthington Library.

Row 4: Fall color on the branch, fall color on the ground, preying mantis on the bike path, AJ on the bike path, me on the bike path.

Row 5: View on the bike path, Jeni's reward midway through a 4 hour bike ride, Mona Lisa mural in the Short North, Brunch and Books was at Tasi (YUM!), plethora of acorns in the front bed.

Row 6: My favorite gingko tree in full regalia, Jeni's reward at the end of a 2 hour bike ride, 2014 pumpkins.



Sigh. I love October. And it always goes WAY too fast.

(You can see all the pictures on Flickr here.)


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15. Born in the Wild by LIta Judge

I've been a fan of Lita Judge for a while so I preordered her her book Born in the Wild: Baby Mammals and Their Parents by Lita Judge. This is a nonfiction book and I wasn't sure what to expect.  But I fell in love with it immediately. The book teaches readers about various mammals and the things that the babies need.  How a baby animal is born, how and what different animals eat, how they stay safe and more are included in this book. The organization focuses on the similarities between animals and the descriptions show the unique differences between animals.  The illustrations are adorable. My biggest surprise was how much information is in this book.  Each spread has a few paragraphs of text and it is longer than the typical picture book (48 pages instead of 32).  The back of the book includes more information on each animal mentioned as well as a glossary and a list of great websites for more information on animals.  This book would make a fabulous read aloud and I can see lots of minilessons coming from the book. It is also a great tie-in to our science curriculum. So love this book and hoping we see more nonfiction from Lita Judge in the near future!  Really a perfect nonfiction picture book!



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16. Celebrating Barbara O'Connor!

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 author, Barbara O'Connor.  We LOVE Barbara O'Connor. If you search "Barbara O'Connor" on our blog, you will see how obsessed with her books we actually are. We mention Barbara quite often, as a matter of fact!  How could we not love her so much? Her books are brilliant! She knows how to write for middle grade students in a way that is just right--she has a respect for these 8-12 year olds as human beings that comes out in all of her writing. So there's that. 


But there is also the voice she brings to the Kidlitosphere. Her blog celebrates literacy and children and teachers and schools.  She shares school visits and letters from her young fans. Her blog post and Facebook/Twitter (@barbaraoconnor) updates let us in on her life as a writer and as a person. She is generous with her time and seems to always make time for the children and teachers who are big fans of her work. The honesty and joy she brings to the conversation is one we celebrate today!


To honor Barbara, we made a donation to Bark and Read, an organization that promotes dogs in schools as reading volunteers. We thought this was a perfect tribute to Barbara O'Conner because it combines three things she cares about--literacy, children and dogs.  We think this organization is brilliant and have made a $25 donation in Barabara's honor.

Please help us celebrate Barbara O'Connor for all she does to celebrate children, teachers and schools!

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17. Poetry Friday -- The Halloween Tree


 "Always the same but different, eh? every age, every time. Day was always over. Night was always coming. And weren't you always afraid, Apeman there? or you, Mummy, that the sun will never rise again?"

"Yesss," more of them whispered.

And they looked up through the levels of the great house and saw every age, every story and all the men in history staring round about as the sun rose and set. Apemen trembled. Egyptians cried laments. Greeks and Romans paraded their dead. Summer fell dead. Winter put it in the grave. A billion voices wept...Then, with cries of delight, ten thousand times a million men welcomed back bright summer suns which rose to burn each window with fire!

"Do you see lads? Think! People vanished forever. They died, oh Lord, they died! but came back in dreams. Those dreams were called Ghosts, and frightened men in every age..."



"Night and day. Summer and winter, boys. Seedtime and harvest. Life and death. That's what Halloween is, all rolled up in one. Noon and midnight. Being born, boys. Rolling over, playing dead like dogs, lads. And getting up again, barking, racing through thousands of years of death each day and each night Halloween, boys, every night, every single night dark and fearful until at last you made it and hid in cities and towns and had some rest and could get your breath.

"And you began to live longer and have more time, and space out the deaths and put away fear, and at last have only special days in each year when you thought of night and dawn and spring and autumn and being born and being dead.


"And it all adds up. Four thousand years ago, one hundred years ago, this year, one place or another, but the celebrations all the same -- "

"The Feast of Samhain --"
"The Time of the Dead Ones -- "
"All Souls'. All Saints'."
"The Day of the Dead."
"El Dia De Muerte."
"All Hallows'."
"Halloween."

The boys sent their frail voices up, up through the levels of time, from al the countries, and all the ages, naming the holidays which were the same.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Trick or Treat!

This prose poem is from near the end of THE HALLOWEEN TREE by Ray Bradbury. The whole book is one long love song to Halloween -- a fantastic historical romp through times and ages, led by Mr. Moundshroud himself, and exploring what this time of death has meant and still means today.

Our beggars are out tonight, disguised in all manner of classic and modern costumes, braving the chill and the early dark, crunching through the dead leaves on the sidewalk, shouting at strangers, and receiving candy in their bags and baskets and buckets as the tradition of the celebration of death lives on.

Linda has the Poetry Friday roundup at TeacherDance.


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18. Google Drive in the 5th Grade Classroom

It was fascinating to read Franki's post about Google Drive in her 3rd grade classroom, and reflect on how different this digital tool looks in my 5th grade classroom.

Before my students ever logged on, I shared a Doc with links to our guidance counselor's survey, and a survey I created to learn about my students' tech use at home (both in Forms). I also shared an editable Doc with a list of the characters we had met so far in our first read aloud, Room 214 by Helen Frost. I had them try to add details about each character simultaneously to show them the fun and madness that happens when too many people are working on the same thing at the same time. I had plenty of cleanup to do after we finished, but we continued to use this Doc as a digital anchor chart about the characters all through the rest of the book. In the very first sessions with Google Drive, my students also created Docs for the stories they would write about their Brown Bag item, and learned how to share with me.

The best part of continuing to roll out Google Drive has been working collaboratively with our fabulous Media Specialist, Marisa Saelzler.

When we moved on to comparing and contrasting characters, she taught my students how to use the Draw tools, and they made a Venn Diagram about two characters in The 14th Goldfish.

To introduce them to all of the tools in the universal tool bar, they made "About Me" posters (not sure if those are in Docs or Draw).

The next tool I'd like my students to use is Presentation. Now that I've figured out how they can get the photos and videos they take of their work in Genius Hour from the iPads to their Google Drive via the Google Drive app, I would like them to make a sort of digital portfolio or reflection log about the work they do in Genius Hour. Sure enough, Marisa will be previewing Presentation with my students during their time with her so that we can just jump right in with using the tool.

I've had some pretty spectacular failures with Google Drive. I thought it would be great if the students could share a piece of writing with a couple of friends and have digital peer conferences. Whoa! It was a chat-fest gone mad! A teacher-sanctioned IM party! And to top it off, even though we shared with "view only," they wound up being able to make changes in each others' stories. Not good. We haven't gone back there. Comments are now reserved for a conversation between me and the student. We keep peer conferences out in the open air.

Just yesterday, I followed the advice I gave myself long ago about hallway displays -- if it's something the students can do, let THEM do it (cutting out letters, etc). I like to have a slide show of images to go with the roots/bases words we're working on in word study since for some students they can be spelling words, and for others, they are new vocabulary. I hadn't had a chance to make one for our ped/pod words, so I shared the list of our words with a group of students who had finished their 3 Pigs Variant story (that's another post for another time) and they set to work gathering images.

One final note. Having student writing in Google Drive (and on Kidblog) is a fabulous thing. We can work on their writing in live time. They are much more receptive to revision and editing on a digital piece of writing. And I am flooded with what could be hours of reading and commenting on a daily basis. I am thankful for my somewhat OCD organization inside my Drive. My "Incoming" or "Shared With Me" is a hot mess of files from kids and colleagues that are in chronological order. Not helpful. I bring over the writing they share with me and house it in a folder on my Drive.

Here is My Drive. Nice and tidy.  :-)




Here is a peek inside the 2014-15 Kid Files folder in My Drive. Nice and tidy.  :-)



This has been a long post without many pictures, but thanks for staying with me to the end. Google Drive is an amazing tool with limitless potential. We have barely dipped our toes in the water. What have been some of your favorite discoveries or ways to use Drive in your classroom?


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19. 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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20. 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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21. 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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22. 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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23. Google Drive in the 3rd Grade Classroom

Our district went Google this year and I've been wanting to take advantage of all the ways Google Drive allows for collaboration and creation.  So a few weeks ago we jumped in. I set up a doc and shared it with various groups of kids to work on.  Everyone signed in at once and it was a chaotic disaster.  I realized that I had forgotten one of the most important things I've learned as a 3rd grade teacher when it comes to new tools--that a shared experience is the best way for kids to see what is possible.  Instead of just sending kids off to explore a tool that they know nothing about, using the tools in shared experience can often give them a vision for what is possible.  So this week, we used Google Docs in two ways.


We did a Google Hangout with Colby Sharp's class on Friday.  We are trying to get together via Skye or GHO regularly about math and this week my students taught his students a math game. It was a game that requires a board and guessing. So, before the Hangout began, I shared the board with Colby in Google Drive. When we were in the Google Hangout, we shared the document on the screen so both classes could fill out the board and watch the game progress. (This is a game where one player/class guesses a number and the other player/class lets them know how many digits and numbers are correct. The kids enjoyed playing but were really excited about the way we both shared the same board and we could see Mr. Sharp's class adding a guess to the board.


Another thing we did this week was to preview our next read aloud.  We'll be starting The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane this week and I wanted to give kids time to preview the book before we begin. So I took photos of each piece of the book that one would preview (the epigraph, cover, illustrations before the title page, first page of the book). I included these in a Google Doc and gave kids the link for commenting.

These two things have given kids ideas for what is possible.  Doing a few things in a shared way always gets kids to play around and then imagine what else can be done with a tool.  This week in math, we'll use Google Forms for some surveying with a data lesson.  There are so many tools I am comfortable with and that I really don't even need to think about using in this shared way. Google is not one of those tools....yet. So I am trying to be better about embedding it naturally into what we do so students can see what is possible for their independent work.

My husband, Scott Sibberson, has lots on his blog about what Google offers. I need  to really dig into this more over the next few weeks.

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24. Jessica Day George

We were lucky to have Jessica Day George visit our school last week. It was very exciting for everyone and the kids are still talking and writing about the day. Thank you to Cover to Cover Bookstore for this opportunity!

Not sure when I discovered Jessica Day George but I have loved her books for years. I love fairy tales and I especially love to see new versions of tales I love.  I think I stared  reading Jessica Day George with her book, Dragon Slippers. A few years ago, my younger daughter and I were hooked on her middle school princess series (Princess of the Midnight Ball, Princess of Glass). And of course, I loved Tuesdays at the Castle when I read it a few years ago.  I love every book she's written.

Jessica Day George doesn't know it, but she is one of my favorite people to follow on Goodreads. We seem to have the exact same taste in books. And why wouldn't we--she writes the books I love to read. She is my go-to person when it comes to adult fiction. If Jessica gives a novel a 5 star rating, it is one I definitely check out.  

Jessica is touring because her new book, Thursdays With the Crown has just been published. This is the 3rd book in the Tuesdays at the Castle series).  Tuesdays at the Castle was the well loved by students in grades 3, 4, and 5. Most classrooms shared the book as a read aloud. I worried early on that it would be too hard for my 3rd graders but I was wrong. We had to do a lot of thinking and talking early in the book. Before we began, we thought about fairy tales we knew and created a chart listing Things We Could Expect, knowing it was a fairy tale.  We listened to the audio version of the book as I wanted my kids to have the experience of an audiobook. The audio is fabulous and the kids really enjoyed the book.  They talk about Celie sometimes like she is a member of our classroom.

There is nothing like having an author that kids connect with visit a school. After the excitement of getting books autographed wore off (it is still not quite worn off), I listened in on what it was that Jessica Day George told them that stuck. What would stay with them about her visit? First of all, they loved her--there was lots of laughing and humor in her talk and I think kids liked knowing that this author they loved was a real person, someone they liked a lot.  She shared the book that changed her and that inspired her to be a writer. She was also very honest about her rejections and let kids know that she didn't get her books published until she wrote what she loved to write. She talked to kids about the process of revision.     The story of her writing life is a powerful one and she shared it in a way that made sense to young children.

Jessica Day George is definitely a rock star at Indian Run Elementary.  Her visit was a day that I think most kids will remember for a very long time. A definite highlight of the year for the kids. And for me, what a great day to be able to meet one of my favorite authors with my students!              

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25. Slice of Life: Lost and Found Writing


Almost 20 years ago, we lived in a neighborhood with a magnificent gingko tree at the end of our street. It stood, not in a yard, but in front of an industrial business. One autumn morning, when I was out early walking the dog, I found the tree, which had been full of yellow light just the day before, a skeleton of bare branches with a perfect circle of yellow leaves on the ground underneath it. I went home and wrote this story.

*   *   *   *   *

In the Way Back, in the time of naming things, Earth Woman lived beside the Gingko Tree. 

During the Hot Time, its fan-shaped leaves cooled her all through her working days. 

As the nights grew chilly and the days shortened, Earth Woman was more and more thankful for the warmth of her fire.

One morning, Earth Woman noticed that the tree who had fanned her in the Hot Time had turned the bright yellow of the flames of her fire. Even though the tree gave off no heat, its yellow light warmed her all through her working days.

Soon there came a night of sharp frost, and the day that followed was no warmer. The Cold Time had stopped teasing and had finally arrived. 

Earth Woman sat in the yellow light of the Gingko Tree and pulled her blankets more tightly around her on that first morning of the Cold Time. She turned her thoughts back to the Hot Time and thanked the Spirits for all of the particular joys of that time. Then she said goodbye to those memories as she prepared to embrace each of the particular joys of the Cold Time.

As she began releasing her memories, she heard a faint rustling around her and felt light kisses on her head and shoulders and knees. She opened her eyes for a moment and saw that the Gingko was also releasing its memories in a steady flutter of leaves -- the yellow light, like shattered rays of sun or individual flames of fire, was leaving the tree to join Earth Woman on the ground.

Earth Woman smiled, closed her eyes, and resumed her goodbyes.

When she opened her eyes again, the tree was bare and she sat in a pool of fallen light. Her memories of the Hot Time had all been released and she was ready to accept this first memory of the Cold Time. She looked around at the fallen leaves, the fallen light, and she named her first memory of the Cold Time. 

She named it Fall. 



*   *   *   *   *


On Sunday, we biked through our old neighborhood and then south for an hour in the glorious autumn sunshine. The gingko tree is still there, and so is the ghost of Earth Woman.






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