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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.
Statistics for A Year of Reading
Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 71
’T IS so much joy! ’T is so much joy!
If I should fail, what poverty!
And yet, as poor as I
Have ventured all upon a throw;
Have gained! Yes! Hesitated so
This side the victory!
Life is but life, and death but death!
Bliss is but bliss, and breath but breath!
And if, indeed, I fail,
At least to know the worst is sweet.
Defeat means nothing but defeat,
No drearier can prevail!
And if I gain,—oh, gun at sea,
Oh, bells that in the steeples be,
At first repeat it slow!
For heaven is a different thing
Conjectured, and waked sudden in,
And might o’erwhelm me so!
by Emily Dickinson
(bibliographic record for the poem here
You can see the poem in Emily's own handwriting here
Lots of great conversations these first couple of days of school about the importance of struggle, of perseverance, patience, and practice. Growth mindset. We watched Kid President talk about inventing
, and we read The Most Magnificent Thing
. I think we're ready to dive into the hard work of fifth grade.
I splurged yesterday and bought a little purple Moleskine journal to keep track of my "trout of the day
." We're two days in and I'm having a hard time picking one "trout." I'm thinking that bodes well for the year.
We've had a change in the Poetry Friday roundup this week. Irene is taking over for Robyn. Head over to Live Your Poem
to leave your link.
Teaching with Heart: Poetry that Speaks to the Courage to Teach
edited by Sam M. Intrator and Megan Scribner
review copy is my own, and will live on my shelf at school, ready to offer words of wisdom when I am in need
I have loved the first volume this duo edited, Teaching with Fire: Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach
for 10 years. The poems and accompanying essays have buoyed me up and carried me forward.
This new volume already has five poems sticky-noted for sharing, and dozens of others that made me nod and smile. In times when we have to keep stuff like this in mind
, it is good to have a place to go where our profession is valued, understood, and truly celebrated. This is a book I will turn to and thumb through many times throughout the school year, in good times and when I'm worn down and worn out.
Plus, how much fun is it to find my Poetry Month pal, Kevin Hodgson (Kevin's Meandering Mind
), right there on pages 18-20 in the section "Relentless Optimism" sharing "What Teachers Make
" by Taylor Mali (who wrote the introduction to the book)?!?!
In his introduction, Mali writes about still getting a feeling of "imminence" every fall, even though it's been since 2000 that teaching was his day job. He continues,
"For years I couldn't figure out why as a poet I still felt this way. But it makes perfect sense. Because on a very basic level, being a poet and being a teacher are inextricably linked. Whether teaching or writing, what I really am doing is shepherding revelation. I am the midwife to epiphany."
Today is our first day day with students. Nothing could be better than approaching this day as "the midwife to epiphany."
Scholastic has a boatload of great new picture books coming out later this month and in September! (ARCs provided by the publisher)
by Lucille Colondro
illustrated by Jared Lee
Scholastic, August 2014
I have a whole collection of "Lady Who Swallowed a..." books, beginning with my very first one from a Scholastic book fair when I was in elementary school. Lucille Colandro has written almost a dozen different versions. This one is okay, but if we're going to go with swallowing a fly, I like the traditional ending!
by Caryn Yacowitz
illustrated by David Slonim
Scholastic, August 2014
This version is hysterical! Not only does the old lady swallow everything you need to celebrate Chanukah, each item gets larger and impossibly larger, dreidel rhymes with fatal, AND...AND the illustrations are parodies of famous/sculptures in art history (details in the back matter)! So. Much. Fun.
by Diane and Christyan Fox
Scholastic, August 2014
Shelve this book with INTERRUPTING CHICKEN. Cat can't get very far with her reading of Little Red Riding Hood before Dog interrupts with some assumptions and questions. First of all, he hears "cape" and goes immediately to super powers. Then, he wonders (reasonably) why the wolf doesn't just eat Little Red right there in the woods. And so on.
Fun stuff from the beginning endpapers to the end endpapers.
Hope for Winter: The True Story of A Remarkable Dolphin Friendship
told by David Yates, Craig Hatkoff, Juliana Hatkoff, and Isabella Hatkoff
Scholastic, August 2014
Another great addition to this series (Owen & Mzee, Knut, Looking for Miza, Leo the Snow Leopard, Winter's Tail) about a rescued orphan dolphin who becomes a friend for Winter, the dolphin with a prosthetic tail.
And due out in late September, one I REALLY can't wait to add to my class library:
by Molly Bang & Penny Chisholm
illustrated by Molly Bang,
Scholastic, September 2014
Next up in the Sunlight Series, we learn how fossil fuels were made and exactly how the burning of fossil fuels is releasing carbon chains that have been stored for millions of year into our atmosphere and changing the climate of our planet. Narrated by the sun, this book (the whole series, actually) is a must-read for any student (or adult) who needs to understand energy and the role of our Sun in...well, everything!
To My Students
I am the riverbank
and you are the water.
You flow past me
year after year
a little wild.
I do my best
to ensure you
a safe passage
and teach you
and the ways of the world.
But you rush on.
to the familiar banks,
the remembered curves and shallows.
I will not know you,
and yet I will have
a deep memory of your passing.
wore me down
changed my direction
made me new.
©Mary Lee Hahn, date unknown
Yes, I used that photo for my SOL post on Tuesday
. Then later on Tuesday, I filled a giant recycling can with most of the contents of a filing cabinet that then left my classroom, providing a space for a shelf (emptied of professional books which migrated to the back cabinet, which was emptied of...) yadda yadda blah blah classroom setup. That's not the point of this story (but maybe I'll share some before and after pictures next week).
The point being, as I browsed through folders before flipping them into the recycling can, I found a folder of my writing from years back, including this poem. It builds nicely on the fishing theme from my SOL post.
Whatever You Are, Be a Good One: 100 Inspirational Quotations Hand-Lettered by Lisa Congdon
Chronicle Books, 2014
Why am I just learning about this artist? Why have I not been following a blog entitled, "Today is going to be awesome
I love this little book because I love quotes and I love calligraphy and I love giving myself crazy challenges (like writing a poem a day, or taking 30 pictures every month and then making a mosaic).
That's pretty much how this book was born (minus the poetry and photos). Lisa Congdon noticed that she gravitated toward art that included lettering, decided she wanted to get better at calligraphy, and then started a project where she published something hand lettered on her blog every day for a year in 2012: 365 Days of Hand Lettering
. I could get lost in her archives. It's pretty amazing that she started by just doing single letters that look clunky and forced, but within a month, her own unique style began to emerge. And then she started doing quotes. They are beautiful...unique...a perfect marriage of text and art.
Last year, instead of posting any class rules, I challenged each student to choose their very own "Words to Live By." Instead of one set of generic rules for 20+ individual students, we had 20+ individual rules to represent the fact that each person is the boss of his/her own self.
This year I want to help my students think about the graphic design of their Words to Live By posters that will hang around the classroom all year long. This will be our mentor text.
If I had known when we set out for our fly fishing trip to Vermont that I wouldn't catch a single fish, I probably wouldn't even have bothered to try.
Don't get me wrong, the trip was not a failure. There was the otter, the kingfisher, the B&Bs, the Orvis Outlet Store, Niagara Falls. There are a myriad of moment-uous memories. Just none that involved trout at the end of my line.
That got me thinking about high stakes testing. I "fish" my heart out for the entire school year, and invariably, I don't "catch" much. And then I beat myself up.
Well, this year's going to be different. I'm not going to worry about the year as a whole. Instead of taking one big trip that depends on a single outcome, I'm going to slice this year up into 180 daily jaunts. Whatever good comes with each day (whether I aim for it, or it happens in spite of my intentions) will be the "trout" of the day.
I know this isn't a new way of thinking, but it finally makes sense to me. And I'm going to go with it.
Let's check back in a couple of months and see how it's working out for me.
Until then, I'll wish you tight lines, and be sure you watch your back cast.
So excited that Mandy began a weekly time for us, as bloggers, to share our thinking about math teaching and learning. Today is the first Math Monday! You can find the round up on Mandy's Blog, Enjoy and Embrace Learning
Last year, our Math Workshop went pretty well. But not as well as I had hoped. One area I knew I had to work on was Opening Routines. I had read Number Talks the year before and used the Number Talk routine daily. But I found that it became very rote when it was the only routine I relied on. So I have really focused on new routines and have found some great resources to kick off quick routines and also to build on those routines through the year.
I started in the spring exploring the Howard County website
. There is a whole section on routines for 3rd grade so I read about some new routines that would support math learning.
Then I revisited Number Sense Routines: Building Numerical Literacy Every Day in Grades K-3
. This is a book from Stenhouse that I was familiar with but revisited this summer with 3rd graders in mind. As more of an intermediate teacher, it was helpful to remember all of the math tools that support kids when making sense of number. 3rd is on the upper end of primary but I find so many kids need more support than I think they do at this age. Lots of great ways to support number sense.
Finally, I discovered my favorite new resource for math routines. It is Minilessons for Math Practice, Grades 3-5
(there is a K-2 version, also)
. I bought this book because Mandy
had recommended it and I thought it would be filled with mini lesson ideas. But as I browsed through, they seemed more like opening routines to me. I noticed that the blurb on the back of the book said, "Designed to use during transition times, mini lessons require little or no preparation and take only 5-15 minutes to teach. These activities can be repeated throughout the school year...". These were the routines I was looking for.
The book focuses on Grades 3-5 and shares 27 routines. Each short chapter focuses on one routine. Ways to introduce the activity, student examples and ideas for extending the activity are part of each chapter. This is a great resource! So excited I discovered it!
I can't believe it is already time for #pb10for10! Thanks to Cathy (@cathymere) at Reflect and Refine
and Mandy (@mandyrobek) at Enjoy and Embrace Learning
for creating this great day of learning and books. It always turns out to be expensive for me as I always discover so many great books that didn't know about. It's one of my favorite blog holidays:-)
I decided this year that I'd share 10 books I'll use to kick off Genius Hour. I want my kids to understand what Genius Hour can be and each of these books give a message I want them to carry into Genius Hour. I doubt I'll really get through all of these books early in the year but these ten will start conversations that will help us have a vision for what Genius Hour can be. Whether you do Genius Hour or not, they all have a great message about learning.
by Peter Reynolds is a great story about thinking outside of the box and how thinking together is often better than thinking alone! I like the collaboration theme in this one.
by Eileen Spinelli is a great book that invites conversation around working toward goals, trying new things, etc.
The OK Book
is a simple book that reminds us that it is okay to not be great at everything--to try things and to just have fun with giving things a try, learning, and having fun.
Rosie Revere, Engineer
is a fun book about mistakes, not quitting and finding joy in the journey of discovery.
Bella & Bean
is one of my favorites. I love that it is the story of two friends and that one has a passion for poetry. Letting friends explore their passions and celebrating those with them is something I hope this book invites conversation around.
is a fun colorful picture book that reminds us that some of our best ideas come from mistakes!
Imagine a Day (Byron Preiss Book)
will invite conversations about imagining a perfect day at school. What would that mean for you? I want them to know they have ownership of their learning time.
In Rupert Can Dance
, Rupert keeps his love of dancing a secret for a while. We'll use this to talk about those things you always wanted to learn about or try.
Thank you to Cathy (@cathymere) at Reflect and Refine and Mandy (@mandyrobek) at Enjoy and Embrace Learning for inventing and now hosting the FIFTH annual Picture Book 10 for 10 event. It's always fun to see what books everyone chooses and how much we all spend!!
I've shared my beginning of the year favorite read-alouds for community building with so many teachers that it's time to find a new group of books to use! Thank you #pb10for10 for helping me find 10 titles that will get my students and me thinking about issues of fairness. I'm excited to have a mixture of contemporary fiction, historical fiction, folktales, music, and nonfiction. I'll supplement these books with poetry on the same theme.
I found this image without attribution on another blog. This will be our first "text" to "read" and discuss as we think about fairness and justice.
by Amy Krouse Rosenthal
illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld
This book will continue our discussions about fairness and equality.
by Rukhsana Khan
illustrated by Sophie Blackall
Sometimes we don't want to share, or take more responsibility
because we are older.
But it's important to remember that what comes around, goes around.
This book will help us to connect fairness and empathy.
Hopefully we will never miss the chance to be kind
to someone in our world.
Is it fair that the hummingbird is doing all the work?
Is it okay to make a situation more fair by using trickery?
The Red Hen
by Rebecca Emberley
illustrated by Ed Emberley
If you've done all the work, is it fair to keep all the rewards for yourself?
illustrated by Jerome Lagarrigue
With this book, we'll begin to connect fairness and Civil Rights. I'm hoping to read aloud the Kindle edition of Wiles' Revolution (The Sixties Trilogy)
Is it fair for children of all race, color, ethnicity and religion to go to American public schools?
I'm a new fan of Duncan Tonatiuh after hearing him speak at the CLA Monday Workshop last year.
This book will broaden students' understanding of desegregation
to include the struggles of Hispanic families.
We Shall Overcome: The Story of a Song
by Debbie Levy
illustrated by Vanessa Brantley-Newton
The story of this classic Civil Rights song will give us the "So What Now?" in this picture book unit. What will we do to work towards more fairness in our classroom, our building, our community, and our world?
The last of my Summer Poem Swap poems will be mailed tomorrow. I have combined my poems and photos to make magnets. I just about snorted my morning tea when I read this poem from The Writer's Almanac last month:
Poem on the Fridge
by Paul Hostovsky
The refrigerator is the highest honor
a poem can aspire to. The ultimate
publication. As close to food as words
can come. And this refrigerator poem
is honored to be here beneath its own
refrigerator magnet, which feels like a medal
pinned to its lapel. Stop here a moment
and listen to the poem humming to itself,
like a refrigerator itself, the song in its head
full of crisp, perishable notes that wither in air,
the words to the song lined up here like
a dispensary full of indispensable details:
a jar of corrugated green pickles, an array
of headless shrimp, fiery maraschino cherries,
a fruit salad, veggie platter, assortments of
cheeses and chilled French wines, a pink
bottle of amoxicillin: the poem is infectious.
It's having a party. The music, the revelry,
is seeping through this white door.
Leave your links in the comments and I'll round you up after water aerobics tonight and between meetings and classroom work on Friday.
I had a great reading week. Vacation and being in the car for 25+ hours helped! I've read some great books lately. I know I'll have far less time to read with school starting but glad to have read the books I did. Here are some of the great books I've read lately--love and recommend them all. Every single one was fabulous!
I just don't fit enough enough adult fiction so I made sure to do that on vacation last week. Both were great.LandlineWhere'd You Go, Bernadette: A Novel
In anticipation of Global Read Aloud
in October, I rereadThe Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane
WOW! I have always loved this book but haven't read it for probably 6 years. Loved it even more this time and am excited to share it with kids as part of Global Read Aloud.
A heartbreaking book set in the Lower Ninth Ward during Hurricane Katrina. Love the main character of this one. A Must Read!Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere
A novel in verse that is set in Guatemala during the civil war. A great book--I think this is probably intended for middle school.Caminar
by Skila Brown
A graphic novel (coming out in September) that I loved. Another Must Read!El Deafo
by Cece Bell
|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 the amazing author and educator, Kate Messner
. We have learned from Kate Messner in so many ways. Real Revision: Authors' Strategies to Share with Student Writers
was important for both of us as writers and teachers of writing. Her children's books
resonate with readers and have an important place in our classroom libraries. And as a former teacher she shares generously --she is an advocate of classroom visits by authors, offering free Skype visits to classes for many of her books, and maintaining an extensive list
of children's, YA, and adult authors who will also Skype for free.
But the reason we are celebrating Kate today is because of her blog
and her initiatives to support teachers--especially Teachers Write! Kate has worked tirelessly for the past several summers to support teacher writers. The community is a strong one and the Summer Camp is amazing.
To honor Kate, we we are making a donation to one of our favorite local organizations, The Brian Muha Foundation.
This is an organization that supports children in our local area. We love the story of the foundation and believe strongly in their mission. You can learn more about the foundation and the Run the Race Club
on their website.
This post originally appeared as a part of my 2013 Poetry Month Project: Common Inspiration--Uncommon Creations. I am working to gather my Poetry Month Projects and other assorted original poems on my website, Poetrepository
. I'm not any where near finished yet, but it's been fun to look back. A huge thank you to Amy LV for her website, The Poem Farm
, which was my "mentor text" for the design of my site. I chose this one for today because as you are reading it, I will be fly fishing in Vermont!
Margaret has today's roundup at Reflections on the Teche
. See you next week here at A Year of Reading for the Poetry Friday Roundup! Until then, I'll wish you "tight lines!"
I have been involved with Casting for Recovery
since 2005, when I was a participant. I have written about it many times here on the blog. Use the search box ("Casting for Recovery") to find these posts, if the spirit moves you. And if you want, you can even "like" the Ohio CFR Facebook Page
One of my favorite fishing memories happened in Maine when I treated myself to a trip to L.L. Bean's Women's Fly Fishing School. After I completed the classes, I fished on several rivers in Maine before returning home. One was much like the picture above, and although I wasn't dressed like that pre-1920's fisherwoman, I was standing on a large boulder, fishing alone. Alone, but not alone. A flock of cedar waxwings crowded the bank, chasing after the fly I was casting. I was having no luck with the fish, so I just stood quietly to enjoy the birds. When I had been still for a few minutes, one of the birds perched on the tip of my fly rod! My favorite fly fishing catch of all time!! Here's a haiku about that day:
RIVERBANK IN MAINE
Cedar waxwings flocked,
curious about my casts.
Calm fly rod: bird perch.
©Mary Lee Hahn, 2013
You might have noticed that there is no attribution for this picture. That's because it's in the Public Domain. Here's what Wikimedia Commons had to say about public domain as it relates to this photo:
"This Canadian work is in the public domain in Canada because its copyright has expired due to one of the following:
- 1. it was subject to Crown copyright and was first published more than 50 years ago, or
it was not subject to Crown copyright, and
- 2. it is a photograph that was created prior to January 1, 1949, or
- 3. the creator died more than 50 years ago.
- This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.
Public domain works must be out of copyright in both the United States and in the source country of the work in order to be hosted on the Commons. If the work is not a U.S. work, the file must have an additional copyright tag indicating the copyright status in the source country."
The theme of my 2013 National Poetry Month Project is
"Common Inspiration--Uncommon Creations."
Each day in April, I featured media from the Wikimedia Commons
("a database of 16,565,065 freely usable
media files to which anyone can contribute") along with bits and pieces of my brainstorming and both unfinished and finished poems.
I uesed the media to inspire my poetry, and I invited my students to use my daily media picks to inspire any original creation: poems, stories, comics, music, videos, sculptures, drawings...anything!
This month I'll tell stories by request. Want to know the story behind one (or more) of these photos? Identify the photo by row or column and position and then be sure to subscribe to the comments so you can see my reply. We'll be traveling today, so I'll get back to you later tonight.
Almost every month, inquiring minds want to know: How do I make my mosaics?
First, I take thirty or more (and sometimes less) pictures every month.
Next, I make a set on Flickr. (This month's set is here, and there are a couple of bonus photos from last night at the Birdseye Diner that didn't fit in the mosaic.)
Then, I go to Big Huge Labs and use their Mosaic Maker with the link to my Flickr photoset.
Finally, I download, save, insert, comment, and publish!
I'm really hoping to read a picture book a day this year as part of our morning meeting. I want to read one that is just for fun. So often I find great fun books but books with no real connection to what we are doing. I read lots of books aloud each day to my kids but they all seem connected to a lesson. I know the power of reading lots of books and I know that giving myself time each day to share one book "just because" every day will be something that grows. I think the books will come back into conversations and we'll have more books to learn from. This is really a routine that gives me permission to take 5-10 minutes to share a fun book--not as part of a mini lesson, not because it teaches something important, but just because it is a great book. I imagine these books that I read every morning will be read and reread during independent reading time, just because they are great books.
Of course I Want My Hat Back and Carnivores will be on my stack. (I would read those two aloud every day if I could justify it!) But, here are a few new books that I am excited to share because they are just great books.Here Comes the Easter Cat
is just HYSTERICAL. I laugh every time I read it. And no, I am not going to wait until Easter to read this book. It is way too good for that. It is funny any time of the year.Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas
city. This is a great story and one I fell in love with immediately. I wouldn't call this a "fun" book but definitely one that will go in my Morning Meeting Reads basket as one I want to share with kids just because it's a great story.Pardon Me!
is an almost wordless book and I do love those. It is a great story with amazing illustrations. And there are a few surprises along the way. I love a book with a good surprise!
I read EVERYTHING Peter Brown writes to my class. Mr. Tiger Goes Wild (Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards (Awards))
was a definite favorite last year. Peter Brown's new book, My Teacher is a Monster
is his newest and one I'm sure they'll love. I'm counting on this one to starts some great conversations too.
One of the jobs on Mom's to-do list for me last week was to hem a couple of pairs of pants for her.
I should back up to say that my mom was a Master Seamstress in her day, trained under the iron rule of her mother, who was a Home-Ec teacher. (Raise your hand if you even know what Home-Ec is...yeah, I thought so...) When Mom started to teach me to sew, we nearly came to blows. She is a perfectionist. I am a generalist. But she cared enough that I learn to sew that she bought me sewing lessons from a teacher who was a little less like her and a little more like me. I became a functional seamstress.
Teaching Lesson #1 -- If you are not the right teacher for a student, have the humility to find the teacher who can best teach that learner.
After we got the pants measured and pinned, I went to work. I wanted to do a really good job. I wanted to make Mom proud that I'm at least a functional seamstress, and maybe just a little better than that. But I was having problems. The legs of the pants were tapered at the bottom, so the hemming was turning out bunchy. Since I wanted to do a really good job, I asked for help.
Learning Lesson #1 -- If it's not turning out the way you want it to, have the humility to ask for help.
I didn't even have the question out of my mouth before Mom knew what the problem was: the tapering. She came and showed me that if I switched the pins from horizontal to the hem to perpendicular to the hem my work would lay flatter. Then she confirmed my suspicion that it would help to take bigger stitches. Then she left me to it.
Teaching Lesson #2 -- Give just enough help to get the learning going again and then get out of the way.
Hemming the second pair of pants when smoothly. I didn't have to cut any off, the fabric was more considerate, and I was back in the groove of hand-hemming. My stitches were quick and even.
Learning Lesson #2 -- Just because one task is frustrating doesn't mean that every task like that is going to be frustrating. Don't give up. Persevere when things get hard...but also remember to enjoy the feeling when things go smoothly.
Teaching and learning...and hemming pants. Good stuff.
Last week, we went on an annual trip to IKEA and Joseph Beth Bookstore. It is a fun way to get our heads back into school and to pick up some new books. This year, I discovered a new informational book series for young readers-the Did You Know? series by Laura Lyn DiSiena and Hanna Eliot. It will be perfect for 3rd grade and I think younger and older students would like it too.
The first book I read was Hippos Can't Swim: and other fun facts (Did You Know?)
. Kids LOVE facts. Isolated facts that are just fun to know. I worry a bit about this because so many kids read nonfiction and just collect facts without going further. This series of books is full of facts. I usually avoid books like that as there are enough out there. But this series is different. The facts are more than just a sentence fact. They are embedded in an explanation and connected to other facts in ways that build some understanding. For kids who are used to reading facts only, this is a great series to push them a little bit and to see how facts fit into bigger ideas and understandings.
These are great books for kids who need a bit of support reading nonfiction. I can see using them as read alouds or in small groups. But I think for all kids, these will be great reads for independent reading and kids will be able to read them cover to cover. The illustrations are fun with adorable animals doing crazy things everywhere. I think these illustrations will be great for kids who avoid nonfiction because they have a limited definition of what it can be. These don't look like your typical nonfiction book.
Right now, I think there are 3 books in the series. But 4 more are due out over the next several months. Woohooo!
You Are There
by Erica Jong
You are there.
You have always been
Even when you thought
you were climbing
you had already arrived.
Even when you were
you were at rest.
Even then it was clear
you were there.
Not in our nature
to know what
is journey and what
Even if we knew
we would not admit.
Even if we lived
we would think
we were just
To live is to be
at the end.
June and July have been travel months of for me: Indiana, Hocking Hills, Michigan, Colorado, and next up, Vermont. I like Erica Jong's answer to the question, "Where am I?"
As Back to School ads and sales rev up and I feel like I should be thinking even more about the upcoming school year than I already am (no school nightmares yet, though...knock wood), I will hold onto that last stanza.
I Kill the Mockingbird
by Paul Acampora
Roaring Brook Press, 2014
review copy from the public library, but I'll be buying a copy so I can transfer all my dog-eared pages
We rarely review YA books, but exceptions can be made.
This is a book for book lovers.
Three good friends on the brink of high school hatch a fake conspiracy to ensure that everyone will actually read their summer reading assignment -- To Kill a Mockingbird.
There's a romance subplot, a cancer subplot, and a poke-mild-fun-at-Catholics subplot. There are literary allusions to children's literature right and left (the three good friends are, and have always been Readers).
Oh, and there's a teaching subplot. Mr. Nowak, Fat Bob, has these words of wisdom before he dies of a massive coronary:
"It's not enough to know what all the words mean," he continued. "A good reader starts to see what an enritre book is trying to say. And then a good reader will have something to say in return. If you're reading well," he told us, "you're having a conversation."
I raised my hand. "A conversation with who?"
"With the characters in the book," said Mr. Nowak. "With the author. With friends and fellow readers. A book connects you to the universe like a cell phone connects you to the Internet."
Mr. Nowak's the one who inspires the three culprits who hatch the I Kill the Mockingbird plan. And in the end,
"All the teachers are talking about it...If you're a teacher, you dream about having students who will try to change the world someday because of something you do or say in the classroom."
War Some of the Time
by Charles Bukowski
when you write a poem it
needn't be intense
can be nice and
and you shouldn't necessarily
concerned only with things like anger or
love or need;
at any moment the
greatest accomplishment might be to simply
up and tap the handle
on that leaking toilet;
done that twice now while typing
and now the toilet is
solve simple problems: that's
satisfying thing, it
gives you a chance and it
gives everything else a chance
we were made to accomplish the easy
and made to live through the things
Now that Franki got me (and apparently most of the rest of her social network) started with the daily news digest theSkimm
, I finally feel like I know a bit about what's going on in the world. Unfortunately, most of what's going on in the world seems to be war, now that the World Cup is over. Depressing. I'm with Bukowski. Wiggling the toilet handle or making the perfectly browned piece of toast -- the little things in life -- are keeping me grounded and positive.
The Night Gardener
by Jonathan Auxier
Harry N. Abrams, 2014
review copy from the public library, but I will want this one for my classroom library
This is a creepy Victorian tale of two orphans who find themselves working in an English manor house that is overrun by an ominous tree and visited at night by a mysterious spirit-man.
At the heart of the book, however, and what makes it a "book for all writers" is STORY and storytelling. Molly holds her brother Kip's world together with storytelling. Stories give them hope and help them deal with the uncertainties of life. Molly uses stories as currency, keys, and salve.
"I think I figured it out." She sniffed, looking up at the stars. "Hester asked me what the difference between a story and a lie was. At the time, I told her that a story helps folks. 'Helps 'em do what?' she asked. Well I think I know the answer. A story helps folks face the world, even when it frightens 'em. And a lie does the opposite. It helps you hide."
Here's to more good stories, like this one. Here's to the writing that will bring them to life.
I read How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied (My Life Is a Zoo)
by Jess Keating
before #nerdcampmi (one of my favorite days of the year-have I mentioned that?). I had heard about the book on Twitter and thought it sounded like a great middle grade novel. Then I saw that Jess would be at #nerdcampmi so I definitely wanted to read it before #nerdcampmi in case I had a chance to meet her.
The book is fabulous! It is about a girl named Ana who is dealing with typical middle school problems. She deals with cute boys, mean girls, school struggles and parents who are sometimes embarrassing. This is the story of a preteen/teen girl who is beginning to figure out who she is.
Her story is unique in that her parents are zoologists so she lives at the zoo while her mom works on a research project. It is perfect because the story is both funny and serious. There were lots of laugh-out-loud parts, but there were also real issues of middle grade and middle school kids. It seems to be the perfect combination.
Ana is a character you care about quickly and I was glad to see that this was the first book in a series. She is likable and vulnerable. She is trying to figure out how to fit in and how to be herself. She is dealing with lots of different relationships and juggling lots of things as middle schoolers do.
And this book happens in the zoo. I found this part fascinating. I am not a zoo person. I go, but it is not my favorite place. However, we do live right near the Columbus Zoo,
one of the best zoos in the world from what I can tell. The amazing Jack Hanna
lives in our town. And I am a big fan of Jack Hanna. So it was fascinating to me to read some behind-the-scenes zoo stuff. I want to pay closer attention-next time I am at the zoo-to the work going on and those buildings that seem to be empty. The fun of this book is that author Jess Keating used to be a zoologist. So that part of her story made the zoo part of this far more interesting. Love how she took that and brought it to her life as a writer! I love that she is a zoologist/children's author. (Her website has a great feature called #KeatingCreature
which shares some great creature info and is lots of fun!)
I don't see this as a book I'd put in a 3rd grade classroom --it seems more perfect for 5th and 6th grade. Maybe even the end of 4th. I had several kids in mind when I read this book--kids who were ready for a tiny bit of romance, kids who like to read about real kids in real life, without the sadness that goes along with some middle grade fiction. I had kids in mind who liked to laugh a little bit when they read but they like humor embedded in real life stories of great characters.
This is really a perfect middle grade novel for upper middle grades. I sometimes worry that our kids are reading all things sad. (And I love a good, sad book.) My youngest daughter is also a fan of sad books. But I know she has said to me more than once during middle school--I want to read a good book, but not one where someone dies or that I'll cry. Our middle grade kids want stories about kids like them, going through every day preteen stuff, figuring out the world around them. This is that book.
I can't wait til the next in this series comes out (January 2015) and I am definitely holding onto this one for a few 5th graders I know this fall.
|Our #TeamShortcut photo. See, we aren't even tired at the end! Jess is on the left, dressed as Beekle!)|
(On a side note, I did meet Jess Keating at #nerdcampmi. We decided early on that for the #nerdrun, we would be part of #TeamSaunter. We had no desire to win, but thought we would support camp by taking part and celebrating some book characters. So a group of us did just that. Well, it was great to walk with Jess and to turn #TeamSaunter into #TeamShortcut. It was great to have some time to chat and to make some new friends. Jess is a great author --one that I am happy to have had the chance to meet! Can't wait to read more of her books! And to maybe Hack that #nerdrun map again:-)
Thanks to Joellen McCarthy
, I now know about this fabulous book Sophie Scott Goes South
by Alison Lester
. Joellen is one of those people that mentions one great book every time I see her. And it is always a FABULOUS book that I have never heard of.
Sophie Scott Goes South is a book about a girl who gets to travel to Antarctica with her father, who is the captain of the ship that takes a group there. The book is about a fictitious character (Sophie Scott) but is based on Alison Lester's journey to the Antarctic.
The book reads like Sophie's journal. It is filled with her writing and drawings. And since this is based on the author's trip, there are lots of real photos throughout the book that show what Sophie is doing and seeing. The photos are incredible as the reader actually gets to see the real Antarctica.
I don't know much about Antarctica. I actually didn't even know I was interested in it. But some of the facts and information in this book are fascinating! One of the most fascinating things I learned was that scientists leave underwater microphones in the ocean for years so they can analyze whales sounds. Who knew? I had lots of WOW moments and lots of wonderings when I read this book. I imagine kids will too.
This book has so many possibilities. It is a longer picture book, maybe one that would take longer than one sitting to read. It would make a great read aloud and I am always looking for great informational texts to read aloud. The visuals really add to the text so that is one thing to study. The text can definitely be used as a mentor text in writing. It is perfect for middle grade kids.
So happy to know about this book! Fabulous!
Anybody who's been around me or this blog for very long probably knows that I am a huge fan of Hugh MacLeod (gapingvoid.com
). I get a cartoon a day in my email very weekday and many of them are archived in a "comics" folder on my computer desktop. My business cards feature MacLeod's art.
My admiration for Hugh MacLeod continues to grow. This week, I was doodling around in Twitter, waiting for the timer to go off so I could move the hose from one part of the dry spot in mom's lawn to another, when I found this article he wrote: In Praise of Small Art
. Go ahead and read it. It's a short article.
In some ways, it seems to me that Education (capital E) can be equated to Big Art. What we do in our classrooms when we close our doors is Small Art.
And the more I think about it, many of the classroom practices that are the most powerful are also Small Art: read aloud
, Poetry Friday
, 15 Minutes on Friday
, reading/writing conferences
Small Art was at the heart of the poem I shared last Friday for Poetry Friday
, and -- how far will this train of thought lead me? -- poetry is definitely a Small Art.
Today, right now, is Small Art. My life, constructed of these small installations, is Big Art, and to make the Big Art as beautiful as possible, each bit of Small Art needs to be well-crafted and intentional. Praise-worthy.
Here's to Small Art!
Go make some.
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Readers Front & Center: Helping All Students Engage with Complex Text
by Dorothy Barnhouse
This is a book about LISTENING.
"We can't teach people if we don't know them and we can't know them if we don't listen to them." p.4
Dorothy Barnhouse takes Lucy Calkins' three components of a writing conference -- "research, decide, teach" -- applies them to reading conferences, and puts each phase under the microscope.RESEARCH
In the research phase, Barnhouse describes how we listen to a child read a small bit of text. Rather than focusing on issues of fluency, we focus on each student as a reader, listening to what they have to say and asking questions to understand what's behind their thinking. In this phase, we also refrain from probing to see if they "got it" or can retell the plot. We are listening to what students say about their thinking with an eye toward what we will teach about the way texts work, not just fixing some small misunderstanding in that particular text. "...correcting is not teaching. Correcting is small. It's about one word, one sentence, one text. Teaching is bigger. It attempts to take that moment and contextualize it." p.22
Questions we might ask (with a "tone of curiosity rather than interrogation") in this phase of a conference (p.24-25):
What's going on here?DECIDE
What made you think that?
Where did you get that information?
How do you know?
In the introduction to this chapter (p.28), Barnhouse writes, "...how does one decide what to teach?" and my marginal note reads, "Indeed!" The sections of this chapter are "Reading with Vision," "Reading with Agency" (I love how Peter Johnston's work informs Barnhouse's thinking!), "Reading with a Flexible Mindset," "Teaching with Vision: Noticing the How Not Just the What," "Teaching Readers to be Problem Solvers," "Setting Texts Up as Problems to be Solved," "Learning from Errors," and "Building Identities as Thinkers and Learners." This is the chapter that will change the way I conference with students. This is the chapter that lifts my eyes up from the text the student is reading and helps me to remember to keep my eyes (and my teaching decisions) on the way ALL texts work. This is the chapter will help me frame all conversations about texts around the way readers solve different aspects of the puzzle that texts provide. This is the chapter that will keep me grounded in Carol Dweck's "growth mindset."TEACH
These will be chapters to which I will return often for ideas about how to move students as individuals and in groups to texts of greater and greater complexity. The ways Barnhouse diagrams student thinking will give me new ways to capture the essence of a conference. And even though she gives a shout-out to Cathy Mere
on the topic of using Evernote to track conferences, I'm going to try Google Docs this year. Or just stick with my tried-and-true clipboard and not obsess about record-keeping. (I'll update you about my record-keeping again once the school year is underway.)
The most important take-away from these chapters on teaching (for me) would be a deconstruction of the title of the book:
READERS Front and Center (it's about the reader, not the text):
Helping ALL Students (because it's about students, there will always be a text a little more complex than the one they are reading into which we can help them to grow)
ENGAGE (such a smart verb choice, because we want active involvement with authentic purpose)
with COMPLEX TEXT (which is a student-driven moving target, not a list in a program or even the exemplar texts in the CCSS).