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1. THANK YOU DENVER PUBLIC LIBRARY!!

I recently had the great honor to be the guest author for the Denver Public Library by invitation of my kind hosts, Librarians Joan Vigil and Martha Garbison (lovely, wonderful new friends), as well as the behind-the-scenes Jeanine Haney.
     It meant flying to the mile-high city to visit six elementary schools and one teen group in two days (with a day on each end for travel). The only down side was, while I expect to get sick upon my return from intense public speaking schedules like this, I did not expect to catch a cold on the plane to Denver. Pah! Still, I'm proud of my extreme rallying skills, as apparently nobody could tell (except my kind hosts who were extremely understanding). I just slept like a coma in my room each night, which seemed to work, because I really did have a FABULOUS TIME!! I'll try to share some of it with you...
     Flying into Denver at sunset was remarkable. The sun made the mountains glow like solid gold. And I don't know what it is about the lights in Denver, they remind me of Paris - yellow, lovely, inviting. What a pretty city. The photo from the plane doesn't do it justice:

      Two awesome EMLA (Erin Murphy Literary Agency) Gangos met me for dinner on Sunday, my first night there - Jeannie Mobley and Tara Dairman. We've been chatting for ages online, so it was so nice to finally meet in person and talk shop, life, travel, you name it. What a great welcome to Denver! (They both have new books out, we clinked glasses at dinner, so I hope you'll click their names and check them out.)
     I also learned a very cool fact about my last name. Our waiter was from Malawi and commented. Apparently "Kulemba" (rather than "Dulemba," which is Polish) means "to write" in Chichewa, a Bantu dialect. WOW! How cool is that, and ironic? Zikomo! (Thank you!)

     Joan and Martha picked me up the next morning and off we went!
     It cracks me up when people refer to children's book visits as glamorous. There's a good bit of heavy lifting and punting involved. Joan, Martha and I got really good at quickly setting up my slide-show, drawing easel, microphone and such. Every school was different. We met in libraries and auditoriums, both formal (kids in chairs) and informal (kids on the floor) in groups of 60 to 90 2nd graders. And best of all, every single child got a free copy of SOAP, SOAP, SOAP ~ JABON, JABON, JABON. Wow.
     The first stop was Stedman Elementary School - mostly 2nd graders with a few 3rds scattered in. They were fabulous and it was a great kick-off to the tour!


     The kids at CMS made a lovely welcome sign for me. (I'll post more photos as I get them.) And it was so fun to hear so much Spanish in this dual-language school environment. (What a sweet little library too!)

     After a lunch of Pho Ga (basically, Vietnamese chicken soup with all kinds of fresh herbs - yum!) we visited the third school - McGlone Elementary. (Martha was taking pictures with her camera and I'll share as she shares with me.)
      What really made an impression on me was how involved and tight the local librarians were. The librarian from the nearest library was at each school and they knew their kids. They also knew and supported each other. I like to think that's how it works everywhere, but I'd never seen that before and was really quite touched and impressed by how proud they were of their libraries and connected they were to the school libraries and librarians and especially to the kids. Not to mention, many were bilingual - important in these highly Hispanic-populated schools. (It's part of why they invited me - two of my picture books are bilingual - what a treat!)
      After a successful day, I was feeling poorly, but still wired. Martha drove me by the Tattered Cover bookstore. I have a story about this store... When I lived in the mountains and didn't have a bookstore - any bookstore within 100 miles, I used to listen to the podcasts of authors visiting the Tattered Cover. It was before I was published and was such a dream of "what if..." So, it was a thrill to finally get to visit this bookstore with which I've always felt such a connection. Even better? They had two copies of A BIRD ON WATER STREET in stock!

     Then we stopped by The Bookies - an all children's bookstore which was so packed to the rafters I could have lost myself in there as a kid - oh! What a wonderful space!
     I was originally going to have dinner with more friends, but they were called away on a family emergency (sending love!). Perhaps it was for the best (not the emergency part), as I went back to my hotel, ordered take-out, and slept for 11 hours. Zzzzzz.
     The thing about being around kids is, they are incredibly energizing. When they are being attentive and participating, there is no better feeling in the world. And it's up to me to give them something to pay attention to - so it becomes a self-fulfilling cycle. Kinda cool.
      The next morning was a much prettier day - blue skies, green and golden leaves everywhere (this whole town seems gold to me) and the mountains can be spotted everywhere of course - stunning! We set off for Barnum Elementary and librarian Ms. Hungerford (who has already friended me on FB - hi!). Gads I love Smart Boards. Can I tell you how awesome those things are? Every school should have them, they make life so easy. We talked about the evolution of storytelling via the Jack Tales. Here, the kids are being mountains...

     The kids at Swansea Elementary liked being mountains too:

     Although the biggest hit was when my dog Bernie came up in the slideshow (wearing his glasses from ARLO NEEDS GLASSES by Barney Saltzberg. Can you see the slide? Huge screams and laughter!

     Joan, me and Martha grabbed lunch at a very funky and yummy Tex-Mex sort of restaurant:

     Our last school was Goldrick Elementary and boy do they have a dedicated teacher in Ms. Denise. It always amazes me how hard teachers work, in and outside of their regular work hours, to get what each child needs to move ahead. They should all be canonized (made into saints).
     This was the most formal setting of all the schools. Isn't it adorable seeing all those little heads poking above the seat backs?

     At each school, I do a demonstration drawing where the kids come up to help draw the basic shapes I'll work with. I have to say, the rubber duckie we ended up with at Goldrick was my favorite one ever! He ended up so wonky and happy with a huge head. We mostly did duckies, but I did a cow at Swansea. I let the kids shout their favorite color and whatever color I hear first or loudest ends up being the color of the cow. It's my own version of Andy Warhols. I dedicate any art we make to the schools, so they're all over the country now - that makes me happy.
     But we weren't done yet! For the cherry on top, we visited the lovely old Carnegie library of Park Hill where I shared A BIRD ON WATER STREET with budding teen writers while we ate yummy Chipotle - buffet style. (It was really good and worked well for those of you who need an idea for a similar event.) These were smart young women (+ one guy) and it was a thrill to share their brain-space for a little while.
     Okay, so after that I was done, fried, kaput. My now good friend Martha drove me to the airport the next morning. We saw fields of protected Prairie Dogs - I wanted to hug them all, and more of the gorgeous Denver landscape. The airport and flight were uneventful and direct - all good. And hubbie caught me when I landed. That night and Thursday were a bit of a boneless blur on the couch, must admit. But now I'm feeling better and going through the sweet thank you art and "I love this book" art students made for me. I tell ya, that's the best chicken soup of all!
     Thank you so much to Joan and Martha as well as the Denver Public Library system for making my visit possible. I know I love school visits, but I also think they're amazing for the kids (even when it's other authors). It helps them understand writing and the creative process and to see that all the books they love have real people behind them, and that they can do something like become an author too if they want. (Or a fireman, or a basketball star, or, or, or...) It's all about building exceptional futures and I'm proud to be a very small part of that.

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2. I wish I wrote that

sharkvstrain I wish I wrote thatEvery teacher I know is writing a book.

Okay, that is probably an exaggeration, but I would venture that there is a sizable percentage of teachers ranging from kindergarten teachers working on picture books to high school English teachers working on YA novels. Some may be writing as a hobby while others might already have a literary agent and publishing deal.

The reasons a teacher might choose to write a book vary as well. Those of us in the teaching profession most likely have a love of the written word and want to try our hands at contributing something meaningful. Of course, there is also the allure of money. It is hard to ignore the fact that it seems like every successful picture book or YA novel is being turned into a big budget movie. Writing the next Hunger Games could mean spending your vacation charting a yacht with Jay-Z and Beyoncé on the Mediterranean Sea as opposed to taking the Blue Line train to Revere Beach. This leads us to the meat of this post: sometimes you encounter a new book and think to yourself, “Darn, I wish I wrote that.”

I remember a few years back first coming across the picture book Shark vs. Train by Chris Barton while looking through the stacks at my local library. In this book, a shark and a train battle it out for supremacy in a variety of tasks in different settings such as burping, basketball, playing video games, and skydiving.

When reading the book, two thoughts popped into my mind. First, that the children in my Pre-K class would love this. I was soon proven correct when the book became a favorite and resulted in often-intense debate between the children who rooted for the train and the children who rooted for the shark. My second thought was, “damn it, I should have come up with this.” As a Pre-K teacher, I knew that many children love sharks and trains. Why didn’t I think of combining the two into a funny story? I even had the nefarious thought of ripping off Barton and writing a book called Dinosaur vs. Spaceship or something like that.

The truth is, there is a reason that I did not come up with Shark vs. Train first. Writing a good and/or popular book is ridiculously hard, and getting it published takes tenacity and luck. But I think I will keep trying because it’s fun to write and the miniscule chance of hitting it big and having Jennifer Lawrence star in the movie adaptation of something I wrote is always a motivator.

I end with a question to the readers of Lolly’s Classroom. What books have you read that you wished you had written?

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3. El Deafo

eldeafo El DeafoThis week, I was lucky enough to have a thirty-minute window when I could pop into my favorite independent bookstore in Los Angeles. They have a large children’s section on the second floor that I love perusing because they do an excellent job at getting new books.

On one of their displays sat El Deafo by Cece Bell. Intrigued first by the illustration of a superhero bunny and second by the title, my immediate thought was “What is this book about and who is this written for?” As if by fate, a children’s book worker looked up from her task of stocking new books and said “Oh that’s a really cute story. I highly recommend it.” I inquired about the reading level and she said it could be from fourth grade to middle school. Opening it, I was stoked to find out it was a graphic novel. Sold. It may be one of the best impulsive $20 I’ve spent of late.

I read this book in two days. It follows the author’s childhood experiences of being deaf, and specifically highlights her experiences in school. What captured me was the depiction of how people treated her and, since it’s from Cece’s point of view, how she felt. Her emotions come through strongly in the text and illustrations, and made me stop and think about how I treat people even if my intention is good. I connected with Cece’s superhero persona, “El Deafo.” Cece uses El Deafo to imagine the ideal way to handle tough situations, even if that doesn’t play out in real life (something I did as a kid too). What I really loved about this book was how the author depicted her friendships with the other kids (the good and the bad). It reminded me that children can sometimes do really mean things but that most of the time they mean well and can be really amazing friends to each other. It’s a lesson I need to carry for the school year.

Cece’s journey starts at the age of four and ends in fifth grade, so as a fifth grade teacher, I’m very excited to bring this graphic novel to my classroom. I think the students will enjoy this book and learn a lot from it. I believe that it will carry lessons of tolerance and respect for those who are hearing impaired, and prepare my students with tools (Don’t cover your mouth while someone is lip reading! Don’t assume all deaf people can sign!) to create meaningful and comfortable experiences with someone who can’t hear well.

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4. The kid-friendly, kid-maintainable classroom library

If you’re a teacher reading this blog, you likely devote significant attention to carefully selecting literature to add to your classroom library. And, if you’re like me, you want your students to have access to these books, but also to not spend hours after school reorganizing and looking for titles that have mysteriously disappeared. Last year, I found a solution to keeping my classroom library well-stocked and maintainable, but before I share it, let me explain the rationale behind it.

When I was in elementary school, there were always books out on display in my classrooms, but there were also many, many titles hidden away in cupboards and closets that my teachers would search through after exclaiming, “Have I got just the book for you!” This practice always struck me as odd and restrictive — I loved going to the library precisely because the number of titles was overwhelming and it seemed that there were treasures to discover as I explored the shelves.

In my own classroom, I am committed to making sure that my students have constant access to as many titles as possible. However, it is essential to me that the books can remain organized without much effort from me — which is something of a challenge when you work with second graders.

The solution that I’ve come up with for my own classroom library is pretty simple. I started by drawing up a list of categories into which I could sort all of the books in my classroom library. Current categories include biographies, world cultures, biology and chemistry, and, my favorite, “Books Miss Hewes loves.” Next, I assigned each category a specific color-code, using dot and star stickers. For example, biographies have a yellow dot with a green star, while easy readers have just a silver star. Then, I bought bins and clearly labeled them with the proper codes and category names.

photo 1 e1409716191871 500x375 The kid friendly, kid maintainable classroom library

photo 2 e1409716078349 375x500 The kid friendly, kid maintainable classroom library

The next step was the most labor-intensive — putting the proper labels on each and every book in my library. While I was doing this, I also used the free tools available at Book Source to create a digital catalog of my library, which came in handy during the year as I wondered whether or not I actually had a certain book. (You can check out the organizer at  http://classroom.booksource.com/). Finally, after labeling the books, I put them into the appropriate bins and then put all of the bins on display in my classroom.

photo 3 e1409715975770 375x500 The kid friendly, kid maintainable classroom library

photo 4 e1409716039837 375x500 The kid friendly, kid maintainable classroom library

This system proved to be an overwhelming success last year. It allowed me to saturate my students in books without needing to go find a perfect book that I have tucked away somewhere in my room. Additionally, when I looked through the bins over the summer to check on them — something I faced with trepidation after having seen my students’ cubby area — I only found four books out of place. Most importantly, I am confident that my students found books to treasure as they independently navigated the bins — something I hope helped steer them towards becoming lifelong readers.

photo5 500x375 The kid friendly, kid maintainable classroom library

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5. Books that inspire community

Lately — and by accident — I’ve been reading Spanish versions of many French-authored children’s picture books. For some reason, most of the books I’ve recently bought from bookstores in Lima and Buenos Aires to use for storytelling in Spanish were translated from French authors. I didn’t realize it at the time, but once I started to read them together I realized that they shared a strong message about the “we” instead of the “me.”

pedro y la luna Books that inspire communityThis prompted an informal search for other books that would have the same underlining message. For example, Pedro y la Luna by Alice Brière-Hacquet and Célia Chauffrey is about a boy who wants to bring the moon to his mom. To do so, he has to involve his entire community and beyond. Then there is the Portuguese story O Grande Rabanete by Tatiana Belinky. In it, a grandfather decides to plant radishes and progressively needs help with the harvest because of the radishes’ large size.

 Books that inspire communityI then tried to think about other books that send the message of doing things together for a common cause and couldn’t think of many other than the classic stories “The Pied piper of Hamelin” and “The Little Red Hen.” In the 1990s there was The Rainbow Fish by Swiss author-illustrator Marcus Pfister. A fish with the shiniest scales in the sea refuses to share his wealth and then becomes lonely. He rediscovers community only once he shares his scales. And of course, there is also The Lorax by Dr. Seuss, a book published in 1971 that depicts what happens to a verdant land when the “Once-ler” chops down all the truffula trees and drives the (Seussian) animals away. The last hope to rebuild the environment — and the community — is for a boy to plant the last remaining truffula tree seed.

shannon nodavid 224x300 Books that inspire communitySo much of children’s literature, especially today, is about common things that happen to kids, such as the boy a lost his bear and found it swapped in the forest in Where’s My Teddy? by Jez Alborough, or the boy who misbehaves with his mom in No, David! by David Shannon, or the classic Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, no Good Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst. The list is endless.

All this made me think about the often repeated phrase, “literature is life.” So, are these books a reflection of our society? Are children’s books in other societies a reflection of a more “communal” (we) society instead of a more self-centered (me) society? Or is it that younger children relate better to stories that have more of a personal narrative tone? Can anybody think about books that transmit this message in their original languages?

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6. Engaging literature and students with CHARGE syndrome

This summer, I was asked by a parent whose child had attended our reading tutoring program in the spring, to work one-on-one with her daughter, a rising middle schooler with CHARGE syndrome. CHARGE syndrome involves a number of developmental and medical differences (see www.chargesyndrome.org to learn more), and for this particular child it means profound deafness in addition to other factors. Her signs could at times be challenging to understand, and it was not always clear when you asked her a question whether she understood the answer or whether she was repeating what you last said to her. So what was my approach in teaching reading with this student? Pull out all my favorite picture books, naturally.

When my undergraduate student who had been tutoring her in the previous semester pulled out The Red Book by Barbara Lehmann, she was at first confused and later delighted to find this rich story told entirely through pictures. Over the summer, in addition to many others, we have been reading a great deal of Mo Willems (the Knuffle Bunny books and the Elephant and Piggy books) and Jon Klassen (mostly of the hats-being-stolen-by-fish-and-rabbits genre). Halfway through Knuffle Bunny Too, she had the whole story figured out, excitedly signing to me, “Wrong rabbit, wrong rabbit!” The language and understanding that came through when presented with engaging literature was a delight to see.

lehman redbook 300x300 Engaging literature and students with CHARGE syndrome    willems knuffle bunny too Engaging literature and students with CHARGE syndrome    klassen thisisnotmyhat 414x300 Engaging literature and students with CHARGE syndrome

We do more than read picture books, of course. We work on building vocabulary, we develop American Sign Language (ASL) skills and compare how concepts are conveyed through both languages, and we even examine word order through mixed-up sentences. But these lessons are always underpinned with  marvelous books that are clever and engaging. It is through these books that her abilities come shining through. And although reading tutoring during the summer months would not be the favorite activity of most middle school students, her mother told me that she actually begins laughing and smiling as they approach my building. The joy of reading!

Has anyone out there worked with children with CHARGE syndrome or those with multiple disabilities? I would love to learn about strategies you have used to support their reading!

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7. Carrying the Family Torch

The Olympics have torch bearers who run through the streets, flaming torch held high, expressing sublime joy or intense nobility as they run. Marathon participants run for a variety of reasons, many of which express that same joy or nobility. Ordinary family members don’t do much running at all, unless one counts errands and an extracurricular shuttle service.

Throughout my growing up years, carrying a torch meant something other than its current connotation. We carried a torch for a movie star or the girl/boy at school. We carried the torch of freedom in our citizenship and moral fiber. It’s a wonder the town didn’t burn to the ground with all of those flames being held up for all to see.

Few of us got to see an Olympic torch during the fifties. Even our own Student Olympics during elementary school didn’t have a torch. Television brought the Olympic Games to average households every four years during the sixties, which is where I first saw them. Of course, the opening ceremonies, with torch-bearer and Olympic Flame weren’t as long or elaborate then as they are now. Drama and spectacle arrived during the early eighties. Leave it to Hollywood.

All of this brings us to carrying the family torch. Each family has an invisible one, though the flames may be for different purposes. For some that torch stands for pride of place within society. For others it represents the family triumph over poverty and disadvantage. Torches for those prideful of family traditions of church, home, and military honor cut across all strata of society. These are all family torches; the ones that children take from their parents, along the line of ancestral heritage.

Torches smolder at times. They can exhibit rebellion over family roots as much as the opposite. They can glow with remembered suffering from a historical past before bursting into raging flame. While each is sparked by one or more family aspect, only an individual can carry one and that for personal reasons.

People can find a family torch inside themselves, if they look for it. They can discover the personal reason for raising an arm to support that tapered torch. At some point, they must either acknowledge acceptance of “duty” or reject it and seek another.

Each of us has a choice as to which torch we carry for our family. Considering how broad the definition has become for “family,” we should marvel at how many torches one person can juggle at any given time. The reasons and purposes of torches have broadened as well.

At the end of the day, the person needs to ask herself, “Which torch did I choose today?” and “Should I choose to bear that flaming burden tomorrow?”


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8. Stubby Pencil Noodlehead by Kevin White

 5 Stars Back Cover:  When Stubby Pencil Noodlehead is forced to stand in front of his class to explain why he is late for school every day, the resulting tale is more than the teacher bargained for.  Stubby’s story of pirates, pygmies, mastodons, and more, turns classroom order to chaos, and has yhe teacher begging [...]

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9. How to Write a Story: Ralph Tells a Story by Abby Hanlon

Ralph Tells a Story written and illustrated by Abby Hanlon (Amazon Children’s Publishing, 2012). It doesn’t matter if your five or twenty-five—if you’re in school, you’re gonna have to write.  And lots of times you have to write stories—stories about yourself.  Maybe it’s a daily journal.  Maybe it’s a “My Special Moment” essay.  Maybe it’s a descriptive narrative for a college composition class. Well, if you’re one of those kids who has NO IDEA what to write about and can’t think of ONE SINGLE STORY, then Abby Hanlon’s Ralph Tells a Story is the book for you. Ralph’s teacher always says, “Stories are everywhere!”  and the kids in Ralph’s class have no trouble finding them.  They write pages and pages and pages during writing time.  But Ralph can’t come up with anything.  Zero, zip, nada. So Ralph does what all smart kids do.  He stalls.  He goes to the bathroom.  He gets a drink.  He offers to help the lunch ladies.  And finally, finally, Ralph thinks of the start of a story. But then he gets stuck. Which is exactly when his teacher asks him to share his story. Luckily for Ralph, his classmates ask lots and lots of questions.  [...]

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10. Q&A About the Upcoming Classroom SOLSC

Watch a video call I had with elementary school students from Julie Johnson's school about the upcoming Classroom Slice of Life Story Challenge.

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11. Make your reservations now!

I am booking school visits in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area for Read Across America Week, March 2 – 6, 2015. Friday the 6th just got reserved this morning. If I can book the whole week, everybody gets me for 25% off the regular rate.

Contact Lisa— bookings@johnmanders.com


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12. Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot - in color!

Pilkey, Dav. 2014. Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot. New York: Scholastic. Illustrations by Dan Santat.

While at ALA Midwinter, I picked up an Advance Reader Copy of Ricky Ricotta's Mighty Robot. I know what you're thinking - that's not a new book, that was published ages ago!  Yes, but it's back again, and this time in full color, with glossy pages and new "mini-comics" inside.

All of the Ricky Ricotta books will be reissued with new illustrations, and two brand new books are planned for January and March of 2015.  A big campaign is in the works ... stay tuned.

Read an excerpt and see the new illustrations on Scholastic's new Ricky Ricotta web page.

Coming to a bookshelf near you on April 29, 2014.

BTW, my Advance Reader Copy went home with a very happy young boy, one of my best readers. He was looking for my library's "checked-out" copy of the original Ricky Ricotta's Giant Robot. Imagine the smile on his face when I gave him a new, as yet unpublished, full-color copy! (Luckily, I had read it at lunchtime.)

The original Ricky Ricotta artist, Martin Ontiveros deserves credit for helping to create a series that captured the imagination of a nearly a generation of children.  Dan Santat will refresh the series for the next generation.  Long live Dav Pilkey!






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13. More grants for early reading programs

As I mentioned yesterday, Target offers grant money to schools and organizations who need help with an early reading program. An early reading program might entail hiring a children’s book author/illustrator to present to students (he said rather shamelessly).

Dollar General also has a grant program for early literacy/youth development—as does Barbara Bush, Verizon, Scripps-Howard, and Clorox.

Here is a round-up of foundations who offer grant money for summer reading programs. Here are awards & grants available from the International Reading Association.

If you would like a detailed description of my presentations to help you apply for these grants, be sure to give me a yell!


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14. Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners In Elementary and Middle School

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

The Storyteller's Candle

from The Storyteller’s Candle by Lucia Gonzalez

Many of our classrooms include students whose home language is not English. In fact, EngageNY released a report documenting that in 2012-2013 New York State alone taught students who spoke more than 140 languages at home with Spanish making up nearly 65% of all English Language Learners.

Teaching students who are English Language Learners is enormously rewarding and meaningful. However, it at times can feel overwhelming, especially for those who have ever juggled multiple languages at once in the same classroom, supported a student whose language few of their peers or staff spoke, or worked with a student who had little formal school experience beforehand.

The Institute of Education Sciences (IES) released a new practice guide for teaching academic content and literacy to English Learners in elementary and middle school. In this report, IES presents four recommendations to teach and develop English language skills in grades K-8.

Prestwick Café describes why it is critical to give students tools they can apply on their own, like Greek and Latin roots, and points out that even if we teach 10 new words a week all school year long, that is merely 400 vocabulary words—not nearly enough for a student’s journey to become “career and college ready” by high school graduation. While we can not teach every vocabulary word that our students will need or might come across in their reading, we can give them the strategies to build their vocabulary with and without us.

Over the next few weeks, we will focus on the practice guide’s first recommendationchoosing and teaching a set of academic vocabulary words over the course of several days in a variety of instructional activities and what it looks like in action with our books. Using the IES practice guide, we will demonstrate how to choose a text for English Language Learners and significant vocabulary words, to teach selected words, and to incorporate listening, speaking, writing, and reading practice for ELLs in vocabulary instruction.

 

Quinito, Day and Night / Quinito, día y noche

Quinito, Day and Night / Quinito, día y noche

Additional information, activities and advice for educators and Spanish-speaking families of English Language Learners (ELLs) can be found at ¡Colorín Colorado!

Further reading on supporting English Language Learners in the classroom from The Open Book blog:

Using Dual Language And Bilingual Books And Parent-Volunteers To Foster Deep Thinking

Using Dual Language And Bilingual Books In First And Second Grade

Using Dual Language And Bilingual Books In Third And Fourth Grade

 

 


Filed under: Curriculum Corner Tagged: CCSS, common core standards, Educators, ELA common core standards, elementary school, ell, middle school, reading comprehension

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15. Strategies for Teaching English Language Learners – Part 2: Choosing a Text and Vocabulary Words

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

As I mentioned last week, the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Science (IES) and What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) released the latest educator’s guide to present best instructional practices for English Language Learners.

Let’s take a look at the guide’s first recommendation: Teach a set of academic vocabulary words intensively across several days using a variety of instructional activities.

Here is an example of how to apply the first recommendation using IES’s process and Lee & Low Books’ informational nonfiction text, Drumbeat In Our Feet.

Drumbeat In Our Feet

Drumbeat In Our Feet

  1. Choose a text:

IES: “Choose a text that is brief, interesting, and engaging for the students; contains a variety of target academic words to focus on; connects to a given unit of study and builds the students’ knowledge of a topic; provides sufficient detail and examples for students to be able to comprehend the passage; and contains ideas that can be discussed from a variety of perspectives.” (P. 14)

Lee & Low: Based on these criteria, I selected the first chapter, “Origins of African Dance.” The reading level of Drumbeat In Our Feet is best suited for fourth through sixth graders. The topic of dance history is relatable and relevant to this age group. It will spark student interest and engagement and promote discussion. The short excerpt is an appropriate length that can be read within one class period and is worth multiple re-readings over the coming days.

  1. Select vocabulary:

IES: Select a small number of academic vocabulary words (content-specific and general academic) for multi-day instruction. For in-depth exploration, consider only 5-8 words. The IES suggests choosing words “central to understanding the text, frequently used in the text, might appear in other content areas, with multiple meanings, with affixes, or cross-language potential.” (P. 16-17)

Lee & Low: Based on these criteria, I picked: origins, vital, ethnically, diverse, unique, vibrant and varied from the “Origins of African Dance” excerpt in DrumbeatDrumbeat In Our Feet. These words are key to understanding the text, will appear in other content areas students will explore, and several have multiple meanings.

Additionally, I used Flocabulary’s Wordlists to check my words against their grade level recommendations because Flocabulary’s researchers analyze grade level materials and high stakes tests to determine what academic words students should know in each grade. Origins is on the third grade word list and variety (related word form to varied) is on the fourth grade word list. Vital, diversity (related word form to diverse), unique, and vibrant are on the sixth grade word list. However, there are quite a few wordlists available to do this verification so utilize what your district/school recommends or another you have confidence using.

Next week, we will take a look at how to introduce and teach the selected vocabulary across multiple lesson periods using Drumbeat In Our Feet followed by writing and speaking/listening activities for your students to grasp the words’ meanings.

Further reading on supporting English Language Learners in the classroom:


Filed under: Curriculum Corner Tagged: CCSS, close reading, common core standards, ELA common core standards, elementary school, ell, English Language Learners, informational nonfiction, middle school, reading comprehension, vocabulary

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16. Strategies For Teaching English Language Learners—Part 3: Teaching Vocabulary In Layers

Jill_EisenbergJill Eisenberg, our Resident Literacy Expert, began her career teaching English as a Foreign Language to second through sixth graders in Yilan, Taiwan as a Fulbright Fellow. She went on to become a literacy teacher for third grade in San Jose, CA as a Teach for America corps member. She is certified in Project Glad instruction to promote English language acquisition and academic achievement. In her column she offers teaching and literacy tips for educators. 

The U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Science (IES) and What Works Clearinghouse (WWC) released the latest educator’s guide to present best instructional practices for English Language Learners.

Although we cannot explicitly teach all academic and content-specific words our students will need to know in their educations and careers, we can be strategic in how we teach 5-8 words a week so they can apply these word strategies to new words they come across on their own.

Last week I applied the guide’s recommendations on how to choose an appropriate text and vocabulary words for English Language Learners and I modeled it with the Lee & Low informational text, Drumbeat In Our Feet.

I will continue to focus on the guide’s first recommendation: Teach a set of academic vocabulary words intensively across several days using a variety of instructional activities.

Drumbeat In Our Feet

Drumbeat In Our Feet

Using Drumbeat In Our Feet and the IES’s process, my target words are origins, vital, ethnically, diverse, unique, vibrant and varied from the “Origins of African Dance” excerpt in Drumbeat In Our Feet. See how I chose these words here.

1. Read the text

IES: Introduce the topic of the text by asking about students understanding of the topic and personal experiences. Read the excerpt aloud at the start of the lesson. (P. 24)

Lee & Low: I would read the text aloud so students who cannot comprehend the text independently can access the text whole group. All students should be able to follow along with their own student copy. Only constant interaction with the print and following along will allow students to connect with what I am saying and how I say it with what they are seeing in the print.

Origins of African Dance" excerpt from Drumbeat In Our Feet

“Origins of African Dance,” excerpt from Drumbeat In Our Feet

2. Introduce the vocabulary

IES: After reading the text and stopping to ask clarifying questions, introduce the target vocabulary words and have students find the words (in their copies). Display a list of the words in the classroom. (P. 24)

3. Teach the vocabulary words in layers

IES: “Teach academic vocabulary in depth using multiple modalities (writing, speaking, listening)” and “teach word-learning strategies to help students independently figure out the meaning of words.” (P. 18-22)

Lee & Low: Over the course of 5-8 days (lesson periods), I would focus on a couple of aspects of each of the new vocabulary words. On a whole class chart where the target words are listed, I would add a new component to each word each day in order to deepen the meaning and foster familiarity with the words for students.

Together we will create a student-friendly definition; write synonyms, antonyms, examples, non-examples; determine parts of speech; draw a picture or create an action/gesture to represent the words; list related word forms and any cognates; break the word down into word parts; and use the word in a meaningful, student-generated sentence.

For example, Monday I would read the excerpt, introduce the target words, find the target words in the text, and come up with a definition for each target word. Tuesday, I would revisit the chart and add synonyms, antonyms, examples, and non-examples for all the vocabulary words to reinforce meaning. Wednesday I would cover part of speech and concrete representations, and so on.

Below is how I would teach my target word, origins, from Drumbeat In Our Feet but I would cover all of the target words each day.

Monday

  • student-friendly definition: the source where something starts

Tuesday

  • synonyms: beginnings, birthplace, roots, foundation
  • antonyms: end, destination, result
  • examples: beginning of the universe and life, family backgrounds/heritage, word roots, superhero/comic book origin stories
  • non-examples: death of a star, the youngest person in the family tree, the last book in a comic book series

Wednesday

  • part of speech: noun
  • draw a picture to represent the word: I might draw a lake with a river leading up to a mountain and arrow pointing to where the river starts.
  • create an action/gesture to represent the word: with my left hand held out at hip-level as the “lake,” I would point with my right finger to my left shoulder (the mountain) as the origin of the river. [Tip: Students are great at brainstorming concrete representations of words!]

Thursday

  • list related word forms: original, originate
  • list any cognates: origine (French), origen (Spanish)

Friday

  • affixes: none
  • use the word in a meaningful, student-generated sentence: We hiked from the lake up to the mountain looking for the origins of the river. The original owner of this house built this house all on her own in 1956.

Remember: This is a process I will repeat each week or every 5-8 lessons with a new text and set of target words. While my students may know only up to 400 new vocabulary words by the end of the year, this repeated process will allow them to tackle new vocabulary words in other content classes and in independent reading.

Next week, we will take a look at how to incorporate the selected vocabulary into activities that support listening, speaking, and writing practice for English Language Learners.

Further reading on supporting English Language Learners in the classroom:


Filed under: Curriculum Corner Tagged: CCSS, close reading, common core standards, ELA common core standards, elementary school, ELLs, English Language Learners, guided reading, Institute of Education Science, middle school, Reading Aloud, US Department of Education, vocabulary

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17. Batter up!

With baseball season in full swing, it is the perfect time to check out one of the many great picture books featuring baseball. Here are some of my favorites.

Wise SilentStar 219x300 Batter up!Silent Star: The Story of Deaf Major Leaguer William Hoy by Bill Wise with illustrations by Adam Gustavson (K-3)
Today many baseball fans may not know this, but in the late 1800’s one of the best major league players was William Hoy, who also happened to be deaf. This book tells his story with wonderful oil painting illustrations that will help readers understand both the time period and Hoy’s life.

Perdomo Clemente 235x300 Batter up!Clemente! by Willie Perdomo with illustrations by Bryan Collier (K-3)
Told in English with scattered Spanish words, this book follows a young boy named Clemente as various family members tell him about his namesake, the great Puerto Rican baseball player Roberto Clemente. While the book details Roberto Clemente’s baseball career, it also includes other aspects of his life, including his charitable work. It is a great option, particularly for those looking for a book that incorporates Spanish language text.

Adler LouGehrig 300x247 Batter up!Lou Gehrig: The Luckiest Man by David A. Adler with illustrations by Terry Widener (K-3)
Though he is perhaps best known now for the disease named for him, Lou Gehrig was an important figure in baseball well before he was diagnosed. In this book, readers learn about his early life, including his studies at Columbia University and his fourteen years in major league baseball, during which he played in a record number of consecutive games. While the book does not shy away from Gehrig’s illness, it tells the inspirational story of his life both before and during that period.

Winter SandyKoufax 247x300 Batter up!You Never Heard of Sandy Koufax? by Jonah Winter with illustrations by Andre Carrilho (K-3)
In a striking departure from many sports biographies for children, this book focuses on Koufax’s struggles and early failures before recounting his rise to the top of the game. Readers also learn about the important role that Koufax’s Jewish faith played in his career, causing him to face discrimination and also leading to his refusal to play in the 1965 World Series because it fell on a high holy day. Though this book will appeal to all baseball fans, those who love baseball statistics will particularly enjoy the way that it integrates important stats into the illustrations at key points in the story.

Meshon Yakyu 300x249 Batter up!Take Me Out to the Yakyu by Aaron Meshon (Preschool)
In this fun, brightly colored book, a young boy goes to baseball games in both the United States and Japan. Side-by-side pages show the differences between the experience in each country, both at the stadium and outside of it. The book integrates Japanese words in the text and unique details of baseball culture in each country into the illustrations.

Thayer CaseyattheBat 182x300 Batter up!Casey at the Bat by Ernest L. Thayer with illustrations by Joe Morse (K-3)
This entry in the Visions in Poetry series takes the classic poem “Casey at the Bat” and moves it to an urban setting. The poem is a classic for a reason, and a new generation of baseball fans can enjoy it with the modern, updated images that accompany it.

Bidner JoeDiMaggio 298x249 Batter up!The Unforgettable Season: The Story of Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams and the Record-Setting Summer of ’41 by Phil Bildner with illustrations by S.D. Schindler (K-3)
Whether you are looking for a baseball book or an exciting glimpse into a period in history, this book won’t disappoint. It follows the separate paths of Joe DiMaggio and Ted Williams as they each chased baseball records over the course of the summer of 1941. The illustrations bring the time period to life and make this book a great way to make baseball fans into history fans — and vice versa.

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18. Comics Squad: Recess!: Jennifer L. Holm and others

Book: Comics Squad: Recess!
Authors: Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm, Jarrett Krosoczka, Raina Telgemeier & Dave Roman, Dan Santat, Dav Pilkey, Ursula Vernon, Eric Wight, and Gene Luen Yang
Pages: 144
Age Range: 7-10

Comics Squad: Recess! is a new collaborative book produced by a team of today's top cartoonists/illustrators/graphic novelists. It features eight stories, all told in comic strip format. The stories are set in an elementary school environment, and are relevant to the concerns of younger elementary schoo kids. Oh, and they are funny, of course. 

Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, creators of the Babymouse and Squish series, and Jarrett Krosoczka, creator of the Lunch Lady series, are the editors. Babymouse and Lunch Lady make a few cameo appearances before and between the other stories - I guess you could say that they are the informal hosts to the book. Babymouse also appears in one of the stories, repeatedly thwarted in her "Quest for Recess" ("Typical!". Lunch Lady is actually out sick, but Betty is on the job (and stocked up with new inventions) in "Betty and the Perilous Pizza Day".

As I've personally read most of the Babymouse and Lunch Lady books already, I was interested to see what the other authors would come up with. It's quite a varied lot. I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor of Gene Yang's "The Super-Secret Ninja Club", and the frankly adorable cupcake in Eric Wight's "Jiminy Sprinkles in "Freeze Tag"". Ursula Vernon's "The Magic Acorn" features squirrels meeting up with a tiny alien in an acorn-shaped spaceship. "The Rainy Day Monitor" by Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier celebrates the joys of pretending (with some pretty funny, mostly fake celebrity cameos). Dan Santat, on the other hand, mocks the idea of writing a 300 word essay on The Giving Tree, while giving the teeny-tiniest hint of a middle grade romance. 

My favorite story was Dav Pilkey's "Book 'Em, Dog Man". Pilkey writes this as if it were the work of a pair of comic-obsessed young boys. The story is introduced with a letter written by the disapproving teacher of the boys, like this: "As you will see, this comic book contains multiple scenes of stealing, violence, and unlawfulness... and don't get me started on the spelling and grammar!" Personally, I thought that the second-grade-appropriate spelling was hilarious ("desidid", "excape", etc.). 

But it's all fun. Though the tone and style of the eight stories varies, a common orange and black color palette across the book lends a certain visual consistency. 

Comics Squad: Recess! is dedicated to The Nerdy Book Club, which I thought was a particularly appropriate touch. The Nerdy Book Club members, like the authors of Comics Squad, dedicate their working lives to ensuring the kids find reading fun. 

Comics Squad: Recess! is an excellent introduction for younger kids to graphic novels. Including a range of authors ensures that each reader is bound to find at least one story that resonates. This is a book that all elementary school libraries will want to carry (probably in multiple copies). Just be prepared for requests for more of Comics Squad! Fortunately, the authors have other titles available. Comics Squad: Recess! is the absolute epitome of "kid-friendly". Highly recommended. I'll be keeping my copy for when my daughter is a tiny bit older. 

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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19. Secret Hideout

Great cedar tree, Stanley Park, Vancouver, BC,...

Image by Musée McCord Museum via Flickr

What was your secret hideout when you were a kid?


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20. Intro to Fractions

Even the youngest of students can learn some basics about fractions with this mini lesson.

Orange Fractions
1. Peel an orange and separate it into two halves. Discuss how there are two parts of one whole orange, thus two halves make one whole.
2. Split the orange into four parts and discuss.
3. Separate all the orange pieces. Ours had twelve parts. Hold three pieces in your hand and ask, "How many parts do I have?" 3. "Out of how many?" 12. "3 parts out of twelve parts is 3/12." If kids are grasping the concept well, explain that 3/12 is the same as 1/4 of the orange.


Liquid Fractions
1. Fill a 1 C measuring cup with water or beans. If using water, you may want to put a cookie sheet underneath.
2. Allow kids to experiment with various measuring cups. Help them reach the discovery that 4 1/4 cups make 1 C and 3 1/3 cups make 1 C.
3. Explain why it works that way. Because 3 parts out of 3 make a whole, etc.

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21. Hot off the Press!!!

I received some new picture books for review, and I'm excited to tell you about three that are super fun. There's a picture book, a board book, and a book that falls somewhere in between.  :)

Press HerePress Here by Herve Tullet

I love when a picture book interacts with young readers in a unique, creative way. This book definitely does that.

Young readers follow simple instructions on each page. Their actions result in changes in the dots. For example, it says to tap five times on the yellow dot, and then when you turn the page, five dots are there. When you shake the book to one side, all the dots fall that direction. When you blow the book, the dark background creeps away.

Press Here would be great for preschoolers and new readers who can manage words like 'finally' and 'straight'.

The pages of the book are sturdy, somewhere in between a board book and a normal picture book.

Along with a whole lot of fun, this book is great for young children learning to follow directions.

Me . . . JaneMe...Jane by Patrick McDonnell

Jane Goodall is well-known for her work with animals, particularly chimpanzees...but what was she like as a child? In Me...Jane, you'll find simple text, enchanting artwork, and a small girl who loves her stuffed chimp, Jubilee.

Jane always loved nature. As she explored and studied books about nature, she had Jubilee to keep her company. He even came along when Jane hid in Grandma Nutt's chicken coop to find out where eggs came from.

This book is full of the wonder of childhood. The story doesn't give much information about Jane herself, but it shows her ever-growing love for the world around her and shows how she lived her dreams.

The end of the book has a biography about Jane Goodall and a note

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22. Spring Projects: Literacy and Quilts

Life has been full! Here are some pics to prove it!

Arkansas Literary Festival

Darcy Pattison, speaker

April 8, Literacy on the Lawn, Governor's Mansion

School Visits: Paris Elementary and Cherry Valley Elementary

Darcy Pattison school visit

Teressa, Cherry Valley Elementary Literacy Coach

Oliver K. Woodman, Darcy Pattison school visit

Oliver K. Woodman Project by Cherry Valley Elementary Students



Darcy Pattison, speaker, Scary Slopes

Paris Elementary Assembly: Reading The Scary Slopes.

After School Quilts

I wish I could show you the kids who made these quilts (privacy issues!). They had a blast. There were five boys and one girl and everyone had a great time. We talked about the history of quilting and they chose to make Amish quilts; I think they liked the black, as much as anything. We met once a week for about 8 weeks to finish these projects.

Amish Quilts made by 10 year olds.

NonFiction BookBlast Sunday, June 26, 2011. 8-10 am. ALA Conference in NOLA.

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23. Back-to-School picture book roundup

Many school-related picture books have arrived on my desk in the last week or two, but these are the only two I've really liked. 

Milgrim, David. 2011. Eddie Gets Ready for School. New York: Cartwheel (Scholastic).

David Milgrim has a real flair for simplicity.  I've never reviewed them, but his Ready-to-Read books featuring Pip and Otto are my favorites for very early readers.  Eddie Gets Ready for School is not an easy reader, but it's masterful in its simplicity.  It's nothing more than a checked-off list, one or two items per page, of all the things Eddie "needs" to do before school,
Put cat in backpack
Hug Mom
Take cat out of backpack
Find something else for show & tell
Some items (Eddie choosing in turn, the dog, goldfish, bird, and flat screen TV for show & tell), don't make the written list and are expressed only in the crisply drawn cartoon images on white space.  Mom and the dog are featured throughout the story.  Mom is happy and supportive, although root beer and cartoons for breakfast does try her patience a bit. So what does Eddie finally choose for a snack and show & tell?  You'll never guess!  This is a very funny back-to-school gem!



Murray, Laura. 2011. The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School. Ill. by Mike Lowery. New York: Putnam.

This gingerbread man is not running away as fast he can; he's running to catch up!  The children have cooked him up at school but, oh no! He's left behind when it's time for recess, but he's a smart cookie.  He'll find them,
I'll run and I'll run,
as fast as I can.
I can catch them! I'm their
Gingerbread Man!

Along the way, he loses a toe,
I'll limp and I'll limp,
as fast as I can. ...
and almost ends up as someone's snack,
I plopped on a sandwich
and chips with a crunch
OH NO! I cried out.
I'm in somebody's lunch!
 The story is told entirely in rhyme and presented comic style with panels and word bubbles. Cute and simple.  Kids will eat this one up.

Librarians will want to remove the poster before circulating this one.  Teachers will want to hang it in the classroom.

Author Laura Murray's website has some great Gingerbread Man extras - and a RT script coming soon!

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24. Cybils Time Again



The Cybils award was announced yesterday. Hooray! For the Love of Books! I love the Cybils because they are chosen by book-lovers around the world. I've been a judge several times. I missed it this year, since I was busy baby-growing (and my hubby is a little overwhelmed by the number of books around here...)

Anyway, don't miss the shortlists, either. Out of hundreds of books, each group of judges picks their top few for these shortlists. Then a different panel of judges chooses one top selection.

You can see my review of the fiction picture book winner, Me...Jane, right here. You know, I really heart picture books.

Loves.

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25. Carrying the Family Torch

The Olympics have torch bearers who run through the streets, flaming torch held high, expressing sublime joy or intense nobility as they run. Marathon participants run for a variety of reasons, many of which express that same joy or nobility. Ordinary family members don’t do much running at all, unless one counts errands and an extracurricular shuttle service.

Throughout my growing up years, carrying a torch meant something other than its current connotation. We carried a torch for a movie star or the girl/boy at school. We carried the torch of freedom in our citizenship and moral fiber. It’s a wonder the town didn’t burn to the ground with all of those flames being held up for all to see.

Few of us got to see an Olympic torch during the fifties. Even our own Student Olympics during elementary school didn’t have a torch. Television brought the Olympic Games to average households every four years during the sixties, which is where I first saw them. Of course, the opening ceremonies, with torch-bearer and Olympic Flame weren’t as long or elaborate then as they are now. Drama and spectacle arrived during the early eighties. Leave it to Hollywood.

All of this brings us to carrying the family torch. Each family has an invisible one, though the flames may be for different purposes. For some that torch stands for pride of place within society. For others it represents the family triumph over poverty and disadvantage. Torches for those prideful of family traditions of church, home, and military honor cut across all strata of society. These are all family torches; the ones that children take from their parents, along the line of ancestral heritage.

Torches smolder at times. They can exhibit rebellion over family roots as much as the opposite. They can glow with remembered suffering from a historical past before bursting into raging flame. While each is sparked by one or more family aspect, only an individual can carry one and that for personal reasons.

People can find a family torch inside themselves, if they look for it. They can discover the personal reason for raising an arm to support that tapered torch. At some point, they must either acknowledge acceptance of “duty” or reject it and seek another.

Each of us has a choice as to which torch we carry for our family. Considering how broad the definition has become for “family,” we should marvel at how many torches one person can juggle at any given time. The reasons and purposes of torches have broadened as well.

At the end of the day, the person needs to ask herself, “Which torch did I choose today?” and “Should I choose to bear that flaming burden tomorrow?”


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