Friday, July 29, 2016

Poetry Friday -- Today's Lesson

today's lesson 
persistence, by chicory 
(if mown, bloom low)

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

Margaret has today's Poetry Friday roundup at Reflections on the Teche.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Continuing to Study Issues of Race and Diversity

A few weeks ago, I committed to studying to learn about the race issues in our country.  I know that many of us have this same goal--to better understand what is happening so that we can work to create change.  Over the last few weeks I have read several articles that have helped me in different ways. Some are articles that helped me understand the issues from different perspectives. Others are pieces that help me think about my role in schools and as a teacher. I so appreciate everyone who has written and/or shared pieces thoughtfully and intentionally on social media. I think one thing we can do is to share pieces that we think will help others move forward in their understanding. It is sometimes a bit scary, as we know everyone in our feed may not agree with our stance. But I've decided that I am too committed to working toward change to worry about that anymore. Here are the things that I thought were worth sharing, not necessarily because I agree with them wholeheartedly but because they made me think beyond my current level of understanding.

I, Racist by John Metta at Those People

 What Writers of Color Say We Should All Read Now by Laurel Hertz at Star Tribune

How Marginalized Families are Pushed Out of PTAs by Casey Quinlan at The Atlantic

On Race, Our Behavior Proves Us Liars by Leonard Pitts, Jr. at the Miami Herald

Why I'm a Racist by Jeff Cook at The Huffington Post

Let's Step Up by Anne Lee at Nerdy Book Club

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

A BLOG SERIES: Still Learning to Read: Continuing the Conversation

In 2003, Karen Szymusiak and I wrote the book Still Learning to Read (Stenhouse). We believed strongly that children do not stop learning to read after their first few years of school. We have learned, over the course of our teaching, that grades 3-6 are critical years in our students' reading lives--that they have so much more to learn as readers once they've started to make sense of text.

Next month, the 2nd Edition of Still Learning to Read will be released by Stenhouse.  So much has changed in the 13 years since we wrote. Although our beliefs about learners remain the same, there are things we have learned and changes we have made to our teaching.  We feel that this edition of the book captures our new learning as well as the current issues teachers are dealing.

One thing we know is that we'll never stop learning about readers in grades 3-6.  We are fascinated by them and feel grateful to have the opportunity to learn with and from them.  This year, I will be teaching 3rd grade again and I know that I will learn new things about transitional readers every day. So in order to continue the conversation around literacy learning in grades 3-6, I will be starting a blog series called "Still Learning to Read: Continuing the Conversation".   This series will run every Tuesday beginning August 2.  Each week, I'll capture some moment in the classroom--it may be a conversation with a student, a book that we shared, some student work, a chart we created.  It will just be a moment that I learned from. This series will help me chronicle my year of learning and to invite you into the conversation.

To celebrate the release of the new book, Karen and I will be hosting a Stenhouse Twitter chat focusing on the First Six Weeks of School.  The Twitter chat will be on Monday, August 1 at 8:30. Follow the hashtag #SLTRead for this chat an our yearlong conversation around readers in 
grades 3-6.

We are also planning to run a Facebook group so if you are interested in talking about the book with others online, we invite you to join.

Learning about readers in grades 3-6 has been my passion for most of my teaching life.  I am excited to be able to expand the conversation and learn more about this incredible stage in a reader's life!

Look for the first post in the series next Tuesday, August 2 . I'll be sharing my process for
 thinking about changes to room set-up this year.

Monday, July 25, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I've been reading a lot this summer and have not shared much of my reading on the blog yet. So, for today's It's Monday! What Are You Reading? (Thanks to Jen and Kelly for hosting the roundup!) I thought I'd share some books that I thought were must-reads for different reasons. 

Picture Books

I have quite a collection of books about reading and I am happy to be adding this new picture book!

This book made me laugh out loud.  A funny book about a barnacle with nothing much to do.

A great story about a girl who has a fabulous dollhouse that she has created from a cardboard box.  I love the whole idea of creation behind this story.

The Cookie Fiasco and We Are Growing! (September 20)
These are the first two books coming out in the new "Elephant and Piggie Like Reading" series. They are both fabulously fun and perfect for young readers!

Middle Grade Novels

The Poet's Dog (September 13)
A new book by Patricia MacLachlan. I loved this book--the characters, their stories, the relationships. It appealed to me as an adult reader and think it would be a good read for upper elementary students.

In this story of September 10 , we get to know several characters will be impacted personally by the events of September 11.  This is very well done for middle grade students.

A book told in two voices--one character just moved to a new school from India.  Joe, has been at the school his whole life but still feels like he does not belong.  A powerful story with lots to talk about.

I love Jason Reynold's YA books and was thrilled to see his new middle grade novel.  I loved this book--it is a quieter story but his characters make this book what it is. They will stay with me for a very long time.

Wish (August 30)
Barbara O'Connor does it again. She writes the perfect middle grade novel every time.  This is the story of Charlie, a stray dog and a wish.

I have been looking forward to this book for months, ever since Donalyn Miller recommended it. It is one of the best middle grade/middle school fantasies I've read in a long time. I loved everything about it--the characters, the issues and themes, the plot, the writing.


Friday, July 22, 2016

Poetry Friday -- String Theory

by Ronald Wallace

I have to believe a Beethoven
string quartet is not unlike
the elliptical music of gossip:
one violin excited
to pass its small story along
to the next violin and the next
until, finally, come full circle,
the whole conversation is changed.

Chelanne has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Books4Learning.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

{DIY Literacy} #cyberPD

Better late than never, right?

#cyberPD nearly passed me by this summer, but in the spirit of Tuesday's Big Gulp-O-Reading, I read the whole book in one day.

Because I haven't kept up with all of the conversations for the past several weeks, my big take-away is likely redundant:


Summer is winding down. The IDEA of being a teacher again in a few weeks is switching back over to being a REALITY. This book cushioned me as I fell from Summer Mode back into Teacher Mode.

Even though I've been at this gig for decades now, what I love+hate most about it is that every year is new. I never feel like I've got this down pat, like I know where I'll start and exactly how I'll proceed through the year, or like I'm the expert I should be after all this time and practice.

But this book makes me feel like I'm going to do a better job this year than I've ever done before.

At the same time they make me realize that I haven't been doing enough to support learners by even more finely slicing and layering my lessons than I ever thought possible, Kate and Maggie never make me feel like a failure. Instead, their book does for me what my work with it will do for my students -- it will lift me/us to the next level (and the next and the next and the next).

As Franki said in the foreword,  "The ideas are sophisticated, but Kate and Maggie make teachers feel like "we can do this!"" They believe that teachers who are readers and writers themselves have at their fingertips the steps and moves that become the strategies that will help each child learn at his/her level. I love this focus on turning inward and accessing what I already know as the expert reader and writer in the classroom. And this book has given me the ways to make my years of experience into clear and concise tools that will bring my learners along with me.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Summer Reading at its Best

Wolf Hollow
by Lauren Wolk
Dutton Children's Books, 2016

I almost couldn't read this book. The tension and conflict from the very beginning nearly did me in. But the language and the characters kept me going. I was not at all surprised to find that Lauren Wolk is a poet.

Maybe this could be a read aloud in 5th grade. It's a hard story, but the stories on the news aren't much better. Perhaps it would give us a safe way to talk about the wolves out there, about honesty, about the choices we make, about how we can't control what happens...but we can try.

Whew. Just thankful that it's summer and I could curl up on the couch for four hours straight and read this all in one gulp. I feel like going right back and rereading it for the beautiful language.

Monday, July 18, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? #IMWAYR

Go to Teach Mentor Texts or Unleashing Readers
for the It's Monday! What Are You Reading? Round-Up!

I did a pretty good job on my TBR pile from last week. I finished 3 of the 5 and added one I hadn't planned on.



My Goodreads review:

Ms. Bixby is A Year of Reading's 147th 100 Cool Teachers in Children's Literature.

She is the teacher we all want to be. Not exactly her. We don't all need to run out and put a pink stripe in our hair. But we all want to be the ones who really SEE our students; who really HEAR them; who really KNOW them...and make a different difference in each of their lives.


I got a big envelope full of goodies from Enchanted Lion Books last week. Editor Claudia Bedrick does an amazing job bringing international books to the US market. All of these books are coming out this fall, and you'll want to watch for them. 

A reprint from the 1960's, this book by Swiss author/illustrator Roger Duvoisin gives us a character with a mentality we need in today's world.

The first in a trilogy by a famous-in-Japan children's bookmaker.

From Italy, a cat who dreams of the perfect mouse...and when that mouse finally appears, the cat's life is changed forever and for the better.

Have You Seen My Trumpet? comes to us from France. Fans of Michaƫl Escoffier's two other word play books in this series -- TAKE AWAY THE A and WHERE'S THE BABOON? -- will want to check this one out. After a few spreads, readers will get the pattern, but there's still a fun surprise waiting in the end!

First published in France by Belgian author Anne Herbauts, this book explores a myriad of ways to describe wind. Depending on who the blind boy asks for a description, color might be a smell, the sun, or time. Even the book itself is part of the exploration. It is "Created through embossing, debossing, die-cuts, lamination, and a variety of surfaces..." The fact that it's a paperback is also part of the experience of explaining wind. 
This is a fascinating book you'll want to get your hands on...literally. 

The most amazing of all of the Enchanted Lion books was this one -- 
Pinocchio: The Origin Story by Allesandro Sanna.

Allesandro Sanna is the Italian author of The River, a visual memoir of his life on Italy's Po River. From Sanna's inspiration for this story, to the gorgeous and mysterious illustrations, this is a book to savor. It gives a new and deeper meaning to the idea of an origin story!

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Poetry Friday Roundup is HERE! (Moo)

I'll be rounding up "old school" this week. 
Leave your links in the comments. 
I'll add them to the post as the day goes on.

 But first, Moo. 
Thank you, Kimberley Moran
for sharing the ARC of this novel in verse,
due to be published August 30, 2016, by HarperCollins. 

there's a reader who will pick up this book
and know that's a Belted Galloway on the cover.

there's a reader who has shown a heifer at the fair,
using a show stick to adjust the cow's stance.

there's a reader who knows cow nostrils cow slobber cow plops.

These readers
will live inside the story of city-kids Reena and Luke
learning the small-town farm-kid Mainey life,
learning to get along with old Mrs. Falala,
learning to do things they never imagined they could do
or would do.

The rest of the readers
will watch jealously from the outside,
dreaming of freedom and fog and lobster boats.

All readers
will savor Creech's rich language
prose poems
words that skip and drip down the page
words that stretch and shout
words that


Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge is pondering time and change, Amy Lowell and the Lowcountry of SC (plus three hokku).

Sally at Sally Murphy wrote three linked lunes...with a wink and a nod to her post from last week!

Emily Dickinson is helping Tara at A Teaching Life celebrate the recent rains.

Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme shares Carol Varsalona's Spring Seeds Gallery.

Keri at Keri Recommends has a vacation haiku from a getaway on the Little Red River in Arkansas.

Bridget's word play poem at Wee Words for Wee Ones will make you groan.

Dori at Dori Reads checks in from vacation in Montana with a glacier poem by a Kalispell student.

Laura at Laura Shovan has a mat-mom wrestling poem for us this week.

Diane at Random Noodling has bunny Haibun, Haiku and art this week!

At Kurious Kitty, Diane is celebrating Gustav Klimt's birthday with ekphrastic poetry written by Ferlinghetti.

Belted Galloways come in cinnamon, as well as dark chocolate. Image via Wikimedia.

At Beyond LiteracyLink, Carol V. shares Jone's Summer Poem Swap poem and encourages us to visit the Spring Seeds Gallery, where you can revisit the Kidlitosphere Progressive poem from last April.

Steven at Crackles of Speech has an original poem for us today about home building.

Linda M. at A Word in Edgewise also has a pair of original poems, inspired by a Teachers Write challenge.

Chelanne at Books4Learning reviews Outside the Box by Karma Wilson.

Myra at Gathering Books highlights Daniel Finds a Poem and tells about her Poetry Workshop for bloggers and families.

At The Opposite of Indifference, Tabatha has chosen a pair of poems with quiet Buddha wisdom.

Brenda at Friendly Fairy Tales is contemplating stillness vs. music in an original poem.

Elaine at Wild Rose Reader has an original mask poem that speaks in the voice of everyone's "favorite" wildflower of summer!

Catherine at Reading to the Core shares an original poem that invites readers to slow down and take a closer look.

Heidi ponders the exact moment the new year arrives in her original poem at My Juicy Little Universe.

Carol W. at Carol's Corner spotlights a birder's journal that includes sketching and poetry.

Belted Galloway nostril close up via Pixaby.

Little Willow has some Hamilton for us at Bildungsroman!!

Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone shares a poem-in-progress about her recent family reunion.

Sylvia at Poetry for Children is celebrating TEN YEARS of blogging! As it turns out, this is her 811th post, and we all know which books to find shelved in the library with that number on their spines! How perfect is that? Well, then...811 cheers (or moos) for Sylvia!!

Julianne at To Read To Write To Be shares the connections that led her from a podcast to a beautiful blessing poem by Jane Hirshfield.

Linda B. at TeacherDance has some "wisdom of the ages" for these troubled times.

Tanita at {fiction, instead of lies} shares Sting lyrics to soothe our souls.

Margaret at Reflections on the Teche celebrates her mother-in-law's 85th birthday in an amazingly spectacular way!

What a treat! S. Evelyn at Notes Toward a Definition stumbled upon Patience Agbabi's revision of the General Prologue of Chaucer's Canterbury Tales: So. Much Fun.

More Emily Dickinson from Ruth at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town.

At AliceNine, Alice shares a poem that's a "guiding beacon" for her.

Time to lie down in the shade. I think the roundup is almost finished.
No, wait! There's more! Irene at Live Your Poem is still up on Cloud Nine after being named the 2016 ILA-Lee Bennett Hopkins Promising Poet! It's the 15th, Irene, not the 8th! Everybody be sure to go over and give Irene another round of congratulations!

Claudette at 100 Words a Day shares an original haibun to celebrate (?) her recent hip surgery. How about some cheer(s) for Claudette?!?

And Carlie at Twinkling Along slipped in under the wire (West Coast midnight) with a poem about falling in love.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What Will I Do?

Like many teachers across the country, I am struggling to figure out what I can do in my classroom that will lay one small part of the foundation of the nation we want to become -- a nation united by our wealth of differences, rather than continuously divided into groups who spend all their energy on the problem, rather than on finding solutions.

This week, I interacted with children for the first time since school ended in June. The free summer lunch program that's hosted at my school brings together a beautiful mix of children. One boy who is taking part has known behavior issues, and he gave me a chance to practice and model social justice, one small incident at a time. For the sake of this post, I'll call this little guy Joey. Here are three small ways I can have a positive impact in my classroom and in the world around me.

I was just finishing up with the lunch count when Joey came out of the gym and complained that a boy had thrown a ball at his face. On purpose. Rather than focusing on the problem, I asked Joey what he had done in retaliation (nothing) and praised him for his peaceful solution -- for walking away and coming to get help. We talked about what he would like to do next -- Did he feel safe returning to the gym? Could he play in the gym without coming into contact with this other child? We walked to the gym and saw that he could join the group playing HORSE at the basketball hoop, or he could go into the opposite corner and work on his soccer skills. I left him with a soccer ball and a plan. Hopefully, by valuing his solution over the problem (which, knowing Joey, may or may not have occurred), he has learned that he can get positive attention for making good choices. By the time we identify a problem, it's already in the past. Our reaction to the problem is in the present, and our solution represents future thinking. Let's spend less time admiring problems, and more time on creative and positive solutions.

At lunch, Joey came and told me that other boys were calling him gay. We walked over to his table and I saw that one of our teen volunteers was talking to the other boys about the need to apologize. As soon as we got to the table, voices went up several decibels and fingers were aggressively pointed across the table on both sides. I sat down between the two parties half in and half out of the lunch table bench with my back to Joey, and I framed the situation this way for the older boys, "I can tell that Joey really believes that you called him names. And I am hearing you say that you did not call him names. I don't expect you to apologize for something you didn't do or say, but something happened here to upset Joey, and you have a choice now. You can be a trouble maker or you can be a peace maker. To be a peace maker, you might say something like this: 'I'm sorry you think I said hurtful things. I did not say those things, and I am not the kind of person who would ever say those things. But I can see you're upset and I'm sorry for that.' If you believe in your heart that those are true words, you might try being a peace maker and say them to Joey." The older boy used my words, and then I turned to Joey and said, "Now, I don't expect you to say, 'That's okay,' because your feelings were hurt and that might not be true. But if you wanted to practice being a peace maker, too, you might say, 'Thank you for your apology.' " Joey couldn't quite say those words out loud, but his lips moved and I thanked him for trying on the role of peace maker.

Learning to be a peace maker takes time and practice. It takes role models who are willing to deescalate situations by communicating their own truths and listening to the truths of others with compassion.

Eventually, the older boys left and it was just me, Joey, and the teen volunteer. Out of the blue, Joey asked, "Why is that boy over there wearing a pink tutu? That's a boy! I know it is! Why is he wearing a skirt?" I looked at Joey and said, "What difference does it make? That's just what's on the outside. Isn't what's on the inside of a person way more important?" And the teen volunteer chimed in, "Yeah! This is 2016 after all!!" She and I agreed that Jaden Smith (son of actor Will Smith) ROCKS the whole "wear whatever makes you happy" thing. Joey wasn't able to get reaction of outrage from the teen and I. Instead we showed him how to accept what we see on the outside of a person and value what's on the inside.

One other thing I am doing in my everyday life is to share eye contact and a smile with everyone I meet -- parents dropping their kids off for summer lunch, folks on the sidewalk at the farmers' market, exercisers walking on the path in the park, and workers cleaning the restrooms in the health club or bagging my groceries. It is my hope that this one small gesture communicates that the other person has been seen and valued, and begins to build a web of human connections one smile at a time.