Friday, February 17, 2017

Baking Bread

photo via unsplash

Baking Bread (or Life in The Modern World)

Why can't it be easy for once?
Instead, it starts off sticky
and keeps getting stickier
until necessary intervention.

Slow down.
less speed,
deep breaths.

Suddenly, stickier becomes smoother
and by now you should know better --
difficult hides behind a screen of pliable
and soft is a precursor to crunchy.

Next comes growth.
A time of pure yeasty optimism
until the smashing and scraping
brings everything back into perspective

and before you know it
the boundaries are set
the heat is applied
the outcome revealed.

There is no such thing as easy,
only repetition after repetition.
Savor the warmth, the freshness.
Then start again.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

This is a poem for Laura Shovan's Annual February Writing Project. The words/phrases for this poem


originated here.

Jone has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at Check it Out.

Thanks for your patience to all who depend on Kidlitosphere Central for the list of Poetry Friday host blogs. Life blew up and I kept putting other things above "update the link list" on my TO DOs. A teacher work day tomorrow and Monday off for Presidents' Day has given me enough breathing space to get 'er done. (And, as usual, it wasn't such a big deal...I just needed to BEGIN.)

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Still Learning to Read: Reading Across Texts

This is one of a series of blog posts that continue the conversation around Still Learning to Read--teaching reading to students in grades 3-6.  This series will run on the blog on Tuesdays starting in August 2016 and continue through the school year.

Somehow, even by 3rd grade, students think that writing informational pieces somehow begins with copying facts out of books they read.  One of the goals for 3rd graders is to take notes on research topics and when my kids noticed this on the feedback form our district has, they mentioned quickly how hard they thought note-taking was.  Even after all that we have done with sketch-noting this year, they had little confidence when we started to talk about "research" and "note taking".

So I decided we'd meet a few books in a weeklong unit of study on notetaking/informational reading/research. I ordered 4 picture books about Wangari Maathai as I figured this was a person very few of them knew much about. I also knew that it tied a bit into our Science curriculum. We read Wangari's Trees of Peace, Wangari Maathai: The Woman Who Planted Millions of Trees, Seeds of Change and Mama Miti over 4 days.

These books worked well to read over days.  Each told the story of Wangari and I would consider each a picture book biography but each told different details and focused on different pieces of the stories.  So we confirmed much of our thinking when we heard it over and over and we added to what we knew as the different authors included different things.    Of course we continued to ask questions, chat informally and connect this with so many other things we've read.  But our new learning was in reading across texts to think about the most important things across -synthesizing information from a variety of sources.

This was a very simple study.  On the first day, I read the first book--Wangari's Trees of Peace, giving kids 3 sticky notes. After we finished reading the book, each child wrote 3 important things that they thought they'd want to remember from the book.  We then sorted the sticky notes realizing that many of us had similar things written. This started a good conversation about important vs interesting. Kids were amazed that after reading the whole book, they could "take notes" in their own words.

The next day we read Wangari Maathai which was a bit longer and more detailed. We did a similar activity with stickies and talked about the information we already knew as well as the information that was new to us from this book.

For Seeds of Change, I had kids jot important ideas in their readers' notebooks--just as they had with the sticky notes.

After reading the 4th book, we went back to all our notes and created a list of the most important things we would include if we were writing about Wangari Maathai.

These were great books to discuss as there was much new information and different lots to talk about after each book.  The students gained confidence in their ability to discover important information, write that down in their own words, and add to their learning with each new text.  They see the power in reading more than one book about a topic and they have a few strategies for determining importance.  Connecting what we learned to the sketch noting they love will be a next step.

Monday, February 13, 2017

This Land is Our Land: A History of American Immigration

Mary Lee and I attended the American Library Association Mid-Winter conference last month. It was a great experience and of course, I came home with so many books to add to my to-be-read stack. Following the awards announcements on Monday morning, there is an annual session for the YALSA Morris and Nonfiction award winners. Someone suggested that we attend the session and was it a treat!  We were able to hear all of the Morris and Nonfiction winners speak for a few minutes about their work. Then we received some of the books for autographing.

One of the books that had been on my radar was This Land is Our Land by Linda Barrett Osborne.  I have spend the last few weeks reading this, a little bit at a time, and am so glad that I did.

This book is a comprehensive history of immigration in the United States.  The Table of Contents shows all that is explored in the book.


It was an interesting and important read during this time in our country.  I am so glad that I read it and I have a better understanding of the issues surrounding immigration. It seems like an important read for everyone.  I don't often purchase books that I can't use in my classroom but I am so glad I bought this one. It is a boo that belongs in every middle school and high school libraries (many reviews say grades 6-10).

When I talked to the author during the autograph line she mentioned how interesting it was to be working on this book at this time (she started long before many of the current issues.)  She hoped that both teens and adults would read this book as there was so much that she had researched and wanted to share. I agree completely.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Poetry Friday -- Girl Power

photo via unsplash

They Can't Shut Us All Up

They can shut me up
but they can't change the truth--
I'm Rosa and Hillary, Malala and Ruth.

They can silence my voice
but I'll lead and you'll follow--
I'm Keller and Earhart, Cleopatra and Kahlo.

We rivet and code,
we teach and we heal,
orbit Earth, win Nobels,
go to prison for ideals.

They can't shut us all up
and they can't change what's true--
we're here to write history in PINK, not in blue.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

This is a poem for Laura Shovan's Annual February Writing Project. The words/phrases for this poem


originated here.

Katie has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at The Logonauts.

Thursday, February 09, 2017


A Bus Called Heaven
by Bob Graham
Candlewick Press, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

A community comes together, makes something from nothing, loses it, then wins it back in a game of table soccer.

The Tree: An Environmental Fable
by Neal Layton
Candlewick Press, 2016
review copy provided by the publisher

A timely fable to remind us that it is the humans' responsibility to take care of the environment, not destroy it for our own gain.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Still Learning to Read: Books We Love!

This is one of a series of blog posts that continue the conversation around Still Learning to Read--teaching reading to students in grades 3-6.  This series will run on the blog on Tuesdays starting in August 2016 and continue through the school year.

I love watching the tastes in the classroom change.  I love watching a student read a book and then that student recommends it to another and another and another. I love watching how books are informally passed around the classroom as readers know each other's tastes as readers.

This week, we worked on creating book reviews--we chose books we thought other 3rd graders would love to read. And we collected the book reviews on a Padlet.  So this Padlet is a glimpse into our classroom--the books that are currently popular.  Take some time to visit the Padlet, share it with your students and let us know if you read anything we recommend.  We hope you enjoy some of the books we love!

You can visit our Padlet here.


Monday, February 06, 2017

Exploring Identity

Thunder Boy Jr.
by Sherman Alexie
illustrated by Yuyi Morales
Little, Brown and Company, 2016
review copy from the public library

Thunder Boy just wants a normal name. He knows his name is special. "I am the only Thunder Boy who has ever lived." Except for the fact that he shares his name with his dad. He wants his OWN name. He thinks of the things he's done in his life (wonderful disconnects between the words and pictures for savvy readers/viewers) and comes up with all kinds of possible names, from the fierce Not Afraid of Ten Thousand Teeth to the silly Mud in His Ears. In the end, his dad gives him a new name that is all kinds of perfect.

by Ross Burach
HarperCollins, February 14, 2017
review copy provided by the publisher

Giraffe keeps being treated like he's a chair, and he just can't get the words out when he has the chance to explain that he's a giraffe, not a chair. He tries building a chair so that others can clearly see he's not a chair, but that doesn't work. And when giraffe decides that he will stand up to the NEXT animal he sees...and that turns out to be a doesn't turn out quite like he'd planned, but he is able to tell everyone the next day. You can use the last page to teach irony. Now that Giraffe has let everyone know what he isn't, he needs to be more aware of those around him!

Thursday, February 02, 2017

Poetry Friday -- Education is Not a Business

photo via unsplash
Education is Not a Business

The child lines up his teddy bears
to teach them ABCs.
He guides them gently in the task,
"The way Miss Smith taught me."

"We learn to share, hold hands in line,
protect and help and hug.
At story time in the media center
we find our place on the rug."

The profits from our nation's schools
aren't measured with nickels and dimes.
Our future's there within those walls --
let's polish them 'til they shine.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

This is a poem for Laura Shovan's Annual February Writing Project. The words/phrases for this poem


originated here.

Penny has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Penny and Her Jots.

Wednesday, February 01, 2017

Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History

Frederick Douglass: The Lion Who Wrote History
by Walter Dean Myers
illustrated by Floyd Cooper
HarperCollins, 2017
review copy provided by the publisher

Frederick Douglass helped to write history, and his story is one that can inspire young people follow in his footsteps, becoming strong readers and effective speakers in order to change the wrongs they see in their world.

When Frederick Douglass realized that his owner wanted to prevent him from learning to read in order to keep him in his place, and when he listened to the owner's children speaking clearly and directly, using all the right words, "He knew that reading could make a difference in how a person lived."

Douglass' eloquent speaking ability was utilized by the abolitionists. "Here was a man who could actually tell people what it was like to be a slave." Douglass also became a writer, a leader in urging Lincoln to enlist black soldiers in the Union Army during the Civil War, and the consul-general for the U.S. in Haiti.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Nonfiction Mentor Text (and a GREAT man)

Muhammad Ali: A Champion is Born
by Gene Barretta
illustrated by Frank Morrison
HarperCollins/Katherine Tegan Books, 2017
review copy provided by the publisher

This book has a unique text structure, making it interesting for study as a mentor text.

Rather than beginning with Muhammad Ali's childhood, this picture book biography starts with a series of dated snapshots of Ali's key fights -- his surprise first win over Sonny Liston for the world heavyweight championship in 1964, his rematch and win over Liston in 1965, his defeat of George Foreman in 1974 when he won the world heavyweight championship for a second time, and the 1978 fight with Leon Spinks when he became the first boxer to win the world heavyweight championship three times.The word POW is prominent in each spread, along with famous quotes by Cassius Clay (aka Muhammad Ali).

If that isn't enough to hook the reader, this sentence does it, "And he owed it all to a stolen bicycle."

A page turn after that, the reader is taken back to 1954, beginning again at the very beginning, and learning how it happened that a stolen bicycle really did lead to a boxing gym and an early mentor and a dream that became a reality.

This book is a fabulous introduction to an iconic athlete who was also a humanitarian, social activist, and positive role model for those diagnosed with Parkinson's disease.