Friday, October 09, 2015

Poetry Friday -- Rereading Frost

Rereading Frost 
by Linda Pastan

Sometimes I think all the best poems
have been written already,
and no one has time to read them,
so why try to write more?

At other times though,
I remember how one flower
in a meadow already full of flowers
somehow adds to the general fireworks effect

as you get to the top of a hill
in Colorado, say, in high summer
and just look down at all that brimming color.

(read the rest of the poem here)

That first true, right? But the best part of writing is working through the "Why bother?", keeping my eyes open and my pencil ready, and receiving amazing gifts from the universe and my imagination. Ah, writing!

Laura has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Writing the World for Kids, and -- make a note of this -- on October 30, the roundup will be at Jone's place, Check It Out, instead of here at A Year of Reading.

Thursday, October 08, 2015

#GNCelebration -- Sunny Side Up

Every Thursday in October, we'll be celebrating Graphic Novels here on our blog. We are teaming up with blogger friends at Kid Lit Frenzy and Assessment in Perspective, so you'll want to check out their blogs every week too! If you want to know more about our monthlong celebration, read our Nerdy Book Club post announcing it. We also hope you'll join our Google Community where the party will come together! We love Graphic Novels and we want to share that love with the world.

The winner of last week's give-away here on A Year of Reading is...Kim Haines! We'll be contacting you, Kim!

by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Graphix/Scholastic, 2015

Back at the end of August, Franki wrote about the AMAZING podcast that Colby Sharp and Travis Yonkers created, called The Yarn. Over the course of eight episodes, Sharp and Yonkers explored every aspect of the making of Sunny Side Up.

We both loved the book, and the podcast gave us fascinating insight into all kinds of back story from a variety of points of view. We couldn't wait to see how the book would be received by its intended audience -- middle grade readers.

Yesterday, I sat down with four of my 5th grade girls who have read the book and asked them what they thought of it.

Before I tell you what they said about Sunny Side Up, I should tell you about the class' conversation about our next read aloud. Earlier this week, we finished The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart, and we were discussing the ending and the themes. Specifically, we were talking about the power of reading books with hard, emotional topics. I told them that perhaps I would choose a book that was emotionally a little lighter for our next read aloud, and they protested...LOUDLY. They clamored for another book that nearly broke their hearts, that made them sit on the edges of their seats gasping, that caused them to grapple with hard life issues. That was exactly what I hoped for with The Honest Truth. I wanted our read aloud and our classroom community to be a safe place to think about and talk about a book that wasn't all sunshine and roses. I never would have guessed, though, how hungry they would be for more of that after one book full.

Because of this, I wasn't at all surprised that my readers loved Sunny Side Up. They absolutely got that although it is a full color graphic novel with the word SUNNY on the cover, it's actually the story of a dark time in a family's life. They knew why Sunny was in Florida with her grandpa (they could turn to the exact page in the text where the reader is told outright). And they could name specific chapters that they loved -- one cited "Terrific" because her mom had told her about "old fashioned things" like the "Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific" ad campaign from "a long time ago," another turned right to the chapter, "Big Al" where Sunny leaves the golf course pond in quite a windmilling walk-on-water hurry after meeting the local alligator while salvaging lost golf balls for 25 cents apiece. One girl loved the flashbacks that slowly revealed why Sunny and her family aren't going to the beach house as planned (and I loved her for knowing, as a 10 year-old reader, how Jenni Holm had structured her narrative).

None of the girls read the authors' note in the back of the book, so they had only wondered if maybe this was a true story; they hadn't realized it was memoir until I told them. But I don't think that mattered to their understanding.

If you haven't read this graphic novel,  you simply must. If you haven't listened to the podcast, you simply must. This is an amazing time to be a middle grade reader, and even if you're long past that age, you owe it to your younger self to dive into the books you didn't know you were missing, but that you would have loved. Sunny Side Up is definitely one of those.

Tuesday, October 06, 2015

A Day With Chris Lehman: Falling in Love With Close Reading

On Saturday, I attended The Literacy Connection workshop with Chris Lehman. Wow! What an amazing day. I know I can't capture in words how amazing the day was but I wanted to share the highlights. If you have not had a chance to hear Chris Lehman or to read his books, I would highly recommend it. He is an important voice in literacy education and he shares his understandings generously. It was a great way to spend a Saturday in early October.

I am so lucky to teach in Central Ohio. Being part of the Literacy Connection and this group of teachers from Central Ohio who is passionate about literacy learning is such a gift. And so many of these teachers are Dublin colleagues. I feel lucky every day to learn with such an amazing group of people who care so much about what is right for kids. We always have a great time learning and thinking together.

I started my day picking up coffee at the brand new Starbucks that is only a mile or so from my house! I already love this Starbucks and the feel that I have when I walk in there. As busy as they were since they are newly opened, they didn't hesitate when I asked about providing coffee for the teachers. So happy to start all my days here, especially rainy Saturdays when it is still dark! Picking up the coffee here was the perfect way to start the day!

I always love the beginning of the day at these events.  Reconnecting with friends and colleagues and having a few minutes to chat over coffee before the session begins is always important.  Saturday morning there was so much energy in the  room as we knew what a great day we had ahead of us. Lots of people had some time to chat with Chris and to each other.

And if you missed my tweet--Dublin librarian, Marisa Saelzler found the perfect dress for the event. A Lularoe dress that perfectly matches the cover of Chris's book, Falling in Love with Close Reading! (You have to zoom in to see the perfect fabric!)

The day started off with Peggy Oxley welcoming the crowd and introducing Chris. If you don't know Peggy, she is the woman who has run this organization for years.  Her vision for teacher learning and how The Literacy Connection can support that is amazing.  

And of course there were books! Cover to Cover came with so many great new titles.  I showed some control and only bought a small stack. Some great new books that I am excited to share with my students soon.

I can't possibly summarize all that I learned on Saturday, but the day was exactly what I needed when I needed it. Chris's whole message was perfect for early October. Chris gave us so much to think about. Here are some of the quotes I kept throughout the day--quotes that I will revisit over the next few weeks:

"Joy is grounded in good literacy."

"Reading closely is a very natural thing for our kids to do."

"Close reading is about discovering new meaning through looking at details."

"For close reading to go well, reading needs to go well!"

"In close reading you are trying to discover things you didn't notice before."

"If we are asking kids to close read, it has to be a text kids can read successfully by themselves."

"Our kids need access to a lot of books that they can read with strength and that they are interested in reading."

"Nothing's magic in education except your relationship with your students."

"If we develop a structure, it will become a habit which will lead to independence."

"The purpose of the structure is that we can make it more sophisticated over time."

"Young readers need a lot of time to talk and develop the oral language to talk about their thinking around ideas."

"Ultimately, good reading work is good life work."

"It is so important that we are really good kid-watchers. We need to see what our kids do well and build on that."

"Effective literacy instruction requires knowledge of what book levels require readers to be able to do to gain meaning."

Chris Lehman will be back for another day with The Literacy Connection in March. I can't wait to learn more from him then!

**On a related note, if you haven't been keeping up with all of the great work Chris is doing with The Educator Collaborative, I would go check it out. Great Think Tanks and all of the session from the September Gathering are archived and free. Lots of great PD by amazing people.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Math Monday: Family Math Night!

This is the 2nd year we've hosted a Family Math Night early in the school year.

We use games in our classroom and we've seen the power of these when it comes to math skills and strategy work.  We also use Games for homework a lot.  We want homework to be fun and stress free. We know kids work hard all day and are often tired at the end of a school day. The games and the talk around games is a powerful way to learn lots of math concepts.

A few years ago, we started to send home Math Boxes with our students.  We wanted kids to have all the math tools they needed in one spot so they could play math games at home.

Then last year, thanks to our colleague Katie DiCesare, we started to host a Family Math night in mid-September.  By mid-September, our kids have learned at least 3-4 math games well enough to teach someone else.  On Family Math Night, parents come in and play a game with their child then take home a folder of games as well as the Math Box of learning tools.

It is such a fun night!  Lots of laughing and cheering.  It is a nice time of year for families to get to know each other and to see the classroom. We know families are busy so they can stop by for 15 minutes or they can stay the full hour-whichever works. And for those who can't attend, we send the math box and folder of games home.

Throughout the year, we'll send new games home and we know our students have a spot to keep those games. And since most families have seen the fun in playing games and most have seen how much math is involved in each one, we hope they'll pull the games out and play once in a while.

Family Math Night is one of my favorite fall events now.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Poetry Friday -- Beyond Thrilled

National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry
edited by J. Patrick Lewis
National Geographic, October, 2015

I am beyond thrilled to have a poem in this gorgeous book! To have my words share covers with some of my favorite poems of all times, and to be included with so many of my favorite poets (some whose words-on-page I know, but some whose handshake-hug-or smile I know)! And to be able to page through this book savoring the pictures as much as the! Thank you, Mr. JPL, for this opportunity, this gift.

My poem is in the ocean section, and to write it, I did exactly what Pat encourages in his forward:
"You needn't leave your chair to write a poem about the wilder shores of creation. A book is your ticket to ride; a photograph is rapid transit to the brain. What kind of poem would you  write if all you had in front of you was an image...?"
I've never been to the Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize, so I went there through pictures and research. I gazed into its depths and wondered (both with questions and awe). When I finally wrote, I let the Great Blue Hole speak, giving its tribute to the water that created it one drop at a time with the eternal power of erosion.

Flickr Creative Commons photo by Eric Pheterson

I Owe it All to Water

Back in the ice age,
I became a cave.
In my hollow heart, I meditated
on my maker.

Water’s three little atoms have such power:
dripping steadily,
grinding microscopically,
sculpting artistically.

(or so it seemed)
the oceans rose, my ceiling fell, and I was completely
submerged. Filled to the brim. Literally.

Now I am a deep, indigo blue. A circular
sapphire in a turquoise sea: singular.
Breathtakingly spectacular.
And I owe it all to water.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2014

Heidi has the Poetry Friday roundup today at My Juicy Little Universe.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Celebrating Raina Telgemeier! #GNCelebration

We are excited to begin our monthlong celebration of Graphic Novels.  Every Thursday in October, we'll be celebrating Graphic Novels here on our blog.  We are teaming up with blogger friends at Kid Lit Frenzy and Assessment in Perspective, so you'll want to check out their blogs every week too!  If you want to know more about our monthlong celebration, read our Nerdy Book Club post announcing it.  We also hope you'll join our Google Community where the party will come together!  We love Graphic Novels and we want to share that love with the world.

It was not easy for me to fall in love with graphic novels, but once I read Babymouse and fell in love with that character, I gave others a try.  (Thank you Jenni and Matthew Holm!).  I still find them a bit tricky as I have to constantly remind myself to spend time with the visuals--I tend to want to read quickly through the words and move on.  But knowing Graphic Novels and having many in my classroom has changed our Reading Workshop. I have several baskets of favorite authors and series in the Graphic Novel section. I have graphic novels in a variety of genres and I have graphic novels that span a variety of levels. So there are graphic novels for everyone.  I find that these are fabulous additions to our classroom and I am so glad I listened to Mary Lee and let her show me how to read these.  In preparation for today's post, I dug into the Graphic Novel tag on our blog and was amazed to see how many graphic novels we've shared on the blog over the years.  

To kick of our Graphic Novel Celebration, let's celebrate Raina Telgemeier!  I discovered Raina's work in 2010 when I read Smile. I fell instantly in love with it and couldn't wait to read more by this author. The idea of a Graphic Novel memoir was something I hadn't considered and I found the story to be fascinating.  This was one of the first graphic novels I read that helped me understand that graphic novels were not a "genre". Instead they could be any genre and Raina wrote a genre I had never read in a graphic novel.  It totally drew me in!

Since then I've read all of her books and have loved every one. She is already a favorite in our classroom as my children can identify her art and notice when they see a new piece in a graphic novel anthology (such as Comic Squad Recess!). My student relate to her stories and talk about "Raina" like she is sitting with us sometimes. Her writing and art combine to create some of the most amazing stories I've read.  She really changed my whole understanding of what a graphic novel could be and the impact it can have on readers.

Raina is a rock star in the graphic novel world. She was one of the authors who changed the way we thought about graphic novels and she continues to create amazing works.  If you did not get a chance to hear her interview on The Yarn about Graphic Novels, it is so worth listening to. It is an amazing interview by Colby Sharp and Travis Jonker.

Lately, Raina has been updating the Baby-Sitters Club books by Ann M. Martin. I love that these books that so many of us loved years ago, are back in graphic novel form. This gives students two ways to fall in love with the characters. A few years ago, Raina  did black and white versions of a few of the Baby-Sitters' Club books but now they are being published in FULL COLOR. And they are fabulous.  It is amazing to see my kids pick these up BECAUSE they know and love Raina's work.  I love that they can see the power of her work in so many different stories.  

I can't imagine what it takes to create one of these full color Baby-Sitter Club graphic novels. Needless to say, they are not being released as fast as we would all like as I am sure they take a while to create! But this week, the full color edition of book #3 was released:  Mary Anne Saves the Day. And we are giving away a copy as part of today's celebration! Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win. Comment on this post for an optional entry!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Celebrate graphic novels with us today by reading or sharing one of Raina's books with students or colleagues! Go Raina!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Bully on the Bus by Kathryn Apel

Bully on the Bus
by Kathryn Apel
University of Queensland Press, 2014
review copy purchased for my classroom library

It's hard to know what to do when a bully is making your life miserable. Katheryn Apel captures the emotional upheaval and the unwillingness to tell trusted adults perfectly in her verse novel for younger readers. An older girl is bullying Leroy every day on the bus and he feels wretched. His big sister Ruby tries to help, but ultimately, Leroy is the one who must reach out for help.

This is a book that might help a child who is being bullied have the courage to tell a trusted adult or stand up to a bully. In an interesting parallel, Leroy's teacher gives him a book that contains HIS secret weapon against the bully!

There are just a few Aussie words that might be unknown to a US reader, but nothing that can't be understood with just a bit of inference.

Monday, September 28, 2015

How's That Workin' For You? -- Classroom Design Edition

Just about a month ago, I was setting up my classroom and imagining how all of the spaces I'd designed would be used once the students came.

Last week, during independent work time in science, when students had the choice to work on some anchor charts for the classroom, or on a 3-D energy pyramid, I looked around the room and was thrilled to see that every single space I had imagined was being used! YAY!

The small round table

Standing desk

Back table


Room for more than one group on the tile

Table group

Lap desk and meeting area

The other standing desk

Friday, September 25, 2015

Poetry Friday -- Eclipse

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by John 'K'

As If to Demonstrate an Eclipse
by Billy Collins

I pick an orange from a wicker basket
and place it on the table
to represent the sun.
Then down at the other end
a blue and white marble
becomes the earth
and nearby I lay the little moon of an aspirin.

(read the rest of the poem here)

Mark your calendar and set your alarm -- there's going to be a total lunar eclipse this Sunday night peaking about 10:00 PM. It's an eclipse of a Supermoon! Way cool. The eastern half of North America will be able to see the entire eclipse. Read more about it here and here.

This week, Janet Wong is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup at Sylvia's blog Poetry For Children.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Join us for #GNCelebration in October

We'll be celebrating graphic novels every Thursday in October! Head over to The Nerdy Book Club for 10 Reasons to Join Us in Our October Graphic Novel Celebration