Thursday, June 30, 2011

New Poetry Friday Roundup Schedule

1 Andromeda at a wrung sponge
8 Elaine at Wild Rose Reader
15 Mary Lee at  A Year of Reading
29 Kate at Book Aunt

12 Karen at Karen Edmisten
19 Dori at Dori Reads

16 Amy at The Poem Farm
23 Anastasia at Picture Book of the Day

7 Mary Ann at Great Kid Books
14 david elzey at FOMAGRAMS
21 Jama at alphabet soup
28 Diane at Random Noodling

11 April Halprin Wayland at Teaching Authors

2 Carol at Carol's Corner
16 Kate at Book Aunt
23 Dori at Dori Reads
30 Julie at The Drift Record

If you want the html code so that you, too, can have a cool sidebar list, email me at ayearofreading at earthlink dot net and I'll send it to you!

Dude: Fun with Dude and Betty

Dude: Fun with Dude and Betty

Dude: Fun with Dude and Betty
by Lisa Pliscou
illustrated by Tom Dunne
Harper, 2011
review copy purchased because it looked too hysterical to pass up (I was not disappointed)

Yesterday's book was a hard book; today's book is just plain fun. I took it to All Write and it made its way down the row in the PAC before Jeff Anderson's opening keynote, becoming many readers' #bookaday.

This book is a parody of Dick and Jane (or David and Anne for you Catholics).

"Here is Dude.
Hey, Dude. What's up?
Dude is a way cool guy."

Dude's friend is Betty, and his dog is Bud. "Bud is a most excellent dog." Dude, Betty and Bud play Frisbee on the beach, then Dude goes surfing while Betty soaks up rays on the beach.

Check out those waves!
The waves are big.
Surf's up, Dude!
It is cranking today."

Dude gets biffed by a super gnarly wave, and he's done surfing for the day. The trio goes to the taco stand for a "bodacious burrito." Back at home, Dude and Betty listen to Dude's new Surf Punks CD. "Betty boogies. Dude plays air guitar." Dude's Father and Mother have the nerve to question him about cleaning his room and doing his homework, so he bails on that gnarly scene and heads back to the beach.

The book includes an extensive glossary.

I can't wait to hear my landlocked midwestern 4th graders perform this book!!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

This Child, Every Child: A Book About the World's Children

This Child, Every Child: A Book about the World’s Children (CitizenKid)

This Child, Every Child: A Book about the World's Children
by David J. Smith
illustrated by Shelagh Armstrong
CitizenKid imprint of Kids Can Press, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

This is an important book. It is not an easy book, but it is an important book.

Without support, it will be hard for children to grasp the concepts that compare children around the world in various aspects of their lives. And it is hard to read about children in the world who don't have proper food, clean water, caring families, or access to schooling.

Which brings us back to the fact that this is an important book, because no positive changes will come for children in need (whether they live in rich countries or poor) if we look away from the problem.

The format of this book is similar to David J. Smith's other books for the CitizenKid imprint of Kids Can Press, IF THE WORLD WERE A VILLAGE and IF AMERICA WERE A VILLAGE. It is organized by topic: Children and their families, Children at home, Children's health, Children on the move, Children at school, Are boys and girls treated equally?, Children and work, Children at play, Children and war, Children and the future, Children's rights. In each section, he introduces us to children from around the globe who experience each of the topics differently. In addition, on each 2-page topic spread, Smith highlights a pertinent section from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (and all of the rights are listed in child friendly language at the end of the book). Also at the end of the book, are numerous ideas for using the book and the information and concepts in the book with children.

When we study rights and responsibilities in our 4th grade social studies curriculum, it is often hard for 9 year-olds to relate to the U.S. Bill of Rights. But the rights that are presented in this book are their rights--the rights of children in the United States and all around the world. I can't wait to share this book with my students!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

You Can Count on Monsters

You Can Count on Monsters

You Can Count on Monsters
by Richard Evan Schwartz
published by A.K. Peters, 2010
review copy provided by the publisher

I love teaching math, so excuse me for getting excited about a book that has fun with prime and composite numbers, and prime factorization!

Mathematician Richard Evans Schwartz has created a monster for each of the numbers from 1-100. The prime number monsters are what make up the composite number monsters, in the same way that each composite number is made by multiplying prime factors. The monster for the prime number 2 has two blue and pink google eyes. The monster for the prime number 3 is a red triangle with a big yellow smile. The monster for the prime number 5 is a bright gold star with green google eyes. The monster for the composite number 30 is made of the prime numbers 2, 3, and 5 because those are the prime factors of 30 -- 2x3=6 and 6x5=30, so 2x3x5=30. In the 30 monster you can find the bright gold star, a blue google eye and a big red triangle.

This will be a great book to preview with kids to show them how it works, and then turn them loose with it to see what they can find.

Stanford mathematician Keith Devlin talked to NPR's Weekend Edition host Scott Simon about You Can Count on Numbers. (Listen here.) He says that mathematicians are different from regular folk because to them, numbers have personality, structures and relationships. The brilliance of Schwartz's book is that he makes those ways of thinking and seeing come to life for anyone who studies the pages of YOU CAN COUNT ON MONSTERS!

At Richard Evans Schwartz's website, you can see what some of the monsters look like.

Go look! What do YOU notice?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Rah, Rah, Radishes!: A Vegetable Chant

Rah, Rah, Radishes!: A Vegetable Chant

Rah, Rah, Radishes!: A Vegetable Chant
by April Pulley Sayre
Beach Lane Books, June 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

April Pulley Sayre is the queen of chant books.

A few years ago at the CLA breakfast at NCTE, I sat beside April. We got to talking about her school visits, and she offered to perform her chant book, TROUT, TROUT, TROUT: A FISH CHANT, while I held the book up and turned the pages for our table-mates. She could recite that book from memory faster than I could turn the pages!

Her other chant books in that first series include BIRD, BIRD, BIRD: A CHIRPING CHANT and ANT, ANT, ANT: AN INSECT CHANT.

In her newest book, April takes us to the South Bend, IN Farmer's Market to romp and stomp and chomp the names of both familiar and unusual vegetables. Here's a bit of the backstory about why this book came to be:

"In 2006 I watched British chef Jamie Oliver's four-part BBC documentary, "Jamie's School Dinners," in which he interviewed children and found that many didn't know the names of vegetables. That shocked me, a girl who grew up picking vegetables on her grandparents' farm. I had to do something...
...RAH, RAH, RADISHES! A VEGETABLE CHANT is about having fun with vegetables--and with delicious words, colors, and shapes. The photos are a celebration of farmer's market produce; I photographed it at our local South Bend Farmer's Market."

Here's a sample of the jazzy rhythm, rhyme, and language:

Rah, rah, radishes!
Red and white.
Carrots are calling.
Take a bite!
Oh boy, bok choy!
Brussels sprout.
Broccoli. Cauliflower.
Shout it out!

The colors of the foods jump off the pages and the words beg to be shouted aloud. I'm sure this will be a favorite book for partner reading during next year's Poetry Fridays in my 4th grade classroom. (For a review and some inside images, go to jama rattigan's alphabet soup.)

April has a sequel planned: GO, GO, GRAPES! A FRUIT CHANT, and rumor has it that while in New Orleans for ALA she visited a Vietnamese fruit market to do a photo shoot. Stay tuned for another YUMMY chant book!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Georgia Heard, Poetry, and Common Core Standards

Earlier this summer, I downloaded two Common Core Standard apps for my iPhone. You can find them at the iTunes app store or read about them ("The Common Core app isn't going to revolutionize the way you teach, but it certainly will make it convenient to find the standards that you need to know.") at Free Technology for Teachers.

I'm approaching the switch to the Common Core Standards on a "need to know" basis. They aren't exactly giving me hives, but I'm on the apprehensive side of curious to find out how they'll impact the way I do business in my 4th grade classroom.

Georgia Heard's session at All Write, "Understanding the Core Standards: Reading Standards for Literature -- Poetry," seemed like a good place to dip my toes in. And the main message I got from this session? Good teaching is good teaching, no matter what labels they give us to name the pieces and parts.

Georgia started with the big lessons that poetry teaches -- lessons of language. Poetry is filled with figurative language, and with the language of heart and soul: rhythm and sound, compression and precision, images, and figures of speech. (And she showed us where all of these pieces and parts and labels can be found in the Common Core Standards.)

She named the questions we need to ask of poems we read and write:

  • What makes this a poem?
  • What is this poem about?
  • What is the poet's message?
  • What tools did the poet use to help show his/her meaning?
(The standards these questions address already exist in our state standards...nothing new here...)

And she showed us how, by living with and climbing inside one poem a week, students would build knowledge about poems for their "music" and for their "meaning" toolboxes for reading and writing poetry.

Monday: read the poem aloud. Make sure students can see the poem. Read it again. Turn and talk. What do you notice? What's it about?

Tuesday--Thursday: illustrate it, act it out, read it chorally, do quick-writes about the poem/off of the poem.

Friday: now that you love and understand the poem, dig into the craft tools the poet used. Talk about how the poem's built, how the poet uses compressed language (not ALL of the words another writer might use on the same topic).

Georgia's final message:

Don't forget that literature is heart work.

All Write--Tuesday

Mindy Hoffar closing the All Write Conference

Tuesday's sessions were as good as Monday's. It was a conference in which every session was incredible.

A Place for Wonder: Reading and Writing Nonfiction in the Primary GradesI began the day in Georgia Heard's session. Her topic was A PLACE FOR WONDER and I see huge possibilities for the library. I have read and loved all of Georgia Heard's books. She was the person who years ago at a Teacher's College Writing Project Summer Institute convinced me that I could include poetry reading and writing in my classroom. Her book, FOR THE GOOD OF EARTH AND SUN is still the resource I go back to again and again for inspiration in the teaching of poetry. This topic, A Place of Wonder, follows Georgia's theme--helping kids find and live their passions--but in this book, she focuses more on nonfiction. I have been especially interested in nonfiction lately, thinking about how to get more kids at our school reading nonfiction by choice. I see huge implications for the library after hearing Georgia talk. I think I read this book when I was new to the library and now that things are set, it seems the perfect time to implement some of the ideas that Georgia shares in the library. One of the key things Georgia talked about was the importance of valuing student questions and having a permanent place in the classroom to capture those.  She also talked about the idea of "pondering time" when a class could explore one question together as a way into class shared research. She says, "Google can answer questions. We want them to think about things. We want them to put opinions with fact-they need voice." She wove all of this in with the teaching of nonfiction and what struck me was the idea that research is not about report writing. It is about wondering, finding answers, thinking together and finding voice because you understand. I will be revisiting this book with an eye toward the library this summer.

I Read It, but I Don't Get It: Comprehension Strategies for Adolescent ReadersCris Tovani (@ctovani) talked about her upcoming book, SO WHAT DO THEY REALLY KNOW? ASSESSMENT THAT INFORMS TEACHING AND LEARNING (due out from Stenhouse in July).  She talked about the importance of getting back to our beliefs about students and learning. She shared that when your beliefs don't match your practice, you get burnt out. She said, "If you don't believe that children can read, you won't do the learning needed to figure out how to scaffold them so they can read for 90 minutes." She really pushed us to think about our practice--why do we do what we do. She did this by sharing her own process and her own thinking over the year. She reminded us that Reading Workshop is not an activity--that it is a planning structure. And she talked about assessment that matters--the kind that helps us know where to take kids next. I am anxious to read her new book. Her first book, I READ IT BUT I DON'T GET IT, impacted me incredibly years ago. Even though Cris was a high school teacher and I was teaching 4th grade at the time, the issues she shares are universal. Cris's work is work that can support our thinking and learning about literacy K-12.

Three Hens and a PeacockLester Laminack really pushed us to think about the role of setting in books. He is brilliant in his understanding of the subtle things an author does in a text and the way that it impacts the reader. As always, listening to Lester was a treat. He can bring powerful thinking to us with his humor and wit. This was the first time I was able to hear Lester read aloud from his new picture book THREE HENS AND A PEACOCK. I love that he can use his own writing to share the decisions he makes as an author. This combination is a unique one for a presenter--his understanding of child development, literacy learning, and the life of a writer. Setting is often one of those things I don't pay attention to but Lester gave us ways to really look at the way setting impacts a story--when it matters. I hope to reread some picture books that he recommended to begin to make sense of setting myself. Lester's blog is also a great source of information.

Teaching with IntentionNo matter how many times I hear Debbie Miller, she keeps me grounded. Debbie shared student samples from K-5 on how she is helping students make their thinking permanent. She is brilliant in her choice of books and shared picture books like THE MAGIC FISH and THE HARMONICA as ways to help students at different levels make sense of text at deeper levels. I loved Debbie's book READING WITH MEANING--it helped me see what kids were capable of when time was given to thinking.  But her book TEACHING WITH INTENTION is one that has impacted my thinking most in the last several years. In that book, as in this presentation, she shared the thought process she goes through to show how intentional she is about every move she makes in the classroom. Everything she does is purposeful and every book she chooses, she does with intent. For me, Debbie is always about thinking hard about the ways in which we spend time with kids--keeping our classrooms authentic and powerful places for learning.

All Write was definitely an energizer. The speakers all gave me so much to think about.  And June is a great time to start thinking and planning!  :-)

Saturday, June 25, 2011

ALL WRITE!!! Consortium Summer Institute-Reflection #2: Monday

Our group chatting over lunch at Applebee's on Monday of All Write.

The thing I love most about my professional development lately is the fact that I can follow-up in so many ways. For years, I went to NCTE as my annual professional development. I knew that it was there that I could hear many of my favorite literacy thinkers and I could (in one weekend) get insights into their newest learning.  I'd come home, read their books and wait until I had the chance to hear them again.

Now, with the Internet, I can continue to learn from experts across the world and follow-up on the thinking of speakers I hear in so many ways.  Professional authors host webpages, blogs, webinars and more. Many are also on Twitter --so I often come home from a conference with a new group of people to follow.  Now, when I attend an amazing institute like All Write!!!, it is often just the beginning of my learning--I know I will be able to revisit the thinking of the speakers I hear and revisit their newest learning.

Highlights from Monday at All Write:

Mechanically Inclined: Building Grammar, Usage, and Style into Writer's WorkshopJeff Anderson, author of MECHANICALLY INCLINED kicked of the All Write conference with the opening keynote.  Jeff has an upcoming book called 10 THINGS EVERY WRITER NEEDS TO KNOW (Stenhouse). In his keynote, Jeff talked a bit about the new book and made some points that I have been thinking about. One point he made early on about the title of the new book was to point out that the book was not called "THE" 10 THINGS A WRITER NEEDS TO KNOW.  But these are 10 things that stay true.  At the beginning of Jeff's talk, he mentioned all of the ways technology are expanding our opportunities to write.  But, he asked, "What are the things about writing that stay true no matter what?"  He continued to push us to think about ways we supported writing in our classrooms.

To keep up with Jeff's thinking, you can follow him on Twitter (@writeguyjeff). He also has a website/blog. Another great resource for Jeff is Stenhouse--I particularly enjoyed this webcast with Jeff.

On Monday, I also heard Katie Wood Ray. Her books have been an anchor for me and I realized listening to her this week, that Katie has been instrumental in helping me look closely at opportunities in books.  Katie talked about detail in writing and the quote that sticks with me is this one, "Detail is about selecting the ones that capture the essence, not every single thing."  She asked us to think about someone we knew well and to think about a detail about that person that captures the essence of him/her.  What an important message for writers--capturing the essence. She shared some pieces in text (both children and adult work) that helped us see the power of this type of detail.  I will be thinking hard about that over the next few weeks--details that capture the essence of something.

I will be revisiting many of Katie's books. I tend to go back to STUDY DRIVEN and IN PICTURES AND IN WORDS most often but I think I will revisit WONDROUS WORDS after hearing this talk.

Day by Day: Refining Writing Workshop Through 180 Days of Reflective PracticeI finally had the chance to hear Ruth Ayres speak.  I had heard snippets of her talk but made sure to get into her session. Ruth talked about the things she learned about teaching writing from her children's swim teacher. The talk was brilliant and the message was huge.  It was a gift to be part of her session. The thing about Ruth that most struck me was her reflective stance--she is constantly reflecting on her practice and carries the reflection a bit further than most of us do. She is continually looking at the bigger picture of our work with children. This is evident in all of her writing and her work. Ruth is one of those people that truly amazes me. I am not sure how she does what she does. Ruth is generous with sharing her own learning--when you look for Ruth online, you can find webcasts, presentations and more.  Her book DAY BY DAY is packed with ideas to help teachers reflect. She is also working on a new book and keeps up with not one, but two blogs, TWO WRITING TEACHERS and RUTH AYRES WRITES in which she shares her own writing life. 

Of Primary Importance: What's Essential in Teaching Young WritersI have heard Ann Marie Corgill (@acorgill on Twitter) speak many times over the years. I always learn so much from her and am able to rethink my work with young writers.  At All Write, I was able to hear her talk about writing assessment and the use of Learning Journey folders. Ann Marie wrote about these in her book OF PRIMARY IMPORTANCE and I have been thinking a great deal about making the process of learning more visible. These folders are something I need to look at again--I plan to revisit that section of her book soon. Ann Marie is someone who understands writing workshop at all levels. She has experience teaching grades 1-6 and shares her learning in many ways.  Her website and blog are two places I visit often to keep up with Ann Marie's thinking.

Adventures in GraphicaI ended my day on Monday in a session on graphic novels by Terry Thompson (@TerryTreads on Twitter).  Terry has taught me so much about the possibilities with graphica over the years.  His book, ADVENTURES IN GRAPHICA has helped me embrace this format as both a reader and a teacher.  I am still not totally comfortable with graphica so anytime I have a chance to hear Terry, I do. Terry talked a lot about the ways that graphic novels give our kids visual supports for comprehension and that these books often create a scaffold for more traditional texts.  He had us work through a few examples of the skills and strategies needed to understand graphic novels and I could more easily see how using graphica in minilessons can make strategies more visible for kids. I have always used picture books in this way, but had not thought about it with graphica.  You can watch Terry Thompson talk about this topic on the Stenhouse website.

A great first day at All Write!