Sunday, September 30, 2012

September Mosaic

September always begins with the Upper Arlington Arts Festival. The blown glass tree and the grilled cheese sandwiches from my favorite food truck are from UA Arts. A week later, Clintonville had its first ever Festiville -- SpiderMonkey and SuperMonkey were spotted there.

The cocoonish thing on the brick of the school wall was sighted by an observant Environmental Club member. ID, anyone?

All the rest of the photos, except for the last four, are from Ohio's Casting for Recovery event at Indian Bear Lodge. Pretty spectacular sunrise over the pond, eh?

The last four are teasel critters -- made with the seedhead of a wonderful weed -- thank goodness I left enough or missed enough in the Land Lab so that every Environmental Club member could make a critter with one last week. We had our first indoor meeting of the year, due to the wet weather. The club members and their critters made a glorious, noisy, creative mess.

You can check out a larger view of the photos on Flickr.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

An Interview with Katherine at Read, Write, Reflect

Katherine at Read, Write, Reflect asked me to do an interview after reading my new book THE JOY OF PLANNING.  I agreed, of course!  The interview is posted on her amazing blog if you are interested. And if you aren't interested, add the blog to your list of blogs to read regularly--spend some time there.  Amazing learning opportunity--she shares so many great reflections about reading, writing and teaching!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Poetry Friday -- Be the Change You Wish to See

edited by J. Patrick Lewis, U.S. Children's Poet Laureate
National Geographic, 2012
review copy provided by the publisher

Today begins the three-day 100 Thousand Poets for Change event: "...a demonstration & celebration of poetry, music & art to promote social, environmental & political change...a global celebration of solidarity for peace & sustainability."

I'm aiming a little lower than the grand goal of 100 TPC, under the assumption that every little bit counts.

The change I want is for poetry to be a natural part of every child's life. My corollary wish, the one that's necessary for the first to happen, is that poetry is a natural part of every parent's and teacher's life as well.

How best to make that happen?

Give J. Patrick Lewis' newest book, the National Geographic Book of Animal Poetry to every new parent, and put a copy in every classroom!

This book is a treasure of poetry (and some pretty spectacular photography). It's as if Pat went through my classroom collection of poetry and plucked a favorite from each book -- Kristine O'Connell George is there with her polliwog commas, and there's Douglas Florian, David Elliott, Julie Larios, Jane Yolen, Arnold Adoff, Janet Wong, Rebecca Kai Dotlich, Mary Ann Hoberman, Lee Bennett Hopkins, Marilyn Singer, Jack Prelutsky, and Joyce Sidman. PLUS some of my favorite poets who are usually for adults have poems here -- Kay Ryan, Ogden Nash, and Hilaire Belloc. AND there are "classic" poets -- Walter De la Mare, Emily Dickinson, Alfred Lord Tennyson, Robert Louis Stevenson.

In his introduction, Pat writes about the possibility that animals "appreciate most of all the simple joys of exploring their worlds." This book is a poetic exploration of the natural world.

He invites us to wander through the pages: "This book is not for reading straight through. Pick it up anytime. Choose a poem and then read it out loud: You want your ears to have as much fun as your mouth is having...Once you have opened it, you are likely to find words that are not so much a description as a revelation."

If you  haven't gotten your hands on a copy of this book, CHANGE that! If you want a few more peeks and reviews, check these out:

Julie Danielson at Kirkus Reviews and Seven Imp

Marjorie has today's Poetry Friday roundup of posts at Paper Tigers.

*     *     *     *     *     *

Addendum -- What I Learned About the Quote in the Title of This Post

Be the change you wish to see in the world. -- Ghandi

"Gandhi’s words have been tweaked a little too in recent years. Perhaps you’ve noticed a bumper sticker that purports to quote him: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” When you first come across it, this does sound like something Gandhi would have said. But when you think about it a little, it starts to sound more like ... a bumper sticker. Displayed brightly on the back of a Prius, it suggests that your responsibilities begin and end with your own behavior. It’s apolitical, and a little smug.

Sure enough, it turns out there is no reliable documentary evidence for the quotation. The closest verifiable remark we have from Gandhi is this: “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. ... We need not wait to see what others do.”

Here, Gandhi is telling us that personal and social transformation go hand in hand, but there is no suggestion in his words that personal transformation is enough. In fact, for Gandhi, the struggle to bring about a better world involved not only stringent self-denial and rigorous adherence to the philosophy of nonviolence; it also involved a steady awareness that one person, alone, can’t change anything, an awareness that unjust authority can be overturned only by great numbers of people working together with discipline and persistence." from Falser Words Were Never Spoken by Brian Morton in the New York Times, August 29, 2011.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

BULLY by Patricia Polaco

by Patricia Polacco
G. P. Putnam's Sons, 2012

Bullying is a problem that is not going to take care of itself. We need to prepare students with the tools they need to resist peer pressure, to make good decisions, and to stand up for what is right.

Lyla is a new student, but she makes a friend on the first day of school, begins to distinguish herself for good grades and service to the community, and makes the cheerleading squad. The "cool" cheerleaders include Lyla in their group, taking her away from her friend Jamie. Then, she witnesses her new friends cyberbullying Jamie. She stands up for Jamie and stops hanging around with the "cool" girls, but their revenge for this isolates Lyla from the whole student body and focuses the cyberbullying on her.

Jamie stands up for Lyla in the end, providing the information needed to clear her name with the authorities. But the reader is left with the question, "What would you do?" Should Lyla and Jamie return to their school and hope for the best, or should they switch schools for a fresh start?

This book will provide lots to talk about with students in grades 4-8.

Just as important as talking about bullying and strategies to avoid or resist them, are the conversations about all the good we can do in the world -- ways to fight bullying by being the best and kindest people ever. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater's poem, "Lets", provides this flip side to the bullying conversation.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


I love Rebecca Kai Dotlich so I pick up every book she writes. I fell in love with Bella and Bean the minute I read it and it is still one of my very favorites.  And I got to spend the day with Rebecca when we both worked with teachers at the Princeton Day School.

Rebecca's new book What Can a Crane Pick Up? is great fun! The book is illustrated by Mike Lowery (who also illustrated one of my other favorites--The Gingerbread Man Loose in the School ).

Kids love trucks and cranes and in this book, Dotlich explores the many things that a crane can pick up.  With Dotlich's wonderful rhythm and rhyme, we learn about things that cranes lift. We see cranes lifting things like trees and bricks. But it is also able to pick up some surprising things!  Rebecca shares them all with us!  And Lowery's illustrations make the book a happy learning experience--even the trucks are smiling!  Dotlich and Lowery make a great team! I am hoping they work together on more books since this one is such fun!

The author blurb in the back of the book mentions that "Rebecca spent some time in a crane while it picked up thousands of Christmas lights to string atop tall buildings!"  What a fun fact for kids to know about this writer and the writing of this book!

Kids are going to love this one. We are getting ready for our first visit with our younger buddies this week and I can imagine lots of kids will want to share this one with their buddies!  After they enjoy it a few times themselves, that is! Then I think it will go on our poetry shelf. Since we have Poetry Friday each week, I know kids will love to revisit this one over and over.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sharing My Life as a Writer

I wrote a post for the Stenhouse blog on the changes in the way I share my life as a writer with students. If you are interested in reading the post, you can find it on the Stenhouse blog:-)

I LOVE the new book, Ralph Tells a Story  by Abby Hanlon. I ordered it when I heard about it because I can always use new books about kids' writing.  I like to have them handy for minilessons ans small group work. There are lots of books that fit this category but this one is definitely my new favorite.

This book is about writing workshop and poor Ralph who can't think of any ideas.  He spends a long time staring at the blank page, getting drinks of water and asking to go to the restroom.  He just can't think of anything to write.   Of course, as expected, his writer's block is cured but it is cured because he is in the midst of an amazing writing workshop. But the magical thing that ends his writer's block happens during the share session of the workshop--that important time where writers grow.

This is the first time I have seen a book that so perfectly captures the Writers' Workshop.  It captures the joy and the authenticity of this time in a classroom.  It captures the teacher's role and it captures the energy. It captures the conversations and the realities. Somehow in the illustrations, the author/illustrator has captured it all. (The back flap says that she was a classroom teacher, so maybe that's how she captures it so well!

In my opinion, this is a must have. Young children will love it and I am sure it will start great conversations with my upper elementary students too!

And don't forget to check out the end papers!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Poetry Friday: A Passing Hail

A Passing Hail
By James Whitcomb Riley

Let us rest ourselves a bit!
Worry?-- wave your hand to it --
Kiss your finger-tips and smile
It farewell a little while.

Weary of the weary way
We have come from Yesterday,
Let us fret not, instead,
Of the wary way ahead.

Let us pause and catch our breath
On the hither side of death,
While we see the tender shoots
Of the grasses -- not the roots,--

While we yet look down -- not up --
To seek out the buttercup
And the daisy where they wave
O'er the green home of the grave.

Let us launch us smoothly on
The soft billows of the lawn,
And drift out across the main
Of our childish dreams again:

Voyage off, beneath the trees,
O'er the field's enchanted seas,
Where the lilies are our sails,
And our sea-gulls, nightingales:

Where no wilder storm shall beat
Than the wind that waves the wheat,
And no tempest-burst above
The old laughs we used to love:

Lose all troubles -- gain release,
Languor, and exceeding peace,
Cruising idly o'er the vast,
Calm mid-ocean of the Past.

Let us rest ourselves a bit!
Worry? -- Wave your hand to it --
Kiss your finger-tips and smile
It fare well a little while. 

All I can manage this week is a passing hail. If I could pick the place to sit with you and rest ourselves a bit, it might be Winan's Chocolates in German Village. Doesn't get much better than that...unless you are in Belgium, of course!

Renee continues the candy theme with a yummy array of Poetry Friday posts at No Water River.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

What Keeps You Going?

Teaching is really hard work.

Not only is it hard, it is relentless. We start most every morning with a meeting, so we better be ready to roll when the students walk in the door. We have short lunch periods (usually accompanied by a duty) and a planning period that is never equal to the amount of work that needs to be done in that time. We spend our days teaching, monitoring, questioning, noticing, grouping, helping, differentiating, showing, telling, encouraging, listening, improvising, answering, documenting...and every now and then we get to sit down for a minute.

So what keeps you going?

For me, it's my recess duty. Fifteen minutes spent outside in the fresh air rejuvenates me. Sure, I'd rather not have the duty, but without that duty, I'd go all day without stepping outside. I love the young naturalists who catch grasshoppers and bring them to show me, and who wonder what kind of bush that is over by the swings that has the red berries on it (Yew -- I looked it up on Google and I'll tell them at recess tomorrow). I love the kickball game when it's going well, and I even love slowly but surely teaching kids in conflict to use their words and talk it out before jumping to conclusions and assigning blame.

What else keeps me going? Reading Elephant and Piggie books with my new-to-the-U.S. ELL student from Saudi Arabia. She's a sponge. She's picking up lots of oral language on her own, but she needs me to (begs me to) sit beside her with Gerald and Piggie so she can echo read with me.

The readers at the other end of the spectrum in my two language arts classes fuel me, too. The ones who have read every Lunch Lady book like they were starving, and the ones who have so much to say after we read Capture the Flag during read aloud.

And I'm energized by my vision of what my language arts classes are going to be like in a few more weeks, when the norms are fully established, the fall diagnostics and assessments are completed, and we really dig in and begin the work of growing readers and writers. We're not there now, but we're going to get there.

What keeps you going?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Friday, September 14, 2012

Poetry Friday -- Stars

Flickr Creative Commons photo by Mouser NerdBot


If you never
into the dark
you'll never know the stars.

away from human lights:
look up, look well, look far.

Into the dark
go without fear:
the stars wink down at you.

You'll never know the stars
you change your point of view.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2012

I'm (quite) a few weeks behind on Tricia's Poetry Stretches. This is my trimeric, from the August 20th Stretch.  The pattern is abcd, b_ _, c_ _, d_ _.  I gave myself the further challenge of making it rhyme.

This poem goes out to Orion, my buddy who watches over me August-December when I walk at 5:30 in the morning.

This week, Diane has the Poetry Friday roundup at Random Noodling.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Nonfiction From Around the World

by Bhagavan "Doc" Antle with Thea Feldman
Photographs by Barry Bland
Henry Holt, 2011

The setting of this book is an endangered animal preserve in North Carolina, but Orangutans are found in the wild in only Borneo and Sumatra, so we'll keep it here in our little collection of nonfiction from around the world. 

This book caught my eye at Cover to Cover. I am developing a small collection of books about animals that are unlikely friends. After I opened it and read it, I knew I had to have it. The photography is fantastic, and the story is told in a simple narrative style. This is a book that reluctant nonfiction readers will want to pick up and will be able to read all the way through.

by Catherine Rondina
illustrated by Jacqui Oakley
Kids Can Press, 2012
review copy provided by the publisher

The use of lights in all of the typical winter holidays has always been a unifying way to talk about the celebrations from different cultures.

Now, with Lighting Our World, we have a whole YEAR full of celebrations from many countries and cultures of the world...all of which feature the use of light! From Up Helly Aa in Scotland in January, to Inti Raymi in Cusco, Peru in June, to Guy Fawkes Day in New Zealand in November, this book has light-filled holidays for every month of the year!

by Katie Smith Milway
illustrated by Eugenie Fernandes
Kids Can Press (CitizenKid), 2012
review copy provided by the publisher

Mimi lives in a village in Kenya where clean water is not easily accessible, mosquitoes carry malaria, and the health clinic is a several-hour walk away. 

After a visit to the clinic when Mimi's sister sickens after drinking some unboiled water from the stream, Mimi suggests to her father that if he builds a clinic, maybe a health worker will come to their village. After a year of work, Mimi's dream comes true.

This narrative nonfiction story, with suggestions for ways kids can help provide simple, but effective resources like bed nets, will inspire budding social activists to make the world a better place for ALL people.

Monday, September 10, 2012


So, I thought it would be more fun to share a few of the books we read in our classroom this week. Every book on this list is a MUST-HAVE, CAN'T-DO-WITHOUT book!

Thanks to Jen and Kellee for hosting IT'S MONDAY! WHAT ARE YOU READING?

In read aloud, we are reading Capture the Flag by Kate Messner. This is the perfect pick for 4th graders. They love the story and are excited about the mystery. We have had fun talking about the characters!  The setting of an airport is perfect.

I launched this week's Writing Workshop with a new picture book that I fell in love with immediately. Laugh-Out-Loud Baby by Tony Johnston is one of my new favorites.  This is the story of a baby who laughs out loud for the firs time The whole family comes to celebrate.  The language is amazing and the illustrations by Stephen Gammell are incredible. This book ranks right up there withThe Relatives Came for me. I loved the author's note at the end of the book that talks about the tradition of celebrating a baby's first laugh. This book was a great book for writing workshop. It is also a great book to read when you need a smile. A definite new favorite!

We also read A Bus Called Heaven by Bob Graham. I love all of his work and this is the newest one of his I've found.  We have been talking about what it means to be a leader and this book invited great conversation about what it meant to be a leader.  I had shown this video clip earlier in the week and talked about leadership around that. This book naturally invited a conversation around what it means to make a difference, to be a leader. It was great talk. I loved what the kids said about being a leader and about making a positive difference.

I also shared another old favorite that I LOVE. All the Places to Love by Patricia Maclachlan is one of my all time favorite picture books and I love it every time I share it with a new group of children.  It is one of those books I could read a million times, no doubt!  The conversations around the book is always a rich one.

And I shared  Goldilocks and the Three Dinosaurs: As Retold by Mo Willems. We had a great time with this book. They were thrilled to have the new hot-off-the-press book and loved the humor and the way the story was told. And of course, we had fun finding the pigeon. Mo Willems just doesn't let us down--whether we are 5 years old, 10 years old or much much older.

Friday, September 07, 2012

Poetry Friday in the Classroom

For my mini-lesson today in Reading Workshop, I'll project the 5th grade Week 2 poem from
The Poetry Friday Anthology (Common Core ALL GRADES (K-5) e-book) (The Poetry Friday Anthology E-book Series (Grade-by-Grade))
It's a fun poem by Irene Latham in the voice of a backpack. It will get us talking about personification.

And about that talk...I've had great success with what Ellin Keene calls "Open Forum" in her book, Talk About Understanding: Rethinking Classroom Talk to Enhance Comprehension
When we're sitting in a circle (in chairs or on the floor) and I call for an "Open Forum" discussion, it lets the students know that they will "pass the conversational ball" from student to student, rather than every comment going through me. They do not raise their hands to take turns. After the first person speaks, the next person says that person's name, along with a statement of agreement or disagreement, or some other conversational segue. ("Billy, I agree with what you said about your backpack. I had the same thing happen one time...")

During the independent reading time on Poetry Friday, students read poetry alone or with a partner (or two). The goal is for everyone to participate in the oral reading of a poem at the end of the period during share time. Eventually, we will work together to develop a rubric to use for self- and teacher-evaluation of their presentations, but at the beginning, it's all for fun.

Last week, I limited the students to only the books in my poetry collection by Douglas Florian and J. Patrick Lewis, so this week I will choose books by topic -- perhaps only putting out books of nature poetry from which to choose. And, in keeping with the poem in the mini-lesson, we'll keep our eyes peeled for examples of personification the poems we read.

Poetry Friday is fairly informal and definitely a lot of fun. Even if you don't have a large collection of poetry in your classroom library, you can check 20-30 books out of your school or public library and be ready to have fun reading poetry once a week throughout the school year. Infect your class with your enthusiasm for having fun with poetry!

For fun with Poetry Friday on the blogs, go to Katya's blog, Write. Sketch. Repeat. for the Poetry Friday roundup of posts.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012


Sally Oddi at Cover to Cover shared this new, fun Nonfiction book with me-Baffling & Bizarre Inventions by Jim Murphy.  This book is fun and one that can be revisited over and over.  The book is in a multiple-choice/quiz format. Each page gives the reader an illustration of a bizarre invention, a little piece of information and 4 choices of what the invention is. When you turn the page, you see the correct answer, along with a few paragraphs about the information. This may include the reason for the invention, info on how the invention worked,

The title definitely fits this book. Every time I sit down with it, I open to a random page and am amazed at the invention shared.

This is a fun book and kids will have fun reading it alone or with friends. It would also make a great short read aloud for classrooms.  During those 5 minute times between activities or when lining up for lunch, kids will love making a guess and learning about one of these inventions. It won't take much to get kids hooked on this book

Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Blogs to Follow

It was a great first week of school and we are ready to start thinking about publishing online. This summer, I thought through the pieces I wanted for my 4th grade writers. I am laughing now because it seemed much more doable in July!  I know it is doable, I just need to take steps in the first six weeks of school and be thoughtful about how we get everything in place.

I want my students to be connected writers AND I also want them to be connected readers.  This week, we'll start doing some online reading. As a shared experience, I want to spend time with students reading blogs and understanding the whole genre of blogging.  I want them to see a variety of blogs, to see what is possible, to learn about commenting, etc.  So, I put out a request on Twitter, asking for classroom blogs that my class might follow. I got a great list from teachers everywhere. I also found some great blogs by kids and/or for kids that I'll add to the collection. I am trying to keep a list for now as I know we'll find some we revisit more often.  Many are just getting started as it is the beginning of the year. Others are older and haven't had new postings for a while. But all of the blogs on this list will help students begin to see the possibilities in blogging. This week will be about immersing ourselves in blogs and what they are about.   It will be about seeing the possibilities open up as we learn from and with people all over the world.

This is the list of blogs I have so far. Thanks to everyone for sharing their blogs with me on Twitter. If you have a classroom blog or student blog you'd like to add, just leave it in the comments. I had a great time pulling this list together--so much to learn from each blog that I visited!


ANNA'S AMAZING LEARNERS (5 year olds in New Zealand)


LAURA'S LIFE (7th Grader, Indiana) 

GLOSONBLOG (Social Media, Blogging and Tech Tips from 14 yo in Malaysia)

HAGAN'S WORLD OF AWESOME  (6 year old in Iowa) 

MRS. DAUB'S DUDES AND DUDETTES(4th Grade Classroom Blog) 

THE HOWLIN' GOOD TIMES OF ROOM 226 (4th Grade Classroom Blog)


ABI'S BLOG (9 year old in Beijing) 

AMELIE'S ANIMAL BLOG (5 year old in Australia) 


CLASSROOM 2 KIDS (Grade 2, British Columbia, Canada) 

LEARNING HUB 3 @ STONEFIELDS SCHOOL (5-8 year olds in New Zealand)

THE SKINNY (5th Grade) 

20 SOMETHING KIDS AND 1 KOOKY TEACHER (5th Grade, Missouri) 

Monday, September 03, 2012

It's Monday! What are you reading?

Thanks to Kellee and Jen at TEACH MENTOR TEXTS for hosting. 
Pop over there to see everyone's lists.

What have I been reading lately? GRAPHIC NOVELS! 

by Ashley Spires
Kids Can Press, 2012
review copy provided by the publisher

Binky the cat is in charge of training a new cadet. But the cadet turns out to possibly be a spy, and definitely to be a DOG. How will Binky keep the space station safe?

by Dav Pilkey
Scholastic, 2012

Really?? The whole series perhaps didn't happen because of a time travel (banana cream pie) paradox? In fact, the whole earth is destroyed, unless Tippy Tinkletrousers can save Captain Underpants? Stay tuned -- we'll all find out January 2013.

by Kazu Kibuishi
Scholastic, 2012

This series started out very kid-friendly (for 4-5th grade) and now is getting really dark and REALLY complicated. I probably should have re-read the entire series before reading this one. It might have made more sense. I am having a hard time keeping track of the characters. My students will clamor for it because, like me, they are invested in the series and can't wait for the next book, but I'll let them know that I'm going to read it again after I re-read the first four.

by Ben Hatke
First Second, 2012
review copy provided by the publisher

Zita's back! YAY! 

This time she has to deal with a robot that imprints on her...but who turns out to be as much of a hero as she is.

Her beloved Mouse is captured, and at the end of the book, Zita takes off to rescue him. But of course, that's not enough for author Ben Hatke. He has to throw in a SERIOUS cliffhanger.

by Claudia Davila
Kids Can Press, 2012
review copy provided by the publisher

Second book in The Future According to Luz series. Like the first, takes on a variety of environmental issues, this time focusing around water conservation.

by Madeline L'Engle
adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson
Farrar Straus Giroux, 2012
review copy provided by the publisher

When I opened the package that contained this book, I gasped, then clasped it to my chest. LOVELOVELOVE what Hope Larson did with this.

Now. That said, I will admit that I didn't actually read it cover to cover. It's too much like watching the movie of this landmark book that's been a part of my life since 6th grade. I like the visuals that are in my own mind. But I read enough to see that Larson stayed extremely true to the story. Practically word for word.

I'll take this copy to school, but I'll have to have another copy to keep with my original Scholastic paperback and the hardback and paperbacks of the 50th anniversary editions.