Friday, November 30, 2012

Peanut Butter Poetry Friday

Our house favorite peanut butter is Skippy Super Chunk. My personal favorite is Naturally Nutty Butter Toffee on one half of my toasted English muffin, and that creamed honey I got at the Clintonville Farmer's Market on the other half.

Today I have an original peanut butter poem over at Jama's Alphabet Soup, and at Amy LV's Sharing Our Notebooks, you can peek inside my notebook and see how the peanut butter poem was born!

Amy has the Poetry Friday roundup today at The Poem Farm!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

How Do You Explain the NCTE Annual Convention to a 10 Year-Old?

First of all, NCTE is like a gigantic family reunion. I get to see friends from around the country who I haven't seen since last year, I get to meet people I only used to know through social media or (in the case of authors) their books. My two "family reunion" highlights this conference were

meeting Natalie Merchant (I wrote the teachers' guide for her book, Leave Your Sleep)

and presenting with these rockstar poets about the inspiration for our poetry and about the Poetry Friday Anthology

Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, me, LeslĂ©a Newman, Irene Latham,   (new poetry friend Janet Fagal), Janet Wong, Laura Purdie Salas)

NCTE is also a book-lover's paradise. I took two very lightly packed suitcases to Las Vegas and came home with two suitcases that both nearly tipped the 50 lb mark on the scale when I checked them! I'm happy to report that nearly every book I brought back is now in the hands of a reader! 

Here is a list of authors I heard speak or chatted with at a lunch or dinner or party:

Jon Scieszka, The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales  

Jenni Holmes, Babymouse #16: Babymouse for President

Anita Silvey, Children's Book-a-Day Almanac

Kate Messner, Capture the Flag

Janet Tashjian,  For What It's Worth

Cecil Castellucci, The Year of the Beasts

Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making

Julie Paschkis, Mooshka, A Quilt Story

Monica Brown, author of Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People 

David Shannon, Jangles: A Big Fish Story

Deborah Ellis, My Name Is Parvana

Karen Lynn Williams, My Name Is Sangoel (Young Readers)

Floyd Cooper, These Hands (Golden Kite Honors (Awards))

Marla Frazee, Boot & Shoe 

Last of all, NCTE is like going back to college. There are so many great sessions/classes from which to choose. Here are some highlights of my session notes:

Jon Scieszka: "Tell the boys that reading something written by women won't kill them."

Lemony Snicket: "Don't ask the obvious questions, ask the important questions...Avoid temptation to know what story means and insert a moral."

David Shannon: "There's a fine line (fishing line--ha, ha) between liar and storyteller."

Sharon O'Neal (with others): In a nonfiction study, use a blend of traditional nonfiction, "new nonfiction" and nonfiction poetry.

Ann Marie Corgill (with others): "Teach, practice, reflect, share. Resist the the talking so we can listen. Resist teaching so we can learn and answering so we can question. Don't say you can't because, NEWS FLASH -- you can."

Deborah Ellis (at the CLA Workshop: Books that Make a Difference: Kids Taking Action for Social Justice):

War = anything that kills people unnecessarily (diseases we've allowed to spread, poverty)

Afghanistan -- what if she couldn't do whatever she wanted to do just because she's a woman? Spent time in refugee camps. Her books about this time all have kids for whom books are important (illegal books). Parvana books.

Josef Mengele had access to books and education. Books aren't the sole answer to the problems of the world. 

Social action is expensive. It costs. It makes us uncomfortable. It loses us friends. 

Feed the poor --> I am a saint. Ask "Why are there poor?" --> I am put in prison.

What if WE are the problem.

Center of the wheel is WAR. Poll -- raise your hand if you believe we will always have war, or if we will someday live without war as a part of our human story. Every human accomplishment has started out with a dream -- "What if..." It has to be the same with war. What do we really believe -- can we live in a world without war? Do we believe that governments can exist who don't use foreign policy to bash other countries?

Iraq war commentators tell about kinds of weapons being used, but forget to mention that there were people feeling the blasts, losing homes and being killed.

We know what war does. We have to decide what comes next. Are we going to continue to slaughter other people, or are we going to try something else. We're lying to kids if we tell them that anything else makes a difference in the world, until we settle in our minds what we're going to do to stop the war.

How will you answer when your children/students ask you, "What did you do to stop the war?"

Unless we can meet each other and talk to each other, we are the monsters under each others' beds.

We need to be careful who we allow to take and hold power, and make sure that no one's making money off all the bad stuff.

The first thing we have to change if we're going to believe that we live in a world where war doesn't have to exist is that we don't need to be afraid of the "other." They are like us more than they are different from us.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

December -- A Month of Nonfiction

When I looked over all of my fall assessments and I added that to observations of students over the last month or two, I knew that I needed to spend time on Nonfiction Reading. Even by 4th grade, my students have not really found nonfiction that they love. They read nonfiction only when they have to.  I have spent years building a decent collection of nonfiction books--books that are not connected to any content unit that we study, but just great nonfiction books. Even though I've tried to incorporate lots of nonfiction since August, I knew December would be the month that we really dug in.

Then I went to hear Chris Lehman and Kate Roberts at NCTE.  And I was reminded, as I was often at the convention, that I need to SLOW DOWN.  I have somehow pressured myself with a teaching pace this year that I know is not good for kids. So, in December, I am taking lots of time to help kids fall in love with nonfiction reading and to think about the kinds of writing that might go along with that.  Kate mentioned a yearlong study of notetaking and that idea was so freeing for me.  I am going to spend reading workshop minilesson time, writing workshop time and content time, really discovering all that nonfiction reading and writing has to offer.  A study on writing around nonfiction (notetaking and more without any finished product) will be part of this month's work.

Some goals for the month include:
-falling in love with nonfiction as a genre
-noticing different ways that authors approach nonfiction writing
-finding nonfiction authors and series to love
-developing tastes as nonfiction readers
-playing with notetaking with nonfiction--taking notes on thinking
-trying out various notetaking techniques and discovering how/when it makes sense to use them
-discovering nonfiction beyond text (websites, videos, slideshows, etc.)
-finding topics of interest (new and old)
-how we approach assigned reading differently from choice reading

As part of this study, I have decided to read aloud/think aloud a book from a series I love.  I love the Scientists in the Field series and I recently purchased The Mighty Mars Rovers: The Incredible Adventures of Spirit and Opportunity (Scientists in the Field Series) by Elizabeth Rusch.  I know almost nothing about the Mars Rovers but loved that this was the topic of a new book in this series.  So, I've decided to read aloud this book over the next week or two, without having really looked at it much at all.  I want my students to see my true thinking when reading a book that is interesting to me (a little) --one that I have very little background knowledge with.  This is a longer book so I am thinking my thinking, my notetaking, my questions, the resources I look to for more information will be authentic. This will be just one piece of our week but one that will be interesting for all of us, I think. This is also a longer nonfiction book so I am thinking the whole idea of stamina with a topic will come up---reading beyond short articles for more information. This is probably not the best place to start with my reading on a new topic.  So I may pull up some articles --Wonderopolis has a few related articles that might help.  (I'm also revisiting Chris Lehman's new book ENERGIZE RESEARCH READING AND WRITING--it is good to revisit it after I heard him speak at the convention.)

Another part of this week will be exploring lots of nonfiction books--getting their hands on books that have been sitting on the classroom shelves. I am hoping by the end of the week, they have discovered the genius of Steve Jenkins and Nic Bishop. I am hoping that a few kids have fallen in love with the Face to Face series.  I am hoping that we build some baskets around certain topics of interest.

This week is all about rediscovering nonfiction as readers.  I don't think it will be hard--there is lots of great nonfiction to fall in love with. I just need to give kids time to dig in with some minilesson support along the way.

Below are some tweets from Chris and Kate's session. Lots to think about.

: Chris is writing a nonfiction paragraph teaching about sharks... in his PBS voice   

Mentor text show how the author teaches. More options - but now about how to use those notes purposefully in writing. 
 &  doing an amazing job of helping us rethink the teaching needed for strong research reading and writing. 
Am anxious to revisit Energize Research Reading and Writing by  after hearing session at .
Am loving this idea on unit of notetaking outside of research project/units. So smart. Great way to end 
 is talking about ways to teach kids how to annotate drawings. 
Probably the most important skill my kids needs as notetakers, is to make a choice.  12 Expand
RT : "Do better things, not things better" says I like it.  
Across the ages, people have tracked their thinking and learning in notebooks.  
Think about doing a study of note taking in a unit outside of the research unit. Think about a yearlong study.  
If they've not taken notes before, they are not going to be very good at it.  
When am I going to teach my kids to be strong note taking in the midst of all of this?  
I like the idea of one person in mind when thinking about audience for research.  
What does your audience (individual person) need to know, or what is audience interested in knowing about the topic. 
It's important that a writer has a particular person in mind when thinking about audience.  
We have to help our kids deal with the texts they have for research. What's my first text (highly readable)? 
When we hand kids resources, we take away part of the process.  
We could just hand kids sources. Instead, we can think about how sources guide us.  
You start with what you know and help yourself finds slants or angles--what you want to work on.  
Instead of writing to PROVE that he read, let's have writing to teach.  
Right now, kids are taking notes from text. Instead, take notes from your learning.  
We're handing a lot us. Instead, let's start where research actually starts.  
We are trying to humanize research. Research can be as wonderful as it should be.