Thursday, March 22, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

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22. Build a Professional Learning Network (PLN).

Because as good as it is to trust yourself (see #21 yesterday), sometimes you need the "hive mind" to come up with the best idea for how to teach that lesson. Your PLN can be as close as your grade level or content team, or as far-flung as fellow educators on Twitter.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

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21. Trust yourself.

Come up with your own idea about how teach that lesson. Think about the process you use to make meaning when you read, think about how you go about organizing your thinking for a writing piece. Trust yourself.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

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20. Go ahead and cry.

Some days are hard. Sometimes the weight of everything those thirty young souls carry around while they are working to master opinion writing and division with decimals and the similarities and differences between light and sound is just to much to bear. Sometimes the weight of everything you are carrying around is too much to bear.

Then pick yourself up and get back at it.

Monday, March 19, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

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19. Be "The One Who..."

First there was CRB. She was the one who unlocked all the rooms on the second floor because she got to work insanely early. (Wait...did she unlock ALL the doors on both floors?!? I wouldn't put it beyond her.)

She retired and Coop inherited her classroom and carried on the unlocking tradition.

I'm the one who makes the candy that gets delivered after Thanksgiving break. There's the one who always organizes the fashion show for Multicultural Day, the one who cleans out the fridge in the lounge and makes the schedule for Friday treats, the one who serves on the district Leadership Academy committee, the ones who are brave enough to sing karaoke in front of all the students in the school. There used to be the one who sang "Summertime" a cappella over the PA system after the buses pulled away on the last day of school. We miss her. No one has picked up that tradition. Hard shoes to fill.

One of the things that makes our building amazing is our community, our culture. It takes everyone being willing to be "The One Who" to make that kind of community and culture happen. It starts with one and it spreads.

Are you "The One Who?" Or is it time you pitched in and became "The One Who?"

Sunday, March 18, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

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18. Be prepared.

Sometimes I forget how smoothly things flow when I make extensive and detailed plans. Last week when we were ramping up our long division skills back to where 4th grade leaves off, I not only created strategically mixed-ability small groups, but I also planned out where in the classroom each group would work. Gone was the chaos of choosing a partner and finding a spot to work.

If only there were enough hours in the day to plan that way for every subject every day all week long.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

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16. Build in choice. (they raise their own bar)

Choice is one of the most powerful teaching moves we have in our toolkit. It's one thing if you offer a list of choices for work time, but your classroom community operates at a whole new level of trust when you teach a couple of adding fractions math games and then, in making rounds and checking in with partners and groups, you find that some boys have invented their own game which requires them to practice adding fractions in a WAY more complicated (and interesting) manner than any of the games you offered. A reminder here that when you see something going on in your classroom that doesn't look like what you expected, slow down and get information before you fly off the I'm In Control Here/Do What I Say handle.

Friday, March 16, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash

16. Raise the bar.

Up the ante. Kick it up a notch. Set a deadline and stick to it. Is teaching your job, or are you a professional?

Oh. You thought I was talking about raising the bar for your students. Well, yeah, raise the bar for them, too. That's what we do all the time as we build their understanding of more and more complicated ideas and content.

But if we're going to apply this saying to the work you ask your students to do, then please remember: when you raise the bar in a game of limbo, you make it easier to get under. So every now and then, maybe you should raise the bar for the wiggle under and not the vault over.

And how about this: if we change the spelling of raise, we totally change the nature of the game: raze the bar. What would that look like in your classroom?

Poetry Friday: Saying Goodbye

Unsplash Photo by Steve Johnson

Saying Goodbye

The storage unit is pitch black
The boxes 
are stacked right where we left them. I kick one with my shoe 
and wonder what I’m going to do with these boxes 
once I get them home. There will be new 
piles of boxes 
in our basement. I’d rather have you 
back than all these memories stuffed into boxes.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

This Golden Shovel was written for the March 2018 Ditty Challenge using part of a line of a poem by Devon Hope. I wrote it to remind myself that I can write in this form. (I wrote one last April for Malvina Reynolds.) I wrote it because of my poem-a-day challenge for April (coming up at the speed of time). When I began my "sort of a Slice of Life Challenge but not really" for March, I hadn't decided what I'd do for my Poetry Month challenge. I was talking to my students about the goals and challenges writers set for themselves and one of them laid down the gauntlet. Our classroom family has since grown from 29 to 30, so...why not. I've never in my career had 30 students (never again, please), so why not write a poem about each child? Never one to make things easy for myself, I've had each student choose a quote that resonates with him/her. 

In April, I will write a Golden Shovel for/about each of my 30 students using the quote they chose as the poem's "striking line."


Linda has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at TeacherDance.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash

15. Notice.

Every day try to make sure you really SEE every student. Every single one. 

Especially notice the ones who work hard every single day on every single assignment. Notice the ones who are always quiet in line. Notice the ones who come right to the carpet when you invite the class to come close for a mini lesson or a read aloud. Notice the neat work. 

But also notice the head down, the clouded face, the grumpy demeanor, the short temper.

That old saw about teachers having eyes in the backs of our heads? So far from the truth. We are ALL eye, because one of the most important things we do all day long (every minute of every day, in case you were wondering why we're so exhausted when we get home) is...


Wednesday, March 14, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash

14. Celebrate risk-taking.

Value the words, "I'm not sure, but..."
Cheer on the "I used to think, but now..."
Validate "Would you check this to see if I'm on the right track?"
Honor "I think I know!"

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash

13. Plural possessives will happen. But probably not on your timeline.

J. was working on his opinion piece this afternoon. I had given the class articles from ReadWorks about the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and the Shasta Dam. Their job was to choose the most amazing of these two human-made structures and back up their choice with reasons and facts from the articles.

The article about the dam told about ways the dam was harmful to the native salmon, but also some temperature control innovations that helped the salmon. I nearly fainted from joy when J. asked, "Where do you put the apostrophe if you've got lots of salmon?" We had a quick lesson on singular and plural possessives. He was ready to learn. Even more than that, he had identified exactly what it was he needed to learn.

Today I was in the right place at the right time. When that happens, savor the moment.

Monday, March 12, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash
12. Improvise. (A mashup of yesterday's Mix It Up and The Power of Routines from the day before.)

There was an unused spot at the top of the word study section of our big language arts bulletin board last fall. On a whim, I used one 12x18 sheet of paper to write "Be" and another next to it to say, "_______". Our first word was AWESOME. We started the year being awesome.

Somewhere along the line, we decided it was time to change up the word, and at some point it was decided that would happen when we change desks/spots every two weeks. The person who chose the word gets to choose the next person.

A routine was born, not because I planned for it, but because I accidentally made the space for the class to invent it. We improvised. We made it up as we went. It's one of our favorite routines because it's 100% ours. (Bonus payoff--it keeps us looking at the word study section of our language arts bulletin board!)

So far this year we have encouraged each other to Be...


Sunday, March 11, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

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11. Mixing it up now and then is just as powerful as solid routines.

The surprise factor. The juicy, delicious fear of not knowing what's about to happen in the lesson. The eagerness. The heightened awareness. You need all of this this just as much as your students do. Have solid and comfortable/comforting routines. And mix them up now and then.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash
10. Routines are powerful.

Routines are like paved paths through a beautiful, well-groomed park (aka your day). They get you from point A to point B in a relatively efficient manner, everyone knows what to expect from them, the sights you see and the stops you make along the way are comfortingly familiar. After you've walked the same path for several weeks in a row, you can close your eyes and walk it in your sleep. Key words: efficient, comfortable.

If you know me, or if you read Truth #3, you know this isn't the end of this story. Stay tuned for Truth #11 tomorrow.

Friday, March 09, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash
9. Take care of yourself.

Easier said than done, right? You could work 24/7 on lessons and grading and professional development and classes for your masters degree and gathering books from the public library and buying classroom supplies with your own money...and you still would never be caught up, let alone ahead of the game. So since you can't ever get caught up (not for more than a day at a time in a good week), remember Truth #4 and let something go so that you can go out to dinner with friends, or watch Antiques Roadshow, or get that exercise routine going, or catch a couple extra hours of sleep.

If you're not a happy, healthy PERSON, how are you going to be a happy, healthy TEACHER?

Poetry Friday

The Rhinoceros
by Ogden Nash

The rhino is a homely beast,
For human eyes he's not a feast.
Farwell, farewell, you old rhinoceros,
I'll stare at something less prepoceros.

Sorry. Today's poem is just an excuse to share this darling baby rhino. I can't look at that picture without smiling.

Michelle has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Today's Little Ditty.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash

8. Admit when you're wrong.

Let it be no big deal that you added wrong, spelled incorrectly, or forgot someone's name momentarily. Admit your error, apologize (or laugh) and move on.

If it's less trivial -- you misinterpret a situation on the playground based on observation or assumption and when you get all the facts you realize you had it all wrong -- admit it, apologize, and move on. Or, if you realize that you didn't handle a classroom situation as well as you could have (hindsight really is 20-20), call the parent, admit you were wrong, apologize and move on.

If you are breaking the law, get out of your classroom and get help.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash

7. Imagine your students' parents can see and hear you.

They try your patience and fray your nerves, but they are someone else's one and only sugar plum. So take a deep breath, access your last shard of patience, and treat your students with dignity and respect no matter what. Don't stoop to their level. Don't be sarcastic and rude and mean. Remember, every single student in that room is watching how you treat both the overachievers and the underachievers. They are either learning the language of power or the language of compassion -- the choice is yours.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash

6.  There will never be another class like this one.

If you've got a tricky class, this is important to remember. You can do this! You will learn lots and become a better teacher.

If you've got a fabulous class, this is important to remember. Every single day you need to appreciate your students and let them know how thankful you are for them and for their good work.

Monday, March 05, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash

5. Read. And while you're at it, write.

Do you want every student in your class to be a voracious reader? Then you should be one, too. Do you ask your students to take risks as a writer? Then you should take those same risks, too.

Sunday, March 04, 2018

Three Must-Reads!!

I read three books this week that I absolutely loved. I think these are must-reads/must-haves!

I heard about Small Things at last week's #titletalk. Penny Kittle recommended it and I ordered it immediately. I am always looking for new wordless picture books and this one is very powerful. It is definitely not one for young readers but seems perfect for middle grade and middle school. The illustrations are incredible and it tackles the subject of anxiety. Lots to talk about.

I always find a few new books when ALA Youth Media Awards are announced. This year, Macy McMillan and the Rainbow Goddess by Shari Green won the Schneider Family Book Award for middle grade. This was a book I had never heard of but am so glad I ordered it immediately. This book has a great main character, it is told in verse and has so many great talking points. And there is a thread about stories/books that I love. This is PERFECT for middle grade and middle school readers.

I lucked out and was able to borrow a copy (thanks Christina!) of the upcoming YA novel, Tradition  by Brendan Kiely. WOW! This book has had a lot of buzz and it lives up to all of it. This hits a lot of important issues and the characters are amazing. I can't wait until more people read this book. Preorder now! (I only read a few YA novels a year, so even if you are not a YA reader, make sure to read this one!)

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash
4. Do your best.

Do your best, but don't ever get lulled into believing that your best is the same on every day in every situation. Sometimes my best is a survival best, a "just get through this day" best. Other times, my best is thoughtful and research-based. I love my best the most when it sneaks up out of nowhere and surprises me with an idea so perfect I couldn't have tried to imagine it!

Saturday, March 03, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash

3. Follow your students.

There are definitely times when a teacher needs to lead, but some of my most powerful teaching has been when I got out of the way, and when I followed. Or when I really listened to my students.

Early in the year, I started pointing out patterns or math equations in the date. My students see these number patterns everywhere now. And all. the. time. (I have to remind myself that I have created this "monster," so I shouldn't get annoyed.)

We have a place on a bulletin board for Homographs, Homophones and Homonyms. Noticing words has also taken off like wildfire. They know they don't have to ask permission to grab a sticky and put one up, but they still tell me when they find one. At dismissal yesterday, looking out to see if it was still raining, "Ooh! Sprinkle like what the rain does and sprinkle -- the thing on a donut!"

On Friday, we talked about how writers challenge themselves in order to become better writers. I told them about this March challenge I've given myself to warm up for the April Poem-A-Day challenge. The words were no sooner out of my mouth than the student (who earlier had pointed out that INVISIBILITY is important in our new read aloud, Walk Two Moons, just like it had been important in REFUGEE. Um...Wow...) said, "There's 30 days in April and there's 29 of us -- 30 if we count you -- so you should just write a poem a day about US!"

And you know what? I think I will.

Friday, March 02, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash

2. Indoor recess isn't always as bad as it seems. The key is having plenty of options available.

Yesterday there were two students playing chess, a future astronomer watching a YouTube channel that features easy-to-understand videos about the cosmos, a group of students playing Clue, a girl working to get her reading response assignment finished early, and a couple of girls who created the Empire State Building from wooden blocks by using a reference photo on the iPad.

Poetry Friday -- Chocolate Cake

Abecedarian Cake Love

cake --
high --
notch --

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2014


Measuring Spoons 
Our advice? 
Be precise. 

Kitchen Aid 
I stand… 
I mix, blend, 
whip, stir, knead… 
at your command. 

Cake Pans 
We’re fickle. 
Three layers stick 
whenever we pick. 

Violets on the Windowsill 
We choose 
purple for our blooms. 
You make the air go blue 
because of what the pans decided to do. 

Come sit. 
Write a bit. 
the humor in all of it. 
Be resigned, 
start again. Don’t quit.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2012

Here are a couple of my chocolate cake poems from the past.

I baked Hubby's birthday cake last night. He wanted to help, so I let him prep the pans. Lesson learned: don't give away one of the key steps in the process, something that you know by feel and by experience, not by look. One layer stuck horribly. Another stuck a bit. 

I said a few choice words under my breath, but then I moved into "make lemonade" mode. I took the crumble layer, mixed it with a portion of the icing to make a globby cake-icing goo to put between the other two layers, and covered the whole thing with the rest of the icing. From the outside, it looks like my classic from-scratch chocolate cake. I'm sure it will taste just fine. I'm wondering if this wonky middle layer might become the new normal. Stay tuned. 

Moral of the story -- don't get mad...INNOVATE!

Renee has today's Poetry Friday Roundup at No Water River.

Thursday, March 01, 2018

31 Teaching Truths

Photo by Fischer Twins via Unsplash

1. Being a part of a supportive and collaborative team (be it grade level or subject or building) is one of the most important safety nets for the high wire balancing act that is also known as teaching.

I am not going to join the Slice of Life community because I cannot commit to being a good part of the group -- reading and commenting regularly. But I do want to try to blog daily during March so that my poem-a-day project in April won't be such a shock to my system!

Friday, February 23, 2018

Found Poem

Unsplash photo by Andy Mai

These Days (a found poem)

These days, far too many whom we have admired
have proven to be bad.

We are all complicated individuals... 

If I were to dismiss every piece of art
because of something in the artist's life that is/was inexcusable,
I fear,
art would not be something I could partake in.
If I don't know the inexcusable now,
I may find out about it later.
I think this discussion needs to be continued.
It has my head spinning.

We are all complicated individuals... 

Yes, we can mourn and miss the good
that coexists with bad
inside a complicated person.
I think it is important to acknowledge and recognize both
even though it is hard to do.

We are all complicated individuals... 

Quite often,
is it not the case,
the real art comes from the troubled places in us?
And sometimes from the troubled among us,
who are blown about by unseemly urges,
who feel so out of the ordinary stream
that they lose sight of the channeling banks?
We need not excuse the wrong-doing to be touched by the art.

We are all complicated individuals... 

I don't know that to do with the bad and good,
except love people for who they are.
Help them achieve better than they did before.
We can't cut people out of the herd and consider our jobs done.
If trees fall, we make furniture.
When a forest burns, new seeds take root.
When our idols fall,
perhaps they will rise again
as mere people.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

This is a poem I found in the comments on last week's Poetry Friday post. I created it in appreciation for your thoughtful responses to my lament about the loss of the Writer's Almanac. They were just to good to leave in the comment boxes!

(Thanks, also, for all of the writing encouragement!)

Liz has today's Poetry Friday Roundup at Elizabeth Steinglass.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Poetry Friday -- Robert Frost

Unsplash photo by Andy Mai

On a Tree Fallen Across the Road
(To hear us talk)

The tree the tempest with a crash of wood
Throws down in front of us is not bar
Our passage to our journey's end for good,
But just to ask us who we think we are

Insisting always on our own way so.
She likes to halt us in our runner tracks,
And make us get down in a foot of snow
Debating what to do without an ax.

And yet she knows obstruction is in vain:
We will not be put off the final goal
We have it hidden in us to attain,
Not though we have to seize earth by the pole

And, tired of aimless circling in one place,
Steer straight off after something into space.

by Robert Frost

This is a poem for those times when you can not write an epitaph to save your life. (Ditty Challenge will have to wait.) When the three drafts you wrote for Laura Shovan's February challenge this week  aren't fit for public view. And when all of the good poems you've bookmarked over the years are from the Writer's Almanac, which is gone, and which you miss. Dearly. An accessible poem every morning. A bit of history. Garrison Keillor's voice, if you had time to listen. (Is it wrong to mourn the good done by a person who has been found to have been bad?)

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

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Poetry Friday: Earth Verse

Earth Verse: Haiku from the Ground Up
by Sally M. Walker
illustrated by William Grill
Candlewick Press, 2018

In the author's blurb on the back jacket flap, we learn that Sally M. Walker majored in geology in college. How fun is it to show students that academic knowledge can be translated into poetry! This will be a go-to mentor text in my classroom for students who are having fun with nonfiction by writing in different formats.

The book features poems about Earth, minerals, rocks, fossils, earthquakes, volcanoes, atmospheric and surface water, glaciers, and groundwater. I didn't notice them at first, but there is a tiny icon at the bottom of the pages with poems that signals the topic and helps the reader see the connections between several pages of poems.

Here are a few favorites:

hotheaded mountain
loses its cool, spews ash cloud --
igneous tantrum

(volcano section)

a flat stone, skipping,
casts circles across the lake,
lassoing the fish

(atmospheric and surface water section)

hold fast, stalactite,
everlasting icicle,
stone bed for a bat

(groundwater section)

In keeping with the SALLY theme, this week's Poetry Friday roundup is hosted by Sally Murphy!

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Strong Girls Rock the World

Franki recently shared her love for Shaking Things Up: 14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood. (Olivia of @Livbits loves it, too. If you haven't watched her video, take a couple of minutes to do so. I'd add her to the list as the 15th young woman who's changing the world!)

I have two more Strong Girl books to add to your TBR stack and to your library.

Marley Dias Gets It DONE: And So Can You!
Scholastic Press, 2018

Marley Dias, founder of the #1000BlackGirlsBooks movement has written a book that is part memoir and autobiography and a whole lot Girl Power. This full-color book is jam packed with advice, inspiration, and action steps for young social activists. My favorite chapter is "Be The Change You Want to See in the World: Get Woke." She identifies three levels of Wokeness: Awareness, Consciousness, and Wokeness, then illustrates the levels using Disney Princesses. Cinderella is aware, Jasmine is conscious, but Mulan and Belle are full-on woke. It wouldn't be Marley Dias if she didn't have several sections on books and reading (her section on How To Read is fabulous!), plus an extensive booklist of books that feature black girls as the protagonist.

What Would She Do?: 25 True Stories of Trailblazing Rebel Women
by Kay Woodward
Scholastic Press, February 27, 2018

This book features the stories of 25 women from all times in history and from all over the globe. For each woman, there is a short blurb, full-color illustrations, a single-page highly readable biography,  a quote...and a question that a modern girl might ask with an answer based on that woman's life and legacy. Because of all of these features, this book will be accessible to a wide range of readers, and will likely be one they go back to over and over again to dig more deeply into the lives of  these inspirational women.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Guest Post: The Impact of Read Aloud by Jaclyn Friedlander

Jaclyn Friedlander of Friends with Fins was a 4th grade student in my class several years ago. Recently, Jaclyn messaged me reminding me about a few of the books she remembers from 4th grade. It's always great to hear from a past student-even greater to hear about a book they remember. As a teacher, I see read aloud as one of the happiest and most important times of every day in the classroom. So happy to see that Jaclyn agrees! Enjoy!

The current cover along with the cover of the book that  we read aloud in class.
One of my favorite memories from elementary school was read-aloud time when we would sit on the floor and listen to our teacher read books to the whole class. Independent reading time was great but there was something magical about sitting as a group and imagining the story for ourselves while we listened to the teacher’s voice.

I can vividly remember some of the stories that have inspired adventures in my life. One teacher read Loch by Paul Zindel. The book we were reading together often sat on the ledge of the chalkboard and the cover of that particular book terrified me, but the story was so fascinating that I did research and reports on the Loch Ness Monster throughout the rest of my formal education. Then when I had the opportunity to go to England as an adult, I added a few days to my itinerary and made a special trip to Scotland on a hunt to see Nessie. I went on a tour boat and heard about the legend, its origin and how it has evolved, as well as scientific theory behind what the Loch Ness Monster is.

Another book that had a particular impact on me was The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, by Avi. I remember as a 4th grader in Franki Sibberson’s class, LOVING that book and coming to school every day excited to hear the next chapter. My favorite part was when Charlotte chopped off all of her hair because she wants to fit in with the sailors, or so that’s how my mind remembered that moment. I recently re-read the book and she does chop her hair but for slightly different reasons. In the back of my mind I always thought it would be amazing to be like Charlotte Doyle and have an incredible adventure at sea.

Between hearing that book read to us and being passionate about the ocean, learning to sail has been in the back of mind as something I would like to do.  I have explored the sea as a scuba diver and I now have the opportunity to learn how to sail. I will be learning to sail tall ships with 85 lines and 13 sails, just like the one Charlotte Doyle was on! I’m excited to learn a new skill and see where this adventure takes me!
One of the ships that Jaclyn is learning to sail.

There is something inspiring about sharing stories aloud and you never know what great adventures, life experiences, undertakings, or professions the stories will lead to in the future!

Jaclyn Friedlander is the author of the Friends with Fins Children’s Picture book series and the host of educational marine science videos that can be found here: