Friday, August 17, 2018

Poetry Friday -- Bright Wings

Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds
edited by Billy Collins
illustrated by David Allen Sibley
Columbia University Press, 2010

So much to love about this little book. Poems collected by Billy Collins. (The man has good taste!) Illustrations by David Sibley. (Gorgeous.) Birds.

Here's one of my favorites -- The Crows Start Demanding Royalties by Lucia Perillo.

Click to enlarge.

Christy has the bird-themed Poetry Friday Roundup at Wondering and Wandering.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Picture Book 10 for 10 -- David Wiesner

I had the opportunity to hear David Wiesner speak at the Whole Language Umbrella conference this past summer, and when I saw that he has ten picture books, it just seemed like a ready-made 10 for 10!

But there's more than that. His message about picture book design and his mission to "show as much visually as possible with as little text as possible" resonated because my first read aloud will be a graphic novel (via Kindle on the big screen). I decided that along with the work we'll do with the visuals in the read aloud, a beginning-of-the-year mini-unit spent closely studying David Wiesner's picture books will be time well spent, as well as an inviting entry point for all readers. We can dig into the way he represents multiple realities and the world off the page (The Three Little Pigs and Flotsam are great ones for that). We can study beginnings and endings. And we can look at the ways he sets up patterns and breaks them. (I'm sure there will be more -- I want to remain open to what my students find interesting and want to study). I'm hoping to see the benefits of this work echoing not just through reading workshop for the rest of the year, but also in our narrative writing unit in writing workshop.











Big thanks to Cathy Mere and Mandy Robek for cooking up this fabulous yearly event! Check out all the posts on the Google+ community. Open a tab for your public library and hide your credit card!!

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Poetry Friday

New Again

The world is layered.
Just when you think you understand
a split appears
a layer pulls back
is shrugged off
and the world is new again.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

Molly has this week's Poetry Friday Roundup at Nix the Comfort Zone.

Wednesday, August 08, 2018

PSA and Praise

If you've tried to comment here at A Year of Reading and have been frustrated when your comment disappeared before you submitted it,

or if you read our note about how long our blog kept loading and in order for your comment not to get lost you should stop the load before commenting (what a hassle),

or if you tried to access our archives by using the turn-down triangles and got...nothing...

I want you to know that OUR BLOG IS FIXED!


Here's how it got fixed and the PSA and praise.

First, I spent time googling these problems. Then, I spent time searching Blogger help forums. Finally, in frustration, I tweeted Blogger. And @irsahindesigns answered. He answered, he stayed with me until every problem was resolved, and he didn't judge me (at least not in public) when one of the problems was a complete and total forehead slap of a user error.

Your blog loads for almost a minute each time you open it? Look for third party plugins or widgets. In our case, it was the SiteMeter plugin I added in 2006 (and which we haven't used for years).

Your archives don't work? Remove the widget and then put it back in.

There's a whole lot about Twitter that's a hot mess right now, and I'm not advocating that you use Twitter to find the solution to life's every problem. But in this case, it worked. Here's to @irsahindesigns, and here's to the proof that Twitter can make the world...or at least our a little better!

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Another Lesson From a Bike Ride

It was my longest bike ride so far this summer. We went all the way from home to beyond the Scioto Mile downtown, to the Scioto Audubon Metropark. About 25 miles round trip. I felt strong almost all the way, but I knew that when we turned off the bike path at the Broadmeadows bridge over the Olentangy River, what would remain was a long grueling uphill ride to home.

As we approached the Broadmeadows bridge, I talked to myself. "You've got this! Push through! Finish strong!"

I probably could have made it all the way home without walking. But it also occurred to me that "finish strong" doesn't have to mean "finish without taking a break." Perhaps my finish could be stronger and more satisfying if I got off my bike, stretched a bit, walked a bit, and had a drink of water before I attacked that final hill.

I took a break. And then I really did finish strong. Stronger than if I had tried to slog through without resting.

And there's the lesson. This school year, when it all gets to be too much and what comes next is a grueling uphill climb, let's remember to take a break so that we can get to the top of every hill still feeling strong.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

Poetry Friday -- The Roundup is HERE!

Unsplash photo by Joshua Earle

Life On Top

Make a mess
Make a life

Life is sweet
Life is bitter

Bitter end
Bitter pill to swallow

Swallow it whole
Swallow your pride

Pride before a fall
Pride that bursts

Bursts of anger
Bursts of joy

Joy in a bundle
Joy mixed with tears

Tears your heart out
Tears it to pieces

Pieces of pie
Pieces of writing

Writing on the wall
Writing it off

Off the cuff
Off balance

Balance and checks
Balance the books

Books we rewrite
Books a flight

Flight of wine
Flight of fancy

Fancy that
Fancy up

Up my spine
Up in the air

Air your grievance
Air it out good

Good grief
Good as gold

Gold standard
Gold can't stay

Stay put
Stay ahead

Ahead of time
Ahead of the game

Game changer
Game over

Over easy
Over the top

Top heavy
Top flight


©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

I was cleaning up my computer desktop this week and found a link I'd saved for the Blitz Poem poetic form. Perhaps you were the one who shared a Blitz Poem and piqued my interest enough to cause me to save that link. At any rate, what good are summer mornings if we don't spend an hour or two playing around with words?!

This poem was made possible by The Free Dictionary, which has a tab for idioms. I also needed an exhaustive list of prepositions to craft my title. Because the title comes from the 3rd and 47th lines of the poem, I revised the last ten lines four times because I couldn't find a preposition I liked that linked life with blood, back, or easy. And I sure wasn't going to go all the way back and change line 3!

This seems like a form that might be fun for my fifth graders. I was pretty intentional at the beginning, but much of the drafting of the middle involved putting down the first phrases that came to mind. I'm not sure the poem makes a ton of sense when taken as a whole (and I did complicate things by playing free and easy with the tears/tears homograph), but the spiraling way the words and phrases are connected...even the way the poem reads if you just look at the first words of each line...there is a satisfactory feel to it...if only during the writing!

(Here's a bonus poem, also created from idioms!)

The Poetry Friday roundup is here this week, and I'll roundup "old school" since I have time. Leave your links in the comments and I'll add them as they come in.


It's winter down under, and Sally Murphy has written a snuggly ruggy poem.

Molly Hogan shares her poem swap goodies from Linda B.

Robyn Hood Black has some quick newsletter news for interested subscribers.

Michelle Kogan shares art and writing from her recent trip to Door County, WI.

More summer poem swap bounty shared by Linda Mitchell.

At Random Noodling, Diane Mayr has Statue of Liberty cherita postcards, and at Kurious Kitty, a poem from the anthology Forgotten Women.

The Poetry Princesses wrote sestinas this month.
Laura Purdie Salas self-identified hers as "morose."
Sara Lewis Holmes starts with Oscar Wilde's Miss Prism and goes deep from there.
Tricia Stohr Hunt was the Princess who issued the sestina challenge this month.
Tanita Davis' sestina is combative (her word, not mine...but I do believe hers should be SHOUTED)

Laura Shovan has a 100 Thousand Poets for Change challenge for all of us.

Myra Garces Bacsal is featuring a new book-length poem by Jason Reynolds.

Linda Baie shares selections from a book of poetry by Robert Newton Peck.

Jane Whittingham, the Raincity Librarian, writes about an author visit she did for her debut picture book.

Matt Forrest Esenwine shares a dramatic ocean haiku today.

Brenda Harsham contemplates philosophy in her tanka.

Jan Godown Annino has enough goodness packed into her post to last us all of August!

Erin Mauger wrote a poem for the Rosellas that visit her Australian yard. (Any other North Americans who wish they had some Rosellas in their yard?!?!)

Heidi Mordhorst takes us to a "London-proper narrow lane" to a poetry event celebrating youth poets.

Poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil (yes, I used copy/paste :-) is featured by Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference.

Ruth shares a back-to-school poem by William Stafford.

Margaret Simon wrote a found poem using photos of signs in Boston.

Irene Latham is reinventing August. (Good luck with that!)

Reading the James Stevenson poem Maureen Nosal shares will give you a feeling of synchronicity, if you just read Irene's poems! (I LOVE when Poetry Friday does that!!)

Steve Peterson used Seamus Heaney's "Postscript" as the inspiration for his contemplation of the Iowa summer.

Kay McGriff captures the sounds and spirit of New Orleans jazz perfectly in her poem.

Little Willow shares a poem with a great twist at the end.

Christie Wyman has a bird song mnemonics poem and a challenge for us for August 17, when she'll be hosting the Poetry Friday Roundup -- she's asking that we all share a bird poem that week. Sounds like fun! Remember when we did Billy Collins, or when we did mac-n-cheese?

Donna Smith gave a blitz a go! Yay, Donna!!

Liz Steinglass got Poetry Swap goodies from Irene.

Dani Burtsfield has the final stop on the Bayou Song blog tour. She has poems parallel to Margaret's, but that are set in Montana instead of Louisiana.

Carol Varsalona wrote a delightful summer poem to inspire us to submit our creative work to her newest digital gallery.

Tara Smith honors James Baldwin in her post.

Jone MacCulloch has a hummingbird haiga for us this week.

Ramona was inspired by Laura Shovan to collect rhyming picture books to read aloud on September 29th!

A trip to the American Museum of Natural history got Catherine Flynn thinking about dinosaurs.

Using the prompt from Amy LV's book POEMS ARE TEACHERS "If you could bring someone from this time period to life, what would you ask?", Mandy Robek brings to life Lizzy Murphy in her poem.


Wednesday, August 01, 2018

GREAT MORNING! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud

GREAT MORNING! Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud
by Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong
PomeloBooks, 2018

Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong are force for good in the world of poetry for children. First they brought us the Poetry Friday Anthologies, then the Poetry Friday Power Books, and now GREAT MORNING.

Thanks to former US Poet Laureate Billy Collins, high schools have had Poetry 180 for years now. The time was right for poetry to come to the announcements in elementary schools. Vardell and Wong gathered 50+ poets for a total of 75 poems, one poem and topic for each of the 36 weeks of the school year, and connected poems for each of the weeks.

Let's break down the goodness of this book bit by bit using the title as our guide:

GREAT MORNING! -- Not just good...GREAT! And what will make it great? POETRY!!

Poems for School Leaders -- Another part of the GREAT in this book is the inclusion of school leaders in this literacy ritual. These school leaders are probably adult administrators, and probably usually men. How great would it be to have these men reading and enjoying poetry as a role model for the whole school?!? Of course, these school leaders might also be the safety and service team students who perform the video announcements ever day. The poems in this book are accessible for these young school leaders to read with expression and energy.

to Read Aloud -- How about it, School Leaders (especially administrators)? Here's an opportunity to read aloud to the entire student body at least once a week! It's a short text! It's fun! You know you want to up your game to from School Leader to Literacy Leader. This book will help you to achieve that goal.

If you are a teacher or a literacy coach, this would make a most awesome beginning of the year gift for your favorite School Leader. I can't wait to see the look on the face of mine when I present him with a copy of this book!

(Truth in advertising--I have a poem in this book, so that's the other exciting reason why I can't wait to share it with my School Leader!!)

Monday, July 30, 2018

Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children at School by Carla Shalaby

I read a lot professionally and there are so many professional books I love--so many books that have become part of who I am as a teacher. So many that have helped me think about things in new ways. I love so many of the books I have read and am thankful to everyone who writes them.

There are a few books that have changed me, that have become part of my heart. These are books I go back to often--to reenvision the time I spend with children.  This week, I read Troublemakers: Lessons in Freedom from Young Children in School by Carla Shalaby.  This is one of the most powerful and important books I have read in a very long time.  As I started the book, I knew that it was a book that would change me.  Early in the book, I felt similar to the way I felt when I read Lessons from a Child by Lucy Calkins and Choice Words by Peter Johnston. I couldn't be the same teacher after reading these books.  Once you see children through the lens of these educators, you can't not change the way you are in the classroom. Troublemakers is that kind of a book.

I don't remember where I first heard about this book. It may have been mentioned in a conference session or I may have seen it first on social media. I do know that I ordered it immediately once I heard about it.  I knew this was a book I wanted to read after I read the first line about it on Amazon ("In this dazzling debut, Carla Shalaby, a former elementary school teacher, explores the everyday lives of four young 'troublemakers', challenging the ways we identify and understand so-called problem children")

I've always been interested in identity and agency in young children. This book is written as four separate case studies. Carla Shalaby helps us know (and love) 4 children deeply--as learners, yes--but also as people.  Four very young children who are already labeled as "troublemakers" at school.  And she chooses children who are in classrooms with strong teachers who are committed to each individual child in their care. She helps us know each child and she invites us to look at each child through a new lens--a lens that can help us learn from them--a lens that can help us see the structural issues in our classrooms and schools that make school a difficult place for these children.  Through these children, she helps us to think about freedom, compliance and power.  These four incredible children help us see our classrooms in new ways.

As with any teacher, I've had children who have not "fit in" to the structures of school.  Students who cause trouble.  Students who I feel that I have failed. For me, reading this book was an exercise of hope, of study and of reflection. It pushed me to think in ways I hadn't thought before and it helped me to realize new ways to think about the children in our schools.   I learned different things from each of the four children in this book.  Each child helped me reflect about some piece of my relationship with children that I hadn't explored. Carla Shalaby pushes a bit beyond the case studies during the last third of the book and I have to admit that this part of the book was a little painful to read--it required true and honest reflection.  The reflection required in her conclusion meant I had to acknowledge things that were hard to admit, even to myself. I thought of children who I failed and what I could have done differently-what part I played in the "troublemaker" narrative.  But with that reflection, the author offers us hope. Not only hope--she reminded me of the power that we, as teachers have to make change, to make things right for our children, to move beyond the mandates and the constraints and to be change makers.

I have underlined more in this book than I did not underline. Every sentence Carla Shalaby writes is powerful.  And her writing is quite magical in itself. This is one of those books I am not letting out of my sight because I keep dipping back in after my first read-- to think a bit more deeply about one part or another. I ordered a few extra copies because I want everyone I know to read this book, yet I can't hand over my copy as I know I will continue to revisit it for a very long time.

I am not sure how else to describe this book except to say that it is a must read for every teacher or parent.  I know this blog post does not do the book justice and I am hoping to think more about it with visuals on Instagram and Twitter over the next several weeks. I have so much more thinking to do around Shalaby's words. In the meantime, I recommend that you get your hands on this book as fast as you can and that you put it on the top of your stack. But don't read the book quickly--give yourself time with the book as it is life-changing.

I can't thank the author enough for writing this book.  This book is one that has the power to change things-- to make a difference in our schools and in our world. It is a true gift to us and to our children.

*In case you want to read some more about the book:
A Page About the Book at The New Press
An Interview with Carla Shalaby
A Blog Post by Jessica at Crawling Out of the Classroom
Follow Carla Shalaby on Twitter

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Poetry Friday

photo via Unsplash by Stan Mart!n!

When the Moon is One Day From Full

and the kitchen counter is crowded
with jars containing caterpillars
and chrysalises,
it is nearly impossible to resist
the words

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

Catherine has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Reading to the Core.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Making Time and Space for Nonfiction--Some NF Books to Add to Our Classroom Library

I have worked for the past several years to add new nonfiction to the classroom library. But I definitely need more that will engage readers so I have been reading lots of nonfiction this summer. As I think about the Mock Orbis Pictus Award that we'll be participating in this fall, I am thinking carefully about the 2018 titles I add. These are four new nonfiction books I'll be adding this year.

What Do You Do With a Voice Like That? by Chris Barton is a picture book biography about Congresswoman Barbara Jordan. This is an incredible biography for several reasons.  The writing makes the story very engaging for readers who don't know. Barbara Jordan. The focus on her work and the power her voice had works well and the illustrations are unbelievable.  I was happy to get an advanced copy of this one and have already preordered a copy---due out in late September.  

The Mushroom Fan Club by Elise Gravel is a fun look at mushrooms. This book is packed with information and it has a light touch in terms of tone--there is lots of humor in the text and the illustrations. This book is part field guide so readers can use it to identify mushrooms they find--and the author makes mushroom hunting sound like great fun!

Book of Bones: 10 Record-Breaking Animals by Gabrielle Balkan is a book I picked up at a new-to-me children's bookstore--The Children's Bookstore-on our visit to Baltimore for Whole Language Umbrella Conference.  I love this book and didn't realize until after I bought it that it is by the author of a book-The 50 States- that was very popular in our classroom last year.  I love the unique way this author organizes ideas, uses visuals and writes in such an engaging way.   This book has lots of great information--I love the organization, the leads for each section and the writing.

Undocumented: A Worker's Fight by Duncan Tonatiuh is another one I'll add to the library.  I ordered it weeks ago. I haven't seen it yet but I love every book that Duncan Tonatiuh has written and so have my students.  Preorder it soon!