Friday, February 22, 2019

Poetry Friday--Student Poems

photo via Unsplash

Helping My Mom Cook

I let my hands go on an adventure with cooking,
chopping away the evil monsters.
My cooking is like an adventure,
Turning the stove on,
and seeing the boiling water,
like lava.

When it boils,
the lava
is letting out all the smoke.
Turning the stove off,
and seeing the boiling water stop,
like the lava
stopped letting out smoke.

Then grabbing the plate,
like finding a map for the loot.
Finally eating the food,
like finding the loot.

by Sarkees K.

photo via unsplash


The white clouds
the frosty air the dazzling
snowflakes that fall from the skies

You can do all kinds of things
in the dazzling snow

You can make a snowman a snowball
you can also watch it snow

Don’t you feel the frosty air
don’t you feel how cold it is
don’t you feel how cold the snow is

It’s all because of the axis pointed
away from the sun, the indirect

by Shadman M.

In our pacing guide for 5th grade writing instruction, we've come back around to narrative writing. When I looked at what I'm expected to teach ("Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences precisely; use a variety of transitional words, phrases, and clauses to manage the sequence of events") it seemed like this work could definitely be done using the story telling medium of poetry. 

We began by brainstorming ordinary daily events. Even though video games are likely the most ordinary thing most of my students do on a daily basis, we didn't use those examples for our writing topics. We've also begun doing 5 minute quick writes at the beginning of most writing workshop times. This has seeded their writer's notebooks with lots of good material for their poems.

I was thrilled with Sarkees' poem about cooking with his mom. Without ever being taught about extended metaphors, he brought his adventure metaphor all the way through his poem. Sarkees wants more than anything to be a chef when he grows up. It is fun to see students' passions coming through in their writing.

Shadman's poem is so like him. He worked hard to be very poetic in his first stanzas, even including some repetition. But the logical, scientific side of him gets the last word in the conclusion, an echo of what he learned about the seasons in science earlier in the year.

Thank you, Sarkees and Shadman for sharing your poems!

Robyn has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Life on the Deckle Edge.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Art of Reading, Lost or Otherwise

AJ recommends lots of books that we both know might wait years before I get a chance to read them. But when he slid this small trim size, 150-page book across the table, I decided to give it a go. I'm glad I did.

It took me about 50 pages to get past his description of a reading life that is nothing like mine, and which made me feel more than a tad inferior. But then he got to some big points.
"We come to books (or at least, I do) to see beneath the cover story, to be challenged and confounded, made to question our assumptions, even as the writers we read are compelled to question their own. 
What does that mean? On the one hand, it's an argument for nuance, for the role of narrative as a mechanism to confront the chaos, to frame a set of possible interpretations while acknowledging that these could shift at any time. Yet even more essential, I would argue, it's a call to engage. Stories, after all--whether aesthetic or political--require sustained concentration..."
Ulin defines reading as an act of creativity that requires sustained concentration, which, in a world of "endless information," has become harder and harder to maintain.

"Technology is rewiring the neurology of our brains," but we shouldn't be too alarmed by this. It's been happening since the first symbols were carved into clay. We need to remember that Gutenberg shifted the world of reading only about 600 years ago. Ulin quotes Jane Smiley, from 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel when he gets to the heart of what should worry us about the loss of book readers,
"When we talk about the death of the novel, what we are really talking about is the possibility that empathy, however minimal, would no longer be attainable by those for whom the novel has died...If the novel dies, or never lives, for children and teenagers who spend their time watching TV or playing video games, then they will always be somewhat mystified by others, and by themselves as well."
Ulin sees reading as "an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction, a matter of engagement in a society that seems to want nothing more than for us to disengage...We regain the world by withdrawing from it just a little...."

Pretty heady stuff, and all of it a hard sell for my fifth graders. I have one foot back in the world of no Internet; they have both feet fully planted in the world of distraction. Luckily, at the same time I started reading The Lost Art of Reading, a book I had on reserve at the library came in.

This gorgeously illustrated book is filled with over 100 letters to young readers describing the joys of books and reading. Perhaps a couple of these read each day to my students will help them to see the breadth and depths of what books and story can mean to a person.

The Universe didn't decide to stop there in making me think hard about the meaning of reading and books in this time of distraction. When I finished Ulin's book, I picked up the January/February Horn Book Magazine and found Uma Krishnaswami's article, "Why Stop at Windows and Mirrors?: Children's Book Prisms."
"A prism can slow and bend the light that passes through it, splitting that light into its component colors. It can refract light in as many directions as the prism’s shape and surface planes allow. Similarly, books can disrupt and challenge ideas about diversity through multifaceted and intersecting identities, settings, cultural contexts, and histories. They can place diverse characters at these crucial intersections and give them the power to reframe their stories. Through the fictional world, they can make us question the assumptions and practices of our own real world."
Then, just a few more pages into the Horn Book issue, I found Grace Lin's article, "Speak with Us, Not for Us."
"What diversity needs is not white authors to write heroes of a minority race, but rather for them to redefine the white hero. We need authors to create white characters who are (or are learning to become) socially aware and who fight alongside people of color, without being saviors, and we need authors who know how to do the same."
Okay, Universe. I hear you loud and clear. It's worth it to keep trying to fall my students in love with books and reading, even though it feels like I am swimming against an impossible tide of technology and distraction. A Velocity of Being will help me with this. It is still worth it to provide books that are windows and mirrors and sliding glass doors, but I will also look for more prisms. And I'll cheer on not just the #ownvoices authors, but also the white authors who are working to redefine the white hero.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Poetry Friday

Photo via Unsplash

Scent of Spring

His back went up
stopping me in my tracks.

I backed up hastily
hands raised (as if that could protect me).

He hissed. We both walked away.
Ten paces later, I spotted his backup,

although the back and forth of squeaks and squeals
that soon broke the predawn silence

took me aback. Was this love or war
wafting through the air?

Jone, at Check it Out, has the Poetry Friday roundup this week AND she's announcing the Cybils Poetry Winner! Check it out, indeed!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Picture Book 10 for 10: Books Filled With People Who Changed the World

Today is #nf10for10 --a favorite day of the year. Thanks to Mandy, Cathy, and Julie for organizing! Head over to Enjoy and Embrace Learning for the Round Up --have your library card or credit card ready! It's a great day to add more nonfiction books to your stack!

I have a new favorite kind of book that I am collecting--I am not sure exactly what to call them but each of these books introduces readers to so many amazing people.  Just like picture book biographies, these books take an idea (Protestors, Women Who Made a Difference, etc.) and share a little bit about each of these people under the umbrella idea of the book.  I have found that these books invite incredible conversations. They also invite readers to learn more about one or more of the people in the book.  And I've found that these books have taught my students the value of the Author's Note. I love that you can read many of these from cover to cover and then read more about the people who you become more curious about through the reading. Many are books that you can dip into and read the pages you'd like.  I keep thinking back to the days of Biography Reports and Wax Museums when our students were required to read one long (from birth to death) biography and report on/dress as that one person. One thing books like these do is they introduce us to MANY change makers who we don't know as well as the more famous change-makers. Readers can see so many ways to make a difference.  And, how much more powerful to see people in the context of something bigger, in a group of others who are fighting for the same things? So these are my Top 10 that I've purchased recently forty 5th grade classroom.

Enough! 20 Protesters Who Changed America by Emily Easton

Friday, February 08, 2019

Poetry Friday -- Amazing Face

Amazing Face
by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Amazing, your face.

It shows there will be trails to follow,
porches to wave from, wonder from,
play on.

It shows you will sail ships,
paint stars,
carve pumpkins,

You will climb stalks,
greet giants,
crawl before you walk.
And you will fly.
And you will fall.
And you will fly again.

Amazing, your face.
It shows you will watch from a window,
whisper to a friend,
ride a carousel,
melt candy on your tongue.

Amazing, your face.

(used with permission of the author)

What a privilege it is to learn alongside these amazing faces, even when everything is not sunshine and roses.

Laura Purdie Salas has today's Poetry Friday Roundup. She is encouraging everyone to write an equation poem to celebrate the release of her new book, Snowman - Cold = Puddle (which was our story for the last few days, but Winter has roared back in with sub-freezing weather again today).

Here's my equation. It's a pair of equivalent fractions made by multiplying the first fraction by elitism / elitism.

Classroom / Cliques = USA / Bipartisanism

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Poetry Friday -- Metaphor Dice

My Teacher

Mornings are rough sometimes.
I fight with my mom,
arrive at school in a shroud of scowl.

Teacher expects me to write a poem.

"Choose an ordinary experience.
Use concrete words and phrases.
Use sensory details.
Convey the experience precisely."

I've got sense enough to know
that the sharp-edged concrete of my experience
is far from ordinary.

I stare out the window,
inventing a precisely-worded fiction
to scrawl onto my paper.

my teacher is a last-minute midwife,
holding out welcoming arms,
gently cradling my newborn lies.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

My Taylor Mali Metaphor Dice came. The words the teacher speaks in this poem are my own, quoting the bit of the standard we are working on in writing workshop.

"W.5.3. Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, descriptive details, and clear event sequences.
  • d. Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences and events precisely."
Doesn't that seem like a fairly good working definition of poetry? Hopefully by next week I'll have some student poems to share.

Tabatha has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at The Opposite of Indifference.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Geeking Out on Multiplication Strategies


Yesterday, I introduced my students to the new-to-me strategy of multiplying using a ratio table. We did a few whole number examples together, adding this strategy to our multiplication toolboxes along with the standard algorithm (some can use this strategy, but not all...not YET), partial products, and area model. I turned them loose with pictures of oranges I took one day at the grocery store. Some oranges were $.79 each, others were $.55 each, and there were the above bags of 8 oranges that were $2.99 per bag. Their task was to find out how much each option would cost in order to buy an orange for each of the 27 students in the class.

When we gathered at the end of the period to share answers and strategies, I was floored by one of my mathematician's use of the brand new ratio table strategy. First of all, he used $3.00 rather than $2.99, knowing he could take off those extra pennies once he had his solution. Smart! He started his ratio table the way I'd modeled, with his first known information. 3:8 (dollars:oranges). He doubled until he got to 32 oranges and $12. We all assumed you'd just have to buy 5 extra oranges.

But what happened next blew us all away. He showed us that by HALVING instead of doubling, he could get us within one orange (and a half a penny) of the 27 oranges.

It's not very often that a teacher gets to witness what happens when she hands a learner a tool and they take it to the next level all on their own.

It was a geeky-good day in math yesterday!

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Poetry Friday

photo via Unsplash

by Linda Pastan

Perhaps the purpose 
of leaves is to conceal 
the verticality 
of trees
which we notice 
in December 
as if for the first time: 
row after row 
of dark forms 
yearning upwards. 
And since we will be 
horizontal ourselves 
for so long, 
let us now honor 
the gods 
of the vertical: 
stalks of wheat 
which to the ant 
must seem as high 
as these trees do to us, 
silos and 
telephone poles, 
and skyscrapers.

Tara is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup at Going to Walden. When I saw that she had a poem by Linda Pastan, I decided to share one by Pastan, too! 

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Word Game Wednesday!

In the middle of the week, we break from our regular word study routines for Word Game Wednesday.

Over the course of many years, I have collected lots of word games. They never got played until I started Word Game Wednesday. The games all live together on top of the shelves that have our word study/word play books and wordless books. They are not available for indoor recess, only for Word Game Wednesday. That keeps them in better condition and a little more special.

Some of the games date back to my childhood. I brought them from the game cupboard back home!

I have sets of magnetic words and magnetic poetry for those who want to go "old school" on a cookie sheet!

The rest have been added over the course of YEARS. (Your Amazon cart might start smoking....stop before it blows up!)

In addition to Tile Lock Scrabble, we have multiple boards and a big ziplock of letters.

Appletters and Bananagrams are perennial favorites.

Students build stories with Rory's Story Cubes or the StoryWorld cards.

I have no idea where this came from! The students have made up their own rules.
Red coins are consonants, green coins are vowels.

Last Letter and After Words work basically the same way. In Last Letter, you have a hand of cards that have pictures on them. To start, you lay a card down and name something you can see in the pictures. If the starting word is "robot," then every player scans their cards for something in one of the pictures that starts with "T," the last letter of "robot." They name that thing on their card, putting it down on the pile. Then players have to find something in the pictures on their cards that starts with the last letter of that word, and so on.

After Words has a board that shows the "last letter" currently in play. (It also has a timer, but ours has never worked.) The cards each player holds have categories, so if it's your turn and the last letter was "s," you might use your category card "weather" to play "snow." The game board marker would move to "w" and the next player would look at their categories for a word that starts with "w."

Tapple and 5 Second Rule (be sure you get the Jr. edition!) Are basically the same. Tapple has category cards, and when the first one is turned over, the red timer in the middle of the board is hit and the first player has a short amount of time to name something in that category. After they name it, they press down the letter it started with and reset the timer. The next players have to name something in that category with a letter that hasn't been used yet. If you can't think of something before the timer goes off, you're out. Last one still able to name things in that category wins. 5 Second Rule has a crazy "rain stick" 5 second timer that totally messes with your ability to name the item(s) in the category on the card that's drawn.

Rhyme Out! and Blurt! can both get a little loud. (Who am I kidding? What with the timers going off and the spirited collaboration and competition, ALL of Word Game Wednesday can be a little loud. But it's all good!) In Rhyme Out!, each card has a hint (such as "rhymes with snow") and the first player who can say all three answers to the clues wins the cards. The clues might be (and I'm totally making these up) "what you do when your nose is stuffy, what a plant does if you water it, and what the water in a river does." Blow, grow, flow! With Blurt!, a clue is read and the first person or team to blurt out the correct answer gets to move their maker around the board.

Word Dominoes have pictures on the ends of the dominoes and I'm sure there are rules, but we usually just play by working together to try to match up two pictures that go together in a way, aiming to use all the dominoes to build the biggest chain possible. Haikubes haven't taken off yet, as you might imagine with all the other flashier/noisier options available!

Word A Round has round cards with the letters for a short word in the blue inner circle, the letters for a medium word in the red middle circle, and the letters for a long word in the black outer circle. The backs of the cards are blue, red, or black so you know which ring to look at. All the letters are in order for the word in that ring, but there are no clues that tell players where the word starts or stops or which way around the ring it is spelled. This game takes a good knowledge of prefixes, word endings, and common spelling patterns.

Dabble is a Scrabble-like game with a couple of twists. Each player gets 20 tiles and 2 minutes to make five words -- one each of 6-, 5-, 4-, 3-, and 2-letter words. If you make all five words in 2 minutes you get 25 points in addition to all the points on the letter tiles you used.

We have one digital game -- Free Rice. You can imagine with all the other loud and active options, this one doesn't get chosen much. But most weeks there is at least one person who either gets shut out of their first choice or who wants a quieter, more solitary choice.

A couple of last thoughts -- it doesn't make me very popular, but at least every other week I pull a small group to work on spelling patterns during this time. I make sure not to pull the same kids repeatedly. I've also started alternating Word Game Wednesday on Wednesdays and Thursdays so that the reading intervention kids who are pulled on Wednesdays don't miss it every week. As with any routine worth putting in place, you've got to make it work for you and your students.

Have fun!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Poetry Friday -- Postcard Poems

My German "mom" sent me these six postcards along with her annual Christmas letter. 

Last Sunday, on the brink of the mid-month "deadline" for sending postcards in Jone's (Check it Out / Deowriter) New Year Post Card Exchange, I enjoyed hours of glorious FLOW as I forgot about/ignored all the schoolwork and housework and wrote these ekphrastic haiku. I translated them into German (thank you, Google Translate!) and organized them in Google Draw so I could print off the whole lot and send them to Elisabeth so she could see how her gift to me has kept on giving. Elisabeth's daughter Gabriele (who is just a bit older than me) told me when we visited last summer for Elisabeth's 90th birthday, that she (Elisabeth) writes haiku. I can't wait to hear what she thinks of mine!

Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect has this week's Poetry Friday roundup.