Thursday, August 31, 2006

Happy Blogday!

We got tagged by A Chair, A Fireplace and a Tea Cozy for BlogDay 2006. It sounds like fun, so here goes:

Happy BlogDay 2006! Here's how you can participate:

1. Find five new blogs that you find interesting.

2. Notify the five bloggers that you're recommending them on BlogDay 2006.

3. Write a BlogDay post today with a short description of each blog, and a link back to each one.

4. Add a BlogDay 2006 Technorati tag and/or link back to the Technorati BlogDay 2006 page.

5. Link to the BlogDay website.

So here are my five blog choices:

a wrung sponge She's thoughtful and funny, takes great pictures, and is a home-grown one-woman environmental movement.

Lowry Updates Lois Lowry is one of my favorite children's authors, and finding her blog made my day! In between the release of her books, I can still enjoy her fine writing (and smile at the antics of Alfie).

blog of proximal development Here is a PhD candidate whose thesis is on the use of blogging communities in education. Our school district's Framework for Learning stands on the shoulders of Vygotsky's "Zones of proximal development" and as a beginning blogger, I have palpably felt the edges of my ZPDs as I build my skills!

Perpetual Thursday She has the MOST AMAZING yearly reading lists. I aspire to be as widely read as she is, and as organized in my list-making. She's also the one who turned me on to Library Thing.

GottaBook He hooked me with his Ogden Nash-esque poem about Pluto's demotion. I haven't even scratched the surface of his Fibs, Oddaptations, and Poems. Fun reading here!

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

More On Summer Reading Lists

There seems to be more going on with the Summer Reading Requirements this summer. I read at Fuse #8 about a school district that suspended 519 students on the first day of school for not completing their Summer Reading and assignment. They were happy because this was down almost 50% from last year's suspensions.

The interesting thing was --of the 519 students, all but about 93 came back the next day with their reading assignments completed. So, do we really think those kids went home and in one day completed a summer's worth of reading?

I did a bit of investigating and found the school district's website. They have a good goal. There is big research out there that supports the idea that kids need to read in the summer. I totally agree with that. So, this district had signs all over town, reminding kids of their Summer Reading. So, from what I read, if a chid went to a local restaurant, there might be a sign reminding them that they had to read over the summer.

The teachers seemed to be very smart about this assignment. From the lists and assignments I found, they really worked hard to help kids have choice in what they read, inviting them to read books on the list or to find their own. They also gave choice within the project. Although the district announced that the assignment should be turned in on the first day of school and would count as a big test grade, the teachers created good lists and thoughtful projects.

I think where we are going wrong with all of these summer reading lists is in the message to students that you have to "work" in the summer too. It can't be good to have kids thinking that they "have to" read and that reading is "work". Instead, as teachers and administrators, we should help kids discover the amazing experience that reading is, so that they use the summer to catch up on the books that they have been dying to read. I would think a good goal would be for kids to get excited about an event like the 48 hour book challenge sponsored by the brilliant Mother Reader. How many of us were extremely excited about the idea of giving 48 hours to ONLY reading? This is the kind of reader I think we want to come out of our schools. Imagine if our high schoolers were reading for 48 hours, writing about their reading, to a real audience, as they went. Maybe if we spent our time helping kids find the right books so they become readers during the school year, maybe if instead of assignments, kids could meet over the summer to discuss and share the great books they found, we could keep kids reading over the summer AND help them become lifelong readers.

I think so often, we are trying to get kids to "prove" that they read. In my lifetime, I have turned in book reports on books I hadn't read that scored higher grades than reports on books I had read. It is easy to "fake" these assignments that are designed to "prove" that you read. What messages are we giving our children if they think reading is such an awful thing that we are going to check to see whether or not they really did it?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

I found a science museum in my basement

It was in a box labeled "School--Treasures." Inside was the snake skin and snake eggs (hatched, thankfully), the star fish, the sand dollars, the fossils, the skulls and bones, the flamingo feathers, and lots of other artifacts of nature that I've collected (and been given) over the years. A science museum, waiting to happen!

Each of my 5th graders will choose an item from the "Treasures" box and will be charged with writing the informational blurb that will explain it to a visitor to our museum. This will take research (non-fiction reading benchmark), writing (all benchmarks of the writing standard), and scientific habits of mind (scientific inquiry benchmark). Valid content--cha-ching!

It will be months before the art teacher has a display ready for the shelves along the windows in the commons, so we'll have the space we need. Logistics--cha-ching!

In Friday's USA TODAY there was an article about museums that are creating podcast audio tours of their exhibits. We can create a podcast of our museum in GarageBand. Integration of technology--cha-ching!

One model that we will use for our writing will come from online virtual science museums. (The Smithsonian's 150th Traveling Exhibition, and the Field Museum's Sue at The Field Museum are two that I think will give us good writing models.)

But I'd also like to use children's books that model the kind of writing we will do to briefly explain the items in the museum. I think EYEWITNESS books will work well. They have the overview in the top left corner, and each item on the page has a short, explanatory caption.

Do you know any other children's books that would be a good model for our science museum writing, OR books about going to a museum (science or otherwise)? I would appreciate your input!

Friday, August 25, 2006

Great New Nonfiction Picture Books

I just found 2 great, brand-new, nonfiction picture books! The first one is a great one about estimation. It is called GREAT ESTIMATIONS (get it?) and it is by Bruce Goldstone. It has great, colorful photographs and invites kids to estimate something on each page. I like a lot of things about this book. First of all, the cover is inviting. Who wouldn't want to pick it up? Secondly, it really teaches kids how to estimate well. It teaches readers the difference between a random guess and a good estimate. It shows them a strategy and then gives them a photo to practice on. It also includes hints to help you out if you still need help. The photos are very fun. The reader gets to estimate lots of things (macaroni, Cheerios, doll shoes, rabbits). It feels a bit like the "I Spy" books because it is so eye-catching and interactive. You can spend lots of time on each of the pages. Love this one! GREAT ESTIMATIONS 

The other book is called EXTREME ANIMALS: THE TOUGHEST CREATURES ON EARTH by Nicola Davies. This book is a fun book about animals that have adapted to extreme conditions. The book is a great size (small) and the illustrations are fun and comical. Lots of great information for readers about animals and their environments. The book is organized in stand-alone pages so kids can read about one animal at a time if they don't want to read it from cover to cover. I think this is a great nonfiction book for middle and upper elementary kids. It is packed with pretty cool info! (If you get this one, make sure to take off the cover and look at the illustrations underneath. The endpages are pretty fun too!)

Poetry Friday--Aunt Eweginia

As I was getting the classroom ready for school, I came across one of my favorite poetry books and had to reread some of the poems. The play on language is fun throughout the book. It is called WOOL GATHERING: A SHEEP FAMILY REUNION by Lisa Wheeler. Below is one of my favorite poems from the book. Enjoy! Aunt Eweginia Eweginia is a Ewesful Ewe. Just wait, Ewe'll see what she can do. She'll knit Ewe scarves, she'll knit Ewe gloves. There's nothing more Eweginia loves, than knitting white wool Eweniforms or woolen socks to keep Ewe warm. Ewe mustn't watch Ewe see, that's rude. Eweginia knits till she is nude. By Lisa Wheeler By the way, speaking of Poetry Friday, I wanted to share something we do in our classroom every Friday--called "Poetry Friday" actually. I wanted kids to have time to relax and enjoy poetry with friends in the same way that we often enjoy donuts and coffee in the teachers' lounge on Fridays. So, we have Poetry Friday for the first 15-20 minutes at the beginning of the day on Fridays. Parents sign up to bring in a breakfast snack and drink (donuts and juice, muffins and milk, fruit, etc.) Kids come in, grab a snack and have fun with poetry--sitting around reading poetry with friends. I have done this for 2 years and kids quickly come to love poetry when they have this time to eat good food, and enjoy great poetry with their friends. I have about 100-200 poetry books in the classroom so they always find new poems to read. And when you eat donuts while you are reading poetry, you equate the two and begin to love poetry! (the Pavlov effect)

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Summer Reading Assignments

I just found Rick Riordan's post about his son's summer reading requirement thanks to Jen Robinson. Rick really focused on the Newbery issue. But, I really took it to be a summer reading requirement issue. I had no idea that some schools were requiring summer reading for kids below the high school level.

Assigning summer reading to students in high school has become quite popular. My high school daughter has had summers when certain books were required or when she could choose from a list of summer reading books. This summer, the school decided not to require summer reading. Guess what?? She read about 10 books OF HER CHOICE...FOR PLEASURE!! What more could we want! She actually read a good variety. She read some good fiction, some beach/trash type novels and some nonfiction. She found a few new authors she loved and read new books from a series that she has always loved. She lived her summer as a reader and in the process grew and changed as a reader. Last summer when she had required reading for high school English, she spent the summer trudging through the 2 required books and hating every minute of it.

I am a teacher and of course I want children to read over the summer. I want them to read all summer. I would be happy if we all sat and read for 10 hours a day, every day, all summer. I think summer reading lists are an attempt to encourage summer reading and I think that there is the hope that kids will come back together in the fall excited to talk about the books. But a summer reading list can take away a child's real reasons to read. It takes away the fun of finding new authors, deciding what to read next, getting excited about a new book in a series, sharing new discoveries, etc. I have never been a huge fan of Summer Required Reading lists. But, now with this first hand experience of watching my daughter this summer, I know that this was a great summer for her as a reader. I am now 100 percent sure that I would rather my child spend the summer being a reader than reading required books on a school list. I want her to read for more than a course requirement.

Monday, August 21, 2006

It defies logic

While gigantic foundations raise millions of dollars to eradicate breast cancer, and pink ribbons become so ubiquitous that they no longer raise much awareness, there is a small non-profit based in Vermont and sponsored nationally by Orvis and The Hartford -- Casting For Recovery -- that works to improve the lives of breast cancer survivors 14 at a time. They teach them fly fishing.

"It's like whispering a prayer
In the fury of a storm"

They gather 14 survivors of all ages and stages in a beautiful natural setting, provide medical and psychological support to help smooth the turmoil of diagnosis, surgery, treatment, and reconstruction, and they teach them fly fishing.

"It's like trying to stop a fire
With the moisture from a kiss"

I attended Ohio's retreat last year as a breast cancer survivor. I was already a fly fisherwoman, so I already knew the healing power of standing in a river completely in the moment concentrating on current, rod, line, possible fish, breezes, and patches of sunlight on the water. I attended this year as a past participant and fishing instructor. This year, I got to stand in the water beside a sister survivor and help her learn to focus on how much her cast was improving, not how much it was lacking. We laughed when she hooked my hat, and when she caught a fish, we both screamed with excitement way out of proportion to the size of the fish.

"I hear them saying you'll never change things
And no matter what you do it's still the same thing
But it's not the world that I am changing
I do this so this world we know
Never changes me"
(Garth Brooks)

Your donation to CFR will not change the world. It WILL make a very real difference to a breast cancer survivor who could be your mother, sister, friend, or colleague at work.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Some of My Favorite New Picture Books

Okay, so if anyone asks me how I spent my summer, I guess I have to say "buying books". I have picked up more than I realized over the last few months. I figured I might as well share a few of my favorites! 

THIS IS THE DREAM by Diane Shore and Jessica Alexander was a "must have" for me. It is an amazing picture book about civil rights. The illustrations are brilliant. One of my new favorites! 

HIPPO! NO, RHINO! by Jeff Newman is a hysterical picture book for very young readers--funny for adults too! There are very few words but the pictures are hysterical. A zookeeper incorrectly puts the Hippo sign by the Rhino and the Rhino is not happy! It is a really fun book. 

FOLLOW THE LINE by Laura Ljungkvist is a great book. Each illustration is made from a single line that kids can follow through the book. It is also a type of counting books with counting questions on each page. A fun book for young readers. 

SHIVER ME LETTERS: A PIRATE ABC by June Sobel is one I have added to my ABC Book collection. It is a great book to help young children identify letters and it is quite funny. The pirates look for all of the letter when they realize that they need more than "R". 

I loved BIG SISTER, LITTLE SISTER by Leuyen Pham. A very sweet book about sisters with fun illustrations. A great author photo on the flap too--with her little sister, of course! 

BEACH by Elisha Cooper is a good one, but one I wouldn't have just picked up. It has great, peaceful illustrations, but what I loved was the surprising language. 

HOW TO BE by Lisa Brown is a cute one for preschool and Kindergarten. It invites kid to think about how to "be" different animals and how to be themselves! 

I think that WALK ON! A GUIDE FOR BABIES OF ALL AGES by Marla Frazee is too much fun! Great fun illustrations and a message for readers of all ages. 

Andrew Clements' new book A MILLION DOTS is an amazing book that can be connected to math and large numbers. It reminds me a bit of the million books but has a different take. Great illustrations made of dots and fun number facts throughout the book. 

I am hoping that Lauren Child's THE PRINCESS AND THE PEA wins the Caldecott this year. I am a huge Lauren Child fan and I love this new version. 

And I love PUMPKINS by Ken Robbins. I am trying to add to my collection of great nonfiction--books that can serve as models for my students in their own writing. This one is a great one for that. Great word choice and great nonfiction writing. The photographs are amazing too! 

I would also tell you about WOLVES by Emily Gravett but Mary Lee purchased the last copy while we were shopping together the other day. So.... I have to wait a few days for mine. It is one that we kind of fought over in the bookstore. I loved it (and had it first) but she somehow took it out of my stack when I wasn't looking.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Poetry Friday

by Billy Collins

The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read,
never even heard of,

as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,

something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.

Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue,
not even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.

It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall,
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.

No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Twin Authors

All similarities end with twin and author. Jennifer Roy thought she would be a pediatrician when she grew up. She became a teacher and then a curriculum writer, and then her cousin suggested that she write the story of her aunt. This is the story of the character in YELLOW STAR, the story that has propelled her into the Children's Literature Limelight. It was recently named a Boston Globe-Horn Book Honor Award Book.

Julia DeVillers knew from early elementary school years that she would be a writer, and that's what she became. She, too, has recently been propelled into the Children's Literature Limelight when Disney bought the rights to her book HOW MY PRIVATE PERSONAL JOURNAL BECAME A BEST SELLER. The movie is called "Read It And Weep".

We had a great time at Cover to Cover. Julia shared stories about the making of the movie. She was invited to the set of the movie and had great photos to share. She also shared some of her other great books. Jennifer talked about her aunt's story and the process of writing the book. We loved both authors. This was their very first Twin Author Signing! We think they'd both be great for any conferences or school author visits. We are huge fans! It was great to meet two sisters who were talented and excited about each other's work. Thanks to Sally and the staff at Cover to Cover for hosting this event!

I am officially ready to start school again

I got a letter from one of my students who had a great book to recommend, one that is "funny, somewhat scary, and compelling."

That's right, compelling.

I cannot wait to spend my days with someone who reads COMPELLING books! And whose contribution to my postcard collection is one from the Main Library ("What an awesome place!") of Theodore Geisel, Judy Blume and Maurice Sendak.

I'm ready.

Monday, August 14, 2006

New Website for Literacy Educators

I have been spending lots of time on the new Choice Literacy website. A good friend of ours (Brenda Power) started it and it just "opened" last week. I think it is going to be a great site for teachers, librarians, literacy coaches, administrators, etc. It is a subscription site but if you go to the link, there are lots of free articles too. I think there is a newsletter that you can get to by signing up there. I am loving the articles and the whole idea of it. I have written a few articles for the site so I've spent lots of time reading the articles by the other authors. I would highly recommend it for thoughtful professional reading in the area of literacy. So far the topics are really smart and the articles are a great length for really thinking about classroom instruction. Some great stuff from Ellin Keene, Debbie Miller, Ruth Shagoury and lots of others. There are also video clips, study guides, etc. I haven't had as much time to look at those yet, but it looks packed with good stuff, with more to come. We totally trust Brenda--she is very smart about literacy and learning-- so we wanted to get the word out while this site is brand new! I think it will become a hit pretty fast!

YELLOW STAR and Others

Well, I seem to be back on a lucky streak with reading. I picked up YELLOW STAR by Jennifer Roy the other day. What an amazing read! It is an amazing story. Very powerful. Loved it. I read it in one sitting. It is told beautifully. I can't imagine this one won't win some kind of an award.

I also read PENNY FROM HEAVEN by Jennifer Holm. I loved this one too. The historical piece about the Italians during this time period was interesting. The characters have stayed with me. It is a great story. I am now a huge fan of Jennifer Holm. I didn't realize that she wrote BABYMOUSE too. I am always amazed at writers who can be successful at two very different types of writing. I want to go back and read her last book (Newbery Honor) OUR ONLY MAY AMELIA. I would be happy if this one won the Newbery too!

For an adult read, I just finished THE STOLEN CHILD: A NOVEL by Keith Donohue. It was not my usual read. I am not a big fantasy reader but I have had a lot of luck with Borders "Original Voices". They are usually a nice surprise from an author I do not know. I enjoyed this one. The metaphor and the story were engaging. The writing fascinated me. The story was told from two perspectives--the grown up Henry and the child. I am always amazed at how writers do this type of writing. Amazing how the story came together. The characters were fascinating. The whole premise was pretty interesting. I would recommend it.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Book Meme: Professional Books for Teachers Version

1. One book that changed your life?
WRITING: TEACHERS AND CHILDREN AT WORK by Donald Graves. This book is responsible for launching the workshop format in my classroom. (ML)

IN THE MIDDLE: READING, WRITING, AND LEARNING WITH ADOLESCENTS by Nancie Atwell. This book was the first I had read about writing workshop. (F)
CHOICE WORDS by Peter Johnston. The most amazing book that reminds us that teaching is so much about how we talk to kids. (F) (I second that! --ML)

2. One book you have read more than once?
RADICAL REFLECTIONS by Mem Fox. She inspires me to know my own mind and follow my own heart. (ML)

WHAT A WRITER NEEDS by Ralph Fletcher.
Two of my all-time favorite books about writing workshop and the connection to great books. (F)

3. One book you would want on a desert island?

A book about all the cultures, religions, and political histories of the world. Then, when I got off the island, I might be a little better prepared to teach the myriad of students who are in my class each loop! (ML)

WORKSHOP OF THE POSSIBLE: NURTURING CHILDREN'S CREATIVE DEVELOPMENT by Ruth Shagoury Hubbard--a tribute to how amazing kids are! (F)

4. One book that made you laugh?
BLACK ANTS AND BUDDHISTS by Mary Cowhey. Mary Cowhey is a gifted storyteller. She brings her classroom to life with her stories of guiding young children towards critical thinking and social action. (ML)

DEAR MEM FOX, I HAVE READ ALL YOUR BOOKS EVEN THE PATHETIC ONES by Mem Fox. So many of Mem Fox's books make me laugh. This is one that I remember laughing all the way through. (F)

5. One book that made you cry?
ONE SIZE FITS FEW: THE FOLLY OF EDUCATIONAL STANDARDS by Susan Ohanian. The title says it all. (ML)
THE GAME OF SCHOOL by Robert Fried. The whole premise is sad. (F)

6. One book you wish had been written?
The one that will inspire a teacher who "laminates her lesson plans" to start thinking about teaching for student learning and not for her own convenience. (ML)

A book on how to teach, be a good mom, wife, daughter, sister, friend..., eat healthy, exercise, write, clean the house, read, and get enough sleep! (F)

7. One book you wish had never been written?
Not a wish I am philosophically able to make. (ML)
I agree with Mary Lee. (F)

8. One book you are currently reading?
School's about to start, so there are actually three:
RETHINKING RUBRICS IN WRITING ASSESSMENT by Maja Wilson. (ML) All three of these books are causing me to reflect on my teaching practices, and they will all help me to keep my teaching and assessment responsive to my students' needs.

UNITS OF STUDY FOR TEACHING WRITING IN GRADES 3-5 by Lucy Calkins (F) This is a new resource that was recommended by others. I try to keep up on the new things out there on Reading and Writing Workshops.

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
I have two: GOING PUBLIC: PRIORITIES AND PRACTICES AT THE MANHATTAN NEW SCHOOL and WRITING THROUGH CHILDHOOD: RETHINKING PROCESS AND PRODUCT by Shelley Harwayne. Shelley Harwayne has had an amazing career as a public school teacher and administrator. Through it all, she has never lost her passionate belief in what children are capable of accomplishing. I admire her greatly. (ML)

WRITING SENSE: INTEGRATED READING AND WRITING LESSONS FOR ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNERS K-8 by Julie Kendall and Outey Khuon. I read MAKING SENSE by the same authors and was thrilled to see this one come out! (F)

10. Now tag five people.
Any teacher who reads professional books, consider yourself tagged!

Book Meme: Children's Literature Version

1. One book that changed your life?
A WRINKLE IN TIME by Madeline L'Engle was the first really challenging book I ever read, and I found it all by myself -- a bonus! (ML)

BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA by Katherine Paterson--was the first book I read for a children's lit class in college and I fell in love with Children's Lit again! (F)

2. One book you have read more than once?

When I was a kid, I reserved Sunday afternoons for re-reading books that made me cry. One of my favorites was LITTLE BRITCHES, by Ralph Moody. (ML)

THE LITTLE PRINCESS and THE SECRET GARDEN by Frances Hodgson Burnett (F)

3. One book you would want on a desert island?

The biggest, thickest anthology of poetry I could lay hands on. (ML)

No poetry for me. I'd want WALK TWO MOONS by Sharon Creech (F)

4. One book that made you laugh?

THE BFG, by Roald Dahl. The first children's book to showcase farts, even if they were disguised as whizpoppers. (ML)

BARK, GEORGE by Jules Feiffer (F)

5. One book that made you cry?
The whole second half of EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS, by Deborah Wiles. (ML)

BABY by Patricia MacLachlan (F)

6. One book you wish had been written?
The one guaranteed to hook any struggling reader. (ML)

More books by favorite authors like Sharon Creech, Shannon Hale, Kate DiCamillo, Mem Fox, etc. I always hate waiting for their next books! (F)

7. One book you wish had never been written?
Not a wish I am philosophically able to make. (ML)

The new NANCY DREW books--I liked the old ones! (F)

8. One book you are currently reading?

One of the next on my to-read pile is A TRUE AND FAITHFUL NARRATIVE, by Katherine Sturtevant.

BREAD AND ROSES, TOO by Katherine Paterson (F)

9. One book you have been meaning to read?
Now that I finished HP #6, I guess that honor goes the THE HOUSE OF THE SCORPION by Nancy Farmer. (ML)

#4-12 of THE SERIES OF UNFORTUNATE EVENTS by Lemony Snicket (F)

10. Now tag five people.
If you're reading this, you've probably already been tagged. Now get busy and make your list! If you're not sure where to send it, put it in our comments and we'll get you in!

Saturday, August 12, 2006

It was only a matter of time

TheBookDragon is on a quest to find 100 Librarians (great or otherwise) in children's and YA literature. They swiped the idea from our 100 Cool Teachers in Children's Literature, but let's not get carried away and forget to pay homage to Jen Robinson's lists of cool boys and cool girls that got US started!

(It really is a matter of time now before I start a list of dogs...unless someone gets there before I do!)

Friday, August 11, 2006

Poetry Friday

Awhile back, our friend Bill shared this ode to the spell checker from The Journal of Irreproducible Results:

Candidate for a Pullet Surprise
Jerrold H. Zar

I have a spelling checker,
It came with my PC.
It plane lee marks four my revue
Miss steaks aye can knot sea.

Eye ran this poem threw it,
Your sure reel glad two no.
Its vary polished in it's weigh.
My checker tolled me sew.

A checker is a bless sing,
It freeze yew lodes of thyme.
It helps me right awl stiles two reed,
And aides me when eye rime.

Each frays come posed up on my screen
Eye trussed too bee a joule.
The checker pours o'er every word
To cheque sum spelling rule.

(click here for the rest of the poem)

The best poems are often ones that are given to us, for whatever reason. In that spirit, I give to you a few of my favorite places to find poetry on the Internet:

The Children's Poetry Archive. The idea behind this site is that poetry "lives in the sound of the words, the voice of the poet...The poetry archive is a place where everyone can listen to poetry." Mostly obscure children's poets (plus a couple of dead guys), but a work in progress with a good mission. Go listen.

GigglePoetry. Funny poems for kids. You can read and rate (the funniness) of poems, go to poetry class, have poetry fun, do poetry theater, and enter contests. Sections for teachers.

Magnetic Poetry Online for kids. There are four different kids' kits: the basic kids' kit, first words, best friends, and storymaker. Sections for teachers and lots of kits to help adults get in touch with their dog/cat/horse-loving genius Shakespearean Muse.

The Favorite Poem Project. This one fascinates me. People nominated their favorite poems, and this is where you can read the favorites and/or watch videos of the nominator talking about why the poem is their favorite and reading it. This was a project of former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky.

Poetry 180. A poem a day for high school students, intended to be read over the PA system. This was a project of former Poet Laureate Billy Collins.

While we're on the subject of Poet Laureates (Poets Laureate?), Donald Hall is the current Poet Laureate. His project? Dunno.

PoetryFoundation. A huge archive of poems sortable by poem, poet, audio/visuals, articles, and children's.

The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor. You can hear this on public radio, listen via the web, subscribe to the daily email, or subscribe to the podcast.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Author of Yellow Star Coming to Town

Since we are trying to read the book that wins this coming year's Newbery, I am very happy about this latest news. I just found out that Jennifer Roy, the author of YELLOW STAR will be at Cover to Cover Bookstore on Tuesday, August 15. I am very excited! I keep seeing this book on Mock Newbery lists everywhere! So, I had it on my "Hope to Read Soon" list anyway. I am going to try to pick up the book tomorrow and read it before her visit this week. Sounds like an amazing book. And, as an added treat, her twin sister, author of HOW MY PRIVATE, PERSONAL JOURNAL BECAME A BESTSELLER will also be there. This book was made into the latest Disney Channel Original movie! Twin authors! Mary Lee, wouldn't it be great if we read the book that wins the Newbery, met the author and met her twin sister, another great author!? I'll let you know after I read it. But the reviews I've read so far have been amazing!

100 Cool Teachers

Here's the original invitation to nominate your favorite teacher(s) in Children's Literature.

The eighty-four we have so far are listed in the sidebar on the right, and much of the conversation about those took place in July.

We can't wait to hear who you'll nominate!

Monday, August 07, 2006

Sister Basil won't make our list

I have finished three of the four books that were on the top of my pile: VICTORY, THE LOUD SILENCE OF FRANCINE GREEN, and WEEDFLOWER.

No cool teachers in any of them, least of all in FRANCINE GREEN (Sister Basil borders on evil)...although Sister Pete might be nominated for a list of cool librarians, even though her library itself seems woefully limited.

I'm intrigued by the similarities in these three books. In each, there are two perspectives or two stories that sometimes balance each other (Francine and Sophie), sometimes serve as a contrast to the other (Sumiko and Frank), and sometimes merge and blend and become one (Molly and Sam).

They are all three historical fiction, which is often a hard-sell to young readers. I think kids would be most likely to read FRANCINE GREEN (1950's California, a world at least vaguely familiar from TV and movies), not at all interested in VICTORY (1800's naval history, Admiral Lord Nelson, Battle of Trafalgar) in spite of the parallel story of the modern girl homesick for England and learning to adjust to her mother's remarriage, and unwilling to even open WEEDFLOWER because of the uninspired title and the cover that doesn't match the book in any way, shape, or form (except maybe the blurry barbed wire).

All three could, should, and hopefully will cause some discomfort and questioning by readers. Of the kidnapping of men and boys by the press gangs who "recruited" for the Royal British Navy in VICTORY, I hope there will be at least a, "Did they really DO that?" or a, "Isn't that a bit like the involuntary draft in the U.S.?" In FRANCINE GREEN, (so many...where to start...), "Did the nuns really DO that?", "Did the government really DO that (Red Scare)?", "Isn't that (fear of communism) a bit like today's fear of 'terrorists'?" And in WEEDFLOWER, of the interment of the Japanese during WWII and of the Native Americans on reservations, "Did our government really DO that?", and "Why was that allowed to happen...and could it happen again?"

Along with the discomfort and questioning, all three have strong main characters who find a way to take a stand, whether by completing a circle, crossing a line, or breaking a silence.

All in all, three books I liked a lot, both jointly and separately. Not sure any will make it to the top of the Newbery pile. Still looking...

Friday, August 04, 2006

Poetry Friday--Confessions of A Reader

This is one of my favorite poems. It was written by a teacher. I found it years ago in a professional book. Enjoy!

Confessions of a Reader

Almost spring.
A spider
Stakes a claim
On a corner
Of the eight-foot window
In our living room.

Each morning
I admire
Taut guidelines,
Carefully placed spokes,
Dancing gown threads,
Architecture unrivalled.

My mother
Would not tolerate
Such slovenly housekeeping.
She would get a broom
And knock down
This errant squatter's palace.

I do not.

I am waiting for Charlotte
To leave a message.

Carol Wilcox
From All That Matters: What We Value in School and Beyond edited by Linda Rief and Maureen Barbieri
Heinemann, 1995

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

What all this heat is good for

I finished A FINE BALANCE. A fine balance between hope and despair, between humor and gut-wrenching violence and sadness, between the Beggarmaster and the beggars, between casual and deliberate choices, between debit and credit. "Let me tell you a secret: there is no such thing as an uninteresting life." (p.593)

After I pulled my head out of the book, I looked around the house. This led to Swiffering up the drifts of dog and cat hair instead of vacuuming (too hot), which left enough time for the luxury of exercising in an airconditioned health club.

Working out on the machines instead of swimming laps allowed me to begin to get caught up on NPR podcasts that have piled up, namely the Radio Expeditions series.

And THAT led to a story about Ecuadoran tree hoppers who remind me greatly of bloggers: creatures whose conversations cannot be detected without the proper equipment, who are evolving a system of social communication that is going on almost all the time.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

I'm not going to quit trying

OK, Shannon, here is my case study.

Case study #1

Situation: Young girl lives in a home devoid of books, but full to the brim of movies and flat screen TVs. The shelves in her room are filled with VHS tapes by the time she's ready to start school. She has this aunt who can't stand the thought of a child growing up without trips to the library, and books to fill her imagination. So the niece gets books every birthday and Christmas, and sometimes in between. The niece and her aunt go to the library together often, and the niece learns the joys of the look-up computer, the nice librarians, exploring her passions, and checking out the same books over and over. Then the young girl hits fourth grade, and her school uses Accelerated Reader. Reading is for tests and points, nothing is read that doesn't "count," library visits fall off. The birthday books this year were CHASING VERMEER and THE FAIRY TALE DETECTIVES. On a recent road trip, niece and aunt listened to the audio version of CHASING VERMEER for about 10 minutes, and then the niece was fast asleep.

Result: Final outcome for niece: unknown. Current status of the aunt: I'm not going to quit trying.

(And just FYI, no link will be provided for Accelerated Reader. If you want to go there and find out what they think they are and what they think they do, you can type it in your browser yourself.)

(OOOoooh. I think we hit a nerve!)