Saturday, February 28, 2009

21st Century Thinking-My Blog Visits

So, I've been busy learning lots through blogs and more. So much good thinking out there.  I just thought I'd share some of the interesting things I found while exploring issues related to 21st Century Literacy.  

A brilliant new piece by Kathleen Blake Yancey--A Report from NCTE on Writing in the 21st  Century.  The report was just posted and has already gotten lots of buzz.  It is a great document that gives many many reasons for supporting 21st Century Writing. A great report to share with colleagues, parents, politicians, etc.

Lots of great stuff going on in preparation for the Parkway Film Festival.  The district is hosting a film festival for all interested K-12 students. Their site has great clips describing the process and event. I was most excited about the student samples.  There are several samples that show the variety of things students can create. I can see using these to share with my students as samples of good projects.

I am learning so much from all of the TED talks that are posted on their site.  I recently discovered the site so I am catching up. One of my favorites is the talk by Ken Robinson "Do Schools Kill Creativity?" I am anxious to get his new book which I learned about here.

Loved this article about a 9 year old boy who created a program for the iPhone. A very cool program, that I am pretty sure I will need to buy.  

Connectivism Revisited is a great post about all of these tools and the way they connect us and our thinking.  So much changing in the way we are able to do things in such a short time.

If you spend any time watching Youtube, you have most likely seen a recent video called "David at the Dentist".  A very cute clip of a young boy, taken by his father, on his way home from the dentist.  But the reality of putting something out there and having people play with it is changing.  Alec Couros shares several remixes of the original as well as his thoughts. Wonder what this means for David.  Wonder how he is responding to all of the remixes. You just never know where things will go when you put them out there. Or what they will become.  This is a great example of that.

The idea of remixing is pretty interesting to me.  Lots of creative thinking and fun.  Play at its best!

Abby at Authentic Leaner shares a great story about one of her students  and their thinking about The Apple Store.

What does it mean to be well educated in the 21st Century 
What should teaching and learning look like in the 21st Century to help develop said person?
Ryan reflects by saying one of my favorite lines of the month, "Days like this remind me that to continue creating the types of learners that will be successful, we must think past yesterday and beyond today by leveraging the voices of students! "

Barbara Barreda has a great post on LeaderTalk called "How Do We Help Stakeholders Move Beyond Window Dressings?"  She asks, "How do we create an understanding among the stakeholders in the educational community that effective technology integration is not measured by the amount of time students are using computers but rather by the framework and context of learning?"

Angela Stockman shares the story of her own children who skipped school to be part of the Special Olympics World Games Global Youth Summit.  She reflects on what they accomplished and in turn asks some very hard questions about schools.  She says, "I’ve heard plenty of excuses, but in the end, if each of us were stranded on an island with a class of one hundred kids and nothing in the way of resources, I’ve gotta believe we could still do a good job of making meaningful learning happen. So the fact that most of us are provided plenty more than that and accomplish less than what we should makes it hard for me to put the blame on NCLB, class sizes, limited funding, big bad administrators, or unsupportive parents...It's time we stopped pointing fingers and start pitching in.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Poetry Friday -- No Words To Describe

There are no words to describe
what I failed to capture
in 119 photographs

The sky was so blue
The cactus were so surprising and alien
The art was such a contrast

It was 85 degrees and crystal clear on Ash Wednesday
The blooms and bees and hummingbirds were filled with exuberance,
not mourning

I needed sunscreen, a hat,
shade, and water;
the desert did not need me at all

The round up this week is at Mommy's Favorite Children's Books.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Share a Story - Shape a Future Literacy Blog Tour

Jen Robinson announced it here.

The blog that was created to showcase the tour and the movement is here.

And on day two, one of the stops will be HERE, at A Year of Reading!

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Amazing Speakers at IRA in Phoenix

The Two Sisters -- Joan Boushey and Gail Moser
I missed hearing them at the Dublin Literacy Conference on Saturday, so I went to their session on Monday morning! (I was completely absorbed in their talk -- and glad to even have a seat!! -- and I forget to take a picture. I borrowed this one from their Daily 5 website.)

IRA has a special interest group that is similar to NCTE's CLA -- the Children's Literature and Reading Special Interest Group. They sponsored a session titled Multiple Pathways to Global Literacy: Breaking Boundaries with Literature.

One of the featured speakers was Kashmira Sheth, author of Blue Jasmine, Keeping Corner, and other books featuring Indian characters.

Kadir Nelson spoke about how he became an artist, and how, more recently, he has become an author as well. He told us about a mistake in the painting of Slim Jones on the title page of We Are The Ship, but he made us promise we wouldn't tell, so I'm going to keep my word!

Nikki Grimes was inspiring, mesmerizing, passionate, and (not surprising) poetic. She has a new series of early chapter books coming out in May that looks really fun -- Make Way for Dyamonde Daniel.

Astronaut/Teacher Barbara Morgan did her best to describe for us what it's like to travel 5 miles per second, to see the earth from space (we should call our planet Ocean, not Earth), and to wrap our minds around the wonder that is space: space is all that we don't know.

We ended inspired by Greg Mortenson, co-author of Three Cups of Tea. His story of fighting his publisher over the subtitle of his book really sums up his perspective. The publisher wanted Fighting Terrorism One School at a Time, but Greg wanted Promoting Peace One School at a Time. They compromised, and the publisher got their way for the hardback. In the event the hardback didn't do well, they agreed to change the subtitle for the paperback version. The hardback did not do well; the paperback made it to the NYT Bestseller list. It's about perspective, and he understands the importance of focusing on the goal he wants to ultimately achieve -- it's about the schools and it's about the possibility for peace that comes when we educated the children of the world...especially the girls.

The other exciting thing that happened at this conference was that the list of NCTE/CLA Notable Children's Books in the English Language Arts for 2009 (comprised of 30 2008 books) was chosen! Stay tuned for details!!

DUBLIN 20th Annual LITERACY CONFERENCE-Love how connected we are!

So, I went to hear Samantha Bennett talk about "Next Generation Workshop: Time for Students to Understand" on Saturday. The session was amazing. She helped me really think through the big understandings we want for our students. She talked about knowledge, skills/strategies and understandings. I worry that we have gotten away from planning for big understandings. I am thinking hard about what this means for the library and my own teaching. Planning for understanding is far different from planning for passing a test.

She said, "Understanding is the ability to think and act flexibly with what one know."

I have heard this quote before but she set it in a context of workshop and teaching that gave me some new thinking.

Katie at Creative Literacy was also in the session. She blogged about it earlier this week, sharing another of my favorite quotes.

"There's no such thing as the perfect lesson, the perfect day in school or the perfect teacher. For teachers and students alike, the goal is not perfection but persistence in the pursuit of understanding important things." (Tomlinson and McTighe)

Here's the best part--Seems that Laura at Pictures, Words and Wisdom read Katie's post and did her own reflecting from Bennett's talk. I SOOOO love that the 21st century tools allow this kind of connectedness and collaborative thinking.

If you have not read THAT WORKSHOP BOOK by Samantha Bennett, it is AMAZING! I plan to reread it now that I have some different ways to think about it after hearing her talk.

20th Annual Dublin Literacy Conference -- Barbara O'Connor

What's almost as much fun as a group of bloggers who come to the same conference?

A group of bloggers who finally get to meet one of their favorite authors...who is also a blogger!

I'm not sure if we were more excited to meet Barbara O'Connor, or for Barbara O'Connor was more excited to meet us! Let me tell you, there was a lot of hugging and squealing whichever way you look at it!

I had the great honor of being Barbara's personal assistant for the day. I got to hear how the book MISSING MAY by Cynthia Rylant changed her life. I learned that Loretta is her favorite character in her own book GREETINGS FROM NOWHERE. And I was treated to her reading from all of her books, especially her work in progress, which features a frog in a pot of soup and something that falls off a train -- but she's not telling what!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Post Cards From Phoenix

Sometimes it's about the sights...
Phoenix Sunrise

Sometimes it's about the feel of the sun on your winter-pale midwestern skin...
Palm Trees and Sunshine

Sometimes it's about the heavenly scent of orange blossoms...
Orange Tree (With Functional Sundial in the Background)

And sometimes it's about the surprises...
Those Blooming Bushes are Rosemary!!
(...if only I could send you the smell of sunbaked rosemary accompanying you for an entire block of your walk back to the hotel...)

Thought for the Day

Phoenix Convention Center

Monday, February 23, 2009

20th Annual Dublin Literacy Conference -- Grace Lin

The Friday before the conference, featured author Grace Lin was the visiting author at our school. Our 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students were captivated by her presentation on her book A YEAR OF THE DOG. They loved getting all of the inside scoop on which parts came directly from her life and which parts were invented or changed.

And of course, they loved when it was time to
learn to draw a dog the way Pacy draws dogs
in the book.

You start with a 5, then add the top of the dog's
head and its ear.

After the neck comes the collar and tags,
the body, the tail, the spot and the bark!

The students all took their drawing lesson very

They even learned to make some Chinese characters.
(Unless, like this girl, they can write in Japanese
and they already knew the characters!)

As a special treat when the dog drawing lesson
was over, Grace read a chapter from her new
which comes out in June.

My special treat was getting an advanced copy of the
book from Grace the next day at the conference! I can't
wait to read it!

Where the Mountain Meets the Moon
by Grace Lin
Little, Brown Young Readers
June, 2009
Review copy compliments of the author

Sunday, February 22, 2009

20th Annual Dublin Literacy Conference Series

Saturday's DUBLIN LITERACY CONFERENCE was great fun! So many great speakers and authors. This year was the 20th year for the conference. It is a conference planned by teachers in the Dublin City Schools. Between 600 and 800 teachers from around Ohio (and beyond) attend each year. This year's was another great year of learning and conversations.

Many of the concurrent sessions are run by classroom teachers, librarians, administrators, etc. We also hire keynote and featured speakers for many of the sessions. This year, we had 4 professional authors and 5 children's authors. Throughout the week, we will be sharing highlights, new books and new thinking from this year's conference.

I picked up Asma Mobin-Uddin's upcoming book A PARTY IN RAMADAN. A great book and so happy to have a copy. This is the story of Leena, who is invited to a party on the first day of Ramadan. The story takes us through Leena's day--fasting while at a party with friends. As a reader, I learned some of the things that are important about fasting on this day and what the day might be like for some children. A great story by a great author. This book is due out in spring. If you don't know her other books, MY NAME IS BILAL and THE BEST EID EVER, they are all great books --I can't keep the Eid book in the library. The author's website is also full of great resources--children's booklists, columns, information about author visits, and more. So glad I was able to get to know this author and her newest book!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Poetry Friday -- Sleepers Awake

by John Ashbery

Cervantes was asleep when he wrote Don Quixote.
Joyce slept during the Wandering Rocks section of Ulysses.
Homer nodded and occasionally slept during the greater part of the Iliad; he was awake however when he wrote the Odyssey.
Proust snored his way through The Captive, as have legions of his readers after him.
Melville was asleep at the wheel for much of Moby-Dick.
Fitzgerald slept through Tender Is the Night, which is perhaps not so surprising,
but the fact that Mann slumbered on the very slopes of The Magic Mountain is quite extraordinary—that he wrote it, even more so.
Kafka, of course, never slept, even while not writing or on bank holidays.
No one knows too much about George Eliot’s writing habits—my guess is she would sleep a few minutes, wake up and write something, then pop back to sleep again.
Lew Wallace’s forty winks came, incredibly, during the chariot race in Ben-Hur.
Emily Dickinson slept on her cold, narrow bed in Amherst.
When she awoke there would be a new poem inscribed by Jack Frost on the windowpane; outside, glass foliage chimed.
Good old Walt snored as he wrote and, like so many of us, insisted he didn’t.
Maugham snored on the Riviera.
Agatha Christie slept daintily, as a woman sleeps, which is why her novels are like tea sandwiches—artistic, for the most part.
I sleep when I cannot avoid it; my writing and sleeping are constantly improving.

I have other things to say, but shall not detain you much.
(those other things are here)

Cuileann has the round up this week is at The Holly and the Ivy.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


I have loved SHOULD THERE BE ZOOS? for years. This book was written by Tony Stead and a class of 4th graders. The persuasive essays argue for or against zoos and it is one of the best mentor texts I have found for persuasive writing for elementary students. Last month, a member of the English Companion NING shared a related title SHOULD WE HAVE PETS by Sylvia Lollis, Joyce Hogan and her second-grade class. My copy arrived in the mail today.

SHOULD WE HAVE PETS is clearly modeled after SHOULD THERE BE ZOOS? Another great sample of persuasive text but one written by younger students. This one follows the same format of SHOULD THERE BE ZOOS? Pairs of children share their own opinion on whether or not we should have pets and focus on one reason to support their argument. At the end of the book, the writers ask you to form your own opinion based on what you read. They also share the process they went through when writing the book. A glossary and index are included.

The thing I like about this one, that seems different from the other, is the use of visuals. The students use photographs to add more meaning to their arguments. For example, when Franklin and Roshanda argue that we should not have pets because so many people abuse their pets, 3 photos of animals being treated poorly add to the information in the text. I can see minilessons on the ways that visuals support an argument because the photos are used very purposefully in this book.

It is hard to find good persuasive text for young students so I am definitely glad I found this one. Anxious to share it with kids!


Last weekend, I read two posts that really resonated for me.

The first was Katie's post, describing a conference with a young writer who has grown so much this year, but who was not able to put into words what she does well as a writer.

The second was Carol's post, in which she shared some of her thinking about reading engagement. (She has since expanded her thinking to include what we do as teachers to promote reading engagement. Check it out -- it's great!)

My 4th graders always have a hard time putting into words what they do well as readers. It's something I work on with them every year. At the beginning of 4th grade, my students typically think reading is simply about knowing the words. I was positive that this group has come long way from that, but when I gave Carol's Reading Engagement Survey, I learned that they haven't come nearly as far as I would have thought.

The first thing I noticed was in the free response questions. 8 of 19 students who took the survey were proud of or needed to work on fluency or word recognition. Nearly half of my students are still focused on reading at the word level!

Overall, read aloud was the highest area of engagement for my students, with a total score of 67. No surprise there -- I clearly value read aloud. Two other items -- reading longer independently and not wanting to quit reading at the end of reading time were also high with 62 and 63. We have often talked about their growth from the beginning of the year when they could only sit still for 15-20 minutes.

What did surprise me is that two of the items that probe the social aspects of reading -- talking easily about favorite books, authors and genres, and sharing books with "reading friends" were two of the lowest with 47 and 42. In my mind, the class has come a long way in developing as a community of readers who know each other's tastes and share and talk about books regularly. What have I not done to express this as a valued behavior?

This survey has taught me that I need to be far more explicit about the behaviors of an engaged reader. I need to build in even more time for talk in our reading workshop, and I need to teach my students how to talk about books.

I can't wait to have conversations with each of my students to learn more about their answers.

The behaviors on this survey are not what is "valued" about reading according to the achievement tests our students are required to take. But they are certainly more important in "growing a child's reading heart" and in nurturing life-long readers.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Temporary Poetry Friday Round Up Schedule

Kelly at Big A little a is taking a short sabbatical from Poetry Friday scheduling.

If you're interested in hosting the Poetry Friday round up between now and the end of April, leave a comment and I'll add you to the schedule in the sidebar.

EDITED TO ADD:  The schedule is complete!  Thanks for your quick response!

2 New Picture Books

I picked up 2 new picture books today. First of all, I was THRILLED to see a new Bear book by Greg Foley. I am a huge fan of THANK YOU, BEAR and DON'T WORRY, BEAR. This new one is called GOOD LUCK BEAR and it is just as good as the others. I am working hard to help the primary students at my school find characters they love--characters they want to read about again and again. Bear is one of the characters they know. In this book, Bear finds a clover with three leaves. But his friend teaches him that a four-leaf clover means good luck. So, Bear goes off to find a four-leaf clover. His friends are not so supportive as he looks. The ending is a happy surprise just like we've come to expect from Foley. A great addition to this collection.

The other book that I bought was DUCK! RABBIT! by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Tom Lichtenheld. On the cover, there is a picture of a duck. Or is it a rabbit? Hmmm. It could be either and the book goes on to show you how. The book follows a kind of disagreement as to whether the drawing is that of a duck or that of a rabbit and each side of the disagreement tries to prove his point. This is one of those fun visuals that some people will see one way and others will see a different way. The author did a great job of turning the concept into a book for kids. I think kids will love the options and I can see lots of possibilities for talk and picture reading. A fun one to add to the library!

Another New Princess Book

I mentioned before that many of the readers that come into the library love to read about princesses. I am not even sure they want to read about princesses as much as they want to read books that are pink, purple, and glittery. I try lots of fairy tale princess stories that just don't match what these readers have in mind. So, I have been trying to pick up new princess stories.

This weekend I bought PRINCESS BESS GETS DRESSED by Margery Cuyler. The cover alone will make this book a hit--pink and purple, glitter, and a big, fancy dress. The book is a good one. It is written in rhyme which is fun. The book begins:

Princess Bess has loads of clothes
made with satin, snaps, and bows,
buckles, ribbons, silk, and lace,
pearly buttons sewn in place.

Princess Bess is a girl with a new outfit for every event in her day and this book takes us through a day of activities. Each activity requires a different outfit, but she really wanted to wear her FAVORITE things, which she keeps a secret. Bess is a happy, busy girl who does lots of princess things--lunch with the prince, ballet lessons, a joust and more. She is appropriately fancy for each event. But she is most happy at the end of the story when she is able to strip down to her underwear and says, "Now, I'm in my favorite clothes." Now that she is finished with the busy day and comfortable, she can fall asleep!

I liked the rhyme in the story. I liked Princess Bess--how she got through all of her daily activities without a frown is beyond me. Kids will like this book and they will be quite amused by the idea that her underwear are her favorite clothes. Definitely the humor that young children love!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


WOW! I just picked up CORETTA SCOTT by Ntozake Shange. I was expecting this book because I am a HUGE Kadir Nelson fan these days. I had seen the cover online and read a bit about it, but it so surpassed all that I was expecting. This is a gorgeous book about such an important lady.

The story of Coretta Scott King is told in poetry by Ntozake Shange. It is amazing poetry. Each page is a poem in itself and the pages work together perfectly. Not one word is wasted--each carries power as part of the story of Coretta. The first page reads:

some southern mornings
the moon
sits like an orange
sliver by the treetops

I like so much about this book--a review can't really do it justice. The writing is amazing. The illustrations are unbelievable. The cover is stunning. There is really no way I could have passed the book without buying it. The cover art draws you in and each illustration is as incredible as the one before it. Kadir Nelson at his best--I continue to be amazed at the quantity and quality of the work that he is doing.

When I opened it, I hadn't realized that it was a poem. I was expecting a more typical biography. Instead, Shange uses verse to tell the story of Coretta Scott King before and after she met Martin Luther King, Jr. The way that Shange creates a portait of Coretta in which she is her own person, and also a person connected to Martin Luther King, Jr. is important.

Like I said, no review could do this book justice at all. A very powerful and gorgeous book about an amazing woman.

Life and Death

Ways to Live Forever
by Sally Nicholls
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2008
review copy provided by the publisher

I finished WAYS TO LIVE FOREVER on the drive to Tennessee last weekend. It was an experience much like the one I had when I finished reading EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS on the drive home from dog trials: words blurring, tears streaming down my face. EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS is set in a funeral home and has a pet dog in it, so I should have known what I was getting myself into. WAYS TO LIVE FOREVER begins like this:
1. My name is Sam.
2. I am eleven years old.
3. I collect stories and fantastic facts.
4. I have leukemia.
5. By the time you read this, I will probably be dead.
Both books are about death, and that might be reason enough for some to want to keep them out of the hands of children. But both books are also about life, and in my opinion, that's precisely the reason why children should read them. Just last week, we had a conversation in my fourth grade classroom in which one of the great truths of fiction came out: we read fiction as a way to enjoy and learn from the problems of the characters...from a safe distance. Children should read WAYS TO LIVE FOREVER so that they can get to know Sam through the collection of lists and questions and journal entries he writes in the last 4 months of his life. Sam examines death and dying from all possible angles, but on the flip side, Sam makes a list of 8 things he wants to do, and over the course of the book he accomplishes all 8 in some way, shape or form: this is a book about living.

What a contrast it was to put WAYS TO LIVE FOREVER back in my bag, dry the tears off my face, and begin to read THE GRAVEYARD BOOK. I went straight from the heart-wrenching misery of the death of a bright, talented death as a matter-of-fact way of life as a child grows up in a cemetery, surrounded by and taught by ghosts. Whoa.

Despite the shift of perspective from "life looking at death" to "death looking at life," both books accomplish the same mission: they give the reader the safety of distance from which to consider life and death from all angles.

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is woven through with history, mythology, and fantasy. It brings to mind Ray Bradbury's THE HALLOWEEN TREE and SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES. And of course, GRANDY THAXTER'S HELPER.

I didn't need a single Kleenex when I read THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, but it kept me on the edge of my seat for the rest of the drive to Nashville, and I opened it again before we left the city limits on the way back home to Ohio. When I closed the book at the end, I sat for a long time just thinking. About life. And about death.

The Graveyard Book
by Neil Gaiman
illustrated by Dave McKean
HarperCollins, 2008
review copy provided by the publisher

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Possible Addition To "Cool Teachers in Children's Lit"

Today, Beth at Cover to Cover mentioned that Miss Hawthorn from the picture book WILLOW by Denise Brennan-Nelson and Rosemarie Brennan might be a good addition to our Cool Teachers list. So, I started to read the book and decided that Beth may have lost her mind. The first page begins with these words,

"Even on the sunniest days, Miss Hawthorn's art room was cold and dark. Everything was in its place. There wasn't a single broken crayon in the bunch. The students sat in their rows, silent and still, like eggs in a carton."

See why I thought Beth had lost her mind? But I trust Beth on books so I kept reading. It seems that everyone sits silently except for Willow. Willow is a creative spirit and sees things in her own way. Instead of painting brown trees with green leaves, Willow paints pink trees. Willow shares her own art book with her teacher and classmates. She continues to paint things that upset Miss Hawthorn, who frowns and mutters, "Horrid little girl."

I am sure you are wondering what I am possibly thinking, even considering adding Miss Hawthorn to our list... In our original Cool Teachers post we said:

"We're looking for thoughtful teachers who understand kids and learning and are active, intelligent people who love their work."

Miss Hawthorn may qualify because of the ending of this book. Throughout the rest of the story, Willow continues to be her wonderful self, sharing her own thoughts with Miss Hawthorn and others. She even gives Miss Hawthorn a few gifts. The last gift is her well-loved art book. (SPOILER AHEAD but I think you can figure it out anyway.) At the end of the book, Miss Hawthorn discovers her own creativity and her classroom becomes a place where everyone could be themselves!

So, Miss Hawthorn learned from her students. What could be better than that? She became a different kind of a teacher because she listened to the children who were in her class. She ended up becoming a teacher who valued each child's creativity. I think learning from your students and reflecting and changing your practice because of it definitely qualifies her to be on our list. What do you think?


So many of the books I love on this year's CYBILS award list! Congrats to the CYBILS team for another great year!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Poetry Friday -- Dark

by Linda Pastan

Isn't the moon dark too,
most of the time?

And doesn't the white page
seem unfinished

without the dark stain
of alphabets?

The rest of the poem is here.
The round up this week is at Big A little a.

The moon was nearly full on Sunday night as we drove back from Tennessee.

It was not dark at all as it rose up through the winter trees.

But as is the way of the world, the moon's fullness and light lasted for only the briefest moment, and now it is moving back towards darkness again. Nothing full can stay.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

When Did You Buy Into a New Tool?

I just read a post by Bill at Tech Intersect on "The True Digital Divide". An interesting post about people buying into or not buying into new tools that technology provides.

I remember years and years ago, sitting in our very first inservice on the internet. A mandated session, I believe.We were a young group of teachers. We were in a computer lab, each with our own computers and the speaker was teaching us about the internet and how to find things. As a group of elementary teachers who saw no connection to our work and saw no need to use this in our own lives, we sat passively doing what the instructor asked. But then, midway through the class, someone discovered that you could find phone numbers and addresses of old friends and boyfriends on the internet. Immediately the room perked up as we looked for people that we had known to see where they were and possibly what they were doing. We were amazed that we could do this and the energy in the room went up quickly. We were immediately hooked on this new tools and the possibilities of the information we could find. Instead of searching topics given to us by an instructor, we had found old friends who we could go home and reconnect with. (This seems like such a small thing now but it was a huge new thing years ago.) We quickly moved beyond this type of search as we wondered what other things we could find on the internet.

I'm not sure what this says about us or about the use of new tools except that users have to buy in and they won't buy in until they see something worthwhile and interesting. Until they have a reason to play with a tool to see what is possible. We don't all buy into the same tools at the same time. Often I need to see what other people can do with a tool before I decide whether or not the tool is worth the time it will take to learn it. Twitter is a perfect example of that. There are so many options out there that I have learned to take my time and choose wisely. I don't feel that I need to be an expert on every tool.

I don't use tech because it makes me a good role model. I use it because it adds meaning to lots that I do. I can't imagine living without the tools that add to my networks and learning and entertainment. I think teachers need to first see how new tools can enhance their own lives and learning. Then, they will find ways to embed those new tools into their teaching.

In Toby Fischer's post at Future of Education, he talks about the importance of educators taking on the role of technology user. For me right now, that is where my thinking and learning is. Committing to using these new tools in way that fit into my life. I will need to think further about implications for the classroom but committing to using the tools will surely impact my teaching.

Reading Conversation

A couple of weeks back, my students and I made a chart of all the things we expect when we pick up a nonfiction book. The number one expectation was FACTS. Along with that, we listed all the various structures of nonfiction (index, glossary, pictures, captions, etc.).

Yesterday I asked them to give me the top 5 expectations they have when they open a fiction book. Here they are, in the order they were given:

1. A beginning, a middle, and an end. (Wow! The basic structure of fiction on the first hand up!)

2. Enjoyment.

3. A problem.

I had to stop them there because they had said so much in their top three and I wanted to make sure they really heard themselves.  I probed, "You expect to enjoy fiction, and yet you also expect problems? You ENJOY the PROBLEMS?" They laughed, delighted by the wrongness of that truth and assured me that they enjoy the problems. "Do you ALWAYS enjoy problems?" And they laughed again about that, and assured me that they do NOT always enjoy problems. "So why do you enjoy problems in books?" They couldn't really put it into words, so I gave them the simple truth that they already knew about fiction: We can enjoy the problems BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT OURS! An example from just the day before:  When S. decided to read THE GIRL WITH 500 MIDDLE NAMES by Haddix, it was with the expressed mission of finding out how the character in the story handled the teasing. Not her problem.

4. Characters.

5. Story. Not facts, story. Unless, as the boy who's reading CRACKER by Kahodata pointed out, you're reading historical fiction, and then you expect some facts mixed into your story.

When I sent them off to read, it seemed like the silence in the room was a bit deeper than usual, and I was unwilling to break it by having conferences. Maybe it was just my imagination, but the way they were holding their books as they read looked like they were holding mirrors up to their own hearts.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Another Book I Could Read a Million Times

HOW TO HEAL A BROKEN WING by Bob Graham is being added to my list of "Books I Could Read a Million Times". I have read this book to several classes at the library and would be happy to read it to 100 more classes if I could. It is a great book.

HOW TO HEAL A BROKEN WING begins like this:"High above the city, no one heard the soft thud of feathers against glass.". How about that for a powerful lead? The story goes on to tell about Will, the only person in the city who noticed that a bird had fallen and was hurt. This book is the story of Will's work in helping the bird to heal in the midst of all of the others who were too busy to notice.

The brilliance of this book is partly in the illustrations. The book does not have many words. Just a short line on each page. So, as a reader, you need to read both the pictures and the words to get the whole message. And the illustrations are amazing--I can't even explain all that Graham does with the pictures.

This is a great book for talk. Reading it to many different grades over the week, there were definite patterns. By page 2, the class was silent and glued to the book. The look of horror at a bird falling and being hurt was common. As a reader, you feel lots of emotions in this book and the kids' faces showed each one. Without giving away the ending too much, I will tell you that several classes clapped at the end. You just feel the need to celebrate the ending of the book in some way.

This book is good for every age--preschool, elementary, adults. I can't really think of an audience that wouldn't appreciate it.
It is really a must-have.

Other reviews: Katie at Creative Literacy
We Heart Books
Mother Reader

(This is on the Cybils Short List so we'll see if it wins when the winners are announced later this week! Crossing my fingers for this one!)

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Reading Aloud Conversation

I have been following the Read Aloud conversation started by Jen Robinson with interest. I am always amazed at how big some of these blog conversations grow! Jen started the conversation asking about starting a campaign about the importance of read aloud.

I am a huge advocate of books and reading aloud. And, Mary Lee wrote her first book on this important topic. In her book, she talks to teachers about the importance of read aloud. She talks about the comfortable feeling in the room during read aloud and the things that kids learn when read aloud is an anchor in their day. Her book is an amazing one--one of the best for teachers on read aloud and how to make the most of read aloud time. If you haven't read it, I would highly recommend it. It is definitely a book that every library should have as a resource for teachers. Mary Lee takes a fresh look at read aloud and helps teachers see all of the possibilities. (She would not mention her book on her own so I thought I would let you know what a great resource it is!) The Stenhouse website says this about the book:

"Reconsidering Read-Aloud is a compelling example of the richness that can be found in this daily classroom event. With a love of literature, knowledge of her students, and the desire to teach kids to read more deeply, every teacher can bring the joy of teaching and learning during read-aloud to the classroom."

On another note, I worry when we decide what other parents and teachers should do. To be honest, I don't read aloud to my children as often as I'd like. I don't necessarily believe that reading aloud is THE most important thing I can do at this point in their reading lives. Instead, we talk about books every day. That doesn't mean that we don't talk about books every day.We do. I share new books, listen to their thoughts on what they are reading, etc. If we limit what we do as parents to read aloud, we miss out on the higher level conversations we can have that last them a lifetime. I know that my 3rd grader is in a school that values books. She has books read aloud to her every day. She has time to read on her own every day. The two of us rarely sit down and read aloud. Instead, we talk and talk and talk about books. We visit bookstores and libraries together. We ask each other's opinions on new books we find. We agree and we disagree. Is one more important than the other? I would say that being part of your child's reading life can happen in lots of ways. Reading aloud is one way and often the best way to start a lifetime conversation around books. But with new literacies and kids reading so much online, etc. we have to go beyond just sitting and reading aloud to our children. As parents, we need to talk about the books they are reading when we are not sitting next to them. They need to know that we are interested in what they are reading and what they are thinking about that reading.

I think there are LOTS of ways that parents and teachers can support children in becoming lifelong readers. Reading aloud is one of those ways. And a fun one at that. But there are other things that are just as important--visiting libraries, choosing books together, talking to kids about the books they read on their own, etc. I think there are lots of options for parents. Being part of your child's reading life is what I see as the critical part.

BELLA AND BEAN by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

I first heard about the book BELLA &BEAN when I read Kristine's interview of Kathi Appelt on Best Book I Have Not Read. In the interview, Kathi Appelt said, " I love Rebecca Kai Dotlich’s new Bella and Bean, which I’ve been carrying around and hugging. Don’t you love it when you love a book so much you just want to hug it?" I knew I had to have it.

I love all of Rebecca Kai Dotlich's work and was thrilled to see this new picture book from her. A picture book about being a poet and being a friend. What could be better. The beginning of the book reads like this:

"Bella lived in an old brick house with white shutters, just up the hill from Spoon Pond. Every day she wrote poetry at a small desk beneath a small window, shaded by a canopy the color of plums."

Even if I didn't see the possibilities is sharing this book with writers in a Writing Workshop, I would love this book. Bella and Bean are great characters. Characters who have personality right away in the book. Very believable characters and friends. Two girls you would want to hang out with.

The illustrations in the book are perfect. The cover is pink and will definitely be noticed by Fancy Nancy fans. The liveliness of the illustrations are a perfect fit for the story.

The messages about friendship and writing will make for great conversations. Finding topics to write about, finding time to write, loving words, paying attention to the world around you are all part of this story.

And, the ending is wonderful. Love the ending.

This book is sweet on one hand, yet carries powerful messages about friendship and writing too. So many levels to enter. So many possibilities for students.

I agree with Kathi Appelt--a book I want to hug. Anyone who has seen me this weekend, knows that I have been carrying this book around with me, making anyone I see read it. So far, I have shared it with several friends at the Reading Recovery conference and I intend to carry it around for a few more days to share. It is one of those books that is too good not to share with everyone you see.

(I just realized that Rebecca Kai Dotlich will be at a conference at Purdue this summer that I'll be attending. I may have to go a day early to hear her keynote. How could I pass that up?)

Monday, February 09, 2009

Patrick Carman: Live Webcast

Remember when Franki reviewed Skeleton Creek by Patrick Carman? We got this press release today:

Patrick Carman's new book, Skeleton Creek, hits stores on Tuesday, February 10th. The first project of its kind, Skeleton Creek is a book and a movie at the same time. Find out about the project by clicking here.

Friday the 13th Live Webcast Event
Watch the live webcast!
Author Q and A / Presentation
6:30PM (PST) on Friday the 13th
Third Place Books in Seattle, WA.

21st Century Thinking-My Blog Visits

I must say, I had so much more free time in life before TWITTER! But, because of Twitter, I have learned so many new things. I get so many great links and find so many smart people through Twitter. I have learned to manage my time better when I am on Twitter, but it has really helped me think through lots of things related to teaching/21st Century Skills.

I followed lots of sessions at Educon 2.1---a conference hosted by the Science Leadership Academy. So many great people in attendance and I was able to actual participate in some of the sessions --it was like I was sitting in the room. That part alone was amazing. But, The Science Leadership Academy is amazing. One quote by Chris Lehman (principal at SLA) from the conference (that I got via twitter was this: "I want 4 things for SLA kids. I want them to be thoughtful, wise, passionate and kind." What a goal! You can hear the voices of SLA students and teachers in a video here.

So, as I mentioned, I popped into a few of the virtual sessions at Educon. Watched and listened a bit. Love that I could do that. Chris Lehman is pretty amazing. But I was pretty struck by the fact that a very, very small percentage of people at these types of conferences and in these conversations are elementary teachers. I was always struck with that as a literacy coach. The absence of classroom teachers. It is easy for those of us not in classrooms to think about these things but how do we make sure classroom teachers are part of the conversations? Not just coaches, and tech leaders, and administrators. Change can't happen without classroom teacher leadership. How do we network so that classroom teachers--especially at the elementary level---are leading some of this conversation?

A great place worth spending some time is Networking: A New Literacy wikispace. I learned about it from Karl Fisch. The wiki is designed as a way to promote conversation but there is so much to explore and so much great thinking to do. Lots of reflective questions that really helped my own thinking. And many great links.

Totally fascinated by this idea from Dr. Michael Wesch. He and his group of students read and discussed 94 articles--having each student read 5. From what I can tell from the article, the conversation, because of the way Dr. Wesch structured the work, was powerful because expertise was built quickly. Lots to talk about early on. I can't explain it as well as his blog post does but this is the kind of things where some tech tools can really change teaching and learning. What a way to share so much in so little time.

Kevin of Kevin's Meandering Mind has a great slide sow of the different ways to use video in the classroom. I keep thinking that, as teachers, we just need to see the possibilities and this post does just that--quickly shows us lots of possibilities for using cameras in the classroom. I got several ideas and am hoping that others post things like this using other tools. Seeing the possibilities for learning is what helps me create a vision and this did just that.

A great post about the power of teachers who share. I appreciated the beginning of this post, "While I know that like any profession, there are good teachers and bad teachers, I don’t see many bad ones. My work usually has me working with passionate, caring teachers who truly want what’s best for kids."

As always, Karl Fisch posts in a way that helps us think and reflect on our own teaching. His post, "What's Impossible In Your Classroom?" helped me to reflect on the limits that I place on teaching and learning. This post will stay with me as a way to listen to my own words--do I think some things are impossible and I do I take a new stance?

And, I don't really get digital storytelling yet. But this post helped me to see the amazing possibilities in digital storytelling. It includes links to several different examples of the ways stories can be told. Definitely worth a look--again, to see what is possible.

I revisited an older article by Carol Dweck, thanks to Debbie Miller. The article, "The Perils and Promises of Praise" seem to tie in completely to all that we are working toward with any 21st Century Learning. The urgency to teach children in ways to build agency and identity is key. When students are engaged and interested in their work, there is no need for outside motivation. So much of my thinking around 21st Century Learning is more about student agency and learner identity and this article connects to that thinking.

Saturday, February 07, 2009


If you haven't had time to visit KIDLITOSPHERE CENTRAL, you are missing out on a great thing!

Here is an intro to the site from Mother Reader

The Kidlitosphere has grown so much since
Melissa Wiley at Here in the Bonny Glen invented the name--Kidlitosphere--for us! When she invented the word on June 5, 2006, there were no hits on Google. Today, when I googled the word, I got 28,800 hits! It has been fun to see the Kidlitosphere grow. We feel lucky to have so many amazing resources to go to when it comes to children's books.

The new site has everything you need if you are love children's book. There is a list of blogs and their links, News, links to CYBILS and more.

It is really exciting to see all of this pulled together in one spot! I would block out a few hours to explore the site and the links.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Poetry Friday -- Metaphorically Speaking

by Billy Collins

You are the bread and the knife,

You are the bread and the knife,
the crystal goblet and the wine.
You are the dew on the morning grass
and the burning wheel of the sun.
You are the white apron of the baker
and the marsh birds suddenly in flight.
(the middle part of the poem is here)

It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the sound of rain on the roof.

I also happen to be the shooting star,
the evening paper blowing down an alley,
and the basket of chestnuts on the kitchen table.

I am also the moon in the trees
and the blind woman's tea cup.
But don't worry, I am not the bread and the knife.
You are still the bread and the knife.
You will always be the bread and the knife,
not to mention the crystal goblet and—somehow—the wine.

Here's what I want to know. What are you? It would interest me to know, "speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world," what you are.

And what am I?

I am the frost on my car's windshield in the morning,
and I am the stacks of papers and files that haven't been put away,
but I am also the piece of rainbow that the crystal in the window makes
when the sun comes in at just the right angle.

What are my students? They are...

...the annoying squirrel on the porch,
...the book, with so many ideas,
...the sneakers on the baseball field,
...the hair on a golden retriever,
...the sun in the summer.

They are...

...the homework that is not finished,
...the wind slowly blowing,
...the soft butter on the roll,
...a feather,
...the letter D, airplane that flies over the clouds.

They are...

...popcorn in the microwave,
...syrup on pancakes,
...the moss that stays forever on the rock,
...the brush that makes the painting,
...the volcano that erupts,
...a hare on the prairie,
...a worm in an apple,
...the wind of a tornado.

They are...

...the sunset in the evening sky,
...the moon and the sun,
...the noise in my mother's house,
...the thorn on the rose,
...the sugar in a chocolate bar,
...the H in hurt,
...but most importantly, the snowflake on a snowy day.

Elaine has the round up this week at Wild Rose Reader.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Cool Teachers

It's been a long time since we've received a nomination for a Cool Teacher to add to our list of 100+ Cool Teachers in Children's Literature. Yesterday, Sue suggested Mr. Beggs from Suellen Holland's Mountain Whippoorwill. We're up to 115!

You've done a lot of reading this past year. Think back. Were there cool teachers in any of the 2008 books you read? Remind us, and we'll add them to the list.

Edited to add:

Thank you, Tricia, for Mr. D'Matz of the Clementine books! (Keep 'em coming, folks! This makes 116!)

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Diversity Rocks -- Native Peoples

Every child should be able to find him or herself in books. We're doing better, but we're not there yet. Not anywhere near there.

Today I share two books that will hold up a mirror for Native American children. One that acknowledges the pain of the past, and one that is full of hope for the future.

Shin-chi's Canoe
by Nicola I. Campbell
illustrated by Kim LaFave
Groundwood Books, 2008
review copy provided by the publisher

From the flap copy: "Nicola I. Campbell is Interior Salish and M├ętis...Many members of her family, including her grandfather and mother, attended residential school."

In order to "civilize" them, Europeans forced hundreds of thousands of Native children to attend residential schools, where they were taught European culture, religion and language in replacement of their own.  Shin-Chi's Canoe tells the story of a little girl and her brother riding in a cattle truck away from their family and the beloved landscape of their home, which they would not see again "until the sockeye salmon return," to the separation and strange routines of the residential school. The strength of the children and the power of their own culture is shown when the little brother finds time to go alone to the river, experience nature deeply, sing his grandfather's prayer song, and send the little canoe his father carved down the river back towards home. We also see strength and resilience when the little brother and his new friend find a way to steal food from the school's root cellar! 

The beautiful but spare illustrations communicate with gesture, line and color the pull of home, and the children's resistance to the dulling experience of the school.

Niwechihaw (I Help)
by Caitlin Dale Nicholson
text translated into Cree by Leona Morin-Neilson
Groundwood Books, 2008

From the flap copy: "Caitlin Dale Nicholson is a graduate of the First Nations Studies program at the University of Norther British Columbia...Leona Morin-Neilson teaches Cree at the "Power of Friendship" Aboriginal HeadStart Program in Prince George, British Columbia and at the University of Norther British Columbia. She also teaches people in her community about traditional plants and how they can be used for medicinal purposes."

This is a very simple story about a boy and his grandmother out for a walk in the woods to pick rosehips. Everything his grandmother does, he does in his own way. Some things seem universal -- "driving" his toy car while grandmother drives the car, walking, helping, picking. But some things show how culture and tradition are passed on -- he listens and he prays. In the end, when his grandmother sits, he says, "Not me!" as he pulls back on his slingshot. No matter what else he is, he's a BOY!

Each page features a beautiful painting of either grandmother or the grandson.  There is one short sentence below the picture, first in Cree, then in English. For example, "Kohkom pimohtew. Kohkom walks." is paired with "Nipimohatan. I walk."

A recipe for rosehip tea is included at the end.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Dublin Librarians Rock!

I am lucky to teach at a school that is close to our the Dublin branch of the Columbus Metropolitan Libraries. Early in the year, I met with Loren Scully, the children's librarian, who is committed to connecting the work that we do. She had such great ideas about ways we could work together and we've been having lots of fun. So many benefits from working together. First of all, the kids at our school get the benefit of learning from the amazing librarians there. Second, by helping the students at school build relationships with the librarians at the Dublin branch, their visits to the library will be even better. And third, it is always interesting for me to see the kids and watch/listen when I am not the one teaching. I learn so much about them.

Earlier this month, Loren Scully visited the library and talked to 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders about the Caldecott Award, sharing her list of possibilities with them. The kids had a great time, learned lots, and have already mentioned to me (since the visit) that they saw her while visiting the Dublin Library. Ray, another one of the librarian, comes to the school weekly to work with a student. We have lots of informal chats about books while we pass in the hallway!

This week, one of the other librarians, George Morrison, came to share stories and songs with our K-1 students. He is quite the entertainer and the kids (and teachers) had a great time. I have never heard anyone read Piggie and Elephant quite like he did--with voices and all. The kids loved it. He shared songs and books and stories. (You can hear the song and others on his blog.) This event was to get kids excited about another event we'll be doing with the library. We have been invited to a PAJAMA STORYTIME at the library. In the evening, when it is dark, kids can visit the library with parents and families (wearing their PJs of course!) and participate in more songs and stories with George.

These three librarians are helping me realize just how powerful the connection to the library can be. I am already hearing comments from kids about wanting to visit the library, wanting to get a library card, etc. These librarians are quickly becoming part of our school community!