Friday, April 30, 2010

Poem #30--Looking Inside (and Poetry Friday)

Inside the month
I found the challenge.

Inside the challenge
I found the discipline.

Inside the discipline
I found the joy.

Inside the joy
I found the poems.

Inside the poems
I found my world.

by Mary Lee Hahn, copyright 2010


The round up this week is at Great Kid Books.

All 30 of my NaPoMo poems are here.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Poem #29--Newspaper Blackout Poem

Franki sent a link to this book trailer and challenged me to try writing a Newspaper Blackout Poem. Every poem-a-day writer needs a cheerleader as thoughtful as mine!

He makes it look easy, no?

Here's my feeble attempt:

raise chickens

chicken dinner
homegrown chickens
sprouting chicks
in the coop

by Mary Lee Hahn, copyright 2010

Now YOU try it.
Post it and send your link.
I'm CERTAIN you can do a better job.

I'll be the springboard to your brilliance.
I have no problem with that role.

Go for it.
Go get your marker
and the newspaper
and make art by process of elimination.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Poem #27--A Limerick for the Poem-A-Day Writers

You've written a poem a day!
Every day you found something to say
in a poem or verse,
for better or worse.
To each of you: HIP HIP HOORAY!

by Mary Lee Hahn, copyright 2010

2 new Poetry Books

Like I've said many times, the kids in our library love any book about dogs. So, I had to get NAME THAT DOG: PUPPY POEMS FROM A-Z when I heard about it. This new poetry book starts out with a poem about naming dogs and how each is different. Then each page focuses on a different dog. From Aspen to Frank to Zipper, there are 26 different fictional dogs celebrated through poem. The poems vary in length and type but all have an element of fun. Each dog is labeled so readers know the breed of the dog highlighted. The book ends with a poem about finding the perfect name for a dog.

And, I was thrilled to see ANOTHER JAR OF TINY STARS is now available. Every other year, NCTE gives an Award for Excellence in Poetry. This award honors a living children's poet for his/her work. Several years ago, NCTE published A JAR OF TINY STARS, highlighting the work of the award winners' poetry. This year, NCTE has released this additional version which highlights the work of poets up through the last poetry award winner, Lee Bennett Hopkins. To choose which poems to include, students ranked the poets' work. Their votes helped to make the decisions for what to include in this book. It is a great collection with 15 amazing children's poets.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Poem #26--A Fib For Gregory K.

the King
of the Fib Poem
Form: Royal Ingumpa, indeed!

by Mary Lee Hahn, copyright 2010

*A word verification nonsense "word" that here means one who is exalted, high-ranking, elevated, superior, lofty, eminent, prestigious, illustrious, distinguished, and/or esteemed. It is often used to describe a person whose invention (in this case, the Fib) has its own Wikipedia page. For the origin of Ingumpa, please see the first comment of this post.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Poem #25--A One-Word Poem

Dedicated to Franki
(and with apologies to David R. Slavitt)
by Mary Lee Hahn, copyright 2010


Discussion Questions:
1. What is this poem about?
2. Do I need to read it again?
3. Who is speaking? What is the evidence in the poem for your answer?
4. What is being compared or described? Explain.
5. To what senses does the poem appeal? Elaborate.
6. Does this poem make you laugh, or does it make you cry?
7. What does this poem remind you of?
8. What characteristic of the genre of poetry alerts you as a reader that this is a poem?
9. If you were to put this poem to music, what would it sound like? If you were to illustrate it, what colors would you use?
10.What questions do you have for the author?

* * * * * * *

The back story: Franki and I were discussing what we had ready for the blog this week. I confessed to have hit a wall with the poem-a-day challenge. She suggested I write a one-word poem. We Googled it. We found Slavitt's poem. There is such a thing. (Who knew?) I was amused and inspired.

The discussion questions are the ones I use with my fourth graders as they get ready to answer questions on the state tests about poetry. I thought they worked quite well with this poem.

Garage Band--Some Possibilities

I introduced GarageBand this week. It is mostly music creation software but has so many possibilities for elementary school. I started out by just teaching kids how to record their voices and to add some background music. We used poetry and kids had a ball reading the poems in different ways, trying new voices, adding a bit of music or a sound effect her or there. It is not a tool I know well, but I can't wait until I know it well to introduce it. My goal in teaching media literacy is for kids to see what is possible, to read with a critical eye and to create with tools available. I don't need to know everything about GarageBand in order to introduce it to kids. I taught myself the basics and we are jumping in together.

One of the challenges, from a writing/creation perspective, is that students don't have a lot of models for what they are creating. Or, they have a lot of models but haven't yet made the connection to the tools that will help them create the things they see. So, as I move forward with GarageBand over the next few weeks, I wanted to throw some possibilities out to kids. I want them to see many options for their work with GarageBand and the other tools we've used this year. I have learned, in my 23 years of teaching, that if I give kids some possibilities and some open ended play time with a tool, they come up with many, many ideas that I would never have imagined.

When I think about creation, I want the students to eventually have a menu of possibilities to show their learning, to create new understandings, etc. One of the things that has struck me in the library, seeing so many different classes each week, is the way the students approach new ideas. When I introduce a new piece of software or a new web tool, they definitely need some play time. They have a ball just trying things out. Then they need to pull back and seem ready to see what they can actually make or do with the software. So, now that kids have done a bit of playing with GarageBand, I want to show them these samples--different pieces where music plays a part. Not that I want them to replicate any of this--that is the reason I wouldn't show them one at a time. Instead, I want it to be a way to begin thinking of the possibilities for this software and the way it might work with other tools they have.

Having a toolbox of possibilities for creation is key for moving ahead with creation and communication.

Pete the Cat is one of my new favorite books/songs thanks to Katie at Creative Literacy. In order to show how music enhances a story and how songs can be created from text, this is a fun example for kids to begin thinking about music.

Sharing several examples of a familiar story like "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" will show kids how different each story can be if you change the way you read/sing it and if you change the music and/or sound effects. For one lesson, I might show several different versions of one book to open up the possibilities and to show kids how sound can impact presentation. Two samples are below. One uses student art which is another thing I want kids to start thinking about.

We're Going on a Bear Hunt

We're Going on a Bear Hunt

After I fell in love with Pete the Cat, I found more songs by this artist. One that I think has huge possibilities with older kids is The Three Pigs song by Eric Litwin. I think taking favorite tales and creating story/songs might be fun for some kids. This is a great example.

Three Pigs audio

The kids have become very familiar with PIXIE and FRAMES this year. Drawing tools and some basic animations are making sense to many kids. I want them to take a look at creations like the following songs to see how music and drawing can go together in new ways.

The Elephant Song

5 Little Monkeys

Because so many of the tools are new for kids and because they are just beginning to see the possibilities, much of this spring is about planting seeds, knowing that kids are amazing and will come up with ideas that I cannot possibly imagine. I can't wait to see which of the things from these samples they pick up on to try and which other things they find on their own.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Poem #24--Coffee House Sonnet

When at the coffee shop we both do sit
and sip dark roast or other blended drink
we open books and read for just a bit
which turns into an hour in a blink.
Around us others read from their books or
they stare with blank looks at computer screens.
To study here is not so much a chore
and bonus points are scored for the caffeine.
But only so much there can we get done:
the groc'ries, laundry, cleaning still do wait.
We must make time on Saturday for fun
and yet not so much that we run too late.
All things in their own time and their own place.
Work hard, have fun, but keep a steady pace.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Poem #23--Where I'm From Poem (and Poetry Friday)


I'm from the smell of chlorine
and the heat of sun-baked cement by the pool.

I'm from cherry tomatoes eaten warm off the plant
and zinnias, marigolds, and petunias.

I'm from goatheads and hailstones,
blizzards and dust storms.

I'm from "Punkin' " and "Sugar Plum"
and "You are my special angel."

I'm from Lawrence Welk and Glenn Miller,
Ed Sullivan and Johnny Cash.

I'm from Lubbers Lounge Lu Lu
and Thanksgiving ham and broiled spareribs.

I'm from wide horizons
and big skies,
and I'm from a small town
and narrow opportunities.
I've traveled far.
I've kept it all inside my heart.

by Mary Lee Hahn, copyright 2010

The Poetry Friday Roundup today is at Picture Book of the Day with Anastasia Suen.

Here's a reprint of a bunch of the Kidlitosphere (and other assorted) NaPoMo projects that I'm following (or at least trying valiantly to follow):

Gregory K. is once again hosting 30 Poets/30 Days with previously unpublished poems by favorite children's authors.

Tricia Stohr-Hunt is interviewing 30 children's poets, beginning with Mary Ann Hoberman, the US Children's Poet Laureate. The Poetry Makers list is stellar!

Jone MacCulloch shares Thirty Days, Thirty Students, Thirty Poems: original poems by students.

At A Wrung Sponge, Andromeda is writing a "haiga" (photo and haiku) each day. Her photography is simply stunning. The haikus are amazing, too!

Kelly Fineman at Writing and Ruminating will continue the Building a Poetry Collection series she began last year -- selecting a poem a day in a kind of personal Poetry Tag (see Sylvia Vardell's version below) and providing analysis. I call this The University of Kelly Fineman because I learn so much in each post!

Sylvia Vardell is inviting poets to play Poetry Tag. She will invite poets to "play" along by offering a poem for readers to enjoy, then she will "tag" a poet who shares her/his own poem THAT IS CONNECTED to the previous poem in SOME way—by a theme, word, idea, tone-- and offers a sentence or two explaining that connection. What a creative idea!

Laura at Author Amok is highlighting the poets laureate of all 50 states this month...well, all the ones that have a poet laureate... Fun Fun!

Laura Salas is posting a children's poem per day from a poetry book she loves.

Lee Wind is publishing many new Teen voices during April for National Poetry Month. GLBTQ Teen Poetry.

Bud the Teacher gives a picture prompt every day during April and invites readers to post the poem it inspires in the comments of his blog.


Checks these blogs daily for new original poems by the following people:

  • Susan Taylor Brown
  • Jone MacCulloch
  • Elizabeth Moore
  • April Halprin Wayland
  • Liz Scanlon
  • Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
  • If I missed your project, please let me know and I'll add it to my list!

    Thursday, April 22, 2010

    Poem #22--Did Someone Say Only 30 More Days?

    Overheard at Spinning Class
    The Last Six Weeks of School
    (or both)

    Hold that load!
    Don't touch that knob!
    You've got one more chance
    to push yourself to a nine!
    Everything that's left in your tank?
    Give it now!
    Stay strong!
    Go for it!

    by Mary Lee Hahn, copyright 2010

    FARM by Elisha Cooper

    I so loved Elisha Cooper's book BEACH last year, that I was thrilled to see his new book FARM on the shelves. FARM is easily recognizable as Cooper's work if you have his book BEACH. In this new book, readers learn the workings of a farm. The cycle of the year and the way the farm works is all part of this book. There is a lot of information about farms in general and a short glossary at the front of the book adds to the learning. The information is told in a kind of story format in which we learn the names of the animals and about the children's chores.

    The thing I love most about this book is the language and the humor spread throughout. Just as in his first book, this shows times on the farm in which several things happening at once. The layout helps readers understand that the farm is a busy place.

    This book would be a great one for anyone who teaches about the farm. So much information packed into a gorgeously written picture book. It would fit nicely into many social studies units. But, even if you don't teach something related to this topic, this is a great mentor text for writing. Children can learn a lot from Cooper's writing.

    Wednesday, April 21, 2010

    Poem #21--Haiku Response to Literature

    This week, I gave my students the option to write their responses to their nightly reading in haikus instead of sentences. I thought I'd give it a try.

    I'm listening to Bill Bryson read his book, Shakespeare: The World As Stage:

    So few facts are known;
    what we "know," we speculate.
    Still fascinating.

    by Mary Lee Hahn, copyright 2010

    Google Search Stories by Favorite Book Characters!

    So, I have been fascinated with the concept of Google Search stories for the last several days. Mary Lee included one in her poetry post earlier last week. Kevin at Kevin's Meandering Mind shared his students' stories too. I love how the searches tell stories. I wanted to learn but hadn't given myself the time to figure it out., I LOVED the two that Sesame Street released--search stories from Cookie Monster and Bert. (I find Bert's to be HYSTERICAL!)

    I was totally inspired and realized how fun this would be for kids. What story would) their favorite book character tell with a search story? I am all about making myself learn these new tools so I tried one today. And the first favorite character that popped to mind was Pigeon of course! So, here is my first try. How much fun is this? Wish I had nothing to do but to make more search stories today. Kids could have a ball with this. My daughter helped with this one and I imagine she'll make her own sometime soon. Kids could even make them as riddles--others could guess who did the search story. I am not into book projects or gimmicky things but I find these search stories totally fun and love the possibilities of our favorite fictional characters creating their own search stories as a way to learn and play with this tool.

    If you have not had time to play with these, I would highly suggest it. I am amazed at the stories that people have created. Time to create your own:-)

    The BEAUTIFUL STORIES OF LIFE by Cynthia Rylant

    I pretty much buy anything new that Cynthia Rylant writes. She is one of my all-time favorite authors and she rarely, if ever, lets me down with her books. I had somehow missed THE BEAUTIFUL STORIE OF LIFE: SIX GREEK MYTHS, RETOLD by Rylant when it came out last year, but my friend, Jennifer, shared it with me. Maybe I did see it last year, but hadn't paid much attention to it. But this year, with so many kids reading the Percy Jackson series and wanting more to read connected to Greek Mythology, I was thrilled to see something on mythology by Rylant. I was also surprised--mythology didn't seem like something Rylant would take on. But the inside flap of the book says this:

    The ancient Greek Myths
    are among the oldest stories
    in the world.

    These are tales of love and loss,
    pride and forgiveness,
    courage and cowardice,
    and hope.

    They are the beautiful
    stories of life.

    Of course this type of book makes sense for Rylant. Her work is all about the beautiful stories of life.

    I loved the Disney CINDERELLA that Rylant recently rewrote. Her language and view of the world makes her version my very favorite ever. She seem to do the same with the six Greek Myths that she retells in this new book.

    The book is a small one and only 70 pages long. Each of the six stories is about 10-12 short pages long. These pages include great black and white illustrations by Carson Ellis. As we expect from Rylant, these stories are each retold in a way that only Rylant can do. Her great use of language and her deep understanding of the mythology and life in general, make for great storytelling.

    These six myths--Pandora, Persephone, Orpheus, Pygmalion, Narcissus and Psyche would make great read alouds for middle school kids. And I can see many fans of Greek Mythology reading this book on his/her own. Each story is short enough to be read in one sitting. So much in each story. This is a great introduction to Greek Mythology and also a great way to stretch those kids who have become interested in mythology because of Percy Jackson.

    Tuesday, April 20, 2010

    Poem #20 Lightning Thief Metaphor Poems (and a testing poem)

    Did I tell you about my students' National Poetry Month project? When they heard I was going to write a poem a day, one girl said, "We should write a poem a day about the people in our class."

    And that's what we've done every day since April 5. We've written poems for about 10 of our classmates so far. (that's almost 200 poems!!!) On the day we write poems for them, they write a poem for me. I wish I could share some of the beautiful poems they've written, but most often, the recipient's name is part of the poem.

    I gave my students the instructions for writing yesterday's "If-You-Were" Metaphor Poems, but we haven't had a chance to talk about how they work or for the students to see my examples. Today during his free time after testing, one of my students wrote these poems for a friend who LOVES The Lightning Thief:

    If you were the lightning bolt
    and I was the clouds
    I'd let you streak
    under me.

    If you were a god
    and I was a demigod
    I'd let you shine
    above me.

    Whoa. Did that knock your socks off like it did mine?!?!?

    Here's my poem for today:


    Uncharacteristic silence.
    Focused silence.

    Pages turning.
    Pencils scratching.
    Erasers rubbing.

    Birds singing in the trees outside the window.
    Roofers pounding on the condos next door.
    Children screaming from the playground.

    Silence of working.
    Silent cheer of finishing.
    Almost silent rustling of waiting.

    TIME'S UP!

    by Mary Lee Hahn, copyright 2010

    TRACKERS by Patrick Carman

    I am a huge fan of Skeleton Creek and so are many of the 5th graders at our school. It isn't so much the genre or story. I liked those though. But I am a fan because Patrick Carman has tried something new and powerful with books for kids. In Skeleton Creek and Ghost in the Machine, he embedded video in the book so that the text told part of the story and the video clips online told the other part. This was done in a way that worked--the two parts of the book worked so well together and I could see how motivating this could be for kids. So, I was happy to see TRACKERS, another series by Patrick Carman, that did the same thing. (I am imagining books like this on things such as the iPad where the video can just play at a certain point in the book. I am starting to understand the whole concept of this type of reading so much better thanks to Carman.)

    Trackers is a thriller/adventure/science fiction story about 4 kids who are trackers. They are pretty much spies with very cool gadgets that they've created and perfected. This may sounds Spy-Kid like and it is but it is intended for a more sophisticated audience than Spy Kids. My thinking is 5th grade and above. There is a lot of technical "stuff" that kids need to semi-understand in order to understand this book.

    Adam, the main character in the book, has created a space for himself that he calls "The Vault". His father owns and operated a computer repair shop and since he was little, Adam played around with gadgets, etc. When he turned 9, his father gave him a little room in the back of the shop for him to fiddle around in. The room is an amazing concept and one that hooked me into the book immediately. A kid who has a place to play and create and figure things out on his own. He is quite the little prodigy.

    I won't give too much away about the book but Adam is discovered by some people who threaten him unless he solves a very important computer code for them.

    The entire story is told by Adam who is relaying it in a "classified location" letting the readers assume that Adam has been "caught" and is in trouble. The entire story unfolds as Adam tells the story and then "shows" videoclips throughout. As we get to each clip, we, as readers, are given a site and password so that we can watch the videos. As with Skeleton Creek, Carman has done a great job of embedding the video throughout. The two forms of media work together to tell the complete story.

    The one difference in this book, which I think I like, is that you CAN read the book without watching the videos. Each video is transcribed in the Appendix of the book. So, instead of watching the clip on a computer, the reader can instead read the transcript at the back of the book. I tried a bit o both. I liked watching the videos--it breaks up the story for kids a bit and gave me scenes, etc. visually. But the appendix pieces did a great job too. I know that I had kids who could not read Skeleton Creek because they did not have Internet access at home. This will allow kids who do not have access to the Internet to experience the entire book. There were also times when I was reading at night,when I really did not want to get up and watch the clip. Having the option of the transcribed video was a nice option to have:-)

    The only thing I didn't like is that the book ended in quite the cliffhanger!? Now I have to wait for the 2nd book! I should have remembered this from Skeleton Creek but I don't think I was totally aware that Trackers is the first in a series. My thinking was that things would tie up and fall together neatly by the end of the book. I guess I'll have to wait for the next book in the series to get some more answers.

    This book will be released on May 11. I am thrilled to see Patrick Carman continue with these books for kids. I already have several 5th graders who are dying to read this one--even without knowing the basics of the story, they know that Patrick Carman writes fresh stories that grab them from the beginning. So many kids have moved on to Carman's other books once they discovered Skeleton Creek.

    Monday, April 19, 2010

    Poem #19--"If-You-Were" Metaphor Poems

    Back in January, Father Goose (Charles Ghigna), introduced a new poetry form: the "If-You-Were" Poem. He explains the form in this post, saying,
    "Here's a fun verse form that everyone can write! I created this simple 4-line format many years ago to help introduce students and teachers to metaphor. It's exciting to see how quickly it catches on!

    Think of a person you like.
    Compare that person to some thing (inanimate object).
    Now compare yourself to some thing associated with the first object."
    I'm asking my students to try this form this week, so I thought I better see how it goes so I can give them some insider tips. Here are my attempts:

    If you were the pencil
    and I were the answer,
    we'd find each other
    like the dance finds the dancer.

    If you were the wonder
    and I were the thought,
    we'd play hooky in springtime
    and never get caught!

    If you were the butterfly
    and I were the net,
    I'd watch without catching
    and have no regrets.

    by Mary Lee Hahn, copyright 2010

    Apple Crisp is on the Menu Today at the Alphabet Soup Kitchen

    Jama Rattigan, at jama rattigan's alphabet soup, is hosting a potluck for National Poetry Month. Here's how she describes her yummy project:
    "I've set the table, chilled the wine, hired a string quartet (don't worry, some jazz musicians will be joining us later), and am ready to enjoy a month's worth of poems written by some of the wonderful folks I've met through Poetry Friday.

    I've been hooked on PF ever since I first started blogging in 2007. Every week, I look forward to seeing what beautiful, inspiring, funny, or thought provoking poems these friends will post. Whether they've written the poems themselves, or have chosen the work of others, I'm grateful for the momentary glimpse into their emotional lives.

    I thought inviting them to the alphabet soup kitchen for a potluck would be the perfect way to celebrate National Poetry Month. I asked each to share an original poem and a favorite recipe, and they all, without hesitation, enthusiastically agreed (further evidence of their overall awesomeness). They came through for me in a big way, even sharing recipe photos. Friends, this is going to be a supremely delicious month -- a bountiful, nourishing feast for body, mind, and spirit!"
    Today, it's MY turn to share the spotlight! Head on over to alphabet soup and enjoy a helping of apple crisp. Thanks, Jama, for inviting me to your feast! It's an honor to sit at your table with
    the other (real) poets!

    Moving Toward My Vision for the SMARTBoard in the Library

    I see huge possibilities for creation and collaboration if this took is always available to students. Because the size of the board is so large, it is so much more natural to collaborate and problem solve around it than around a keyboard. I can see so many ways that kids can collaborate in their creations. Creation demands collaboration and it seems that the SMART Board can really support those goals.

    But, as I said, patience is key. I have to spend lots of time setting up possibilities for the students and inviting them to try different things. This week, my goal was for students to understand that the SMART Board was really just a giant/touchscreen computer and that anything they could do on the computer, they could do on the SMART Board. So, we tried several of our favorite things on the SMART Board--Pixie, Tumblebooks, Pages, etc. One of the things we did with a few classes was a collaborative story. After spending some time looking at the new episodes in the Exquisite Corpse, kids took turns adding to a story. Wouldn't it be fun to have an ongoing story that several kids/classes added to like Jon Scieszka's Exquisite Corpse? I could see an ongoing story like that in the future--watching kids collaborate around writing was fun. As expected, when given the choice to use these tools on the SMART Board independently, the collaboration and conversations were amazing to listen to. As I assumed, the tool almost demands thinking together.

    This week, we'll try some Stopmotion editing on the SMART Board with a few groups of 4th graders. I see them huddled around the laptop screen deciding on their next editing job, but the SMART Board should make it so much easier for everyone to be part of the decision-making.

    This week, I was thrilled to look over and see 3-5 kids using the board on their own for various purposes. Since it is new for so many of them, learning the basics of how to move an object, how the pens work, how to get the keyboard, etc. are all happening as they explore on their own. I am working hard to help kids see that this is not a teacher tool-that the board is one that can be used for a variety of reasons and that they can use it independently of me. I adamantly believe that for these tools to be worthwhile in the classroom, kids need to be using them to create and collaborate. This will take a while, I know. My thinking is that for the next several weeks and for the first several weeks of next school year, kids will see many of the possibilities of the SMART Board. Then they will take it from there, realizing when the tool will support what they are trying to do.

    And, of course, I'll utilize our SMART Board Team. I am hoping to meet with them in the next few weeks to determine where to go next with the board.

    Other blog posts on the SMART Board in our library:

    Sunday, April 18, 2010

    Saturday, April 17, 2010

    State Test Simile Poem

    My students are
    as confident as racehorses
    in the starting gate.

    Our teacher is
    as nervous as a donut
    in the teacher's lounge.

    My students are
    as sharp as a box of
    #2 pencils.

    Our teacher is
    as hardworking as a house painter
    with a one-inch brush.

    On Wednesday afternoon,
    we'll all be
    as relieved as a gymnast
    who sticks the landing.

    by Mary Lee Hahn, copyright 2010


    Muddy As A Duck Puddle and Other American Similes
    by Laurie Lawlor
    illustrated by Ethan Long
    Holiday House, 2010
    review copy provided by the publisher

    This book has it all -- it's an ABC book of 26 uniquely American similes, and there's an explanation for each one in the back of the book, including the part of the country from which it hails!

    Here are a few from the book that can be used to describe an elementary school before the state tests: Our testing coordinators are "Busy as a stump-tailed cow in fly-time" trying to find spaces and translators and cds for all of the ELLs in our building -- students who speak Twi, Farsi, Arabic, Spanish, Korean, Bengali, and Russian. Our teachers are as "Jittery as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs." We really, really need to meet AYP this year. No matter the outcome of the tests, we all believe that our students are just as "Fine as frog hair." These state tests are but ONE isolated measure of our students' growth this year, and no matter what the tests say, we know to the core of our collective being that our students have grown in their learning, understanding and knowledge this year. (Plus, we're not finished teaching after this week, so the learning will continue!!)

    Friday, April 16, 2010

    Poem #16--Google Search Story Poem

    Children learn
    to write poetry
    the same way they learn
    to ride a bike:
    follow the rules,
    break the rules,
    get silly and have some fun.

    by Mary Lee Hahn, using Google Search Stories, copyright 2010

    A big shout-out to Gregory K. at GottaBook for introducing us to the way-cool fun of Google Search Stories, and another one to Elizabeth at Tiny Reader for the inspiration to use it for my poem-a-day challenge. The perfect diversion for the middle of the month slump!

    The Poetry Friday Roundup is at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast this week.

    Here's a reprint of a bunch of the Kidlitosphere (and other assorted) NaPoMo projects that I'm following (or at least trying valiantly to follow):

    Gregory K. is once again hosting 30 Poets/30 Days with previously unpublished poems by favorite children's authors.

    Tricia Stohr-Hunt is interviewing 30 children's poets, beginning with Mary Ann Hoberman, the US Children's Poet Laureate. The Poetry Makers list is stellar!

    Jone MacCulloch shares Thirty Days, Thirty Students, Thirty Poems: original poems by students.

    At A Wrung Sponge, Andromeda is writing a "haiga" (photo and haiku) each day. Her photography is simply stunning. The haikus are amazing, too!

    Kelly Fineman at Writing and Ruminating will continue the Building a Poetry Collection series she began last year -- selecting a poem a day in a kind of personal Poetry Tag (see Sylvia Vardell's version below) and providing analysis. I call this The University of Kelly Fineman because I learn so much in each post!

    Sylvia Vardell is inviting poets to play Poetry Tag. She will invite poets to "play" along by offering a poem for readers to enjoy, then she will "tag" a poet who shares her/his own poem THAT IS CONNECTED to the previous poem in SOME way—by a theme, word, idea, tone-- and offers a sentence or two explaining that connection. What a creative idea!

    Laura at Author Amok is highlighting the poets laureate of all 50 states this month...well, all the ones that have a poet laureate... Fun Fun!

    Laura Salas is posting a children's poem per day from a poetry book she loves.

    Lee Wind is publishing many new Teen voices during April for National Poetry Month. GLBTQ Teen Poetry.

    Bud the Teacher gives a picture prompt every day during April and invites readers to post the poem it inspires in the comments of his blog.


    Checks these blogs daily for new original poems by the following people:

  • Susan Taylor Brown
  • Jone MacCulloch
  • Elizabeth Moore
  • April Halprin Wayland
  • Liz Scanlon
  • Amy Ludwig VanDerwater
  • If I missed your project, please let me know and I'll add it to my list!

    Thursday, April 15, 2010

    Which of the Top Hundred Have YOU Read?

    Reading is breathing.
    We couldn't live without it.
    We've got books in our veins
    and stories in our souls.

    Our life work is to
    make readers,
    coach readers,
    cheer readers,
    tempt readers,
    help readers,
    guide readers,
    read alongside readers.

    by Mary Lee Hahn, copyright 2010

    Thanks to Teacherninja for this great meme!

    So...which of Betsy Bird’s Top 100 Children’s Novels have you read? The titles of the books Mary Lee's read are blue. The ones Franki's read are red. The ones we've BOTH read are purple.

    100. The Egypt Game – Snyder (1967)
    99. The Indian in the Cupboard – Banks (1980)
    98. Children of Green Knowe – Boston (1954)
    97. The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane – DiCamillo (2006)
    96. The Witches – Dahl (1983)
    95. Pippi Longstocking – Lindgren (1950)
    94. Swallows and Amazons – Ransome (1930)
    93. Caddie Woodlawn – Brink (1935)
    92. Ella Enchanted – Levine (1997)
    91. Sideways Stories from Wayside School – Sachar (1978)
    90. Sarah, Plain and Tall – MacLachlan (1985)
    89. Ramona and Her Father – Cleary (1977)
    88. The High King – Alexander (1968)
    87. The View from Saturday – Konigsburg (1996)
    86. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Rowling (1999)
    85. On the Banks of Plum Creek – Wilder (1937)
    84. The Little White Horse – Goudge (1946)
    83. The Thief – Turner (1997)
    82. The Book of Three – Alexander (1964)
    81. Where the Mountain Meets the Moon – Lin (2009)
    80. The Graveyard Book – Gaiman (2008)
    79. All-of-a-Kind-Family – Taylor (1951)
    78. Johnny Tremain – Forbes (1943)
    77. The City of Ember – DuPrau (2003)
    76. Out of the Dust – Hesse (1997)
    75. Love That Dog – Creech (2001)
    74. The Borrowers – Norton (1953)
    73. My Side of the Mountain – George (1959)
    72. My Father’s Dragon – Gannett (1948)
    71. The Bad Beginning – Snicket (1999)
    70. Betsy-Tacy – Lovelae (1940)
    69. The Mysterious Benedict Society – Stewart ( 2007)
    68. Walk Two Moons – Creech (1994)
    67. Jeremy Thatcher, Dragon Hatcher – Coville (1991)
    66. Henry Huggins – Cleary (1950)
    65. Ballet Shoes – Stratfeild (1936)
    64. A Long Way from Chicago – Peck (1998)
    63. Gone-Away Lake – Enright (1957)
    62. The Secret of the Old Clock – Keene (1959)
    61. Stargirl – Spinelli (2000)
    60. The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle – Avi (1990)
    59. Inkheart – Funke (2003)
    58. The Wolves of Willoughby Chase – Aiken (1962)
    57. Ramona Quimby, Age 8 – Cleary (1981)
    56. Number the Stars – Lowry (1989)
    55. The Great Gilly Hopkins – Paterson (1978)
    54. The BFG – Dahl (1982)
    53. Wind in the Willows – Grahame (1908)
    52. The Invention of Hugo Cabret -- Selznik (2007)
    51. The Saturdays – Enright (1941)
    50. Island of the Blue Dolphins – O’Dell (1960)
    49. Frindle – Clements (1996)
    48. The Penderwicks – Birdsall (2005)
    47. Bud, Not Buddy – Curtis (1999)
    46. Where the Red Fern Grows – Rawls (1961)
    45. The Golden Compass – Pullman (1995)
    44. Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing – Blume (1972)
    43. Ramona the Pest – Cleary (1968)
    42. Little House on the Prairie – Wilder (1935)
    41. The Witch of Blackbird Pond – Speare (1958)
    40. The Wonderful Wizard of Oz – Baum (1900)
    39. When You Reach Me – Stead (2009)
    38. HP and the Order of the Phoenix – Rowling (2003)
    37. Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry – Taylor (1976)
    36. Are You there, God? It’s Me, Margaret – Blume (1970)
    35. HP and the Goblet of Fire – Rowling (2000)
    34. The Watson’s Go to Birmingham – Curtis (1995)
    33. James and the Giant Peach – Dahl (1961)
    32. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH – O’Brian (1971)
    31. Half Magic – Eager (1954)
    30. Winnie-the-Pooh – Milne (1926)
    29. The Dark Is Rising – Cooper (1973)
    28. A Little Princess – Burnett (1905)
    27. Alice I and II – Carroll (1865/72)
    26. Hatchet – Paulsen (1989)
    25. Little Women – Alcott (1868/9)
    24. HP and the Deathly Hallows – Rowling (2007)
    23. Little House in the Big Woods – Wilder (1932)
    22. The Tale of Despereaux – DiCamillo (2003)
    21. The Lightening Thief – Riordan (2005)
    20. Tuck Everlasting – Babbitt (1975)
    19. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Dahl (1964)
    18. Matilda – Dahl (1988)
    17. Maniac Magee – Spinelli (1990)
    16. Harriet the Spy – Fitzhugh (1964)
    15. Because of Winn-Dixie – DiCamillo (2000)
    14. HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban – Rowling (1999)
    13. Bridge to Terabithia – Paterson (1977)
    12. The Hobbit – Tolkien (1938)
    11. The Westing Game – Raskin (1978)
    10. The Phantom Tollbooth – Juster (1961)
    9. Anne of Green Gables – Montgomery (1908)
    8. The Secret Garden – Burnett (1911)
    7. The Giver -Lowry (1993)
    6. Holes – Sachar (1998)
    5. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler – Koningsburg (1967)
    4. The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe – Lewis (1950)
    3. Harry Potter #1 – Rowling (1997)
    2. A Wrinkle in Time – L’Engle (1962)
    1. Charlotte’s Web – White (1952)

    2 Books I Could Read a Million Times

    I lucked out this week with 2 books I could read a million times.
    And I wasn't quite expecting it. It has been a while that I've found books that I enjoy more each time I read them. But I am definitely adding
    My Garden by Kevin Henkes
    Chester's Masterpiece
    to the list of BOOKS I CAN READ A MILLION TIMES. I read these to the younger kids in the library and they LOVED them!

    I have always loved Kevin Henkes. I love Lilly and Chrysanthemum and so many of his others. I am still getting used to the fact that not all of his books are about great little mice. It always throws me a bit to see something new and different from Henkes. But I loved the look of MY GARDEN and it was a cute story when I read it, so I added it to my plans for last week. Most of the books on my BOOKS I CAN READ A MILLION TIMES list, don't actually make the list until I've read them to lots of kids. It is in the reading them to children, that I actually realize how amazing they are. I love every single page of MY GARDEN. This story is about a little girl who dreams of her own garden. She has such great ideas for her garden--planting jellybeans, plaid flowers and invisible carrots. The illustrations are stunning in the way that the colors contrast with the white background. This is such a happy book. I loved reading it to kids each and every time. Their eyes--thinking about the possibilities of a child's dream garden--was quite fun!

    And, CHESTER'S MASTERPIECE by Melanie Watt may be my favorite Chester book yet. If you know Chester, you have to love him. In this newest book, he steals author Melanie Watt's writing supplies and attempts to write a book without her. With red marker in hand, Chester claims to need no help from Melanie Watt. I love that we have learned what to expect from Chester. If we've read his other books, it is fun to see how these predictable things play out in this newest book. The kids were so happy to see a new Chester book. And it was more fun to read aloud than I had imagined.

    Wednesday, April 14, 2010

    Poem #14--After the Concert

    From across the gym,
    I see my student pick up
    his friend's little brother
    and start swinging him
    around and around.

    I step towards them
    to intervene
    change directions
    and head to the door.

    I'm off the clock.

    by Mary Lee Hahn, copyright 2010

    The Children's Baking Book

    I received a review copy of THE CHILDREN'S BAKING BOOK from Dorling Kindersley this week. I cannot keep enough kids' cookbooks in the library. The kids love them and they are often checked out. My challenge is finding cookbooks with things that kids can actually make on their own. At first glance, this one looked like a great one.

    Each recipe is on one two-page spread. The set-up of each spread is the same--a large photo of the item to be made, a list of ingredients and tools and step by step instructions paired with photos. There is also information for some recipe variations for each recipe. Recipes are usually 5-7 steps. The recipes are easy enough for kids to try but not so simple that they don't take some work. Included in the book are cookies, doughs, cakes and pastries. The first few pages give some tips on how to use the book and each section includes a section-specific page of tips. The directions are written simply and clearly and the photos help with the explanations.
    (The only thing that is a little tricky is the fancy cursive font used in the ingredients and tools list.)

    I gave the cookbook to my 10 year old last night. She woke up this morning wanting to bake. We told her that she needed to pick something she could do on her own. She has never baked anything completely on her own but she bakes with me once in a while and she has attended some great baking camps at our local bakery, OUR CUPCAKERY. So, she has a bit of experience. When she began putting sticky notes on all of the recipes she wanted to try, we laughed--there were more marked than unmarked. And I had to agree--there were many recipes that I want to try. These are definitely recipes meant for people of all ages.

    Ana chose to make "Simple Sponge Cake". We agreed on the recipe but I knew she would need a bit of help. As I said, the directions are simple, but not easy. Patience in waiting for the cake to cool before she could add the filling was the biggest problem she had. Really, I didn't have to help much at all. Measuring the butter, and a few little things were all that were needed. And the cake was beautiful and delicious! (But I must admit, I didn't let her use my new mixer...)

    I love this cookbook. I think I am going to have to purchase another one so that we have one at home and we have one in the library for the kids at school. I think Ana will be making lots of the recipes in the book and I feel confident that she can do them on her own AND they'll be things we can all enjoy. If I can talk her into the pizza dough, maybe she can start making dinner once in a while.

    This is a great book. Great recipes and she knew that she made something good--not a little kid recipe. She worked hard but made something that we all enjoyed. Enough sophistication to the recipes with enough support for kids her age to be able to be successful. A perfect combination!

    Tuesday, April 13, 2010

    Poem #13--Definito

    I never intended for my students to write a poem a day with me, but one student's idea took hold: we're writing a poem a day about each other.

    Each day, we draw a name and everyone writes a poem about that person. That person writes a poem about me.

    At the end of the year, we'll have a book of poems about all the members of the class. A collection of memories. Handmade heartfelt gifts to each other.

    I've taught a few short forms so far: 15 Words or Less, Haiku, Limerick, Acrostic, Chain, and Free Verse. 6 forms; 6 tools in their poetry-writing toolbox. Today, after a discussion of line breaks in Free Verse, one student asked if he had to write in the form I taught. "Of course not!" I replied. "Pick the form that works for what you want to say!" And that student went off and wrote a fabulous acrostic that captured the essence of his friend.

    Here's a new form for me, and one I might teach my students -- the Definito. Heidi Mordhorst invented this form back in November. It has 10 lines in 3 stanzas -- 4 lines, 4 lines, and 2 lines, ending in the word being defined.

    I had blood drawn today, which is a tricky proposition since only one arm can be used, and the key vein in that arm endured chemotherapy 12 years (YAY!) ago. Only the best phlebotomists are successful drawing blood from me. Today's phlebotomist was a real pro, and this poem is his definition of what makes a true phlebotomist.

    It's about the needle
    and it's about the tourniquet.
    It's about the alcohol
    and it's about the tap-tap-tap on the vein.

    It's the difference between
    drawing blood as a PART of your job
    and drawing blood
    AS your job.


    Mirror Mirror by Marilyn Singer

    I am totally fascinated by Marilyn Singer's new book MIRROR MIRROR. I love any book that takes a new twist on fairy tales. That is the first thing that drew me to this book. I was excited to find a book that looked at two sides of some of our favorite stories--and through poetry at that.

    But, when I actually sat down with the book, I was blown away. Really, who can do this kind of writing? Marilyn Singer is brilliant. Not only does Marilyn Singer think about two sides of a fairy tale. Not only does she do this with poetry. But, she ALSO does them in reversible verse. Each poem is written to be read top to bottom. Then it is rewritten from bottom to top, which gives it a whole new meaning. The book flap says, "Once upon a time, Marilyn Singer wrote a poem that could be read both up and down so that it would have different meanings in each direction. Then she challenged herself to a game--could she write more poems like it?" She must have been pretty darn impressed with herself when she finished this book.

    Really, this book is quite fun. I can't imagine the process that Marilyn Singer went through to create these poems. A fun challenge for a poet. (I was going to challenge Mary Lee to write a reversible poem as part of her April challenge as a joke but she actually already did:-)

    I think this is a great book for every classroom and library. Kids who love fairy tales will love it. It is great as part of a poetry collection. And what an amazing mentor text--wondering how someone thinks of these things. The joy in playing with words. So many possibilities!

    Monday, April 12, 2010

    Poem #12--On the Way Home From School

    On the way home from school
    I drove past
    a very recent car accident.
    Pieces of bumper
    were scattered
    in the intersection.
    A bicycle lay on its side
    but the cyclist seemed
    in better condition than
    the driver of the
    mangled car.
    Emergency vehicles were not there yet
    but lots of people were
    milling about.

    I drove slowly past
    thinking about how quickly
    a life can change.

    Thinking about driving home
    to my college dorm
    after a day of student teaching.
    Driving the
    bright green
    Chevy Monza
    my dad named Kermit.
    Working on memorizing a poem
    as I drove.
    at the 4-way stop at the top of the hill.
    Stopping before the last line of the poem.
    Saying out loud,
    "I have wasted my life" *
    and looking up to see
    the other car
    running through the stop
    smashing my driver's side door
    changing my life

    I no longer memorize poetry
    while I drive.

    by Mary Lee Hahn, copyright 2010

    * Dang. I can't find (or remember) the poem I was trying to memorize. Seems like it had the word Minnesota in it, and the speaker was lounging in a hammock. Sound familiar? I'll keep looking...

    I FOUND IT!!!

    Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota

    Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
    Asleep on the black trunk,
    blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
    Down the ravine behind the empty house,
    The cowbells follow one another
    Into the distances of the afternoon.
    To my right,
    In a field of sunlight between two pines,
    The droppings of last year's horses
    Blaze up into golden stones.
    I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
    A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
    I have wasted my life.

    James Wright

    COUNTDOWN (The Sixties Trilogy)

    Because I am a HUGE Deborah Wiles fan, I had to have an ARC of her new book, COUNTDOWN. I have been reading so much about it and once it ended up on Betsy's very early Newbery prediction list at Fuse #8, I knew I had to have it. So, Sally at Cover to Cover let the Central Ohio begging blogger group borrow her copy. Even though I don't want to let it go because I LOVE it, I will be passing it along to Bill at Literate Lives tomorrow. I hate the fact that I'll have a few weeks without the book.

    This book takes place in the early 1960s, during the Cuban Missile Crisis. And although the setting and history are critical to the story, the real story is about Franny and her family. (It isn't often that I read a book with a main character named Frances, either!). As we have come to expect from Wiles, the characters are the best. Such amazing characters. Such amazing relationships and such real issues.

    The brilliance in this book is the way that Wiles embedded primary source documents throughout the story of Franny. She embedded real words, photos, and more at the perfect point in the story. When I first looked through the book, I thought they might be distracting but they are placed perfectly and the pieces she's chosen help you understand exactly what the characters are going through and what those days felt like to people living through it. It is really brilliant. I didn't know much about the Cuban Missile Crisis but my thinking is that if our kids could learn history in this way, it would make so much more sense.

    This book is up there as one of my favorite books of all time. If I were in a 5th or 6th grade classroom, it would definitely be on my read aloud list.

    There is so much to love about the books. For me, as always, it was primarily a great story about great characters that I came to love. But the brilliance in craft was key. The documentary style pieces helped to create an understanding that readers could not have done otherwise.

    The even better news than the fact that this is an amazing book is that I read that it is the first in a trilogy about the 60s. I just can't wait.

    Really, this is a must, must, must read. I can so understand why Betsy included it on her Newbery list so early in the year. I am not alone in my love for this book. It has already received 3 starred reviews (Kirkus, Booklist, and the Hornbook)!!! And Monica at Educating Alice gave it a great review on her blog too. Really, go preorder one right now.

    Sunday, April 11, 2010

    Poem #11 -- Sunday Night Inertia

    Bees have no problem
    Leaving work for tomorrow.
    Tonight I'm a bee.

    by Mary Lee Hahn, copyright 2010

    Poetry and the SMART Board--Part 2

    We had a great time with Poetry and the SMART Board with 1st Graders today. One of my favorite books for young children (and everyone else) is TANKA TANKA SKUNK! by Steve Webb. This book is great fun--it invites word play and chanting. The kids love to chant and clap along to the rhythm of the words. Since I only have a short time with the kids, the things we do are quick. We read TANKA TANKA SKUNK! which they already love. Then we used the SMART Board and sorted the students names into 1, 2 and 3 syllable columns. Each name immediately became an object that we could move around the board.

    Because there are so many repeated words in TANKA TANKA SKUNK!, I taught the kids to duplicate and we wrote our own versions of a piece of the chant. A new chant that followed the rhythm of their favorite page. We used students' names--plugging them in where they would work to meet the rhythm. The kids had a ball and it was interesting to see kids enter at different places. For some kids, syllabication is just starting to make sense. For others, they loved the challenge of figuring out all of the possibilities for filling in a spot in the chant.

    Again, I left the board filled with names available during choice time in the library. Kids had a great time using the names to create their own rhythms using TANKA TANKA SKUNK! as a model.

    Now it is time to find other ways to increase the power of these shared reading experiences with the SMART Board. As these words and illustrations become movable objects, kids can do such amazing works using the SMARTBoard as a tool. Again, the power really came when the kids were using the board without me. After I model a few options for them to begin, I can see them using it in lots of ways during choice time in the library.

    Saturday, April 10, 2010

    Poem #10 -- Life Lesson

    Be careful when
    indulging in

    The Universe
    is more than glad
    to give a new

    A hole in your
    hot water tank...
    now there's a REAL

    photo and poem by Mary Lee Hahn, copyright 2010

    I played with rhythm today.
    Seemed appropriate since the hot water tank played with the rhythm of my LIFE.

    Poetry and the SMART Board

    We are getting ready to have the SMART Board in the library moved to a different location so we haven't used it much. But this week, the 2nd and 3rd graders used it for Poetry Writing and revision. What a powerful tool for Writing Workshop. I can see the possibilities of a SMART Board in a workshop classroom.

    Today, I taught a lesson similar to lessons I've taught before. I think I originally got the idea from Georgia Heard, author of FOR THE GOOD OF EARTH AND SUN. She suggests a collaborative poem and I have always found the lesson to be a powerful one--one that really moved kids in their poetry writing strategies. This is a whole group lesson in which everyone contributes a line or phrase about something that is common--the morning, a tree, an experience--something that everyone can write about. You can get the phrases in several ways. Everyone can write a bit about the topic and then choose a line they love. Or they can just brainstorm lines. There are several ways. Following the sharing of lines, everyone can use the common language to create a poem. It is always amazing how different each poem is when they all come from the same list of words.

    Well, the SMART Board made this lesson far more powerful than it's ever been. Taught so much about poetry but also gave such great messages about revision and playing with language. One group wrote about our school's courtyard. We looked at it for a while and came up with phrases of things we noticed. Anyone who had a line to contribute to the SMART Board did so. I typed them as kids shared. One class came up with this list:

    benches waiting for people
    the trees are moving all around
    a nest in a tree is in a battle for life or death
    bushes barely moving
    there is a birdhouse
    shrubs weeping
    tulips peeking
    I saw a splash of pink and yellow
    red, yellow, pink
    the tree is waving hi

    We then played with the lines, combining them in different ways to create different poems. Since each line automatically became a text box, I typed the lines on the left side of the board. They could be easily dragged over to the right side in any order, thus creating a poem. The end poem that this class came up with, using these words as an anchor was:


    the trees are moving all around
    bushes barely moving
    splashes of green
    shrubs weeping
    tulips peeking

    This whole lesson took less than 15 minutes.

    My favorite part was the work that happened after the lesson. I left the page up with the lines available for students who wanted to play with the words a bit more. About 4-5 kids per class (many from our SMART Board Team) chose to continue the work with poetry on the SMART Board. They discovered more about spacing, white space, adding and deleting words, etc. One group decided to begin a whole new poem--using the colored markers to add new phrases. The SMART Board allowed for great revision play and word play--which is exactly how we want writing to feel. This lesson is an old one and the use of the SMART Board was nothing that exciting. But the tool did invite some amazing collaboration and because I have taught similar lessons many, many times over the year, I was amazed at how the use of the SMART Board really lifted the level of collaboration as well as the willingness to play with the language to create something new. And, in the process, they also learned so much about the workings of the Board itself--the problem solving was fun to watch as they discovered new things and gave things a try.