Monday, February 28, 2011

Who's Going to Put This in the Dictionary?

(click the image to get a larger, clearer view)

This was an unsolicited-by-me blog post on one of my students' blogs...on our snow day Friday!!


Sunday, February 27, 2011


It feels like I've reached a summit of sorts!

Flickr creative commons photo by Dru!

But if I'm at the summit, that means the next bit is all downhill, right?  Wrong!

Maybe I'm just on a narrow ledge where I can hold on for a minute and breathe and gather my strength for the next part of the climb.

Flickr creative commons photo by John and Belinda

Franki's really good about going public with her personal learning, reading, exercise and balance challenges, so I'm going to put my to-do list out there in the world in the hopes that going public will help me get it all accomplished!

These first few are a result of the Dublin Literacy Conference:

Inspired by Patrick Allen
•re-read CHOICE WORDS by Peter Johnston
•take his double-dog dare to record all of my reading conferences for a week, then listen to them and really work on getting better at conferring 

Inspired by Kelly Gallagher
•celebrate that the "pool" my readers "swim" in is full to the brim with books 
•keep a tight hold on my students' independent reading time -- don't compromise it; don't let it go
•don't underteach books

Inspired by Brian Pinkney
•give my students more small music, rhythm and movement breaks

Inspired by Saturday night dinner conversations
•keep playing Words With Friends -- I'm better than some and not as good as others, but it's all good
•don't wait so long to get help when I'm stuck on a level of Angry Birds

Other goals include...

Get back in the exercise routine.
√ Went to water aerobics today.

Get back to blog reading and writing.
√ I give myself permission to ease into this a little at a time.
√ I started by reading 10 blogs on this week's Poetry Friday Roundup. 

Maintain Twitter stamina.
√ There's great stuff there. Did you see this blog post "Angry Birds: A Lesson in Assessment FOR Learning" and this one about Angry Birds and Instruction?

Grade that blasted stack of papers TODAY since the end of the trimester is tomorrow.
√ I'll get started on those as soon as I hit the publish button. 

Pay attention to the change of seasons. 
√ "And since to look at things in bloom/Fifty springs are little room/About the woodlands I will go/To see the cherry hung with snow." (A.E. Houseman)
√ Drove home from the health club with the top open. 54 degrees. Sun. Hard to believe we had a snow day on Friday.
√ Across-the-street neighbors' snowdrops are blooming.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dublin Literacy Conference Slides

Below are my slides from my session at the Dublin Literacy Conference.

How Can Tools of Technology Impact the Reading Workshop?

Friday, February 25, 2011

There Is No Frigate Like A Book

Emily Dickinson (1830–86). Complete Poems. 1924.

Part One: Life

THERE is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.

This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul.

2011 NCTE Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts
Complete list here

Sara has the Poetry Friday Roundup today at Read Write Believe.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

ANNOUNCING!! 2011 NCTE Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts

2011 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts

Angleberger, Tom. (2010). The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. New York: Abrams.

Appelt, Kathi. (2010). Keeper. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Aronson, Marc and Budhos, Marina. (2010). Sugar Changed the World: A Story of Magic, Spice, Slavery, Freedom, and Science. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Baker, Keith. LMNO Peas. (2010). New York: Simon & Schuster.

Bond, Victoria and Simon, T.R. (2010). Zora and Me.  Somerville, MA: Candlewick.

Burns, Loree Griffin. (2010).  The Hive Detectives: Chronicle of a Honey Bee Catastrophe. Illustrated by Ellen Harasimowicz. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Cushman, Karen. (2010). Alchemy and Meggy Swann. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Draper, Sharon M. (2010). Out of My Mind. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Elya, Susan Middleton. (2010). Rubia and the Three Osos. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. New York: Disney*Hyperion.

Fleming, Candace. (2010). Clever Jack Takes the Cake. Illustrated by G. Brian Karas. New York: Random House.

Fox, Karen C. (2010). Older Than the Stars. Illustrated by Nancy Davis. Watertown, MA: Charlesbridge.

Gidwitz, Adam. (2010). A Tale Dark and Grimm. New York: Penguin.

Golio, Gary. (2010). Jimi Sounds Like a Rainbow: A Story of the Young Jimi Hendrix. Illustrated by Javaka Steptoe. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Kerley, Barbara. (2010). The Extraordinary Mark Twain (According to Susy). Illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham. New York: Scholastic.

Mazer, Anne and Potter, Ellen. (2010). Spilling Ink: A Young Writer’s Handbook. Illustrated by Matt Phelan. New York: Roaring Brook Press.

Raczka, Bob. (2010). Guyku: A Year of Haiku for Boys. Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Raschka, Chris. (2010).  Hip Hop Dog. Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky. New York: HarperCollins.

Reynolds, Peter H. and FableVision Studios; Emerson, Sharon. (2010).  Zebrafish. Illustrated by Renée Kurilla. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Riley, James. (2010). Half Upon a Time. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Ryan, Pam Muñoz. (2010). The Dreamer. Illustrated by Peter Sis. New York: Scholastic.

Sidman, Joyce. (2010). Dark Emperor & Other Poems of the Night.  Illustrated by Rick Allen. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Sidman, Joyce. (2010). Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors. Illustrated by Beckie Prange. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Singer, Marilyn. (2010). Mirror Mirror: A Book of Reversible Verse. Illustrated by Josée Masse. New York: Penguin.

Underwood, Deborah. (2010). The Quiet Book. Illustrated by Renata Liwska. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Viorst, Judith. (2010). Lulu and the Brontosaurus. Illustrated by Lane Smith. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Wiles, Deborah. (2010). Countdown. New York: Scholastic.

Willems, Mo. (2010). City Dog, Country Frog. Illustrated by Jon J. Muth. New York: Disnney*Hyperion.

Willems, Mo. (2010). We Are in a Book! New York: Disney*Hyperion.

Williams-Garcia, Rita. (2010). One Crazy Summer. New York: HarperCollins.

Winter, Jeanette. (2010). Biblioburro: A True Story from Colombia. New York: Simon & Schuster.

NCBLA 2011 Committee:  Mary Lee Hahn—Chair
April Bedford, Mary Napoli, Donalyn Miller, 
Nancy Roser, Tracy Smiles, Yoo Kyung Sung
Janelle Mathis—Past Chair

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

OKAY FOR NOW by Gary Schmidt

Okay for NowCan I tell you right off how much I LOVED LOVED LOVED OKAY FOR NOW by Gary Schmidt. I loved every word of this book. I was hooked in the first few pages and loved it more and more as the book went on.

The story is about Doug Sweiteck who is having a tough time of things. His father (who is not so nice to him or any of his brothers) loses his job so moves the family to a new town. Doug isn't happy and has trouble making friends. His older bother is a trouble-maker and his reputation seems to impact the expectations people have for Doug too. His oldest brother is in the Vietnam War but returns home injured. Life at home is not good for Doug.

The good news is that Doug finds some people who learn to trust and believe in him for who he is. This is a story of art and survival. It is a story of friendship and resilience. It is a story of hope and of suffering. The people in Doug's life are very believable. Many are teachers and librarians. Many would make our "COOL TEACHERS IN CHILDREN'S LITERATURE" list (although many might not...).

The author is amazing at weaving together many themes in a way that give a great amount of depth to Doug's story. I am hoping to reread it soon to read for these threads that Schmidt weaves through the entire book.

I think the thing I love best about this book is the character's voice. He is a character I care deeply about and one who I am pretty sure will stay with me for a very long time. He is complex and very human.

I think this book is a good one for grades 5 and up. It is marketed as YA in some places but it seems between middle grade and YA to me.

When I sat down after finishing the book, I realized how brilliant the title is. I LOVED the WEDNESDAY WARS but I LOVED LOVED LOVED this one. I am already hoping it wins some prize for 2011. (This is the first book I have dared to say this about in 2011!)

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Made to Make a Difference--Inspired by Amy Krouse Rosenthal

We are busy at school getting ready for Amy Krouse Rosenthal to visit our school on Friday. The whole school is very excited and we have all really taken to her work. I have been involved in school author visits for over 20 years and it is always fun to see kids excited about the author and the books.

If you have been teaching for a while, you remember author visits of the 80s where we decorated every bit of the school and spent months and months doing book "extensions'. The building looked great and the visit was quite an event. But we sometimes went overboard a bit and often the work we did to get ready didn't  really tie into curriculum as well as it could have.  Then we died down for a while-realizing we went a bit crazy- and there were a few years where the students hardly knew about the author who was coming to visit.

This year's visit seems to be the perfect way to get ready for an author visit. Our kids are excited. Everyone in the school knows her books and her videos. Our amazing art teacher, Drew Jones has planned the entire annual Art Show around art inspired by Amy Krouse Rosenthal (either her books or her video.) It was such a great connection--since her website defines her as "a person who likes to make things". We took this idea of making things and ran with it. I will share more details around the art projects that will be part of the art show later in the week, but today I wanted to share a yearlong project that our 4th graders have been working on that will culminate at the Art Show.

The project is called "MADE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE"  --a name that was created by one of our fourth graders.  When we learned that Amy Krouse Rosenthal would be visiting, we worked to figure out how to integrate social studies, language arts, media literacy and art standards to create a project that would be worthwhile for the students.  I have been involved in Make a Difference projects before and they each take on a different angle.  This project incorporated things we had done in the past along with new things that evolved as we went along. We have been having a ball.

This project began with two of Amy's videos--17 Things I Made and The Beckoning of Lovely.  These started great conversations about things we make and ways to make the world a better place.  We started the year with Heart Maps. In art, students spent time thinking about things they cared about --things they were passionate about.  Students had a choice about how to create the heart map and these started lots of conversations about the issues we cared about --those both close to home and those that are more global.

Linda Kick talked to students about
her business and ways she tries to
make a difference.
Throughout the year, we've tied in the idea of making a difference.  The citizenship goals were a key for us. We didn't want our students to collect money for a charity that we, the adults chose. Instead, we wanted them to think about issues they cared about and how they could make a difference.  As part of this thread, teachers read great picture book biographies of people from history who made a difference in their own way. We also shared sites about kids who make a difference such as Hannah's Socks. We hosted local speakers who shared ways that they made a difference using their passions and interests. Melissa Hoover, a local landscape artist, talked to the students about her business as well as her volunteer work on community gardens.  Linda Kick, owner of a local cupcakery, shared the ways she uses her baking to make a difference such as the upcoming Purple Cupcake Day.  And Nathan Eckhart shared the work he did on a trip with Tom's Shoes for a shoe and skateboard drop in Africa.  Our goal was not for our kids to learn specifically about these causes, but instead to start paying attention to the world around them, their families and friends, and the things that they cared deeply about.  In the midst of this, they learned a great deal about research, nonfiction reading, skimming and scanning, and more.
Candy Rings made by a 4th Grader

In January, students started brainstorming things they could make to sell at a fair to make a difference.  We shared many craft books and asked students to pay attention to things they love to  make. The plan was to have a sale to sell these handmade items to support a cause.  At about the same time, we worked with kids to begin researching nonprofit organizations that connected in some way to the things that were important to them. This involved more online reading and research work that we had originally anticipated and we learned a lot about the skills our students have and still need. Students were amazing at the work they did to learn about different organizations out there.
A Stress Buddy made by a 4th Grader

So, we have been busy "making things to make a difference." As part of the social studies economics study, students have learned about production, profit, and more.  Students have committed to making 30 of an item to sell at our Art Show on Thursday. These items range from "Stress Buddies" to bookmarks, to masks,  They are all creative and I think they will sell well. Each child will set up a "booth" with a sign telling about where the money from their sale will go and why they chose the charity they did.  Students were very thoughtful about where their money would go. The list of charities that this sale will support is amazing.

Along with the item a customer purchases, the customer will also receive instructions on how to make the item at home.  Students worked on Pages, after studying good how-to writing, and created a one-page sheet with explicit steps on how to make the item.  We felt that buyers might be interested in making the items at home.

We are excited about the project.  Needless to say, we are all feeling a little bit of deadline stress this week, but we know that the learning has been incredible for our students.

A local newspaper summarizes the project here if you are interested.

Monday, February 21, 2011


The Good Neighbor Cookbook: 125 Easy and Delicious Recipes to Surprise and Satisfy the New Moms, New Neighbors, Recuperating Friends, ... Cohorts and Block Party Pals in Your Life!Reviewing a cookbook before I have tried a recipe doesn't seem quite right. But I figure if I am honest about it here at the beginning, you can decide whether you want to check out this book or not.

As many of you know, I have been working hard on balance.  I started 2011 off with Things I Am Thinking About for This Year and many of those included balance. I have also added exercise back into my life and was happy to read RUN LIKE A MOTHER and to learn that fitting exercise is hard for everyone.    From the comments I've received on these posts, it seems many of us constantly struggle with balance. It is an ongoing goal. I am also trying to be nicer--a better person. So, I was interested in THE GOOD NEIGHBOR COOKBOOK when I heard about it a few weeks ago. The book is filled with 125 recipes to cook for others--for new mothers, new neighbors and friends who are ill. It also includes recipes for social events such as block parties and book clubs.

Like the authors in the book, I have a few staple meals and items that I take to others when needed. They are fine recipes but not always quite right and a little boring for me after a while. This book is divided into sections based on events. The premise is that you might bring different things to a new mom than you would a recuperating friend. A few page intro at the beginning of each section helps explain the thinking behind the choices. For example, a few "flavorful but not overpowering" meals that are good for friends going through chemotherapy. Dishes that "travel well" for block parties, etc. These authors have really thought through things beyond just sharing recipes.

I don't often like cookbooks without photos.  I like to see what it is I am making--what it is supposed to look like.  But, this one doesn't have photos and I still like it. Here is why: the recipes seem simple enough and are explained well enough, that I don't think I need a picture. They are interesting recipes--not your same-old recipes, but they are simple, not too complicated.

I do go into phases like this. A few years ago, when I was in a balancing mood, I purchased a book at a Southern Living party called CHRISTMAS GIFTS FROM THE KITCHEN.  My friends (you know who you are...) laughed at me, at this vision I had for myself. But I must say, 2-3 of my favorite staple recipes have come from that book and they are always a hit. I feel like this new book might be the same for me. One I can go back to for years and find a recipe here and there to add to my usuals.

As of now, there are several recipes I'd like to try--of course I will try any recipe before I give it to a friend. Here are the first few I hope to try:

Creamy Tomato Baked Ravioli and Spinach
Brown Butter Blueberry Muffins
Barbecue Spiced Chicken with Southwestern Slaw
Crustless Spinach Quiche
Cold Sesame Noodle Salad
Peanut Crunch Cookies

The authors of this book also have a great blog that you'll want to check out. I read it for a few weeks before I decided that I must have this book. The blog is filled with recipes, stories and more. You can read more about the authors here too.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Poetry Friday -- Thinking Outside the Box

This afternoon
in my grade level meeting
I must be prepared to
"think outside the box."

Right now
I'm remembering
the painstaking effort it took
to get in the box
in the first place.

Will there be applause
when we emerge?
Will the applause gratify us
the way the gasps of disbelief did
when we tucked our
last body

Mary Ann has the Poetry Friday roundup today at Great Kid Books.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Six Sheep Sip Thick Shakes: And Other Tricky Tongue Twisters (Exceptional Reading & Language Arts Titles for Primary Grades)I picked up a copy of SIX SHEEP SIP THICK SHAKES AND OTHER TRICKY TONGUE TWISTERS by Brian P. Cleary at Cover to Cover last week. It is filled with fun tongue twisters.  The matching illustrations add to the fun.  This would be a great book just for fun or a great book to have to invite students to play with words as part of word study.

The tongue twisters are silly, as tongue twisters are.  My favorite from this book is, "Fred frowned and fled frantically when he found the flounder in his bed."  Try saying that one 3 times!

One of my favorite parts about this book is the last page.  The author invites readers to write their own tongue twisters. I love that the author explains how tongue twisters work and then give kids specific sound combinations that make effective tongue twisters.  I love how much support this gives kids in trying to create tongue twisters on their own.  I think lots of kids will have fun with this one!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

THE BEST BIRTHDAY EVER by Charise Mercile Harper

The Best Birthday Ever! By Me (Lana Kittie) (with help from Charise Harper)I LOVE LOVE LOVE this new book, THE BEST BIRTHDAY EVER by Charise Mericle Harper.  As you know, we are busy with a How-To Writing Unit this month so I have been on the lookout for good how-to books. Many of the books we used to study how-to writing included single pages of how-to writing.  So, when Beth at Cover to Cover showed me this book, I bought it right away.  It was great how-to writing in picture book form.

If you know this author, you know that her books have a sense of humor and a lot of wit.  This is the case with THE BEST BIRTHDAY EVER.  The character in the book tells the reader how to have a party. Each page focuses on one aspect of the party.  Instructions include information on the birthday invitation, the birthday outfit ("On your birthday, no one should be the boss of your fashion, except you!"), welcoming party guests and more.  The illustrations add to the fun with labels and descriptions.

At the end of the book, there is an additional page--"How To Make a Birthday Crown" with steps to make a great crown (options included.)

This is a great book. There are so many possibilities. I love it for many ages.  As I mentioned before, I picked it up because it was a fun how-to book. This book is a great model for how-to writing. It has everything you want to make how-to writing effective. But it would also make a good read aloud and a great book for independent reading.  So much creative thinking can come from spending time with this book. Love it!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Making Stuff

Like many of us, I am worried that students are no longer creating enough in schools. I think life is all about making stuff and it is one of the joys in life. And it is one of the most powerful ways to learn.

This year, we are hosting author Amy Krouse Rosenthal at the Dublin Literacy Conference. She is also our visiting author at Riverside Elementary.  We are so looking forward to her visit next week. The kids have fallen in love with her books and with her life's work.  We have spent lots of time with her books but we've also spent time with her videos.  Amy's work is the basis for our schoolwide Art Show and kids are making great things.

One of Amy's videos that inspired us was her video "17 Things I Made". All of the classes in our school have watched this video and have been invited to think about the things they make.

We invited our students and families to contribute to a school-wide wall called "THINGS WE MAKE" to celebrate all that we make.  One of the things I remember clearly from reading Shelley Harwayne's brilliant book, GOING PUBLIC years ago, was the way she used the walls of the Manhattan New School to start important conversations and to build relationships.  We decided that this video gave us the perfect opportunity to use the space in a similar way and to celebrate all the things we make.  We know that our students and families make wonderful things and that they are all so creative. So, our amazing art teacher created a wall in our school entrance and asked students to share the things they made.  Over the last few weeks, the wall has been filling up with "Things We Make". It is fun to see the things that everyone makes --from waffles to paper airplanes to music. But I think the true power is in the conversations that are beginning because of the wall. Our students are interested in what others make--in their talents and passions.  As the wall grows, the conversations grow.

Our "Things We Make" Celebration

I have always believed in the power of making stuff.  I think our wall is one step in letting our students know how much we, as a school community, value the things they make and the creative ways in which they think. But I think for it to be truly powerful, we need to make it more than that. It needs to be a part of the way our students learn every day.

 I was fortunate enough to listen to  Laura Deisley from the Lovett School speak at Educon on "Why Making Stuff Matters". She presented a Encienda, a 20 slide, 5 minute presentation on the topic.  She has graciously shared it on her blog with more of her thinking on the topic.  Below is the Laura Deisley's slideshare from Educon.

EduCon 2.3: Why Making Stuff Matters
View more presentations from lauradeisley.

I would also suggest that you read Laura's post on Masterful Learning to get a vision of what is possible when students are in an environment of questioning, problem solving and creating.

It seems like so many people are talking about the power of making  stuff these days. I am hoping that the conversations continue and that we continue to share the things our students make and the impact it has on their learning lives.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy CYBILS Day!

Valentine's Day is the day that the CYBILS (Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards)  are announced.  If you have not had a chance to look at the finalists, you can find them here at Wild Rose Reader.  I always love when the finalists come out. The lists are always amazing and I always find a few books in categories that I am not so good in.  I love finding the great books that I missed during the year. The finalists lists always keep me busy for much of January!

This year, I served as a judge on the Nonfiction Picture Book group.  It was a great experience as always and I was able to work with great people and really focus my reading on nonfiction picture books.

This year's winners have been announced on the CYBILS site and I imagine that there are many, many posts about them around the blogs.

Enjoy reading about all the great CYBILS winners!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Good-by and Keep Cold

Good-by and Keep Cold

by Robert Frost
(From Harper’s Magazine, July 1920)

THIS saying good-by on the edge of the dark
And cold to an orchard so young in the bark
Reminds me of all that can happen to harm
An orchard away at the end of the farm
All winter, cut off by a hill from the house.
I don’t want it girdled by rabbit and mouse,
I don’t want it dreamily nibbled for browse
By deer, and I don’t want it budded by grouse.
(If certain it wouldn’t be idle to call
I’d summon grouse, rabbit, and deer to the wall
And warn them away with a stick for a gun.)
I don’t want it stirred by the heat of the sun.
(We made it secure against being, I hope,
By setting it out on a northerly slope.)
No orchard’s the worse for the wintriest storm;
But one thing about it, it mustn’t get warm.
“How often already you’ve had to be told,
Keep cold, young orchard. Good-by and keep cold.
Dread fifty above more than fifty below.” 

I have to be gone for a season or so.
My business awhile is with different trees,
Less carefully nourished, less fruitful than these,
And such as is done to their wood with an ax—
Maples and birches and tamaracks.
I wish I could promise to lie in the night
And think of an orchard’s arboreal plight
When slowly (and nobody comes with a light)
Its heart sinks lower under the sod.
But something has to be left to God.

I am not an orchard. I am MORE THAN READY for fifty above. Bring it on, Spring, bring it on.

You can buy a $.99 mp3 file of Lesley Frost reading this poem. Lesley Frost was the second child of Robert and Elinor Frost.

The Poetry Friday Roundup is hosted this week by Carol at Rasco from RIF.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

ICE by Arthur Geisert

Ice (Stories Without Words)
Ice (Stories Without Words)
by Arthur Geisert
Enchanted Lion Books, March 1, 2011
review copy provided by the publisher

It's hard to remember what it's like to be so hot that you would devise a plan to make a combination airship/sailboat to sail across the world to nab an iceberg and tow it back home, but that's just what Arthur Geisert's trademark pigs do. They bring it home, chop it in to big ice cubes and cool down.

At the end of the story, we leave the pigs, once again gathered around the table where they hatched the iceberg plan (but with the fan blowing a cool breeze over a block of ice) and we wonder...what kind of plan will they hatch next?

Did I mention? This is a wordless book, the second title in Enchanted Lion's Stories Without Words series. The publisher suggests that this book would make a good read aloud, and I do love to read (silently) aloud wordless picture books, but the pictures are so small and detailed on this one that it would probably work best as a "read in the lap" or a "small group of students reads it to each other as the teacher peeks over their shoulders to unobtrusively observe" kind of book.

Definitely one for my "Wordless Picture Books" tub, and I know just the ELL that I'll hand it to first thing in the morning!

Here's another review by Travis at 100 Scope Notes.

Monday, February 07, 2011


Run Like a Mother: How to Get Moving--and Not Lose Your Family, Job, or SanityI just finished the book RUN LIKE A MOTHER:  HOW TO GET MOVING AND NOT LOSE YOUR FAMILY by Sarah Bowen Shea and Dimity McDowell.  I read this book on my Kindle while on the exercise bike over the last few weeks. I had forgotten how I'd ever found this book but then remembered that Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning had recommended it.  I am sure many of you are surprised that I read this book. Probably because it is obvious that I am not a runner. But I have actually read a lot of running books and self-help books are always a part of my January reading.  I read THE COURAGE TO START by John "The Penguin" Bingham a few years ago.  And I've read several issues of Runner's World.  Deep down, I must want to be a runner. My friends are amused that it is so like me to READ about running instead of actually becoming a runner.

I LOVED this book.  Yes, I would love to run. And yes, this book got me through the worst first weeks of exercise while pathetically out of shape. But I loved this book because it was about moms trying to balance their lives.  Moms trying to take care of themselves and their families. Moms who had a passion that is so much a part of their identity, that they can't not fit it into their lives. These moms just happen to be passionate about running.

I have had many years of being in and out of shape lately. I was an 80s aerobics girl and loved it--I loved the music, the outfits and the fun. In the last 10-12 years, I have gone in and out of shape-mostly out.  I did have a year or so of boot camp, that if you have followed my writing for long, you know about.    I did okay for a while and even learned a bit about struggling readers in the process.  But work or writing or  something got in the way.

What I realized when reading this book was that work is my passion--the teaching, the reading, the writing, all of it. And just as people ask the authors of RUN LIKE A MOTHER how they fit in marathon running, people often ask me how I fit in writing, consulting, etc.  I am never quite sure how I fit it all in but it is so much of my identity and so much of what I believe in, that not fitting it in has never really been an option.

BUT, I would like to be more balanced and this book has really helped me with that. Because I realized it isn't easy for anyone to fit in exercise. I realized that even for these marathon runners, it is work to keep going. I found that these two authors are passionate about their work AND about their running and even though it is somewhat connected, they don't jump out of bed every morning excited to run.  These are moms who are sometimes tired, who try to do it all, and who keep going.

And they are real moms. You can tell because they quote things like "If You Give a Mouse a Cookie". And they don't trust Hollywood stars who run in the same ways we don't trust Hollywood stars who write children's books.  And they like food.  One of my favorite lines in the book was, "As much as I love my husband and kids, what I really live for are carbohydrates." Really, how could you not love these girls.

So, this book has been monumental for me--the book I needed at exactly the right moment. I read it while on the exercise bike--starting an exercise routine in the worst shape I've ever been in. And this book got me through those 4 weeks. I only read it on the bike and their stories kept me going when it was not easy. Because I realized, it is never easy. For anyone.

Being a working mother is hard. Being a balanced working mother is harder. I don't know if I will ever run anywhere other than my treadmill, but I have a new sense of things after reading a book by these amazing runners, who are so committed to running. I learned so much from them--not only about running but about cycles of life, friendship, commitment, the reality of trying to do it all. And they tell their story with such humor that I couldn't help but laugh out loud several times.

The good news is that this book is quite the bargain right now. I have no idea why. I had mine on my Kindle but know I will want to have a hard copy so I ordered one. I also ordered a few extras- just in case a friend needs a boost. And I was thrilled to find out that these two women have a blog--RUN LIKE A MOTHER. I have visited it often in the last 5 weeks and it to has kept me going. They have a "FOLLOW THIS MOTHER" feature, which I love--you learn about so many moms working to fit exercise and fitness into their lives too.

So, I discovered this book accidentally and it got me through the hardest part of getting back in shape--those first 5 weeks. This week marks the beginning of the 6th week of consistent exercise. I feel better and am pretty sure that the hardest part is behind me. Those first few weeks are always the worst. I also know though, that the cycles of life make it so there are always times that exercise doesn't fit in so nicely. That there are times when it isn't so easy. And I feel more ready for that.

This is a great read, especially for moms who want to run. But even if you don't have any desire to run, this book is about more than that. It is about balancing and fitting in your passions --fitting them into an already wonderful and full life. These women are my new heroes:-)

Sunday, February 06, 2011

Happy Belated Chinese New Year!

Kindergarten Day USA and China / Kindergarten Day China and USA: A Flip-Me-Over Book (Global Fund for Children Books)
Kindergarten Day USA and China
(A Flip-Me-Over Book)
by Trish Marx and Ellen B. Senisi
A Global Fund for Children Book
Charlesbreidge, 2010
review copy provided by the publisher

Jesse T. Zoller Elementary School is in Schenectady, New York. Little Oak Children's House is in Beijing, China. Kindergarten classes from both of these schools share this book.

Read from one side and you are in kindergarten in the United States: learning to read, coloring, eating lunch, playing with friends at recess, celebrating a birthday, and thinking about China while you practice telling time and look at the globe.

Flip the book over and you are in kindergarten in China: learning to read, coloring, eating lunch, playing with friends at recess, celebrating a birthday, and thinking about the United States while you use your fingers to count and look at a map of the world.

This is a great book for exploring similarities and differences, for comparing and contrasting, for thinking and understanding. It would be fun to do a kindergarten photo essay from lots of different kindergarten rooms in the same school district to see how different things are even when we think they are going to be more the same. What if we compared kindergarten in the city to kindergarten in a rural school? More the same, or more different?

And on the subject of photo essays, wouldn't it be fun to have kids bring in pictures of their bedrooms to compare and contrast? (You know you loved it when we shared pictures of our classrooms...but of course I can't find links to any of those posts...)

Friday, February 04, 2011

Poetry Friday -- Jazz

The chocolate tasting that was scheduled for last night was postponed, so we substituted a trip to Scotties for whatever live music was there. We were surprised by some good enough jazz, played by a band named Standard Time. 

There was no dance floor, the bassist was not tall and thin, and we didn't stay very late because it was a school night after all.  But it still made me think about Billy Collins' poem:

from Questions About Angels
by Billy Collins
(the whole poem is at Poetry Foundation...this is just the end)

The only question you ever hear is about
the little dance floor on the head of a pin
where halos are meant to converge and drift invisibly.

It is designed to make us think in millions,
billions, to make us run out of numbers and collapse
into infinity, but perhaps the answer is simply one:
one female angel dancing alone in her stocking feet,
a small jazz combo working in the background.

She sways like a branch in the wind, her beautiful
eyes closed, and the tall thin bassist leans over
to glance at his watch because she has been dancing
forever, and now it is very late, even for musicians.

The Poetry Friday roundup today is at Dori Reads. Dance on over and enjoy today's poetry offerings!

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this blog, a small portion will go to A Year of Reading (at no cost to you) so that we can buy more books. Thank you for your support!

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

EduCon 2.3--A Reflection

I am finally finding a few minutes to reflect on the past weekend at the Science Leadership Academy in Philadelphia.  Chris Lehmann (@chrislehmann) and the staff and students at SLA created an event that was energizing and inspiring.  Visiting Science Leadership Academy reminded me a little bit of the time I visited the Manhattan New School when Shelley Harwayne was principal.  I always learn so much from visiting schools that give me a vision for what is possible. Science Leadership Academy is an amazing place for everyone who is a part of it.

The conference was a combination of people I have been inspired by, people I know via Twitter, etc. but have never met in person, and new people who I was happy to get to know. It was fun to see people whose work I have learned from but it was just as fun to meet new people and to find new people to follow via Twitter, blogs, etc.  I took time to link to blogs and twitter pages of everyone I mention because each of these people has so much to share.  I feel lucky to have learned from them in person and am excited about continuing the learning online.

I have always heard that EduCon is a different kind of conference. Now I understand why. This is one of those conferences that sparked a lot of thinking.  I have put off writing this post because I can't really get my arms around what I learned.  Instead, I think Educon marks the beginning of new thinking for me--thinking that I will build on and new connections that I will learn from.

The way that the conference was set up, we had time to meet and talk to many people at the conference. I was happy to have time to meet and think with people at the conference.  Troy Hicks (@hickstro), Sarah Hicks (@yoopertechgeek) and Christina Cantrill (@seecantrill) added to my thinking in several sessions. All 3 are with the National Writing Project. I also had a chance to mee the Engchat girls, Cindy and Meenoo. (@CBethM and @mrami2). It was fun to meet these two in person and to have time to talk to and learn from them.

And I cannot possibly write about EduCon without writing about the @Educoncierge.  The Educoncierge took care of all things EduCon from the Tweets before the conference, to printing boarding passes to running the lunchtime Encienda sessions.  And, really, what a great name! You can learn more about the Educoncierge at The Clever Sheep--he has a great video interview with Jeff, the Educoncierge.

The EduConcierge at work.

I decided to follow the format that @mbteach used in her EduCon reflection and to focus on the takeaways.  I thought it would be a smart way for me to reflect on my learning.

Panel on Friday Evening and Reception
The event began with a panel of amazing people who shared their thoughts on Innovation. The opening event was held at the Franklin Institute. Panel members included Matt Berg (Millennium Villages Project), Aaron Gross (Farm Forward), Trung Le (Cannon Design), Neeru Paharia (Peer2Peer University and Creative Commons) and Standford Thompson (Tune Up Philly).

Some quotes that stuck with me from the panel included:

"If you do more with less, you can replicate it." Matt Berg
"We need science that reflects our values." Aaron Gross
"Novelists help us reimagine the world." Aaron Gross
"Let's stop calling them classrooms. The word has too huge connotations."  Trung Le
"Human interaction and engagement is part of good design." Trung Le
"Every step we make, we learn something." Trung Le
"How do we get students to think innovatively?  Give them purpose then they do it in their own way."Trung Le
"If we connect purpose to difficult problems, they rise to the challenge beyond what we think they are capable of." Trung Le

As you can see, I saved several quotes from Trung Le.  His work is where my thinking has been lately and it was so wonderful to hear him in person.  His book THE THIRD TEACHER has been a hugely powerful book for me and for many other teachers that I know. The other panelists were also amazing people doing important work and I am anxious to dig into their writing, sites, etc. to learn more about what they do.

Lessons for K-12 from the Best Preschools in the World
Gary Stager (@garystager) shared a great deal of his expertise about Reggio Emilio preschools.  One of the favorite take-aways from that session was this quote--"Use computers in exactly the same way they use seashells or finger paints."  He talked about creating incredibly deep, memory-making experiences. He also talked about project-based learning and how it was turning into anything these days and that was not what it should be. Loved when he said, "I guess if it's not multiple choice, it is project-based in some people's minds."  One of things that he focused on was the role of the teacher in Reggio schools as researcher--to really uncover the thinking processes of children. The documentation in Reggio schools is about far more than accountability and communication. It is the story of the learning.

I was thrilled to finally have the opportunity to hear Gary Stager after reading his work online for so long. I am anxious to revisit the presentation and digital handout that he has posted to his site.

Towards an e-Book Quality Rating Tool for Early Elementary Literacy Instruction
Jeremy Brueck (@brueckj23)
I was thrilled to find out that Jeremy Brueck is from Ohio.  His research is critical to the things I have been thinking about lately. I haven't found many people who are really looking at ebooks for young children and learned so much from this session.  Jeremy Brueck is focused on not only rating ebooks but also to understanding what this means for young children and literacy. Although he stated early that he did not come at this from a literacy background at first, he has a strong sense of young children and their literacy development.   We spent time in this session examining ebooks on several iPads and iPods that Jeremy brought. We discussed the things that made them worthwhile, etc.  He shared several resources and much of the work he was doing with local Head Start programs there.  His presentation and resources are on his blog. Resources included an e-book Quality Rating Tool, a List of Early Elementary ebooks iOS Apps and more.  I hope to spend a great deal of time exploring these resources over the next several weeks.

The Future of Student Inquiry/Research 
Joyce Valenza (@joycevalenza), Gwyneth Jones (@gwynethjones), Shannon Miller (@shannonmiller)
I was thrilled to hear these three librarians at Educon.  Being fairly new to the teacher-librarian job, I have had a lot of learning to do. And these three librarians have taught me so much through their blogs, twitter feeds and constant sharing with the education community.  To see the three of them together in one place was quite a treat. And they are pretty fun in person--it was a lively session with lots of chat and debate.  I didn't get to write much down during this session because they had us up and moving around, really talking about what our thinking was about certain controversial issues around research in our schools. For example is Wikipedia and okay source for research?  What do we think about citations as links vs. in traditional standard formats? Which skills, dispositions and tools do we think are necessary for research today?  It was a great conversation and helped me to see that there are two sides to all of these issues. But it was clear that librarians are really thoughtful about the future of student research and how to best support students.  Really, I can't say enough about the gracious and generous sharing that these three women do in the library community.  I was thrilled to have a chance to hear them together live and in person. If you are interested in more about their presentation, you can find it posted at Joyce's SLJ blog.

One of my very favorite quotes from this session from Joyce Valenza: "Notebooks are no longer adequate for collecting research."
Laura Deisley on "Why Making Stuff Matters"

During lunch on Saturday, we had the opportunity to attend Encienda Educon in which several speakers created 5 minute slide shows about a topic.  I was able to hear sessions by Rod Corbett (Teaching With MindMaps), Laura Deisley (Why Making Stuff Matters), Jason Kern (Thanks Coach), Rodd Lucier (20 Things I've Learned on Twitter) and Karen Szymusiak (Where are the Children?)

Sunday Morning began with an amazing panel of educators including Sam Chaltain (@samchaltain), Kathleen Cushman, Karl Fisch (@karlfisch), Linda Nathan (@lindanathan), and Chad Womack. The panel's topic was, "Can Schools Support Student Innovation?" and was moderated by SLA's Zac Chase (@MrChase).

I can't even begin to share the passion of this panel. Karl Fisch was the only name I was really familiar with and I was thrilled to hear his insights. But I was also just as thrilled to discover new people to learn from.  I know much of their work (without having connected it their names) but I am excited to pick up some of their books. I am hoping to read AMERICAN SCHOOLS:  THE ART OF CREATING A DEMOCRATIC LEARNING COMMUNITY (Chatlain), and THE HARDEST QUESTIONS AREN'T ON THE TEST (Nathan). I have read parts of FIRES OF THE MIND (Cushman) but want to spend more time with it now that I have heard Cushman speak.  There is so much to learn from each of these panelists. I would highly recommend following the links and reading their work.

Why Johnny Can't Read:  A Conversation About What It Means to be Literate...Today
David Jakes (@djakes) and Laura Deisley (@deacs84)

I was especially interested in this session and it ended up to be a great conversation.  I know from reflecting on my own reading, that reading is changing. I don't think the definition of what it means to be literate has changed. In my mind, literacy has always been about making sense of the world around you. In the past, much of that has been centered on paper/pencil text.  But the definition of what it means to be literate has expanded a bit.  Jakes and Deisley asked us several questions that I will be thinking about for a long time. These questions included:
Does being literate just focus on reading and writing?
Have we (in schools) institutionalized what it means to be literate?
When was the last time you had a conversation at your school about what it means to be literate?
Does the tool and how they are using it affect how they are literate?
How do you read differently than you did 3-5 years ago?
Does the teaching of reading need to change?

The slides from this session can be found at David Jakes' Slideshare site. If you are interested in this topic, the presentation has many resources that you'll want to check out.

The Ethical Obligation to Teach, Learn and Share Globally
Dean Shareski (@shareski) and Alec Couros (@courosa)
I was a little starstruck in this session.  Both Dean Shareski and Alec Couros share so much on Twitter. I have learned so much from both of them that I was happy to have a chance to hear them in person.  The two of them facilitated a great conversation about what it means to share, the power of sharing and the importance of telling the stories of learning.  It was a session that reminded us the power of the network and the importance of sharing and reaching out to people who have contributed to your own learning.  It was a great session to end the conference for me because it was really the theme for EduCon for me. Here, at one conference, were people who have shared generously and who continue to do so.


One of my goals this year is to really read books that are good for 5th+ grade readers. So often in a K-5 library, I focus on books that are good for all ages and I have not been good about keeping up with the books that are best for the more mature 5th grade readers. I find 5th grade to be a tricky reading age.  As a teacher who spent many years teaching 5th graders,  I know that kids at this age are getting into Young Adult books. I also know that the range of YA is huge. There seems to be a younger group of YA for kids in grades 5-8 and then more high school YA.  As a mother of a 5th grader, I am seeing her interest move to a more YA focus.  And as a librarian, I want to meet the needs of all of the readers in the school.  So, a goal for me is to read more of the younger YA stuff this year.  Going to ALAN was the jump-start I gave myself to begin to do this.  I have always loved YA so this is a fun goal for me.

How I, Nicky Flynn, Finally Get a Life (and a Dog)
HOW I NICKY FLYNN FINALLY GET A LIFE (AND A DOG) by Art Corriveau was my first read of February.  I loved this book and think it would be a great addition for any 5th grade classroom library.  Nicky Flynn is a child whose parents are recently divorced. His life is in transition as he now lives with his mother in a new neighborhood and attends a new school.  Nicky's mother is in a little transition crisis herself and is not at her best during most of the story. It is clear that she is a good mother, cares about Nicky and wants to do what is best, but she is also in the midst of a huge life transition after having decided to leave her husband.  Nicky is certain that his mother is a liar when she tells him almost weekly, that his father is too busy to see him. Nicky works to prove this point.    The real story begins when Nicky's mother brings home a German Shepard (Reggie) from the shelter.  She is sure that this is just what they need. Although Nicky isn't so sure, he and the dog become fast friends. He soon learns that Reggie was a seeing-eye dog and he learns a bit about his past. In the process of settling in and getting to know his new dog, he learns to lie a bit.

This is a great dog story.  I loved the friendship between Nicky and Reggie. It is also a great growing up story.  There are so many real life issues in this--the pain of his father's absence, the newness of his life, the loneliness he feels are all pretty universal for kids in transition.  And when kids are having a hard time, they often make poor choices.  There is lots to talk and think about in this story. I found it to be a story with both humor and depth--my favorite combination for 5th grade readers.  I love this book because it is a realistic fiction book that will appeal to boys. I also think it would be a great read aloud.

In terms of the appropriateness, there are a few "bad words" and a bit about the mother drinking wine too often but this is all handled in a way that makes sense for 5th through 8th graders.

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

What to Read Aloud Next?

Seems only fair to follow the "Why Read Aloud?" post with one about the challenges of picking the next great read aloud!

We finished The Small Adventure of Popeye and Elvis by Barbara O'Connor last week, and had fun drinking Yoo-Hoo (my first ever!) and making Yoo-Hoo boats with secret messages in them (folded once, twice, three times).

I'd love to read another Barbara O'Connor book (especially after Carol's amazing post on the power of reading aloud How to Steal a Dog and The Fantastic Secret of Owen Jester).  Great for talking about an author's style.  Great stories. Fun characters.

If my students were two years older, I'd read Adam Gidwitz's A Tale Dark and Grimm or Lynne Rae Perkins' As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth.

The book by which my class measures all books this year is Phyllis Reynolds Naylor's Emily's Fortune, so maybe they'd like the comic book-style superhero action of Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation.

I'm not sure they're up for a 400+ page read aloud, but I'm going to do my best to sell them on

The Search for WondLa
by Tony DiTerlizzi
Simon and Schuster, 2010
review copy provided by the publisher

I didn't read this book because Al Roker picked it for his Today Show Book Club, I read it because it was next up on the pile, but once I started it, I couldn't put it down (and luckily, because we had an ice day, I didn't have to).

This is my favorite kind of science fiction, with a whole new world -- plants, animals and landscape -- to explore and experience with the main character. DiTerlizzi does a fabulous job describing everything without overwhelming the reader (the frequent illustrations help, too).

Eva seems to be the last (only?) human on the planet. She has been raised in a subterranean sanctuary by a robot she knows at Muthr. Their home is attacked and Eva escapes to the surface of the planet where she must survive for real, not in a hologram practice session.  She depends on her wits and the help of her omnipod handheld (more-than-just-a) computer, a blue creature who speaks an unknown language, and a giant pill bug that communicates telepathically.

There are lots of questions that keep the story moving along: who is hunting down Eva and why, what do the letters "Wond" and "La" and the picture of the girl and a robot on the scrap of the paper Eva treasures mean, and where are the other humans who once lived on this planet?

The book ends with almost as many questions as it begins with -- it is the first book in a series and there is a serious cliffhanger at the end!

Tony DiTerlizzi reacts to THE SEARCH FOR WONDLA being picked for Al Roker's Today Show Book Club.
The book's website, including a trailer, games, and augmented reality.
A peek at how the augmented reality works.

Great Kid Books
Charlotte's Library