Saturday, March 31, 2012

March Mosaic

M -- North Market
Flower Stall -- North Market
Silly Question -- North Market
G -- North Market
Thai Burrito -- NorthStar Cafe (YUM!)
W -- Heart of Ohio Antiques
Z -- March Sky
Redbud and Fly -- Our Yard
Redbud -- Our Yard
Redbud -- Our Yard
Unlikely Nestbox -- Olentangy Plaza, just down from Mad River Outfitters
Crawdad -- Little Miami River in John Bryan State Park
River Shells -- Little Miami River in John Bryan State Park
Dutchman's Breeches -- John Bryan State Park
Geometric -- Our Neighborhood
0 -- Our Neighborhood
8 -- Selby Park
Pines -- Selby Park
Tracks -- Our Neighborhood
Tree Imitates Sky -- March Sky
5 -- Utility Pole on Goodale Street

Not as many numbers and letters this month, but as A. E. Housman said,

"...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."

You can see all the photos HERE on Flickr.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Poetry Friday -- STIGMA

by Mary Lee Hahn

The blooming field
is a purple sea.

you see rows.

Bent over, I focus
on each crocus.

For 50 millennia,
the three-part stigma –

threads of yellow,
golden glow,

–has been harvested by hand,
bloom by bloom, plant by plant.


Earlier in the week, I wrote a little about the process of writing this poem. How I got from STIGMA, my word in Ed DeCaria's Madness! 2012 poetry contest, to a SAFFRON HARVEST.

My poem didn't quite get enough votes to move me on in the contest, but I do not feel like I LOST in any way, shape or form. In fact, here are a few of the ways I have WON with this contest:

  • I am a better writer.
  • I am a better writing teacher.
  • R. went and got a thesaurus to look up a better word for DRY in one of her poems.
  • N. asked for a word so that she could try writing a poem the way I had. She is learning so much about the writing process as I share my process with her -- that it pays to collect definitions, synonyms, rhymes and pages of ideas before you actually start the poem.
  • On Wednesday, my Environmental Club "lesson" was on parts of plants and parts of flowers...specifically, STIGMAS. Then we went outside in the warm sun and the brisk breeze and we putzed around in the land lab, peeking into every bloom we could find, looking for the stigmas.
  • This from my Mom: "I think more about words since your poetry contest...I wanted to share this beautiful sentence from the book I am reading now--a mystery set in Wyoming, starring a fish and game officer. "A single stringy white cloud seemed to have snagged on the top of the peak like a plastic bag caught on a tree branch." "
  • And last, but not least, all of the SUPPORT and kind words from bloggers around the Kidlitosphere, from folks back in my hometown, from friends far and wide, from the teachers and kids at school. 

Happy Poetry Friday! Heidi's rounding us up at my juicy little universe. (Happy Spring Break, Heidi!)

National Poetry Month starts this weekend. I'm sure today's roundup will highlight many of them.

Starting on Sunday, I'll be posting an original, fresh out of the notebook poem-a-day here, in amongst our regular programming. These will be DAILY poems, not polished drafts that I've worked on for five hours. I don't have a particular theme for my poems, like Heidi does, or a particular way I'll be getting my ideas, like Amy LV does. I think I'm going to try playing around with some longer forms (I was inspired by Susan Taylor Brown's pantoum and Amy LV's triolet and Kat's sonnet). Maybe I'll combine my Project 365 photography with poems. We'll just have to wait and see!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Wordless (or nearly so)

The Giant Seed
by Arthur Geisert
Enchanted Lion Books, June 2012
review copy provided by the publisher

I am a huge fan of wordless picture books, and Arthur Geisert is a master of the form.

This followup to Ice (reviewed here) is a story of survival, collaboration and dandelion seeds. Yes, dandelions. It seems like the perfect season to look at those plants we think of as pests with wonder and admiration as we imagine the small worlds that would be saved by those magical floaty seeds...

Little Bird
by Germano Zullo
illustrated by Albertine
translated from the French by Claudia Zoe Bedrick
Enchanted Lion Books, 2012
review copy provided by the publisher

It's high time we here in the U.S. started paying better attention to books published internationally.

Take for instance, Little Bird, winner of the 2011 Prix Sorcières for illustration (the French Caldecott). Yes, the book is visually stunning. It's clear why it won an award for illustrations.

But it's a great story, too. About the small things in life. About keeping your eyes open for the little ways that make every day different, unique, and a day to be treasured.

This is not quite a wordless book. The words stay tucked down at the bottom of the page in the white margin around the illustration. The words are like a quiet commentary that complement the cinematic pictures. This is one I'd love to read to kids of many ages to see how their reactions differ.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


by Hugh MacLeod at Gaping Void

I subscribe to a free daily dose of these cartoons by Hugh MacLeod. (Sign up here.) It's creepy but wonderful how often they "talk" to me by giving me just the message I need to hear at the moment they land in my inbox.

I used one in a post a week ago, when I was shaking my head at getting the word SCUTTLE in Ed DeCaria's Madness! 2012 Poetry Writing Tournament, and at the crazy improbability that I could even hope to win against the amazing children's poet Julie Larios.

Well, win I did, and the word I got on Sunday night, for a competition against Greg Pincus, master of wit, rhyme and puns is...


I spent 6 straight hours Monday night after school working on a poem that uses the word stigma in it. 

The way I looked at it, I had two options: a poem about social disgrace, or a poem about one of the reproductive parts of a plant.

I was totally stuck because I was trying to write a poem about the word. I needed to write a poem that just used that word in passing. That's when I decided to write a poem about saffron.

What do I know about saffron and saffron harvesting? I have a bottle of it in my spice cupboard. I've cooked with it maybe once or twice in my life. Thank goodness for the internet. I Googled "Saffron Harvest," and through the pictures, video, and websites, I created a virtual experience for myself, and boiled it down into a poem I could be proud of.

As agonizing and frustrating as it was to work for SIX hours on this poem, the moment when I realized I was on the right track was an amazing and addictive kind of high. Because of this contest, I am learning that I really do LOVE to write poetry.

I am not that good at writing funny poems, or poems with a regular rhythm and spot-on rhymes. But I am finding out, through this contest, that I am good at near-rhyme, flow, titles, and nailing down endings.

Voting is still live throughout today for the "Elite Eight" poems in the Madness! 2012 Poetry Contest. My poem is here.  It lost by a couple of votes, but I'm still feeling lika a big winner.

Thank you Ed DeCaria at Think Kid, Think for a fun game.

Women's History Month: Touch The Sky

Touch the Sky: Alice Coachman, Olympic High Jumper
by Ann Malaspina
illustrations by Eric Velaszuez
Albert Whitman & Company, 2012
review copy provided by the publisher

This biography of the first African American woman to win Olympic Gold is written as a series of free-verse poems. Malaspina does a fabulous job showing the reader how Alice the child became Alice the Olympian.

Alice's dream and her talent were jeopardized by the poverty of her family and the color of her skin. But all along the way, people believed in her and opened doors for her. She never let them down. She literally cleared every hurdle put before her.

Photographs, the author's note, and the bibliography (including several websites) help to bring the story into sharp focus.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Forgive Me, I Meant to Do It: False Apology Poems by Gail Caron Levine

I fell in love with Gail Carson Levine years ago when I read PRINCESS SONORA AND THE LONG SLEEP. The humor she brought to her retelling of one of my favorite stories--The Princess and the Pea--was brilliant. And I went on to read the rest of her Princess Tales.  So, I have been looking forward to Gail Carson Levine's new poetry book called FORGIVE ME, I MEANT TO DO IT. I really had no idea what to expect from this book, but knew that I'd want a copy. I picked my copy up at Cover to Cover last week and read it when I got home.

This book was one that made me laugh out loud. Each poem in the book is connected in some way to a fairy tale or nursery rhyme we know.  The poems are apologies from characters, etc. about their actions. But they are false apologies which makes them even more fun. I kept finding poems I wanted to share with my family. (My husband was thrilled as I continued to read samples aloud while cracking myself up--he was trying to watch March Madness...)  One of my favorites was an apology poem from Pinocchio.

I think kids will have a ball with this one. Older kids will make the connections needed to understand the humor.  For some, this may inspire them to read some of Gail Carson Levine's other fairy tales--her retellings and her original tales.

The author's bio on Amazon states that Gail Carson Levine shares a birthday with William Carlos Williams.  How fun, then, for her to write a book inspired by his famous poem!  The author does invite readers to try their own apology poems--she does so with her usual wit:-)

So much to love about this author and this new book!

Monday, March 26, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Go Visit TEACH MENTOR TEXTS for the whole round up of It's Monday, What Are You Reading Posts!  Thanks Jen and Kellee!

I read lots of good, short books over spring break last week. I didn't have as much time to read as I usually do as I tried to spent a good deal of time writing.  And then there is the whole exercise thing that is taking up more and more time. Since I am focusing on fitness and making time for that in my life, I was worried that I was reading far less. But when I checked my Goodreads numbers, I am at about the same place I was last year. I think having less time to read it allowing me to focus on short books--poetry, graphic novels, picture books and I am loving the books I am finding. This week, I read.

HOW MANY JELLY BEANS? by Andrea Menotti  This book is such fun. It reminds me a bit of HOW MUCH IS A MILLION and I think kids will love it. The story is about two kids discussing the number of jelly beans they could eat.  When they get to the number of jelly beans they could eat across a year, the math thinking becomes more complex. I love all of the invitations for problems solving that this book has. This is definitely one that can be used in a math classroom or it could just be used as a fun read aloud.  The size and colors also makes this one pretty fun.

I DON'T WANT TO BE A PEA by Ann Bonwill will make a fun read aloud. I pretty much buy anything that has any connection to the Princess and the Pea.  But, I actually picked this one up because I like it for word play.  This is the story of a hippo and a bird who are friends--who depend on each other. But when they are trying to decide on costumes for the upcoming costume party, they have some problems.  I like all of the ideas that the bird and hippo come up with. This is a fun read aloud for younger kids and I think it would be a great conversation with older kids about how words go together.

HUFF AND PUFF by Claudia Rueda is another traditional tale retelling.  In this one Rueda retells The Three Little Pigs in a short, interactive way.  The whole story is told in just one sentence per page.  And readers are invited to join along in the huffing and puffing.  This one would be great to use with older kids to talk about summarizing/synthesizing etc.

I also read a few nonfiction picture books.
GOING APE by Eduardo Bustos is a short book with facts about various primates. Each page focuses on one type and has just a few sentence to go along with it. Great for all ages.

THE DAY ROY RIEGELS RAN THE WRONG WAY by Dan Gutman is a great story of a football player's game-changing mistake.  I love adding new books to my collection of picture book biographies and I love this one because it is sports related and I love the message about mistakes.  There is also an interesting writing style in which a grandfather is telling his grandson the story of Riegels and their talking bubble dialogue is set up on the side of the page.

LEO GEO AND HIS MIRACULOUS JOURNEY THROUGH THE CENTER OF THE EARTH by Jon Chat is one that I am still reading.  It is an odd shaped book that chronicles a journey to the center of the earth--and back.  The book is a bit of a graphic novel and it reminds me a little of a more grown-up version of The Magic Schoolbus.  This book is not only unique in format, but it is PACKED with information about rocks, the earth's layers, etc. A great nonfiction book and one that will engage students due to its format and humor.  I was surprised at how long the book takes to read-as I said, it is packed with information. There is far more text in the book than there appears to be.

And I love the new poetry book OUTSIDE YOUR WINDOW: A FIRST BOOK OF NATURE by Nicola Davies. I love this nonfiction author and was thrilled to see her new volume of poetry about nature and the outdoors. This looks to be a well-loved collection with lots of opportunities for studying craft.

And my absolute favorite read of the week was Tom Angleberger's FAKE MUSTACHE. What a great read! I have been waiting and waiting and waiting for this book and I was so happy to finally have a copy. I can't wait to share this book with kids. This is the story of Lenny whose best friend buys a fake mustache. With the mustache, he tries to take over the world. Lenny is the only one who can see what is happening and he tries to save the day. This book is hysterical. (The subtitle alone made me smile--FAKE MUSTACHE: OR HOW JODIE O'RODEO AND HER WONDER HORSE (AND SOME NERDY KID) SAVED THE US PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION FROM A MAD GENIUS CRIMINAL MASTERMIND. I laughed aloud a lot while reading. How Tom Angleberger thinks of these things is beyond me. This book is going to be a huge hit with my 4th and 5th grade readers. I am sure we'll need several copies of this one in the library.  A great story that is really, really fun!

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Nerdy Book Club Post

I have a new post up at THE NERDY BOOK CLUB about the 10 Classic Professional Books I can't live without.  I am cross posting the piece here:-)

Well-Worn and Well-Loved:  Ten Classic Professional Books I Cannot Live Without

One wall in my “office” is filled with professional books.  From floor to ceiling, the shelves are filled with the books that have helped me learn to teach thoughtfully. I have been reading professional books throughout my career. I have hundreds and hundreds of books that have impacted my thinking. I have been lucky to learn from amazing people over the years and I learn something new every time I revisit an old favorite.

In the last several years, I have noticed I’ve purchased fewer professional books. I am reading more professionally, but much of my professional reading is online. So in a cleaning frenzy a few weeks ago, I decided to weed out some of my oldest professional books.   I have been teaching for twenty-five years so I figured I could weed almost every book published before 2000 to keep my professional library current.  I have so many books and so many that I read years and years ago, I figured that this would be an easy job.

But, the job was not so easy.  While browsing the shelves, certain books triggered a feeling of transformation-books that changed who I was as a teacher   Below are ten classics that I could not part with, even though they were all published prior to the year 2000. Even though I have newer editions of most off the titles, it was the original reading that made a difference for me.  These classics set the stage for what we understand about literacy learning and teaching.  So many of my big understandings come from these foundational books. These are the books that reground me, reenergize me and remind me of all the reasons I became a teacher to begin with.

This is in no way a conclusive list.  But it is an important one to me. Consider this my “oldies” playlist of professional books—the learning that is playing around in my head every time I work with children.


 Writing: Teachers and Children at Work by Donald Graves was one of the first books that took teachers inside classrooms to let us know what was possible. I didn’t read this until I graduated from college but Graves’ work was the work that created huge changes in classroom writing programs.  It was a great time to start teaching and this book laid the groundwork for my thinking about writing process.


I had been teaching 1st grade for three years when I asked to be moved to 4th grade.  I was excited about the change and had heard about the book (first edition) In the Middle by Nancie Atwell and was excited about the whole idea of workshop. The summer before I started teaching 4th grade, I was pregnant with our first daughter. My husband had a summer job delivering pizzas. I remember laying on the couch with a bag of Doritos and reading In the Middle over and over.  That summer, I created a vision of an intermediate workshop classroom all because of this book.


I was able to attend the Teacher’s College Writing Project and learn from Lucy Calkins for ten days in 1991. But I was a total fan by the time I attended, having read everything she wrote cover to cover, over and over again. Lucy’s work helped us listen to children and to be thoughtful about everything we did.  The Art of Teaching Writing by Lucy Calkins was packed with new thinking.


Ralph Peterson was a huge influence for me. His book Grand Conversations was one that helped me see the power of books and student conversations. It was one of the first books that helped me to see what could happen if students were in charge of their own understandings and conversations. It was a short book, but packed with thinking about the importance of talk and ownership.


I learned a great deal from the staff at The Manhattan New School. I learned through visits, workshops and their writing. The schoolwas amazing and the staff was generous in sharing all that they learned.  A book that changed my teaching was Shelley Harwayne’s Lasting Impressions: Weaving Literature Into the Writing Workshop.  I have always been a huge children’s literature person and this book helped me see the power of children’s literature for writers.


 What a Writer Needs by Ralph Fletcher is a book that opened up so many possibilities for me as a teacher of writing. The ways that Fletcher showed us, as readers, how to look at text with a writer’s eye was key to what we do today.  This was the first book that that helped me “read like a writer”.


The work of Howard Gardner and Harvard’s Project Zero has been instrumental in who I am as a teacher today. Frames of Mind: The Theory of Multiple Intelligences. As with all of Gardner’s work, this book taught me strategies for getting to know the whole child and to build on each child’s strengths.


A Workshop of the Possible: Nurturing Children’s Creative Development by Ruth Shagoury Hubbard is one of my favorite books ever. It takes a look at the creative process with young children and takes us into a classroom where children’s thinking is the key to the way in which the community works.  I learned how much you could learn and how much better you can teach if you really listen to children and their thinking.

In the Company of Children by Joanne Hindley was another book from the staff at the Manhattan New School that showed us the daily life in a workshop classroom. In this book, Hindley shared the routines and structures that made her reading and writing workshops so successful. This was one of the first books I read that focused solely on those transitional readers in Grades 3 and 4.


 Living the Questions by Brenda Power and Ruth Shagory taught me to teach, as with questions in mind and that the research I did in my classroom mattered. This book help to make clear for me that a research-based stance to teaching was important for me.

So, .  I wasn’t totally successful at weeding my shelves.  But the process was an enlightening one. I could see, on one wall, the influences of my teaching life. I could see the power of professional reading and the power of learning from others.  My professional reading over the last 25 years has definitely impacted my practice.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Poetry Friday Roundup is Here!

by Mary Lee Hahn


with the cavalier way
you explode whole constellations of purple stars
from your smooth grey bark.

Add glory
to the understory.

This is my 2nd round poem from the Madness! 2012 kids' poetry writing tournament, along with the redbud in our backyard that saved me from writing a poem about dandelions. A tip of my poet's hat to Elaine Magliaro, champion of the List Poem form. You're still a great teacher!

Voting for the First Flight of the Regional Semifinals has closed! Regional Semifinals, Flight One

Voting for the Second Flight of the Regional Semifinals remains open through today!
Regional Semifinals, Flight Two

Add your Poetry Friday links in the comments. I'll start rounding them up as soon as you start sending them in!

Jone is looking for recipients for her students' Poetry Postcard project in April. Go to Check it Out and sign up! It's fun!

Robyn has cherry blossoms -- and A.E. Houseman -- on her mind at Read, Write, Howl.

Julie shares all three of the poems she's written for the Madness! 2012 poetry tournament over at The Drift Record. We "shook hands" via email before we got our words and agreed that no matter which poem won, we would have fun. Julie is an amazing (Capital-P) Poet and I am honored to have played a round with her!

April continues the Teaching Authors tribute that this blogging group has been giving in honor of team member Jo Ann Macken.

Charles shares his collection of poetry books for adults at Bald Ego.

Linda is combining Slice of Life and Poetry Friday today at Write Time with a poem she's written for her DARLING granddaughter, who just turned two.

Here are Diane's posts for this week:
At Random Noodling I have Donald Hall's "O Cheese."
Kids of the Homefront Army continues with "Selective Service."
Kurious Kitty has Richard Wilbur's "The Writer." And, Kurious K's Kwotes' P.F. quote is by Rita Dove from the introduction to the The Penguin Anthology of 20th Century American Poetry.
At The Write Sisters we have a delightful poem called "Shadow Dance" by Ivy O. Eastwick.

Tara, at A Teaching Life, is also combining her Slice of Life with Poetry Friday. Like Robyn, she has cherry blossoms on her mind, but she brings us some Billy Collins to enjoy while the petals flutter down.

The bloggers at Gathering Books are celebrating Women's History month. Myra brings us a poem and a song that have her thinking about women's voices and women's silences.

Linda at TeacherDance is writing a series of poems of goodbye. Her poems say goodbye to different stages of growing up, and are written for her grandchildren. Linda is also a Slice of Lifer.

Violet shares an original "grandma" poem titled "To Liam when he asks, What's green?" It's at Violet Nesdoly / Poems.

Oh, YAY! David Elliot has a new book of poems, this time about the sea. Mary Ann, at Great Kid Books, gives it (and Holly Meade's illustrations) a glowing review.

At The Opposite of Indifference, Tabatha is linking poems with favorite book characters. She starts things off with poems that Hagrid, Calvin, and Hobbes each might have chosen. My fourth graders are her first guest contributors. They chose poems for the main characters from A Wrinkle in Time. Watch for more in this series, and if you want, you can play along, too!

Greg serves up a strong cup-o-Joe at GottaBook -- one of his poems from the Madness! 2012 poetry tournament. He is "versing" Susan Taylor Brown in the regional semifinals. Their poems will be live and ready for your votes at the tournament site, Ed DeCaria's Think Kid, Think, later today.

Heidi praises the process of "the curious and wonderful phenomenon that this March Madness has become" (the poetry tournament, that is) and shares a priceless poem composed by one of her kinders. Her blog's name -- my juicy little universe -- seems particularly apt today.

At Growing Wild, Liz has an original poem that will appeal to all cat lovers!

Jama has some drool-inducing strawberry shortcake for you today...if you have enough time to read that far! Be prepared for a laugh today at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

Renee shares an entomological love poem ("The Moth and the Flame") by the "pre-published" poet Cathy Mealey. Stop in at No Water River and enjoy the poem, the interview, and be sure you click through to see how Cathy met the rhyme challenge Renee offered up!

Carol's Corner is blooming with daffodils today! She's got a Ralph Fletcher poem for us, from a book with a title I adore: ORDINARY THINGS: POEMS FROM A WALK IN EARLY SPRING.

Welcome to Poetry Friday first-timer Natalie, who blogs at Wading Through Words. She discovered this fabulous community by participating in the poetry tournament at Think Kid, Think! She's got an original poem for us today, to make a monumental occasion in their household. The photo makes a great punchline!

Speaking of the poetry tournament, at Mainley Write, Donna shares an amazing grouse story that lies just behind her winning first round poem for the tournament, "Fox and Grouse."

Joy has a dream poem and a writing exercise for us at Poetry for Kids Joy.

Happy belated World Poetry Day (March 21)! Sally, at Paper Tigers, shares a site that features the seven winners of a poetry-writing contest inspired by the ancient poet Eratosthenes.

Pentimento shares a starting-over-in-Spring poem by Steven Kestenbaum.

Sherry, at Semicolon, has a great quote about form in poetry and Tennyson's "Ulysses."

Amy LV has written a poem that came from a seed planted in her writer's notebook TWELVE years ago! She also shares some happy publication news today at The Poem Farm.

Books 4 Learning reviews MIRROR, MIRROR by Marilyn Singer: "Mirror Mirror is a celebration of the vigor and potential of language." So true!

Karen Edmisten shares a different sort of starting-over-in-Spring poem by Gary Young. Compare/contrast with the one Pentimento shared (above). Turn and talk to your neighbor.

Sing along to "Gold," by Fergus O'Farrell with Little Willow over at Bildungsroman. This song can be heard in the film ONCE and the new stage adaptation of ONCE, which is now on Broadway. Little Willow shares links, in case you need some help with the tune!

At Wild Rose Reader, Elaine has an original acrostic using the word bud, and proud-grandma pictures of her family's little bud!

Laura (Author Amok) writes: "To celebrate spring, I have a gardening poem by Susan Hendrickson and an invitation to participate in my 2012 National Poetry Month Project, 30 Habits of Highly Effective Poets (odd or practical, you choose)."

Spring is bringing rain and a Sara Teasdale poem to Dori at Dori Reads.

Lori Ann Grover has two links for us today: "Little Bobby Snooks" at readertotz, and "Periscope" at On Point.

At Musings, Joyce reviews Paul Janeczko's REQUIEM: POEMS OF THE TEREZIN GHETTO. She's right -- it's not a fun book, but it's definitely an important book.

Betsy, at Teaching Young Writers, has a sidewalk chalk haiku for us today!

Thank you, Ruth (at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken Town) for the Billy Collins TED Talk! I missed that one and now I will not have to go any further than your blog to watch it!

15 Words or Less are accumulating at Laura Purdie Salas' Writing the World for Kids.

100 Scope Notes is gathering book spine poems again this year for Poetry Month. Start pulling books of your shelf and get your camera ready!

A slam-dunk review of Hoop Kings by Charles R. Smith can be found at All About the Books with Janet Squires.

Kelly Fineman, at Writing and Ruminating, is the interviewee, instead of the interviewer now! Congrats!!

Cathy has the perfect poem for the beginning of spring break, comparing the perceptions of eighth graders to first graders as they face a week away from school. You can find Cathy's poem on Slice of Life blog, Merely Day By Day.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


by Hugh MacLeod at

My new word in Ed DeCaria's Madness! 2012 Poetry Writing Craziness Tournament (subtitled with the best and truest subtitle ever: "Kids' Poetry. Under Pressure.")



And who am I "versing"?

(In kid lingo, "versing" means "competing against," but isn't it the perfect word to mean "competing against in a poetry tournament"???)

I am versing Julie Larios.

So, yes. I am dreaming big.
And I am working hard.

I think I'm pretty close to a final draft that I like and can be proud of.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

We're Officially On Vacation

Except for updates on the Madness! 2012 Tournament, we are taking our Spring Break away from the blog.

Update: Voting is open on the first flight of the round two poems. Mine (CAVALIER) is here.

Saturday, March 17, 2012


My second round word in the Madness 2012 poetry tournament is


Not as easy as whacked.
I got stuck for a REALLY long time.
But then, just like last time, all the words fell into place. I like it.

My poem has been submitted (without kid testing this time). Voting will begin sometime tomorrow.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Poetry Friday -- Whacked

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Peasap


by Mary Lee Hahn

Children — driven
Presents — given

Cake — gobbled
Apples — bobbled

Donkey tail — tacked
Piñata – whacked

Games — played
Mom’s nerves — frayed

I still can't believe I won my bracket in Round One of Madness! 2012 -- the Children's Poetry Writing Tournament over at Ed DeCaria's blog Think Kid, Think!

This poem surprised me. My prompt was "whacked." I have two pages of brainstorming and false starts in my notebook before the phrases "Donkey tail -- tacked" and "Piñata -- whacked" show up. Then my poem changed from a bad kid with a baseball bat to a birthday party. 

I didn't think about what a risk it would be to submit a poem with only 18 words. I guess the moral of that story is that word choice is just about everything in poetry. (Maybe in all writing?)

The poems in the second flight of round one are still open for voting. Go over and enjoy all the brand-new sparkly-fresh poems (and vote)! Then go to the Poetry Friday Roundup at Greg's blog, GottaBook.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Wrinkle in Time on Kidblog

Yesterday I wrote about our annotation of A Wrinkle in Time. Today I thought I'd share some posts that one of my students has done on her blog. These posts were neither by invitation nor command -- they came entirely from the student's desire to respond to her reading. She is an ELL student who has been in this country and learning English for just over a year. I have only edited her writing in minor ways to help communicate her meaning.

It let me think….

Today after school I know it was going to rain or something. When I walk home, I think about the black thing that is over Earth. I think that is the black thing that the author she is talking about or have an idea to make on wrinkle in time! I think that when one time it rain and then the author of wrinkle in time think about it and make the story name: Wrinkle in Time! I want to ask her if that my idea is right or wrong, I will be really happy if I am right!

Dear Meg,

Thank you for being a nice character; some time I am just like you, I am not doing what I have to do, so I get into troubles. Every time I start a book, I always look for the books like A Wrinkle in Time! I think you guys are not only looking for your father, but you are learning that who you are and people don’t have to be the same, the best thing on Earth can be the worst thing on Earth, you know people are never be the same, but you will don’t have friends if you are not the same as others. I learn that you don’t have to be just like others, but it will be very good if others understand you, so you can be friend with them. I hope the 3 ladies live happily ever after being a star! Said hello to your family for me!!!

Dear Charles Wallace,

Thank you for being a good character, but the thing is that you can’t give in, and as your sister said that like and equal are two different things. After your sister uses the power of love to get you out, I think you learn that you can’t get in, your sister always loves you, and you have to love her back. I hope you are being a good brother to Sandy and Denny, and teach them what you learn!

PS: keep on doing the hard work!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Madness! 2012 -- Voting is LIVE!

Head on over to the Live Scoreboard on Ed DeCaria's blog Think Kid, Think! Almost all of the Round One, Flight One poems are up and ready for your votes. Yes, mine is there, but take a minute to enjoy ALL of the "Kids' Poetry. Under Pressure."

Annotating A Wrinkle in Time

You might remember me mentioning that I am reading aloud A Wrinkle in Time (well, actually Madeline L'Engle is, through the magic of audio books...) and that we participated in the 50 Years, 50 Days, 50 Blogs blog tour for the 50th anniversary of the publication of the book.

Inspired by Monica Edinger's blog posts about annotating Charlotte's Web with her fourth graders, and fueled with a "worst they can do is say no" attitude, I asked the promoter of the blog tour if it would be possible to get a class set of A Wrinkle in Time so that my class could try annotating the book as we listened to it.

She (and Macmillan) said yes. When the books came, I had my copy from my 6th grade Scholastic book order on hand. I had already told them that A Wrinkle in Time had been a landmark book for me as a reader. Now they looked at my scuffed copy as they held their shiny new copies. I told them that I had kept that book for almost 40 years, and that they, too, might keep the book in their hands for 40 or more years. Someday when they were all grown up, they might tell their children (or even their students) about the difference that book had made in their lives. Ten year-olds can't usually imagine 40 years into the future, but I think a few of them had a glimmer of it for just a second there.

What kinds of things have we been noticing as we annotate and discuss the book?

  • Words. Rich, rich vocabulary. And often words that relate to our word study focus, coming to life right there in the book!
  • Connections. A geranium blooming on the windowsill of mother's lab -- just like the one in our classroom!
  • Places in the story where Madeline L'Engle changed the mood of the story, or made us ask questions, or where we wrote, "Uh oh..."
  • Symbolism -- dark is evil, light is good; evil is cold, good is warm.
  • Who else has fought against the "shadow" on our planet? Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, Harriet Tubman, Ruby Bridges, Abe Lincoln, all the people who stop wars...
  • Madeline L'Engle's use of similes, metaphors and idioms.
  • The importance of freedom and individualism, family and friendship, love and trust.

Yesterday we watched the Wonderopolis episode on time travel. It was fun to wonder if time travel will be possible in their lifetimes, or if they might someday be part of a team of scientists who bring us closer to that reality.

We're not quite finished with the book. We have about 20 pages left, and I think I'm going to ask them to finish the book and annotate the last few chapters on their own over spring break. Then, when we come back together week after next, we can have the kind of discussion that Monica's classes have.

We're not quite finished with the book...I'm thinking about that phrase...and I'm realizing that my students will NEVER be quite finished with this book. Some of them, anyway. This will be a book that keeps sounding and resounding in their lives as they grow up with it, grow into it, grow away from it, and hopefully come back to it. This is a book that has potential to leave a never-ending ripple in their thinking and in their reading lives. It doesn't seem like enough to simply say Thank You to Macmillan for providing these books for my class. What I'm really thanking them for is helping me to change the lives of 24 children.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


The first round words have been sent out and 64 Poets (and "poets") around the interwebs are busily crafting poems for Ed DeCaria's Madness! 2012 (Kids' Poetry. Under Pressure.)

Go to Ed's webpage. Explore the rules, the pairings, the Poets (and "poets") -- all found in the "Madness! 2012" dropdown you can find underneath the word THINK.

My first round word is WHACKED. My poem is written, kid-tested, and submitted. Sometime tomorrow morning, the voting will open. Go check out all the first round pairs. Vote for the best poem in each pair, then half of us will get a new prompt and start writing all over again...and again and again, for your amusement AND ours, until all of the tournament brackets are filled and the winning Poet (or "poet") is proclaimed.

Our Childhood Selves

My parents were visiting last weekend.  My dad was talking to my 12-year old and started reciting a crazy fish poem he says all of the time. But this time, it triggered a memory of another fish poem he used to recite to me when I was little. A favorite.  We kept reciting the first lines over and over until we couldn't remember anymore. I googled it and found a finger play version that reminded us of the parts we couldn't remember. LOVE this poem/song.  I have to say, hearing my dad recite it took me back to being three. Actually to the apartment we lived in.  I was so happy listening to his voice recite the fishy poem that I hadn't heard in years:

My darling little goldfish
Hasn't any toes
He swims around without a sound
And bumps his funny nose (the site says hungry nose but my family says funny:-)
He can't come out to play with me
Nor I get in to him.
Although I say, "Come out and play."
He says, "Come in and swim."

My 21 year daughter loved the book LUNCH by Denise Fleming.  She loved when I read it because of the way I did the mouse's sniffing noise.  (I must say, I am pretty good at it:-)  Anyway, even now, when that book or something related comes up, Alexa looks at me with that 4 year-old face and says, "Do the sniffing noise."  She reverts back to her 4 year-old self, just like I reverted back to my 3 year-old self with my dad last week.

When I talked to my 12 year old about this, she immediately said she remembered when she was little, Alexa used to sing The Eensy-Weensy Spider to her, but messed up on purpose.  She giggled like her 4 year-old self as she was telling me and suggested we Skype Alexa so she could do it for her again--it was not the same if I did it.

I love the ways these memories bring us back to our childhood selves.

Monday, March 12, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Not a big reading week for me.  I had something every night after school. It was a good week, but VERY busy!  I did read a bit every night before bed so I got a little bit of reading in, but not much.

I am about halfway through with Haruki Murakami's book WHAT I TALK ABOUT WHEN I TALK ABOUT RUNNING. My friend, Samantha Bennett recommended it to me and I'm so glad I'm reading it. It is a great essay/memoir-type book focusing on running and writing. I love hearing about people talk about the things they are passionate about.  And I love his insights about running. It is a good read.

I also read a graphic novel from the Sports Illustrated Kids series-SPOTLIGHT STRIKER. I am so glad to have discovered these.  I was pleasantly surprised reading this and plan to order several more from the series for the library. They are short, sports-based graphic novels that will be perfect for lots of kids. I thought the characters and story lines were pretty well-developed too. A great new find!

I am also about halfway through THE HUMMING ROOM by Ellen Potter and am enjoying it. I am a huge Secret Garden fan so this is a fun read. I will write about this one after I finish it.

My favorite read of the week was MARTY MCGUIRE DIGS WORMS by Kate Messner. I love everything Kate Messner writes and have been waiting for this second book about Marty McGuire since I read the first arc last year. I knew I had to read this one fast because there will be many teachers and students fighting for it once I share it at school. It was a great read! I loved the character of Marty right away when I read the first book and I love her even more now.  Years ago, when I read the second Clementine book, I knew I was hooked for life.  I felt the same way when reading this second Marty McGuire book.  Marty tells the stories in this series and I LOVE her voice.   Here are some of my favorite lines from the book:

Plus, Monday is veggie goulash day in the cafeteria, which would be awful except that they serve ice cream cups for dessert because who would buy goulash if you weren't getting ice cream with it?

Mrs. Grimes goes up on stage with clickety-clackety shoes. If those were my shoes up there, I'd jump around and make some more noise on that nice wood floor, but I guess Mrs. Grimes has very good self-control and that's why she gets to be principal.

I  don't do paper dolls, especially not ones dressed in scratchy-looking dresses.

I am not patient. My mom says "patient" and I are not even distant relatives.

I write three observation journal entries without even peeking, which is pretty clever if you ask me.

Seriously, how could anyone not love Marty? Not only is she a great character but this book is all about how she does a project to help the environment. There are so many great connections that this would make a great read aloud for any grade level.  It is a great school story about a great character. I am already anxiously awaiting the next Marty McGuire book!

I have several books on my stack and I am hoping I have more time to read this week:

I received Michael Scotto's upcoming book, POSTCARDS FROM PISMO which looks great. I am huge fan of LATASHA so I am looking forward to this read. Others on my stack are THE FALSE PRINCE, CROW by Barbara Wright and BEFORE YOU GO, an upcoming YA novel by James Preller

I'm also looking forward to checking out FORGIVE ME, I MEANT TO DO IT: FALSE APOLOGY POEMS by Gail Carson Levine which is due out this week and TRAIN LIKE A MOTHER which is due out later this month.

Visit TEACH MENTOR TEXTS for the round up!

Friday, March 09, 2012

Poetry Friday: MADNESS!

The game is ON!

Ed DeCaria, at Think, Kid, Think, is hosting a March Madness Tournament of Children's Poetry.

There are 64 poets signed up to play...including ME!

There are brackets and seeds and all kinds of other things about tournaments that I don't really understand.

But there is also fun, creativity, spontaneity, voting, and...did I mention already? FUN!

I need some fun.

I woke up this morning thinking about the Poetry Friday post I hadn't yet written, and this is the poem that immediately came to mind. "I am overtired / Of the great harvest I myself desired." ...And I'm not talking about apple picking here, either.


My long two-pointed ladder's sticking through a tree
Toward heaven still,
And there's a barrel that I didn't fill
Beside it, and there may be two or three
Apples I didn't pick upon some bough.
But I am done with apple-picking now.
Essence of winter sleep is on the night,
The scent of apples: I am drowsing off.
I cannot rub the strangeness from my sight
I got from looking through a pane of glass
I skimmed this morning from the drinking trough
And held against the world of hoary grass.
It melted, and I let it fall and break.
But I was well
Upon my way to sleep before it fell,
And I could tell
What form my dreaming was about to take.
Magnified apples appear and disappear,
Stem end and blossom end,
And every fleck of russet showing clear.
My instep arch not only keeps the ache,
It keeps the pressure of a ladder-round.
I feel the ladder sway as the boughs bend.
And I keep hearing from the cellar bin
The rumbling sound
Of load on load of apples coming in.
For I have had too much
Of apple-picking: I am overtired
Of the great harvest I myself desired.
There were ten thousand thousand fruit to touch,
Cherish in hand, lift down, and not let fall.
For all
That struck the earth,
No matter if not bruised or spiked with stubble,
Went surely to the cider-apple heap
As of no worth.
One can see what will trouble
This sleep of mine, whatever sleep it is.
Were he not gone,
The woodchuck could say whether it's like his
Long sleep, as I describe its coming on,
Or just some human sleep.

Myra has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Gathering Books.

Thursday, March 08, 2012

2012 Notable Children's Books in the Language Arts

The Notable Books in the Language Arts Committee, sponsored by the Children’s Literature Assembly of the National Council of Teachers of English, selects thirty titles each year that best exemplify the criteria established for the Notables Award. Books considered for this annual list are works of fiction, non-fiction, and poetry written for children, grades K-8. The books must meet one or more of the following criteria:
• deal explicitly with language, such as plays on words, word origins, or the history of language;
•demonstrate uniqueness in the use of language or style;
•invite child response or participation.
         In addition, books are to:
•have an appealing format;
•be of enduring quality;
•meet generally accepted criteria of quality for the genre in which they are written.

2012 Notable Children’s Books in the Language Arts 

A Butterfly Is Patient, by Diana Hutts Aston, illustrated by Sylvia Long, published by Chronicle Books.

A Monster Calls, by Patrick Ness, published by Candlewick.

Addie on the Inside, by James Howe, published by Atheneum.

Amelia Lost: The Life and Disappearance of Amelia Earhart, by Candace Fleming, published by Schwartz & Wade.

Balloons over Broadway, by Melissa Sweet, published by Houghton Mifflin.

Bluefish, by Pat Schmatz, published by Candlewick.

BookSpeak: Poems about Books, by Laura Purdie Salas, illustrated by Josee Bisaillon, published by Clarion.

Breadcrumbs, by Anne Ursu, published by Walden Pond.

Dead End in Norvelt, by Jack Gantos, published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Heart and Soul, by Kadir Nelson, published by Balzer + Bray.

Hound Dog True, by Linda Urban, published by Harcourt.

Inside Out & Back Again, by Thanhha Lai, published by Harper.

Lemonade: And Other Poems Squeezed from a Single Word, by Bob Raczka, published by Roaring Brook Press.

Me...Jane, by Patrick McDonnell, published by Little, Brown.

Okay for Now, by Gary Schmidt, published by Clarion.

Over and Under the Snow, by Kate Messner, illustrated by Christopher Silas Neal, published by Chronicle Books.

Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People, by Monica Brown, illustrated by Julie Paschkis, published by Henry Holt.

Passing the Music Down, by Sarah Sullivan, illustrated by Barry Root, published by Candlewick.

Requieum: Poems of the Terezin Ghetto, by Paul Janezko, published by Candlewick.

Shout! Shout it Out!, by Denise Fleming, published by Henry Holt.

Stars, by Mary Lynn Ray, illustrated by Marla Frazee, published by Beach Lane.

The Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred, by Samantha R. Vamos, illustrated by Rafael Lopez, published by Charlesbridge.

The Cheshire Cheese Cat, by Carmen Agra Deedy and Randall Wright, illustrated by Barry Moser, published by Peachtree.

The Friendship Doll, by Kirby Larson, published by Delacorte.

The Great Wall of Lucy Wu, by Wendy Wan-long Shang, published by Scholastic.

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater, published by Scholastic.

These Hands, by Margaret H. Mason, illustrated by Floyd Cooper, published by Houghton Mifflin.

True…Sort of, by Katherine Hannigan, published by Greenwillow.

Underground, by Shane W. Evans, published by Roaring Brook Press.

Won Ton: A Cat Tale Told in Haiku, by Lee Wardlaw, illustrated by Eugene Yelchin, published by Henry Holt.

NCBLA 2012 Committee: April Bedford—Chair
Donalyn Miller, Nancy Roser, Tracy Smiles, Yoo Kyung Sung, Barbara Ward, Trish Bandre
Mary Lee Hahn—Past Chair

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

World Read Aloud Day

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Ben Bunch

Today is World Read Aloud Day. I have been considering and reconsidering read aloud in print for 10 years and in classroom practice for almost 30 years. When I attempt to distill the power of read aloud, it always comes down to COMMUNITY.

Read aloud builds a community of readers.

Read aloud is the common thread that ties together all the listeners in the classroom. It gives them books in common, authors in common, stories in common, and characters in common. Read aloud is when we think together, laugh together, and sometimes cry together.

Read aloud is the dock where we tie up all of our reading canoes, the airport where we land our reading airplanes, the parking lot where we park our reading cars.

Read aloud is a movie theater, where everyone in the audience gets the same soundtrack, even though the screen and the pictures are inside each head.

Read aloud is what solitary readers can do together. It’s a book club, only better, because the conversations don’t just happen after everyone has read the book in isolation. You talk about the book all the way through. Sometimes there’s no time left over to read the book because you’ve spent so much time talking about it. And that’s okay, because read aloud has a permanent spot on the classroom’s daily schedule. The book will be there, waiting for us tomorrow. We can plan on read aloud. We can depend on read aloud.

Read aloud builds readers.

Read aloud is the constant in the changing swirl of classroom content. It’s the learning time that demands both the most and the least of a learner. It’s a time, I was told by a student once, to “learn without trying.” The listener takes from the read aloud what he or she can or will on a day-to-day basis.

Read aloud might be the book that none of the listeners would ever read independently. Read aloud provides a life vest, a climbing harness, a parachute, a safety net to support readers through topics or ideas or genres or events in history that they could never or would never attempt on their own. Read aloud stretches minds. Read aloud opens doors. Read aloud breaks down barriers.

Read aloud cannot be measured or programized or standardized or equalized or regimented. It is organic. Everything depends on the teacher, the book, and the listeners. Read aloud can never be the same thing twice. Read aloud is an art, not a science. The reader paints meaning with book choice, inflection, intonation, sound effects, pauses, and discussion. The listener begins by viewing the reader’s paintings, but often ends up inhabiting the paintings – becoming the characters, experiencing the settings, living the story.

Build can mean construct, establish, or increase. Read aloud builds community, and read aloud builds readers.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Pinterest for Professional Learning and Other Stuff

I am slowly becoming addicted to Pinterest. Again, I have to thank the young teachers at my school for getting me to pay attention to this tool.  I started playing around on Pinterest early and just got back to it. I love the visualness of it. I love the ways that I can pay attention to professional and personal links all at the same time. I love how easy it is to find great things and how easy it is to keep them organized. I like that I can save/pin great recipes to try. I love that I can follow companies Cheesecake Boutique and Team Sparkle. I've recently discovered that Pinterest is also good for professional thinking.  I love the ways different teachers I follow are using Pinterest to collect ideas, things to try, books for unit planning, etc. I have several boards and mine currently include Library Thinking, Literacy, Things I Want to Buy, In Case I Ever Get Crafty, Books, Fitness, Things That Make Me Laugh, Ideas I Like, Teaching, Technology Learning and more.  I am starting to pay attention to the ideas others have for boards and I am learning so much.  So many possibilities!  I thought I'd share some of my favorite boards that connect to teaching:


JILL FISCH Pattern Book Genre Study

KATIE KEIER Classroom Spaces to Live & Learn In

ANN MARIE CORGILL Books and Display Ideas

JULIE RAMSEY'S Learning Spaces and Ideas to Try in the Classroom




And, guess what? Kelly at The Book Butcher has started a new Friday tradition--sharing your favorite pins. Check it out and join in!

Monday, March 05, 2012

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

I feel like I am back into reading a bit more these days! I loved Teri Lesesne's post on the Stenhouse blog on Reigniting the Passion.  I especially appreciated her point about taking a break from reading.  Sometimes I have so much to do that I can't give myself time to read and I feel guilty either way. Giving myself permission to take a break sometimes helps!  I had a great reading week. This week I finished
SEE YOU AT HARRY'S by Jo Knowles. This is an amazing book but a devastating read.  It is one of the hardest books I've ever read and I have not stopped thinking about it. I won't say much but the story is one of family, love and loss.  And it is told so well. The book is being marketed to ages 10+ but I am thinking it is more 12+. Not sure though so I'd love to hear what others think. Really, an amazing book and one I would highly recommend--a must read. But just be ready for a hard read.

I read lots of picture books. My favorite of the week was Z IS FOR MOOSE by Kelly Bingham.  What a fun alphabet book! I am so happy to add this to my ABC book collection. This is such fun. Mary Lee talked me into this one with her review!

I picked up CRAFTY CHLOE by Kelly DiPucchio at Cover to Cover this weekend.  I love Kelly DiPucchio so was happy to see a new one from her.  This book is about Chloe, who loves to make things. I love it for lots of reasons--I loved the character. I loved the value the story places on making things and creativity. I am going to be working with 1st graders on how-to writing so this book will be a perfect conversation starter. There is a website that goes along with this book that will hopefully build to include lots of crafts for readers to try!

I am so excited that Kevin Henkes added a new mouse to his characters. I loved PENNY AND HER SONG and will be reading it to classes this week or next.  I love the quiet story, the short chapters and this addition to the Henkes books.

I had not had time to read THESE HANDS by Margaret Mason and kept meaning to. So glad I read it this week. A very powerful book.

Right now, I am reading a few things.  I am reading THE HUMMING ROOM by Ellen Potter. I love Potter's writing and since this book is closely related to THE SECRET GARDEN, I am excited about it. I am about 1/3 of the way through and I love the character.  Looking forward to finishing this.

I am also reading PROJECT BASED LEARNING IN THE ELEMENTARY GRADES. I registered for a workshop on the topic in June and thought I'd read a bit first.

And, I did finally finish HEALTH AT EVERY SIZE by Linda Bacon. I am glad I read it. It made sense to me--the philosophy of health over weight loss goals seems like a smart way to live.

There are several books on my To-Be-Read Stack:
We have an ARC of THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer Nielsen and one of my 5th graders read it.  When I found it back on my table, there was a post it on top of the book that said, "One of the best books I've read in a long time." So, it has made its way to the top end of my stack!

Beth at Cover to Cover shared CITIZEN SCIENTISTS by Loree Griffin Burns with me and it looks like a great nonfiction read.  I think it will be a great one to share with upper elementary students to connect with their science work.

I keep hearing about CROW by Barbara Wright and want to read that one soon.  And I want to read NERD CAMP since I'd heard about it from CYBILS.

Finally, I have a copy of Ellin Keene's newest book called TALK ABOUT UNDERSTANDING:  RETHINKING CLASSROOM TALK TO ENHANCE COMPREHENSION and it looks amazing. I think talk is the key to great learning and I can't wait to hear what Ellin has to say about this topic.

See what others are reading today at TEACH MENTOR TEXTS:-)