Friday, June 29, 2012

Poetry Friday -- Wordle Poetry Quick-Write

Yesterday's quick-write prompt at Kate Messner's Teachers Write! Summer Camp invited us to use Wordle to discover the theme of our writing and to learn more about our characters.

I made two versions of a Wordle out of six poems I recently submitted. (It's a little disturbing to see the extremely pedestrian word LIKE as the biggest word in the cloud, but when I looked back at the poems, I found that just one poem was the culprit, and those "likes" were quite necessary in the context of that poem. Whew!)

Then, because I do love to twist the writing prompts into my own braid of ideas, I used the Wordles as if (I almost said like...) they were Magnetic Poetry. I created a poem using just the words I could find in my Wordles. It was quite a fun exercise that I would recommend!


Hope spirals,
at midday.

Girl turning.
Wish travels
through sunbeams.

Spin wonder:
soar, flutter...
keep dreaming.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2012

Marjorie has the Poetry Friday roundup at PaperTigers. The schedule for July-December is filled, and I'll get the html code into files at the Kidlitosphere Yahoo Group and to Pam for the calendar at the Kidlitosphere Central website this weekend. If you don't belong to the Yahoo group but would like the code for your sidebar, just send me a request: mlhahn at earthlink dot net.

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Your Character's Playlist

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by rifqi dahlgren


I'm an ant.
My eyes are big,
my joints are orange,
my bite means business.

I have work to do.
You're in my way. 
I'm warning you --
my bite means business.

You better move.
I'm just one.
A hundred-hundred more
are following.

And we mean business.

Music this ant hums as he marches along (with his hundred-hundred comrades): March of the Defenders of Moscow, sung by the Red Army Choir.

And yet, after a day of marching, there's nothing this ant likes better than to kick back, relax, and tap into his creative side. He invites his friends to pose for portraits in his photo studio. Then he composes his own music and he posts his photo/music montages on YouTube, in the hopes that he will increase appreciation for the Formicidae family.

All business by day, all arts by night, this is one multi-faceted ant (and we're not just talking about his eyes, folks!!).

* * * * * * *

What on earth is this crazy post doing here? It's my response to the Tuesday Quick-Write for Teachers Write! Summer Writing Camp. I didn't really follow the rules very well. (What did you expect?!?) But I had fun getting into the head of this ant.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Teachers Write! Summer Camp with Kate Messner

I've been dipping in and out of Teachers Write! for the past few weeks, using the prompts and taking the challenges as my schedule would allow.

Now that I've got a clear stretch of time to dig back into my own reading and writing life, I'm looking forward to getting more involved with the community of writers that have gathered at Kate's virtual summer camp.

And how lucky was I, that the day I got back to being more scheduled with my writing and more dedicated to my participation in Teachers Write!, the mini-lesson was given by Ruth McNally Barshaw, author/illustrator of the Ellie McDoodle books! I LOVE Ellie McDoodle!

Ruth's mini-lesson? Sketch before writing. Sketch during writing. Sketch to understand your writing (character, setting, plot -- with storyboarding).

Down to the basement I went, and look what I found waiting for me in one of the tubs stacked on the bonus desk down there:

I knew my colored pencils were there, but I forgot about the virtually unused sketch book (it's been almost 10 years since I sketched and wrote in it!!), the water colors, and the water color colored pencils that can be brushed and blended with water.

I used my camera as my digital "sketch book" when I took my walk this morning, then sat on the front porch in the shade of the oak tree,

writing and sketching from the shots I took...and from the meanderings of my brain.

There are bits and pieces of a poem-to-be about our big front yard oak tree on this page of doodling in words and images.

It made me unbelievably happy to reconnect to my artistic self in my writing process. Thank you, Kate. And thank you, Ruth!

All Write Summer Institute

Mindy Hoffar and her peeps run an incredible Summer Institute every year in Indiana.  Last week was the annual event. It was a two day institute. Last year, a group of Twitter friends decided to attend. We had such a great time that we all returned this year.  I did a few sessions on Thursday and stayed for the 2nd day of the conference.  It was such a great few days. Not only was it a great institute, but it was so fun to see good friends.  There was a group of about 10 of us from Central Ohio (several from Dublin) and lots of other friends from around the country that we got to spend time with. Such fun learning with friends.

Not only were the sessions great but being there with friends made the institute even better. Not only did we have meals together, runs together and late night snacks together, but we had carloads of us drive in from various places around the area.  The car ride alone, talking to Karen and Tony for uninterrupted hours, was some great professional learning in itself.

We started the conference with a fun dinner at the Boathouse restaurant in Warsaw. Ruth took care of making the plans and we all had a great time catching up.

I couldn't possibly share all that I learned or all that I left thinking about. But I thought I'd share some highlights.

One of the things I left with was the overall theme of the two days. It was an unplanned theme, I think. But every speaker seem to be giving similar messages about bringing joy back to the classrooms--remaining grounded in our work with children.  It was great to hear this in so many ways, from so many brilliant people.

The Twitter friends getting ready for Ruth's opening keynote. (You'll notice that Tony is following Paul's Rider by leaving an empty chair next to Paul.)

Ruth Ayres gave one of the most brilliant keynote I've heard.  She was genuine and graceful and smart about all that she said. Her keynote title alone was brilliant. The keynote was titled, "Mandates, Standards and Evaluation: Can Teachers Still Change the World?"  She reminded us about being joyful in the classroom. She reminded us that we control our attitudes. She reminded us that, yes, we can change the world.  Here are some of Ruth's most brilliant quotes from her keynote:

Our mission should be one of story. Story allows us to change the world.

Living your story may be the most important thing you do in your classroom.

The decisions you make are based on knowledge and research and wisdom.

It's time to trust ourselves again and do the things needed for students' well being.

And a quote Ruth shared from Hal Bowman, "It's really not that complicated.  All you have to do is send them home a little bit better than they came to you in the morning."

Ruth reflected on her keynote on her blog, Two Writing Teachers.

I was able to hear Jim Burke talk about the 4 Cs of writing.  He talked about the importance of commitment, content, competency, and capacity. He reminded us of the importance of time and the unique work of academic writing. He also talked about the recent emphasis on reading in schools that has really impacted writing instruction. Jim gave me lots to think about. I want to think about what his thinking means for elementary students. I loved his ideas about digital essays and the ways he used Google searches to help students build background knowledge. My favorite quote from Jim was:

Writing is probably the largest orchestra your brain will ever conduct.

The dinner event was held next door to the hotel and Ralph Fletcher was the speaker. He talked about writing notebooks.  I could talk about his session, but instead I want to share some info on his upcoming book, Guy-Write.  It is a book for boys about writing.  I love the boy audience and Ralph is the perfect person to write this book. Ralph brought me a copy of the book (due to be released in early July) and some of my tablemates were a little jealous. Granted, I was a little bit excited about getting the book and I may have shown it. (I believe Paul called me "smug.")  And I didn't have the empathy I should have for others at the table who did not get a copy of the book. Even after I saw their shocked and sad faces. But, I understand there was a plot to steal the book....

If you have heard the rumor that I did not share the book, let me assure you that it was merely a rumor. Of course I shared the book. Here is proof:

Paul looking at Franki's copy of Guy-Write

Not only did we get to hear Ralph at dinner, but I also went to his morning session on Mentor Texts. He had us write a bit--you can read a poem that Mary Lee wrote in this session on last week's Poetry Friday post.  A few of my favorite quotes from this session include:

Those of us who teach writing need to take advantage of short texts.

Don't squeeze all the juice out of a mentor text.

Patrick Allen and Ruth Ayres did a session together on the impact our own reading and writing have on our teaching. I got to this session a bit late so I missed the first 20ish minutes.  Ruth talked about the importance of "nudging joy" and asked us to ask ourselves, "Are the kids in my classroom feeling this kind of joy?"  She talked about the importance of teaching that nourishes, nudges and strengthens.  Two quotes that I loved from this session were:

The best professional development is to build our own reading and writing lives. (Ruth)

I want kids to leave with a little text in their hearts and minds. (Patrick)

In the afternoon I went to a session by Patrick Allen on Synthesis.  Patrick so understands reading instruction and strategy instruction.  I have heard him talk about conferring with students but had never heard him talk about synthesis.  An important thing he said that I am thinking about was the way he talks to his studnets about what "wise" readers do instead of what "good" readers do.  

What matters most to student learning? Thinking, Understanding, Decision-Making, Purpose

Thinking strategies are intentional plans readers use to help themselves make sense of their reading.

I got to hear Donalyn Miller talk about the ideas behind her new book about authentic reading.  She asked us to think about whether we were creating independent or dependent readers in our classrooms. There was a ton to think about. During Donalyn's session, I took this photo of our friend Stella who was busy taking notes (while also tweeting on the iPad!) and doing lots of thinking, as we all were! Love this picture of Stella!

Two favorite quotes from Donalyn were:

We need to spend some time explicitly teaching reading habits to kids.

We are not expecting kids to read nearly as much as they are capable of reading.

Katie Wood Ray ended the conferences with her keynote titled,  "Holding on Tight to What is Common to Our Core."  As always, Katie's talk was amazing. I have read everything she's ever written, heard her speak more times than I can count, and I am inspired by her every single time.  She talked about the impact of Common Core and the power of writing workshop and reminded us that we know the growth our students make because we have writing workshops in place.  Some favorite quotes from Katie:

Ways of being with children in classrooms will not change.

You will always own how you teach.

Nationalization of curriculum will not negate the beautiful truth of individual children.

She ended by saying, "We teach children. That is my stance."

You can go back and see all the tweets from the conference by searching the Twitter hashtag #allwrite12.  So many great things shared through Twitter during the two days.

I am already looking forward to next year's All Write Summer Institute!

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Slides from All Write

I will be writing more about all that I learned at All Write this week--what an amazing few days of learning with friends! Such a great conference. I promised to post my slides on my Slide Share account. I did that this morning so here is the link to those. They sometimes miss things or cut things off when loaded to Slideshare but the links to every site and video are included so they should include the info people wanted. Hope it is helpful.  I have posted all 3 sessions--Digital Reading, Digital Writing and Planning Minilessons.

And for those who asked, my upcoming book on Planning Minilessons should be available from Choice Literacy in early fall.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Poetry Friday -- Mentor Texts

I'm at the All Write conference in Warsaw, Indiana.
I sort of lost track of time and forgot it was Friday.
But Ralph Fletcher saved me.
At Ralph's session on mentor texts, he invited us to use the first two lines and the last two lines of his poem, "The Good Old Days" to write our own poem.

Here's my quick-write:


Sometimes I remember
The good old days

Getting my bike out of the little building
In the cool of the early morning

Snatching the ripest cherry tomateos from the vines
Before I headed to swim practice

Biking on the gravelly streets
Squinting into the sun

Throwing my towel on the still-wet grass by the pool
And diving into the shockingly cold water

Windmilling my arms to the end of the pool and back
Again and again until I was exhausted

I can't imagine
Anything better than that.

Amy at The Poem Farm has the Poetry Friday roundup this week, but I can't seem to link to her yet. Use the schedule in the sidebar to find her.

Oh, and speaking of the schedule, there are three spots open on the July-December PF Roundup schedule. If you want one of those three spots, leave a comment here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Summer Solstice

Today is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year (in the Northern Hemisphere). Today, the reason for the season has nothing to do with any kind of human construct. It's all about our planet, it's 23.5 degree tilt, and its yearly trip around our amazing star, the sun.

Solstice seems like the perfect day to spotlight three books by Molly Bang about the sun.

In 2004, Molly Bang wrote My Light, a celebration of the sun and a description of how we can transform sunlight into electricity.

In 2009 (with Penny Chisholm), Bang gave us Living Sunlight, one of the clearest explanations of photosynthesis (down to the molecular level) that you'll ever read. Again, a celebration of our sun.

This year (again with Penny Chisholm), in Ocean Sunlight, Bang celebrates the sun's role in sustaining life on our planet, specifically, in the habitat of the ocean.

She begins by reminding us what we know about photosynthesis on land, and how every food chain begins with plants harnessing energy from the sun. Then she asks us to think about food chains in the ocean:

"All ocean life is part
of food chains, too.
And every ocean food
chain starts when plants
catch my light.

But where
are the ocean's plants?"

Where? In the billion billion billion phytoplankton drifting in the oceans! A microscopic pasture that feeds larger and larger organisms, all the way up to the whales.

That's interesting and mind-boggling, but then she takes it to a whole new the dark dark bottom of the ocean. How do the animals there get to participate in a sunlight-driven food chain when they have no light? They recycle all the "junk" that floats down from the surface. And how do the nutrients created by the life forms on the bottom of the ocean get up to the phytoplankton on the surface? The sun. The sun causes the currents that stir the oceans.

The sun. It always comes back to the sun. Life on earth, the water cycle, food chains, photosynthesis, oxygen and carbon dioxide, consumption and production.

Happy Solstice. 
Take a minute today to appreciate our sun.

Monday, June 18, 2012


Back to IT'S MONDAY! WHAT ARE YOU READING! I love this tradition created by Kellee and Jen at TEACH MENTOR TEXTS. My reading list grows every Monday when I read about everyone else's reading!

I read some great books this week. I am trying to focus my reading on new 4th grade titles as well as series that I may have missed in the last few years.

THE TEMPLETON TWINS HAVE AN IDEA by Ellis Weiner is a great new middle grade novel that looks to be the first in a series.  This book is about twins who have an inventor for a father.  But they get kidnapped because of one of these inventions. The kids are clever though so it is quite a fun adventure. The book reminded me a tiny bit of The Series of Unfortunate Events in the storyline/crazy adventure and the humor combined.  I love the humor in this book. The narrator talks to the read often, usually with quite a bit of sarcasm.  This would make a fun read aloud for older middle grade readers with a sophisticated understanding of sarcasm and humor. I am already looking forward to the next book in this series.

I am a huge Lisa Graff fan and was thrilled to discover her new book DOUBLE DOG DARE. I love Lisa Graff because she is a brilliant middle grade author. She understands the age she writes for and she is able to tackle difficult subjects in a way that makes them accessible to middle grade readers.  She combines the perfect combination of serious issues and humor to write great books. In this book, a new student moves in.  A battle for the news anchor job begins and each of the people wanting the job agree to "double dog dares".  The dares are fun and kids will love to read about the dares, and how each turns out.  Embedded in the funny story about dares are issues of moving to a new town, friendship, family, divorce and more. This is a perfect book for 4th and 5th graders--one that will hook them from the very first chapter.

A series book that I read this week (recommended by Tony Keefer) was THE CHAMELEON WORE CHARTREUSE:  A CHET GECKO MYSTERY by Bruce Hale. I was not familiar with this series and was happy to find a new one that might engage some 4th graders. I enjoyed the book and will definitely include a basket of these in my classroom. I am not a huge middle grade mystery fan but this is a good mystery series. The word play in this book was my favorite part. Clever language makes the story fun to read.

My friend Tammy sent me a new picture book biography that I loved. QUEEN OF THE TRACK:  ALICE COACHMAN: OLYMPIC HIGH-JUMP CHAMPION by Heather Lang is the story of the first African-American woman to win a gold medal at the Olympics.  I love good picture book biographies, especially those that introduce us to stories of people who are not as well-known as they should be.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Poetry Friday Roundup is Here

by Wendell Berry

    (to remind myself)


Make a place to sit down.
Sit down. Be quiet.
You must depend upon
affection, reading, knowledge,
skill—more of each
than you have—inspiration,
work, growing older, patience,
for patience joins time
to eternity. Any readers
who like your poems,
doubt their judgment.


Breathe with unconditional breath
the unconditioned air.
Shun electric wire.
Communicate slowly. Live
a three-dimensioned life;
stay away from screens.
Stay away from anything
that obscures the place it is in.
There are no unsacred places;
there are only sacred places
and desecrated places.


Accept what comes from silence.
Make the best you can of it.
Of the little words that come
out of the silence, like prayers
prayed back to the one who prays,
make a poem that does not disturb
the silence from which it came.

We'll have to delay our practice of the middle part of Mr. Berry's poem as we share and enjoy our poems via electric wire, communicating quickly, gazing at screens.

Leave your links in the comments. I'll round up periodically, and in between times, I'll find some silence and write some poems.

If you're interested in hosting a Poetry Friday roundup in June-December 2012, the place to sign up is here. There are only six dates left, so don't delay! (Yes, I'll go back later today and add the blogs and links for some of the ones that are incomplete. Bad planning to do the roundup and the call for hosts on the same Friday...)

*    *    *    *    *    *    *    *    *

Steven Withrow, at Crackles of Speech, shares an original poem about his Maine Coon Calico, Muffin.

Lucky for us, Tara, at A Teaching Life, continues to investigate and explore the new Poet Laureate's poetry.

Meandering is the mode of the day with Robyn Hood Black, at Read, Write, Howl.

Violet, at Violet Nesdoly / Poems, meditates on the meaning of a metronome.

Charles Ghinga (Father Goose) has an original moon poem for us this week.

Book lovers and independent bookstore lovers, head over to Jama's Alphabet Soup for a wistful remembrance of bookstores and booksellers.

Julie Larios, at The Drift Record, shares a poet with us, rather than a poem. Check out his rakish pose. (Some whimsical eye candy for Jama's blog?) And definitely follow the link to the new book on Frost and his poems. I'm predicting that sales will jump today.

Douglas Florian, at Florian Cafe, treats us to another poem from his baseball collection POEM RUNS.

Iphigene, at Gathering Books, has a "remembering home" poem that reminds me a bit of Jama's. Just a bit.

Check it Out. That's Jone's blog and what you should do. On Wednesday, Jone interviewed Susan Taylor Brown. ( I have serious office envy.) Today, Jone is sharing an original "Lily" poem by Susan.

Linda, at TeacherDance, has written an original Father's Day poem for her husband, a great father and grandfather.

We have another meandering post from Renee, at No Water River. She takes us from bales of hay, to a dairy farm in Iowa, to a "plowboy" farmer who loves cowboy poetry, to a silly rendition of a classic poem about a dairy cow. MOO!

Laura, at Author Amok, writes in response to current events in Syria.

Tabatha, at The Opposite of Indifference, shows us a different side of the Boogieman.

Katya, at Write. Sketch. Repeat., found a fascinating book/poem connection.

Ed DeCaria has a new gig writing baseball poetry for The Hardball Times. He uses one by Marianne Moore to convince readers that baseball and poetry can harmonize, and he follows that with an original sudoku haiku.

Diane triples with her Poetry Friday posts every week! She has FOUR offerings this week:
At Random Noodling I have Rita Dove's poem "Daystar." Kurious Kitty celebrates Father's Day with a poem by Peter Markus from the anthology, Fathers. And, over at Kurious K's Kwotes' is a quote by Peter Markus. The Write Sisters has a father poem by Seamus Heaney, "Digging."

Doraine, at Dori Reads, has a post full of laughter and joy.

At Writing the World for Kids, Laura has some thought-provoking lyrics, and lots of people took part in her 15 Words or Less prompt for this week. (I need to get back in the habit of participating...)

Debbie shares a J. Patrick Lewis cat poem with fun plays on words this week at her blog Debbie Diller: A Journey in Learning.

Amy, at The Poem Farm, says goodbye to a beloved pet bunny.

Donna, at Write Time, wrote a Father's Day poem for her sons (about their father) that will bring tears to your eyes.

At Mainley Write, Donna feels the tug of tides in her original poem.

Andi, at A Wrung Sponge, had an urban fox sighting just after reading a poem about urban foxes in a new book by Marilyn Singer.

Marjorie, at Paper Tigers, shares a poem from Talking with Mother Earth/Hablando con Madre Tierra, a collection of poems by Salvadoran poet Jorge Argueta.

Liz, at Growing Wild, has an original poem about the summer swimming pool that is simply PERFECT!!

Anastasia shares THE CONSTRUCTION CREW by Lynn Meltzer (Author) and Carrie Eko-Burgess (Illustrator) at Booktalking.

Need a poem for Father's Day? Sylvia has a list of poetry books about fathers at Poetry For Children.

Carol, at Carol's Corner, is trying hard to savor the last year before both of her boys leave the nest. Her poem choice today is perfect for savoring and noticing small moments.

Elaine is sharing an original memoir poem at Wild Rose Reader today. More savoring!

Pentimento shares a poem about the long healing that comes after the loss of an infant.

Rena, who is On the Way to Somewhere, shares an original poem about a sock monster.

(Now it's time for lunch, and then I'm going to make the birthday cake for my mom's 85th birthday tomorrow. I'll be back to round up a few more posts when the three chocolately layers are cooling!)

Ruth has arrived at her motel after a day of traveling and shares with us a poem about having two homes. Even her blog's name seems to be a comment on the theme of place -- There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town.

Janet, at All About the Books with Janet Squires, shares a Lee Bennett Hopkins anthology about the wonders of museums.

Lorie Ann Grover writes, "At On Point I have Memory's Shimmer, and at readertotz we have How Doth the Little Crocodile."

Poetry Friday Call for Roundup Hosts

It's that time again. Six months have passed since last we queued up to host the Poetry Friday roundups.

If you'd like to host a roundup between July and December 2012, leave your choice(s) of date(s) in the comments. I'll update throughout the day to make it easier to see which dates have been claimed.

Who can do the Poetry Friday roundup? Anyone who is willing to gather the links in some way, shape or form (Mr. Linky, "old school" in the comments-->annotated in the post, Jog the Web, or ???) on the Friday of your choice. If you are new to the Poetry Friday community, jump right in! If you've never participated, but you'd like to get started, choose a date later on so that we can spend some time getting to know each other.

What is the Poetry Friday roundup? A gathering of links to posts featuring original or shared poems, or reviews of poetry books. A carnival of poetry posts.

How do you do a Poetry Friday roundup? If you're not sure, stick around for a couple of weeks and watch...and learn! One thing we're finding out is that folks who schedule their posts, or who live in a different time zone than you, appreciate it when the roundup post goes live sometime on Thursday. (I'm rounding up today, so that post will appear this afternoon. Stay tuned.)

How do I get the code for the PF Roundup Schedule for the sidebar of my blog? I'll post it in the files on the Kidlitosphere Yahoo group, and I'd be happy to send it to you if you leave me your email address. Speaking of the the Kidlitosphere Yahoo group, I'll set up reminders on the calendar there. Plus, I'll send the schedule to Pam to put on the Kidlitosphere Central webpage.

Why would I do a Poetry Friday Roundup? Community, community, community. It's like hosting a poetry party on your blog! 

And now for the where and when:

13 Jone at Check it Out
20 Tara at A Teaching Life
27 Bibliophile at Life is Better With Books

17 Andi at A Wrung Sponge
24 Dori at Dori Reads
31 Sylvia at Poetry For Children

14 Diane at Random Noodling
21 Renee at No Water River
28 Marjorie at Paper Tigers

12 Amy at The Poem Farm
19 Irene at Live Your Poem...
26 Linda at TeacherDance

2 Donna at Mainely Write
16 Anastasia at Booktalking
23 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading

7 Robyn at Read, Write, Howl
28 Carol at Carol's Corner

Wednesday, June 13, 2012


by Karla Oceanak
illustrated by Kendra Spanjer
Bailiwick Press, 2012
review copy provided by the publisher

Aldo Zelnick is ESTRANGED from his best friend Jack in this fifth book in the Aldo Zelnick Comic Novel series.

The series is alphabetic, and we're up to the letter E. (My reviews of the other 4 books are here.) Aldo's laziness gets the best of him in this book -- his refusal to put forth enough EFFORT to do well in ESPAƑOL...even to accept Spanish as worth the effort...understandably causes a rift between him and his best friend, Jack, a native Spanish speaker.

I wasn't as patient with Aldo as his parents and his other friends were. I didn't like this completely EGOCENTRIC side of Aldo. But he came through in the end, even sacrificing his Halloween candy, which, if you know Aldo, was a huge sacrifice.

There were lots of fun subplots in this book -- Aldo is reading A WRINKLE IN TIME, and he even makes a "Bacon Boy" (his own original comic character) cartoon retelling of the book. It is raining through most of the book, and Aldo and his friends build dams in the gutters, just like I did when I was a kid. And, because Aldo is doing a report on EINSTEIN and dressing like him for Halloween, there are lots of fun Einstein facts and science EXPERIMENTS woven into the story. (Make sure you don't miss the nod to EDWARD Gorey on the last page of the book!)

Next up in the series are FINICKY (looks like Aldo might need to start eating more healthily) and GLITCH (looks like a take-off on the Grinch).

Tuesday, June 12, 2012


I was thrilled when I found a review copy of IT'S A TIGER in my mailbox from Chronicle Books. The book is written by David LaRochelle and illustrated by Jeremy Tankard. I immediately recognized Tankard's illustrations as he is an illustrator whose work I love (Me Hungry!).

This is a fun book that would make a great read aloud, especially for primary students. In the spirit of WE'RE GOING ON A BEAR HUNT, the narrator takes us through a jungle. We don't go looking for a tiger, but soon into the journey, readers spot a one and must run from it.  Readers are instructed to follow the narrator past vines, up a ladder, and onto an island in order to escape the tiger.  But at every turn, the tiger seems to appear.

This book is due to be released in August.  Right in time for the beginning of the school year!  Young readers will love the surprise and the predictability of this book. The illustrations make it an enjoyable kind of scary and the ending is a treat.  Definitely a great read aloud for primary classrooms. Kids will be dying to join in this journey!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

GIANTS BEWARE! A Fun New Graphic Novel

I bought a copy of GIANTS BEWARE by Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre at our Selections Book Fair. I hadn't seen it but it was a hit with the kids.  The cover grabbed my attention immediately and I knew it was a graphic novel that I wanted to read.  I read it last week as one of my #bookaday books and I LOVED it. It might be my new favorite graphic novel. It is perfect for middle grades and middle school. This is the story of Claudette, who lives in a town safe from evil. The town is walled in and no one can go out and one main reason is the giants. But Claudette isn't afraid and she wants to fight the giants rather than hide behind walls. She convinces (slyly and a little dishonestly) her brother and her best friend to accompany her on her journey to slay the giant.   I love this book for so many reasons:

1. I love the characters.  I love the way they are drawn and I love the development of each of the characters' personalities.

2. Claudette is a funny heroine--a female fighter at heart.  She is definitely one of my new favorite characters.

3. The graphics are engaging--I have trouble with graphic novels because I don't often spend enough time with the visuals. This book makes that part easy to do. Lots to look at and make sense of throughout.

4. I love Marie's hair. Marie is Claudette's best friend and she is an aspiring princess.

5. The humor is brilliant. And surprising. Throughout the book, there were these great lines that made me laugh out loud.

6. The combination of scary adventure and fun is perfect for middle graders.

A great read and I am hoping to see more Claudette books sometime soon!

Friday, June 08, 2012

Poetry Friday: Directions

by Connie Wanek

First you'll come to the end of the freeway.
Then it's not so much north on Woodland Avenue
as it is a feeling that the pines are taller and weigh more,
and the road, you'll notice,
is older with faded lines and unmown shoulders.
You'll see a cemetery on your right
and another later on your left.
Sobered, drive on.
                   Drive on for miles
if the fields are full of hawkweed and daisies.
Sometimes a spotted horse
will gallop along the fence. Sometimes you'll see
a hawk circling, sometimes a vulture.

(the whole poem is at The Writer's Almanac)

Today is a traveling day, and this poem seems apt. Especially the part about the horizon (you'll have to read the whole poem).

Happy Friday! Happy Poetry! Jama has the roundup this week at Jama's Alphabet Soup, and as usual, it is drooliciously wonderful!

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Go, Go, Grapes!

by April Pulley Sayre
Beach Lane Books, 2012

I said it last year when I reviewed Rah, Rah, Radishes!, and I'll say it again this year: April Pulley Sayre is the queen of chants!

She's chanting to the choir with both of these books, but a quick peek at my counter and refrigerator will show that I don't need ANY convincing on the subject of fruit! (How on earth am I going to eat a pint of blueberries, 2 mangoes, a pineapple and a bag of bing cherries before I leave on Friday?!?!)

As with Rah, Rah, Radishes!, Go, Go, Grapes! features vivid photos from farmer's markets and groceries around Ohio and Indiana, along with some guest appearances from a Vietnamese farmer's market in New Orleans for some of the most exotic fruits.

Word study? Check out these JUICY words!

Science? Use this book with your plant unit!

Writing workshop? Go gather up a collection of words on a topic and try writing your own chant!

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Creating Ignite Presentations with 4th Graders

One of our big 4th grade projects was our MADE TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE PROJECT. As part of this integrated project, each student created an Ignite presentation on a topic/cause they cared about.

I wrote a bit about this during the process but we wanted to capture the process and some samples as a reflective piece as teachers.  I used Kevin Hodgson as a mentor for the Wikispaces we ended up with. I had learned so much from his Video Game Design site and I loved how he captured so much for us to see. Often, especially with new technologies, the learning that leads to the final product is often not easily visible.  When I visited Kevin's site and learned all that went into the gaming unit he did with his 6th graders, the learning was so much easier to see.

Using his site as a type of mentor text, we worked to create a site that captured the 4th grade project. You can visit it here.  It is not quite finished but close enough that I felt that it was worth sharing.

I think as teachers, the messages we are getting from the standardized testing environment seem very different from the messages we are getting from the 21st Century Learning things out there. But if we can capture all that we do and the way that it relates to standards, if we can make the learning of the process more visible for students, community and ourselves, I think we can teach well and students will learn what is needed, no matter what standards we are responsible for.

One of the important things I learned is that putting a wiki or site together after the project is over is nearly impossible.  We were not able to collect and share all that we wanted to because we waited until the end to post and the task was overwhelming.  I think it would be a far better idea to involve kids not only in the project but also in creating a space like this where they can capture their own learning.  So much happened on a day to day basis, that it would be smarter next time, to post daily or every few days and then reorganize as needed.  This site is not exactly as we imagined but it is our first attempt at capturing some of the learning that led up to a final project.  For us, this is a site for us to reflect on the process and to revisit when we plan for future learning.

It is my hope that Kevin Hodgson started something--gave us, as teachers a way to capture the learning that our students do in long-term projects.  If we can all make it a point to share these projects--the learning rather than only the final products, we can help each other and ourselves to teach better. I know Kevin's gaming site helped me incredibly and I am hoping that sharing our Ignite project helps someone else.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Big, Big Plans

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

(Thanks to Jen and Kellee at TEACH MENTOR TEXTS for creating this great tradition and for rounding up the week's reading!)

It was a good reading week. I started #bookaday and am excited about having a little more time to catch up on reading.  I finished GRACELING by Kristin Cashore which I loved. I love a good fairy tale/fantasy and will probably read the next two in the series too. Definitely as good as Jen and Kellee told me it was when they convinced me to read it!

My #bookaday choices have been mostly short books as the days are already busy. But I created a stack of quick reads for this purpose.  This week I read two graphic novels. FANGBONE by Michael Rex is one I heard about on a few Twitter chats. It is a fun story of a Barbarian who travels forward in time to a school in order to protect an important treasure. It was a fun read and one that middle graders will love. I also had the chance to read the new SQUISH (The Power of the Parasite). This might be my favorite of the three. I like that I can come to expect certain things from these books and the humor has a sophistication that I love.

I also finished my first professional read of the summer:  PUBLIC TEACHING: ONE KID AT A TIME by Penny Kittle. This was one that I just recently discovered. I am a huge fan of Penny Kittle and her work and had somehow missed this book. It was the PERFECT book for summer and one to re- energize teachers. Even though it was written in 2003, it is very timely.  It is really a reminder of who we are and why we teach. Penny shares story after story of students --the stories are genuine and honest.  It is a book of both reflection and celebration and one that helped reground me.

Next up:
CAPTURE THE FLAG by Kate Messner

Sunday, June 03, 2012

May Mosaic

To view on Flickr, go here.

Happy May. Happy June. Happy Summer.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Caine's Arcade in the Library

I had a hard time deciding how to end my time with kids in the library. I am excited to go back to the classroom, but leaving Riverside and the people there was hard. I feel lucky to have been part of the Riverside community.   I thought back to my four years in the library.  I started off my time in the library thinking hard about the spaces for kids, reading and learning. And I redesigned various spaces several times based on evolving goals. I wanted the kids to see the library as a place for more than just checking out books. I wanted them to see it as an energizing place for learning, one that was full of tools and possibilities.  I had big yearly goals, visions for 21st Century Learners, visions based on professional reading and pieces I shared with kids to help expand their view of what the library could be.

I started my time in the library creating a space that welcomed kids and learning.  We shared great books and laughed together a lot. We learned about favorite authors, enjoyed surprise endings and read and read and read.  We added computers and iPads, iPods and ebook readers.  We learned that there were so many tools for learning as we spent time using building toys, games and cameras.  By the middle of this years, students were pretty independent.  They came to the library with an idea of how to spend their time. We usually started our time together with a book, a new website, a game or a new tool I wanted to share. Then kids could choose how to spend their learning time. It looked simple, but it took years to build an environment that welcomed this kind of learning.  I loved standing back and looking at the variety of things kids were doing.

So, as we moved into the last week of school, I couldn't decide how to end our time together.  My gut was to read a good book. How could I go wrong with that? But I wanted to give them more than that.  I knew that I wanted to give them 20 minutes of choice time during their last library class -- they had come to expect it and to use it well. It was important to them as learners and there were really no choices they could make that didn't support their learning in some way.

I finally decided to end the year with each class by sharing the video of Caine's Arcade. Our art teacher had shared it with me and it had inspired us both.  It seemed the perfect way to end the year and our four years together in the library.  Better than a book, it was a message that I thought matched all that I'd been trying to say with our work in the library over four years.

So, I shared the video in the first 10 minutes of our last library classes.  Kids were glued.  They didn't move or make a sound. They smiled as big as Caine smiled as they watched the customers appear in the video. And they were inspired.  I told them at the end of the movie, that I had picked this to show them to kick off their summer. That I hoped they had a summer filled with with reading and writing of course. But to also fill their summers with creating and making and playing.  I felt that it was the right message to end my time with these amazing kids, who I will miss incredibly.  I felt that it was a message I hoped they would remember, one that would inspire them somehow.

I have to say, the impact was immediate. I gave the children 20-25 minutes of choice time after the video. In almost every class, someone created something different BECAUSE they had watched the video. Kids who had been building with straws and connectors for weeks, created games for others to play with these same building tools. They began to look at the building toys with new eyes. Kids who often spent their time writing books, instead created menus for restaurants they planned to create over the summer.  Some students created extensive drawings of dollhouse furniture they might make or cardboard statues they envisioned.  It was amazing and it happened within minutes of watching the video.

I wanted the library to be about possibilities as learners and I hope that it was for many children.  I hope that something in Caine's Arcade helps them to understand that creativity matters and that they have the capacity to create amazing things and to have fun while doing it.

I knew the video would be powerful but didn't realize how powerful it would be. I may start my year in the classroom with the same video. The message it has for our children is a powerful one. It is a video that invites, inspires and validates. It is a video that gives me a vision for what learning is all about.

(Today, I received this link via Facebook from Riverside's amazing art teacher, Drew Jones.  Caine seems to be inspiring learners everywhere!)

Friday, June 01, 2012

Poetry Friday -- Rain

Flickr Creative Commons photo by kicksave2930


It is finally raining.
After a long period
of unseasonable heat
unending dryness,
it is finally raining.

The relief
of the grass, the trees,
the native plants who are expected to survive
without extra watering
is nearly palpable.

Jack Black is helping Carol host the Poetry Friday roundup at Carol's Corner (and dug up back yard).