Thursday, July 31, 2014

Poetry Friday -- Retro Post

This post originally appeared as a part of my 2013 Poetry Month Project: Common Inspiration--Uncommon Creations. I am working to gather my Poetry Month Projects and other assorted original poems on my website, Poetrepository. I'm not anywhere near finished yet, but it's been fun to look back. A huge thank you to Amy LV for her website, The Poem Farm, which was my "mentor text" for the design of my site. I chose this one for today because as you are reading it, I will be fly fishing in Vermont!

Margaret has today's roundup at Reflections on the Teche. See you next week here at A Year of Reading for the Poetry Friday Roundup! Until then, I'll wish you "tight lines!"

I have been involved with Casting for Recovery since 2005, when I was a participant. I have written about it many times here on the blog. Use the search box ("Casting for Recovery") to find these posts, if the spirit moves you. And if you want, you can even "like" the Ohio CFR Facebook Page!

One of my favorite fishing memories happened in Maine when I treated myself to a trip to L.L. Bean's Women's Fly Fishing School. After I completed the classes, I fished on several rivers in Maine before returning home. One was much like the picture above, and although I wasn't dressed like that pre-1920's fisherwoman, I was standing on a large boulder, fishing alone. Alone, but not alone. A flock of cedar waxwings crowded the bank, chasing after the fly I was casting. I was having no luck with the fish, so I just stood quietly to enjoy the birds. When I had been still for a few minutes, one of the birds perched on the tip of my fly rod! My favorite fly fishing catch of all time!! Here's a haiku about that day:


Cedar waxwings flocked,
curious about my casts.
Calm fly rod: bird perch.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2013

You might have noticed that there is no attribution for this picture. That's because it's in the Public Domain. Here's what Wikimedia Commons had to say about public domain as it relates to this photo:

"This Canadian work is in the public domain in Canada because its copyright has expired due to one of the following:
1. it was subject to Crown copyright and was first published more than 50 years ago, or
it was not subject to Crown copyright, and
2. it is a photograph that was created prior to January 1, 1949, or
3. the creator died more than 50 years ago.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923.
Public domain works must be out of copyright in both the United States and in the source country of the work in order to be hosted on the Commons. If the work is not a U.S. work, the file must have an additional copyright tag indicating the copyright status in the source country."

The theme of my 2013 National Poetry Month Project was

"Common Inspiration--Uncommon Creations." 

Each day in April, I featured media from the Wikimedia Commons ("a database of 16,565,065 freely usable media files to which anyone can contribute") along with bits and pieces of my brainstorming and both unfinished and finished poems.

I used the media to inspire my poetry, and I invited my students to use my daily media picks to inspire any original creation: poems, stories, comics, music, videos, sculptures, drawings...anything!

July Mosaic

This month I'll tell stories by request. Want to know the story behind one (or more) of these photos? Identify the photo by row or column and position and then be sure to subscribe to the comments so you can see my reply. We'll be traveling today, so I'll get back to you later tonight.

Almost every month, inquiring minds want to know: How do I make my mosaics?
First, I take thirty or more (and sometimes less) pictures every month.
Next, I make a set on Flickr. (This month's set is here, and there are a couple of bonus photos from last night at the Birdseye Diner that didn't fit in the mosaic.)
Then, I go to Big Huge Labs and use their Mosaic Maker with the link to my Flickr photoset.
Finally, I download, save, insert, comment, and publish!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A Few Books to Read Aloud Just Because

I'm really hoping to read a picture book a day this year as part of our morning meeting. I want to read one that is just for fun. So often I find great fun books but books with no real connection to what we are doing. I read lots of books aloud each day to my kids but they all seem connected to a lesson. I know the power of reading lots of books and I know that giving myself time each day to share one book "just because" every day will be something that grows. I think the books will come back into conversations and we'll have more books to learn from. This is really a routine that gives me permission to take 5-10 minutes to share a fun book--not as part of a mini lesson, not because it teaches something important, but just because it is a great book.  I imagine these books that I read every morning will be read and reread during independent reading time, just because they are great books.

Of course I Want My Hat Back and Carnivores will be on my stack. (I would read those two aloud every day if I could justify it!) But, here are a few new books that I am excited to share because they are just great books.

Here Comes the Easter Cat is just HYSTERICAL. I laugh every time I read it. And no, I am not going to wait until Easter to read this book. It is way too good for that. It is funny any time of the year.

Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas city.  This is a great story and one I fell in love with immediately.  I wouldn't call this a "fun" book but definitely one that will go in my Morning Meeting Reads basket as one I want to share with kids just because it's a great story.

Pardon Me! is an almost wordless book and I do love those.  It is a great story with amazing illustrations. And there are a few surprises along the way. I love a book with a good surprise!

I read EVERYTHING Peter Brown writes to my class.  Mr. Tiger Goes Wild (Boston Globe-Horn Book Awards (Awards)) was a definite favorite last year. Peter Brown's new book, My Teacher is a Monster is his newest and  one I'm sure they'll love. I'm counting on this one to starts some great conversations too.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Slice of Life -- Hemming

One of the jobs on Mom's to-do list for me last week was to hem a couple of pairs of pants for her.

I should back up to say that my mom was a Master Seamstress in her day, trained under the iron rule of her mother, who was a Home-Ec teacher. (Raise your hand if you even know what Home-Ec is...yeah, I thought so...) When Mom started to teach me to sew, we nearly came to blows. She is a perfectionist. I am a generalist. But she cared enough that I learn to sew that she bought me sewing lessons from a teacher who was a little less like her and a little more like me. I became a functional seamstress.

Teaching Lesson #1 -- If you are not the right teacher for a student, have the humility to find the teacher who can best teach that learner.

After we got the pants measured and pinned, I went to work. I wanted to do a really good job. I wanted to make Mom proud that I'm at least a functional seamstress, and maybe just a little better than that. But I was having problems. The legs of the pants were tapered at the bottom, so the hemming was turning out bunchy. Since I wanted to do a really good job, I asked for help.

Learning Lesson #1 -- If it's not turning out the way you want it to, have the humility to ask for help.

I didn't even have the question out of my mouth before Mom knew what the problem was: the tapering. She came and showed me that if I switched the pins from horizontal to the hem to perpendicular to the hem my work would lay flatter. Then she confirmed my suspicion that it would help to take bigger stitches. Then she left me to it.

Teaching Lesson #2 -- Give just enough help to get the learning going again and then get out of the way.

Hemming the second pair of pants when smoothly. I didn't have to cut any off, the fabric was more considerate, and I was back in the groove of hand-hemming. My stitches were quick and even.

Learning Lesson #2 -- Just because one task is frustrating doesn't mean that every task like that is going to be frustrating. Don't give up. Persevere when things get hard...but also remember to enjoy the feeling when things go smoothly.

Teaching and learning...and hemming pants. Good stuff.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Did You Know? A Fun New Informational Book Series

Last week, we went on an annual trip to IKEA and Joseph Beth Bookstore.  It is a fun way to get our heads back into school and to pick up some new books.  This year, I discovered a new informational book series for young readers-the Did You Know? series by Laura Lyn DiSiena and Hanna Eliot. It will be perfect for 3rd grade and I think younger and older students would like it too.

The first book I read was Hippos Can't Swim: and other fun facts (Did You Know?) .  Kids LOVE facts. Isolated facts that are just fun to know.  I worry a bit about this because so many kids read nonfiction and just collect facts without going further.  This series of books is full of facts. I usually avoid books like that as there are enough out there. But this series is different.  The facts are more than just a sentence fact. They are embedded in an explanation and connected to other facts in ways that build some understanding.  For kids who are used to reading facts only, this is a great series to push them a little bit and to see how facts fit into bigger ideas and understandings.

These are great books for kids who need a bit of support reading nonfiction. I can see using them as read alouds or in small groups. But I think for all kids, these will be great reads for independent reading and kids will be able to read them cover to cover. The illustrations are fun with adorable animals doing crazy things everywhere. I think these illustrations will be great for kids who avoid nonfiction because they have a limited definition of what it can be.  These don't look like your typical nonfiction book.

Right now, I think there are 3 books in the series. But 4 more are due out over the next several months.  Woohooo!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Poetry Friday -- You Are There

You Are There
by Erica Jong

You are there.
You have always been
Even when you thought
you were climbing
you had already arrived.
Even when you were
breathing hard,
you were at rest.
Even then it was clear
you were there.

Not in our nature
to know what
is journey and what
Even if we knew
we would not admit.
Even if we lived
we would think
we were just

To live is to be
Certainty comes
at the end.

June and July have been travel months of for me: Indiana, Hocking Hills, Michigan, Colorado, and next up, Vermont. I like Erica Jong's answer to the question, "Where am I?" 

As Back to School ads and sales rev up and I feel like I should be thinking even more about the upcoming school year than I already am (no school nightmares yet, though...knock wood), I will hold onto that last stanza.

Sylvia and Janet have the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at Poetry For Children

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Small Art

Anybody who's been around me or this blog for very long probably knows that I am a huge fan of Hugh MacLeod ( I get a cartoon a day in my email very weekday and many of them are archived in a "comics" folder on my computer desktop. My business cards feature MacLeod's art.

My admiration for Hugh MacLeod continues to grow. This week, I was doodling around in Twitter, waiting for the timer to go off so I could move the hose from one part of the dry spot in mom's lawn to another, when I found this article he wrote: In Praise of Small Art. Go ahead and read it. It's a short article.

In some ways, it seems to me that Education (capital E) can be equated to Big Art. What we do in our classrooms when we close our doors is Small Art.

And the more I think about it, many of the classroom practices that are the most powerful are also Small Art: read aloud , Poetry Friday, 15 Minutes on Friday, reading/writing conferences, minilessons .

Small Art was at the heart of the poem I shared last Friday for Poetry Friday, and -- how far will this train of thought lead me? -- poetry is definitely a Small Art.

Today, right now, is Small Art. My life, constructed of these small installations, is Big Art, and to make the Big Art as beautiful as possible, each bit of Small Art needs to be well-crafted and intentional. Praise-worthy.

Here's to Small Art!

Go make some.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Readers Front and Center by Dorothy Barnhouse

Readers Front & Center: Helping All Students Engage with Complex Text by Dorothy Barnhouse
     Stenhouse, 2014

This is a book about LISTENING.
"We can't teach people if we don't know them and we can't know them if we don't listen to them." p.4
Dorothy Barnhouse takes Lucy Calkins' three components of a writing conference -- "research, decide, teach" -- applies them to reading conferences, and puts each phase under the microscope.

RESEARCH (chapter 1)
In the research phase, Barnhouse describes how we listen to a child read a small bit of text. Rather than focusing on issues of fluency, we focus on each student as a reader, listening to what they have to say and asking questions to understand what's behind their thinking. In this phase, we also refrain from probing to see if they "got it" or can retell the plot. We are listening to what students say about their thinking with an eye toward what we will teach about the way texts work, not just fixing some small misunderstanding in that particular text. "...correcting is not teaching. Correcting is small. It's about one word, one sentence, one text. Teaching is bigger. It attempts to take that moment and contextualize it." p.22

Questions we might ask (with a "tone of curiosity rather than interrogation") in this phase of a conference (p.24-25):
What's going on here?
What made you think that?
Where did you get that information?
How do you know?
DECIDE (chapter 2)
In the introduction to this chapter (p.28), Barnhouse writes, " does one decide what to teach?" and my marginal note reads, "Indeed!" The sections of this chapter are "Reading with Vision," "Reading with Agency" (I love how Peter Johnston's work informs Barnhouse's thinking!), "Reading with a Flexible Mindset," "Teaching with Vision: Noticing the How Not Just the What," "Teaching Readers to be Problem Solvers," "Setting Texts Up as Problems to be Solved," "Learning from Errors," and "Building Identities as Thinkers and Learners." This is the chapter that will change the way I conference with students. This is the chapter that lifts my eyes up from the text the student is reading and helps me to remember to keep my eyes (and my teaching decisions) on the way ALL texts work. This is the chapter will help me frame all conversations about texts around the way readers solve different aspects of the puzzle that texts provide. This is the chapter that will keep me grounded in Carol Dweck's "growth mindset."

TEACH (chapters 3-6)
These will be chapters to which I will return often for ideas about how to move students as individuals and in groups to texts of greater and greater complexity. The ways Barnhouse diagrams student thinking will give me new ways to capture the essence of a conference. And even though she gives a shout-out to Cathy Mere on the topic of using Evernote to track conferences, I'm going to try Google Docs this year. Or just stick with my tried-and-true clipboard and not obsess about record-keeping. (I'll update you about my record-keeping again once the school year is underway.)

The most important take-away from these chapters on teaching (for me) would be a deconstruction of the title of the book:
READERS Front and Center (it's about the reader, not the text):
Helping ALL Students (because it's about students, there will always be a text a little more complex than the one they are reading into which we can help them to grow)
ENGAGE (such a smart verb choice, because we want active involvement with authentic purpose)
with COMPLEX TEXT (which is a student-driven moving target, not a list in a program or even the exemplar texts in the CCSS).

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sophie Scott Goes South by Alison Lester

Thanks to Joellen McCarthy (@imalwayslearning), I now know about this fabulous book Sophie Scott Goes South by Alison Lester.  Joellen is one of those people that mentions one great book every time I see her. And it is always a FABULOUS book that I have never heard of.

Sophie Scott Goes South is a book about a girl who gets to travel to Antarctica with her father, who is  the captain of the ship that takes a group there.  The book is about a fictitious character (Sophie Scott) but is based on Alison Lester's journey to the Antarctic.

The book reads like Sophie's journal.  It is filled with her writing and drawings. And since  this is based on the author's trip, there are lots of real photos throughout the book that show what Sophie is doing and seeing. The photos are incredible as the reader actually gets to see the real Antarctica.

I don't know much about Antarctica. I actually didn't even know I was interested in it. But some of the facts and information in this book are fascinating!  One of the most fascinating things I learned was that scientists leave underwater microphones in the ocean for years so they can analyze whales sounds. Who knew? I had lots of WOW moments and lots of wonderings when I read this book. I imagine kids will too.

This book has so many possibilities. It is a longer picture book, maybe one that would take longer than one sitting to read. It would make a great read aloud and I am always looking for great informational texts to read aloud.  The visuals really add to the text so that is one thing to study.  The text can definitely be used as a mentor text in writing. It is perfect for middle grade kids.

So happy to know about this book!  Fabulous!

Monday, July 21, 2014

How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes are Untied

I read How to Outrun a Crocodile When Your Shoes Are Untied (My Life Is a Zoo) by Jess Keating before #nerdcampmi (one of my favorite days of the year-have I mentioned that?).  I had heard about the book on Twitter and thought it sounded like a great middle grade novel. Then I saw that Jess would be at #nerdcampmi so I definitely wanted to read it before #nerdcampmi in case I had a chance to meet her.

The book is fabulous! It is about a girl named Ana who is dealing with typical middle school problems.  She deals with cute boys, mean girls, school struggles and parents who are sometimes embarrassing.  This is the story of a preteen/teen girl who is beginning to figure out who she is.

Her story is unique in that her parents are zoologists so she lives at the zoo while her mom works on a research project. It is perfect because the story is both funny and serious.  There were lots of laugh-out-loud parts, but there were also real issues of middle grade and middle school kids. It seems to be the perfect combination.

Ana is a character you care about quickly and I was glad to see that this was the first book in a series. She is likable and vulnerable. She is trying to figure out how to fit in and how to be herself.  She is dealing with lots of different relationships and juggling lots of things as middle schoolers do.

And this book happens in the zoo. I found this part fascinating. I am not a zoo person. I go, but it is not my favorite place. However, we do live right near the Columbus Zoo, one of the best zoos in the world from what I can tell. The amazing Jack Hanna lives in our town. And I am a big fan of Jack Hanna. So it was fascinating to me to read some behind-the-scenes zoo stuff. I want to pay closer attention-next time I am at the zoo-to the work going on and those buildings that seem to be empty.  The fun of this book is that author Jess Keating used to be a zoologist. So that part of her story made the zoo part of this far more interesting. Love how she took that and brought it to her life as a writer! I love that she is a zoologist/children's author. (Her website has a great feature called #KeatingCreature which shares some great creature info and is lots of fun!)

I don't see this as a book I'd put in a 3rd grade classroom --it seems more perfect for 5th and 6th grade. Maybe even the end of 4th. I had several kids in mind when I read this book--kids who were ready for a tiny bit of romance, kids who like to read about real kids in real life, without the sadness that goes along with some middle grade fiction.  I had kids in mind who liked to laugh a little bit when they read but they like humor embedded in real life stories of great characters.

This is really a perfect middle grade novel for upper middle grades. I sometimes worry that our kids are reading all things sad. (And I love a good, sad book.) My youngest daughter is also a fan of sad books. But I know she has said to me more than once during middle school--I want to read a good book, but not one where someone dies or that I'll cry. Our middle grade kids want stories about kids like them, going through every day preteen stuff, figuring out the world around them. This is that book.

I can't wait til the next in this series comes out (January 2015) and I am definitely holding onto this one for a few 5th graders I know this fall.

Our #TeamShortcut photo. See, we aren't even tired at the end!  Jess is on the left, dressed as Beekle!)

(On a side note, I did meet Jess Keating at #nerdcampmi.  We decided early on that for the #nerdrun, we would be part of #TeamSaunter. We had no desire to win, but thought we would support camp by taking part and celebrating some book characters. So a group of us did just that. Well, it was great to walk with Jess and to turn #TeamSaunter into #TeamShortcut. It was great to have some time to chat and to make some new friends.   Jess is a great author --one that I am happy to have had the chance to meet! Can't wait to read more of her books! And to maybe Hack that #nerdrun map again:-)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Poetry Friday -- War Some of the Time

Found on the website Indexed

War Some of the Time
by Charles Bukowski

when you write a poem it
needn't be intense
can be nice and
and you shouldn't necessarily
concerned only with things like anger or
love or need;
at any moment the
greatest accomplishment might be to simply
up and tap the handle
on that leaking toilet;
done that twice now while typing
and now the toilet is
solve simple problems: that's
the most
satisfying thing, it
gives you a chance and it
gives everything else a chance

we were made to accomplish the easy
and made to live through the things

Now that Franki got me (and apparently most of the rest of her social network) started with the daily news digest theSkimm, I finally feel like I know a bit about what's going on in the world. Unfortunately, most of what's going on in the world seems to be war, now that the World Cup is over. Depressing. I'm with Bukowski. Wiggling the toilet handle or making the perfectly browned piece of toast -- the little things in life -- are keeping me grounded and positive.

Tabatha has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at The Opposite of Indifference.

A Book for All Writers

The Night Gardener
by Jonathan Auxier
Harry N. Abrams, 2014
review copy from the public library, but I will want this one for my classroom library

This is a creepy Victorian tale of two orphans who find themselves working in an English manor house that is overrun by an ominous tree and visited at night by a mysterious spirit-man.

At the heart of the book, however, and what makes it a "book for all writers" is STORY and storytelling. Molly holds her brother Kip's world together with storytelling. Stories give them hope and help them deal with the uncertainties of life. Molly uses stories as currency, keys, and salve.
"I think I figured it out." She sniffed, looking up at the stars. "Hester asked me what the difference between a story and a lie was. At the time, I told her that a story helps folks. 'Helps 'em do what?' she asked. Well I think I know the answer. A story helps folks face the world, even when it frightens 'em. And a lie does the opposite. It helps you hide." 
Here's to more good stories, like this one. Here's to the writing that will bring them to life.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A Book for All Readers

I Kill the Mockingbird
by Paul Acampora
Roaring Brook Press, 2014
review copy from the public library, but I'll be buying a copy so I can transfer all my dog-eared pages

We rarely review YA books, but exceptions can be made.

This is a book for book lovers.

Three good friends on the brink of high school hatch a fake conspiracy to ensure that everyone will actually read their summer reading assignment -- To Kill a Mockingbird.

There's a romance subplot, a cancer subplot, and a poke-mild-fun-at-Catholics subplot. There are literary allusions to children's literature right and left (the three good friends are, and have always been Readers).

Oh, and there's a teaching subplot. Mr. Nowak, Fat Bob, has these words of wisdom before he dies of a massive coronary:
"It's not enough to know what all the words mean," he continued. "A good reader starts to see what an enritre book is trying to say. And then a good reader will have something to say in return. If you're reading well," he told us, "you're having a conversation." 
I raised my hand. "A conversation with who?"
"With the characters in the book," said Mr. Nowak. "With the author. With friends and fellow readers. A book connects you to the universe like a cell phone connects you to the Internet."
Mr. Nowak's the one who inspires the three culprits who hatch the I Kill the Mockingbird plan. And in the end,
"All the teachers are talking about it...If you're a teacher, you dream about having students who will try to change the world someday because of something you do or say in the classroom."

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

So Many Things to Love About Comic Squad: Recess!

The world has been very excited about Comics Squad: Recess!  for a very long time!  And it was worth the wait! What a great book. I am sure I am going to need several for the classroom this year. Kid are going to go crazy with this one!

If you haven't read Jarrett Krosoczka's Nerdy Book Club post about the book, it is a fabulous story of the book and how it came to be.  

Here are 10 of the things I love about this book!

1. It is a great size!

2. It has 8 different stories!  So great for read aloud or independent reading. So many possibilities!

3. Babymouse and Lunch Lady intro the book together! What could be better?

4.  It is VERY funny!

5.  There is a lot of orange inside!

6.  It seems to be good for ALL ages--like 0-99, I think!

7.  It is a collection of stories from some of the best graphic novel writers around. This is a great way to introduce kids to new authors OR if they already love these author, they get something new!

8.  There is an ugly sweater in the book. Any book with an ugly sweater is a real treat!

9.  You can learn to draw Betty in 12 easy steps (maybe)...!

10.  There will be a Comics Squad #2!

Thank you authors for an incredible new book! 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff

Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff.  is a MUST READ in 2014. It is so good that you should rearrange your TBR stack and put this one on top. I actually think it is so good, that you should read it even if you don't read much middle grade fiction.  I can't think of anyone I know who shouldn't put it at the top of their stack.

I am a HUGE Lisa Graff fan.  I think her books are PERFECT middle grade novels. There are not many authors who can write for that age with enough depth to actually change the readers who read the books, and also in a way that it is accessible to 9-11 year olds. Lisa Graff is one of those authors.
I loved The Thing About Georgie when it came out years ago and I have loved everyone one of Graff's books, especially Umbrella Summer and The Life and Crimes of Bernetta Wallflower .

Absolutely Almost may be Lisa Graff's best book yet (even though her others are amazing!). The book is about a 5th grader named Albie who is not so good at anything. He struggles with lots of things, pretty much everything, including learning.  Albie is a character you love from the very start.  He is a great kid, someone you'd love to hang out with.  He has so many strengths and his new babysitter sees all of them. Albie comes to learn lots about himself in this book. I checked around on the web and pretty much everyone loves this book. If I haven't convinced you to read it, here are some other reviews:

Review by Betsy Bird

Carol's Corner

Barbara O'Connor

Two Reflective Teachers

Debbie Alvarez

And read all of the Lisa Graff books that you haven't read while you are at it. I love them all!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Poetry Friday -- Chicory

by John Updike

Show me a piece of land that God forgot—
a strip between an unused sidewalk, say,
and a bulldozed lot, rich in broken glass—
and there, July on, will be chicory,

its leggy hollow stems staggering skyward,
its leaves rough-hairy and lanceolate,
like pointed shoes too cheap for elves to wear,
its button-blooms the tenderest mauve-blue.

How good of it to risk the roadside fumes,
the oil-soaked heat reflected from asphalt,
and wretched earth dun-colored like cement,
too packed for any other seed to probe.

It sends a deep taproot (delicious, boiled),
is relished by all livestock, lends its leaves
to salads and cooked greens, but will not thrive
in cultivated soil: it must be free.

I love chicory. Mostly for its blueness, but also for its love of freedom. Maybe that's why I picked it for my poetry website, which I killed and brought back to life again here. It is a work in progress.

I just realized about an hour ago that today is Friday. Summer and travel will do that to you.

Linda has the Poetry Friday roundup at Write Time.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Take Away the A

Take Away the A
by Michaƫl Escoffier (author of Brief Thief, Me First! and The Day I Lost My Superpowers)
illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
Enchanted Lion Books, due out September 12, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

You will want this book. I guarantee it.

Best. Alphabet Book. Ever.

This is the kind of mentor text that makes you want to try writing this way...right NOW.

Here's a taste:

"Without the A
the BEAST is BEST.

Without the B
the BRIDE goes for a RIDE.

Without the C
the CHAIR has HAIR."

See what I mean?

I wish you could actually see the book, because the other part of the fun is finding the duck, the mice, the octopus, the monkey, and the cats in spreads other than their own throughout the book.

Need a quote for a slide in your word study/vocabulary presentation? From the press release:
"Since we are really only able to think about the world, ourselves, and the nature of life itself (along with everything else) within the vocabulary that is available to us, the richer and more nuanced our language is, the richer our possibilities for thinking and understanding become. From this point of view, the ethical, political, cultural and intellectual imperatives for deepening a child's sense of language and its possibilities are profound. Giving them the idea that language is a vital material with which they can make and build and shape their world is so clearly of vital importance."

What are you waiting for?

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Blogging Live from nErDcampmi! 2014!

Today, we are blogging live from Day 2 of nErDcampmi! This is the 2nd annual event and it is one of our favorite days of the year!  Colby Sharp and his wife Alaina Sharp and The Nerdy Book Club gang invented this camp--an edcamp focused on Literacy. Brilliant.  You may have read about how awesome it was on our blog last year!  All day, we'll be adding photos and thoughts to this blog post, live, as they happen!  You can also follow nerdcampmi on Twitter today #nerdcampmi.

8:31 a.m. We are getting ready for the Opening of Day 2 #nerdcampmi.

Hugh MacLeod
The link to the live idea planning board

8:48 am
Babymouse and Arnie the Doughnut join us at Nerdcamp!

9:30 Session 1:
We are both in the session on Genius Hour!  Lesley Burnap (@auntierez) and Ann King (@kingandkids) are facilitating the conversation.

People and Hashtags to follow if you are interested in Genius Hour:  
  • @angelamaiers 
  • @thenerdyteacher 
  • @joykirr 
  • @paulsolarz 
  • #geniushour
  • #choose2matter
  • #20time
  • #passiontime
Some highlights from the Genius Hour Session (the group notes are here)

• Letting kids follow their passions. A little time each week pays off big.
• RULE: You may not do something that is easily google-able.
• The point is to make something that’s not already there. CREATE. Not just nonfiction research.
• Every student is a genius. Give time to share.
• Some kids want to be told what to learn; don’t want to have to think. #geniushour needs brainstorming and support.
• Builds lifelong learners.
• Genius Hour is a bad term -- we should be doing this kind of inquiry all of the time
• Creativity, inquiry, passion, collaboration, community are what’s needed
• PBL is a kind of Genius Hour 
• Genius Hour SHOULD BE A PHILOSOPHY, not a mandate 
• Genius Hour is not a program
• It’s all about the question. (Thank you, Brenda for A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas )

Even though we did not go to the session on Best Books of 2014, Katie Muhtaris created a great padlet for all of us compiling great books discussed!  You can access it here!  Get ready to spend some money on books once you click:-)

10:45 Session on Authentic Technology in the Literacy Workshop

If you are interested in this topic, follow:
@literacyspark (Katie Muhtaris)

Some big messages from this session:
"Empowerment is Better than Engagement. Ownership is better than Buy-In."

"A huge growth point for kids is when audience shifts from teacher-only to peers."

12:50 PM Getting ready to build the afternoon IDEA BOARD!

Mary Lee, Josie and Karen get ready for the PM Idea Board creation!

1:15 Session: Nerdy Math Club (F) with and @katiestrawser and @brianwyzlic

1:15 Session: Google Drive in the Elementary (ML)
@techieteacher10session notes are here

Wow. I still have so much to learn before we start with Google Apps in Ed this fall. My big take-aways were all the tools that are available when you open a doc -- research (Google, quotes, images...), ways to share, commenting and suggesting, activity log that means no document is ever completely lost.

2:30  Math Workshop with @darcyJobe and @smithand1015

Math Workshop schedule  in Darcy and Andrew's Classroom:
  • Number Routine
  • Minilesson
  • Work sites/Problem Solving Opportunities
  • Reflection/Exit Slip

2:30 Session Connecting Globally (ML)

Top resources:

Monday, July 07, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

For the It's Monday! What Are You Reading? round up, visit Jen at Teach Mentor Texts! Thanks, Jen for this weekly event!

It was a good reading week.  I read more than usual, even though I had other things I probably should have been doing. These are my favorites from the week--these are all MUST READS in my opinion as I loved them all!


Elizabeth, Queen of the Seas--This was an amazing story of an elephant seal. It is based on a true story and has great illustrations by Brian Floca. I had not heard of this book but fell in love with it immediately!  A very happy surprise read. This is one that will make a great read aloud in the fall.

My Teacher Is a Monster! (No, I Am Not.)-Every Peter Brown book is a MUST READ in my opinion. I so love this new one about a boy and his teacher. Love the way the story unfolds and I find new things in the pictures every time!

Pardon Me!-Thanks to Beth at Cover to Cover for sharing this book with me during my last shopping spree.  This is an almost wordless picture book. A fun story with great illustrations.  Kids will love it and I don't think you can ever have too many good wordless (or almost wordless) picture books.


Rain Reign-This is definitely one of my favorite reads of the year.  This is a great story of a girl named Rose and her dog Rain.  Rose is diagnosed with Asperger's and she is character who will stay with me for a very long time.  This is the perfect middle grade novel--great issues to discuss without being too heavy for 4-6th graders. Love this one. (It doesn't come out til October and it seems unkind to share it when you can't really get it yet, but it is so good that you should order it right away and block off some time on its release day to read it!)


The Revision Toolbox, Second Edition: Teaching Techniques That Work-I loved Georgia Heard's Revision Toolbox when the first edition came out so I was excited to see this one. This one is the same great thinking bout revision and the importance of changing our students' stance about revision. Georgia also includes lots of specific ideas for narrative, informational and persuasive writing which I needed as I think ahead to the school year.

And I am currently reading Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times by Eric Sheninger. I have followed the author on Twitter (@NMHS_Principal) for a while and have been hearing lots about the book. Even though it is intended for administrators, I am learning lots and seeing the impact technology can make on a whole school.  I have not read much but I already have lots to think about.