Tuesday, September 30, 2014

The Farmer and the Clown by Marla Frazee

I have had the release date for The Farmer and the Clown on my calendar for months. This was a book I was excited about and one that I wanted to make sure to get right away. Well, I received a review copy of the book last week and loved it even more than I thought I would!

The book (by the amazing Marla Frazee) tells the story of an unlikely friendship between a farmer and a clown.  And can I say that the clown is so adorable!  Happy and fun on every page.  I fell in love with this book on the first read and everyone I had it too squeals or "aw"s while reading.  This week, we read it twice in the classroom. I purchased the kindle edition so that we could read it on the screen. I am so glad I did this because the details in the illustrations, some that I missed during my first few reads, are critical and would have been so hard for kids to see without the projection.  This book is simple, but it leaves the reader with so much to think and talk about. And it leaves the reader with a feeling of joy.

I have said many times on this blog that I LOVE wordless books.  This is pretty new for me as I've learned to love them in the last 5-6 years.  This is by far, one of my favorites.  I love the characters and I am amazed at how well they are each developed in this wordless book. I like the story and the characters and the art.  I love Marla Frazee and have yet to read one of her books that I didn't fall in love with.  This one is definitely one of my Caldecott hopefuls.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Science, Literacy and Technology at the Columbus Zoo!

Last May, we took our 3rd graders to the Columbus Zoo on a field trip. We have a great zoo in Columbus so it s always a great trip. But last year, the educators at the zoo created a new program. Our kids would have the opportunity to observe animals and collect data using iPads.  We were excited about the program and knew that it tied in with our science curriculum.  When we got back to school last spring, we realized that this would be a great fall trip. That the program would be a great kick off for learning around scientific observation, using technology to collect data, life science and more.  So we booked this year's trip in September and our classes went to the zoo on Friday. Not only was it a great day but we learned a lot that I know will carry into our learning thoughout the year.

The trip was great. The educators at the zoo kicked off our day with a half-hour session for the whole group. We learned about animal observation. We learned about the 4 elephants at the Columbus Zoo. We learned their names, how to tell them apart, a bit about their personalities, etc. Then we learned the codes for each thing an elephant might be doing--moving, socializing, eating, etc.  We learned a bit about why it is important to tell where the elephant is for each observation-which area of the habitat.

Then, each class had the opportunity to use iPads to track one elephant's behavior for 30 minutes.  The app is set up specifically for these observations and kids got a chance to see what this type of animal observation at the zoo was like.  (The iPads were not working for our class's session so we asked questions and learned lots about the animals, as Kelly answered our questions about the elephants.

September was a great time for this trip.  It impacted the ways that our students think about science and observation. They understand that scientific observation happens all the time at the zoo right in our city. They know that the observations we take tell a story of the animal.  And they learned that technology is one way to keep track of observations.

I read 2 books this week that set the stage for our day at the Zoo. One was Elephant by Suzi Eszterhas.  This book tells the story of a baby elephant and how he grows.  Her Eye on the Wild series is a great series for middle grades and this made for a good read aloud.  The other book that we read was Tiger Math:  Learning Graphing From a Baby Tiger and they begged me to read this one each day. This is the story of a baby tiger who refuses to eat.  The book chronicles the first months of the tiger's life and the work the zookeepers did to keep him alive, help him grow and monitor his progress. There are graphs throughout the book that the scientists share to help tell the story of Tiger. I love that the authors of this book talk about the story that graphs tell. Kids loved this and they learned math and scientific observation.  There are several books in this series so I am going to try to get them all for the classroom as kids were fascinated by the ways math and science worked together for animal observations.  I think they'll enjoy them even more now that we've been to the zoo.

We are lucky to have the Columbus Zoo right here in our city!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Poetry Friday

How To Be a Poet
(to remind myself)
by Wendell Berry

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 work,
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.

My One Little Word for this year is BREATHE. It's been a perfect word to remind myself to slow down, to notice all the good in people and in the world around me, to make space in my busy days and weeks just for me.

On a somewhat related note, if you haven't seen FALL LEAVES by Loretta Holland, get your hands on it asap. It is a poetry/nonfiction hybrid with gorgeous-GORGEOUS illustrations. (my review here)

And head over to Laura's place, Writing the World for Kids, for a peek at one of her new books and the Poetry Friday Roundup!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Fall Leaves

Fall Leaves
by Loretta Holland
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
September, 2014
Review copy from the public library, via my amazing literacy coach, Brooke!

The best compliment I can give this book is that I have read it at least 5 times and I am still finding new things to love!

When Amazing Literacy Coach Brooke handed it to me with a, "Have you seen this? I think it would make a fabulous mentor text." I read through it quickly, seeing the short phrases in large font with informational text in smaller font below.

On the next read, I really thought about the word choice for the words in large font. The book begins with, "FALL ARRIVES" and on the next page, "BIRDS LEAVE," then "LEAVES TWIST" and "RAIN FALLS."

I started to form a theory about the pattern of the words on my second read, but I had to read the whole book again from start to finish to confirm it: (spoiler alert) every page has either FALL or LEAVES in the text! Fall can be used as the noun (the season) or the verb (to fall). Same with leaves. So cool! And the text is satisfyingly circular.

On the fourth read, I studied the illustrations and marveled at the use of color, light, and movement that Loretta Holland used to perfectly capture the mood and feel of fall. On Goodreads, I tagged this book "Potential Caldecott."

Finally, on the fifth go-round, I read the nonfiction text under the large words on each page. The science behind each phrase is clearly explained and includes the large words (in italics).

Brooke was right. This would make a fabulous mentor text. Not since Nothing Like a Puffin have I read a picture book that calls to me to use its pattern to write my own version. The hardest thing will be to find two words that can both be used as nouns and verbs. I'm off to my notebook to brainstorm...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Building Read Aloud Routine in 3rd Grade

The first eight weeks of school is critical.  Building routines and setting the stage for learning across the year happens in those first few weeks. Read Aloud is one of the most important routines in our classroom.  It is the time when we come together around a book and enjoy it together. But it is far more than enjoying a book. Our conversations help us build and grow our thinking and give us strategies for understanding longer, more complex books.  I know if the conversation is to grow over the course of the year, I need to choose books carefully for read aloud.

During the first three weeks of school, I thought it was important to read short read alouds that matched the kinds of books kids would be reading at this age. I think it was Joanne Hindley who taught me the importance of not always reading books above a child's independent reading level because what we read aloud is often what kids think we value. So if I want kids to read books that are right for them independently, I want to share those books often and throughout the year.  The books I read early were books that set up the routine of daily read aloud from a book we had to carry in our heads over days. It also introduced kids to various authors and series as a starting point to our talk about series and authors.  And, we so loved seeing Mercy Watson appear in Leroy Ninker! These were the books we shared during the first few weeks of school:

Lulu and the Brontosaurus
The  Meanest Birthday Girl
Leroy Ninker Saddles Up
Bink and Gollie
Chicken Squad

Currently we are reading aloud The Quirks. My students last year love the Quirks and I blogged about it  here and here  because I loved it so much.  It is a little bit of a stretch for some kids as they are many characters to keep track of and some little things that readers miss unless we stop to talk. So we are stopping to talk often and learning how to hold onto a story over several days.  Getting your head back into a book every day is critical and an important skill for this age.  During this read, we've also changed read aloud a bit. We moved to sitting in a circle facing each other on the floor. We've worked at building on a conversation rather than just sharing what you are thinking and moving on to the next person. And we've added a reader's notebook component where kids can stop and jot their thinking. At the beginning of third grade, I find students want to say everything they are thinking and learning to capture thinking in writing helps them learn to analyze and prioritize their thinking--figuring out the thinking that helps them dig deeper into their reading.

Next week, I plan to begin Tuesdays at the Castle by Jessica Day George. Jessica Day George will be visiting our school in October and we are very excited!  The kids are very familiar with fairy tales but this will most likely be the first novel-length fairy tale they've read.  For this read aloud, I am going to share the audiobook. I decided on this for a few reasons.  I want to talk about audiobooks as a way to read. So many kids build fluency with audiobooks and the text in front of them. I also think audiobooks are important for all readers-I am a reader who gets carsick so the only way I can read in the car is with audiobooks. I figure some of my students may want to add audiobooks to their reading lives. The audiobook will also give me a chance to keep a readers's notebook as we read.  I will use an iPad app such as Notability and track my own thinking as I listen to the audiobook. I have found that this is a great way to model a variety of ways to track thinking without interfering much with kids' own thinking/process.

Following Tuesdays at the Castle, we'll jump into Global Read Aloud a few days late. We'll be reading Edward Tulane with classrooms around the world. I am anxious for my students to see the power of this event and the way our thinking can be impacted by others.  

By the time we get to the end of October, we'll have a great deal in place when it comes to the read aloud routine.  And these strategies and behaviors will begin to show up in students' independent reading.  Whether these are the perfect choices or not, I know that each book will change us as a community of readers in a different way.

Monday, September 22, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Join Jen at Teach Mentor Texts for this week's link up!

I am trying to read everything I can by Mac Barnett and I somehow missed President Taft is Stuck in the Bath earlier this year when it was released.    It was a really fun book and I loved the endnotes about the real story of President Taft.  And if you are not a huge Mac Barnett fan yet, you MUST watch this Ted Talk that he did about the power of story. Thanks to @PaulWHankins for sharing this talk!

I discovered Winter is Coming by Tony Johnston during my last Cover to Cover visit.  This will be a great book to use during Writing Workshop-I love all of the amazing language and the idea of capturing things in a notebook.  Looking forward to sharing this one later this fall.

I've been hearing lots about The Lion and the Bird by Marianne Dubuc and was not disappointed when I picked up my copy.  This is a great story of friendship that will invite lots of conversation. It reminded me a bit of two of my favorite picture books, South and How to Heal a Broken Wing.  Definitely one I'll use to talk about universal themes. 

I reread Sisters by Raina Telgemeir this week.  I planned our first 3 Books and Breakfast events (book clubs before school around one book each month) and I chose Sisters as the 2nd book.  I wanted to include a graphic novel early on and this one seemed to give us lots to talk about.  I showed this book trailer to my students on Friday and there was a lot of interest in this book.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Poetry Friday -- Autumn

by Linda Pastan

I want to mention
summer ending
without meaning the death
of somebody loved

or even the death
of the trees.
Today in the market
I heard a mother say

Look at the pumpkins,
it's finally autumn!
And the child didn't think
of the death of her mother

which is due before her own
but tasted the sound
of the words on her clumsy tongue:
pumpkin; autumn.

Let the eye enlarge
with all it beholds.
I want to celebrate
color, how one red leaf

flickers like a match
held to a dry branch,
and the whole world goes up
in orange and gold.

Amy has the Poetry Friday Roundup at The Poem Farm. I'll be at the Ohio Casting for Recovery retreat all weekend, so I'll catch up with your posts (hopefully) at some point next week.

If you would like to make a donation to Casting for Recovery, Orvis is matching all donations until September 23. Secure donations can be made here. You can designate the Ohio retreat (or your state's retreat).

Happy Fall! Happy Friday! Happy Poetry!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Mix It Up!

Mix it Up!
by Hervé Tullet
Chronicle Books, September 16, 2014
review copy purchased for my class library

Even fifth graders LOVE Hervé Tullet's Press Here, a book that seems magically interactive.

In Mix it Up, readers will explore color mixing without ever getting their fingers dirty. By following the directions in the book, colors are made to appear, disappear, smear, drip, blend, lighten and darken.

Fun stuff!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Circle, Square, Moose

Circle, Square, Moose
by Kelly Bingham
illustrated by Paul O. Zelinsky
Greenwillow Books, September 23, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

Did you love Z is for Moose? Moose disrupted Zebra's presentation of the alphabet in that book. He's back, this time causing problems in a shape book.

Zebra comes to the rescue to extract Moose from the shape book, but that doesn't go so well.

Leave it to Moose to patch up his friendship with Zebra AND end the book with a rhyme.

Want to hear Paul O. Zelinsky speak? Come to the Dublin Literacy Conference on February 21, 2015! Consider presenting about your literacy best practices!

Monday, September 15, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

Visit Teach Mentor Texts for the link up for It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

With the beginning of the school year, I haven't been reading much at all. But I have read a few things this week that I thought I'd share.

Sam and Dave Dig a Hole by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Jon Klassen will be released in early October. It is a must read in my opinion.  I shared it with my 3rd graders this week and it was quite a hit. And the conversation around it was fabulous!  These 2 are brilliant, as always!

I discovered this nonfiction picture book, Moses: The True Story of an Elephant Baby, at Cover to Cover. It is a great story of a baby elephant with a bit about the importance of protecting elephants from poachers.  It is a little long but I think it is easily accessible to 2nd and 3rd graders. 

I have been hearing lots about Little Elliot, Big City and finally had a chance to read it yesterday.  I loved this book!  I loved the story, the characters and the illustrations. I haven't paid much attention to Caldecott possibilities but it would make me happy if this book won an award. 

I was thrilled to get a review copy of Princess in Black by Shannon Hale. I love anything by Shannon Hale and this looked perfect for 3rd graders. It is a simple chapter book (think Mercy Watson) about a princess who is all pink and proper on the outside but is really the Princess in Black who fights monsters.  I didn't get to read the whole thing before a student took it.....Hopefully I'll get it back soon!

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Kicking Off Genius Hour

Last spring, during our morning Genius Hour time, one of my students had a small container with her when she entered the classroom. I asked her what she had and she said happily, "My Acorn Cap Collection. I am going to run a workshop this morning teaching people about them."  She proceeded to gather magnifying glasses, markers paper and sticky notes. She quickly made a sign and invited people to the table to learn about ways to observe acorn caps.  It was quite a popular spot in the room that morning and I thought, "This is what Genius Hour should look like every day!"

This year, as I thought about Genius Hour, I knew I wanted to change it a bit from last year. Last year,  students found areas of interest and spent time learning about those and sometimes creating things to share their learning.  I wanted it to be playful and purposeful.  But I wanted it to be more for this year and this Acorn Cap workshop gave me some ideas.

This year, we are changing the name of Genius Hour to "Wonder Workshop". We have Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop and Math Workshop so having a Wonder Workshop makes sense. Our students know what a workshop is and they know their role in learning in a workshop.  And a Wonder Workshop seems to make sense to 8 year olds.  This will be a time that we explore those things we wonder about each day.

This year, when I think about Genius Hour/Wonder Workshop, I wanted it to be a combination of so many things.  I love the Genius Hour movement and I also love the possibilities around Maker Space and Passion Time. I wanted to create a time that made sense for 8 year olds, where they could explore and learn. I wanted a place where they could sometimes be the learner and sometimes be the teacher. I wanted a place where anything was possible and where kids were in charge of their own learning.

To kick off Wonder Workshop, each child is creating a workshop for the class. We spent time talking about those things they love, things they are good at, things they want to teach others about.  So, every day, for 2 weeks, we are learning from each other.  For homework last week, kids prepared 10 minute mini-workshops on a topic of their choice.  For 2 weeks, kids are rotating to workshops, learning from every other child in the classroom.  So far we've learned:

  • how to play guitar
  • how to make fortune tellers
  • how to braid hair
  • about the sea
  • how to make clay animals
  • how to make puzzles
And these are just a few of the things we've learned about!

As students share, the audience members are jotting down new things they are learning and questions they have. They are also jotting down things they want to try.  I am hoping that we are setting the stage for a Wonder Workshop that has us thinking about the following questions.

  • What do we know? 
  • What can we teach each other? 
  • What can we learn from and with each other? 
  • What are you interested in/good at now?  
  • What might we be interested in later in the year?
There have been some added perks. The idea of  "research" is already being discussed as something far more than finding the right answer.  Students are seeing themselves in various roles and the variety of the presentations will give us things to build on when it comes to writing and communication for much of the year.  They've also built a community around learning that I can see grow each day by listening into the questions they ask of each presenter.  Each child is not only discovering new interests, but they are also discovering things about their classmates.

I'm excited to move forward with the idea of a Wonder Workshop after spending a few weeks exploring our interests and learning from and with each other.   I imagine much of workshop will be a continuation of some of these workshops at first--kids are already wanting to try out and build on the things they are learning.  Just as with any workshop during the first few weeks of school, I am listening in, observing, and thinking about how we might build on the amazing things that kids are already doing!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Poetry Friday -- Cherry Tomatoes


by Anne Higgins

Suddenly it is August again, so hot,
breathless heat.
I sit on the ground
in the garden of Carmel,
picking ripe cherry tomatoes
and eating them.
They are so ripe that the skin is split,
so warm and sweet
from the attentions of the sun,
the juice bursts in my mouth,
an ecstatic taste,
and I feel that I am in the mouth of summer,
sloshing in the saliva of August.
Hummingbirds halo me there,
in the great green silence,
and my own bursting heart
splits me with life.

First, there are the plants with no fruit. We wait and wait for the first green marbles to ripen.

Then, suddenly, there are so many that we just about can't eat them all. I consume them carelessly, by the handful. 

Now that the end of the productive season is in sight, I am back to savoring every one.

Such is life, no? The longing, the time of plenty, the loss.

Happy Friday -- enjoy a tomato today, and head over to Renee's place at No Water River for the roundup.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014


My new favorite commuter audio experience is the NPR TED Radio Hour. In classic NPR style, a set of 4-6 TED talks on the same theme are excerpted, contextualized by interviews with the speakers, and interspersed with perfect musical bites (like they do in the show Wait, Wait, Don't Tell Me). TED talks. Through my ears. Perfect. (I use this not-free but highly-rated podcast app.)

And the thing is, every (EVERY) episode I've listened to so far has been life-changing. That both makes me want to listen more, and afraid if I listen again it won't happen!

In the show, Growing Up, which AJ and I listened to as we island-hopped across Lake Champlain from Vermont to New York last summer, and which is the show that hooked me, Gever Tulley's segment made me sure that I would do Genius Hour.

I played a portion of Margaret Heffernan's segment from the show, Making Mistakes, to my math class to emphasize the importance of the mathematical practice of talking and listening before I asked them to form groups comprised of not a single classmate they'd worked with the day before on a complicated place value problem we were trying to solve.

In Simply Happy, Matt Killingsworth's segment confirmed for me that I am on the right path with my "Trout a Day" project.

Sugata Mitra's segments in Unstoppable Learning changed my math lesson from a demonstration of how decimal expanded notation works, followed by a variety of practice, to a challenge to my students to figure out three different ways to show decimal expanded notation by using the activities I had curated for them. (Best. Math lesson. Ever.)

Last week, in our study of characters, my students read nonfiction books featuring an animal hero. This week, I will play Diana Nyad's segment from Champions while I model note taking. My students will chart and then write about the ways two or more characters (from the books they've read, our read alouds, and/or this audio segment) are the same and different.

As soon as my monthly credit at Audible rolls in, I'm going to dive into David Mitchell's newest book, The Bone Clocks. But you can be sure that one or two days a week, I'll be putting that one on hold so that I can catch up with my NPR TED Radio Hour episode!

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Nuts to You

"Nuts to you" might have been what I was saying on Saturday when the class cold hit me so hard there was nothing I could do but lie in bed and create a mountain of soggy kleenex on the floor beside me. When I felt better enough to sit up for some soup and hot tea with honey and lemon (and more than a small splash of Old Charter), I picked up this recent library reserve and within 20 pages was laughing out loud and thanking my class for sharing the germs that stopped me from doing anything more than sitting up in bed reading:

Nuts to You 
by Lynne Rae Perkins
Greenwillow Books, 2014

This story was ostensibly told by a squirrel to the author. That may or may not be the factual truth, but since it's a rollicking good story, let's just go with that. Like another favorite Perkins title, As Easy as Falling Off the Face of the Earth (my gushing review here), there are interruptions by the (human) author, footnotes, and illustrations that clearly demonstrate that Perkins has done her fair share of squirrel-watching.

The story begins when the grey squirrel Jed is carried away by a hawk, manages to trick the hawk into dropping him, and lands fairly softly on a dog and then in a pile of leaves. (Journey #1) Luckily, his friend TsTs sees where he lands and sets off with another squirrel friend, Chai, to find him. (Journey #2) Along the way, they discover that the rumblings they've been hearing are a crew of humans who are clearing the trees from the "buzzpath" (power lines). And the crew is headed right to their home grove. After they find Jed, they have to get back and warn their friends and family. (Journey #3) Convincing squirrels to do anything as organized as run away from a danger they cannot yet see is as easy as herding cats (apparently). But Jed and friends manage. (Journey #4)

Fun stuff. Perfect middle grade (grades 3-5) novel. Will be a fabulous read aloud.

You're welcome.

Monday, September 08, 2014

Open a World of Possible --A Wonderful Gift from Scholastic

I was honored to be asked to contribute a piece to Open a World of Possible published recently by Scholastic.  It is a FREE ebook that collects the stories of readers. As a reader, it is a great read--love hearing from other readers about their unique reading lives. As a teacher, it opens so many possibilities for the classroom.

Years ago, I happened upon a book of celebrities sharing the stories of their reading lives. I forget what it was called and I forget most of the specifics but I know that I used many excerpts with students as we thought about our own lives as readers.  I've lost the book and haven't been able to find anything like it. So when I found out Scholastic would be creating a collection of readers' stories, I was thrilled. This book far exceeded any expectations I had for it.

Open a World of Possible has come at the perfect time--the beginning of a new school year.  Building a community of readers is such an important part of our work. And I find that for that to happen, students need to begin to build their own identity as readers.  I want them to know themselves as readers and to live their lives as a reader, both in and out of school.  For them to become lifelong readers, they need to see themselves as unique readers.

I spend much of the first several weeks of school having conversations around our reading lives. I share my life and stories I've discovered from others. Open a World of Possible is a great resource for expanding this conversation in classrooms.

I love the quote that goes along with Scholastic's publication. It ends with these words:

Finding the right book at the right time can light an emotional spark within children that motivates them to read more, understand more, and read joyfully. When that happens, the world opens. Everything becomes possible.

I love the book and have marked several excerpts to use with students now and throughout the year. Every story will start an amazing conversation and give our students new ways to think about their lives as readers.

I am also sharing some of the student videos on the World of Possible site.  The kids in the videos talk about favorite books, places they love to read, etc. Great 30 second clips to continue this conversation.

Scholastic has invitations to join the online conversation around this book and your stories about reading. You can join at:

Twitter: @Scholastic and @ScholasticTeach

This is a must read for all readers!

Scholastic's mission is built on helping children learn to read and love to read. We believe that independent reading is a critical
part of children's learning and growth. With support from teachers, parents, and schools, children choose from Scholastic
the books they want to read, and discover the pleasure and power of reading. Finding the right book at the right time can
light an emotional spark within children that motivates them to read more, understand more, and read joyfully.
When that happens, the world opens. Everything becomes possible. - See more at: http://www.scholastic.com/worldofpossible/#sthash.PgxldLg8.dpuf
Scholastic's mission is built on helping children learn to read and love to read. We believe that independent reading is a critical
part of children's learning and growth. With support from teachers, parents, and schools, children choose from Scholastic
the books they want to read, and discover the pleasure and power of reading. Finding the right book at the right time can
light an emotional spark within children that motivates them to read more, understand more, and read joyfully.
When that happens, the world opens. Everything becomes possible. - See more at: http://www.scholastic.com/worldofpossible/#sthash.PgxldLg8.dpuf

Friday, September 05, 2014

Poetry Friday -- Wonder

Wonder Eye from Wikimedia Commons


5:30 in the morning
I'm walking along
in the dark neighborhood
my brain already full of the day ahead
not paying the kind of attention
that will keep me from
stumbling into a skunk
by accident
when I look up
and see a very large dog
in the park
that resolves into a fawn
whose sibling and mother are across the street
not quite hidden in the shadows of the front yard
and it's as if the plug was pulled
and my brain is empty of everything
except the here
and the now.

I continue walking slowly down the sidewalk
toward the fawn
who bobs its head
looking at me
assessing my threat level
until suddenly its tail flags and it
floats silently
across the street to its family
on impossibly thin legs and tiny feet
and I struggle to keep the wonder
hold the moment
stop the everyday thoughts from flooding back in
but the pure animal focus
is gone.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2014

Laura has the Poetry Friday Roundup today at Author Amok.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Inspired by Caine's Arcade

Perhaps you know and love the story of 9 year-old Caine's cardboard arcade, and what happened when a filmmaker stopped at his dad's used auto parts store in East LA to buy a door handle for his car.

But do you know what has happened since then?

In case you don't have time to watch right now, I'll summarize:

This whole thing got huge. Caine's college fund has exploded into The Imagination Foundation, a "non-profit to foster creativity and entrepreneurship in more kids like Caine."

There's a Global Cardboard Challenge going on in September and culminating in a Day of Play on Saturday, October 11.

Let's save a bunch of boxes, give our kids time to make stuff with them, and then share our photos and videos #cardboardchallenge.

Genius Hour, here we come!

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

August Mosaic

Row 1: These three photos exemplify our flyfishing trip to Vermont: the Orvis Outlet store, where I got my best "catches;"  the river where I probably would have caught a trophy trout...if it hadn't been for that thunderstorm; the Ben & Jerry's factory, where everyone goes on a rainy day in Vermont. We drove in, found a lucky parking spot, used the facilities, just about got nervous hives from the crowds, and left.

Row 2: Reading nook at Thistledown Inn, Thistledown hen, Lamoille River out the back door of Thistledown Inn,

Row 3: Thistledown Inn's namesake, just starting to bloom. Another beautiful VT river where I didn't catch fish.

Row 4: Signs of aquatic insect life (shell of stonefly nymph that started life as a water critter, then crawled out on this rock, completed metamorphosis, and now lives out of the water...it was actually an aquatic entomology class at Stone Lab on Lake Erie that sparked my interest in flyfishing -- the lures we fish with are tied to imitate insects like this at various stages in their lives), same river, Snowflake Bentley museum.

Row 5: On our way home -- island hopping through Lake Champlain to get from VT to upstate NY; torrential rains on I-90 near Batavia, NY; in our room at the Historic B&B in Medina, NY.

Row 6: I had fun with a couple of photo apps this month. This one uses Color Cap to add text to photos. Reading nook, animal heads on table legs.

Row 7: Niagara Falls, secret shut-off valve for Niagara Falls (that's our story and we're sticking to it), Niagara Falls with Color Cap.

Row 8: Preying Mantis in the land lab, mantis with Color Cap, veggies at the Worthington Farmers' Market.

Row 9: This app is called Waterlogue. It turns your photo into a watercolor painting! Last two: even though it was a school night, and even though it was the night after the second day of the school year, and even though I had already spent from 4:00-8:00 at the Orvis store representing CFR for a flyfishing event, I couldn't say no to the opportunity to hear Throat Culture, a local A Capella group, at Natalie's Coal Fired Pizza. They were FABULOUS!!!

Row 10: Then the reality of the school year kicked in and I didn't take another photo (except in the classroom) from August 11-31!

You can see these photos on Flickr.

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.
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!

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Learning About Blogging!

We are getting ready to start our blogs at Kidblogs this week. These blogs will be closed to our classroom as students learn the power of blogging and connecting with others through writing.  This week, we'll spend much of our writing workshop time learning about blogging.

Learning to Study
One of my goals for the first six weeks of school is learning the power of study and mentor texts as writers. During these first six weeks, I want my students to learn to live their lives as writers, noticing all they can. And I also want them to begin to learn the power of mentors.  Studying quality texts and thinking "I'd like to do that in my writing." will be important throughout the year.  Our conversations this week will build on the bits we've already talked about in the area of study and mentor texts.

At the beginning of the week, we'll take a look at some blogs. We'll talk about the following questions:

What is a blog?
What is a blog post?
What is possible in a blog posts?
What makes an effective blog post?
How is this blogger unique?
What is the focus of this person's blog?
What can we learn from this blogger?

We'll take a look at a variety of blogs and blog posts written by kid bloggers. Some blogs we'll look at will be:
Behind the Scenes of the Cooperstown Bat Factory
DIY Locker Door
5 Interesting Facts about Electric Eels
Sunny Days
Baseball with Matt Blog
Tissue Flower Kit
This Kid Reviews Books
Lil Dog Whisperer

(I've found some of these on Blogs By Kids, which is a great resource for teachers looking for blog posts by kids.)

Paper Blogging
After some study, we'll do some practice.  I didn't buy into practice until I read Lee Kolbert's post on Paper Blogging and Learning to Comment a few years ago. I've followed her thinking for the past few years and it's led to some great blogging. We'll take a few days creating paper blog posts and we'll comment on each with sticky notes. This will take a few days but I've found that after this, kids are ready to blog and anxious to share their writing in a digital space!

Learning to Comment
Before we comment on the paper blogs, we'll watch this video by Mrs. Yolis's 3rd grade class. I have used it for a few years and it is a great conversation starter about good commenting.

Of course, we'll continue to build on this initial conversation but I know that commenting is as important as posting so I want kids to see what's possible in a comment. This video is part of a blog post on Mrs. Yolis's Classroom Blog: How to Compose a Quality Comment.

Moving Forward
We'll continue to study mentor blogs throughout the year as an integrated part of our writing. We'll look at classroom blogs as we work together to tell our classroom story.  We'll look at blog series such as Celebrate This Week, Poetry Friday,  and It's Monday! What Are You Reading?. These will serve as invitations for students who want to focus on their blog writing more seriously.  (I'll show them two series that past students have created--Ben's Book Reviews and Time to Interview.  We'll talk about Blog challenges and blog plans. I might eventually share this blog schedule to start the conversation about the importance of planning as a writer.

I'm anxious to see where this group of students goes with blogging. I am always amazed and surprised by all that kids find to do in the digital world as writers and this first step is always an exciting one.

This post was cross posted to Click Here Next.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Math Monday: Padlet

Visit Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning for Math Monday link up!
(This post is cross posted at Click Here Next)

I don't remember where I saw Padlet used for math but I kept the idea in the back of my head.  This week,  I wanted to start embedding technology into our work across content as a natural part of the process. I didn't want to teach a lesson on Padlet or talk directly about the tool but I did want kids to begin to experience various tools could support thinking and learning.

So before school began, I started a padlet with the problem we'd be solving.  I didn't share it with students yet but, as students were working on a math problem, I bopped around as I always do, looking a student work and finding a variety of strategies. I decided to take photos of 4 students' work and add photos of each to the padlet. About 3-4 minutes before I gathered the class to share, I invited these 4 students to look at the padlet and to add their words to their work--what had they done to solve the problem. I had each child use a different computer so as the rest of the class gathered for share time, they could see the 4 students simultaneously adding to the padlet.  The talk was around math and the strategies each had used, but the power of the technology was evident.

Because we'd been talking about how we could learn from each other and how we might want to go back to a past problem to solve a new one, I wanted to make this something kids could easily go back to if they want to later in the year. I also thought it was a great opportunity to write a quick shared post on our class website. So we added our Padlet to the math section of our Weebly and wrote a quick blurb about the activity.  This hopefully gives students an anchor for talk at home about learning at school.

This was really simple and the addition of Padlet took no extra time.  The focus was still on math but Padlet helped us look at the possible strategies and to hold on to those in a way that we couldn't without technology.  By putting this on our class website, this resource can be accessed whenever a child thinks it might be helpful.