Thursday, October 30, 2014

Poetry Friday -- The Halloween Tree

 "Always the same but different, eh? every age, every time. Day was always over. Night was always coming. And weren't you always afraid, Apeman there? or you, Mummy, that the sun will never rise again?"

"Yesss," more of them whispered.

And they looked up through the levels of the great house and saw every age, every story and all the men in history staring round about as the sun rose and set. Apemen trembled. Egyptians cried laments. Greeks and Romans paraded their dead. Summer fell dead. Winter put it in the grave. A billion voices wept...Then, with cries of delight, ten thousand times a million men welcomed back bright summer suns which rose to burn each window with fire!

"Do you see lads? Think! People vanished forever. They died, oh Lord, they died! but came back in dreams. Those dreams were called Ghosts, and frightened men in every age..."

"Night and day. Summer and winter, boys. Seedtime and harvest. Life and death. That's what Halloween is, all rolled up in one. Noon and midnight. Being born, boys. Rolling over, playing dead like dogs, lads. And getting up again, barking, racing through thousands of years of death each day and each night Halloween, boys, every night, every single night dark and fearful until at last you made it and hid in cities and towns and had some rest and could get your breath.

"And you began to live longer and have more time, and space out the deaths and put away fear, and at last have only special days in each year when you thought of night and dawn and spring and autumn and being born and being dead.

"And it all adds up. Four thousand years ago, one hundred years ago, this year, one place or another, but the celebrations all the same -- "

"The Feast of Samhain --"
"The Time of the Dead Ones -- "
"All Souls'. All Saints'."
"The Day of the Dead."
"El Dia De Muerte."
"All Hallows'."

The boys sent their frail voices up, up through the levels of time, from al the countries, and all the ages, naming the holidays which were the same.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *

Trick or Treat!

This prose poem is from near the end of THE HALLOWEEN TREE by Ray Bradbury. The whole book is one long love song to Halloween -- a fantastic historical romp through times and ages, led by Mr. Moundshroud himself, and exploring what this time of death has meant and still means today.

Our beggars are out tonight, disguised in all manner of classic and modern costumes, braving the chill and the early dark, crunching through the dead leaves on the sidewalk, shouting at strangers, and receiving candy in their bags and baskets and buckets as the tradition of the celebration of death lives on.

Linda has the Poetry Friday roundup at TeacherDance.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Google Drive in the 5th Grade Classroom

It was fascinating to read Franki's post about Google Drive in her 3rd grade classroom, and reflect on how different this digital tool looks in my 5th grade classroom.

Before my students ever logged on, I shared a Doc with links to our guidance counselor's survey, and a survey I created to learn about my students' tech use at home (both in Forms). I did that so they would have something waiting there for them when they logged on. I also shared an editable Doc with a list of the characters we had met so far in our first read aloud, Room 214 by Helen Frost. I had them try to add details about each character simultaneously to show them the fun and madness that happens when too many people are working on the same thing at the same time. I had plenty of cleanup to do after we finished, but we continued to use this Doc as a digital anchor chart about the characters all through the rest of the book. In the very first sessions with Google Drive, my students also created Docs for the stories they would write about their Brown Bag item, and learned how to share with me.

The best part of continuing to roll out Google Drive has been working collaboratively with our fabulous Media Specialist, Marisa Saelzler.

When we moved on to comparing and contrasting characters, she taught my students how to use the Draw tools, and they made a Venn Diagram about two characters in The 14th Goldfish.

To introduce them to all of the tools in the universal tool bar, they made "About Me" posters (not sure if those are in Docs or Draw).

The next tool I'd like my students to use is Presentation. Now that I've figured out how they can get the photos and videos they take of their work in Genius Hour from the iPads to their Google Drive via the Google Drive app, I would like them to make a sort of digital portfolio or reflection log about the work they do in Genius Hour. Sure enough, Marisa will be previewing Presentation with my students during their time with her so that we can just jump right in with using the tool.

I've had some pretty spectacular failures with Google Drive. I thought it would be great if the students could share a piece of writing with a couple of friends and have digital peer conferences. Whoa! It was a chat-fest gone mad! A teacher-sanctioned IM party! And to top it off, even though we shared with "view only," they wound up being able to make changes in each others' stories. Not good. We haven't gone back there. Comments are now reserved for a conversation between me and the student. We keep peer conferences out in the open air.

Just yesterday, I followed the advice I gave myself long ago about hallway displays -- if it's something the students can do, let THEM do it (cutting out letters, etc). I like to have a slide show of images to go with the roots/bases words we're working on in word study since for some students they can be spelling words, and for others, they are new vocabulary. I hadn't had a chance to make one for our ped/pod words, so I shared the list of our words with a group of students who had finished their 3 Pigs Variant story (that's another post for another time) and they set to work gathering images.

One final note. Having student writing in Google Drive (and on Kidblog) is a fabulous thing. We can work on their writing in live time. They are much more receptive to revision and editing on a digital piece of writing. And I am flooded with what could be hours of reading and commenting on a daily basis. I am thankful for my somewhat OCD organization inside my Drive. My "Incoming" or "Shared With Me" is a hot mess of files from kids and colleagues that are in chronological order. Not helpful. I bring over the writing they share with me and house it in a folder on my Drive.

Here is My Drive. Nice and tidy.  :-)

Here is a peek inside the 2014-15 Kid Files folder in My Drive. Nice and tidy.  :-)

This has been a long post without many pictures, but thanks for staying with me to the end. Google Drive is an amazing tool with limitless potential. We have barely dipped our toes in the water. What have been some of your favorite discoveries or ways to use Drive in your classroom?

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Slice of Life: Lost and Found Writing

Almost 20 years ago, we lived in a neighborhood with a magnificent gingko tree at the end of our street. It stood, not in a yard, but in front of an industrial business. One autumn morning, when I was out early walking the dog, I found the tree, which had been full of yellow light just the day before, a skeleton of bare branches with a perfect circle of yellow leaves on the ground underneath it. I went home and wrote this story.

*   *   *   *   *

In the Way Back, in the time of naming things, Earth Woman lived beside the Gingko Tree. 

During the Hot Time, its fan-shaped leaves cooled her all through her working days. 

As the nights grew chilly and the days shortened, Earth Woman was more and more thankful for the warmth of her fire.

One morning, Earth Woman noticed that the tree who had fanned her in the Hot Time had turned the bright yellow of the flames of her fire. Even though the tree gave off no heat, its yellow light warmed her all through her working days.

Soon there came a night of sharp frost, and the day that followed was no warmer. The Cold Time had stopped teasing and had finally arrived. 

Earth Woman sat in the yellow light of the Gingko Tree and pulled her blankets more tightly around her on that first morning of the Cold Time. She turned her thoughts back to the Hot Time and thanked the Spirits for all of the particular joys of that time. Then she said goodbye to those memories as she prepared to embrace each of the particular joys of the Cold Time.

As she began releasing her memories, she heard a faint rustling around her and felt light kisses on her head and shoulders and knees. She opened her eyes for a moment and saw that the Gingko was also releasing its memories in a steady flutter of leaves -- the yellow light, like shattered rays of sun or individual flames of fire, was leaving the tree to join Earth Woman on the ground.

Earth Woman smiled, closed her eyes, and resumed her goodbyes.

When she opened her eyes again, the tree was bare and she sat in a pool of fallen light. Her memories of the Hot Time had all been released and she was ready to accept this first memory of the Cold Time. She looked around at the fallen leaves, the fallen light, and she named her first memory of the Cold Time. 

She named it Fall. 

*   *   *   *   *

On Sunday, we biked through our old neighborhood and then south for an hour in the glorious autumn sunshine. The gingko tree is still there, and so is the ghost of Earth Woman.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Jessica Day George

We were lucky to have Jessica Day George visit our school last week. It was very exciting for everyone and the kids are still talking and writing about the day. Thank you to Cover to Cover Bookstore for this opportunity!

Not sure when I discovered Jessica Day George but I have loved her books for years. I love fairy tales and I especially love to see new versions of tales I love.  I think I stared  reading Jessica Day George with her book, Dragon Slippers. A few years ago, my younger daughter and I were hooked on her middle school princess series (Princess of the Midnight Ball, Princess of Glass). And of course, I loved Tuesdays at the Castle when I read it a few years ago.  I love every book she's written.

Jessica Day George doesn't know it, but she is one of my favorite people to follow on Goodreads. We seem to have the exact same taste in books. And why wouldn't we--she writes the books I love to read. She is my go-to person when it comes to adult fiction. If Jessica gives a novel a 5 star rating, it is one I definitely check out.

Jessica is touring because her new book, Thursdays With the Crown has just been published. This is the 3rd book in the Tuesdays at the Castle series).  Tuesdays at the Castle was the well loved by students in grades 3, 4, and 5. Most classrooms shared the book as a read aloud. I worried early on that it would be too hard for my 3rd graders but I was wrong. We had to do a lot of thinking and talking early in the book. Before we began, we thought about fairy tales we knew and created a chart listing Things We Could Expect, knowing it was a fairy tale.  We listened to the audio version of the book as I wanted my kids to have the experience of an audiobook. The audio is fabulous and the kids really enjoyed the book.  They talk about Celie sometimes like she is a member of our classroom.

There is nothing like having an author that kids connect with visit a school. After the excitement of getting books autographed wore off (it is still not quite worn off), I listened in on what it was that Jessica Day George told them that stuck. What would stay with them about her visit? First of all, they loved her--there was lots of laughing and humor in her talk and I think kids liked knowing that this author they loved was a real person, someone they liked a lot.  She shared the book that changed her and that inspired her to be a writer. She was also very honest about her rejections and let kids know that she didn't get her books published until she wrote what she loved to write. She talked to kids about the process of revision.     The story of her writing life is a powerful one and she shared it in a way that made sense to young children.

Jessica Day George is definitely a rock star at Indian Run Elementary.  Her visit was a day that I think most kids will remember for a very long time. A definite highlight of the year for the kids. And for me, what a great day to be able to meet one of my favorite authors with my students!              

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Google Drive in the 3rd Grade Classroom

Our district went Google this year and I've been wanting to take advantage of all the ways Google Drive allows for collaboration and creation.  So a few weeks ago we jumped in. I set up a doc and shared it with various groups of kids to work on.  Everyone signed in at once and it was a chaotic disaster.  I realized that I had forgotten one of the most important things I've learned as a 3rd grade teacher when it comes to new tools--that a shared experience is the best way for kids to see what is possible.  Instead of just sending kids off to explore a tool that they know nothing about, using the tools in shared experience can often give them a vision for what is possible.  So this week, we used Google Docs in two ways.

We did a Google Hangout with Colby Sharp's class on Friday.  We are trying to get together via Skye or GHO regularly about math and this week my students taught his students a math game. It was a game that requires a board and guessing. So, before the Hangout began, I shared the board with Colby in Google Drive. When we were in the Google Hangout, we shared the document on the screen so both classes could fill out the board and watch the game progress. (This is a game where one player/class guesses a number and the other player/class lets them know how many digits and numbers are correct. The kids enjoyed playing but were really excited about the way we both shared the same board and we could see Mr. Sharp's class adding a guess to the board.

Another thing we did this week was to preview our next read aloud.  We'll be starting The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane this week and I wanted to give kids time to preview the book before we begin. So I took photos of each piece of the book that one would preview (the epigraph, cover, illustrations before the title page, first page of the book). I included these in a Google Doc and gave kids the link for commenting.

These two things have given kids ideas for what is possible.  Doing a few things in a shared way always gets kids to play around and then imagine what else can be done with a tool.  This week in math, we'll use Google Forms for some surveying with a data lesson.  There are so many tools I am comfortable with and that I really don't even need to think about using in this shared way. Google is not one of those tools....yet. So I am trying to be better about embedding it naturally into what we do so students can see what is possible for their independent work.

My husband, Scott Sibberson, has lots on his blog about what Google offers. I need  to really dig into this more over the next few weeks.

Friday, October 24, 2014

In the Early Morning Dark, In the Fall

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Graham and Sheila

In the Early Morning Dark, In the Fall

I step out onto the front porch
thinking it must still be raining,
but the steady patter I hear
is the oak being deconstructed
by a light breeze.

© Mary Lee Hahn, 2014

Cathy has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Merely Day by Day.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

I Shouldn't Be Blogging

I shouldn't be blogging.

I should be grading papers.
I should be reading students' blog posts.
I should be sending post-conference follow-up emails to parents.
I should be watching training videos for my new school laptop.
I should be deconstructing standards and digging into resources.
I should be reading so I have something to blog about.
I should be doing amazing things in my classroom so I have something to blog about.
I should be reading the blogs of our faithful blog readers.
I should be cleaning the house.

Okay. That helped. It always does. Best One Little Word ever.

Remember at the end of last summer, when we went to Vermont on a fly fishing trip...and didn't catch any fish? And how I vowed to "catch" a "trout" every day of the school year so that no matter what kind of picture the high stakes testing paints of my students, I will be able to look back on a year full of great moments of learning and joy?

I've got a "creel" full of fish.

We're 40+ days into the school year, and in my special little purple Moleskine I have 40+ "trout." Some days when I look back, they make me laugh, or swell up with pride. Some days I get a little teary.

At the exhaustion end of Parent Conference Night, a dad told about organizing his 30th high school class reunion, and how much it meant to him and the others who attended that some of their elementary school teachers attended. Even their first grade teacher was there. "You are making a difference in these students' lives, you know," he said. "You have no idea right now how the seeds you plant will turn out, but you are planting seeds for the future."

The next day, I got an email from a student who was in one of my looping classes 10 years ago. I helped to get her on an IEP back then. She's a junior in college now and she wanted to come interview me for one of her classes. She just switched her major. To education.

All the "I shoulds" will have to wait. I have some seeds to plant. I have some fish to catch.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Some Favorite New Books for 3rd Grade Transitional Readers

I have been on the lookout for short reads for my 3rd graders. I still have a handful of students who are struggling with finishing books.  Finding quality books for 3rd graders is always a struggle. So I am always thrilled when I find something with a little more to it than most.  And with a humor that is perfect for 8 and 9 year olds. I've found several great ones for kids pretty new to chapter books lately.   Here they are:

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Digital Literacy K-8: Empowering Our Students

Saturday, I had the opportunity to work with Ruth Ayres, Bill Bass and Colby Sharp in Indiana. We worked with 50ish Indiana teachers through the All Write consortium and learned together about digital literacy.  I loved Saturday. The teachers were incredible and the conversations at each table that I joined pushed me to think about things I haven't thought of before when it comes to digital literacy.

I left with lots of new thinking. How can you work with Ruth, Bill and Colby and not come away with new thing to think about. Each of these 3 people grounds me in different ways.  We each bring something different to the conversation around digital literacy and that alone is worth it.  Ruth continues to remind us that staying true to our core beliefs matters.  Colby reminds us that kids' voices are the most powerful voices there are.  And Bill's belief that technology can change classrooms to empower all children reminds us that we can't take our time with this.  The most powerful thinking happens when different voices come together.  I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to learn from and with these 3 amazing people on a regular basis.  

We created a Weebly site so participants had all of the resources at their fingertips. The site grew and evolved as the day went on.  Such fun to update a site as new things came up in conversation.  You can find the site: Digital Literacy K-8.    Some of it might make no sense to you but there are pages that I love (Colby's iPad screen is one of them:-). There are pages that give me things to follow up with--things I didn't have time to explore Saturday. And there are slides and quotes that reground me, remind me why digital literacy matters.

People always ask me how and why I sometimes spend Saturdays working. And some days I wonder that myself. But then I have a day like yesterday--and I think "How could I not?" When else would I have the chance to be inspired?  Learning with amazing teachers,  laughing with friends, learning myself. What could be better?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Poetry Friday -- My New Hero

"Time to Dust"

Delight in Disorder
by Robert Herrick

A sweet disorder in the dresse
Kindles in cloathes a wantonnesse:
A Lawne about the shoulders thrown
Into a fine distraction:
An erring Lace, which here and there
Enthralls the Crimson Stomacher:
A Cuffe neglectfull, and thereby
Ribbands to flow confusedly:
A winning wave (deserving Note)
In the tempestuous petticote:
A careless shooe-string, in whose tye
I see a wilde civility:
Doe more bewitch me, then when Art
Is too precise in every part.

Herrick is writing about those who are careless in dressing, but I am taking this poem to heart as a person who is careless in housekeeping, and Herrick is my new hero. Last weekend, I finally got around to dusting took five minutes to Swiffer a few key surfaces in the house. After reading Herrick, I quit beating myself up for the cobwebs, cat hair, and kitchen table clutter. I am choosing to "see a wilde civility," become bewitched, and find the wonderful imprecise Art of our home. (Also giving thanks that Mr. Mary Lee cares less than I do about a clean and tidy house!)

Michelle has the Poetry Friday roundup at Today's Little Ditty.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Jacket

The Jacket
by Kirsten Hall
illustrated by Dasha Tolstikova
Enchanted Lion Books, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

This is a book about a book who wants nothing more than "for a child to discover him. / To disappear into his pages. / To laugh at his story. / To love him and care for him in a way all favorite books know."

That day finally comes for Book, but unfortunately, the girl who loves him also loves her dog, who loves to roll in the mud, which spells disaster for Book.

All is not lost, though. The girl is creative. Can you guess what she makes for her book to cover the mud stains? Yup. A jacket!

Directions for making a book jacket are included. ("*Don't forget to cut eye holes for your book's eyes!")

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mister Horizontal & Miss Vertical

Mister Horizontal & Miss Vertical
by Noémie Révah
illustrations by Olimpia Zagnoli
translated from the French by Claudia Bedrick
Enchanted Lion Books, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

Mister Horizontal and Miss Vertical couldn't be more different.

Can you guess who likes gliding, boating and "walking in the desert, with sand as far as the eye can see?" And who likes bungee jumping, rockets, and "New York, the city of sky scrapers?"

More than just a concept book about horizontal and vertical, this is a book about opposites, and a fabulous mentor text for writers of all age and experience who need to practice describing their characters in a variety of ways.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

I haven't had time to read as many upper middle grade/young adult books that I'd like to this year. There have been a few 2014 books that have been on my radar but that I haven't had a chance to read.   I am trying to make time to read more of these books lately--at least the few that everyone seems to be talking about.

Last week, I read The Crossover by Kwame Alexander.  I had started this book a few times but didn't get past the first few pages. I picked it up last weekend and was hooked in just a few pages. (I always find it so interesting how important timing is when we read books!)

This is a novel in verse. It is a powerful novel in verse intended for upper elementary/middle school kids.  It is one that is being talked about as a good one for boy readers but I see it as an amazing book for all readers.

The book is about basketball. But more importantly it is about basketball player Josh Bell and his twin brother Jordan. They are stars on their school basketball team and basketball is clearly their passion.  The story revolves around the two of them and their parents--a family you come to love immediately. And a family that will stay with me for a very long time.

But things are changing for both boys-as they grow older, discover girls, and face life issues.

This is an amazing book. A must read for anyone who likes to keep up with great books for this age. A must read for teachers and parents trying to stretch their upper middle grade readers to try something new. So glad I took the time to read this one. Once I was hooked, I didn't get off the couch until I had finished.

An incredible and powerful read.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Books and Breakfast: Shelter Pet Squad #1 by Cynthia Lord

On Friday, we had our first Books and Breakfast Book Club.  Kids who signed up were dropped off at school 30 minutes early.  We had donuts and chatted about the book.

For this first Book Club, I chose the new book Shelter Pet Squad: Jelly Bean by Cynthia Lord. I wanted a book that was accessible to most kids in my room (either on their own or with help from a parent). And I wanted a book with something to talk about.

I love Shelter Pet Squad and am excited about this series as you may know from my recent blog post about the book.  

About 2 weeks before the Book Club, I gave each student a copy of the book. They had 2 weeks to read it and to jot down thinking, knowing they'd be talking to others about the book. I had no idea how it would go this early in the year so it was very open ended.

Then a few days before the Book Club, I put up a poster inviting kids in the group to jot down questions that might be worth talking about on Friday. I wanted this to be simple and I hoped that this was enough preparation for them.  The board filled as the week went on.
On Friday morning, I typed up the list of questions and kids used this list if they needed it.  I had about 12 kids attend the book talk. Some used the list and others had other connected conversations. The conversations were fabulous and we all had a great time.  The event was definitely a success!  We sent a few tweets to Cynthia Lord and heard back.  

Below are the questions that students discussed:

Shelter Pet Squad #1

What is your favorite part?
What do you like about this book?
What’s your favorite thing about Shelter Pet Squad?
Who is your favorite character?
What is an interesting part you like? 
Did you choose this book because you like animals ?
What did you think about to pick this book?
What is your most favorite chapter?
What is so important about this story?
Why did you decide to read this book?
Do you have a pet?  If you do, did you get it from a shelter?
Why do you think the author wrote this story?

We had a great time and can't wait until our next morning book club. Next Up: Sisters by Raina Telgemeier.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Poetry Friday -- The Stars

Flickr Creative Commons photo by JosMetadi

When I Heard the Learn'd Astronomer
by Walt Whitman

When I heard the learn’d astronomer,
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me,
When I was shown the charts and diagrams, to add, divide, and measure them,
When I sitting heard the astronomer where he lectured with much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon unaccountable I became tired and sick,
Till rising and gliding out I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.

We are learning about the Solar System in science, and while the facts about the planets are intriguing, it's the students' questions and wonderings that are the most compelling. (How I wish we could have had a sleepover at school this week so that we all could have watched the lunar eclipse together!) They are grappling (and rightly so) with the sheer vastness of our galaxy...and the universe, and with the ways scientists can know distances between or temperatures on the sun and the planets. We watched this video of a hexagonal hurricane on Saturn and they were fascinated by the way the scientists replicated the storm in the lab. The idea that scientists build models to explain and understand the world is new to them.

I need to write about our Genius Hour at some point. What I'm aiming for, but not achieving (YET) is for the work they do each Friday afternoon to come from their own curiosity and desire to explore. I'm beginning to understand, at the ground level, the data that shows that school dampens a child's natural curiosity. What I'm hoping to see, over the course of this year, is that it can be reignited, with time and scaffolding.

I'm hoping for students who would rather slip out of my classroom and look up "in perfect silence at the stars."

In a change of venues, Tricia has the Poetry Friday Roundup today at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

That Look of Surprise

Enzo Races in the Rain/Enzo Picture Book #1
by Garth Stein
illustrated by R.W. Alley
HarperCollins, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

I love that look of surprise when you hand the right book to the right reader at just the right time. A review copy of Enzo Races in the Rain had just come, and I had a reader who was more than half of the way through Racing in the Rain: My Life as a Dog, the kids' adaptation of The Art of Racing in the Rain.

When I put this book in her hands, the look on her face was priceless! Like I was a magician, or something!

She read it right away, noting all of the ways it is different from Racing in the Rain. She was surprised that the story in the picture book didn't even get to chapter three in her book. (If I had seen that the full title includes "Enzo Picture Book #1, that would perhaps have explained that...) We noticed the careful marketing -- the cover background and font colors are exactly the same as Racing in the Rain (and the adult version, as well) and the dog looking out at the reader from the picture book matches the dog on her book. Except for the checkerboard collar. But we developed a theory about that.

My reader took the picture book home to read to her 5 year-old brother. After reading it again to him, she noted these similarities and differences:

•Enzo is in both                    
•Pile of stuffed animals is in both (although the "evilness" of the zebra is not dealt with in the picture book)
•Enzo is born on a farm

 •The Farmer in the picture book is The Alpha Man in the chapter book
•Zoe is already born in the picture book, but is born later in the chapter book
•Enzo doesn't run with cars in the book

The biggest difference she noted was that Racing in the Rain is not about a dog running with cars in a rain storm (as portrayed in the picture book). It is about a dog whose owner is a race car driver. The checkerboard collar seems to be the only evidence of auto racing.

My reader's little brother didn't like the book much. But that's likely because he's more into superheroes than dog stories.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Fox's Garden

Fox's Garden
by Princesse Camcam
Enchanted Lion Books, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

This newest book in Enchanted Lion's Stories Without Words series is magical and perfectly suited to being a wordless picture book -- it is the story of a fox who needs a safe place to give birth to her kits. 

The snowy nighttime scenes have the silence of secrecy as the fox moves towards a secluded house. She is chased by a woman and a man, but quietly observed by a boy as she finds shelter in the greenhouse. The boy brings her a gift but doesn't interfere. In the end, the fox repays the boy's kindness.

The quote opposite the title page captures the quietness of the story:

"On the fresh snow,
as in my heart,
footprints, traces."

Monday, October 06, 2014

Shelter Pet Squad: A Great New Series by Cynthia Lord

I was very excited to see that Cynthia Lord had a new series for middle grade readers. The new series, Shelter Pet Squad is perfect for my 3rd graders and several of them have read it already. This Friday, we'll be having a morning book club about the book and lots of kids have signed up.

This book is different than other series books for this age group and I can't wait until there are more books in the series.  This series is perfect because it talks about an issue kids care about and creates a great story around it.  It also focuses on the idea of volunteering and the kids in the book have a cause they believe in.

The book is a good length for kids newer to chapter books. My kids spent about a week reading this one and there is lots to support kids at this transitional stage of reading.  The chapters have titles which I think always helps in comprehension.  The chapters are short--10ish pages---so kids can typically stop at a good point and start back at the beginning of a chapter.  The endpapers give kids lots more to think about--how to make the crafts for pets that the characters in the book made, some info on Cynthia Lord's pets, some information on volunteering at the animal shelter and more.

This book acknowledges that young children care about important things and can make a difference in their communities. So many books for this age focus on the goofy sense of humor that many kids have at this age. Those books are necessary but so are books like Shelter Pet Squad that shows young children in real life leadership situations.

According to Cynthia Lord, the next book in this series is due out on August 15. I can't wait and I imagine the kids in my class will feel the same when I share the news with them.

Definitely a new series to check out!

Thursday, October 02, 2014

Poetry Friday -- Pumpkins


Flickr Creative Commons photo by Liz West

And this:

A.E. Housman said, "Knowledge is good, method is good, but one thing beyond all others is necessary; and that is to have a head, not a pumpkin, on your shoulders and brains, not pudding, in your head."

And last of all, this:

Carl Sandburg, from Smoke and Steel, 1922

V. Mist Forms
13. Tawny

THESE are the tawny days: your face comes back.
The grapes take on purple: the sunsets redden early on the trellis.
The bashful mornings hurl gray mist on the stripes of sunrise.
Creep, silver on the field, the frost is welcome.
Run on, yellow balls on the hills, and you tawny pumpkin flowers, chasing your lines of orange.
Tawny days: and your face again.

Happy Friday, Happy Poetry, Happy Autumn.

Jama has the Poetry Friday roundup at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

September Mosaic

The first fourteen pictures this month are from the Casting for Recovery retreat. That will explain all of those splashes of pink. We had perfect weather and a fabulous group of ladies.

15-17 are my Equinox Amazement photos. The day after the equinox, the sun shone right down the middle of our East/West street. The next day, the sun was noticeably further south because its light was further north. The third day, you can barely see the light going down the sidewalk across the street. We are tracking how far the sun is shining in our south-facing window at school each afternoon when we gather for read aloud (where the sun-patch is on the floor before I lower the blinds).

#18 -- Bono Pizza. Locals, if you've never experienced Bono Pizza, you owe it to yourself and your tastebuds to give it a try. Click over to their website and look at the pictures. I promise you'll drool!

Wednesday, October 01, 2014

Celebrating Sylvia Vardell!

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Will Clayton

Even though our blog birthday was on January 1, we are celebrating it all year! On our 8th Birthday, we decided to celebrate 2014 by celebrating others who inspire us every day. Each month, on the 1st (or so) of the month, we will celebrate a fellow blogger whose work has inspired us. We feel so lucky to be part of the blog world that we want to celebrate all that everyone gives us each day.

This month, we are celebrating teacher and blogger, Sylvia Vardell. Sylvia blogs at Poetry for Children, which is one of the most amazing poetry resources for classroom teachers you can imagine! Sylvia works tirelessly to promote poetry for children at every professional conference she attends, through the journal articles and professional books she writes, and, of course, through the Poetry Friday Anthologies she edits with Janet Wong.

On her blog, Sylvia has thoughtful posts like the recent one on Poetry and Social Justice.

She also has a series called Poet to Poet, in which she features one poet interviewing another about his/her new book. 

Plus, she shares readers' guides she's written, like the one for the fabulous novel in verse, Crossover.

To honor Sylvia, we made a donation to the American Academy of Poets (, an organization that supports educators with tips for teaching poetry, a monthly educator newsletter, and events such as Poem in Your Pocket Day and National Poetry Month.

Please help us celebrate Sylvia for all she does for poetry and for teachers!