Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Time to Begin: #Nerdlution15

Another Fabulous Logo Created by Kristi Mraz!

Last year, we had great fun with our #nerdlution goals. We had an idea. Colby (@colbysharp) created a hashtag and Kristi (@MrazKristine) created a logo.  And lots of people joined in! If you missed out, you can get the scoop on Chris Lehman's blog. He posted Nerdlution and So Can You (FAQ) which is everything you want to know about it!  

Last year, we had 2 rounds of #nerdlutions. Each was 50 days long and each person set his/her own goals.  You can read Colby Sharp's Nerdlution Round 1 goals and also the posts of other bloggers who joined int he fun.  Nerdlution? What Kind of Word is That?Jumping on the Nerdlution Bandwagon, and My #Nerdlution: 50 Comments/50 Blogs/50 Days.

My #nerdlutions did not go so well. Actually, my public goal setting never really produces the desired results but I do meet some goals. My goals from last year can be found at #nerdlution: When Mr. Sharp Creates a Hashtag, You Know He Means Business! and how it worked out for me at Thanks to the Nerdlution Community!

This year, we invite everyone to join us and to use the hashtag #nerdlution15 on Twitter, FB, Instagram, etc.  Feel free to revise any #nerdlution pieces that need revised for you--number of days, start date, etc.  I think I will do the traditional 50 days as Jan/Feb is usually a good time for me to meet personal goals since the craziness of fall at school has ended.  50 Days Takes us from January 1- February 19 which is FABULOUS timing because I will be seeing Chris and Colby the next weekend for the Dublin Literacy Conference. We can celebrate our successes!

So, it is 2015. And 2014 was not my favorite year. Needless to say, it wasn't a great year for meeting goals. So, this is my thinking for #nerdlution15, Round 1.  No apples for me this year.  Instead, here are my 4 #nerdlution goals--starting January 1 and ending Feb 19. (well, not ending--hopefully becoming habit by then!)

#nerdluton 1: Water
I saw this amazing post about a woman who drank a gallon of water a day and I decided I want to give it a try.  Not only does she look better, but she seems to feel better too. A gallon of water every day for 50 days.  So I am going to try that.  And I am thinking I'll go for a gallon but anywhere between 64 and 128 oz a day will be acceptable.

#nerdlution 2: Exercise
I would like to exercise 6 times a week (maybe 5 different days). I am going to try the Galloway run/walk method this time as I think it will be more doable for me and it seems to have good results.  So I am thinking I'll do walk/run 3 times a week and some kind of a yoga class 3 times a week. 

#nerdlution 3: Fun Times
I need to have more fun. Sometimes after a week of work, I am too tired to do anything fun.  So I am going to try to do at least 2 fun things a week. Fun things with family or friends that isn't part of a regular day.

#nerdlution #4 is actually a #nerdlotion
Last year, putting on lipstick for 50 days was one of my #nerdlutions. It didn't go so well. I am going to try again but this year with face moisturizer.  Preferably 2 times a day for 50 days but at least 1 time a day . You see, I go through phases when it comes to beauty products.  No real habits and hoping to build some back in. So lotion every day. 

So, follow us to see how we are doing and join us with your own #nerdlutions!  Ready to go tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

New Middle Grade Novels

Thank goodness winter break has given me some time to catch up on all of the great 2014 books I haven't gotten to yet. I am trying desperately to NOT read any 2015 books until I get through about 10-15 of the middle grade novels I want to read from 2014. Once I start 2015, they will keep coming and I'll never find time to get back to my stack.

So far, I've read several good middle grade novels. None of these are really a match for 3rd graders but they seem great for 4th-6th.

Ship of Dolls by Shirley Parenteau is a book that I think lots of kids will like.  It is a great into into historical fiction for kids new to that genre.  The story is about the dolls that America sent to Japan in 1926. This is the story of one girl and one doll.  Lexie is dealing with the death of her father. She has recently moved in with her grandparents so there is lots of change in her life.   But her class is sending a doll to Japan as part of the Friendship Doll and Lexie feels very connected to the doll.  Loved the stories and the characters in this one and learned a lot about the Friendship Dolls.  I can think of several 4th graders who might like this one.

All I can say about Revolution by Deborah Wiles is WOW! I loved Countdown and have been anxiously awaiting this second book in Wiles' 60s trilogy.  I am not sure how I waited so long to read it but it is amazing. Just like in Countdown, Wiles weaves real photos and quotes through the story of a girl growing up in the 60s.  This book focuses on Freedom Summer in Mississippi (1964). A fabulous story with believable characters. And I have to say that I learned a great deal about the summer of '64 that I didn't realize.  This is one I'd love to reread. A must read and accessible to 5th graders and above. I wish more adults who are not children's lit fans would find books like this one, as it seems to be one that everyone should read.

I'm about halfway through Screaming at the Ump by Audrey Vernick and can already think of several readers who would like this book. This is a story for sports fans but it is different from others I've read in that the character is not an athlete. Instead, his dad and grandpa own an umpire school (Behind the Plate) and Casey is a big part of it. But mostly, he wants to be a sportswriter.  This is a great story with great characters and a different kind of sports story for kids who love Matt Christopher and Mike Lupica.

I listened to the audio of Tell Me by Joan Bauer and I LOVED it. 12 year old Anna is definitely a favorite character of 2014.  She is funny and kind and quirky.  Anna's parents are having some trouble so they send her to spend some time with her grandmother--in a town that is getting ready for a big Flower Festival. There, Anna sees a little girl who seems to be held against her will and she feels that she must do something.  The book tackles the real issue of human trafficking in a way that is accessible to middle grade and middle school readers. The story is a great one and I am thinking perfect for 5th and 6th grades.  

Monday, December 29, 2014

Workshopping in the Digital Age: A Podcast

Troy Hicks and I talked with Language Arts about the impact of digital tools on our workshops. It is always great to talk to and learn from Troy. You can find the podcast here.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Celebrate This Year: Things I Loved in 2014

Visit Ruth Ayers Writes for the the link up for Celebrate This Week!

So, 2014 was not my favorite year.  Lots of things that weren't so happy.  But I decided to make myself think about the things about 2014 that were happy. Things that came into my life in 2014 that brought some fun or joy.  Thought I'd share.  Consider this like Oprah's Favorite Things list--these are some of my favorite new things from 2014.

How did I live in this world without theSkimm?  Yes, I read headline news and I try to keep up on the basics of what is happening in the world. But theSkimm made that so much more fun. The girls who write theSkimm are smart and very funny, in a clever way.  I now read theSkimm every morning before work. A great way to know what is up in the world and to smile a little while doing so. They explain things in a way that catch readers up on issues. Amazing how much more I feel like I know about what is going on in the world since I've been reading theSkimm.

I forget which month I started Stitchfix but what a happy thing it is!  I am not one of their best shoppers as I only usually keep one or two items from a fix. But what a fun treat. Such fun and easy shopping!  Every month, it is like getting a present in the mail and it has been a good way for me to try new styles and prints.

And thank goodness I discovered Glennon and her amazing book, Carry On, Warrior. I won't go into details on how, but this book found me when I needed it.  I listened to the audio which seemed to be like an extra treat.  And the book led me to Glennon's blog and to her Ted Talk and to one of my favorite posts of all time, Courage Today. Glennon (I like to call her my new BFF) got me through lots this fall without her even realizing it.  Definitely one of my best discoveries of 2014.

I put my friend Stella on a mission to be in charge of the Franki Beautification Program. At 50, it takes a lot of work and I feel that I am falling apart slowly.  Stella is a good friend so she agreed to help me out.  So, for my first step in the Beautification Program, Stella suggested a fabulous lotion from Lancome--expensive, yes, but worth every penny for how happy it makes me every time I use it.

I loved attending Nerdcamp for the 2nd time. And I loved that there was a Nerdrun. But my most favorite thing was being part of Team Saunter/Team Shortcut!  Can't wait to "run" with this team again in 2015!

I am a person who loses things all the time. Since I always do more than one thing at a time, I put things down without remembering where. Needless to say, I often lose my keys and I often lose them in my purse or in the bottom of some bag filled with books. But this year, I ordered one of Candis's amazing keychains from The Jones Market. This wristlet keychain is meant for busy moms who are lugging around babies and diaper bags and things. But even though I do not have a baby, I am always lugging around books and bags and things. And I often throw my keys in the bottom of whichever purse, bag or pocket is most handy. With this keychain, I can wear the key on my wrist until I can take a minute to THINK about putting the keys away. So when I am in Target, going from my car to school, etc. I keep keys right there until I can put them where I can remember where to find them. This little keychain has saved me hours of digging through bags wondering where I tossed my keys. And isn't it also adorable?  (Looks like they are totally sold out on the site--not surprising--but I imagine she'll restock soon. Follow The Jones Market on Instagram if you want to get advance notice of restock days!)

Voxer is another  new favorite. I always love ways to keep up with my friends but with Voxer I can actually hear the voices of friends who I don't get to see face-to-face on a regular basis. But I can have great conversations every day.  What a great app:-)

I met lots of great new people this year and was able to spend lots of time with some new favorite people.  Isn't it great when you meet new people who you love instantly?  I feel so lucky to be in this amazing circle of literacy educators and it is always amazing to meet people that share beliefs about kids.  This year, I got to learn, hang out with, and laugh with Katharine Hale, Kristin Ziemke and Katie Muhtaris. They are not the only amazing people I got to know better this year, but they are 3 that made a difference in my year.  And they make me laugh!

I am a huge Kate Middleton fan.  The Duchess is the best!  And I so loved her eye roll when being told to Keep Wrapping.

I'd highly recommend adding all of these things to your life in 2015!

Friday, December 26, 2014

Poetry Friday -- To Stand and Stare

by William Henry Davies

What is this life if, full of care
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

If measured in "time to stand and stare," then William C. Morris has a very rich life. One night earlier this week, Mr. Mary Lee noticed him staring out the bedroom window into the dark. Following the cat's gaze, the man focused on...a barred owl sitting on the wires that run through the easement behind the house!

Just imagine all we would see if we took time to really look.

It's a little early to declare my One Little Word for 2015, and I haven't spent hours or made lists deliberating on the pros and cons of this word vs. that word. I just decided. Just now. BREATHE has been a great word for 2014, and I'm sure I'll go back to it over and over again, but in 2015, I'd like to 


I want to slow down. I want to notice. I want to savor small moments.

Be sure to wish Holly a Happy Birthday today -- she's spending her special day with us rounding up the Poetry Friday links at Reading, Teaching, Learning.

I have the new list of roundup hosts in the sidebar here at A Year of Reading. The file with the code has been uploaded on the Kidlitosphere Yahoo group, and you can always find the current (and past) roundups on the Kidlitosphere Central website. If you want me to send you the code for your very own sidebar, just send an email (new address: marylee dot hahn at gmail dot com).

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Two Gifts

by Hugh MacLeod at

Enjoy the blessings of the day!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014


by Anne Bertier
translated from the French by Claudia Z. Bedrick
first American edition: Enchanted Lion Books, 2014

Brain Pickings' Best Children's Books of 2014 strikes yet again!

I am adding this book to my collection of "books to read at the beginning of the school year." It will also be good for discussions of theme.

Little Round and Big Square begin the book playing nicely together, even though they are different. In their favorite game, one says a word and they both transform into that thing. By splitting in half and flipping their halves, both are able to become butterflies, for instance.

Soon, Big Square is suggesting shapes that Little Round cannot make. Both retreat to their corners.

Until Little Round suggests that they work together. Then the fun really begins.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Once Upon an Alphabet

Once Upon an Alphabet: Short Stories for All the Letters
by Oliver Jeffers
Philomel Books, 2014

Brain Pickings' Best Children's Books of 2014 strikes again. An ABC book like no other. Had to own it.

We are going to be studying narrative after the winter break, and I'm thinking that these very very short stories for each of the letter of the alphabet might make marvelous mentor texts. Character, setting, problem, solution...all in under 100 words!

Whether or not we could create our own alphabet that, like Jeffers', has stories that stand alone AND cross-reference each other might be a bit tricky.

Who am I kidding? Make that more than a bit tricky!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Maira Kalman's Ah-Ha to Zig-Zag

by Maira Kalman
Cooper Hewitt Design Museum, 2014

My weekly email from Brain Pickings contained a very expensive Best Children's Books of 2014 list a couple of weeks ago.

I'm a sucker for ABC books, and I'm a sucker for Maira Kalman's whimsical illustrations, and I'm a sucker for multi-genre nonfiction. What could I do? I had to buy this book.

Published by the Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum, it is exactly what it says it is: "31 objects from the Cooper Hewitt..." Furthermore, we learn, "Maira Kalman went to the museum. She chose objects from the collection and made this book for you."

Don't expect a literal, one-to-one ABC. That's not Kalman's style. For instance, the dog on the cover is featured on the spread for E: "E. (Except for your dog) This is the cutest dog on Earth. With the cutest Eyebrows on Earth."

After Z comes O, for "Oops!" A letter was left out, but "Oh, well. We all make mistakes." After that, there are photographs of the actual objects with a bit of information about each (have fun counting and figuring out why there are more than 31 photographs), the story of how Nellie and Sally Hewitt came to collect these objects and create a museum, AND an invitation to readers to pay attention to the design of the objects in the world around them and then write to the museum with their suggestions for objects that might be included in a museum.

So. Much. Fun.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Poetry Friday -- Barter

by Sara Teasdale

Life has loveliness to sell,
All beautiful and splendid things,
Blue waves whitened on a cliff,
Soaring fire that sways and sings,
And children's faces looking up
Holding wonder like a cup.

Life has loveliness to sell,
Music like a curve of gold,
Scent of pine trees in the rain,
Eyes that love you, arms that hold,
And for your spirit's still delight,
Holy thoughts that star the night.

Spend all you have for loveliness,
Buy it and never count the cost;
For one white singing hour of peace
Count many a year of strife well lost,
And for a breath of ecstasy
Give all you have been, or could be.

Buffy has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Buffy's Blog.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Turtle of Oman by Naomi Shihab Nye

The Turtle of Oman
by Naomi Shihab Nye
illustrated (with small sketches at the beginning of every chapter) by Betsy Peterschmidt
Greenwillow Books, 2014
review copy from the public library (but I'll be purchasing this one for my classroom library)

This book is not a novel in verse, but it is written so poetically that sometimes it feels like a poem.

This book is a love song to HOME. 

Young Aref is leaving Oman to live in Michigan for 3 years while his parents go to graduate school there. The story tells about his last week in Oman, spent procrastinating and delaying the packing of his suitcase, while savoring everything he loves the best in and near the city of Muscat in Oman with his wonderful grandfather Sidi. Together, they go to the nearby sea and spend some time on the beach. They go to a camp out in the desert and spend the night. They ride out with a fisherman into the sea. Aref spends the night at Sidi's house and they sleep out under the stars on the flat roof of Sidi's house. 

When they are at the Camp of a Thousand Stars, they meet a man with a falcon who flies away from his handler, but comes back every time to sit on his arm. When they go to the beach, they visit the place where the sea turtles come back every year to lay their  eggs. Out on the boat, Aref catches a fish, but lets it go back to its home in the sea. And slowly, throughout the course of the week, Aref can begin to imagine leaving Oman, because he knows that he, too, will return.

By showing us Oman through the eyes of a child whose heart is breaking to leave it, Naomi Shihab Nye gives the reader an intimate look at a place that, though very different from anywhere in North America, will invite the reader appreciate both Oman, as well as all the people and particular places that make HOME special to him/her.


Monday, December 15, 2014

Ranger in Time by Kate Messner

Ranger in Time #1: Rescue on the Oregon Trail
by Kate Messner
Scholastic, January 2015
ARC received from the publisher

This is going to be a great series for grades 2-5!

Ranger is a golden retriever who failed search and rescue school because he can't stop chasing squirrels. He also love to dig, and one day, he finds a old first aid kit while he's digging in his back yard. When he slips the strap over his head, he is transported in time to 1850. He uses his search and rescue skills several times along the Oregon Trail to help Sam Abbott and his family.

After the story, Messner has included a very readable 10-page author's note about the time period and her writing process.

Next up in the series, Ranger travels in time to Ancient Rome!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Poetry Friday -- Sneaky Cat


sneaky cat comes up
from a basement adventure --
cobwebs on his head

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2014

This is one of my Haiku-a-day from the past week. Paul has the Poetry Friday roundup at These Four Corners. Welcome to Poetry Friday, Paul!!

The call for Poetry Friday Roundup hosts for January-June 2015 is here.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Poetry Friday -- Call for Roundup Hosts

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

If you'd like to host a roundup between January and June 2015, leave your choice(s) of date(s) in the comments. I'll update regularly to make it easier to see which dates have been claimed.

What is the Poetry Friday roundup? A gathering of links to posts featuring original or shared poems, or reviews of poetry books. A carnival of poetry posts. Here is an explanation that Rene LaTulippe shared on her blog, No Water River, and here is an article Susan Thomsen wrote for the Poetry Foundation.

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

How do you do a Poetry Friday roundup? If you're not sure, stick around for a couple of weeks and watch...and learn! One thing we're finding out is that folks who schedule their posts, or who live in a different time zone than you, appreciate it when the roundup post goes live sometime on Thursday.

How do I get the code for the PF Roundup Schedule for the sidebar of my blog? I'll post it in the files on the Kidlitosphere Yahoo group, and I'd be happy to send it to you if you leave me your email address. Speaking of the the Kidlitosphere Yahoo group, I'll try to set up reminders on the calendar there (currently it's not letting me in). Plus, I'll put the schedule on the Kidlitosphere Central webpage.

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

And now for the where and when:

2   Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
9   Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
16 Irene at Live Your Poem
23 Tara at A Teaching Life
30 Paul at These 4 Corners

6   Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass
13 Cathy at Merely Day by Day
20 Linda at TeacherDance
27 Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

6   Robyn at Robyn Campbell
13 Laura at Author Amok
20 Catherine at Reading to the Core
27 Jone at Check it Out

3   Amy LV at The Poem Farm
10 Laura at Writing the World for Kids
17 Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge
24 Renee at No Water River

1   Ellen at Space City Scribes
8   Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
15 Diane at Random Noodling
22 Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme
29 Margaret at Reflections on the Teche

5   Buffy at Buffy's Blog
12 Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup
19 Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
26 Carol at Carol's Corner

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Poetry Friday -- Best Day of My Life

this is the best day
--really the only day--
of my precious life.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2014

(scrub to 4:52)

Anastasia has the Poetry Friday roundup at Booktalking #kdilit. The roundup is on Pinterest and I am the last person on the planet who doesn't pin. I tried to find all the Poetry Friday posts with a Google search and by commenting on my commenters' blogs, but if I missed you, I'm sorry! I tried!!

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Lunch with Cece Bell and Tom Angleberger at NCTE's Books for Children Lunch

I always love the Books for Children Luncheon at NCTE. Not only do we get o hear the Orbis Pictus Award winners and hear amazing authors speak, we also get to sit at a table with an author or two. This year I was lucky enough to sit at a table with Tom Angleberger and Cece Bell. I was very starstruck the entire time and thrilled to have a few minutes to talk to these two amazing people.

As part of the lunch, you get books written by the authors at your table. So I was thrilled to see El Deafo by Cece Bell.

I've always loved Cece Bell's picture books. I loved El Deafo from the very first page when I read it this summer.  This graphic novel/memoir by Cece Bell is based on Cece's own story of going to school with a hearing aid. Her humor and honesty make this book one that stays with you for a very long time. You can hear Cece talk about her book here and if you haven't read the book yet, it's one you'll want to run out and get today.  I plan to read this book aloud to my class using a Kindle version on the smart board. I have been wanting to read a graphic novel aloud that would spark lots of great conversation and this one seems perfect.

I was also thrilled to see the upcoming (2nd) book in the Qwikpick Papers series by Tom Angleberger.  I was talking to Tom before lunch about how much some of my 3rd graders are loving his Origami Yoda series and how many folded Origami Yodas I find laying around the room at the end of the day (most especially on indoor recess days)!  Having another series to hand to Angleberger's  fans will be fun.  Even more fun is the fact that Mary Lee and I were able to read the first book in this series almost 8 years ago when it was first released. Early in our life as bloggers, before we totally understood what a blog was, Tom Angleberger (Sam Riddleburger) was one of the first authors who reached out to us and sent us a review copy of his book. We both loved the book then are were thrilled to see it being rereleased with a 2nd coming out in April.

Loved this year's luncheon and having a bit of time with these two amazing authors!

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The Terrible Two

At NCTE, I was not only lucky enough to get an ARC of The Terrible Two but I also had a chance to meet Mac Barnett and Jory John. (I even won a prize at the Abrams booth while chatting with them:-)  They were very fun and since Mac Barnett will be visiting our school this spring, I decided to put this book on the top of my pile and I finished it this weekend.

I loved this book. It is about a boy named Miles who moves to a new school. He is determined to become known as the school prankster as he was in his old school. When he arrives at his new school, he is given a "buddy" named Niles.  The two do not become fast friends but they do begin a prank war and finally become partners in pranking.

I am not usually a fan of funny books. I always find funny books to be more plot-based than character based and I love to get to know the characters. But it seems that Barnett and John have created a funny book with great characters.  I loved Miles and Niles and I enjoyed Principal Barkin and all of his issues.  The book made me laugh out loud and had me rooting for both characters.  It is not often that I find a "funny" middle grade book that I loved, but I loved this one. I am thinking the sophisticated humor that is evident in most of Barnett's work really works well in longer novels too.  This is a book for all readers. I think of all of the books that are so critical to get some kids reading in the middle grades and this one should be added to that list. I can see kids becoming readers because of this book.

This book is due out in January and it seems perfect for grades 3-5. From some googling, it sounds like The Terrible Two is the first in a series of books by these authors. How exciting is that?!

Monday, December 01, 2014

Celebrate -- The Kidlitosphere!

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Will Clayton

Even though our blog birthday was on January 1, we have celebrated it all year! On our 8th Birthday, we decided to celebrate 2014 by celebrating others who inspire us every day. Each month this year, we have celebrated 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.

In January, we launched the year by celebrating Kevin Hodges.
In February, we celebrated Ruth Ayres.
In March, we celebrated The Nerdy Book Club.
In April, we celebrated Pernille Ripp.
In May, we celebrated Jen Robinson.
In June, we celebrated Mother Reader.
In July, we celebrated Mr. Schu.
In August, we celebrated Kate Messner.
In September, we celebrated Amy Ludwig VanDerwater.
In October, we celebrated Sylvia Vardell.
In November, we celebrated Barbara O'Connor.

We're going to end our year of celebrating bloggers who are children's literature fanatics, teachers, teachers-of-teachers, librarians, authors, and poets who inspire us the most by celebrating those who help to build and maintain the Kidlitosphere "community" itself.

Here's to all the bloggers behind the scenes who curate the webpage, Kidlitosphere Central, organize the yearly conference, KidLitCon, coordinate and judge and blog about the CYBILS (Children's and Young Adult Blogger's Literary Awards), and run the Kidlitosphere Yahoo group

This is a huge group of volunteers who make the world of blogging a better place by making it feel more like a cozy neighborhood and less like an indifferent city.

To honor ALL of the bloggers who keep the wheels of the Kidlitosphere machinery running smoothly, we made a donation to the CYBILS.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Poetry Friday -- First Snow


Not satisfied to trace
bare branches
remaining leaves 
into lace,
this first snow
tries to fill the place
my glasses
my face.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2014

Our first snow was a playful, fluffy couple of inches, not a destructive, multi-foot dump like Buffalo got, or a plan-changing Nor'easter like the one this week. One more thing to add to the list of my "Thankful For"s.

Today we're also thankful for Carol, at Carol's Corner, who is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup!

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Reflecting on NCTE


Maybe I shouldn't have read what I wrote in last year's reflection on attending NCTE. Wow. Did I really write that? Nice work, last year's me. All still true. So now what am I supposed to write?

This year I'll write about magic. I'll write about this:

I've presented at NCTE before, but I don't remember any of my sessions ever feeling as magical as this one with (L to R) Vicki Vinton, Julieanne Harmatz, Fran McVeigh, and Steve Peterson.

Vicki  invented our tribe.
"Our job is to find the disconnected and connect them, to find people eager to pursue a goal and give them the structure to go achieve that goal. But just about always, we start with an already existing worldview, a point of view, a hunger that's waiting to be satisfied." -- Seth Godin

We met in the comments on Vicki's blog. We knew each other through our written words both there, and on our own blogs. We knew each other through profile pictures and tweets. When we finally met in person, it was so fun to add facial expressions and voices and hands to shake and hugs and the sounds of laughter to everything we already knew about each other.

All the parts of our session fit like the verses of a song. The chorus of our song was, "What if?"

I think we'll be singing this song we wrote for a long time to come. We'll sing the chorus in our classrooms, and we'll sing out the new verses to each other on our blogs until we find a way and a place for an in-the-flesh reunion!

Here is Steve's reflection on NCTE and our session.

Fran has three reflections -- here, here, and here.

Julieanne wrote a thank you note to NCTE.

There was way, way more to my time at NCTE than just this one session with these four other people. There were other first-time meetings with online friends and lots of happy reunions with far-flung friends. There were many sessions that provided new learning and deep thinking. There were the obligations of the poetry committee and the CLA board.

But this one bit was magic.
Truly magic.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A December Filled With Poetry

Santa Clauses: Short Poems from the North Pole
by Bob Raczka
illustrated by Chuck Groenink
Carolrhoda Books, 2014

This is a very fun book.

You might have seen it reviewed (with a spotlight on the author) by Michelle at Today's Little Ditty. It's worth looking at again.

Bob Raczka Santa has written a haiku a day for the entire month of December, and they are collected here to give readers a peek into the secret life of Santa, beyond what we know of him in his workshop and sleigh. We get to know his love of nature, the way he and Mrs. Claus decorate for the season, and (through the illustrations) that he has a big orange cat that looks much like the one that lives in our house!

Buy a copy and make this a December tradition in your house! Maybe you could write companion haikus each day in December from the point of view of the elves or the reindeer!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Poems for Very Short People

by Lin Oliver
illustrated by Tomie dePaola
Nancy Paulsen Books, 2014

(In case you are wondering about today's post title, yesterday's post was "Very Short Poems." Go check it out. I'll wait.)

Welcome back!

Is it ever too soon for children to learn to love the rhythms, rhymes, and fun of poetry?


Here's a great book for a baby shower gift. It will be as much fun for new parents to read over and over again as it will be for a new generation to listen to, look at, and slap their slobbery little hands all over the happy babies they see in Tomie dePaola's illustrations.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Very Short Poems

Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems
selected by Paul B. Janeczko
illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Candlewick Press, 2014

I don't know whether I love this collection more for the poetry or for the illustrations. Either way, it's a winner.

Beginning with Spring, each of the seasons is explored through eight or nine poems from a variety of both adult and children's poets.

Each poem is a snapshot, a glimpse, a moment. They are perfect for showing children the power of just a few words to describe or evoke or illuminate.

And did I mention that the illustrations are beyond lovely? They are classic Melissa Sweet. I wish I could frame every page.

This is a collection you will want, and a fabulous gift book. Share the love.

Check out Mary Ann's review at Great Kid Books.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Poetry and Imagination

Poem-Mobiles: Crazy Car Poems
by J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian
illustrated by Jeremy Holmes
Schwartz & Wade, 2014

As I noted last Wednesday, J. Patrick Lewis' anthology title says it all: "Everything is a Poem." Last Thursday, we looked at science in poetry, Monday we looked at nature in poetry. Tuesday, the focus was on history in poetry, yesterday we took a look at biography in poetry. Today, let's have fun with imagination in poetry.

The subtitle of this book says it all: "Crazy Car Poems."

If that didn't get your attention, check out the co-authors -- J. Patrick Lewis and Douglas Florian. Now you KNOW you're in for some fun, right?

If you're still not sure, here's a bit from the introduction poem, "Introduction:"

"...But someday our fantastic cars
Might look like cool dark chocolate bars,

Banana splits, hot dogs or fish --
Or any kind of ride you wish..."

This book is all kinds of imaginative fun. The plays on words are groan-worthy, and the illustrations are a blast.

Poem-Mobiles was reviewed by Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup (check out the picture of the Teddy-Go-Cars -- doesn't that make you want to use up some of the leftover Halloween candy making Snickermobiles?)

Becky has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Tapestry of Words.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Biography in Poetry

Hello, I'm Johnny Cash
by G. Neri
illustrated by A.G. Ford
Candlewick Press, 2014

As I noted last Wednesday, J. Patrick Lewis' anthology title says it all: "Everything is a Poem." Last Thursday, we looked at science in poetry, Monday we looked at nature in poetry. Yesterday, the focus was on history in poetry, and today we'll take a look at biography in poetry. In one final post in this series, we'll have fun with imagination in poetry.

I grew up listening to my parents' Johnny Cash albums, and his Greatest Hits CD (The Essential Johnny Cash) is one of my go-to "setting up/cleaning up/putting to bed the classroom" sound tracks. I didn't know that much about his early life until I read this collection of poems.

Here is an excerpt from the final poem, "The Man in Black:"

is how he started
every concert from then on.
that simple statement
said it all.

Johnny Cash,
the poor country boy
from the cotton fields,
traveled the world
many times over,
where he sang
for presidents
and the homeless,
businessmen and farmers,
soldiers and prisoners alike.
It didn't matter how famous he got,
he never forgot
what it felt like to be cold,
miserable, and hungry.
Momma didn't have to
remind Johnny
that his gift was special.
He knew he was not its owner
but its caretaker.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

History in Poetry

Harlem Hellfighters
by J. Patrick Lewis
illustrated by Gary Kelley
Creative Editions, 2014

As I noted last Wednesday, J. Patrick Lewis' anthology title says it all: "Everything is a Poem." On Thursday, we looked at science in poetry, and yesterday we looked at nature in poetry. Today, the focus is on history in poetry. Upcoming posts include biography and imagination in poetry.

This gorgeously illustrated book of poetry for older readers teaches about 369th Infantry Regiment in World War I. Originally mobilized as the 15th New York National Guard, this group of 2,000 black American soldiers became famous not just for their tenacity on the battle field, but for the music they brought with them and which helped them to survive.

The tragic death of the band leader, James "Big Jim" Reese Europe, just a year after Armistice Day, gives this little-known story from WWI an extra measure of poignancy.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Nature in Poetry

by David Elliott
illustrated by Becca Stadtlander
Candlewick Press, 2014

As I noted last Wednesday, J. Patrick Lewis' anthology title says it all: "Everything is a Poem." On Thursday, we looked at science in poetry. Today, the focus is on nature in poetry -- specifically, birds. Upcoming posts include history, biography and imagination in poetry.

My students and I have loved David Elliott's short, pithy poems in his collections On the Farm, In the Wild, and In the Sea. In this book, the essence of seventeen species of birds, from the ordinary sparrow to the exotic Japanese Crane pictured on the cover are captured in Elliott's words and Becca Stadtlander's gorgeous and evocative illustrations.

Sadly, last June, Holly Meade, David Elliott's illustrator for the other books in this series (On the Farm, In the Wild, In the Sea) died at age 56. David Elliott dedicates this book to her.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Science in Poetry

Winter Bees: & Other Poems of the Cold
by Joyce Sidman
illustrated by Rick Allen
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2014

As I noted yesterday, J. Patrick Lewis' anthology title says it all: "Everything is a Poem." Today we'll look at science in poetry. Upcoming posts include nature, history, biography and imagination in poetry.

Joyce Sidman's Winter Bees is the perfect book to usher in this year's first Polar Vortex. Every day, compliments of the TV weather reporters, we are getting a science lesson in meteorology. Sidman's book will answer questions about how animals survive in the cold.

Each of the dozen poems, most about animals ranging in size from moose to springtail, but also including trees and snowflakes, is accompanied by a short sidebar of scientific information that expands the scope of this book to topics such as migration, hibernation, and the shape of water molecules, and introduces such delicious vocabulary as brumate, ectothermic, furcula, and subnivean.

The illustrations are simply gorgeous. You will want to spend as much time with them as you do savoring Joyce's poems. Watch out for that fox -- s/he wanders throughout the book!

As you and your students explore this book and Joyce's others, don't forget to check out Joyce's website. It is a treasure-trove for readers, writers, and dog lovers.

Keri has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Keri Recommends.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Everything is a Poem

by J. Patrick Lewis
illustrated by Maria Cristina Pritelli
Creative Editions, 2014

What is more fun than a whole shelf full of J. Patrick Lewis poetry books? An anthology with all of his best poems collected between its covers!

Knowing that Pat has published a shelf-full of poetry books, one wonders how on earth he picked these "bests" that can be found in such wide-ranging topics in the table of contents as Animals, People, Reading, Sports, Riddles and Epitaphs, Mother Nature, Places, and A Mix?

Inspired by his title, I have prepared a series of posts that will spotlight 2014 poetry books that feature poetry in science, nature, history, biography, and the imagination. Stay tuned!

Over at No Water River, Renee reviewed Everything is a Poem last summer. For a peek at the illustrations and some of the poems, head on over there now.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Reading a Poetry Book With Nonfiction Eyes

The Poem that Will Not End
by Joan Bransfield Graham
illustrated by Kyrsten Brooker
Two Lions, 2014

Like many new nonfiction picture books, this book has lots going on on every page. There is the main text -- the poem-story of how Ryan O'Brian's brain is taken over by rhythm and rhyme -- accompanied by the poems Ryan O'Brian writes as he goes through his day. There are detailed and entertaining illustrations that elaborate on Ryan O'Brian's adventures. At the end of the book, there is more information about the different forms (19 in all!) and the different voices (narrative, lyrical, mask, apostrophe, conversational) he uses in his poems.

So, in the same way that a multi-text nonfiction book can be read and re-read for many purposes, this is a book that readers can return to again and again. It will be interesting to share this book next to a nonfiction book in a minilesson in reading workshop on text structures. In writing workshop, I can share it as a resource for examples of poetry forms and voices. On Poetry Friday, we can be entertained by the main story, or any one of Ryan's poems.

Lots of possibilities here!

Last January, the book launch blog tour began with Sylvia at Poetry For Children. Check the links at the bottom of her post for other blogs on the tour.

Monday, November 10, 2014

The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart

by Dan Gemeinhart
Scholastic, January 2015
ARC provided by the publisher

This review copy came to me packaged in an interesting way. In a heavy ziplock bag labeled "THREE THINGS YOU NEED TO READ The Honest Truth" were these items:

a postcard from Mount Rainier, a carabiner, and a package of tissues. Actually, even the ziplock bag wound up being important to the story.

This is the story of a kid named Mark, who has a best friend (who happens to be a girl but who is NOT a girlfriend) Jessie, and another best friend who is a dog named Beau. It is a story of the deep and powerful bond of friends.

Mark writes haiku in his notebook. He takes photographs with an old-school camera that uses film. This is the story about the healing power of art.

This is a story full of spirit and heart. It's a story that makes you rage at the unfairness of life and cheer for all the angels that take care of strangers every day in a million small ways.

This is a story of a boy who runs away from home to climb Mount Rainier. It's about the need for big goals so that you can prove to yourself and the world that you are still in control of your life. It's about surviving the storm so that you get a chance to glimpse the sun coming out from under the clouds at the other end of it.

I apologize for reviewing this book so far in advance of its release date. You will want to read it. It's Dan Gemeinhart's debut novel. We will all want to read more from him.

On a separate but related note, I am going to invite my students to "market" a book they've read this year using the "three things you need to read this book" idea. Once upon a time, that might have seemed like a trite way to ask students to respond to their reading. Now it's marketing. Hmm...

Sunday, November 09, 2014

A Workshop of the Possible*

As part of a continuous collaboration among educators interested in digital learningMargaret Simon hosts a weekly Digital Learning round-up on her blog:  DigiLit Sunday.  Stop by Reflections on the Teche (today's link-up) to read, discover, and link.  

You may be following the conversation that is happening around the blog world this week--on whether technology has a place in our elementary classrooms. Troy Hicks and Kristin Ziemke responded to a post by Nancie Atwell and then the conversation continued with brilliant posts from Cathy Mere and others.

 Let me start by saying this .  Nancie Atwell is my hero. She taught me about workshop and gave me my grounding as a reading and writing teacher.  And I can't wait to read her newest edition of In The Middle.   Disagreeing with Nancie is a hard thing for me to do.  I do disagree with her on this one, though.   However, I was where Nancie is.  I did not come to using technology in the classroom quickly or happily.  I did not see its power until very recently.

My Own Journey
As a writer, I remember the day that I said that I could never imagine myself composing on a computer-that I liked my yellow legal pad, that I could see myself using the computer for a final draft, but I could not imagine those first steps of the writing process without paper.

But that was when the ways we could tell stories were limited. That was when I told stories of my classroom with words and a few photos. That's when I carried overhead transparencies of those photos to tell my story at conferences and workshops.

I think back to that day and realize that I could not imagine using the computer for composing because I had no idea what was possible.  I had no idea that one day I'd be able to tell my story with words and images and videos and hyperlinks. I had no idea that I'd be able to carry my photos and notes and links with me on a phone that is small enough to fit in my purse.  I had no idea that I would no longer need a publisher to have an audience for my stories or that I could connect with others who were telling stories of their classrooms. I had no idea that these stories would connect me to people around the world.

I feel like an elder telling of the time I had to walk through the snow to school, but I am old enough to have gone through this process and to work through what these changes mean for the classroom. Nancie Atwell taught me about authenticity and ownership and it is something that has stayed with me and that has kept me grounded.  It is also one that has been challenging to uphold these last few years as technology seems to have changed everything.  It is the message of authenticity and ownership that has forced me to open up my mind to how technology is changing literacy.

I did not start using technology in the classroom quickly or without a fight either. I kind of came in kicking and screaming.  I used technology a bit, but the ways I saw technology being used in the classroom went against everything I knew about authenticity and ownership. It went against all I knew about literacy learning.  I saw kids watching videos and kids playing games and kids typing projects that they could have handwritten in half the time.   I did not see the reason to take one minute from what I was doing in order to add technology to my already successful workshop.

Then I was put on an NCTE committee to study digital literacy.  I was on a committee with brilliant people who understood the power of digital tools and the impact these tools were having on literacy far better than I ever could. Listening and learning with this group of people helped me to see that this conversation was not about technology but it was about literacy.  I'm not sure what was said, but I remember a moment in the meeting where I thought, "OH, that's what is possible?" From then on I realized technology was a game changer and that because of it, the very definition of what it means to be literate was changing. I realized that these tools could empower our students as readers and writers in ways that were not possible before.

Since my kicking and screaming days,  I've forced myself  to dig in and to see what I was missing. I have learned from so many people and dug into what is possible. Troy Hicks' work on Digital Writing Workshop and Kristen Ziemke's work with first graders have been critical to my current stance.  I found people who understood both literacy and technology and listened to their thinking. I learned from Bud Hunt, Kevin Hodgson, Sara Kajder, Bill BassChris Lehman, Will Richardson, Angela Maiers, Kathy Cassidy, Katharine Hale and so so so many others.  And I have only been able to learn from these people because of the ways writing has changed--I am able to follow their blogs, have conversations on Twitter and respond and reflect on my own blog.

I've always believed in a workshop of the possible, in a workshop where children in our classrooms can discover what it means to be a reader and a writer. I want my students to discover all that is possible so they can be intentional and thoughtful.  And I want their reading and writing lives in school to be authentic and the classroom experiences to help kids see what it means to be a reader and a writer today.

In the Classroom
My kids don't see technology in the same way that I do---instead they see it as one tool for communication. Even at age 8, they are fluent in their use of these tools and intentional about the ways they use them to meet their needs.  I have students who blog regularly and the growth they've had as writers because they have an audience every day is stunning. I have writers who use their iPods to set reminders so that they do not forget their weekly blog series post.  I have readers who annotate on iBooks and then use those annotations to write book reviews to share with classmates.  Of course, this doesn't happen with the teaching focused on writing--craft, organization, genre, etc. The key is that the teaching focuses on the writing, not the tool.

This is a photo I took last year because I was so amazed by what I saw. Students spread out on the floor using digital and traditional tools together to work through something. I see this over and over and over each day. The tools are not the focus, but they open up possibilities for learning in so many ways.

Just this week, I saw how much the technology is embedded in all that our students do as readers and writers. 12 students met before school to discuss the graphic novel, Sisters by Raina Telgemeier while enjoying donuts.  In the discussion, one of them realized that this was a personal narrative (a writing unit of study we are in the midst of this month). Kids dug into the book again to look at her other books and realized that they too were most likely narratives--stories from her childhood.  They asked if we could tweet the author to ask whether she planned to write more stories from her childhood.   They also decided they might want to try some narratives in graphic novel form so I did a 2 minute intro to Comic Life that kids could explore at another time.

During the 30 minute talk, students:

-read a paper copy of the book and used sticky notes to annotate.
-sent a few tweets to the author with questions they had about her writing.
-invited a class from another state (via Twitter) to have a morning book club via Skype sometime in the future
-tried out Comic Life as a way to play with what they knew about writing narrative in another format
-discovered the power of real photos like the ones the author added to the end of her book, to add power to a narrative
-handed books to friends who hadn't been part of the morning chat
-looked up other books by this author online
-used sticky notes and conversation to write blog posts about the book and the club

The way the world works is changing and so then is literacy.  Technology allows us to do things as readers and as writers that we couldn't do before. For our kids, this is no big deal. Moving between devices depending on what they need to do as readers and writers is natural for them.  It is no big deal in our classroom to have a book club going on where a few kids have a paper copy of the book while others have an iBook version.  It is no big deal when one person decides to draft a piece of writing in a notebook while another uses the Notes app on his iPod touch. It is no big deal when one child blogs next to a child with a writing folder.

Our jobs as literacy teachers is to harness authentic literacy and to move kids forward with a variety of tools. Our classrooms have to change and our teaching has to change if we want to run a true workshop--where readers and writers are immersed in authenticity.

Not An Either/Or Conversation

I so worry when we make this a yes/no conversation--when I read articles that say exactly how much time kids should spend on technology. I worry about libraries that are getting rid of books to make room for computers and devices. I worry when someone says mobile devices have no place in our primary classrooms. This can't be an either/or conversation.

I took this picture in a recent workshop:

Once I started noticing how often we use a variety of tools AT ONE TIME, I see images like this everywhere. A reminder to me that this can never be an either/or conversation.

An Important Conversation
This is a conversation we need to keep having-across levels.  For those of us committed to literacy workshops, it is a topic we can't afford to ignore.  As literacy teachers, we need to be open to what is possible. Over the past several years I have learned what is possible with digital literacy.
And we can't be afraid to disagree with each other, to ask questions and to study.  We have to be okay with not having a for-sure answer. We have to dig in and figure out how to remain authentic and how to use these tools to help our students grow as readers and writers.  We each have our own vision of what is possible in our workshops. But my thinking is we haven't even scratched the surface.

*The title of this blog post was borrowed from another one of my all time professional books: A Workshop of the Possible by Ruth Shagoury Hubbard