Friday, February 27, 2015

Poetry Friday -- Beastly Verse

Beastly Verse
poems by various authors
illustrations by JooHee Yoon
Enchanted Lion Books, 2015
review copy provided by the publisher

Along with 9 lesser known (to me) or anonymous poets, Lewis Carroll, Ogden Nash, Wiliam Blake, Hilaire Belloc, Christina Rossetti, D.H. Lawrence, and Walter de la Mare all have poems in this vibrantly illustrated collection of beastly verse.

JooHee Yoon used hand drawing and computer techniques and just three Pantone colors for the illustrations, and each page dances and vibrates with color and creativity. Every four or five pages there is a fun gatefold to open up that completes an illustration, or holds a surprise for the reader.

The spread for Eletelephony has a gatefold with a surprise. Before you open the gatefold, you see a living room scene with a telephone ringing. When you open the gatefold, the elephant has attempted to answer the telephone and is completely tangled in the cord!

by Laura Elizabeth Richards

Once there was an elephant, 
Who tried to use the telephant— 
No! No! I mean an elephant 
Who tried to use the telephone— 
(Dear me! I am not certain quite 
That even now I’ve got it right.) 
Howe’er it was, he got his trunk 
Entangled in the telephunk; 
The more he tried to get it free, 
The louder buzzed the telephone— 
(I fear I’d better drop the song 
Of elephop and telephony!)

Heidi has the roundup today at My Juicy Little Universe.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Blue Whales

Billy Twitters and his Blue Whale Problem
by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Adam Rex
Hyperion Books, 2009
review copy from my classroom library

I love the sly way this book weaves facts about blue whales into the story of a boy who doesn't clean his room.

"Billy Twitters, clean up your room, or we're buying you a blue whale, " his mother threatens. Billy doesn't take her seriously because he knows "a thing or two about blue whales."

But one day, a whale shows up outside his door and it's his responsibility...

The reader learns plenty of facts about blue whales in the text and the illustrations absolutely communicate the scale of a blue whale in a classroom, on a playground, and next to a school bus.

Billy comes up with a clever solution to both the problem of owning a blue whale AND the problem of cleaning his bedroom!

(Mac Barnett will be at Cover to Cover Bookstore on March 7 from 10:30-12:00!)

The Blue Whale
by Jenni Desmond
Enchanted Lion Books, 2015
review copy provided by the publisher

This book works the same way. "Once upon a time, a child took a book from a shelf and started to read."

You guessed it. It was a book about blue whales.

The words we read are the words the boy is reading in his book about blue whales. But the pictures tell the story of what the boy imagines, how he conceptualizes sizes and distances and amounts, and sometimes what he does between page turns.

These will be two fun books to share with students to learn about blue whales and to invite conversations that compare and contrast the two books.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A Tale of Two Beasts

A Tale of Two Beasts
by Fiona Roberton
Kane Miller, 2015
review copy provided by the publisher

I have a whole collection of books that have two stories that dovetail in the middle. This one is similar, but instead of dovetailing, it has two parts, each told from a different point of view.

In the first part, a little girl discovers a strange beast stuck in a tree in the forest. She rescues it, takes it home, feeds it, dresses it, walks it, and shares it with her friends. The minute she opens the window, the beast runs away. Later that night, when the little girl is lying awake in her bed trying to figure out where she went wrong, the beast comes back.

In part two, a small furry forest animal (maybe a squirrel?) tells the story of being "ambushed by a terrible beast!" This beast ties him up and carries him away to her lair where he is subjected to any number of indignities. Finally, when she opens the window, he is able to escape. Later that night, when he is hanging upside down from a tree in the forest, he realizes that there might be a reason to go back.

Same story, two different points of view. Is there one beast in this story, or are there two? Depends how you look at it!

A fun book for children of any age who are working to understand point of view.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Math Monday

It might not happen so much for primary teachers, but I am humbled on about a weekly basis by students in my 5th grade math class who are smarter than I am.

Case in point, this pizza problem. Do whatever you need to do to enlarge that picture. The work you will see there is flat-out brilliant.

In this problem, a class has won the PTO's pizza party for bringing in the most Boxtops For Education™. Each student gets their own personal pizza and eats a different fraction of the pizza. They eat thirds, fourths, eighths, twelfths, and sixteenths. The challenge was to put the fractions in order from greatest to least to find out which student(s) ate the most pizza, and then find out which table group ate the most pizza.

The pair of students who made this poster demonstrate two different ways to create equivalent fractions with a common denominator of 48: the "Bring to 48" table at the top in the center of the page, and the longer version on the right side of the page. (I didn't teach them either of these methods. They came up with them on their own. Brilliant, right?)

On the left side of the poster, they show their work finding an equivalent fraction for each of the children in the problem. They add each column to find out which table group ate the most, and they put all of the fractions/students in order (below the "Bring to 48" table in the center of the page).

Differentiation is important. While these two were engaged in solving this problem and demonstrating their work on this poster, I was working with a group of students who still can't independently make equivalent fractions in order to add and subtract with an unlike denominator. Others in the class were working on solving the pizza party problem, but they never got to the demonstration stage, or else their demonstrations were not nearly as elegantly organized.

It's Math Monday! Join Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning for the Math Monday link up!

Friday, February 20, 2015

Poetry Friday -- Sky Poem

Poem for the Golden Sky I See Outlining a Web of Winter-Bare Trees and Contrasting the Blue-White Snow-Topped Roofs When I Open My Eyes All Warm and Drowsy After a Nap on a Day Proclaimed to be Too Cold to go to School

I love you.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2015

Linda has the Poetry Friday roundup at TeacherDance this week.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Nonfiction Picture Book 10 for 10 is...TODAY!

January announcement is here, but I'm sure Twitter is exploding with more current tweets. Gather your 10 favorite nonfiction picture books and share them with the world!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

March Book Madness

The Global March Book Madness Tournament starts TODAY!

Article by Tony Keefer here.

Cut to the chase and click here to go to the website for information.

Let the Madness begin!!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Math Monday: Padlet

I have been thinking about how to better share our math thinking as part of our math workshop.  I have played around a bit with Padlet for lots of things. Last week, padlet helped raise our level of share a bit. Kids are used to sharing and responding to math thinking of their classmates.  We use lots of tools to do this but this week, we build a padlet as kids worked.  Finished representations went up on the padlet as kids finished. This is the problem we solved.

Jeffrey buys 5 boxes of oranges. There are 10 oranges in each box.  There are 12 rotten oranges.  How many oranges are there that are not rotten?

We have been playing with a variety of tools to share our math learning. So, some students used Google Draw. Others used Pixie. Some used Explain Everything.

I am thinking about the reflection piece of share with my math coach. I think there can be real power in Padlet as a way for kids to reflect on thinking, analyze work and learn new things to try.  The power of this Padlet was in the conversation. Because the Padlet was added to over a 15-20  minute period, kids naturally gathered around the Smartboard noticing things before we formally shared. Then as we shared, there was a power of having all of the representations on one board--in a place that we could see them all at once.

Usually, we can Airplay share one at a time or share a student's thinking from their notebook with a document camera.  Padlet allowed us to see patterns in our work. Kids noticed that with division, most kids were drawing pictures and wondered why that was.  Others noticed different number sentences across work. We could get a close up of one to analyze if we wanted to or we could look at the patterns we saw in our work as a whole.

I am going to work with my coach to build on this and to really think about how to raise the level of the share piece of Math Workshop. Lots of possibilities!

It's Math Monday! Join Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning for the Math Monday link up!

Friday, February 13, 2015

Poetry Friday -- Love

by e.e. cummings

love is a place
& through this place of
love move
(with brightness of peace)
all places

yes is a world
& in this world of
yes live
(skilfully curled)
all worlds

I wish for you this place that is all places, this world that is all worlds. 
I wish for you a love so big that one day cannot contain it. 

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

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Before After

Before After
written and illustrated by Anne-Margot Ramstein and Matthias Arégui
Candlewick Press, 2014

Study the cover of this wordless picture book and you'll start to get a sense of what you'll find within: acorn --> oak (before, after), caterpillar --> butterfly, chicken --> egg. But wait. You know that old conundrum about the chicken and the egg? Well, the spread before chicken is on the left and egg is on the right, has egg on the left and chicken on the right! HAH!

So. Basic wordless concept book, eh?


There are spreads for deep thinking, like the one with the rocking horse on the left and the rocking chair on the right. (There are several before and after this that ponder time in a variety of ways, actually.) There are some amazing pairs that consider building up and tearing down, culminating in the ultimate combination of such: tearing down rock to build up a sculpture.

There are occasionally full-page spread befores followed by full-page spread afters, just to mix things up design-wise.

There are "characters" who reappear, like the ink that comes after the squid, and the pigeon who gives a feather for a quill pen in the ink, which comes before the typewriter, and then the pigeon comes back as the precursor to airmail (sending the letter the typewriter typed, perhaps?).

There are literary references (3 Pigs and Cinderella) for alert observers.

There are spreads perfect for conversations about cause and effect.

This is not a book I should be trying to review with words. We should be sitting side-by-side in a quiet corner, slowly turning the pages and chatting about all we notice.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Geisel Award Winning Books

I love the (Theador Seuss) Geisel Award books.  And award specific to beginning readers is fabulous!  I think for those of us that have worked with very young children, we know how hard it is to find great books that young children can read and can enjoy. So this award is one of my favorites.

This year, I had to purchase two of the winners. I read a lot in 2014 but I didn't read much for beginning readers.  Of course, I already had the new Elephant and Piggie (Waiting is Not Easy) book that won the award. (I imagine every Mo Willems book is the perfect example of what makes a good Geisel Award winner.)  And both of these new titles will be good for my 3rd grade classroom too!

You Are (Not) Small is the winner of this award this year and it is a picture book. I don't think this book was even on my radar before it was announced as a winner last week.  But I ordered it right away and I loved it! It is a fun story that has lots to say in a fun way. I love when a simple books gives a powerful message.  For me the book was about perspective and identity and acceptance.  The illustrations are fun and the characters are quite engaging--and quite adorable. I know my 3rd graders will like the story and I love that the themes are accessible.  Younger children will love this one as well.

I hadn't read a new Mr. Putter and Tabby book in a long time.  Honestly, I didn't realize Cynthia Rylant was still writing these.  But when I saw  Mr. Putter and Tabby Turn the Page--a book about reading--was a Geisel Honor, I was thrilled!  I had kind of forgotten about this series and I can think of a few kids who these books would be perfect for. I am hoping that having the award winner in the classroom might get some kids reading these.  This new one was quite fun.  Mr. Putter and his neighbor take their pets to story time at the library.  This is a typical Mr. Putter and Tabby book with some fun humor sprinkled throughout. I enjoyed it and am glad to have rediscovered the series.
didn't realize that Cynthia Rylant was still writing these.  So I was happy to see this new one,

I think all of the Geisel award winners and honors are great for K-3 classrooms.  If you haven't kept up on this award, it is a fairly new one. You can find all of the past award winners and honor books on the award page.  Definitely a list worth checking out if you work with young children.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Math Monday -- Math Ditties and Tricks

I saw this graphic on Lester Laminack's FB page and started thinking about the ditties and tricks we teach. When are they a good support, and when does a learner spend so much time on the trick that they might as well just learn the fact or concept?

The one above is catchy and fun, but we don't teach all of those concepts in the same grade. So, by the time a student is learning to find the mean, and therefore might be ready for the rhyme, one would hope that they had already internalized median, range, and mode.

You know that trick for the nines table in multiplication that you can do with your hands? ("Holding both hands in front of you, number the digits from left to right so the left pinkie is 1. Then bend down the finger you want to multiply by -- so if you're multiplying 9x4, bend down the fourth finger. The fingers to the left of the turned-down finger are the "tens" digit of the answer (3), and the fingers to the right are the "ones" digit of the answer (6)." description found here) Kids love knowing that trick, but if you have to put your pencil down and hold both hands in front of you to solve a multiplication problem, you might as well just learn the facts.

What are your favorite tricks or ditties to teach as you help your students internalize the fact or process?

What tricks or ditties drive you crazy because they have become more important than the underlying fact or concept?

It's Math Monday! Join Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning for the Math Monday link up!

Friday, February 06, 2015

Poetry Friday -- Found Poem

In a recent Brain Pickings article about Mark Strand, this quote stood up in front of me, shot its sleeves, straightened its tie, and announced, "I'm here. I understand that your OLW for 2015 is notice? Well, I've arrived to wallop your brain with a new take on attentiveness."

We’re only here 
for a short while. 
And I think it’s such a lucky accident, 
having been born, 
that we’re almost obliged to pay attention. 

In some ways, 
this is getting far afield. 
I mean, we are – 
as far as we know – 
the only part of the universe that’s self-conscious. 
We could even 
be the universe’s 
form of consciousness. 

We might have come along 
so that the universe could 
look at itself. 

I don’t know that, 
but we’re made of the same stuff that stars are made of, 
or that floats around in space. 

But we’re combined in such a way 
that we can describe 
what it’s like to be alive, 
to be witnesses. 
Most of our experience is that of being a witness. 
We see and hear and smell other things. 

I think being alive is responding.

(line breaks are mine)

Wow., right?

When you click over to the article, there is a for-real Mark Strand poem at the end, and as you read or scroll through to get to it, don't you admire how Maria Popova uses art from children's books to illustrate her post?

Liz has the Poetry Friday roundup today at Elizabeth Steinglass. I hope to be able to make the rounds this week. Life has expanded my one square inch to give me a smidge more breathing room than last week!

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

3 Professional Books I am Reading

I have been doing a lot of professional reading lately.  I am reading three professional books that are really helping me think about how best to teach reading to my students.  No matter how much I know and understand about teaching reading, there is always more to learn.  I am excited about these three books because they are really helping me tighten up my instruction by helping me understand some subtle things about comprehension.  I think these books are all amazing no matter what level you teach.  The ideas in these books cross levels and ages of our readers.

I am revisiting Debbie Miller's amazing book Reading with Meaning.  Debbie Miller's work is brilliant  She is one of the people whose work has been most influential in my teaching over the years. Her work with first graders, her books, and her videos have all helped me to see what is possible in a joyful classroom where children's talk and thinking are valued and built upon.  It is clear that Debbie Miller is intentional about all that she does and that is the reason her students are so sophisticated in their understandings. I read her first edition of Reading with Meaning several times but have not dug into the new edition until recently. WOW! What an amazing read. Whether you read Debbie's first edition or not, this book is a must read.  Even though I teach 3rd grade, I learn so much from Debbie about how to scaffold comprehension work with my 8 and 9 year olds.  I remember watching one of her videos when I was teaching 5th grade and how I wished that my 12 year olds could talk and think in the sophisticated ways her 6 year olds did. Miller teaches me over and over that children at all ages can understand with depth but it is our job to provide the right experiences.  Her generous sharing of the way she thinks and plans helps me to revise my teaching.

A book that is new to me is The Comprehension Experience:  Engaging Readers Through Effective
 Inquiry and Discussion.  This book was recommended by Sharon Taberski at last year's Reading Recovery Conference. Since that time, it has been recommended by our director of literacy and some reading teachers in our district.  It is a dense book--not an easy read.  So I bought it and ending up setting it aside. I picked it back up over winter break and dug in.  WOW! This book is incredible. The book looks at comprehension research over the years and reminds us of the things that we know about teaching comprehension (instead of assigning comprehension). The thing I love most about this book is that it shows the subtle changes that a routine can have that really impact a child's understand of what it means to be a reader. Are we predicting to be "right" or are we predicting as a way to dig deeper into the story, knowing that our predictions will change?  Are we connecting to share or to help understand a character?  The subtle differences in the ways we decide to introduce a book are made visible in this book. I am about half way through and it is definitely a MUST READ if you are a teacher of reading.

Finally, I just bought a copy of Reading Projects Reimagined by Dan Feigelson.  I have been hearing about this book but wasn't sure about the idea of projects in the reading workshop. But the "reimagining" in the title is what this book is all about.  This book is really about conferring with readers in ways that deepen their understanding, about listening to readers so that we can build on the things they are thinking about. The projects that Feigelson describes are ways that students make their thinking and discoveries visible--not the projects I think about when I hear the word project. Another MUST READ for sure as it is a book that is already impacting the ways in which I approach a reading conference with a student.

3 MUST READS for sure!  I have to say that I tend to read professional books in the summer, but there is something about reading them with real students in mind that often makes them more powerful. Had I read these over the summer, I may not be returning to them now. I think when I read them with an eye on the challenges I am currently facing as a teacher, they are more powerful reading experiences. 

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

January Mosaic

Row 1: A fabulous discovery just west of German Village -- Scioto Audubon Metro Park!

Row 2: More Metro Park and Helen Winnemore's.

Row 3: Chocolate chip scones (made by Mr. Mary Lee), Antonio's Pizza, and a mini chocolate croissant made for the Food for Thought program that featured the pastries of certified French pastry chef Michelle Kozak of Pâtisserie Lallier.

Row 4: More pastries (locals, you can find Michelle at the indoor Worthington Farmer's Market every Saturday), the insides of my KitchenAid getting its grease repacked, tracks in the snow.

Row 5 and 6: I was startled to see this little snow man walking his dog on the edge of my review mirror! Alter HS in Kettering hosted a Pink Out event that benefitted Casting for Recovery. I took the court between the JV and Varsity games to do a little casting and then talk about the program. Afterwards, my chauffeur and I ate a lovely dinner at The Winds Cafe in Yellow Springs. (I forgot to take a picture of my scallops. They were de-LISH!)

You can see all the photos in this set on Flickr here.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Math Monday -- Patterns

It's Math Monday! Join Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning for the Math Monday link up!

Today I'd like to share one of my favorite brain games. It's a game that, now that I think about it, reinforces many of the Standards for Mathematical Practice.* I think I'll teach it at indoor recess today!

It's the game SET

I have 4-6 decks of SET cards, but I was thrilled to find SET dice on sale at United Art and Education this past weekend.

You can play one free game per day online here, or you can play a multiplayer game in realtime here. There is also SET for iPhone and iPad.

In the game of SET, players must find combinations of color, shape, shading, or number that are either all alike in some way, or all different in some way. On the game board above, you can see that I made a SET with all purple, all solid, all three, all diamonds. I also made a set with all the same color (purple) and shading (solid), but all different number and shape. I have a set with all the same shading and shape, but all different color and number, and another with all the same number, shape and shading, but all different colors.

It's a great game. If you haven't played it yet (or recently)...what's stopping you?!?!

*CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP1 Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP2 Reason abstractly...
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP3 Construct viable arguments and critique the reasoning of others.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP6 Attend to precision.
CCSS.MATH.PRACTICE.MP7 Look for and make use of (patterns and) structure.