Monday, November 30, 2015

November Mosaic

November is always such a gallop, what with mammo/onco appointments, parent conferences, report cards, 5th grade concert...but lookie there...I took time for a coloring page at The James, a concert at Natalie's, a bonfire,  and a bike ride before NCTE, plus a lovely afternoon at the Audubon Metropark as our Black Friday #OptOutside after NCTE. And of course, NCTE was all kinds of loveliness in the middle of all that other craziness!

You can see the images in this mosaic on Flickr here.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

A Fine Dessert....What Does This Mean for Teachers?

Last month, there was an online conversation around the picture book, A Fine Dessert by Emily Jenkins and Sophie Blackall that expanded my thinking about the idea of teacher-as-reader/teacher-as-decision-maker.

A Fine Dessert was published earlier this year and has received several starred reviews by major reviewers such as School Library Journal and Booklist. It is a book that is loved by children and teachers everywhere. It has been talked about as a possible Caldecott contender on the blog Calling Caldecott (here and here).

Then issues were brought up about the book and its depiction of slavery (A Fine Dessert: Sweet Intentions, Sour Aftertaste).  Sophie Blackall responded, explaining her process and the thoughtful choices she made as illustrator.  Honestly, it was something I completely missed and overlooked and like the author of Reading While White, I am a bit disappointed with myself for missing it.

(To catch up on the entire conversation, you can find many of the posts and a timeline of many events on Debbie Reese's blog.)

The conversation last month was a long, intense conversation that happened mainly through blogs and Twitter.  I listened in to the conversation daily and tried to keep up with all that everyone was saying about this book and the issues surrounding it. Social media is a tricky way to have conversations like this because lots of people jump in and out of conversations and sometimes 140 characters isn't enough to dig into a topic this big.

So, what does this mean for teachers?  As teachers we need to be readers. But we also need to be readers of discussions like this one so that we understand as much as we can about the books we put in our classrooms and in the hands of children.  Here are the big take-aways I had after thinking about this for a few weeks.  These are the things I've learned from the conversation:

1. This is one reason many of us are on social media--to hear different perspectives, to learn from people we did not always have the opportunities to learn from, to grow in our thinking.  I've always believed strongly that teachers need to be readers, but this online controversy reminded me of the reasons I spend so much time reading book reviews, blogs, etc. Not only do I need to be a reader of books, but I need to be a reader of all that surrounds a book if I am going to make good decisions about the books to share with my students.  Whether you agree with the opinions of others or not, being aware of perspectives of others is important in our work.

2. This is not about one book--it is much bigger than that.  Even though the conversation felt focused on a book and individual people, this is really a bigger issue than that.  And it has been an issue for a very long time.  If you aren't aware of the campaign, We Need Diverse Books or the NCTE Resolution on The Need for Diverse Children's and Young Adult Books, they are important to know about. I also think Roger Sutton's piece, We're Not Rainbow Sprinkles, in last month's Horn Book is worth a read on this issue.

3. There was very little teacher voice in the conversation. And I believe that our voice needs to be part of this conversation.  We need to respect the teacher-as-decision-maker in these and all conversations and I didn't see that happening in this conversation. Ultimately, we are the ones who make decisions about which books are in our classroom libraries.  I remember years ago, reading the issue surrounding an Alvin Ho book. I realized then how many things we need to think about as teachers when we choose books for our classrooms.

4. Change happens because of the conversations. It doesn't  happen overnight but it does happen. Betsy Bird recently shared a post about the new edition of Ladybug Girl and Debbie Reese shared many books whose stereotypic depictions have been changed in recent years. This is all good news for children.

5. Social media is a tricky place to have hard conversations. Conversations without judging is key--we can have heated conversations that help us all grow and understand our own biases. It seemed that early on, as people were making sense of the issue, some people were unintentionally shut down a bit when they didn't agree immediately. And this was a conversation between a group of people who ultimately spend their lives working to get diverse, quality books into the hands of children.  This was a group of people working toward the same goals. I learned that there will be missteps in language as we each make sense of our own biases and make sense of some of these issues.  It seems we have to be a bit more careful when we are having conversations on social media--careful so that we broaden the conversation--so that we invite more people in instead of unintentionally shutting people out.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Poetry Friday

the carousel slows and stops
blur refocuses

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2015 

I've been away from Poetry Friday for too long. It's good to be back, to have time to visit the roundup, which is hosted this week by Carol at Carol's Corner. Hard to believe that the year is winding down -- next week we'll start building the roundup schedule for January-June 2016!

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving! Happy Poetry! Happy Friday!

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

My NCTE Top Ten(s)

Top 10 Famous People I Heard Speak 
or With Whom I Ate Dinner
Peter Sis
Vicki Vinton
Allison Bechdel
Kate Messner
Laurel Snyder
LeUyen Pham
Marilyn Singer
Kadir Nelson
Laura Amy Schlitz
Dave Eggers

Top 10 Books I Can't Wait to Read (or re-read) Because of NCTE

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo (see photo below for why)
Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar
The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
Long Road to Freedom (Ranger in Time #3) by Kate Messner
Currents by Jane Smolik
A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner
Are You My Mother? by Allison Bechdel
Writers ARE Readers: Flipping Reading Instruction into Writing Opportunities by Lester Laminack
Reading Nonfiction: Notice & Note Stances, Signposts, and Strategies by Kylene Beers
The Teacher You Want to Be: Essays about Children, Learning, and Teaching edited by Matt Glover and Ellin Oliver Keene

Top 10 Quotes from NCTE Speakers

"I write to figure out stuff that's bothering me." --Allison Bechdel

"Fear motivates me to take on something that seems daunting and impossible...why would you bother with anything less?" --Allison Bechdel

"If kids can find the answers faster [using Google], maybe we need to ask different questions." --Jen Vincent

"It was a big deal to me that I got it right." --LeUyen Pham (The Boy Who Loved Math)

"Writing is not always fun. It is always more fun to have written." --Dave Eggers

"I think of America as a large family. Every family's stories are a part of the American story." --Kadir Nelson

"We have to be careful that we don't jargonize joy like we did rigor and grit." --Kathy Collins

"If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow." --John Dewey (quoted by Vicki Vinton)

Our students don't need more content and vocabulary (as the Common Core states), they need a reading identity and agency. They need to be "...deep thinkers with a knack for problem solving." --Vicki Vinton

"Use a problem-solving approach to reading (the way we do in math workshop). Words aren't the problem...what does it MEAN?" --Vicki Vinton

Two Amazing Moments That Happened at NCTE, 
But Don't Really Have Anything to do with the Conference Itself

I had the opportunity to go to the University of Minnesota's Kerlan Collection, and among other artifacts of children's literature, we saw (and touched) the first three drafts of Because of Winn Dixie. 

These native dancers. I happened on them by accident one evening when I was walking through the convention center back to my hotel after a reception. My fifth graders are currently studying the "ancient people of Latin America," and here those people were, alive and well and wearing spandex shorts and glasses, honoring their Aztec ancestors by keeping their traditions alive, all the way north in Minneapolis, MN.

Monday, November 23, 2015

NCTE Book Awards!

This year, NCTE Children's Book Awards were announced at the children's luncheon at convention. It was great fun to have them announced at the luncheon. It was also fabulous to hear the award winners speak at the luncheon. The luncheon has always been one of my favorite events at convention and now it's an even better event!  

Each year at the lunch, not only do you get to hear great speakers (and now be there for the live announcement of the award winners each year) but everyone gets to sit at a table with a children's author. This year, I was lucky enough to sit with Deborah Wiles!! What a treat!

I was lucky enough to serve on the Charlotte Huck Award Committee and have loved the conversations with others committee members about the books. I love everything about this award. If the award is new to you, here is what the NCTE website has to say about it.

The NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children was established in 2014 to promote and recognize excellence in the writing of fiction for children. This award recognizes fiction that has the potential to transform children’s lives by inviting compassion, imagination, and wonder.

This is such a great lens to read with and there have been so many 2015 books that definitely have the potential to transform children's lives.  I so love our list this year! 

You can find the list on the NCTE website.

The other award that was announced at Saturday's luncheon was the Orbis Pictus Award. This has always been one of my favorite lists because it is the place where I find so much great nonfiction. This year, I didn't have the time to read nonfiction that I usually do, because I spent so much time reading fiction for the Huck award. So I am anxious to check out many of the books on this list. The award is described as:

The NCTE Orbis Pictus Award  was established in 1989 for promoting and recognizing excellence in the writing of nonfiction for children. The name Orbis Pictus, commemorates the work of Johannes Amos Comenius, Orbis Pictus—The World in Pictures(1657), considered to be the first book actually planned for children.

If you want to read more about NCTE book awards, there was a recent post on the NCTE blog.

I love award season and the season has begun! If you did not attend the Saturday luncheon on Saturday, you may want to put it on your list of convention to-dos for next year. It is great fun!

Monday, November 16, 2015

A Working Blog Vacation

We're taking a week off for professional learning. Hopefully, we'll see many of you in Minneapolis at NCTE's Annual Convention! We might do some live blogging, and we'll certainly have some follow-up posts next week.

Monday, November 09, 2015 honor of Irene Latham's Blogiversary

When in doubt, use your

Imagination to discover what it is you

Love with a passion that cannot be

Defined...or denied.

Happy 10 Year Blogiversary to Irene Latham at Live Your Poem!

Irene's One Little Word for 2015 is WILD, 
which is the theme of her celebration.

Visit her blog to check out other WILD posts
that celebrate Irene, her blog, and her OLW.

Sunday, November 08, 2015

The Ripple Effect of Award Lists on the NCTE Blog

Stacey Ross and I wrote a recent post for the NCTE Blog.  It is about the NCTE Book Awards. You can find it here.

Looking forward to hearing many of the award-winning authors at this year's convention!

Friday, November 06, 2015

Poetry Friday -- Drip, Drip, Drip

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Praveen

steady drip, drip, drip
annoying, continuous
rain...and sinuses

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2015

The class cold. Oh, joy. At least I have time to get better before parent conferences next week and NCTE the week after that. Small blessings.

Katya at Write. Sketch. Repeat. has the Poetry Friday roundup today.

Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Little Tree by Loren Long

I was able to see an advanced copy of this book over the summer and fell in love with it. And when the real book arrived last week, I fell in love with it all over again.  Loren Long is a favorite author of mine. He is an author who is able to write about complex issues and ideas that are accessible for young children. His Otis books have started some of the best conversations in our classroom over the years.

I love Little Tree as much as I love the Otis books.  Loren Long's words and illustrations are brilliant and I can't wait to share this book with my students.  The book tells the story of a little tree who decides he does not want to let his leaves go when all of the other trees do.  He holds onto them year after year. The story is a simple one with a big message about changing and letting go. It is told in a soft, non-threatening way as we see the difficult decision Little Tree has to eventually make.

This story is one that is good for all ages. Just like the Otis books, children of all ages will have an entry point, come to love Little Tree and understand the author's message.  This would also make a fabulous gift book as it is one that I am sure will be one of those books that children beg to have  read  to them over and over!

You can hear Loren Long talk more about his new book here:

Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Professional Reading: Note and Notice

I have been trying to fit more professional reading into my life lately. There are so many great professional books that have been piling up. I have found that if I focus on one book at a time and try to read 20ish pages a day, I can finish a professional book in a couple of weeks. The 20 pages a day happened because I wanted to give myself a doable amount of reading to do in a day to get more professional reading in. But what I've found is that 20 pages a day gives me a good chunk of information to think about and a good amount of time to study a topic. So when I dig into a new professional book, I am thinking about the topic for two weeks, really giving myself time to digest and reflect on what I've read. In the past I have sometimes rushed through new professional books, reading them in a weekend and this seems to be a better way to read and digest the new thinking.  The 20 pages also makes sense for my reading life.  I don't have to "give up" fiction reading to read professional books if I am just holding myself to 20 pages a day. I can fit in both with that expectation of myself.

This week, I am reading Kylene Beers' and Bob Probst's new Nonfiction Reading: Notice and Note Stance, Signposts, and Strategies and I am so glad that I am taking my time to read it and not rushing through it. I am not far along as the book just arrived a few days ago but already I find myself rethinking much of what I thought I understood about nonfiction reading.  I am doing just what the writers hoped I would do. As they state on page 1 of the introduction, "And we do want this book to challenge you. We want you to pause to consider new ideas, mull over comments we make, mark passages you want to reread and discuss with colleagues."

I want to share with you the reason my new strategy of reading 20 pages a day of a new professional book is making good sense to me.  I started the book over the weekend.  On the first day with the book, I did a pretty heavy preview--looking through the book to see what to expect.  Then I dug into the first 20 pages.  And then I stopped for the day. On reflecting, I was amazed at how much I had to think about with just 20 pages of reading.

-I am thinking about the students we teach today and how their experiences are quite different from my own at their age. Beers and Probst state, "By 2016, every student in school will have been born in the 21st century. They will have grown up with the world at their fingertips."

-I am thinking about the idea of stance that is part of the subtitle of this book and what it means as a teacher of nonfiction.  Beers and Probst state, "This book had to discuss a stance that's required for the attentive, productive reading of nonfiction. It's a mindset that is open and receptive, but not gullible."  I have read and reread this line several times and love the idea of what it means.  One sentence that says so much about something far more important than the traditional ways I've been thinking about teaching nonfiction.

-I am processing the 5 day cycle of lessons that the authors share and how to build Big Questions along with understanding of signposts to build more time and engagement with nonfiction text.

-I am excited to look at the videos that show these things in action. Throughout the book are QR codes that lead readers to videos that go along with the thinking in the book.

-And I am fascinated by the authors' explanation of the way in which nonfiction has been defined over the years. "It's really not surprising that the meaning of nonfiction has shifted as well.  What was once a term used by librarians to signify that the text simply wasn't a novel morphed into meaning "not false" and even "informational". While note surprising, we do wonder if this shift has served us well."  This section of the first 20 pages fascinated me and made me think about the way in which I have defined nonfiction for myself and for my students and how that might evolve.

As you can see, my 20 page strategy is working for me. Giving myself time to read and think about the professional books that have been on my stack seems important. Even though I am dying to keep reading, I know that this is a better way for me to take in most professional books. This particular one is so packed with great thinking that I'd hate to rush past some of it.

I am excited to continue this first read of this book as I know my teaching will change for the better because of it.

If you don't have this book yet, I already highly recommend it. The first 20 pages are worth the price you'll pay--trust me.  Heinemann has some great videos of Kylene and Bob talking a bit about the book as well as some great Sneak Previews to give you a sense of what to expect.

Monday, November 02, 2015

Math Monday: Estimate 180

Last week, my colleague Kami Wenning and our math coach, McKenzie Zimmerman conducted an informal morning PD session on the site Estimate 180. Kami has been using the site with her 3rd graders and the conversations around it have been astounding so they wanted to share the resource.

Estimate 180 is a website created by Andrew Stadel (@mr_stadel). According to his website, he is a middle school math teacher and coach. He began the site in October 2012 with estimating activities he uses with his students each day of the school year. 

After the PD, McKenzie and I talked about how I could use this site She facilitated the class while I transcribed and listened to her language with students.  She went through the 4 day Lego Estimations and I watched from the back of the room to learn what I could about how best to use this resource and to listen to and record my students' thinking.  The goals for the lesson were from the math practice--explaining your mathematical reasoning and understanding someone else's math reasoning. So that was the focus of the talk over the four days.

The conversations across days went so far beyond the typical estimation activities I've seen. The way that the site is built, the learning builds from one day to another and kids have information to build from.  The talk around numbers was incredible and the engagement was high.  Knowing the standards so well, McKenzie was able to take advantage of the last day's conversation to create a number sentence with a number to solve for.   I am finding that oral language and conversation is such a huge part of math learning and Estimate 180 definitely supports this.

There are so many amazing things about the Estimate 180 site. There is a huge variety on the site. So many math concepts are covered in the over 200 estimation activities on the site. In a few weeks, I am going to use a series of lessons designed around estimating height and I am looking at another that estimates the amount of money in coins.  You can browse the site or search estimations based on math topic.  I also love that these are multi-day activities that are built to help kids think across time and to use understandings from one day to solve the next day's challenge.

Mr. Stadel must think about estimation all day every day because so many of these estimations come from real, daily life and I think kids will start seeing estimation opportunities everywhere after a few weeks of these.

I loved this site so much that I just had to share. I am excited to jump into another estimation with my kids next week (Cheeseball Estimations) and see where the conversations go!