Thursday, August 31, 2017

Poetry Friday -- Bike Ride Blessings

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Nick Step

Bike Ride Blessing

I want to stop,
gather my thoughts.

A deer and her fawn
ran across the path
so close
I swerved to miss them.

An ordinary day
suddenly goes soft.
All that was wrong
is lost.

Moments like this
can't be bought.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

Here's hoping that a blessing crosses your path and makes you stop in your tracks to give thanks!

Kat has the Poetry Friday roundup at Kathryn Apel, way over in Australia where it's coming on spring time while we slip towards fall! Thanks for hosting, Kat!!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Reading Without Walls

by Leah Henderson
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017

Jennifer Bradbury
Atheneum/Caitlyn Dlouhy Books, 2017

This pair of books put me "in the shoes" of orphan boys in Senegal (One Shadow on the Wall) and India (Outside In).

Each of the boys must do whatever it takes to survive. In both books, bullies play a big part in making that survival difficult. The spirit of his father helps Mor (One Shadow on the Wall), while Ram (Outside In) is guided by the traditional stories of how the princes Rama (who marries Sita) and Lakshmana endure fourteen years of exile and defeat the evil Ravana (with the help of the monkey army).

Family is important in both books. Mor works to keep his together, while Ram finds one.

In both books, there is an outsider who helps the boys. In One Shadow on the Wall, Demba is mystical and thought by the villagers to be crazy. In Outside In, Nek creates art in secret.

It was quite surprising to read these back-to-back and find so many similarities. Makes me wonder how my next-reads will connect!

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Mentor Texts for Launching Writers' Notebooks

Launching Writers' Workshop is one of my favorite things about the beginning of a new school year.  The possibilities are endless and giving kids time and choice for writing is (I believe) one of the best things we can do for them as learners. I've had a stack of tried and true books that I go to at the start of the year--books that serve as mentors for anyone starting a writer's notebook.

Some of my favorites include:

In our notebook writing this time of year, we are learning to live our lives as writers,  try new things, play as writers and attempt things that might make our writing better.This year, I am excited to add a few new mentor texts to my collection. I've already used several of these with my 5th graders and they seem like. perfect additions.

Comics Confidential: Thirteen Graphic Novelists Talk Story, Craft and Life Outside the Box is a newish book that is filled with insights from several graphic novelists. Each interview shares insights into not only the writing lives of these authors but also tips about craft. There are samples to demonstrate these things.  I find that there isn't a lot out there for kids who are playing around with comics/graphic novels (in and out of their notebooks) so this is a great place to help them think more deeply when they are creating these,

Another new collection from writers is Our Story Begins:Your Favorite Authors and Illustrators Share Fun, Inspiring and Occasionally Ridiculous Things they Wrote and Drew as Kids. This book shares stories from several popular children's authors --stories about some of their earliest writing.  Again many include great samples,

Last week, I shared Olivia Van Ledtje (@Livbits) latest blog post-- #ForCharLove --a letter to her younger sister's Kindergarten teacher.  This was a great piece with love and voice. It was a great mentor for kids to think about ways to write about people close to them.  I paired this with Not Enough Emilys in Hey World, Here I Am,  I am so glad that Liv is blogging--I find that sharing writing from same-age peers is so powerful for both message and craft.

Amy Vanderwater's Sharing Our Notebooks site is growing and is packed with so many great ideas for notebook writing.  The section we have visited most often is the "Try This!-Notebooking Ideas" section that is packed with things for writers to try. We've used a few of these as mini lessons and they are very accessible to kids.

And I was SOOO happy to see a new edition of Lois Lowry's Looking Back: A Book of Memories earlier this month. I LOVED this book when I read it years ago and this new edition has even more insights from Lois Lowry. It is packed with short pieces and memories that can be read as part of the whole book or independently.

And even though we have to wait a few more months for Colby Sharp's upcoming The Creativity Project: No Rules, Anything Goes, Awesometastic Storybuilding, I know this is one I'll add to my stack of great mentors for young writers. (I'd suggest pre-ordering this one now:-)

We'll definitely read these books and learn from them as writers throughout the year but they are especially helpful as we launch our workshop as a new community of writers.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Poetry Friday -- For our Star

One of my brother's colleagues used a colander
to capture this stunning eclipse image.

Choose Something Like a Star
By Robert Frost

O Star (the fairest one in sight),
We grant your loftiness the right
To some obscurity of cloud—
It will not do to say of night,
Since dark is what brings out your light.
Some mystery becomes the proud.
But to be wholly taciturn
In your reserve is not allowed.
Say something to us we can learn
By heart and when alone repeat.
Say something! And it says, ‘I burn.’
But say with what degree of heat.
Talk Fahrenheit, talk Centigrade.
Use language we can comprehend.
Tell us what elements you blend.
It gives us strangely little aid,
But does tell something in the end.
And steadfast as Keats' Eremite,
Not even stooping from its sphere,
It asks a little of us here.
It asks of us a certain height,
So when at times the mob is swayed
To carry praise or blame too far,
We may choose something like a star
To stay our minds on and be staid. 
(emphasis mine)

Was your Eclipse Day all you'd hoped it would be? Here in Central Ohio, we had, naturally, "some obscurity of cloud." Nonetheless, we experienced the dimming (similar to what comes with summer thunderstorms) and we could see the bite of the moon's shadow using the pairs of glasses we borrowed from a couple of support staff who came out while we were trying to get our pinhole viewers to work. We're looking forward to 2024, when Totality will be just north of us. (That is, if we manage to hold our planet together that long.) On one of the eclipse videos we watched, the narration ended by reminding us that rocks cast shadows on other rocks throughout the cosmos all the time. It's just that on ours, someone is here to notice it.

Jone has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Check It Out.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk

I received a review copy of Josh Funk's new book, It's Not Jack and the Beanstalk, in the mail last week. I laughed out loud as I read it at the table and I can't wait to share this one with my class.

I am a huge fan of books that mess around with classic fairy tales. I am always intrigued by the way authors take a tale that we know well and play a little bit. This version of Jack and the Beanstalk is very well done and VERY VERY fun!

There is a narrator that begins the story with the usual "Once upon a time...". But Jack is sleeping so the narrator has to wake him up.  Early on in the story, Jack is not too happy with the narrator's story or the things the narrator has Jack do.  So he starts arguing with the narrator a bit. And he continues through the story.

Jack is a funny character and the narrator is a pretty tough narrator.  I think it is often confusing for readers when a character talks back to the narrator but Josh Funk does this whole thing BRILLIANTLY.  The conversation between Jack and the narrator is embedded in the story in such a way that you can follow it all,

This will no doubt be a fun read aloud but I think it will also make a great mentor text for kids who want to try playing around with classic fairy tales. Students can easily try some of Josh Funk's techniques in their own writing to see what happens. And they would have a great time playing.

I love so much about this book and I am so happy to have an early copy. I am pretty sure once I take this one into the classroom I won't see it for a while as the kids will pass it along to read over and over again.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Slice of Life -- Overheard Last Week

Photo by Aaron Burden on Unsplash

We were taking a restroom break after the whole-school Town Hall meeting on Friday. Most of the class stood quietly in the hall, waiting for their friends to finish up and I asked if anyone knew what time it was. One boy looked at his watch and said, "11:11."

"Ooh!" I said. "Everyone close your eyes and make a wish!" When we opened our eyes, I exclaimed, "I wasted my wish! I should have wished for (insert name here) to have a successful surgery without pain!" (She had a blocked tear duct and a painful-looking swelling under her eye that wasn't responding to medication.)

On my right, (insert name here) chimed up brightly, "It's okay! That's what I wished for!"

On my left, (insert name here) asked, "What did you wish for, Ms. Hahn?"

"I wished for the rest of the school year to be as wonderful as these first three days," I replied.

And he said, "That's what I wished for, too!"


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for hosting Slice of Life on Tuesdays.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Kicking Off #lclassroombookaday

We had a great first few days of 5th grade.  We started #classroombookaday on the first day of school.  Just as I have the last few years, I plan to end our day with a picture book. It is the most joyful way I've found to end every day of school.  We started with a variety of books this week.  I am sharing a variety and as I do, I am noticing the ways kids enjoy and respond to different books. As I've done in the past, I plan to create a visual log on one of our walls as a way to log our reading and also to invite revisiting and conversations.  These are probably books we'll go back to this year in mini lesson work, etc.  I would definitely recommend these 3 books as read alouds for pretty much any grade.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Poetry Friday--Reprise

As seen/passed around on FaceBook


All summer it's been cool
but just in time for school
the heat comes back,
like a big muggy bully.

One afternoon, regardless of the math lesson,
the air conditioning goes out.
Just up and leaves.
Walks out of the room without permission,

leaving the door open
for the bully to swagger in,
disrupt the lesson,
and make us sweat ourselves.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2013

Luckily, only the part about the return of the heat is true. (knock wood) We have not lost air conditioning and we are grateful every day for it!

EDITED TO ADD: Got to school this morning...NO AIR-CONDITIONING! ARGHHH!! 

EDITED AGAIN TO ADD: It came back on just after the students arrived. We were cool again by mid morning. YAY!!

Kay has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at A Journey Through the Pages.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Messages from the Universe for the First Day of School


Seth Godin reminds us that we are in charge of creating culture:

"It's culture that pushes us to level up, to dig deeper, to do things that we might not otherwise do. It's culture that finds and encourages and pushes people to become better versions of themselves than anyone else expected to find.
What we need are caring human beings who will choose to change the culture for the better. 
Not all of it, of course. Merely the culture they can touch. The people they can engage with. The human beings they can look in the eye, offer to help, offer encouragement and offer a hand up. 
Once we reset the standard, it becomes the new normal..."

From Indexed

Monday, August 14, 2017

Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You'd Had: An Interview with Tracy Zager

The new book Becoming the Math Teacher You Wish You Had is a treasure!  It is a huge book and filled with so much great thinking about what our math classrooms can and should be for all students.  It is one we are sure you will want to own. I've always loved math and I seem to have lucked out on teaching with amazing teammates and having a great math coach who know best practices for math learning.  Regardless of where you are in your work as a math teacher, this book has so much to offer.  It is a book we will both revisit over and over and. over in our teaching.

We were lucky to interview author Tracy Zager as there is always so much to learn from her.  Enjoy!

Mary Lee and Franki:  What person or experience has had the greatest impact on your journey as a mathematician, or math teacher or teacher leader?

Tracy: Elham Kazemi introduced me to the amazing world of children's mathematical ideas, and that changed everything. She got me hooked on listening to kids' thinking, on assuming that students are making sense, and on figuring out how to help students grapple with the next juicy idea. I'm so grateful!

Mary Lee and Franki: What's one thing you'd tell all kids about math?

Tracy: Math is not worksheets. Math is one way (like science or history) to ask and answer your own questions about the world.

Mary Lee and Franki: What's one thing you'd tell all teachers about teaching math?

Tracy: Most of us got a raw deal. The math classes we endured as students had very little to do with mathematics as a discipline. The discipline is so much more likable! Therefore, if we learn to teach math in ways that are authentic to the discipline, it can become a great source of joy in our lives.

Mary Lee and Franki: What's one thing you'd tell all principals when the teaching of math that they observe doesn't look like the way they were taught?

Tracy: If they seemed upset about the changes, I'd ask them how they feel about algebra or calculus? In my experience, the very same people who are adamant that there is one way to teach arithmetic also say, "I was totally lost in high-school math." That disconnect gives me an opening. I can begin explaining how arithmetic is the foundation of algebra, and that undertaking deep explorations of the operations in elementary school gives students a strong conceptual basis upon which much can be built. We don't want to lose kids in algebra anymore, and we want them to understand what they do. That's why we're teaching elementary mathematics differently.

Mary Lee and Franki:  What crossovers do you see between literacy and numeracy?

Tracy: Our stance to teaching and learning can be very similar across all subject areas. If we think students have interesting ideas (and I do!), then they have interesting ideas about stories and shapes, novels and numbers. If we think students should have voice and choice in school (and I do!), then they should get to read texts that appeal to them and pursue mathematical questions that interest them. If we think communicating is part of how we learn (and I do!), then students should read and write and talk in all school subjects.

Mary Lee and Franki: Which section of your book was the most fun to write? The most challenging?

Tracy: The reasoning and proof chapters were the most challenging because of all the work that has come before. People have been writing about proof since the Greeks, so I had to do a lot of consolidating and summarizing and hat-tipping, which left me in a narrow, constrained space to write. I'm proud of what I did in those chapters, but they were when I used Anne Lamott's "one-inch picture frame" idea the most. Each day, I wrote one little piece without worrying where it would go. Once they were drafted, I was able to piece them together in a logical flow and then revise (and revise and revise) it all into a coherent chapter. That's opposite my normal process, but in the case of proof, it was my only way forward. Starting from the big, sprawling ideas left me paralyzed and overwhelmed. In contrast, I felt completely liberated writing Chapter 12, "Mathematicians Work Together and Alone," because what I was writing was original. I was free to set the terms and organize the ideas--to start a new conversation. It was a blast.

Mary Lee and Franki: What advice would you give teachers for the first six weeks of math instruction?

Tracy: The beginning of the year is when you set your tone and establish your culture. It's when you convey what mathematics will feel like this year, and it's when you'll show kids what you value. Therefore, I suggest spending a good chunk of time thinking about what you value in math class. If you value collaboration, perseverance, and thoughtfulness, it doesn't make sense to start the school year with a silent diagnostic placement test, which emphasizes mastery, speed, and isolation. Instead, you'll want to start the year with tasks that drive students to talk with one another as they make sense. You'll look for tasks that hook kids on the satisfying feeling of cracking a good puzzle. You'll seek out problems that invite questions and wonders, not just answers. And you'll want to be explicit about the ways you see students working together and learning from one another mathematically.

Mary Lee and Franki: Do you have any new favorite math resources, tools or sites that we should know about?

Tracy: I think is a fantastic site that most US teachers haven't seen. And then I think the world of math teachers on twitter and blogs is the most marvelous professional learning community I know! Take a peek at the hashtags #iteachmath or #MTBoS (Math Twitter Blog-o-Sphere) to get started.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

This Year's Classroom: A First Draft

Moving classrooms always makes for a fun challenge. This year I'll be teaching 5th grade. Setting up in a new room always forces me to reflect on the space I want to create for student learning. I know the space will change incredibly once students arrive and we get started and who knows how the room will work until students arrive. So I know this is draft one of our classroom for the 2017-2018 school year and that it will changed with student input, etc. I tried to make things accessible to students while also creating a variety of spaces and options for student learning.

The classroom view from the doorway.  (Please excuse the trash can!). Hoping the room provides several space and seating options for student learning. I didn't put much up on the walls as those will fill once learning begins! (2 of the walls are magnetic which is a big plus I think!)

The back wall is filed with nonfiction. NF author, topic and series baskets fill up about half of the space. Other miscellaneous nonfiction are spine-out.  I know these baskets will change but this is just so start.

Picture books and picture book biographies are along the side wall.  I only brought in a portion of my picture books so far but plenty to start the year.

Graphic novels have their own shelf although it is already pretty full! I may need to add more shelving for graphic novels as the year goes on. We'll see!

This year, for the first time, I did not fill every space and bookshelf. As I get to know my kids  and we get new books, etc. there will be room for those.  The bins on the bottom are some of the student bins that will house book stacks, notebooks, etc. 

Because students won't have desks, these plastic drawers work well for notebooks, pencil pouches and other individual supplies. I have 3 of these placed in different spots in the room so that it will never be too crowded when kids need supplies. Kids will also have a magazine file size bin for books and notebooks,

I tend to use the front of the room/meeting area/shelf for books and baskets that connect to what we are doing. So #classroombookaday books will go here as we read them. Basket topics will change depending on mini lesson work and units of study. I like for these books to be easily accessible to students during unit of study and beyond.

Mostly fiction novels in this area. Many author baskets that I know will change and grow over the year.

Thanks to whoever it was who shared these great Book Recommendation Speech Bubbles on Facebook. They brought some needed color to the room and will also begin our conversations about recommending books, book tastes, etc.

The area where students store coats and book bags is also where my teacher cabinet is. Since I do not have a desk, I created a cart on wheels with supplies that I'll need for small groups and conferring. (Filled with things like highlighters, sticky notes, etc.). I also have a shelf  (to the right)free for things I'll need to store/use for planning, etc.

The classroom has 2 desktop computers and I wanted those to be more work-station-like. So both are set up in corners where kids can pop on when needed.

The 2nd computer is in the corner above some bookshelves.

Supplies are available in several places in the room but Math Tools, markers, pens, sticky notes, staplers, etc. are in this area.

I am going to spend a bit of time with The Space: A Guide For Educators that was recommended by Stacey Riedmiller.  I learn so much from books about classroom design. I'll also revisit The Third Teacher and The Language of School Design as I see how students are using the space. Looking so forward to getting started this week!

Friday, August 11, 2017

Poetry Friday -- New National Youth Poet Laureate!

Meet Amanda Gorman, the first National Youth Poet Laureate!
"The unprecedented title, to be awarded annually, honors a teen poet who demonstrates not only extraordinary literary talent but also a proven record of community engagement and youth leadership," writes Maggie Millner.
At the age of 14, Amanda was the Youth Poet Laureate of Los Angeles. Now 19, Amanda a freshman at Harvard, an advocate for the creative arts and writing in the lives of young girls across the globe, a published poet, an inspiration.
“For me, being able to stand on a stage as a spoken word poet, as someone who overcame a speech impediment, as the descendent of slaves who would have been prosecuted for reading and writing, I think it really symbolizes how, by pursuing a passion and never giving up, you can go as far as your wildest dreams,” said Gorman at the ceremony on Wednesday evening. “This represents such a significant moment because never in my opinion have the arts been more important than now.”
Here's a bit from her poem, At the Age of 18--Ode to Girls of Color:
At the age of 18 
I know my color is not warning, but a welcome. 
A girl of color is a lighthouse, an ultraviolet ray of power, potential, and promise 
My color does not mean caution, it means courage 
my dark does not mean danger, it means daring, 
my brown does not mean broken, it means bold backbone from working 
twice as hard to get half as far. 
Being a girl of color means I am key, path, and wonder all in one body.

Be sure you read the whole poem!

Here she is, performing Mirror, Mirror:

Read more about Amanda here and here and here and here.

Margaret has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Reflections on the Teche.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Endpapers That Reward Readers

In Which the Endpapers Explain What Endpapers Are

In Which the Endpapers Make You Laugh

In Which the Endpapers Make You Wonder

In Which the Endpapers Give Away the End of the Story

In Which You Need the Endpapers 
In Order to Understand the Story

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

The Power of Family

The power of family: You do what's right 
even if it wasn't your first choice.

by Lesléa Newman
illustrations by Maria Mola
Lee & Low Books, 2017

by Jennifer Torres
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

by Patricia Reilly Giff
Holiday House, 2017

In Sparkle Boy, the adults are support of little brother Casey's desire for sparkly glittery things, but big sister Jessie isn't so sure...until older boys tease her brother at the library and she comes to his rescue.

In Stef Soto, Taco Queen, Stef wants nothing more than to be free of her family's food truck...until her family's livelihood and her father's passion are threatened, and then she fights to save it.

In Genevieve's War, it's 1939, and although her grandmother is prickly and difficult to get along with, Genevieve decides stay and help her rather than go back to her home in America. This decision leaves her trapped in occupied France (Alsace) as the Nazis get closer and closer. Even when she has the chance to escape a second time...the pull of family is strong enough to turn her back once more to her grandmother.

Monday, August 07, 2017

Foster Families and Adoption

"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies.
The man who never reads lives only one." 
George R.R. Martin

by Caela Carter
HarperCollins, 2017

by Nicole Helget
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2017

by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Dial Books, October 2017

by Melanie Crowder
Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2017

Each of these books is the story of (or a story that includes) foster care and/or adoption. These are lives I never would have lived if it hadn't been for these books. I never would have experienced the trauma, the questions, the shaky identity, the need for acceptance.

These are books that help readers to see that all families don't look the same, and they help readers realize that family does not have to involve shared genetics.

The quest of the characters in Forever, or a Long, Long Time shows how every foster home and family differs, and what love does and doesn't look like. Same with the quests of the characters in Three Pennies (including the owl who is looking for a family and home).

The End of the Wild includes economics (rural poverty), the environment (fracking), and immigration (Somalian refugees) along with issues of foster care.

The story of Ada, Jamie, and Susan continues in The War I Finally Won, the sequel to The War That Saved My Life, with the boundaries of "family" explored to include Lord and Lady Thornton, Maggie and Jonathan, as well as a German Jewish refugee girl, Ruth, and...well, in order not to provide a spoiler, I'll stop there.  :-)