Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Making Time and Space for Nonfiction: Otis and Will Discover the Deep

This year, I am committed to reading and thinking more about nonfiction in the classroom. That means I will make more time to read more nonfiction so that I know more nonfiction. That way, I can book talk it, share in conferences, read aloud and more.  So this year, I plan to do a weekly series, "Making Time and Space for Nonfiction". Every (hopefully) Wednesday on the blog, I'll share some nonfiction thinking--a book I've read, something that happened in the classroom, some learning I did, etc.  This will help me stick to my goal throughout the year and help me reflect on my learning and thinking about nonfiction.

As part of my summer reading, I am trying to read more nonfiction. One book I read this week was Otis and Will Discover the Deep by Barb Rosenstock. I was expecting a picture book biography and I guess this book would fit into that category but it is a bit more.  This is the story of Otis Barton and Will Beebe who were the first people to discover the deep of the ocean.  Their Bathysphere was a device that they created to do just that. I loved the story of how these two men collaborated over time.   There is a lot to this story in terms of problem solving, collaboration, and adventure. This is a good example of a book that got me interested in an idea I didn't even know I was interested in before reading. 

The Author's and Illustrator's note at the end of the book give more interesting information and include some authentic photos. There is also a note from Constance Carter, Former Head of Science Reference at the Library of Congress who worked with Will Beebee.

The other interesting thing about this book is that it is illustrated by Katherine Roy. You may know her from her fabulous books How to Be and Elephant and Neighborhood Sharks. I am getting better at knowing authors and illustrators of nonfiction. Roy's illustrations are perfect for this story.

I'm looking forward to sharing this book with kids this fall.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Why I Don't Like Music or The Truth About My Singing

Every child deserves the opportunity to become a lifelong reader.
                                 It’s All About the Books by Tammy Mulligan and Clare Landrigan

I don’t like music. It’s true. Friends are often surprised by this small detail about me. I can’t pinpoint the exact moment I decided that I didn’t like music, but I know there were four experiences that have had a huge impact on my attitude towards music.

For my entire elementary school career, our music teacher kept me after class each week having me practice hitting a note I just couldn’t hit in class. She was very kind, yet always looked so very disappointed when I could not get the note by practicing it over and over again in front of others who were having the same problem. I was always irritated to stay after class but never too worried about hitting that note.

As 5th graders, we took part in a big tradition in my elementary school. 5th and 6th graders put on an elaborate music program. It was a big deal and very fun. It was something you looked forward to from Kindergarten through 4th grade. One day at rehearsal for the show, one of the 6th grade teachers came over to me and told me that I might want to mouth the words. At the time I was a 5th grader so a 6th grade teacher talking to me individually during rehearsal was a big deal. And I was old enough to understand that her singling me out to chat meant that I could not sing well enough to really be part of the show. I wasn’t 100% defeated until the next year, when the music teacher determined that as a 6th grader I would be an “angel” in the play—a silent role with some time on stage. And because I had a role, I would not be needed as part of the choir for singing.

Fast forward 9 years to college. I had to take a music methods course in order to become an elementary teacher. My professor was retiring that spring and one of his requirements had always been for students to teach a song to the class by singing it aloud. He requested a private meeting with me, informing me that in all of his long career, he had never heard anyone sing as badly as I did and he decided I should play the piano and say the words when I taught the song. He insisted that he had never had to ask anyone to do this but for me, it was important. During my lesson, he explained the dilemma to the class and asked me to promise (in front of our entire lecture hall) that I would never sing in front of children--as it would definitely harm them--just by hearing it.

It is truly amazing that I continued to sing but during my first year of teaching, I decided birthdays were too important so I sang “Happy Birthday” with the class when my 1st graders had a birthday. But I forgot that I had shared my singing stories with some teachers and the principal. My principal thought it was funny to “listen in” on the loudspeaker at the end of any day he knew there was a birthday in our classroom. Then he would pop down and make a comment about my singing voice.

You could say I am embarrassed about my horrible singing voice. That would be 100% true. It is really not a big deal, something I almost never think about--until it is time to sing “Happy Birthday." Now when it is time to sing “Happy Birthday” to a family member, friend or colleague, I just don’t participate—I disengage. If you are ever with me and it is a friend’s birthday, you may think it is rude that I mouth the words or I go find something else to do.

Because of this shame, I have just learned to live a very full life without much music or singing.

Imagine if these experiences had been in reading instead of singing? I know many people in the world who lead very full lives without books and reading. They have many hobbies and interests and talents outside of reading, but they may also have learned to avoid reading because of the subtle (and not so subtle) messages they got about reading from well-meaning people throughout their lives.

I am certain that my elementary music teacher meant well. She took her job very seriously and wanted me to learn how to sing. These were quick moment in her teaching life that I am certain she would not even remember or think twice about. But her first messages to me have stuck and I remember the weekly look of disappointment on her face clearly.

In 5th grade I stopped seeing myself as someone who could sing. This was solidified again in college and again as a first year teacher. In Choice Words, Peter Johnston says, “Building an identity means coming to see in ourselves the characteristics of particular categories (and roles) of people and developing a sense of what it feels like to be that sort of person and belong in certain social spaces.” (p. 23)

I think as teachers we all say and do things in the course of the day hoping it is in the best interest of our students. I am confident that all of the music teachers I had wanted what they thought was best for me. But they let me know over and over again that I was just not cut out to be a person who sings. Of course, we want students who can read, but we also want students who become lifelong readers. We want students who see themselves as readers and students who cannot imagine a full life without reading. We need to remember that in every single interaction we have with a child.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Poetry Friday -- Fireflies

If You Catch a Firefly
by Lillian Moore

If you catch a firefly
          and keep it in a jar
You may find that
          you have lost
A tiny star.

If you let it go then,
          back into the night,
You may see it
          once again
Star bright.

Want to learn more about fireflies? Click here.
I've featured fireflies for Poetry Friday two other times!

I didn't grow up with fireflies.
Did you?
Do you have them where you live now?
Do you call them fireflies or lightning bugs?

Karen has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Karen Edmisten*.

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Stone Girl's Story

The Stone Girl's Story
by Sarah Beth Durst
Clarion Books, 2018

Mayka's father was a stone mason. He brought her to life by carving her story onto her body. She and the other living stone creatures her father created live happily together in seclusion on the mountain. But Mayka's flesh-and-blood father has long been gone, and as the reader sees in the opening scenes of the book with Mayka and her dear friend Turtle, as the marks on their bodies fade, the creatures...stop. So Mayka leaves her mountain in search of a stonemason who will return with her and repair the marks on all of her friends. When she gets to the city, she discovers an evil plot that endangers all stone creatures.

I love fantasy, but only if the author can build a world that is absolutely believable. Sarah Beth Durst has done that in The Stone Girl's Story.

This is fantasy at its best: a hero's journey to save family and friends. An Oz-like journey with fellow travelers who are also looking for help. A story with big themes:
  • the quest to be accepted for who you are is a worthy one
  • don't judge others based on their appearance or your assumptions
  • absolute power is dangerous
  • pay attention to who is telling the stories
  • know your own story and tell it proudly
  • choice is important...necessary...vital to your story
  • you have the power to shape your own story
  • an obedience mark is dangerous
  • the right words can give you freedom
  • you can learn to be brave
  • together we can rise up against evil and overpower it
  • even a monster's story can be rewritten to be AWESOME

Move this book to the top of your TBR pile. I hope you love it as much as I do. It might just be one of my first read alouds of the year next year!

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Poetry Friday -- High Plains Wind

Unsplash photo via Matthieu Joannon

High Plains Wind
     (after Wind by James Arthur)

     it's true sometimes I cannot
stop myself from lifting
     the roof shingles

unleashing tumbleweeds snapping
tree branches
muddying the pool I'm nothing
     until I happen
barreling down from the North
     filling eyes with grit
     nostrils too
pelting the streets with dusty sleet

above wheatfields
    surfing the waves of grain
so full of high excitement howling
I borrow the arid topsoil
     and fling it into the ditch

arriving with news of the bindweed
     and the horseflies
at times buffeting you so violently
in ways you register
     as fists

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

I am blessed to live in a climate where we have day-long gentle rains that allow the oaks to tower and the corn to grow without irrigation. We are currently several inches over the average rainfall for the year, and yet in the High Dry Plains of Eastern Colorado, even an inch of our rain could save crops and livelihoods. It's desperately dry there, and the wind is unrelenting. When I read Wind by James Arthur, I knew I wanted to tell the story of a more savage and remorseless wind than his rascally wind whose antics include turning umbrellas inside out (I never owned one until I moved to the midwest), stealing hats, and embracing as light as a touch. The wind back home is downright mean-spirited and vengeful.

On a lighter note, we filled the Poetry Friday Roundup Schedule for July-December in under a week! 

Kiesha has this week's roundup at Whispers from the Ridge.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

The Luxury of Inefficiency

Yes, I'm enjoying my summer break. Thank you for asking.

I realized this morning that the biggest gift of these few weeks off is the luxury of inefficiency.

I have been busy the last two weeks:
  • all day math summit
  • all day Casting for Recovery planning team meeting
  • Children's Literature Assembly virtual board meeting
  • July-Dec Poetry Friday roundup schedule completed in one week
  • read nine chapter books and stacks of picture books 
  • first bike ride of the summer
  • reacquainted with bi-weekly swimming schedule
  • doctors' appointments that don't require sub plans
  • a wedding
  • plans for our trip to Germany and Amsterdam
  • weeding and edging the back garden beds
  • one swallowtail caterpillar raised to chrysalis indoors and two more on watch in the garden
  • playing with new macro lens for my iPhone camera (see above)
  • tea at Asterisk
  • stay up late
  • sleep in
I have been busy, but I haven't felt particularly scheduled. That is the luxury I'm savoring for the next few weeks.

Monday, June 04, 2018

Reading More Nonfiction

I love the extra time I have in the summer to read.  I already have quite a stack of books ready to go for the summer as I use summer to catch up a bit. I love fiction and I tend to read mostly middle grade fiction in the summer. But when talking to colleagues about nonfiction in our classrooms, I realized that I don't read as much middle grade nonfiction as I could.  I tend to read a lot of short nonfiction--lots of picture books and shorter nonfiction- but if I want my students to know and love nonfiction that has more depth I know I need to commit to reading and book talking more titles. So I have been keeping track of books that I hope to read this summer--nonfiction that is a big longer than my usual picture book nonfiction reading that I enjoy (although I have included a few picture books here.). Here they are:

Strongheart: Wonder Dog of the Silver Screen by Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann

Snowy Owl Invasion! by Sandra Markle

Magic Trash by J.h. Shapiro

The People Shall Continue by Simon Ortiz

The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson

Otis and Will Discover the Deep by Barb Rosenstock and Katherine Roy