Friday, February 22, 2019

Poetry Friday--Student Poems

photo via Unsplash

Helping My Mom Cook

I let my hands go on an adventure with cooking,
chopping away the evil monsters.
My cooking is like an adventure,
Turning the stove on,
and seeing the boiling water,
like lava.

When it boils,
the lava
is letting out all the smoke.
Turning the stove off,
and seeing the boiling water stop,
like the lava
stopped letting out smoke.

Then grabbing the plate,
like finding a map for the loot.
Finally eating the food,
like finding the loot.

by Sarkees K.

photo via unsplash


The white clouds
the frosty air the dazzling
snowflakes that fall from the skies

You can do all kinds of things
in the dazzling snow

You can make a snowman a snowball
you can also watch it snow

Don’t you feel the frosty air
don’t you feel how cold it is
don’t you feel how cold the snow is

It’s all because of the axis pointed
away from the sun, the indirect

by Shadman M.

In our pacing guide for 5th grade writing instruction, we've come back around to narrative writing. When I looked at what I'm expected to teach ("Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences precisely; use a variety of transitional words, phrases, and clauses to manage the sequence of events") it seemed like this work could definitely be done using the story telling medium of poetry. 

We began by brainstorming ordinary daily events. Even though video games are likely the most ordinary thing most of my students do on a daily basis, we didn't use those examples for our writing topics. We've also begun doing 5 minute quick writes at the beginning of most writing workshop times. This has seeded their writer's notebooks with lots of good material for their poems.

I was thrilled with Sarkees' poem about cooking with his mom. Without ever being taught about extended metaphors, he brought his adventure metaphor all the way through his poem. Sarkees wants more than anything to be a chef when he grows up. It is fun to see students' passions coming through in their writing.

Shadman's poem is so like him. He worked hard to be very poetic in his first stanzas, even including some repetition. But the logical, scientific side of him gets the last word in the conclusion, an echo of what he learned about the seasons in science earlier in the year.

Thank you, Sarkees and Shadman for sharing your poems!

Robyn has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Life on the Deckle Edge.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

The Art of Reading, Lost or Otherwise

AJ recommends lots of books that we both know might wait years before I get a chance to read them. But when he slid this small trim size, 150-page book across the table, I decided to give it a go. I'm glad I did.

It took me about 50 pages to get past his description of a reading life that is nothing like mine, and which made me feel more than a tad inferior. But then he got to some big points.
"We come to books (or at least, I do) to see beneath the cover story, to be challenged and confounded, made to question our assumptions, even as the writers we read are compelled to question their own. 
What does that mean? On the one hand, it's an argument for nuance, for the role of narrative as a mechanism to confront the chaos, to frame a set of possible interpretations while acknowledging that these could shift at any time. Yet even more essential, I would argue, it's a call to engage. Stories, after all--whether aesthetic or political--require sustained concentration..."
Ulin defines reading as an act of creativity that requires sustained concentration, which, in a world of "endless information," has become harder and harder to maintain.

"Technology is rewiring the neurology of our brains," but we shouldn't be too alarmed by this. It's been happening since the first symbols were carved into clay. We need to remember that Gutenberg shifted the world of reading only about 600 years ago. Ulin quotes Jane Smiley, from 13 Ways of Looking at the Novel when he gets to the heart of what should worry us about the loss of book readers,
"When we talk about the death of the novel, what we are really talking about is the possibility that empathy, however minimal, would no longer be attainable by those for whom the novel has died...If the novel dies, or never lives, for children and teenagers who spend their time watching TV or playing video games, then they will always be somewhat mystified by others, and by themselves as well."
Ulin sees reading as "an act of resistance in a landscape of distraction, a matter of engagement in a society that seems to want nothing more than for us to disengage...We regain the world by withdrawing from it just a little...."

Pretty heady stuff, and all of it a hard sell for my fifth graders. I have one foot back in the world of no Internet; they have both feet fully planted in the world of distraction. Luckily, at the same time I started reading The Lost Art of Reading, a book I had on reserve at the library came in.

This gorgeously illustrated book is filled with over 100 letters to young readers describing the joys of books and reading. Perhaps a couple of these read each day to my students will help them to see the breadth and depths of what books and story can mean to a person.

The Universe didn't decide to stop there in making me think hard about the meaning of reading and books in this time of distraction. When I finished Ulin's book, I picked up the January/February Horn Book Magazine and found Uma Krishnaswami's article, "Why Stop at Windows and Mirrors?: Children's Book Prisms."
"A prism can slow and bend the light that passes through it, splitting that light into its component colors. It can refract light in as many directions as the prism’s shape and surface planes allow. Similarly, books can disrupt and challenge ideas about diversity through multifaceted and intersecting identities, settings, cultural contexts, and histories. They can place diverse characters at these crucial intersections and give them the power to reframe their stories. Through the fictional world, they can make us question the assumptions and practices of our own real world."
Then, just a few more pages into the Horn Book issue, I found Grace Lin's article, "Speak with Us, Not for Us."
"What diversity needs is not white authors to write heroes of a minority race, but rather for them to redefine the white hero. We need authors to create white characters who are (or are learning to become) socially aware and who fight alongside people of color, without being saviors, and we need authors who know how to do the same."
Okay, Universe. I hear you loud and clear. It's worth it to keep trying to fall my students in love with books and reading, even though it feels like I am swimming against an impossible tide of technology and distraction. A Velocity of Being will help me with this. It is still worth it to provide books that are windows and mirrors and sliding glass doors, but I will also look for more prisms. And I'll cheer on not just the #ownvoices authors, but also the white authors who are working to redefine the white hero.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Poetry Friday

Photo via Unsplash

Scent of Spring

His back went up
stopping me in my tracks.

I backed up hastily
hands raised (as if that could protect me).

He hissed. We both walked away.
Ten paces later, I spotted his backup,

although the back and forth of squeaks and squeals
that soon broke the predawn silence

took me aback. Was this love or war
wafting through the air?

Jone, at Check it Out, has the Poetry Friday roundup this week AND she's announcing the Cybils Poetry Winner! Check it out, indeed!

Sunday, February 10, 2019

Picture Book 10 for 10: Books Filled With People Who Changed the World

Today is #nf10for10 --a favorite day of the year. Thanks to Mandy, Cathy, and Julie for organizing! Head over to Enjoy and Embrace Learning for the Round Up --have your library card or credit card ready! It's a great day to add more nonfiction books to your stack!

I have a new favorite kind of book that I am collecting--I am not sure exactly what to call them but each of these books introduces readers to so many amazing people.  Just like picture book biographies, these books take an idea (Protestors, Women Who Made a Difference, etc.) and share a little bit about each of these people under the umbrella idea of the book.  I have found that these books invite incredible conversations. They also invite readers to learn more about one or more of the people in the book.  And I've found that these books have taught my students the value of the Author's Note. I love that you can read many of these from cover to cover and then read more about the people who you become more curious about through the reading. Many are books that you can dip into and read the pages you'd like.  I keep thinking back to the days of Biography Reports and Wax Museums when our students were required to read one long (from birth to death) biography and report on/dress as that one person. One thing books like these do is they introduce us to MANY change makers who we don't know as well as the more famous change-makers. Readers can see so many ways to make a difference.  And, how much more powerful to see people in the context of something bigger, in a group of others who are fighting for the same things? So these are my Top 10 that I've purchased recently forty 5th grade classroom.

Enough! 20 Protesters Who Changed America by Emily Easton

Friday, February 08, 2019

Poetry Friday -- Amazing Face

Amazing Face
by Rebecca Kai Dotlich

Amazing, your face.

It shows there will be trails to follow,
porches to wave from, wonder from,
play on.

It shows you will sail ships,
paint stars,
carve pumpkins,

You will climb stalks,
greet giants,
crawl before you walk.
And you will fly.
And you will fall.
And you will fly again.

Amazing, your face.
It shows you will watch from a window,
whisper to a friend,
ride a carousel,
melt candy on your tongue.

Amazing, your face.

(used with permission of the author)

What a privilege it is to learn alongside these amazing faces, even when everything is not sunshine and roses.

Laura Purdie Salas has today's Poetry Friday Roundup. She is encouraging everyone to write an equation poem to celebrate the release of her new book, Snowman - Cold = Puddle (which was our story for the last few days, but Winter has roared back in with sub-freezing weather again today).

Here's my equation. It's a pair of equivalent fractions made by multiplying the first fraction by elitism / elitism.

Classroom / Cliques = USA / Bipartisanism