Thursday, May 30, 2019

Poetry Friday Roundup is HERE! -- Celebrating Naomi Shihab Nye

If you haven't seen Colby Sharp's "Awesometastic" Creativity Project, I'll give you a minute to explore it a bit.

Besides the fun of reading how some of your favorite children's authors responded to prompts, there is the fun of the prompts some of your favorite children's authors offered up, plus a bonus prompt from each of the authors from which you can choose to make whatever you want.

On this Naomi Shihab Nye themed Poetry Friday (don't thank me, I'm just the roundup collector...this week's theme is the brainchild of Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference!) , I thought it would be fun to play a bit with her prompts from The Creativity Project.

This prompt, "Write a dialogue poem--a back-and-forth between human and something or things not human," is one from which I didn't manage a shareable draft. In the book, Kat Yeh writes from this prompt.

This bonus prompt really got me thinking: "Write a list of ten things you are NOT (not an astronaut, a perfectionist, a wool spinner, a butterfly, a name-caller). Then pick your favorite lines and develop, or embellish, them, adding metaphors, more description, whatever you like." Here's my draft:


I am not a meticulous housekeeper.
I aim for clean enough.
The clutter and dust
rest on the surface of a love that runs deeper.

Similarly, I am not a master gardener.
I keep ahead of the weeds, mostly,
planting to encourage butterflies and bees.
They, I believe, are the most important harvesters.

Perhaps, then, you will be surprised
that I iron sheets
and follow recipes.
I choose when and when not to improvise.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

You'll have to get a copy of the book to see how Naomi Shihab Nye responded to Tracey Babtiste's prompt, but her poem "Missing It" was featured on The Writer's Almanac this past Tuesday. (I'm so glad The Writer's Almanac is back!!)

Now, off you go to see what everyone else around the Poetry Friday corner of the Kidlitosphere has created for this week, whether inspired by Naomi Shihab Nye, or otherwise! Drop your link in the comments and I'll roundup old-school. (I've had news from two bloggers who weren't able to leave comments...not sure why, but if that happens to you, send your link to marylee dot hahn at gmail.)

Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference has a request:

"Send me links to your posts if they are poems about/to/inspired by Naomi Shihab Nye!"

Here's the post that I will be adding them to:

* * * * * * *

Ruth (at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town) is first in with a rich Naomi Shihab Nye post! She's got links to the announcement of NSN's appointment as the new Young People's Poet Laureate, links to other NSN posts on her blog, and a gorgeous photo + ode.

Linda (at TeacherDance) shares how Naomi Shihab Nye's poetry made a difference in the lives of the gifted students she taught. The poem she shares is one that can be used as a mentor text when writing personal oral histories and about "discoveries of new lives different from theirs." 

Irene (at Live Your Poem) sparked my interest in THE CREATIVITY PROJECT with this post, in which she also responded to this "I Am Not" prompt from NSN.  

For today's post, Irene shares three favorites from NSN's book THIS SAME SKY, and because she has an extra copy, there's also a give-away!

Linda (at A Word Edgewise) created a brilliant poem out of found words and phrases in NSN interviews. 

Michelle Kogan has so many favorites in her post today! Her beautiful art features monarchs and milkweed. She shares NSN's poem "Kindness," which I LOVE, and her response poem is a deep breath of gratitude and commitment to Mother Nature.

Robyn (at Life on the Deckle Edge) has some news from the recent Haiku Society of America Spring meeting, and some beach-themed haiku.

Christie (at Wondering and Wondering) borrowed a line from a NSN interview and unpacked some big truths. 

Molly (At Nix the Comfort Zone) wrote a beautiful love poem for her husband on the occasion of their 30th anniversary. Congratulations!

Donna (at Mainely Write) 's ocean poem pairs nicely with Robyn's beach-themed haiku! Almost makes this land lubber want to spend some time on a beach! (almost...)

Carol (at Beyond Literacy Link) connected the NSN theme to poems written for her (darling) not-such-a-baby granddaughter's two year birthday. 

Jama (at Jama's Alphabet Soup) has...but of course...and we love her for it...three Naomi Shihab Nye FOOD POEMS! 

Jan (at bookseedstudio) has lots of connections to the much-loved NSN poem, "Famous."

Matt (at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme) shares his poem for the Ditty Challenge, "Instructions for Instructions." All kinds of clever!

Laura Shovan is still serving as Poet in Residence and as such, she shares the PERFECT resident poet poem by NSN, as well as (mostly) delicious food poems written by third graders.

Michelle (at Today's Little Ditty) has the Ditty of the Month Challenge Wrap-Up Celebration, along with links to her interview of Naomi Shihab Nye, the poem she wrote inspired by "To Manage," and the DMC wrap-up for NSN's ditty challenge.

Kimberly (at Kimberly Hutmatcher Writes) has a somber poem about devastating losses of young lives in her hometown.

Cheriee (at Library Matters) shares her next poetic installment "about a pivotal time in 1958, when my family joined other relatives on an adventure into the Pine Valley region in Northern British Columbia." It's diaper week, and it's grim.

Fats (at Gathering Books) joins in this week with a selection from the anthology Of Poetry and Protest: From Emmett Till to Trayvon Martin. I put this book on reserve at the library before I even finished reading her post. It looks amazing and important.

Renee (at No Water River) shares a selection of poems "from NIGHT GUARD, a collection of middle grade free verse poems by Norwegian poet, literacy educator, and environmental activist
Synne Lea," along with images from the illustrator of the collection, Stian Hole. You MUST listen to her magical voice and hear what she has to say about reading poetry!

Carol (at Carol's Corner) has a new puppy, finished school this week, AND managed to share a favorite NSN poem!

Tabatha (at The Opposite of Indifference) wrote a poem inspired by "Shoulders." I think Carol W. will like this poem!

Kay (at A Journey Through the Pages) used "Valentine for Ernest Mann" as her inspiration. Where are poems hiding in YOUR life?

Karen Edmisten (at Karen Edmisten...The Blog With the Shockingly Clever Title) has NSN reading her poem, "How Do I Know When a Poem is Finished?", my next new favorite!

Little Willow (at Bildungsroman) has song lyrics that remind us that humanity, like beauty, (like the love under the clutter and dust in my poem?) is not to be found on the surface.

Margaret (at Reflections on the Teche) finds magic in a single (amazing) line from Naomi Shihab Nye.

Catherine (at Reading to the Core) also wrote an I AM NOT poem that will sing to your heart.

Jone (at Deowriter) shares news of and a response to Naomi Shihab Nye's newest book, Tiny Journalist. At Check it Out, Jone is discovering buried treasure as she organizes her writing room!

Rebecca (at Sloth Reads) has a dialogue haiku for us that's sure to make you smile!

Amy (at The Poem Farm) has a post that is chock-full of goodness.

Tara (at Going to Walden) shares calming news from the farm in the form of a poem by Patricia Fargnoli.

Susan (at Soul Blossom Living) shares a pelican-filled post!

Friday, May 24, 2019

Poetry Friday -- Endings and Beginnings

photo via Unsplash

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
~Kevin Durant

High Flight

The last day of school is in sight. You can’t imagine how hard
it is to release my masterpieces, say goodbye to my best work.
Launching you, I imagine the sigh of wing-beats
as you fly away, soaring with your talent,
your sense of humor, your desire to set the world right. When
you alight again next fall, don’t you dare hide your talent,
head under wing, letting others lead. Genius doesn’t
need adult plumage to rise and spiral. All genius needs is work.
And remember, the work of flight is joyful, not hard.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

This is a re-post from my 2018 Poetry Month project. Today is the last (half) day of school. I will fledge another group of youngsters and hope against hope that I am sending them into the world equipped with the skills and mindsets they will need for their (our) future.

Dani has her very first Poetry Friday Roundup (welcome, Dani!!) at Doing the Work That Matters.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

More than Quotes

I added two books to our classroom library recently that I love. Both of these books have powerful quotes from leaders in our world.  Each quote in these books can start important conversations in the classroom.  But they are so much more than quotes.  Each one of these books gives us, as readers, so much to think and talk about. They also give us invitations to dig deeper if we find something or someone that especially inspires us.

We Are the Change: Words of Inspiration from Civil Rights Leaders by Harry Belafonte is a must-have new book with quotes from 16 civil rights leaders including John Lewis, Sonia Sotomayor, Barack Obama, and Maya Angelou.  Each quote is paired with art from  one of 16 children's book illustrators and some reflection to go along with that art.  This book does not have a lot of words but it is a book that you can read and reread, spending hours with because there is so much to think about in the words and pictures.  I like books like this for the classroom for several reasons--there are several entry points for children. There are also so many ways to share this book with children--in parts or as a whole piece. It is a gorgeous book that you'll want for your bookshelf.

Limitless: 24 Remarkable American Women of Vision, Grit, and Guts by Leah Tinari is another book that I picked up at a local, independent bookstore.  This is a bit of an oversized picture book which makes the visual portraits of each woman so powerful.  24 women are illustrated with words about their role and impact. Alongside each portrait is a quote by that woman. The end of the book has a bit more information about each woman. The way that the black and white drawings are combined with a bit of bright color make the book unique and engaging.  What I think I love most about this book is the variety of ways the women portrayed have made an impact--I love the message that there are so many ways to make the world a better place.

Friday, May 17, 2019

To the Daisy

To the Daisy That Has Survived Even Though the Grounds Crew Mowed Down the School Land Lab Two Years Ago

No matter how low they mow you,
Show the world you won't be stopped:
Keep the memory of your former glory alive--
Send roots deep and runners long--
Bring joy to those who see your smiling face:

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2019

I wrote this poem for the Ditty of the Month challenge that Liz Steinglass offered up at Today's Little Ditty. I couldn't believe my eyes this week when I saw that one of the daisies that had followed the daffodils and previewed the cone flowers in my school's (only barely tamed) wild space known as the Land Lab had survived...and BLOOMED! Like dandelions, it has adapted to the mower and was right down at ground level instead of waving around in the breezes, but there it was. Its spirit spoke right to my heart. This poem is for all the "daisies" who have to stay low, either below the mower or under the radar, but who refuse to stop blooming.

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

Friday, May 10, 2019

Poetry Friday -- Teachers Who Write Poetry

Prompts (for High School Teachers Who Write Poetry)
by Dante Di Stefano

Write about walking into the building 
as a new teacher. Write yourself hopeful. 
Write a row of empty desks. Write the face 
of a student you’ve almost forgotten; 
he’s worn a Derek Jeter jersey all year. 
Do not conjecture about the adults 
he goes home to, or the place he calls home. 

(read the rest at

"This poem attempts to catch some of the heartbreak and some of the vibrancy from the first third of my teaching life. The architecture of the poem was suggested by Adam Gellings's poem 'Prompt,' and by Elaina Ellis's Poem 'Write About an Empty Birdcage.' "

"Dante Di Stefano has taught tenth and twelfth grade English for eleven years in upstate New York and is the winner of the 2019 On Teaching Poem Prize, judged by Richard Blanco. He is the author of two poetry collections: Ill Angels (Etruscan Press, 2019) and Love Is a Stone Endlessly in Flight (Brighthorse Books, 2016). A poetry editor for DIALOGIST, he holds a PhD in English from Binghamton University and lives in Endwell, New York."

Here's a Teacher Appreciation Week montage from a few years ago.
Study the contrasting images carefully. This could actually be a stanza in my poem.

Prompts (for Fifth Grade Teachers Who Write Poetry)
by Mary Lee Hahn, ©2019

Write about the final third of your teaching life.
Write about school shootings and lockdown drills
and about the talent show.
Write about the student grappling with ethnic cleansing in Myanmar
and about the district dodgeball tournament.
Write about poverty and bullying
and about the the sound of two dozen eleven-year-olds giggling.
Write about the relentless and dehumanizing assessments you are required to give
and about the joyful mess of oobleck.

Liz has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at her blog Elizabeth Steinglass.

In three weeks, the roundup will be here. Tabatha suggested a Naomi Shihab Nye themed week, and she INSISTS that she had no insider knowledge of the fact that this week Naomi Shihab Nye would be named Young People's Poet Laureate for 2019-2021 by the Poetry Foundation! Now we REALLY cause to celebrate Naomi Shihab Nye on May 31!!

Sunday, May 05, 2019

#BuildYourStack Event with NCTE and Dublin City Schools

On Saturday, NCTE and Dublin Schools partnered for a #BuildYourStack™ event for area teachers. It was a great morning --such good energy and so many good books! The day kicked off with Lynsey Burkins, chair of NCTE's Build Your Stack™ Committee talking a bit about Build Your Stack™, independent reading, and classroom libraries.  Gretchen Taylor spoke about the impact NCTE has had on her and then 6 teachers shared their go-to professional books in the quick, high energy BYS format.  There was time for visiting with friends, coffee and book shopping before the level-specific sessions began.

As part of the opening session, we learned about 6 professional books --go to books for these teachers. I was familiar with some of the books, but not all of them so I started to add a few books to my list right away during this opening session.  The books included were: Troublemakers by Carla Shalaby, A Novel Approach by Kate Roberts, 35 Dumb Things Well-Intended People Say: Surprising Things We Say That Widen the Diversity Gap by Maura Cullen, Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond, The New Teacher Book by Linda Christensen, and Game Changers by Donalyn Miller and Colby Sharp.

The best thing about days like this is how people come together to make it happen.  So many people pulling together to create a great day of learning for teachers. Literacy coaches, teachers, administrators, NCTE staff and students all played a part in making the day what it was. So many people planning, sharing books, setting up, etc. We are lucky to have supportive administrators who helped with the planning and participated in the event.  The day was high energy and positive because so much happened behind the scenes with so many people committed to making this a what it was for participants.

The bulk of the morning was spent in level-specific sessions (elementary, middle, secondary) hearing about books that we might want to add to our classroom libraries. In a little over an hour, teachers heard about many books from teachers and students who loved them.  We were introduced to new books and new authors as we built our stack of to-be-read books.  And of course, there was books shopping! Beth from Selections was there with the best and newest books for our classroom libraries.

It was a great day of good learning, good friends and good books!  I am hoping (hint hint) that this group plans to do this annually.  It was such a great way to spend a Saturday morning in May! Thanks to NCTE and Dublin City Schools and all the people who contributed their time to make this happen.  To learn more about Build Your Stack™ and to read more blog posts by NCTE members that will help you build your summer reading stack, visit NCTE's Build Your Stack™ page and Build Your Stack™blog posts.  You can also follow the #BuildYourStack hashtag on social media,

And don't forget to look for the Build Your Stack™stage in the Exhibit Hall at NCTE19 (November in Baltimore)!  If you were there last year, you know that it was the place to be to learn about new books throughout convention!  Planning is underway for another year of great sessions to help you Build Your Stack™!

Thursday, May 02, 2019

Poetry Friday -- Moon

Unsplash photo by Sadman Sakib

by Amy E. Sklansky

           for the world.

Ramadan is the most sacred month of the year in Islamic culture. It is a lunar-based month-long time of fasting and celebration. Ramadan 2019 begins on Sunday or Monday (the new moon is May 4, and the actual date of the beginning of Ramadan is contingent on the first sighting of the moon), and many of our Muslim students (and all of our Muslim staff) will be fasting from dawn to sunset through the month of Ramadan. This month of fasting, prayer, community, and charity culminates with the festival of Eid ul Fitr.

Only about 20% of Muslims live in (or are from) Arab countries. South Asia contains the largest population of Muslims in the world. My students who will observe Ramadan are from Morocco, Sudan, Bangladesh, Egypt, and Pakistan.

Jama has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

Giving Myself Permission to Read for Myself

I realized over winter break and then again at spring break that I was not really enjoying my reading life anymore, I had become so committed to reading all of the new middle grade novels that my students might enjoy that I had lost my own identity as a reader. I was no longer reading books that I wanted to read but I was frantically trying to keep up with books I thought I should read. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE middle grade novels--they are my favorites and I love the books I've read recently.  But when reading started to feel like an assignment I had to step back. So this year, I committed to not focusing on what I thought I should read, and not planning too far in advance but to really read books that I wanted to read. To build reading as a person (not only as a teacher) back into my life. I gave myself permission to read more adult fiction, to not stress about missing some books that might be the best read aloud for next year and to just read. So in 2019, I've read some great --not for school--books. Adult fiction and nonfiction, YA, etc.  Here are some of my favorites!

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson is a must read. This memoir in verse is powerful and the writing is gorgeous. It is one I will read again.

Internment by Samira Ahmed is another must read. An important very near-future story.  It is eye opening and terrifying. Samira Ahmed is brilliant and I really don't have the words to say how important this book is.

Becoming by Michelle Obama is one I am listening to. Michelle Obama narrates the book which is amazing. Hearing her voice makes me happy.  I listen to this one on my drive to and from work and it is long (19+ hours) so it is taking me a while to read. But I love that I am listening to a bit a day and savoring Michelle's story.  Every day, I seem to love this book more. 

Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens is one that my cousin recommended HIGHLY a few months ago. I have to admit that I had a lot of trouble getting into this one. I only stuck with it because it had come so highly recommended. SOOOO glad I stuck with it--about halfway through I was hooked. I loved this book and the characters are some of my favorite characters of all time. I think they are characters who will live with me forever.

The Path Made Clear by Oprah Winfrey was a quick read. I love self-help books and Oprah is my favorite in helping me reflect and move forward in life. In this book, she compiles voices of many of my favorite people and the book is helpful in inviting reflection about our journey in life.

I am so glad I discovered Austin Channing Brown, author of I'm Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness. This book is mostly memoir that gives us a lot to think about. This is one I'll read again soon I think. And so glad I discovered her Instagram feed. I highly recommend following her if you are on Instagram (@austinchanning).

I picked up My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite while bookstore shopping with a friend.     I am not a huge reader of mysteries/thrillers/crime books. But I did enjoy this one. I can't say I loved the characters but I couldn't put this book down once I got started. Such a unique story and some clever wit and writing. I am sure I will read this author's next book.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Confession: I Have Never Read Harry Potter

It's true. I have never read Harry Potter. I admitted this here on our blog over a decade ago and have still not read the series. I started the first book 10 times and never got past page 63. It wasn't that I didn't like the book. It just wasn't a priority for me when it first came out.  And then all of a sudden there were 7 books--each one longer than the last, and reading the whole series seemed like an overwhelming endeavor. And there are so many new books I am dying to read, taking the time to read Harry Potter has not been a priority. until now.

Last year, I attended two of the Scholastic Reading Summits. (The Summit is always one of my favorite days of summer, BTW.). Scholastic was celebrating 20 years of Harry Potter and the new paperback editions of the book were available.  And after the summits, Scholastic sent me this fabulous boxed set! Thank you Scholastic!  I took this gift as a bit of a sign that maybe it was time to read the books!I don't keep it a secret that I haven't read the Harry Potter books but sitting in that room at the Scholastic Reading Summit in Chicago, I realized how many of the references I just don't get. I was sad that I wasn't part of this conversation around books that so many people in my world have experienced.

Also, this summer, we are taking a trip to Disney and may spend a day at Universal's Harry Potter World. My family is obsessed with Harry Potter. All of them read the books more than once and one of the movies seems to be on quite often at our house.  I walk into the family room and my husband and daughter are often on the couch rewatching one of their favorites.  They are all abuzz about the things we'll do and they keep making references to the story and characters that I just don't understand.

So I decided it was time to read the books. For many reasons. I teach 5th grade and the first few books are perfect for 5th graders.  I have huge Harry Potter fans in my classroom each year and it seems crazy that I haven't read them. And how can I miss out on experiencing Harry Potter world as someone who read and loved the books?

In my post from 2007, I said, " If I read it later, which I very well may do, I will know so much from the talk, the media, just by being part of the world. I won't come at it as everyone else did. "   I get the jokes in the world enough to know they are Harry Potter references but I don't really understand them. I told my family last week, before starting the first book, "I kind of know all the characters and what happens from just living in the world."  They both looked at each other and rolled their eyes. And really, I know better than that.  Hearing about a book and a set of characters does not compare to experiencing the story. Of all the things I know in the world to be true, I do know this.

Last week, I read book one of Harry Potter. I enjoyed it. Totally enjoyed it. And I have started on Book 2.  I am not sure I will read all 7 in a row but I think you can say I am hooked and I am confident I will finish the series in the near future.  I am so happy to be reading them. And I am hoping to watch the movies after I read each book, when I can.

I share this babbling story of my Harry Potter reading for several reasons:

1. We all have these "book gaps"--books that is seems everyone has read but books that we've missed somehow. It seems to be a point of shame for readers who pride ourselves on keeping up and that's silly so I wanted to make this book gap public. It is never too late to enjoy a good book.

2. Sometimes we forget about the great books that aren't brand new. I have spent the last several years reading books as they are published, keeping up on the best and newest books that I sometimes forget about the fabulous books I've missed in my reading life. For my students, I am worried that I have focused too much on the new books and have forgotten to highlight all the great books from  past years. Lesson to self.

3.  Hearing about a book, walking through a room where the movie is playing does not compare to reading the actual book. Just a reminder.

4.  The thought of reading the Harry Potter series has been overwhelming to me. Most of my family and friends read the books one per year as they were published.  That seemed doable. But now that there are seven (and some are very long), it seems to overwhelming. I wonder if our kids feel that way about some of our series and classics?

5.  I imagine there are other teachers out there who have not read Harry Potter. If anyone wants to read it for the first time with me this summer, would love to have a little support group as I think I might be the only reading teacher who has never read it.

I'll keep you posted!