Thursday, May 28, 2020

The Poetry Friday Roundup is Here!

Gene Luen Yang was the National Ambassador of Young People's Literature way back in 2016, but his "Reading Without Walls Challenge" is as important as ever. He challenged readers to 
1. Read a book about a character who doesn’t look like you or live like you.

2. Read a book about a topic you don’t know much about.

3. Read a book in a format that you don’t normally read for fun. This might be a chapter book, a graphic novel, a book in verse, a picture book, or a hybrid book.
I spent this morning Reading Without Walls while learning about the poet Marilyn Chin. She doesn't look like me or live like me, and I was not familiar with her poetry. I "read" in a format I don't normally "read" for fun: I watched an hour-long video! The Library of Congress "Life of a Poet" session featuring Marilyn Chin being interviewed by Ron Charles of the Washington Post is worth every minute. 

Marilyn Chin identifies as a activist poet, exploring the issues of the day as well as the intersection of Asian and American worlds through her roots in Hong Kong (she lived there until the age of 7) and Portland, Oregon. The themes/topics of language (loss of language, loss of culture, loss of ancestors), names, identity, culture, and feminism shine through as you watch the "Life of a Poet" session. Plus, she's witty, sarcastic, and quick to laugh!

Here are a couple of Marilyn Chin's poems you should know (if you don't already):

How I Got That Name
by Marilyn Chin

an essay on assimilation

I am Marilyn Mei Ling Chin 
Oh, how I love the resoluteness 
of that first person singular 
followed by that stalwart indicative 
of "be," without the uncertain i-n-g 
of "becoming." Of course, 
the name had been changed 
somewhere between Angel Island and the sea, 
when my father the paperson 
in the late 1950s 
obsessed with a bombshell blond 
transliterated "Mei Ling" to "Marilyn."

The Floral Apron
by Marilyn Chin

The woman wore a floral apron around her neck,
that woman from my mother’s village
with a sharp cleaver in her hand.
She said, “What shall we cook tonight?
Perhaps these six tiny squid
lined up so perfectly on the block?”

(read the rest at

In her career as a poet, Marilyn Chin has won just about every award, but the one that impresses me most is the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, which she was awarded in 2015. Am I the last person on the planet to have heard of this award? It is the national prize for literature that confronts racism and examines diversity. Why is this not the most celebrated book award in the nation? Why is there not a version for children's literature?

So...what inspired me to learn about Marilyn Chin today? NCTE is offering a webinar conversation with Marilyn Chin, in conjunction with the Library of Congress, and I get to be the member who facilitates this conversation! The event is open to both members and nonmembers of NCTE, so sign up and join us on June 11!

Now let's hear what you're thinking and learning about! Share your link in the comments and I'll round us up old-school!

***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***   ***  


Stop over and wish Michelle Kogan a Happy Birthday!


Michelle has the Poems of Presence Wrap Up Celebration at Today's Little Ditty.

Molly shares another week of poems of presence, some paired with photos at Nix the Comfort Zone.

Linda's poems of presence have given her some "at-ease" time this month. Find a few recent poems at A Word Edgewise.

Christie, at Wondering and Wandering, rounds up her #poemsofpresence for the week.


The Poetry Sisters are looking back, and Tricia, at The Miss Rumphius Effect, has an EPIC look-back at a crown sonnet that didn't happen. Spoiler alert -- there's a happy ending to the story.

Sara, at Read Write Think, gave herself multiple throwback challenges with a new numeric poem to pair with an older alphabetic poem. The final result is a stunner with Big Truth in the conclusion.

Tanita, at [fiction, instead of lies], revisits the lai form from the Poetry Sisters’ 2017 challenge.

Poetry Princess Laura, at Poems for Teachers, found a poem inside one of her previous poems that sends positive vibes to her sister on a ventilator in ICU.

Liz, at Liz Garton Scanlon, wrote the pantoum she didn’t write in 2018.

Rebecca, at Rebecca Holmes, looks back to the moment she knew she'd be a scientist, but still didn't know she'd be the physicist she is today.


Ruth, at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town, shares Langston Hughes’ “Let America Be America Again,” a poem that is as true today as it was when it was published in 1936.

Jone, at Deo Writer, finds her thoughts about the current news continuing to churn, even when she seeks solace in nature.

Jama, at Jama’s Alphabet Soup, has two poems and a gallery of portraits honoring our elderly.

Alan, at Poetry Pizazz, is on the same wavelength as Hubby – missing his coffee shop, but adapting/flourishing at home.

Joyce, at Musings, shares a poem by Emily Dickinson that reminds us we don’t need to be in a building to worship.

Janice, at Salt City Verse, speaks out against the death of George Floyd, but finds solace, optimism, and symbolism in her garden.

Catherine, at Reading to the Core, found the perfect poem to inspire her online learners.

MSheehan, at A Few Words, wrote an inspirational poem of personal conviction based on recent events.

Linda, at TeacherDance, took April’s challenge last week at Teaching Authors and wrote an In One Word poem that knocks it out of the ballpark.

Margaret, at Reflections on the Teche, also took April’s challenge and wrote an In One Word poem that takes shelter in an EMBRACE.


Liz, at Liz Steinglass, wrote from Marjory Maddox’s book INSIDE OUT.

Heidi, at my juicy little universe, was inspired by Billy Collins’ Master Class.

Linda, at Write Time, has a poem about the robins outside her window.

Amy LV, at The Poem Farm, has a delightful free verse poem and offers us the invitation, “to begin a poem with the lines, "If you need someone..."

Leigh Anne, at A Day in the Life, wrote about her mother’s struggle with early dementia.

Tim, at Yet There is Method, is in with a poem about intention and roots. 

Rose, at Imagine the Possibilities, captured (literally) a very sweet moment with a wren.

Bridget, at Wee Words for Wee Ones, has a puppy poem (and pictures), plus some more Wee-sources.

Karen, at Karen’s Got a Blog!, is enjoying her garden extra-much this year.

Amy, at Book Buzz, shares a poetic memory of her grandmother’s teacups.

Carol, at Beyond LiteracyLink, has a mini-gallery of woodside goodness for calming our spirits today.

Matt, at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme, dusts off a post from seven years ago that feels as fresh as yesterday!

Sally, at Sally Murphy, is mourning the damage done to “her” beach after recent storms…but she’s also looking for a silver lining.

Buffy, at Buffy Silverman, intended to write a poem of NOW, but wound up with a beautiful poem of THEN.

Irene, at Live Your Poem, writes the truth in her newest ArtSpeak: RED poem.

Susan, at Soul Blossom Living, found inspiration for both art and poetry in the bunnies she encountered on the sidewalk.

Donna, at Mainely Write, checks in with a poem of struggle and hope.


Tabatha, at The Opposite of Indifference, shares a poem by the Australian poet Judith Wright that makes a very reasonable request of This Year.

Little Willow, at Slayground, shares a fun excerpt of a Marge Piercy poem.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

You Can't Be Neutral

Yesterday, I couldn't get anything accomplished. I spent the day horrified and angry by the events of the day.

Just weeks after two men were arrested for killing Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd was killed by police officers in Minneapolis.

And then Amy Cooper.  I watched the video of Amy Cooper calling 9-1-1 and then read Ibram X. Kendi's words on Twitter.

And, I have been thinking about the words and Ibram X. Kendi's response to Amy Cooper's apology.

And then I read this important piece by Ibram X. Kendi's in The Atlantic, 

"You can either be racist or you can be antiracist. 
You can't be neutral."

As a white woman, I have learned that much of being anti-racist has to start with a commitment to do a lot of internal work. I am grateful for the many people writing and sharing and having honest conversations with me,  so that I can begin the internal work needed to be anti-racist.

For me, reading and reflecting has been important for starting this internal work.  A few years ago I started a Padlet where I collected articles and posts that were important--that helped me reflect and begin to unlearn.

But it's the books, the deep dives into the issues of race, white fragility and racism that have been most powerful for me. This is a lifelong journey and these books have helped me begin. I've shared these books over and over and over in workshops and professional meetings.

These books are not easy reads. They are books that pushed me to reflect and realize and unlearn. These are the books that have been important to me so far and I highly recommend each one.  And I highly recommend following each of these authors on social media and then following people whose work they cite and share. And when you finish with these. find more to read and study and unlearn all of the racist ideas you may have.

Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

White Fragility by Robin DiAngelo

This Book is Anti-Racist by Tiffany Jewell

My first step in this anti-racist work is to do my own internal work and these books have been helpful so far.  I've read them and I've also bought them for people I know. But this is only the first step.
As I mentioned early, this is a lifelong journey. So much catching up to do in this work. So I have a summer stack started.  I have found that audiobooks are a great way to experience some of these books. I have also found that I can't read these books cover to cover--I need time as I read to process, reflect and reread.  These are not quick reads.  I have found that every book and author I find leads me to another. So, on my stack this summer I have:

(finish) How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X. Kendi (I've started the on audio but need to spend more time with it each day so that I can finish it.)

An Indigenous People's History of the United States for Young People by Jean Mendoza, Debbie Reese and Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (I've started this one but need to finish and reread more deeply.)

Me and White Supremecy by Layla F. Saad

Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall

Lifting as We Climb by Evette Dionne

Dark Sky Rising by Henry Louis Gates Jr.

I can't think about yesterday's news without connecting these two events and without doing something. I know reading is not enough but it has been an important step for me and one I hope more people take.

Monday, May 25, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching & Learning: All the Ways Books Are Important to Readers

Over the past several weeks, I have found myself doing a lot of reflection trying to get this online teaching right.  I keep meaning to get my thoughts on paper but then get caught up in the day-to-day work of teaching in this pandemic era.  I know if I can catch my breath, there is a lot to learn and reflect on during this time. So, I decided that every day in May, I will share my thoughts on Teaching and Learning.  

During the last week of school, I met with students in small groups.  As we finished the year, I wanted to try to do some of the things I usually did to celebrate growth, reflect and end the year. In these small group meets, I asked each student to talk about a book that was important-- a book that was important for some reason.  I chose my words carefully, as I didn't merely want a favorite book or a book they liked. So, I asked, "Tell me about a book that has been important to you in 5th grade for some reason." And then I gave them time to think about it.

The answers gave me a lot of insight into our year as readers and it also told me a bit about the ways my students approached books as readers. There was no wrong answer, but there were so many right answers. As I look at this list, I am happy with all of the ways books were important to my 5th graders. 

The Bridge Home by Padma Venkatraman 
"It was the first book that made me cry."  

"It was the longest book I ever read. I never thought I could read that book by myself."

A Whole New Ballgame by Phil Bildner
"It was the first book I read that was about basketball, but it was about more than basketball. It was a sports book that was really not about the sport but about friends. I realized sports books can be about more than the game."

The Unicorn Quest by Kamilla Benko
"I loved how the plot developed and it helped me think about how I develop plots as a writer. Reading it made a huge difference in my writing."

"I skipped a lot of parts that seemed boring. But then I got confused and had to go back. I realized that parts I didn't think were important in a book, might be important later."

Refugee by Alan Gratz
"This book was so confusing at the beginning.  When a book is confusing at the beginning I usually quit or ask for help, but I kept reading and rereading and it started to make sense. I learned that I could stick with books and get less confused as I read. And it is okay to be confused at the beginning of a book."

More to the Story by Hena Khan
"I loved this book and I think it was one of a lot of books that taught me empathy. Then the coronavirus happened. Between books and the quarantine and coronavirus, I became a more empathetic person."

Love, Sugar, Magic by Anna Merianao
"This book was one I annotated (a lot!) on my own and the notes helped me really think about the book in ways I don't usually when I am reading by myself."

"This was a topic I was interested in that I didn't know I was interested in."

"This book taught me that words like 'monster' that come up in a story can have multiple meanings. I realized that books and words could have more than one meaning at the same time."

The Rain Dragon Rescue by Suzanne Selfors
"I didn't know I could read a book on my own. I usually read longer books with audiobooks. But this one I read on my own and I was surprised and happy I could do it. Then I started to read lots of books."

Projekt 1065 by Alan Gratz
"I have only read fantasy for years. I thought I only liked fantasy. But this book helped me see I could like other kinds of books and I started to like historical fiction."

In my life, books have been important for so many reasons. I plan to spend some time reflecting on the many reasons books have been important in my life as a reader and as a human and to think about ways to bring more of these conversations into my work with children.  Listening in to all of the ways my students found books to be important gave me some new ways to think about the impact of books on readers.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Poetry Friday -- Praise and Amazement

This week, I received a digital ARC of Irene Latham's September book, This Poem is a Nest.

At first, all I could say was, WOW. Over and over again. Wow. Wow. WOW. I said it to the publicist at Wordsong, and then I said it to Irene. She responded, "No project I’ve worked on has been more exhilarating than that one. Just me being me."

Irene being Irene means she wrote a poem...a "nest"....and then found ONE HUNDRED SIXTY-ONE other poems..."nestling poems"....inside that "nest!" I. Can't. Even. I'm still gobsmacked.

Here is a portion of her nest, and a few of the nestlings she wrote. These are used with permission of the publisher.

I gave it a try using a poem I wrote for my 2020 NPM project as my nest.

I Have a New Friend

I have a new friend.
We've never met.
She chalks art and exercise challenges on the sidewalk.
She leaves the chalk out.
I write and draw my thanks.
Her chalk sticks became a pile of chalk pebbles.
I left a package on her porch --
Highlights magazines and gently used sidewalk chalk.
She left a package on my porch --
coloring pages, crayons and markers, four Cra-Z-Loom bracelets.
And a note.
I have a new friend named Annie.
We've never met.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2020

Here are some nestlings. Titles don't have to be found inside the nest, but the words of the nestling have to all come from the nest and have to be used in the order they're found in the nest.

Art Exercise

Draw a porch
a package
a note
a new friend.

My Favorite Squirrel Leaves a Message

Pile of pebbles on porch and sidewalk.
A note:
we've met.

Setting Sun

On the leaves, 
the sticks,
a pile of pebbles--

Try it! It's addicting and not at all easy. But most of all, get excited for September when we can hold a copy of Irene's newest wonder in our hands!

Carol has this week's Poetry Friday Roundup at Beyond LiteracyLink, and next week, the roundup is here!

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching & Learning: A Different Summer #bookaday Plan

When this pandemic/online teaching began, I thought I would get a lot of reading done. I figured I'd have lots of time and loved Donalyn's idea of Social Distancing #bookaday.  But I really haven't read so much.  The remote teaching and worrying about everyone during this pandemic have been taking a lot of energy. But I have started to read and as I go into summer I plan to commit, as I always do to Summer #bookaday.

I love Summer #bookaday.  Each May, right before the end of the school year, I count the days of summer to set my goal. This year is a little trickier because, with retirement I don't have an easy end date but decided to go with Dublin City School's start date because I think that is the timeframe that makes the most sense to me. Tomorrow is our last official teacher workday.  (Tuesday was our last day with students-more about that later.). So, if I counted right, I'll have 86 days of summer, so my goal will be to read 86 books. That seems like a lot, but I usually meet my Summer #bookaday goal.

I feel like I need a different plan than usual this year.  Our libraries are opening but in a limited way. Typically, during the summer, I order a stack of picture books each week and spend a day reading through the pile. I am not sure that is going to be possible this year.  So, I have to think about my goals as a reader and what my priorities will be since my library access will be limited.

I think it is probably a different summer for #bookaday for most of us.  This spring was not normal and even though we have plenty of time to read, falling into books is not so easy.  Plus, as Mary Lee mentioned in her post about Goals last week, she may have to be okay not meeting her reading goals as she prepares for teaching in the fall.

It feels weird not to have a classroom to read for in the fall. Getting ready for a classroom gave me a purpose for my summer #bookaday in the past.  Finding the best new read aloud, reading the best new books to recommend to 5th graders, etc. But it seems like this might be a good summer for me to catch up on all of the books I've not been able to keep up with--young adult, transitional chapter books, picture books for primary grades.  And I am thinking I may have more time than usual for adult fiction.

I haven't been keeping up with books so much. I am behind on reading a few issues of The Horn Book so I may start there.  I also need to check out Mr. Schu's Book Release Calendar to start reserving some picture books from the library.

I have a LOT of books at home. Books I haven't gotten to that I have been wanting to read. I also packed up my classroom library and have those boxes of books ready to be unloaded in the basement. There are several there that I never got a chance to read because they were making their way around the classroom. And I am hoping to make semi-regular trips to our local independent bookstores to pick up some of the newer books I am hoping to read.  I also have several professional books I am looking forward to reading. I signed up for Book Love Foundation's Summer Book Club on Cultivating Genius.

I'll keep you posted!

How will your Summer #Bookaday look different this summer?

Some books I know I want to read soon:

Monday, May 18, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching and Learning: Goals

How does one set goals for a completely unknowable future?

And since the future always has been and always will be unknowable, why does the current unknowable future seem more murky than all the others we've lived our way into? (Perhaps that one little word...pandemic? Yeah...)

I've decided I'm going to move forward with Seth Godin's advice in mind. I'm going to "...put some effort into making an imperfect situation a little less imperfect."

My goals for the summer are "Toolkit-Filling Goals." I'm going to get my Google Educator Certification (Levels 1 and 2, if all goes well), my NewsELA Educator Certification, I'm signed up to attend the Inclusive STEM & CS Summit, and I'm going to work through all of Amy LV's Notebooking videos.

Big plans for what I will do means I will have to let go of some things. This past weekend, I gave myself permission not to try to make an entire wardrobe of masks for myself and hubby. Instead, we'll support the economy as creative entrepreneurs make all sorts of functional (and hopefully fun) masks for us to buy.

This will likely be the year I don't make my Goodreads goal. And I'm okay with that. I haven't stopped reading. I just won't make it to the number of books I've read in the past or the number of books that seemed possible last January.

The "completely unknowable future" is just beyond the bend in that photo at the top of this post. I'm going to do my best not to try to see around the bend. I'm going to keep my eyes on my feet, taking one step at a time. I'm going to watch the clouds, and look for meadowlarks in the grass. One step at a time.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching and Learning: Worried About Our Kids

Over the past several weeks, I have found myself doing a lot of reflection trying to get this online teaching right.  I keep meaning to get my thoughts on paper but then get caught up in the day-to-day work of teaching in this pandemic era.  I know if I can catch my breath, there is a lot to learn and reflect on during this time. So, I decided that every day in May, I will share my thoughts on Teaching and Learning.  This is Day 17.

During these last two months, I have been worried about our world's children. As teachers, we knew with this online/pandemic teaching, our priorities had to be connecting in a way that helped students and families through this difficult time.  The phases of this online/pandemic teaching seem predictable--it seemed fun at first and we all thought it was temporary. But then children and families and teachers got weary and this week many of my students verbalized the sadness they were feeling. I know teachers everywhere did an amazing job of taking care of our students and teachers. I am wondering how our children will be impacted in the future.

This article--Kids Are So Over Zoom: Here's What ToDo About It--popped up in my feed today and it put in words a lot that I've been worried about. It explains a lot that teachers have been seeing. For teachers and parents, it's  worth the read.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching & Learning: 3 Picture Books

Over the past several weeks, I have found myself doing a lot of reflection trying to get this online teaching right.  I keep meaning to get my thoughts on paper but then get caught up in the day-to-day work of teaching in this pandemic era.  I know if I can catch my breath, there is a lot to learn and reflect on during this time. So, I decided that every day in May, I will share my thoughts on Teaching and Learning.  This is Day 16.

Typically, I read lots and lots of picture books. We have a fabulous library system and I often order a stack to read through on a Saturday and then decide which ones I need to own. I've really missed out on picture books over these last 2 months-I haven't kept up on the new picture books at all. And I think my students miss them too. Usually, we read at least 2-3 picture books a day but during this remote learning, we haven't really read a lot of picture books live and together. It's something I would change for next year.

This week, we did share a few picture books on Google Meet. Both are books I need to own and they both invited great conversations. If you haven't seen Lift by Minh Lè and Dan Santat, it is a must-have. I had preordered this one long ago (I do that when I see a must-have book and then I forget about it and it is a nice surprise when it arrives!). This one is as fabulous as I had anticipated. The words, the pictures, the title, all of it. There are some great themes in this one and I think it would be an amazing book to read at the beginning of the year too, as classrooms are building community.

Brave Molly by Brooke Boynton-Hughes is a book I learned about from John Mere in a Build Your Stack session this winter. This is a wordless book and the Kindle version worked out well on Google Meet. Students could see all of the details and noticed a great deal on each page. This book addresses social anxiety, but students had conversations around fear and anxiety in general so it seemed like a good book for this week.

One book that I did not share with my class, but that I will probably share this week as a great one for summer reading is this new nonfiction picture book. You're Invited to a Moth Ball: A Nighttime Insect Celebration by Loree Burns is amazing! (I think I discovered this one from Melissa Stewart.) And such a great invitation for children and families who are stuck at home. I love this book for so many reasons. First of all, it is a great fun activity for kids and families to do at home, outside. Second it is a great mentor for How-To Writing. And there are lots of extra features that give more information. And the photos are fabulous. I became a huge Loree Burns fan several years ago when I read Handle with Care and I've followed her work since. This book is fabulous, and I can see it being a well-loved book in K-5. as it has so many different entry points.

We got good news this week--our library will be opening with curbside pick-up so I am hoping I can spend the first few weeks of summer reading reviews etc. and ordering all those picture books that I've missed knowing about.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching & Learning...Closure

Over the past several weeks, I have found myself doing a lot of reflection trying to get this online teaching right.  I keep meaning to get my thoughts on paper but then get caught up in the day-to-day work of teaching in this pandemic era.  I know if I can catch my breath, there is a lot to learn and reflect on during this time. So, I decided that every day in May, I will share my thoughts on Teaching and Learning.  This is Day 15.

This week was our last full week of remote learning. Our last day with students is on Tuesday. We have a few fun virtual events planned for next week but today I dropped off gifts to my students. It was a bittersweet afternoon. It was soooo fabulous to see many of them either waving from the porch or a window after I rang the bell. I knew I missed them but it was REALLY, REALLY good to see them. And it was hard. It was not the kind of goodbye we should have had. And I felt bad for each of them to have to be going through this.

Since the beginning of this, my goal has been to make this online/pandemic learning experience as good as it can possibly be for kids and their families. I tried hard to focus on connections and community and giving them some sense of normalcy. This week, I could tell it was getting harder for kids to realize that this was the end of their elementary years.  So I hope that this small gift can help bring a little joy and a bit of happy closure to the end of this school year.  And really, putting together the gifts and spending the afternoon dropping them off, seeing some of the kids in the process, was quite a gift for me.  Today was so good for my heart.

How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.
-Winnie the Pooh

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Poetry Friday -- Pineapple

Thank you Evelyn (via Jone) for this tasty pineapple poem.

For you, readers, I offer this recipe for bliss:

Over cubes of fresh pineapple, drizzle dark molasses, then sprinkle with the zest of one lime. Let it sit as long as you are able to resist the sweet tropical scent, then indulge. You may never eat plain pineapple again!

Now, head over to Jama's Alphabet Soup, where chocolate chip cookies and the Poetry Friday Roundup await you!

Thoughts on Teaching and Learning: A Fun Break (with some thinking about writing...)

Over the past several weeks, I have found myself doing a lot of reflection trying to get this online teaching right.  I keep meaning to get my thoughts on paper but then get caught up in the day-to-day work of teaching in this pandemic era.  I know if I can catch my breath, there is a lot to learn and reflect on during this time. So, I decided that every day in May, I will share my thoughts on Teaching and Learning.  This is Day 14.

I am not often a binge watcher. It is a frustrating thing to my family, but I can't sit for 10 hours and watch 20 episodes of a Netflix series. However, I did find myself binge-watching The Holderness Family videos this week. You might remember them from a Christmas Pajama video a while ago. I remember watching it and thinking it was cute, but their quarantine videos have made me become a big fan. A huge fan.

This What Happens Now? video popped up in my Facebook feed and I was quite amused. Not enough to start binge watching but a few pleasant moments laughing at this.

Then (you know how these YouTube videos conveniently go right on to the next one...) I saw this one and boy I could relate.

But I couldn't help but notice the brilliance in the song rewriting.

Then I was hooked. This family is hysterical, and they are capturing so much of what the world is going through. So, I kept watching.

My writing teacher brain kicked in and I could not get over the brilliance of these videos.   Pure entertainment--but what must it have taken to create these? They are telling really important stories in this fun format. They are capturing lots of history in a clever way. The writing and word choice, the music, the visuals, the video special effects.  I couldn't help thinking about digital writing and what these videos could teach me about possibilities for our kids. Does this genre of writing have a name? How do all of the pieces of each video fit together? How do we make room for things like this in our writing classrooms?  I keep watching these over and over, thinking about the creation process.

These videos REALLY made my day a whole lot better when I discovered them and binge watched.  One of the best purposes for writing and creating I can think of. Granted, the Holderness Family brings professional knowledge, tools and access to these videos. I continue to be amazed at all that people are posting these days --from their homes--it really does open up the possibilities of what our students can do, in and out of school with creation and digital tools. The writing process, word choice, added visuals, etc. make these Holderness Family videos very complex pieces. They have reminded me that I have to continue to expand what I think writing looks like and think about what I can learn from all the videos, podcasts etc. that are helping us get through this pandemic/quarantine.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching & Learning: Our Last Read Aloud

Over the past several weeks, I have found myself doing a lot of reflection trying to get this online teaching right.  I keep meaning to get my thoughts on paper but then get caught up in the day-to-day work of teaching in this pandemic era.  I know if I can catch my breath, there is a lot to learn and reflect on during this time. So, I decided that every day in May, I will share my thoughts on Teaching and Learning.  This is Day 13

Today, we finished our last read aloud of the school year.  It is always bittersweet to finish that last book.  Read Aloud is always such an important part of our days together and it's been the one time during this online/pandemic teaching that most students have shown up every day and we've rebuilt our community.  From what parents have shared, our daily 11 am read aloud was a time many students looked forward to. Which makes me happy. My big goal during all of this was connection and relationships and some sense of normalcy and joy and I think read aloud accomplished that for many students.

One thing I notice was that students were less willing to talk. They were far more passive than they usually were in the classroom.  They seemed to need a different experience with read aloud---one that was just about connecting and community.  One where they could just listen in mostly.   One student said midway through the book, "We know if we don't talk, you'll just keep reading and we just want to hear the story." (Something they never asked for in our classroom as the talk and thinking together was always as important as the story for most students). So, I went with that. And it seemed right.

Our last read aloud was The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate. I chose this as our last read aloud for several reasons and I think it was the perfect pick. Many students had heard The One and Only Ivan as a read aloud in 3rd or 4th grades so they were familiar with the characters. They had shared some excitement about this new book when I shared the cover reveal months ago.  I hoped going back to characters we already knew and loved might be comforting. I also hoped that some kids would want to reread The One and Only Ivan (which several did or are planning to.). And finally, I knew the movie is scheduled to come out soon and I figured this would be another great memory/connection in the fall when they watched the movie.

The book is fabulous, and I highly recommend it for a summer read or a class read aloud. We read it over a 2-3 week period but we could have read it in about 1-2 weeks as the chapter are short, and the kids just beg to keep reading more as there is some suspense throughout.  Students loved the story and the characters and the fact that we got to know this fabulous character Bob a bit better.  My students also say they'd recommend this to everyone as a summer read. Most liked pretty much everything about it.  And as a teacher, I took comfort in reading more about characters I've known and loved for years.  (I think this would also make a good first read aloud of the school year. Even for students who haven't read The One and Only Ivan, I think this stands alone and Bob is a fabulous character --there is plenty to think and talk about throughout the story.)

Katherine Applegate does an amazing job with this story and it was such a wonderful way to end our read aloud time together this year.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Peggy Oxley: Teacher, Mentor, Friend

We are all the teachers we are because of the communities of teachers we are part of.  I have always known how lucky I am to have landed in Central Ohio and to have become part of the community of literacy educators here. I cannot imagine teaching without the kindness and brilliance of our local community of teachers.

This week, many of us in Central Ohio and beyond, are heartbroken because we lost an anchor in our community. Peggy Oxley, incredible teacher, mentor and friend, passed away this week.  You can read about Peggy here--a lovely obituary that reminds us of all that she did and all that she was committed to in her very full life.
I can't really remember for sure when I met Peggy. She's someone that, once you meet her, you feel like you've always known her, that she's always been there cheering you on, supporting you, teaching you, learning beside you. I think I met her first at our fabulous local Children's Bookstore, Cover to Cover. We both happened to be shopping on the same day, which happened quite often:-) I think Sally Oddi introduced us. And then of course I knew her through attending the Literacy Connection events for years and then I became a member of the board and had the opportunity to get to spend more time with Peggy--to see the power in her kindness and belief in people and literacy and education.

If you've ever been to a Literacy Connection event, you know Peggy. Peggy is the person who has led this group for decades. Even before teacher-created professional development and inquiry were part of the work teachers did, Peggy knew that inquiry and community and professional reading and teacher agency were critical to teacher learning and she created a community around those beliefs. She brought together a group of people who were committed to doing the best work we could for children. If you live in Central Ohio, you have most likely benefited from her vision.

All that Peggy did, she did with intention and joy.  Which meant that the Literacy Connection events were filled with intention and joy. Which is why this group, under Peggy's leadership, has lasted for such a long time. It is a critical community of learners for so many of us. Not only did she create a professional community but because of Peggy, so many of us have become good friends--she built circles of friends wherever she went.

Although Peggy was very involved nationally, she knew the importance of coming together locally, of learning together, of thinking together, of friendship.  The Literacy Connection events are held twice each year and they are full of the best energy out there. Peggy's vision, her commitment to bringing the best speakers to Central Ohio and to yearlong study around classroom work is unique and so treasured.  I know personally, Peggy invited me into this incredible community of educators and gave unconditional support and love (professionally and personally) for decades. I know she did this for so many of us.

I have not really been able to process this loss. It is a hard time to grieve and many of us are sad that we can't be together, that we can't give Peggy the tribute she so deserves. I am heartbroken today to have lost a teacher, mentor, and friend.  I know that Peggy's legacy will live on in so many people, but really, I cannot imagine this world without Peggy in it.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching & Learning: The End of The School Year

Over the past several weeks, I have found myself doing a lot of reflection trying to get this online teaching right.  I keep meaning to get my thoughts on paper but then get caught up in the day-to-day work of teaching in this pandemic era.  I know if I can catch my breath, there is a lot to learn and reflect on during this time. So, I decided that every day in May, I will share my thoughts on Teaching and Learning.  This is Day 11.

This is our last full week of school. I knew it was coming.  I thought I was ready.  Saying goodbye and ending the school year is always hard. Usually on the last day of school, I can hardly breathe, and I don't take a full breath until the buses have pulled away. I thought this year would be different because we knew--we've known for weeks--that we wouldn't be able to say goodbye in person. And we've settled into this remote/pandemic learning.  And it's been okay.

But then I started to plan this last 7 days with my students--trying to make it feel like a celebration, but without actually being together. And it is hard.

Then I saw this tweet from Jen Schwanke:

And I realized that yes, it is like time stopped. As much as I thought we'd be out of school for more than the 3 weeks that the governor announced on March 13, I certainly assumed we'd be back at least for a bit of time. I never thought we'd never be together in our classroom again--in the room we had created together. I never thought that kids wouldn't have the chance to do those things that we ask them to do so that the goodbyes are bearable and that they leave knowing how loved they are. I never thought I'd be cleaning the room, their room, alone.  

This week, with last day virtual celebrations being planned and end-of-year checklists being shared, it hit me that we are going to have to say goodbye on Google Meet. And I got really sad. I realized that usually, during this last week of school, we clean and we talk and we read and we have extra recess and we look at old photos and that even though we can do some of this from our homes, and in Google Meet, it isn't the same.

I started meeting with kids this week--to have final celebrations and conversations. None of us know how to end the school year like this.  But we are doing our best.

I have admitted how difficult this remote/pandemic is from about day 2 but nothing has been as hard as this last week of trying to close out a year without having all the time we were supposed to have.  Dismantling something alone that we weren't finished creating together. Thanks for the warning, Jen.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Thoughts on Teaching & Learning: Summer Reading

Over the past several weeks, I have found myself doing a lot of reflection trying to get this online teaching right.  I keep meaning to get my thoughts on paper but then get caught up in the day-to-day work of teaching in this pandemic era.  I know if I can catch my breath, there is a lot to learn and reflect on during this time. So, I decided that every day in May, I will share my thoughts on Teaching and Learning.  This is Day 10.

As we go into our last full week of school/remote learning, I am thinking about Summer Reading. In the classroom, I always dedicate a lot of time these last few weeks helping students create a summer reading list.  And I always do the same. We preview books, we share titles, we read reviews, we visit websites, we take recommendations from others.

For the past several summers I've participated in Donalyn's summer #bookaday and I spend time counting the days and thinking about books I'll start with.  Summer is always a great time for me to catch up on so much reading and I make it a priority.

But I am finding that I am not reading as much these days. When this stay-at-home started, I figured I'd read a book a day.  I have plenty of books at home and plenty of time.  But I've really been struggling with reading. I've managed about a book a week most weeks but those are mostly read in spurts.

When I talked to my students about their reading, I am finding similar things. They are missing reading as much as they did, but they are not able to read as much.  And without being in school--having access to our classroom library, the school library and our amazing  public libraries, they are a little lost.  

We've spent some time over the last few weeks talking about this-how and what are we reading during this time. And I've noticed that for so many of my students, reading habits are changing. Some students aren't making the time for reading and are in a reading slump. But others are discovering new things.  Students who would never reread a book are now rereading books they have at home. Books they love.  Students who were adamantly opposed to eBooks have given them a second chance and realized that checking out and reading an eBook from the library is better than not having new books to read at all. My own 20-year old daughter has discovered audiobooks during this time at home. 

I'm wondering about these reading habits--which ones are just getting us through this crisis and which ones will stick. And I'm wondering how best to help my 5th graders think about summer reading during our last week together.   I'll still share some books and some sites for finding new books, but I think much of our talk will be around our habits and how we might have to build new reading habits during this time.  

As I think about summer #bookaday, something I've been committed to for years, I wonder how that might work this year.  Typically, I pick up a stack of books each week from the local library, but this year, that is not possible. So, I am rethinking what "counts" as reading. We are so lucky to have hundreds of authors reading their books aloud online. Does watching a video of that "count" toward my bookaday?  And I've never reserved picture book eBooks from the library--is that even a possibility? If so, I need to learn how to do that. And I wonder how I might build audiobooks into my life with so little driving (I typically listen to audiobooks on the drive to work but am wondering how I build those into my life at home.)

This week, when we talk about summer reading, I want my students to think about options.  Temporary options--through this crisis.  know my summer reading life may not look like it has in the past and I have to assume theirs won't either.  And I don't know what it will look like--if libraries will open, if I can learn to love eBooks, if I will stick with summer #bookaday.  I know as readers, many of us are talking about our changed reading habits during this time.  As adult readers, we know that we are still readers, and that we'll get our "normal" reading lives back. I want my students to know that too, 

So, I think this year, as we prepare for summer reading, I'll continue to talk to kids honestly about their changing habits and the reading challenges so many of us are facing during this pandemic. I'll throw out some resources and hopefully help them expand on the possibilities. Rather than creating a summer reading list, maybe we'll talk about building in some new habits as readers --or at least building in the habit of trying new things as readers as we navigate this pandemic.