Friday, January 29, 2021

Poetry Friday -- Time Traveler


For the Poetry Sisters' monthly challenge, I searched up my birth year on Merriam Webster's Time Traveler site.

From the list of words that appeared in print for the first time that year, I chose a handful that all relate to food: tzatziki, arugula, crudités, chicken of the woods, cordon bleu, and soul food.

There is no poem yet, but there is a scribbly draft in my notebook, jotted while waiting on camera between small group reading conferences yesterday afternoon.

This morning I'm thinking about the phrase, "Time Traveler." It was fun to be whisked back all those decades in just a few clicks and poke around leisurely in the linguistic past. 

The time I'm traveling through right now, though, feels like a river in spate and I'm barely clinging to the edges of a raft I'm constructing even as I plummet through the rapids, between the boulders, and under the overhanging branches that appear without warning. I'm struggling, but still afloat. Barely. 

Friday, January 22, 2021

Poetry Friday -- Just This One Thing


Amanda Gorman

That is all, because she is all that.

Laura Shovan has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at her blog, Laura Shovan.

Thursday, January 14, 2021

Poetry Friday -- A Poem for The Week After


A List of Things That Will Set You Free

– Joyce Sidman







A voice.

A touch.


Not caring.

Saying to yourself:

I am too old to do this.

I am too young to do this.

I am too smart to do this.

It’s not my fault.

It is my fault, and I will fix it.

I can do this.

(poem used in its entirety with Joyce Sidman's permission)

This is the poem I chose for our weekly poem this week. It was a poem that I needed in The Week After (which turned out to be another Week Of), and I was curious to see what my students would take from it.

On the first day, we dug into reactions and noticings, and they were stumped initially by the two halves of the poem. They noticed that the pairs in the first half seem to go together (except for caring/not caring), while the second half tells how to react to things. 

On the next day, when we read for meaning and craft, one student argued that the pairs of words in the first half in fact don't go together. I suggested that perhaps we could let the title of the poem help us think about the pairs, and that unlocked their thinking. Feet/wheels set us free by letting us go places; wind/sun set us free with happiness; words/music set us free with the ability to create; voice/touch set us free by making us feel better; caring/not caring set us free by giving us the choice to help. In the second half, each of the statements also set us free to choose, and that last one..."accepting that it's your fault frees you from guilt, and when you fix it, you are truly free."

As for Joyce Sidman's craft moves, they noticed the uniqueness of the spacing and the pairs of single words ("there are no unnecessary words"), and "the way it looks forces you to read it in a certain way."

For myself, I keep going back to those last three lines. Everything that's happened in our country a white liberal woman, what is my fault (or complicity)? How will I help to fix this rift in our country? And oh that last line, which exudes the confidence I don't really have, but into which I must lean.

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

Monday, January 11, 2021

The Reality of Living in Historic Moments

Last Thursday, my students weren't ready to talk about the takeover of the Capitol. So we got on with our day.

Truth be told, I wasn't ready either. I had too many big emotions and I wasn't sure how to keep myself objective. I didn't want to cause more harm. (Plus lots of other head-in-the-sand excuses. I won't list them all.)

But, as a trusted and valued colleague pointed out to me, I hadn't explored exactly WHY my students were reluctant to talk. So on Friday, I asked them, and between their answers and the information I've been gathering, I'm ready. 

It's my responsibility to help my students develop the skills to understand and process whatever Historic Moments come their way in the next weeks or years, and I'm ready.

Here's my plan for now:

I made time for these conversations. I found 15 minutes each day I could label "Reading the World." Now that there's a small chunk of time ready, we can take on these Big Ideas a little at a time. I don't feel pressured to do everything all at once.

Using a three-column chart, we'll explore the variety of Historic Moments in which we've been living (BLM, police brutality, the election, the take-over of the Capitol, pandemic, online learning, etc.), what makes it easier/safe to talk/think about these moments (based on their comments last Friday, a strong classroom community), and what makes it harder/scarier to talk/think about these moments (my family supports the other candidate, personal connections to the moments).

Dig into fact vs. opinion, objective vs. biased.

Look at kid-appropriate sources for current events: 
DOGO news
Time for Kids

Consider this question deeply: Why is history important? (Understanding the response of white police to white rioters vs. white police to peaceful Black protesters, understanding the implications behind the Confederate flag in the halls of the U.S. Capitol, etc.)

Think about: What can we do?

Here are a couple of helpful resources I've found:

Educator's Playbook from University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education

What is your plan moving forward in discussing the reality of living in historic moments?

Saturday, January 09, 2021

Poetry Saturday -- The Week in Poetry

What a week. But also -- what a week in poetry.

On Tuesday, as I drove towards the beginning of the second half of the grand experiment known as Remote Learning Academy, I listened to Pádraig Ó Tuama on Poetry Unbound. I had finished listening to King and the Dragonflies that morning while I exercised and I hadn't chosen my next audiobook. Podcast time! I was a little behind on Poetry Unbound episodes. I chose Ellen Bass -- Bone of My Bones and Flesh of My Flesh. I'll wait while you go listen, if you haven't already.

At the end of his commentary, Ó Tuama says,
"I think this poem invites us to think about the power of language and how language can serve to silence or to eradicate or to erase or deny, or to elevate and acknowledge. And even within those denials, people survive with defiance, and they can raise language to an even better level of acknowledgement and public celebration about what love looks like, especially when that love and that dignity has been denied."
The words in bold/italics are what lifted me up on that drive to school, and as I wrote my welcome back message on Google Classroom, I referred to my students as "my lovelies."

In the comments to that post, AP expressed delight at being referred to as "my lovelies." So on Wednesday, I addressed them as an "Amazing Rainbow of Awesomeness." AP was nearly giddy. Would I do it again on Thursday? she asked. How could I not? On Thursday, they were "my sweet babboos" and on Friday, "Dear Ones." 

Thank you, Pádraig Ó Tuama, for inspiring me to find and create terms of endearment that infuse more expressions of love into my classroom. This is another one of those seeds that I plant, having no way of knowing if/how it will later sprout in these children's lives. But it's a seed worth planting.

Also this week, I started my Poem-A-Week project. After realizing that there are 20 weeks left in the school year, and therefore the opportunity for the close study of (just!) 20 poems, I asked the world (via Twitter) for suggestions of poems I might include. I made my choices, but then promptly chose something for the first week that wasn't part of the original plan. And it turned out perfectly. As we began a new routine of choosing reading goals and logging reading and evidence for our goals in a new and simplified digital reader's notebook (aka BOB, which stands for Book of Books, hat tip to Monica Edinger for the original idea of BOB and Maria Caplin for the digital BOB), and as I reminded myself to START SLOWLY, I chose Lee Bennett Hopkins' "Good Books, Good Times!" 

Each day we read the poem (I encourage them to read along behind their muted microphones) and then do just a little bit of unpacking together (hat tip to Tara Smith for the idea of unpacking poems). I have created a slide show for the poems and for documentation of the unpacking work. Here's the plan: on the first day, I just read the poem (projected so they can read along); day two, after reading the poem, I invite reactions/noticing; day three is meaning/craft; day four is respond/connect; day five (I haven't had one yet) might be a guest reader who will also give their thoughts about the poem. I'm making this a routine, but keeping the poem choice flexible on my end so I can be responsive to my learners and the events of the world. 

In light of 1/6/21, my choice for next week's poem might be " 'Hope' is the thing with feathers" by Emily Dickinson, or "The Peace of Wild Things" by Wendell Berry. (I think "Let America Be America Again" by Langston Hughes is too much for fifth grade, but it's the poem in MY heart right now.) Whatever I choose, it will be a way in for us to talk about the events of 1/6/21. My students weren't ready to talk on Thursday, and yesterday I invited them to give me feedback on why they were hesitant to talk about the news. I got some valuable insight. But that's another post for another day...or week. Stay tuned.

Poetry. Another seed worth planting.

Sorry to be a day late for Poetry Friday. This may be my new normal moving forward. Sylvia has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Poetry for Children

(If you've had trouble with your comments disappearing from our blog, I think it's because the site takes a LONG time to load. That's what happens when you have 15 years worth of content (happy belated blog anniversary to A Year of Reading)! Here's the hack: stop the page from loading before you type/submit your comment.)

Friday, January 01, 2021

Poetry Friday -- Inspired By

The poem of the day today from is Day 29 (2020) by Jamila Woods. Her poem was inspired by Things I Didn't Know I Loved by Nazim Hikmet.

My poem-draft is inspired by both of them.

image via Unsplash

Things I Didn't Know I Loved

it's January 1st 2021
i'm sitting at the kitchen table
my hands are cold
but the space heater warms my feet
i never knew i liked
being warm and cold at the same time
it's like
winter lap swimming
the steamy heat of the natatorium
the shocking cold of the water
the satisfaction of having swum

it's also like sweet and salty
i've always known i liked
sweet and salty
pancakes with bacon
chocolate pretzels
icing on crackers

it's nothing like clutter and order
or is it
i used to hate the clutter in my mother's house
my apartment was clean and empty
i was young
now i'm sitting at the kitchen table
my hands are cold
i'm crowded by books lists mugs 
pencil case glasses case stacks of mail
pens in a cup headphones cat toys and
only the words on this page
have any semblance of order

at least my feet are warm

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2021 (draft)

Ruth has the first Poetry Friday Roundup of 2021 at There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town.