Wednesday, June 20, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, June 16, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 15, 2018

Poetry Friday -- Fireflies

If You Catch a Firefly
by Lillian Moore

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Stone Girl's Story

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Poetry Friday -- High Plains Wind

Unsplash photo via Matthieu Joannon

High Plains Wind
     (after Wind by James Arthur)

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

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

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

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

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

The Luxury of Inefficiency

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

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

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

Monday, June 04, 2018

Reading More Nonfiction

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

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

Snowy Owl Invasion! by Sandra Markle

Magic Trash by J.h. Shapiro

The People Shall Continue by Simon Ortiz

The Water Walker by Joanne Robertson

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

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Poetry Friday -- The Final Golden Shovel

Whether you believe you can or believe you can’t, you’re right. ~Henry Ford


You are going to fail, whether
you want to or not, in big and small ways. You
can spend your time worrying about that, or you can believe
that failure is valuable. It’s the way we learn. You
are in charge of how you think about your mistakes. You can
embrace them, trying to fail better every day, or
you can wallow in your catastrophes. What you believe
will determine how well you
live. I can’t
predict your future, but I have a good feeling that you’re
going to be more than all right.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

In April, I wrote a golden shovel for each of my students, using a quote chosen by each student as the striking line. Only one poem was missing from the collection: mine. Here it is. Number 31. It is the blessing I bestowed upon the Hahn Squad as I sent them out into the world and off to middle school. 

Buffy has the Poetry Friday Roundup for today at Buffy's Blog.

And it's time to gather Roundup hosts for July - December. That post is here.

Poetry Friday -- Call for Roundup Hosts

It's that time again. Six months have passed since last we queued up to host the Poetry Friday roundups.

If you'd like to host a roundup between July and December 2018, leave your choice(s) of date(s) in the comments. I'll update regularly to make it easier to see which dates have been claimed.

What is the Poetry Friday roundup? A gathering of links to posts featuring original or shared poems, or reviews of poetry books. A carnival of poetry posts. Here is an explanation that Rene LaTulippe shared on her blog, No Water River, and here is an article Susan Thomsen wrote for the Poetry Foundation.

Who can do the Poetry Friday roundup? Anyone who is willing to gather the links in some way, shape or form (Mr. Linky, "old school" in the comments-->annotated in the post, or ???) on the Friday of your choice. If you are new to the Poetry Friday community, jump right in, but perhaps choose a date later on so that we can spend some time getting to know each other.

How do you do a Poetry Friday roundup? If you're not sure, stick around for a couple of weeks and watch...and learn! One thing we're finding out is that folks who schedule their posts, or who live in a different time zone than you, appreciate it when the roundup post goes live sometime on Thursday.

How do I get the code for the PF Roundup Schedule for the sidebar of my blog? You can grab the list from the sidebar here at A Year of Reading, or I'd be happy to send it to you if you leave me your email address. You can always find the schedule on the Kidlitosphere Central webpage.

Why would I do a Poetry Friday Roundup? Community, community, community. It's like hosting a poetry party on your blog!

And now for the where and when:

6    Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
13  Sylvia at Poetry for Children
20  Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
27  Catherine at Reading to the Core

3    Mary Lee at A Year of Reading
10  Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone
17  Christy at Wondering and Wandering
24  Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
31  Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge

7    Carol V. at Beyond LiteracyLink
14  Amy at The Poem Farm
21  Erin at The Water's Edge
28  Jone at Deowriter

5    Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
12  Laura at Writing the World for Kids
19  Kimberly at Kimberly Hutmacher Writes
26  Kay at A Journey Through the Pages

2    Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup
9    Michelle at Today's Little Ditty
16  Linda B. at TeacherDance
23  Irene at Live Your Poem
30  Carol W. at Carol's Corner

7    Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass
14  Laura S. at Laura Shovan
21  Buffy at Buffy's Blog
28  Donna at Mainely Write

Saturday, May 26, 2018

5th Grade Celebration---Words to Say Goodbye

This is the first time I have taught 5th grade in a while.  I love this age and I had an amazing year with an amazing group of kids. But I did forget about the emotions that the end of the year brings out when kids are finishing up at an elementary school. Being new to the school I experienced many of the 5th grade send off traditions for the first time along with my kids.It is a week filled with so many emotions for kids, parents, and teachers. As a teacher, you can see the impact a school has on a child and a family when they are saying goodbye across several days.  We had lots of celebrations this week and lots of ways for students to say goodbye and start their next journey.  Our 5th graders are clapped out at the end of the day by the entire school. Watching children spot teachers and staff members from the past and hugging that person goodbye says so much.

I am not sure there is ever enough time to say goodbye at the end of a school year. I will so miss this incredible group of 5th graders. A lot.

Part of our last day is a moving up ceremony with students and families.  Teachers give a short talk before passing out certificates and saying goodbye.  It was harder to do than I thought.  Although giving commencement speeches is not a skill I have acquired,  the process of writing it was a great thing for me to do--a way to say goodbye to my students in a way that helped me reflect on our year and my hopes for them--thinking about what really matters most in a year. I thought I'd share it here on the blog since so much (of course) is about books and literacy. Trust me when I say that it will read better than it was actually delivered...

Hi 5th Graders! Well, we’ve had a fabulous year. I can’t tell you how lucky I feel to have spent the year with all of you—It’s been fun to watch you grow and make friends and think and learn.

When I was thinking about what to say today, I kept coming back to our time in read aloud. Read aloud was a favorite time of the day for many of us. I loved it because there is nothing like sharing a story with friends. I know each of us had different favorites and each of us connected with different characters, but I think each of us found a few books that will stay with us. I hope that someday when you are all grown up, you’ll remember some of these stories and characters who became part of our classroom community with a smile.

So I decided to celebrate this day by sending you off with 6 wishes—one from each of the read alouds we shared this year. 6 hopes from the books and characters who taught us so much.

Here goes—

I hope that like Rip and Red in A Whole New Ballgame, you find friends who bring out the best in you.

I hope that like Red in Wishtree you discover that “It is a great gift indeed to love who you are.”

I hope that you find many opportunities in your life to be kinder than is necessary. Because as Mr. Tushman in Wonder told us, “ It's not enough to be kind. One should be kinder than needed.”

I hope like Isabel in Refugee that the song that is your journey is a good one.

I hope that like Aref in Turtle of Oman that you have as long as you need to pack that metaphorical suitcase whenever you are saying goodbye to something and getting ready for a new beginning.

And I hope that like Luna and Xan in The Girl Who Drank the Moon you choose love and hope over power and sorrow.

And of course, I hope that you continue to find books and stories that matter to you.

Most of you are eleven or will be eleven soon or just finished being 11 so I wanted to end with a quote from the Girl Who Drank the Moon about this amazing age that you are:

“It was a fine thing indeed, Luna thought, being eleven. She loved the symmetry of it, and the lack of symmetry. Eleven was a number that was visually even, but functionally not - it looked one way and behaved in quite another. Just like most eleven-year-olds, or so she assumed. She was eleven. She was both even and odd. She was ready to be many things at once—child, grown-up, poet, engineer, botanist, dragon. The list went on.”

So 5th graders, you are ready to be any and all of the things you want to be. You are ready to do anything you want to do. Scottish Corners will miss you. I will miss you. But I know you will continue to make your mark.