Friday, December 07, 2018

Poetry Friday -- Talking About Race With My Students

We finished reading aloud Can I Touch Your Hair? yesterday. It was not the first book I've read aloud this year that gave us the opportunity to talk about race. Our conversations started with The Cardboard Kingdom, and continued with 24 Hours in Nowhere and Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness (a book which made NPR's list of Best Books of 2018!). I'll write about the whole journey in a separate post. Just remember, we had had growing and ongoing conversations about race before we got to this book. Also, a note about the demographics of my classroom. Along with myself, four of my twenty-six students are white. The rest of the class is Middle Eastern, Latinx, African, African American, or Chinese. This is just to say that your conversations would certainly be very different than those in our classroom. When I write that other post about our journey in talking about race, I'll dig into the dynamics of teacher/student race.

Can I Touch Your Hair: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship. The power of this book lies within each word of the title.

Poems. There will be small packages of text that will allow the reader to stop, ponder, and discuss.

Race. Get ready, because you are going to explore some hard topics here.

Mistakes. If you're going to talk about race, you're bound to make mistakes. But making honest mistakes is a far better path than averting our eyes and not talking about it at all. (If you haven't read So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, I highly recommend it.) When you know better, you can do better the next time.

Friendship. The book's characters, Irene and Charles, begin by only seeing each other skin deep. As they get to know each other, they find they have so many more important things in common that race (and even gender) becomes insignificant. What a powerful message for children (adults, too!!) to hear over and over again. It's the danger of a single story. If we're going to move forward as a human race, we've got to stop seeing each other as just this or that. We have to get to know each other as complicated, diverse, interesting individuals!

As I said, the pairs of poems are the perfect amount of text to read, then pause for conversation. As we read along, we talked about the topics that came up -- shoes, hair, church. But when one of the students prefaced his comment with, "In movies they make the black people the athletes," I had the perfect way to move the conversation to a safer place by talking about the stereotypes that are perpetuated by the media. It's not that black people ARE the athletes, it's that "they make" the black people the athletes. Everyone had LOTS to say about stereotypes around race, gender, and age! We ended that rich conversation by sharing times when we "broke" a stereotype.

I highly recommend reading this book with children. I highly recommend making this book one part of an ongoing conversation about race.

Thank you to all who signed up to be Poetry Friday roundup hosts in January-June 2019. We filled the schedule in under one week!

Liz has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Elizabeth Steinglass.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Poetry Friday -- Rivalry

I don't give two hoots about college football, but I've endured decades of silliness spawned by this rivalry. Here's my take on the whole shebang:

football rivalry
the streets are empty
non-fans win the day

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

Carol has the roundup this week at Carol's Corner. The call for January-June Roundup Hosts 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 January and June 2019, 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:

4    Sylvia at Poetry for Children
11  Kat at Kathryn Apel
18  Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect
25  Tara at Going to Walden

1    Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference
8    Laura at Writing the World for Kids
15  Jone at Check it Out
22  Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge

1    Linda at TeacherDance
8    Catherine at Reading to the Core
15  Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe
22  Rebecca at Sloth Reads
29  Carol at Carol's Corner

5     Karen at Karen Edmisten*
12   Irene at Live Your Poem
19  Amy at The Poem Farm
26  Carol at Beyond LiteracyLink

3    Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup
10  Liz at Elizabeth Steinglass
17  Michelle at Michelle Kogan
24  Dani at Doing the Work That Matters
31  Mary Lee at A Year of Reading

7    Margaret at Reflections on the Teche
14  Laura at Laura Shovan
21  Linda at A Word Edgewise
28  Buffy at Buffy's Blog

Wednesday, November 28, 2018


Photo via Unsplash
Every two weeks we change desks. This limits disorganization to a short cycle, and for all the good it does (I currently have no voice), every two weeks we clean all the surfaces in the room with antibacterial wipes. I "assign" seats with a random pull of sticks, so it moves the students around the room and leaves the responsibility for behavior with them.

Last year, we started a new addition to this routine. Next to the ceiling on my big bulletin board, I started the year with a 12x18 paper that said, "Be..." and we added a word beside it on another 12x18 paper that would tell what we would be. We started the year agreeing to be "awesome," and we changed the word at random intervals until late in the year when I tied it to the desk change.

Now, in addition to a new spot every two weeks, we have a new way to be.

This week, Diana chose FLEXIBLE. It seems like a message from the universe. Without a voice, not only have I had to be more flexible in what I teach and how I teach it, but the flexibility of our classroom community has been tested...and has proven to be solid enough to carry us through.

This week, we are looking for structures (chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution, etc.) in informational texts. Rather than whisper the science lesson I had planned, we had a TKSS (The Kid Should See This) Film Festival, watching videos and identifying the overall structure of each video, as well as the use of multiple structures within a video.


Thursday, November 22, 2018

Poetry Friday

Rise and Fall

Fall takes her leave,
pelts down grainy snow,
swirls the last of the leaves
with darkness and cold.

Rising at the back of the warm stove:
leavened dough.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

While I was waiting for my turn at the dentist yesterday, the words leave, leaves, and leavening came to me. What you see here is about draft number seven, written in the waiting room, in my head as I washed dishes from yesterday's first batch of candy, and finished now as the dough for cinnamon rolls is rising.

It's good to be writing (and blogging) again.

I'm planning to write going to write a haiku-a-day in December, as I have for the past several years. Catherine (at Reading to the Core) suggested a shift from #HaikuForHealing to #HaikuForHope. I like that. I also like #HaikuForChange. Just plain #haiku seems like a popular hashtag as well, along with #amwriting.

Next week, watch for the Call for Roundup Hosts (January-June 2019 edition).

Last, but not least -- Happy Thanksgiving! I am thankful for each of you and for this community of writers/poets/teachers/readers.

Irene has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Live Your Poem.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Celebrating the Winners of the 2019 Charlotte Huck Award for Excellence in Children's Literature

The Charlotte Huck Award® was established in 2014 to promote and recognize excellence in the writing of fiction for children. In particular, the award recognizes fiction that has the potential for transforming children’s lives by inviting compassion, imagination, and wonder.


From the ashes of Victorian London emerge a girl, her Golem, and the sparks of child labor reform.


Discomfort precedes understanding. Understanding precedes change.

Can Lucy be her father’s missing arm? Recovery, resilience, and the ripple effects of PTSD.

Humanity comes in many colors. Can you see me?

Familia, the glue that keeps the heart and mind together.

When war invades the hearts of adults, it is the children who make their refugee classmates feel welcome.


Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Vision of an Extraordinary Educator

Raising Student Voice: Speaking Out for Equity and Justice

“Our students’ voices matter. Their voices matter in our schools, our communities, and beyond. As teachers, we want our students to discover their own voices. We want them to know the power of their voices. We want them to know the power of others’ voices, and we want them to know the power of their collective voices. Most important, we want to help them discover how their voices might impact our world and to be empowered to use their voices to speak out for equity and justice.

“Stories can help our students discover and clarify their own voices. Stories can help us to know our world better. Stories can help us to understand our world and the people in it. Authors, teachers, and librarians work to ensure that every child has books, digital texts, and other media in which they see themselves. They also work so that students have books that can help them understand others. Our students deserve stories that impact who they are and who they can become. They deserve stories that help them understand people and situations that are different from their own. They deserve stories that help them build confidence and empathy. They deserve books that validate their world as well as books that challenge their views. And most important, they deserve to tell their own stories.

“When we meet in Houston, Texas, in November 2018, it is my hope that we will focus on the ways literacy creates change and the ways in which our students can raise their voices to impact their communities. NCTE members create spaces for students to sound their voices. In 2018, we’ll come together in Houston to celebrate our students’ voices and the impact they make in the world.”

--Program Chair Franki Sibberson

Some of the featured speakers who will be at #NCTE18:

More convention information here.

The blog's been quiet this fall, but when you see this convention that Franki's been planning, you will understand why she's gone missing. It's so...Franki! The focus on student voice, the importance of equity and justice, the diversity of the featured speakers, the innovation of the "Build Your Stack" sessions. 

Me? A bit of a rocky start to the school year and 300+ books read for the Huck Award since the middle of August.

We're both eager to be back. But first we're going to soak in the words of these (and other) amazing speakers, have joyous reunions with friends we only see once or twice a year, and do work that we love almost as much as the work we do in our classrooms.

Please join me in celebrating an extraordinary educator, my co-blogger and friend, Franki Sibberson, who will assume the presidency of the National Council of Teachers of English at the 2018 NCTE Annual Convention. A fifth grade classroom teacher with the vision, passion, and energy to lead at the national level. 

Friday, October 19, 2018

Poetry Friday -- Ode to Parent Conferences

Unsplash photo via Chandler Cruttenden

Ode to Parent Conferences

Conferences, you exhaust me.
I spend hours getting ready for you,
gathering work samples,
reviewing notes,
finding the positives amongst the goals to work on.

Conferences, you feed me.
The hours I spend talking with families,
sharing stories,
comparing notes...
you help me find more than enough positives to carry on.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

Brenda has the Poetry Friday roundup at Friendly Fairy Tales.

Friday, October 12, 2018

Poetry Friday -- Autumn Cadenza

Unsplash photo by NordWood Themes

Autumn Cadenza

Oak leaves drift down, a brown rustle.
Crickets are hushed.
Only sound --
plop --
acorns bonk roof.
Winter is here
when they

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

This poem is a Zeno, a form invented by J. Patrick Lewis. It has 10 lines with a syllable count that goes 8, 4, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1. The single syllable words rhyme.

I've seen several Zenos in the Poetry Friday Roundup recently, and I thought I'd give it a try. I was inspired by the acorns falling, and I found my rhyming words first. The temperature dropped from the 80s to a morning temperature today in the 40s. On my early morning walk today, the silence was a bit shocking -- no crickets! I'm sure we'll have some more warm weather, but winter has served notice -- she's on her way!

Laura Purdie Salas has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at Writing the World for Kids.

Thursday, October 04, 2018

Poetry Friday -- The Poetry of US (mine)

Click to enlarge 

Click to enlarge

I'm tickled pink and proud as punch! I also can't wait to dig into the book and read all the poems...but the boxes of books for the Charlotte Huck Award keep coming and coming, so my reading life will not be my own until after NCTE! I'll try to make it around to the roundup this week, but I can't make any promises. :-(

Speaking of the roundup, Tabatha is hosting at The Opposite of Indifference.