Friday, January 13, 2017

Poetry Friday -- Community

Last week, I had something to share, but no time to read through the roundup and be a part of the community.

This week, I am longing for our community, and planning to snuggle up with laptop and hot tea tomorrow morning to rejuvenate my soul with your postings...but I have nothing to say.

Which is not exactly true, because for some reason, typing the word COMMUNITY this morning makes me tear up and sniffle. I belong here in a way that I don't belong in any other facet of my life. I am thankful for this community.

I searched through my poems and nothing came up for "community," so I tried "together" and got a poem that says much about community. It is from Laura Shovan's Found Object Poem Project last February, and is a good reminder to self that while I can't/won't stop writing #haikuforhealing, I need to get back to writing other poetry as well. Are there events or challenges going on/coming up that I can join to jumpstart my poembrain?

Photo by Laura Shovan


The mysteries of the world are myriad.
Sometimes they look like little balls of butter.
Sometimes they clump together in the shape of South America.

The mysteries of the world puzzle us.
They make us take our glasses off and look so close
we dust our noses with them.

The mysteries of the world hold hidden ripeness.
Each might contain a new life,
or the possibility to change the weather patterns of the entire world.

The mysteries of the world cast shadows.
Hovering above, they block the sun
and send a chill through us as they pass over.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

The Poetry Friday Roundup this week is hosted by Keri at Keri Recommends.  She sent me the most wonderful "suitable for framing" poem postcard! Mine will go out this weekend, so if your mailbox has been bad. Here they come!

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Two Great Books for Writing Workshop

by Maggie Tokuda-Hall
illustrated by Benji Davies
Candlewick Press, 2016

"Every story starts the same way...with nothing."

Maggie Tokuda-Hall takes us through the process of starting with nothing, then finding our characters (not a little girl, not a OCTOPUS!) and figuring out what our character wants and how they're going to have to work to get it.

Just like in the stories we'll write and tell, things don't exactly go the way the octopus plans, even when it has help. "So the octopus plays the ukulele, because music is good for the heart," and things start to change. 

When the reader is on the brink of being given a satisfactory ending, Tokuda-Hall leaves it up to the reader to decide what happens, and she reminds us, "When one story ends, it's just making room for another story to begin." 

The illustrations in this book go with and go beyond the written text in wonderfully priceless ways. You really have to see it for yourself to get a sense of its awesomeness! I can't wait to use this book to launch writing workshop next fall.

by Mac Barnett
illustrated by Adam Rex
Disney*Hyperion, 2016

This book is not just about the process of writing a story, it gives the reader insight into the steps a story or manuscript goes through in order to become a book. Early in the book is my favorite part, in which we learn about the role of editors: "An editor tells you what parts of your story are good and what parts you need to fix. She is like a teacher, only she works in a skyscraper and is always eating fancy lunches."

This book pairs perfectly with Also an Octopus in the way the illustrations work with (and go way way beyond) the text, making this book also all kinds of awesome. You've read books by Mac Barnett and Adam Rex, haven't you? Then you know why I'm not even going to try to describe and explain the elaborate silliness that ensues as the book in the story goes through the publication process. There is a tiger all the way through the book (including tiger-fur end papers), and there are astronauts. Also dogs playing poker. 

The best part is the end, "Because a book can have words and pictures and paper and tigers, but a book still isn't a book, not really, until it has a reader."

Another fabulous book you will want for your writers, your writing workshop, AND your readers!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

SLTR-Read Aloud-Written Response

This is one of a series of blog posts that continue the conversation around Still Learning to Read--teaching reading to students in grades 3-6.  This series will run on the blog on Tuesdays starting in August 2016 and continue through the school year.

We do a lot of writing during our read alouds.  Kids have the option of how they want to track their thinking during reading. The students are VERY comfortable using a variety of tools to annotate their reading--to jot thinking down as they read. And they've grown in the ways they think about a text as they read. This writing has had a big impact on their comprehension. At this point in the year, I want to see what kids can do in terms of responding to text after reading/thinking.   So for this read aloud (Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins), we are trying something new.  Kids are still using their notebook to stop and jot to track their thinking while we read. But each day,  we are going to end read aloud with time to think about their reading AFTER our read aloud time is over. I want them to have a way to summarize thinking in a more formal way, but nothing that is cumbersome.  Read aloud is a happy time in our room and writing during read aloud is very low-stress and kids love to track thinking. 

I wanted this to be simple for the kids and for me. I didn't want it to be intimidating and I wanted it to be easily accessible--to kids and to me. I want to be able to look at these quickly to get a sense of where individual students and the class as a whole is.

So, we are using the large index cards (4X6).  Kids are folding them in 1/2 and using 1/2 of a card each day that we read.  The cards are going to be put together on a ring and hung on a hook. (We have 4 different color hooks so kids know where theirs belong. With 6 on a hook,  it shouldn't take time to grab these/distribute at the end of read aloud.

A student uses her notes during reading to quickly respond at the end of the day's reading.

The cards hanging ready for the next day.

I don't want this to be a big thing but I do want to have kids write at the end of read aloud every day for a few reasons:

  • It will give me a daily view into their thinking. I take a look at their writing often but it is often hard to see it all. These cards will be easy to look at quickly each day.
  • It will help me assess their responses to reading to better see what they are doing as writers about reading.
  • It will give us lots of ways to think about what makes a strong reading response.  Even though these are short, I'll be able to use some as mentors for thinking that is written in a way that is thoughtful and well beyond a summary of what was read.
  • We will be able to talk off of a few when we start read aloud each day.  
  • Kids will be able to reflect on their own responses and possibly set future goals because they will all be together and easy to analyze.
I'm not quite sure where this will go but I think it is worth doing for one read aloud--for my own information and for kids to have a record of their end-of-reading thinking across a read aloud. We'll see what happens!

(Our new edition of Still Learning to Read was released in August!  You can order it online at StenhouseYou can follow the conversation using the hashtag #SLTRead.)

Monday, January 09, 2017

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday!  Here are some recent books I've read that I thought were worth sharing. For the roundup, visit Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers!

I have had Commonwealth by Ann Patchett on my stack since it was published. Ann Patchett is one of my favorite authors (Bel Canto, one of my favorite books of all time). I loved this book. What is amazing to me is that all of her books seem so different at the beginning but then as you keep reading, they are all about relationships and family. I had a little bit of trouble getting into this one but am so glad I stuck with it because I LOVED it.

I am still not a huge graphic novel reader--they are still a bit of a challengeSnow White: A Graphic Novel by Matt Phelan is a brilliant book. Really, how someone takes a classic story and retells it in such a unique way is fascinating to me. I think upper elementary and middle school kids will love this one. So glad that I read it!
for me.

I always love to find a biography about a new-to-me person who made a he difference in the world. Tiny Stitches: The Life of Medical Pioneer Viven Thomas is such an interesting story about his work as a research assistant and the huge impact he had on children's heart surgery.  Such important work and Thomas was rarely recognized for his contributions.

Chester and Gus by Cammie McGovern will be released in April of 2017.
I picked up an ARC at NCTE and one of my 3rd graders devoured it when I got back. She HIGHLY recommended it so I read it over break.  This story is told from Chester's perspective. Chester is a service dog (almost certified) that is adopted by Gus's family. Gus has autism and his parents hope the dog will help him. This is a great story and the dog is one I loved from the beginning. This is perfect for middle grade readers.

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Poetry Friday -- Looking for OLW

by W.D. Snodgrass

What was I looking for today?
All that poking under the rugs,
Peering under the lamps and chairs,
Or going from room to room that way,
Forever up and down the stairs
Like someone stupid with sleep or drugs.

Everywhere I was, was wrong.
I started turning the drawers out, then
I was staring in at the icebox door
Wondering if I’d been there long
Wondering what I was looking for.
Later on, I think I went back again.

Where did the rest of the time go?
Was I down cellar? I can’t recall
Finding the light switch, or the last
Place I’ve had it, or how I’d know
I didn’t look at it and go past.
Or whether it’s what I want, at all.

That's exactly what it felt like to look for my One Little Word for 2017. Last year's word was a dud -- BEND. It had a great image, but it didn't inform my life at all in 2016. 2015's word was NOTICE, which was not bad, but severely underutilized. 2014's word, BREATHE, has carried me through many days for the past three years. It's my go-to word when I'm feeling stressed...which feels like most of the time these days.

I restarted my morning exercise routine this week, and received a stern warning from the universe that I am of an age where I simply cannot take a couple of months off without severe repercussions. Oh, man, am I sore! How could I lose so much ground in such a short period of time?

As I work to regain my physical strength, I am also striving to be stronger in my beliefs and actions. And so, my word has found me through these two efforts: this year, I vow to be STRONG.

Linda has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at TeacherDance.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Still Learning to Read: Choosing Our Next Read Aloud

This is one of a series of blog posts that continue the conversation around Still Learning to Read--teaching reading to students in grades 3-6.  This series will run on the blog on Tuesdays starting in August 2016 and continue through the school year.

Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins

January in third grade is such an interesting time. Students come into third grade having just finished 2nd grade. They are young children. Primary children. They aren't much older in January but they seem to grow up a lot during this first half of third grade and they start seeing things a bit differently. I know this happens in every grade but I find it to be the most obvious in 3rd grade as kids move between the primary and intermediate grades.

Up until January, I work hard to choose read alouds that focus on plot, help students build strategies for understanding longer books and holding onto a story over time. I want them to find series they love and to learn to talk and write about their reading. In January, I know they are ready for something a little bit different--something a bit more complex--something that will move the conversation a bit.

So this week, we'll start the new year with Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins. This is one of my favorite new books published in 2015. (It was an NCTE Charlotte Huck Honor book last year and has received several other honer and awards.) I read this book aloud last year and it was definitely an important book for our class and a favorite for many students. This book is perfect as a read aloud for 3rd and 4th graders . It is a plot that they can carry over the course of the book. The character is one they will come to know and understand. We will watch the character change over the course of the book. The book also introduces readers to an issue they may not know much about. The story is set in the Sunderbans and thinking about a setting which they are unfamiliar will start lots of conversations. This book has a plot that young readers will love and it also has layers of depth and invitations to think about a variety of issues in our world. And the book does so in a way that is accessible and appropriate for 3rd graders.

In a school year, we only have so much time for read aloud. We can read aloud a book every 3-4 weeks so I now I have to be very picky about the books I choose to read aloud. I want them to be books that will be loved by most of the students, that will grow conversations and understanding of the world, that will expand comprehension strategies in a comfortable environment and that will continue to grow our community. I am excited to see where the conversation goes with this read aloud!

(Our new edition of Still Learning to Read was released in August!  You can order it online at StenhouseYou can follow the conversation using the hashtag #SLTRead.)

Monday, January 02, 2017

3 New Series Books!

There are some great new series books out in late 2016 or early 2017.  These are a few I recently discovered!

The Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey

I was looking forward to the new series The Bad Guys and was able to read the first book over winter break. What a fun book!  A few bad guys, led by The Big Bad Wolf decide they want to change their reputations and become Good Guys.  In this first story, we meet the characters and follow them as they rescue dogs from the local dog shelter.  The humor in this book is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.  It is a clever concept with pretty funny lines throughout.  There is a lot of visual support so this will be a good series for transitional readers and beyond. The second book in the series is due out in February!

King and Kayla and the Case of the Missing Dog Treats by Dori Hillestad Butler
I was happy to see that the author of The Haunted Library has a new book/series out. My 3rd graders are HUGE fans of The Haunted Library series.  King and Kayla is an early mystery series--great for readers new to chapter books.  I think mysteries are hard for young readers but this one is perfect. A perfect mystery (missing dog treats), some clues and great visual supports.
A Boy Called Bat by Elana Arnold is more of a middle grade novel that is set to become a series according to a blog post I read recently.  The main character in this series is Bixby Alexander Tam (BAT). In this story, BAT's mother, a veterinarian, brings home a baby skunk. They need to take care of it until the shelter can keep him and release him back into the wild.  But BAT wants to keep the skunk as a pet.  BAT is a great new character.  He is on the autism spectrum which makes this series unique. It is a great series and I think a lot of kids will love this one. Looking forward to the next in the series already!


Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy Birthday to Us!

A Year of Reading is celebrating its 11th Birthday today!  We had no idea how many amazing people we would meet and how much we would learn when we started this blog. Thank you all! And Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Poetry Friday -- One Last Word

One Last Word: Wisdom from the Harlem Renaissance
by Nicki Grimes
Bloomsbury, January 3, 2017
review copy provided (thankyouthankyouthankyou) by the publisher

There is so much to love about this book!

First of all, it is a tribute to the Harlem Renaissance poets. A brief history of the movement begins the book, and there are short biographies of each of the featured poets in the end matter.  The importance of this literary movement, in light of current events, should be one we remember and study and celebrate. 
"These literary lights, writing at a time when the lynching of black men filled the news, were more than familiar with racial profiling, racial violence, and every variety of injustice imaginable. Yet they ascended to great heights in spite of it all...Above all, they understood how to make the most of their freedom, despite living in a nation that had not then, and has not yet, fully realized its promise of freedom and justice for all." --Nikki Grimes, in the forward "The Harlem Renaissance"
Also of note are the gorgeous illustrations. Fifteen illustrators contributed to make this book as vibrant in pictures as it is in the words. Short biographies of the artists in the end matter highlight the talents of these illustrators.

Far and away the most amazing thing about this book is the unique (and challenging!) form in which Nikki Grimes writes her poems of tribute -- the "Golden Shovel." For each of Grimes' poems, she takes a line (or sometimes the whole poem) and uses each of the words as the last word in her poem. Hence, the title of the book.

For example, the line "A thousand hearts echo the sigh" from Clara Ann Thompson's poem, "The Minor Key" is followed by this poem by Nikki Grimes:

by Nikki Grimes

Anger is a hard itch to scratch; laughter a
secret tickle we let out in a thousand
sneezes, sometimes to camouflage cracked hearts;
love, envy, fear--we all hear their echo.
Peel us to the core, we're indistinguishable. Press the
solar plexus of any, you'll hear the selfsame sigh.

I gave this form a try, using the poem "Nothing Gold Can Stay" by Robert Frost. I liked adding to a poem of submission an element of strength and endurance. 

by Robert Frost

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf’s a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay.

by Mary Lee Hahn

We'll begin again from scratch, with nothing.
There is not enough gold
in all the coffers of the world that can
stop us. We are here to stay.

Buffy has the Christmas Eve Eve edition of the Poetry Friday roundup at Buffy's Blog. Happy Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanza to you!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

The Importance of History

by Jonah Winter, illustrated by Terry Widener

This is the story of a boy who has been born into slavery, but whose father is also his master. His mother tells him that his father is an important man and that someday he will know just how important. 

Eventually, the boy's father keeps his promise and frees the boy and his siblings, but not his mother. She walks away from the plantation and is not pursued. 

The boy's siblings change their names and, passing for white, take on new identities. James keeps his place in the African American community as a well-respected carpenter.

James has a few items that belonged to his father, including an inkwell. He wonders if his father, Thomas Jefferson, used ink from that inkwell to write the Declaration of Independence, or if he used it to record the names of his slaves on his lists of property.

by Ashley Bryan

In the author's note of Freedom Over Me, we learn that Ashley Bryan acquired documents of slavery, including the plantation estate inventory listing the eleven slaves in this book.

Pairs of free verse poems tell about the slaves' lives and work in one, and about their true names, their dreams, hopes and talents in the other.

This important book will help readers understand that there is not one story of Slave or of Slavery. Each and every enslaved person was a unique human being, priceless in ways that no one else could ever own.

These two books can help lay a foundation for a study of the Civil Rights Movement and the importance of holding our nation accountable for the freedoms set forth in our Constitution.