Friday, January 30, 2015

Poetry Friday -- The Best of It

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Heinz-Eberhard Boden

The Best of It 

by Kay Ryan

However carved up
or pared down we get,
we keep on making
the best of it as though
it doesn't matter that
our acre's down to
a square foot.

My acre is feeling like it's down to more like a square inch, but I'm making the best of it.

Paul has the Poetry Friday roundup at These 4 Corners.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

NCTE Book Awards

NCTE announced its book awards this week.  I love both of the lists.  I've always loved the Orbis Pictus Award. I've watched it for years and have discovered so many amazing nonfiction books through this award and list each year. This year, I had read many books on the award list, but have several that I'll add to my TBR stack.  

This year, I was part of the Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children committee. It is an honor to be part of this committee during its first years. I never had the opportunity to study under Charlotte Huck at Ohio State but I feel that I learned from her through her writing and through others I knew who knew her. What a legacy! And I so love the premise of the new Charlotte Huck Award.  From the NCTE website, "The award commemorates the work of educator Charlotte Huck and her focus on the importance of bringing books and children together in significant ways. " It goes on to discuss the criteria--below is the first bullet.
  • Fiction for children that has the potential to transform children’s lives
    • Fiction that invites compassion, imagination, and wonder
    • Fiction that connects children to their own humanity and offers them a rich experience with the power to influence their lives
    • Fiction that stretches children’s thinking, feelings, and imagination
Isn't this what children's literature is all about? Isn't this what matters?

The experience I had on the committee, learning from so many amazing people, thinking about this award was incredible. Definitely a great way to start 2015. If you have not seen the award list, you can find it here.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I Am Jackie Robinson by Brad Meltzer

I'm so glad I decided to participate in the Nonfiction Picture Book Challenge hosted at Kidlit Frenzy.  It is a great reminder to keep up with my nonfiction reading in 2015!

The newish picture book biography series, "Ordinary People Change the World" by Brad Meltzer's a perfect nonfiction series for elementary students.  We have the first few books in our classroom and I've noticed that several kids are picking them up on their own to read during independent reading time.  They are great stories and are very accessible to young children.

These books look simpler than they are.  I read the newest title, I Am Jackie Robinson this weekend and realized how packed the book is.  The focus of the story and the theme of all of the books is one about heroes.  So the story focuses on the things Jackie Robinson did to change the world.  The stories is an engaging one for kids and the illustrations make them books that kids will pick up even without our nudging.

From a nonfiction reading standpoint, I plan to use these books to teach lots of mini lessons.  The page layouts, the ways the talking bubbles share details that go beyond the main text, the timeline at the end of the book, and other features all make these books a new favorite nonfiction series for me.

I love this new edition and am looking forward to the next book in the series--I Am Lucille Ball coming in July.

This short clip tells a bit more about the series:

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

George O'Connor Blog Tour

Ares: Bringer of War
by George O'Connor
First Second, January 27, 2015
review copy provided by the publisher

"The stories that make up the body of Greek myths are what remain of their culture’s deeply held beliefs. The stories of Zeus and his family are more than just entertaining yarns about giants who slice open the sky and monsters so fearsome their gaze can turn a person to stone. They were, and are, an explanation of the world that that ancient culture’s people saw around them: a lightning storm could only be the King of Gods hurling his thunderbolt; a volcano could only be the escaped vapors of an entombed Titan. 
Not many people today believe in the gods of Ancient Greece. But their stories are still around, and they live on in all of our memories." George O'Connor (from his website, The Olympians).
The volumes in George O'Connor's Olympians series (Zeus, Athena, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Aphrodite) do so much more than simply retell a story from Greek mythology. They also feature a detailed family tree at the beginning of the book. At the end are extensive G(r)eek notes that cite page and panel numbers and are a combination of author commentary, historical context, and vocabulary and classical art connections. After that, there are resources for the reader who wants to know even more.

The whole premise of Ares is pretty amazing -- in it, O'Connor retells the Illiad with a focus on the gods' role in the Trojan War. In a 66-page graphic novel. For kids.


Everything you know about Ares is shown to be true in this book -- when it comes to warmongering, he is the opposite side of the coin from Athena, who is the disciplined strategist of war. Ares represents the violent, crazed, bloodthirsty side of war. But in this book, we also see that he is a father with at least a teeny tiny soft spot in his heart.

One of my favorite spreads in the book is p. 12-13. It takes you by surprise as a reader, because the top half of both pages is one large panel. It shows the gods gathered around a sort of table that is the battlefield in the mortal world. The panels below the large top panel read left to right as usual, but all the way across both pages. When you turn the page, the story continues in the usual page-by-page format until the climax on p. 52-53 when the gods can't stand it anymore and they go down to the mortal world to battle it out "god-on-god" (p. 73 in the G(r)eek Notes) All of this is to say that besides being a master of mythology and storytelling, George O'Connor is an amazing graphic artist.

I recommend this book for students in grades 4 and up...all the way up to adults who would like a refresher course on mythology and a peek into some of the best graphic novels around.

You can follow George O'Connor on twitter @GeorgetheMighty.


Monday, January 26th
Kid Lit Frenzy

Tuesday, January 27th – A Year of Reading -- You Are Here!

Wednesday, January 28th
Great Kid Books

Thursday, January 29
Charlotte’s Library

Friday, January 30
Graphic Novel Resources

Saturday, January 3
Librarian’s Quest

Sunday, February 1
Musings of a Librarian

Monday, February 2
The Graphic Novelologist

Tuesday, February 3
Supernatural Snark

Wednesday, February 4
Panel Patter

Thursday, February 5
Finding Wonderland

Friday, February 6
The Book Rat

Saturday, February 7
Teen Lit Rocks

Sunday, February 8
The Brain Lair

Monday, February 9
Haunting Orchid

Tuesday, February 10
Alice Marvels

Monday, January 26, 2015

Math Monday -- Catchphrases

I'm participating in Math Monday with Mandy Robek at Enjoy and Embrace Learning.

You might think 


is a trendy catchphrase 
(syn: slogan, motto, catchword, buzzword, mantra)
 that you can afford to ignore because it will eventually go away.

I'm here to tell you that if you are just teaching standards because 
they are in your pacing guide 
or on the next page of your math book 
and you have no idea 
whether or not your students already know those concepts,
then chances are
you will be wasting your time and theirs.

it's a pain to give a pretest
and grade it 
go through the results child by child
to see who does and doesn't know which concepts.

But then your teaching path spreads before you
and you can clearly see 
which students 
which concepts, 
what to teach whole class
and what to teach to just those few.

It's a pain
but it's worth it
and it's good teaching
so it's not going away anytime soon 
and you might as well get on the 

( the words of a beloved former curriculum director...*the clue bus)

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Kid Quips

Tagging posts is a good thing. I ran across the tag "kid quips" while I was working on another post and I was amused by what I found there.

I have kept up my goal to "catch a fish" every day of the school year in my new little purple journal. I now have 88 short snippets of the year that I can look back on and remember why I do this crazy job and why I love this crazy job.

My entry for last Thursday is a good "kid quip." We are working hard on the science standard about the predictable patterns of movement between the sun and the Earth. Tilt of the axis, direct and indirect rays of sunlight, seasons that are opposite in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres.

A. looked up with those big brown eyes and sighed and said, "It was so much easier when I was younger and there were just the four seasons, back before I even knew the axis existed, let along the tilt and the direct and indirect rays of the sun."

"Yeah," I said. "That's the joy and the sorrow of growing up and learning the science behind what makes the world work -- there's joy in knowing, and there's sorrow in losing that simple view of the world."

Friday, January 23, 2015

Poetry Friday -- Potato Chips

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by sriram bala

What do potato chips know?
     You can't resist us.
     There's power in crispness.
     Grease is delicious.

What do potato chips know?
     Our stay is brief.
     Life needs treats.
     Occasionally, salty conquers sweet.

©Mary Lee Hahn 2015

This is my first attempt at a Deeper Wisdom poem, a challenge given by Joyce Sidman. I'm trying to write a more serious one. Really, I am. But this will have to do for now. 

Tara has the Poetry Friday Roundup at A Teaching Life.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Series I'm Adding to 3rd Grade Classroom Library

It seems that no matter how many books I have, it just isn't enough to keep 25 3rd graders engaged every day.  There always seems to be a gap.  A few kids seemed to be in a rut and I realized they needed some early chapter books and they'd read most of the series we had that interested them.

Katie DiCesare mentioned the Branches books and although I had a few (I love the Boris series), I didn't realize that there were so many others. So I bought a few of the series I didn't know and have been reading a few.  Two that I read this week were:

Monkey Me and the Pet Show. This is a silly series about a boy who turns into a monkey when he gets excited. In this book, he ruins picture day and he also enters a pet show as the monkey. This is just goofy silly and I think some 3rd graders will love it.  The thing I like about this is that when Clyde is a boy, the text is written in linear, chapter book form.  But when he is a monkey, it switches to graphic novel/comic form.  I'm wondering if kids will notice that on their own right away. It looks like there are at least 4 books in this series so enough to keep kids reading for a bit.

The Notebook of Doom: Rise of the Balloon Goons is another with a goofy
sense of humor.  Alexander moves to a new house and a new school and finds a notebook filled with monster drawings.  It seems that some balloon monsters are after him.  This is a funny book that will make kids laugh.  It is a bit longer and more difficult than Monkey Me but definitely perfect for 3rd graders.

I hope to read more of these Branches books over the next few days.  Series that I have on my stack are Dragon Masters, Looniverse, Eerie Elementary, Owl Diaries and Lotus Lane. I love these Branches books and am glad to have discovered more of them!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How to Fit it All In -- Writing Workshop Edition

"Stack of Thinly Sliced Trees" by Tom Woodward, Flickr Creative Commons photo

The reports my students finished before Christmas break have been waiting patiently to get back into the hands of their authors. I spent hours assessing them with our district's rubric/feedback form, and then I spent more hours writing comments. I didn't want to just hand them back without a conversation about what they did well and what they can work on next time, but I also didn't want to take current writing workshop conference time to talk about something other than current writing.

So I decided I would utilize indoor recess season to its fullest and do conferences then. Great plan...except the first two weeks back after break I had recess duty.

Now it's the third week back, my duty-free week, and what happens? Good weather and outdoor recess! I'm not complaining about outdoor recess; don't get me wrong! I just had to invent plan C. I asked one of my writer girls to invite 4 other friends to eat lunch in the classroom, and as they ate and chatted, I called them to the back table one at a time to talk about their writing. They still had plenty of time for recess.

It was fabulous for a couple of reasons. First, it was fun to be a fly-on-the-wall and listen to the girls giggle and chatter. More importantly, there was enough distance between themselves and that piece of writing that they were able to talk very objectively about what went well and what they absolutely know they need to work on next time they write informational text.

Joy in repurposing delay!

Joy in utilizing every moment of the day!

Joy in shrinking the to-do list!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

3 Books I'd Have in My Classroom Library if I Taught 5th Grade

I have been reading lots of books lately that I would so love to have in my classroom library. But they just aren't a great match for 3rd graders. They are books that would be perfect if I taught 5th grade. That always tends to happen around Newbery time. I try to catch up on all of the books that I've had on my stack all year and so many of the good ones seem to be more 4th-6th grade books.  This month I read a few good ones.

The Blossoming Universe of Violet Diamond by Brenda Woods was a great story about an eleven year old character who I fell in love with immediately.  The book blurb states, "Violet is a smart, funny, brown-eyed, brown-haired girl in a family of blonds."  Violet's mother is white and her father is black. But her father died before she was born and she is struggling with not knowing about that side of her family.  This is a great story about family and identity and love. It hits on issues of race in ways that are honest and accessible to 10-12 year olds.  I loved this character so much--she is spunky and smart and strong. She is definitely a character that will stay with me for a while.

I am embarrassed to say that I don't remember whether or not I read Elijah of
 Buxton.  I feel like I did but I can't be sure.  When I heard about The Madman of Piney Woods by Christopher Paul Curtis, I heard that although it was connected to Elijah, it definitely stood on its own. So I gave it a try. Honestly, I didn't intend to love the book-nothing about it seemed like the kind of things I love about a book. But, around page 50, I realized that I had fallen in love with the characters and the story.  This is definitely a book for 5th grade and above. Not  because the content is a problem but because it is more complex than I think younger kids can handle. The characters are amazing.  The story is quite the adventure. It is really perfect in every way.  If I were teaching 5th grade, this might be a read aloud or I might get a group of readers together to discuss this one.  

The Angel Tree by Daphne Benedis-Grab is a sweet story that would be good in a 5th grade classroom. It would also be good in a 3rd grade classroom. It is the story of a town that has an Angel Tree put up secretly each year. The tree invites people to hang wishes and other community members help to make the wishes come true. This book is about 4 kids impacted by The Angel Tree.  This is a simple story with a very obvious theme.  It is good for kids who like a predictable story with a theme that is very accessible to readers. I don't have many holiday books in my rooms but this one is more about a community coming together for each other.  

Monday, January 19, 2015

Math Monday -- Playing Favorites

Because of the holiday, I have some extra time to play around with my favorite math -- baking.

I love the precision of measuring all of the ingredients to begin the dough, and then, when it's time to add the rest of the flour to the butter-milk-yeast-salt-sugar-flour starter, knowing exactly how much I can not measure, and instead rely on the feel of the dough.

When do kids get the joy of using math to make something?

Mid-month payday was last Thursday. On Saturday, I got to do another of my favorite maths -- balancing my checkbook. This is a bi-monthly game of (again) precision: Can I be accurate enough in my accounting to match my online bank statement to the penny? You'd think at my stage in life that I would be able to do this without a problem every single time. How hard can it be? Well, that's the point -- it's not hard, but it does take attention to detail. Constantly.

When do kids get the joy of using math in a way that really, really matters?

Somewhere along the line at the end of last year, the iPhone app Elevate caught my eye. This "brain training" app was Apple's 2014 App of the Year. It was free, so I downloaded it. I am rocking all the games that tap into my reading, writing and vocabulary skills. None of those feel like training to me! But, when one of my three free games for the day is Math Conversions or Math Discounting, I groan out loud...but still play the game. I often make so many mistakes that I "lose all of my lives," or I run out of time because I can do it...just not quickly enough. (For comparison's sake -- when I get the game where I have to look at faces and hear names and facts about people and then remember that information...I actively AVOID that game because it is such a weakness for me that the game causes the same kind of anxiety I have in real life about names and faces!)

Do kids choose to play video games that improve their math skills?

It's on my weekend to-do list to finish gathering and organizing everything for 2014 taxes. I'm avoiding that item. There's still time; it can wait. And about taxes themselves -- I used to stubbornly do them on my own. I wanted to believe that an American citizen with decent math and literacy skills should be able to manage their own Income Taxes. Yeah. I made a few mistakes about a decade ago. Didn't get audited, but now I pay a professional to do the taxes.

Paying someone else to do the math for you is one of the privileges of adulthood. Sorry, kids! For now, you have to do your own math homework!!

I am joining Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning for Math Monday.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Poetry Friday -- Languages

I'm between audio books right now, so I'm catching up on podcasts of the NPR TED Radio Hour. Earlier in the week, I was listening to the program, "Playing with Perceptions." One segment features academic activist and poet Jamila Lyiscott. She's a first-generation American. Her parents are from Trinidad and she grew up in Crown Heights in Brooklyn. She's working on her PhD in Literature and Race at Columbia and describes herself as a "tri-tongued orator."

When she was about 19, she was asked to be a guest on an academic panel. After participating in her very best, most polished Academic English, a woman came up to her and told her she was very "articulate."

This is the poem she wrote in response to that experience.

The transcript is here if you'd rather read the poem.

I'm thinking hard about checking my perceptions at the door, especially when it comes to the languages my students speak.

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

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny by John Himmmelman

I get so happy when I find new early chapter books that are perfect for our transitional readers.   I learned about Tales of Bunjitsu Bunny from Donalyn Miller and it's been on my stack for a while.  I wanted to get it to the classroom but wanted to read it first. It was a very quick and fun read.

Isabel is best known as Bunjitsu Bunny.  She was the best Bunjitsu artist in her school. After we meet Isabel, always in her red Bunjitsu uniform, we read lots of stories about her.  Each short chapter is a stand alone chapter starring Isabel and some of her friends.  Each chapter is 5-8 pages long and each tells a story with a lesson.

The stories are perfect for transitional readers because the lessons in each story and the humor are all accessible to kids 6-8 years old.  It's a great book for first graders who are strong readers and need something they can relate too. It is also great for 3rd graders who will catch some of the subtle humor.

I may use this book later this winter when we start working on theme. Each story has a pretty obvious theme of its own and it would be a great book to start the conversation with when we really dig into theme.  

A fun new book that I am glad I made time to read!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Will You Be at #dublit15?

We are busy getting ready for #dubli15!  We are excited about this year's speakers! This is year 26 for the Dublin Literacy Conference and I've loved every one.  This one looks to be especially exciting.  If you haven't registered,  you can register on the Dublin City Schools website.  There will be 2 keynotes, concurrent sessions all day, a relaxing lunch with time for chatting with colleagues and book shopping/autographing. What better way to spend a Saturday?

Our featured speakers and authors this year are:

Chris Lehman (@iChrisLehman) will kick off the day with the morning keynote.  I fell in love with Chris's work when I heard him present on his book Energize Research for Reading and Writing. If you don't know the book, I highly recommend it. His new book (with Kate Roberts) is Falling in Love with Close Reading--another professional book I love. I love Chris's work because he helps us look at teaching in a way that is both intentional and joyful.  Looking so forward to hearing him at #dublit15!

Colby Sharp (@colbysharp) will be doing three sessions at the conference. Colby is one of the founders of the Nerdy Book Club and Nerdcamp. He is a 3rd grade teacher who blogs regularly at SHARPREAD.  Colby's work is always centered around giving kids voice.  If you don't already follow Colby on Twitter, you'll want to add him for sure!

The amazing John Schumacher (or Mr. Schu as you may know him) will also be presenting at the conference. John is a librarian and the person I rely on for book recommendations through his blog, his goodreads account and his Book Release Calendar.   John seems to know every children's book and every children's author out there and he shares his knowledge generously! You can follow him on Twitter at @mrschureads.

Clare Landrigan Tammy Mulligan (@ClareandTammy) are the authors of Assessment in Perspective.  They also blog regularly.Their work, like Chris's focuses on both intentionality and joy. Their book on assessment reminds us that it is about the story of a child-not just test scores--that help us as teachers.  We were part of their blog tour when their book was published and you can read their interview here.

We have 2 children's authors this year and we couldn't be more excited!

Lisa Graff (@lisagraff) will be the afternoon keynote speaker at this year's conference. When you search our blog for "Lisa Graff", you will notice we've been big fans forever.  There is not often a year that goes by that I do not read aloud a book by Lisa Graff.  And her newest book Absolutely Almost is a favorite of 2014!  A must read for sure!

Paul O. Zelinsky (@paulozelinsky) Caldecott and Caldecott Honor award winning illustrator Paul O. Zelinsky was inspired to make illustration his career when, as a sophomore in college, he took a course that was co-taught by an English professor and Maurice Sendak. Paul has most recently illustrated Z is for Moose and Circle, Square, Moose.

There are lots of other great sessions too!  You can access the conference brochure to see all of the amazing sessions being offered throughout the day.  The two of us will be part of a fast-paced IGNITE session (A-6) led by the amazing Tony Keefer.  IGNITE: Literacy in the Digital Age!  We've never had an IGNITE session at #dublit so are looking forward to trying this out!

We hope you can join us for a fun Saturday of learning and books and colleagues!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Math Monday -- Google Comes to Math Class

I am joining Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning for Math Monday.

I had been struggling with an authentic reason to introduce Google Presentation to my students. I needed a time when we would collaborate on a presentation rather than each student doing his/her own. And I needed a way for collaboration to happen without students revising each other's work.

When we were working on irregular volume in math, I found a way to use Google Preso! I created a slideshow with a page for each student and shared it to their Drives. I demonstrated how to use the drawing tools to make rectangular prisms. Their job was to first build two rectangular prisms using manipulatives, then combine them into one shape, and finally represent them and solve for volume on their slide. If they got finished early, they could add an additional slide and tell the three most important things about volume. For the sake of privacy, I have taken the students' names out.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Poetry Friday -- Surprises


The sun -- a low-hanging smudge.
The pond -- a layer of ice over mud.

A movement under the ice -- a darker oval.
A late afternoon surprise -- a winter turtle.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2015

Last Friday, we had the surprise of discovering a new metro part that's right inside the city, just south of downtown -- Scioto Audubon Metro Park. We were also surprised by this turtle sighting. I'm sure s/he is buried deep in the mud this week!

Friday kind of snuck up and surprised me this week, too. It's been an odd first week back, with school every other day M, W, F. Hard to get routines reestablished (in the classroom OR in my personal life)! Having four day weeks next week (PD day) and the next (MLKing Day) won't help either. Oh, well. Gotta do the best with what you've got, right?

Tabatha has the Poetry Friday roundup at The Opposite of Indifference today.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Math Monday...on Thursday

I am joining Mandy at Enjoy and Embrace Learning for Math Monday. Franki has resolved to join Alyson Beecher's Nonfiction Book Challenge in order to stretch herself to read more nonfiction. I'm going to stretch myself in a different direction and try to focus on what's working (or not working) in my 5th grade math workshop.

This week (in between a snow day and a windchill day) we began working towards a deep understanding of division. Our standards in 5th grade do not require students to be able to do long division with the algorithm. We will be exploring multiple strategies for division.

Mandy wrote this week about the importance of play. What I discovered was the importance of manipulatives...even for fifth graders.

Students were in groups of 4 or 5 on the floor in the meeting area. Each group had different manipulatives (beans, dominoes, pattern blocks, tiles). We modeled what addition looks like (combining groups) and what subtraction looks like (starting with a big group and taking some away from it).

Then we moved to modeling multiplication, which was surprisingly hard for them. After I gave them a problem to model (3x4), they realized/remembered that they needed to make equal groups or an array. We spent a lot of time thinking about what a multiplication problem SAYS -- "Three TIMES" tells you will be repeating a process three times, or making three groups.

Modeling division was as challenging as modeling multiplication. We started with a problem that they could easily solve with mental math so that they could check to make sure their model made sense (22 ÷ 2). Knowing that partial products is one of the first strategies we'll work on once we move to paper-pencil, I also gave them problems like 68 ÷ 5 so we could talk about efficient ways to share 68 into 5 equal groups rather than counting one by one. (Starting with 10 in each of the five groups, for example, and then sharing the leftover 18 into the 5 groups.)

Our math block is cut 10-15 minutes short by related arts, which we have actually come to love, because we can come back to our work and share, or students can complete an exit ticket or formative assessment that will inform my instruction for the next day. I gave each student a sheet of notebook paper and asked them to draw a model for 19 ÷ 3 and then write three things they know about division. What an eye opener! I've got a group of 5-6 who modeled 19 x 3, and another 4 or so who modeled 19 ÷ 3, but didn't demonstrate complete understanding by giving an answer. There were students who could model, but not write anything they know about division, and there were students who could write three things about division but not model.

So, now it's time for differentiation. I need to get some students to that deep understanding of what division means (modeling), and I need to move others along to applying that understanding to various strategies! This is the tricky part! This is the FUN part!

OLW Goes to School


This year, I have invited my students to choose their own One Little Word. The above is a list of some of the words my students and the other adults who work in or visit my classroom have chosen.

I am impressed with the perceptiveness of some of my students. They didn't take this choosing lightly, and their words are ones they will be able to live into and grow with throughout the year.

Today, we spent some time with dictionaries and thesauruses looking up and brainstorming synonyms, antonyms and related words.

Perfect timing for this book to show up:

The Right Word
by Jen Bryant
illustrated by Melissa Sweet
Eerdmans Books for Young Readers, 2014

I can't wait to introduce my students to Peter Mark Roget, a man whose passion for list-making and words began at the age of 8 and resulted in the most amazing resource book of language -- a book that has remained in print from 1852 until today.

The thesauruses we have in our classroom are alphabetical. I'd love to be able to get ahold of some that are topical, the way Roget originally organized his.

At any rate, this will be the perfect book at the perfect time as my students consider the meanings and nuances of their OLWs for the year.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

NF Book Challenge #1: When Lunch Fights Back: Wickedly Clever Animal Defenses

I have been trying to keep up with good nonfiction for kids. So this year, I decided to try to participate in Alyson Beecher's Nonfiction Challenge. I certainly won't be able to read the number of NF books that she does, but my hope is 52 nonfiction books or one each week in 2015.

This week, after seeing it on the CYBILS Finalists for NF list, I decided it was time I read WHEN LUNCH FIGHTS BACK. I've seen lots of buzz about this book but hadn't sat down to read it.  And I'm glad I did.

The book is longer and more intense than I anticipated.  I think grades 4-7 are probably about right for it. It seems like a good match for readers who love the Scientist in the Field series.  There is lots to like about this book.   First of all, the premise of animal defenses is a good one and this one frames it in a unique way. Each chapter focuses on a way that an animal might defend itself. Then it goes into a story about an animal being attacked and using that defense. Following the story and photos, there is a section for each that gives us "The Science Behind the Story" and explains what is happening.  In most of these segments, there are quotes from or information about a scientist who studies the particular animal.   I love the combination of these components.

As I was reading, I realized what a great writing mentor this could be. There are different types of informational writing in each section and that comparison would make for an interesting mini lesson. The language and craft of the actual stories of animal defense are incredible and writers can learn lots from studying these short pieces of text.

In my quest to know more nonfiction authors, I realized I didn't recognize the author' name--Rebecca L. Johnson. But when I checked out her website, I realized that I do know some of her work and it is fabulous. She definitely writes for an older elementary/middle school audience. I will definitely keep my eye on her books from now on.

Tuesday, January 06, 2015

November-December Mosaic

I can't believe I spaced my November mosaic! But, since November and December were a blur this year, maybe it's appropriate to blend them together.

ROW 1: It had been ages since we went to the art museum, but there was a special exhibit on the art of picture books that gave us the perfect excuse. Because they are doing construction, we had to park a block or so away and I got to see this amazing mural by local artist Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson. I found a great quote in one of the exhibits, and spied the last gingko leaf hanging on a tree outside the museum.

ROW 2: This iconic sculpture acts as a sort of entrance to the Columbus College of Art and Design. The A spans a city street at the base. In other November news, the Parental Paparazzi were out en force at our 5th grade fall concert. The day after the concert, I left for NCTE. The absolute highlight was presenting with Vicki Vinton, Frank McVeigh, Julieanne Harmatz and Steve Peterson. It was also great to meet lots of blogger-friends in real life (IRL)!

ROW 3: Jon Klassen was the speaker at the CLA Breakfast, and the students who created the table decorations knocked it out of the ballpark! I loved that bear so much that I bought him for my classroom! I knew I would need to be early to the graphic novel panel led by Mr. Schu. I had a front row seat and was there when the panelists arrived. Lucky me -- I got to sit next to the daughter of a famous author. She took this selfie of us. After the last session Sunday, Mr. Mary Lee and I did some shopping at the nearby outlet mall (I replaced my failing rolling briefcase at a NICE price). Gorgeous views of National Harbor on the walk back to the Gaylord.

ROW 4: Sunday night we took the ferry across to Alexandria for dinner, then on Monday, we drove into DC to visit our favorite bookstore/cafe, Kramerbooks, and visit the WWII Memorial.

ROW 5: More shots of the WWII Memorial. Back home, I finally had the right combination of decent weather and a bit of time, so I got the garden beds cleaned up and pulled the morning glory vines off the back fence.

ROW 6: Breakfast with a friend, writers with their work spread out, a crossword puzzle created with multiple-meaning words we found in our government/economics unit (and others from our master list).

ROW 7: A new holiday tradition is to spend an afternoon at the Orvis Store doing charity giftwrap for Casting for Recovery. We raised over $200 in two weekends this year! 'Tis the season of indoor recess -- these are all the trading cards I've saved over the years from the classroom's Sports Illustrated Kids magazine subscription! I have baked cookies for my students to decorate every year of my teaching career. This tulip was a gift from a student who knows I LOVE purple!

ROW 8: Mom's little Christmas tree (so wonderful to spend a week with her at the holidays), the joy of finding one of my favorite Indie bookstores (Tattered Cover) at the Denver airport, Christmas lights in the Short North across from Goodale Park, New Year's Eve at Z Cucina for the 6th year in a row with dear friends -- great way to usher in a new year!

You can see these photos in larger format on Flickr.

Almost every month, inquiring minds want to know: How do I make my mosaics?

First, I take thirty or more (and sometimes less) pictures every month.
Next, I make a set on Flickr.
Then, I go to Big Huge Labs and use their Mosaic Maker with the link to my Flickr photoset.
Finally, I download, save, insert, comment, and publish!

Monday, January 05, 2015

Greenglass House

I've had Greenglass House on my stack for a while.  I finally got to it and finished it up a few days ago. It was a great book and I am so glad I made time to read this one.

I'm not a big mystery fan and I don't seem to find that many great mysteries for kids. But this was a mystery I loved and I think kids will  love it too.

The story is about a boy named Milo who lives in an inn that his parents run. Many of the guests at the inn are smugglers but Christmas vacation is usually quiet, with no guests. This holiday is different however, as several guests appear at the inn. It becomes clear to Milo early on that there is something suspicious going on so he and his friend Meddy, try to solve the mystery.

This mystery is full of all things kids love in a mystery-an old house, great characters (they reminded me of characters in a game of Clue), lost things, treasure hunts, maps and bad guys.

I'm thinking this book is perfect for grades 5-6ish.  It is not short (about 400 pages) but I think if i were teaching 5th, I would definitely consider it for a read aloud.  This is also one that kids would enjoy reading independently.  

Friday, January 02, 2015

Poetry Friday -- Expectantly


Next to the lamp, an
Open book and a steaming cup of
In the chair, she sits with
Closed eyes, listening

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2015

My One Little Word for 2015 is NOTICE. In this poem, I prepare myself for whatever 2015 will bring!

Tricia has the first Poetry Friday roundup of the year at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Thursday, January 01, 2015

A Year of Reading Turns NINE!

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by Will Clayton


The thing we are most proud of in this nine-year run of blogging is that our blog has been a useful resource to teachers, media specialists, librarians, home-schoolers, readers, and writers around the world.

We each have lists of our own personal favorite posts -- both our own and each other's.

In honor of our blog birthday, here are our blog readers' NINE most popular posts of "all time:"

9. From 2011, Mary Lee's Home "Work" post, in which she shared a shift in her thinking about which kinds of work students do outside of school is most valuable and celebrated the most in our classrooms.

8. From last fall (2014), Franki's post New Baskets for our Third Grade Classroom. This just goes to show that our blog readers are always on the look-out for new books and new ways to think about organizing classroom libraries.

7. From 2012, Mary Lee's First Read Aloud of the Year post describes not just what she'll read aloud, but her criteria for choosing a first read aloud.

6. From 2010, Franki's 100 Things About Me As a Reader. Something as simple as creating such a list reveals much about you as a reader. Be inspired -- give this a try!

5. From 2006, the post that really launched our blog into the Kidlitosphere, our 100 Cool Teachers in Children's Literature post. We are up to 145 Cool Teachers (in order by author's last name).

4. From last July (2014), Franki's post about a new series of informational books, the Did You Know? series. Is this post popular because of the series of books, or because it is a common way to start a search? Who cares?!? Lots of people have seen this post!

3. From April 2011, Franki's Poetry Picnic post describing a week of poetry activities in the school library back when she was a media specialist.

2. From 2010, Franki's Pebble Go post. Pebble Go is a subscription-based online nonfiction tool for students in grades K-3.


1. From 2008, with over 100,000 hits, Mary Lee's Simile and Metaphor Poems post! Not surprisingly,  this post gets a lot of attention in the spring during Poetry Month, and when teachers across the country are reviewing figurative language before state testing.