Friday, July 31, 2015

Poetry Friday -- Glimpses of a Journey

I have spent the month of July with Mom, getting her and her home of 60 years ready for her move to assisted living. Besides taking lots of photos, I saved a bit of time each day to take a snapshot in words. Here is a haiku-mosaic of July:

The move

the to-do list grows
fills heaping bowls of sadness
tears overflow

a childhood filled
with mother's sacrifices
daughter's turn now

shelves and shelves of books
multi-storied richness
wealth measured in words

going through dresser drawers
layers of memory
the archaeology of a life

two children
visitors at the museum
of their mother

an inveterate archivist
saver of minutiae
savoring each scrap of life

one more time

transplanting is tricky
handle roots with loving care
mix old soil with new

Meditations on the cycle of life and my place in it right now

midseason lily
surrounded by bud and wilt
enjoy it now

leaf breaks free
flutters away from tree
wind brings it back

Being in Eastern Colorado

ripening wheat
indiscriminate thunderheads
farmers remain hopeful

unseasonably cool
north breeze, low clouds, drizzle
roofer's gun pops

typically blue skies
smudged with a grimy haze --
Canada burns

antelope grazing --
green and lush prairie

Keri has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Keri Recommends.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

2 Nonfiction Picture Books

I am looking for more informational picture books to read aloud early in the school year. I am looking for books that might spark some notebook writing as we launch writing notebooks. I found 2 that I think will work out great for this early in the year.

A Chicken Followed Me Home! Questions and Answers About a Familiar Fowl by Robin Page
The premise of this book is that if a chicken followed you home, what would you wonder? Each page spread focuses on one of those questions and then gives readers an answer about chickens in general and then about the specific chicken that is following you home. This is a great Q and A format and it will also be good to talk about wonderings and questions you have throughout the day or about specific topics.  I love Robin Page's work and she is an author I want my students to know.

I'm Trying to Love Spiders by Bethany Barton is one that will make kid laugh. The author hates spiders and is trying to love them. But she just wants to squish them (and she does squish a few). But as she learns more about spiders, she starts to realize they aren't so bad. A fun way to learn about spiders and a fun type of writing to try in notebooks early in the year, I think.

Monday, July 27, 2015


Tomorrow, at 8 PM EST,  there will be a final #cyberpd chat with participants talking about Digital Reading: What's Essential in Grades 3-8.  I coauthored this book with Bill Bass and we were honored when  the  #cyberpd team --Cathy Mere (@cathymere), Laura Komos (@laurakomos) and Michelle Nero ) @litlearningzone-- told us that they had chosen the book for this year's #cyberpd talk.

If you have followed #cyberpd over the years, you know what an amazing and powerful conversation it is. If you haven't heard of it, it is definitely something you'll want to look forward to next summer. This year was the 5th annual #cyberpd event and the group continues to grow! If you want to know more about this year's event as well as about past years, you can read all about it on Cathy Mere's blog.

As the authors of the book that the #cyberpd community was discussing, I must admit, we were VERY nervous. It is one thing to have your book out there in the world. It is another thing to have a group of people who you learn from daily and respect incredibly, read it together and discuss it on a public forum.

As the weeks went on and I followed the conversation on Twitter and on the Google Community,  I found my list of notes and thoughts growing. I jumped onto the Google Community every few days, thinking I'd just pop in for a few minutes-- and then I'd realize I'd spent 2 hours reading posts, jotting ideas, exploring things mentioned, etc. I learned so much and have so much to think about around digital reading as we go into this next school year.  I was amazed at how people took the thinking we had in Digital Reading and expanded it, connected it to their own classrooms and schools and connected with others to make the ideas bigger.  There were visuals created by members of the community that clearly synthesized ideas about digital reading. And the community Pinterest Board continues to grow.  People collaborated to solve problems around the ideas throughout the month. (I love that primary teacher Deb Frazier is asking the community to help her bring resources together for young readers.)

Bringing so many readers together to discuss a book and an idea over a few summer weeks is a hugely powerful PD, that's for sure!  It was a bit surreal to have written a book on digital reading and then to see the power these digital tools were having on the readers responding to the book. (Cathy wrote about the power of the Google Community in a recent blog post.) I've been thinking a great deal about authenticity lately and the whole idea of #cyberpd and the ways the tools help us read more deeply than we ever could before was visible every day in this community.  We know that our thinking grows when we put our heads together and the power of digital tools to expand the possibilities of thinking together and growing ideas was evident every day in the #cyberpd community.

Digital Reading is a hard topic. We are all learning about it as we go, so we know our book has no "right" answers on the topic. Instead, it is our best thinking about it...for now.  Our goal, when we wrote Digital Reading, was to expand the conversation about how these new tools might change our work with children in classrooms. We wanted lots of smart people who were grounded in good literacy practice to find the conversation about the role of technology to be a worthwhile one.  We wanted to think with others about the ways digital tools could expand the ideas about literacy in our classrooms.

We can't thank the #cyberpd community enough for choosing our book and for inviting us into the conversation. I know that we've both learned so much over the past few weeks and have connected with so many people who have pushed our thinking. We look forward to the final chat on Tuesday. We hope to see you there!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Great Day at the Scholastic Reading Summit!

I was lucky enough to attend the Scholastic Reading Summit in Cincinnati last week. I really didn't know what to expect but I figured that if Donalyn Miller, John Schumacher and Cynthia Lord would be speaking, it would be a great day. And it was!

I pulled into the hotel parking lot the day before the Summit and saw the Scholastic Book Fair trucks! It is always a happy day when those trucks are in the area. Way better than any ice cream truck--that's for sure!

It was an extra treat to have time to go to lunch and to visit a bookstore with these 4. At one point I was looking at books alone and I thought to myself, "You are in a bookstore with John Schu and Colby Sharp. What are you doing by yourself? Go follow their every step and pay attention to every word they say in here!" So I did and I bought a good stack of books. Shopping with this crew is fun... expensive, but fun!


Starbucks and great friends! What could make for a better morning?
The incredible people of Scholastic!  
We heard the mission of getting books into every child's hands, we heard research about reading and we heard book talks from these amazing individuals working to get all kids reading.


The morning keynote was given by Donalyn Miller. I've been lucky to hear Donalyn speak a few times this year and it is always a treat--she always reminds us of our most important work with children. Incredible opening keynote!

Some of my favorite takeaways from Donalyn's keynote are below:


For the morning session, Katherine, Colby and I heard John Schu. If you have never heard John Schu, I would make that your new goal.  Even though I follow his blog and I read every tweet, watch every video and listen to every online book recommendations, there is nothing like hearing John talk about books in real life!

John knows the best books and has great stories behind every one. He notices things I never pay attention to.  And his session is great fun!  He is definitely the Oprah of books! A great session!


The Scholastic Book Fair was open all day.  Yes, that's right..great speakers, great people and great books! I have been looking forward to reading this new book by Jennifer and Matthew Holm for a while  so I was THRILLED to get it at the book fair!

And who knew that this amazing nonfiction series is available in Spanish? My 3rd graders LOVED this series and to find them in Spanish was a real treat!


A great session about conferring with Donalyn Miller. Some of the best learning form this session is below:


Colby Sharp talked to us about his reading life. He shared an important message in a very powerful  few minutes.  He said:

"I hope that this fall your hearts are focused on finding the right book for every child. When we do that, everything is possible." Brilliant.


I have loved Cynthia Lord and her books for a very long time.  To hear her speak was another great thing about the day.  She was amazing! My favorite line from her talk was:

"I know that feeling when you open a book expecting to find a story, but instead you find yourself." WOW!

If you weren't able to attend a Scholastic Reading Summit this year, I'd highly recommend one in the future. It was a fabulous day!  In the meantime, visit the Open a World of Possible site. We watched a few videos from the site and I LOVED them. Excited to use a few with students in the fall.  Here's one of my favorites:

You can also revisit the Scholastic book Open a World of Possible that I blogged about this fall--I'm revisiting it to find pieces to share with students this fall.  You can also follow the #ReadingSummit or the #sharepossible hashtags on Twitter.

A great day  that left me inspired and ready to start a new school year!

Friday, July 24, 2015

Poetry Friday -- Renga With Friends

About a month ago, Steve Peterson (@insidethedog) invited me and Jan Burkins (@janmillburk) to try writing a renga with him. Renga is an ancient collaborative poetic form, and is actually where haiku was born!

Steve gave us these directions and resources:
  • 3 line haiku-like poem 
  • 2 longer lines (sort of like a tanka form when you put them together). Another person writes this. 
  • 2 lines are inspired by the haiku immediately above. 
  • then, 3-line haiku poem inspired by the 2 previous lines, 
  • and so on like a game of telephone until we reach 35 lines total.
And some resources

     a description of the form.
     some examples.
The order of play went Steve, me, Jan (repeat). Here's our first renga:

in the prairie dawn
a spider's web snares the sun  --
cricket rejoices

meadowlark joins the chorus
breeze bends ripening wheat heads

whose lanky bodies
bow, sun’s church--peace be with wheat
and also with corn

they gather on folding chairs,
jello melts while the preacher prays

white-robed acolytes
shoulders shaking with giggles
two clouds hide the sun

even the adolescent stalks are sober today
word of fire in the neighboring field

this dark sky --
thunderheads poke fingers
at a thirsty land

near the abandoned homestead
ditch lilies toss flaming heads

who called this place home
does the ground remember
stories brought to earth

a faded calendar tacked
to the wall above the stove

try to imagine
the layers of memories
beneath the dust
how much memory is imagination
how much dust is history

sun slants through wavy glass
in the stale air
motes rise to dance

down the road, far down the road
reverberations can be felt

After we came to the 35th line, we gathered via conference call from Mountain, Central, and Eastern time zones to discuss the process and the product.

Steve instigated this poem writing adventure because of a desire to try collaborative writing, and to practice the haiku and tanka forms, but he found himself meditating on Jan and me as he chose the words he thought would best fit with what we were trying to say.

For me, it was like trying to catch a tune and sing along.

Jan was continually looking for the meaning in each set of 5 lines alongside the meaning of the poem as a whole.

Our memories of church and our ideas of "prairie" were very different, but we realized that Rosenblatt's reader response theory was alive and well as we wrote together -- each of us as reader/writer could bring ourselves to the text and make our own meaning, independent of the two others.

For me, the prairie in the poem is the flat, dry landscape of Eastern Colorado, where I've spent this month with my mom. Wheat harvest has been in full swing, but no one is complaining about the rains that might have delayed some of the harvest -- they were good for the corn. Those white-robed acolytes are my childhood friend Barbie and me, trying to be solemn in our candle lighting duties, but invariably giggling all the way down to the altar and back. The end of the poem is woven with images of change, home, memory, and loss -- all of which have been bitter and sweet in this month of helping my mom transition from her home of 60 years to a new home in assisted living.

Jan and Steve found echoes of current events that I can see now, but that didn't occur to me as we wrote.

We have plans to play with revising this poem, and we are fifteen lines into another. It has been fabulous to take risks together, to watch the poem unfold, and to hear each other's actual voices over the phone after listening so closely to each other's writerly voices on the page. Thank you, Steve and Jan!

Steve's post about this adventure is here.

Jan's post about this adventure is here.

Margaret has the Poetry Friday Roundup today at Reflections on the Teche.

Thursday, July 23, 2015


Since Paper Towns--The Movie--comes to theaters tomorrow, I thought today was a great day to share the fun we had at #PaperTownsOH last week.  Lots of John Green fans in Ohio!

The crowd was a big one and according to twitter, fans began arriving at 5 a.m. to get a spot in line!  The line looked to be a fun place. John Green even had 50 pizzas delivered to the crowd which was hugely appreciated since many had been standing in line for hours. 

My daughter has always been a huge John Green/Paper Towns fan. She has the original book and heard John Green at Cover to Cover when it was released a while back. It was extra fun for her to have her book signed a 2nd time by John Green!

Thanks to Cover to Cover and Penguin Random House, we got tickets without having to stand in line.  We had great seats and had a chance to go backstage to meet everyone afterwards.  It was quite the treat.  Here we are with John (Penguin Random House), Laura (Beth's sister), Beth (Cover to Cover).

We got a sneak peek at 19 minutes of the movie (which looks to be spectacular!) and we got to hear from John Green and the actors/actresses in the movie. It was great fun with lots of screaming fans, of course!

John Green!!

The stars of the movie!

A signed Paper Towns poster!

Looking forward to seeing the movie!

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Friends with Fins: Informational Videos

I'm always looking for good videos for my students.  As we expand our understanding of what it means to be a reader in this digital age, I know videos are an important part of learning.  I want my students to have lots of experience with quality video.  I've heard over and over again from my students that they enjoy watching video for entertainment, but they don't really know how to watch video to learn. So I know part of my work is helping them to read video.  I think lots of kids pick up bits of info when they are watching for entertainment, but finding good informational videos for kids is sometimes a challenge.  Short videos that are crafted well so that kids can learn information as well as study the video for the craft are things I am always on the lookout for.

Recently I noticed that Jaclyn Friedlander, a Marine Life and Ocean Conservation Expert has been adding weekly video episodes to her blog. (I interviewed Jaclyn on our blog about her picture books a while back.)

The Friends with Fins videos are PERFECT for my students. They are short, engaging and packed with lots of fascinating information.  Many connect to our science standards and I'll watch them a bit more closely to see which align with our science standards.  So much of our life science is about habitats and animal adaptations and so much information connected to that is embedded in these videos.

I also plan to use the videos in Reading Workshop as we think about learning from video clips. And I will use them in writing workshop as they will be great mentor texts for informational writing. They are crafted well and there is lots to study as a writer/moviemaker.  The way that Jaclyn shares information is accessible to young learners.  There are so many possibilities for these videos.  I like them individually, but the collection of the videos on the site provides so even more to learn from.  Not only are these a great link to science standards, but Jaclyn is passionate about ocean conservation and uses her blog and social media to spread that message.

Jaclyn plans to add a video most weeks to the site will continue to grow.  (All of the videos are also available on her Youtube Channel as well. And her books are now available as Kindle or iPad versions.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Kindergarten Luck by Louise Borden

I have been looking forward to the release of Kindergarten Luck by Louise Borden for a long time.  I received a review copy in the mail from the publisher last week.I love all of Louise's books and we love that she is an Ohio author.

Kindergarten Luck is about a boy named Theodore and his lucky day.  On a gloomy day, Theodore finds a shiny new penny face up and his day goes from gloomy to lucky.  The book follows Theodore through his day in Kindergarten where lucky things happen!  From having great pancakes for breakfast to being line leader at school, Theodore has a great day!  At the end of the book, Theodore pays his luck forward so that his friend can have a lucky day too.

This is a happy book with lots for readers to talk and think about.  It seems like a book that should be in every Kindergarten classroom. It is also great for older kids too when talking about paying things forward and finding those positive things throughout the day.  The illustrations are fun and happy and the end pages are an added piece of fun!

This would be a great gift for any kids in your life who are getting ready to start Kindergarten!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Who Done It? by Olivier Tallec

I saw this book somewhere a few weeks ago and knew I wanted to keep my eye out for it. Then this week, I got a review copy from the publisher in the mail and I LOVE LOVE LOVE it.

WHO DONE IT is by Olivier Tallec, an author/illustrator who I've loved since I read THIS IS A POEM THAT HEALS FISH.

This new book is quite fun.  Each two page spread features 10 characters who are doing their own thing. The line on each page asks the reader to look for something in the illustration. For example:  Who played with the mean cat?  The reader has to look at the illustrations for clues to find the answer to the question on each page.  It is quite fun and each page is amusing in its own way. The answers are obvious but not totally-it takes a bit of looking to find the person on each page. (And there  is an answer page in the back if you need it!)

I see so many possibilities for this book. First of all, it is a great book for young children.  It will start great conversations and provide great interactions. The text is also predictable and simple so it seems great for early readers.  I also know my 3rd graders will love it and it will be a great book to use when we talk about visual information and getting information from visuals.

Really this book is much too fun. You will want a copy for sure!

Monday, July 13, 2015

More Nonfiction Picture Books

Trapped: A Whale's Rescue
A great short book about a whale rescued from abandoned nets in the ocean. This one would make a good read aloud and there is more info after the main story for readers who are interested in more.

Water is Water: A Book About the Water Cycle
I LOVE this book! It is not only a great introduction to the water cycle but the language and illustrations make it a great read aloud.  This is patterned text done in a way that shares a great deal of information. There is lots of extra information at the end of the book.  A great nonfiction mentor.

Tricky Vic:  The Impossibly True Story o the Man Who Sold the Eiffel Tower
Tricky Vic is one that has been on so many "Best of 2015" lists that I had to read it. It is a longer picture book about Robert Miler, a famous con artist whose story is fascinating.  

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Puppy Pirates by Erin Soderberg

At Nerd Camp, we were able to go into a room filled with books and choose 2 books--what a fun time!  You can imagine the scene with teachers browsing to choose the two perfect books.  Decisions! Decisions!

I had no trouble deciding. I grabbed Erin Soderberg's new series Puppy Pirates (that was released the day of Nerdcamp) and I grabbed Crenshaw. (I had read and loved Crenshaw and wanted a copy for my Newbery Club students.)  The new Puppy Pirates book was the first thing I read when I got home form Nerdcamp.

I am a HUGE Erin Soderbergh fan so I have been anticipating this series since our last Skype visit with her. She showed us the covers and talked a bit about the series.   My 3rd graders LOVE The Quirks series and having another series for 3rd graders by this author is very exciting!

Stowaway is the first book in the new Puppy Pirates series. And how adorable is the cover!?  There were two books in the series released last week--Stowaway and X Marks the Spot. I read Stowaway and am anxiously awaiting the other.  The book is about a soft little puppy named Wally who meets a ship full of pirates and wants to join them. He has always longed for a home and for adventure.  In this first book, Wally has to prove himself to the pirates-to show that he is brave enough to be a Puppy Pirate. The book is perfect for 2nd and 3rd graders. The humor is exactly what they love--one character always says the wrong thing, there is lots of pirate language and there is a bit of word play throughout.  The combination of cute sweet puppies and pirates is a brilliant one and one I know my 8 year olds will love!  The length is perfect for readers newish to chapter books and the plot is easy to follow without being too simple or boring. The language is fun and engaging.  I can't wait to share this new series with my students in the fall!

I was able to volunteer at Nerd Camp Junior and hear Erin Soderberg talk to a group of kids during this even She was incredible and so fun! I learned that the 4th book in The Quirks series is due out in the fall! Woooohoooo!  I think Erin Soderberg is an author who understands perfectly this age group that she is writing for so the more she writes, the better!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Poetry Friday

(c) Mary Lee Hahn, 2015

Katie has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at The Logonauts.

Please note this change for next week: Kimberley will host us on Google+. This is where you will find her post -- leave your links in the comments.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Inspiring People From History--A Collection of Picture Books

This week, I read a stack of nonfiction and historical fiction picture books that I've been hearing about.  All of the following are either nonfiction or based on/inspired by a true event. I've realized lately that so many of the nonfiction books I read are more science related than Social Studies so I am happy about this new stack. There is so much to learn from incredible people from history.  I love the kinds of thinking and conversations books like that can begin in the classroom.

I love the whole idea of this book. 28 people who changed the world--one to learn about each day for a month. This one can be read and shared in so many ways. Packed with great information and stories.

I would have liked US History so much more had I known about stories like this one!

This book includes several pieces of history in Huntsville, Alabama. I knew some of this story, but not all of it. This is one of my favorites of the year for sure...An important book.

This book is inspired by the story of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga who broke Cuba's tradition against female drummers. It is a great story told in beautiful verse and has amazing illustrations.

I was not aware of Emmanuel before reading this book. Emmanuel was born with one leg but that did not stop him from doing anything.  His message --disability is not inability--is a strong one that he continues to work to spread.

This is the story of Mary Nohl, a girl who made art out of lots of things and created cement sculptures in her garden gallery in Wisconsin.  Such an interesting story about art and a unique artist.  The author's note tells about how controversial Mary's art still is and that the neighborhood where her garden is want the art to be dismantled.  It is an interesting story to follow after reading this book.