Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Favorite Place

           Poetry Friday today is hosted today by Carol Wilcox at Carol’s Corner.  The first of June evokes such good memories doesn’t it?  Thank you Carol!

          I’ve posted two times in recent weeks about the geography of place and the importance of its integration in numerous areas in the classroom, including the social studies of course, but also in all kinds of writing—fiction, poetry and memoir.  Then yesterday I received my online Orion magazine and there were three poems about place.  One is about the prairie.  I wish I had known it when Tabatha asked some of us to write about a beloved fictional character and choose several poems that character might like.   A favorite writer of mine is Willa Cather, whose work I reread, especially My Ántonia.  Ántonia Shimerda is a favorite character and I know she would love this poem, as I do. 

          The poem is

Prairie, Under Full Moon
In the blooming period, everywhere is open. 
Winds make you arrive where you do not want to go.
Disrupt the
Sequence of the hours.
             You can find more here.

Chalk-A-Bration! Welcome summer!

           Betsy at Teaching Young Writers is holding a Chalk-A-Bration, poem on the sidewalks of the world!  Come celebrate with us with your own poem to welcome the end of May, and for many of us, time for a summer break.  I'm not quite finished yet, but soon!  Thanks for doing this Betsy, such a fun thing, although my fingers are a little sore.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Past, Present, Future

Tara Smith at A Teaching Life has begun a new meme, Social Studies Wednesdays, which touches all kinds of teachers.  In some way or another, we all teach some social studies in our classes.  Please join her by posting your blog with ideas of work with students.  

Learn from the past, prepare for the future, live in the present.”
― Thomas S. Monson

        When I taught in a middle-school classroom, I had the privilege of writing curriculum often because my students each studied an individual unit topic, which, with their input, comprised the majority of their learning during the year.  It may seem like a big challenge if you’re only used to writing class units of study, but once you get into the rhythm of it, it goes well, and our school has a multitude of resources from which to draw when needed. 

Monday, May 28, 2012

A Book Connects Me To A Good Memory

The Tuesday Slice of Life Is Hosted Weekly by Stacey and Ruth at their blog, Two Writing Teachers.  Head over and treat yourself to some good writing!  

            Yesterday I wrote about books that I read last week for the Meme, It’s Monday, What Are You Reading?  One of the parts I wrote discussed Because of Winn Dixie, by Kate Dicamillo.  I listened to the audio book this time, which made my trips to and from work and appointments, etc.  quite a pleasure, particularly because I connected to memories of my childhood while listening.  I wrote: those of you who live now in a small town or who have lived in one at some time in your lives and who have read the book will understand the connection I made with this.  I lived in a small town until I was in 7th grade, and spent time with eccentric old women (sometimes couples) just visiting, looking at their gardens, eating baked goods and drinking sweet tea on their front porches, and enjoying the visit.  They had stories to tell, like in this book.  I know that others might think it was a little far fetched, but it is not.  There are people like that everywhere.  It’s just that in small towns, we seem to be able to get to know them. 

I visited many people all over town, especially in the summertime, when the living for children during that time was definitely easy.  I took no lessons, but entertained myself in different ways with friends, playing various kinds of board games in the heat of the afternoon, creating clubs that met under huge shrubs that made terrific secret places, and climbing trees with limbs large enough to offer a comfortable place to read, and finally visiting. There were lots of people to visit, including family. Most of these people were older, some childless, therefore no grandchildren, and some whose spouse had died.  Some had never married. They were lonely perhaps, and frequent visitors were welcome.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Fun Week of Reading, But Busy!


        It's Monday! What are you Reading? is another meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys, a variety of reviews to find even more books for your TBR list. 

It's a special day, Memorial Day.  I hope everyone sends a thought and a prayer of appreciation for all that our military men and women do for us.

A recent quote seen in a newspaper:  My test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter.  ~Thomas Helm       
                                                      - Don't you agree?

           I’ve tried to find more time to finish Divergent, by Veronica Roth.  I’m nearly finished, but I’ve had too many other things to do this week.  I may finish late tonight, but cannot review it until it is over.  Those of you who’ve read it probably know what I mean.  I am enjoying it, but will include more response next time.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Poetry Friday Is Here Today

        It’s a pleasure to be your host for Poetry Friday this week.  I’m always so excited to see what poetic gifts each of you offers.  Please add your links in the comments and I will add them as the day moves on.  
I’ve been writing goodbye poems over these past months for a personal project I’m doing about different ways of looking at children (mine, others, and grandchildren, too) growing up.  I’ve chosen to do a series of poems at different stages in children’s lives, essentially saying goodbye each time.  I plan to put them together in a book with photos of my grandchildren (10 ½,  3, 10 months) at the particular stage I am describing in the poem.  I have begun using photos to help remember and have also started some writing about my children as they grew up.  I love telling stories through poetry, and I love poems of goodbye, so I thought this would be a good way to combine both passions.  Here is my most recent one, about my grandson Carter, now almost eleven.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Next Step To Place

       Tara Smith at A Teaching Life has begun a new meme, Social Studies Wednesdays, which touches so many kinds of teachers in their curriculum.  In some way or another, we all teach some social studies in our classes.  Please join her by posting your blog with ideas of work with students.  
       Last week I started talking about the beginning of studying place in the area of social studies.  I told how I usually began with the connections of personal places at home with a writing and art project.  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Time To Teach Actions To Fight Bullies

                   The Tuesday Slice of Life Is Hosted Weekly by Stacey and Ruth at their blog, Two Writing Teachers.  If you wish to read wonderful words today, head over there and click on any link!  

I've read many books in my life, my life as a parent and that as a teacher. I read books to see how authors see lives being lived by both children and adults. I read professional books about teaching so I can be a better teacher.  I work hard to find solutions to challenges.
            Lately there seem to be more stories than I am used to that reflect the problems of the bullied and the actions of bullies.  There is that recent movie Bully.  Companies are producing curriculum to try to solve the problem, schools are attempting to follow certain plans, and still, there are those books, reflecting life as the authors write it, and from their research, know it.  Two recent book examples are Wonder, by R.J. Palacio and See You At Harry's by Jo Knowles.  It is worrisome that we cannot help others, children and adults, find ways to respect and love each other as individuals.  
        Here at the end of the school year, I hope that all of us can take time during our breaks to find ways to aid both those who are bullied and those who bully.  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

One of the Best Reads This Week!


        It's Monday! What are you Reading? is another meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys, a variety of reviews to find even more books for your TBR list. 

          So much talk, and I knew it must be good.  We should be so grateful this year for the marvelous stories that have been presented to us by R.J. Palacio, Christopher Paul Curtis, Silas House & Neela Vaswani, John Green, and now Jo Knowles.  I read this book, See You At Harry's, faster than others I loved just as much.  I just couldn't bear to stop.  The characters were shown so realistically; the plot was shocking yet not surprising.  I see these events reported sometimes on the news.  I thought the book was about something else equally compelling, but it turned on a dime, as my own life has this year, and I was touched by the reactions of the family-so real, so like life.  It's not to be missed.   When recommending to those young students for whom this is written, I would take care to keep in touch with them as they read.  It's important to discuss, not dismiss as "so sad", "didn't you think it was sad?" and then move on.  

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Endings of School

         Thanks to Katya Czaja at Write.Sketch.Repeat who is our host today for Poetry Friday.  Please visit her to find poetry to enjoy today!

            I loved the traditions built over time that teachers do to say goodbye to students at the end of the year.  They are filled with laughter, food, awards, sharing and celebrations for the beautiful learning and work accomplished.  That final day, story sharing was a large part of our morning, the memories that had knit our year together.  And every year I found a poem of goodbye to give to students.  I have shared some of this before, and I am again caught up in the excitement of endings at school, so I thought you would enjoy one of my favorites given to students of the past.   

Sometimes Goodbye
            by Mandie McDougal

Sometimes Goodbye
is the hardest thing to say
Old times a mist
Old people--ghosts therein
And sometimes goodbye
is the hardest thing to do 

The remainder of the poem can be found here.

I missed this Caldecott-did you?

       The wonderful blog Gathering Books is holding an Award Winning Book challenge this year.  They, and others of us who have taken this challenge have reviewed many books from all over the world that have been acclaimed in some way by an award.  The best thing is I have discovered numerous kinds of awards that I've never heard of, thus also new books to put on a TBR list.  My list grows longer, and it's exciting to see what writers are doing beyond my own community here in the US.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

What Does Place Mean To You?

Tara Smith at A Teaching Life is starting a new meme, Social Studies Wednesdays, which can touch so many kinds of teachers.  In some way or another, we all teach some social studies in our classes.  Please join her by posting your blog with ideas of work with students.  

       How hard it is to escape from places.  However carefully one goes they hold you - you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences - like rags and shreds of your very life.  ~Katherine Mansfield

When I taught my middle school classroom of mixed 6th, 7th and 8th graders, we spent a great deal of time exploring the sense of place.  This includes characteristics that are unique to that place, involving what humans have brought, their local knowledge and folklore.  It is important for humans to identify oneself in relation to a particular place on Earth.   

Monday, May 14, 2012

My 300th Post!

Please visit Ruth and Stacey at the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Tuesday Slice of Life!

It’s said that appreciation
can come in many forms:
It comes in hugs, in coffee mugs,
wrapped up in tightening arms.
Webster says it is an act
of giving thanks for all of that,
the selfless gift of personal care
that just doesn’t happen everywhere.

So I now send to everyone a cup, a cup of cheer
to give my thanks to all of you, because you are so dear.

Today is my 300th blog post!  I am indebted to many people who have helped keep me going, going, going and am so thankful for the support, inspiration, examples of excellent mentor texts time after time from you all.  You have given me much joy in my life in spite of the recent challenges, and I am appreciative.  

          My family:  all who read and sometimes comment, but always support me in my work and in my play.  My life wraps around you with love. 

          My colleague, Katie, at Prose Cents, who is taking a break because she’s writing a play & has invited me to co-author a new non-fiction idea!

From the first commenters on my very first post at the Two Writing Teachers Tuesday Slice of Life challenge in March of 2011, to new friends on Poetry Friday, reader friends on It’s Monday, What Are You Reading and now a new meme, Social Studies Wednesday, it’s been quite a wonderful ride.  I’ve having fun and hope you are too!  If I have left you out, I apologize.  These are the blogs that I remember touching my life and I hope I have touched you positively in some way, too.  If you want to enjoy some great writing, choose any of these below!!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A few books, but good!

         Come visit Teach.Mentor.Texts, with Jen and Kellee who are hosts of this meme.  Lots of great books to discover here!

I didn't read many whole books this week because of too much to do and finding pieces of books to share for some non-fiction work, but some are worth mentioning.  

I finally got around to reading two Babymouse books which I've read about so often that I am embarrassed I still haven't read any.  And I didn't realize that they are co-written by Jennifer L. Holm of May Amelia fame and her brother, Matthew.  I finished Babymouse Skater Girl and Babymouse Our Hero.  These graphic novels are meant for young readers although sometimes the jokes seem a little old for who might be reading them.  I liked the way they showed Babymouse trying things and choosing according to the way she thought life should be, like full of cupcakes and good friends.  I didn't like the way the books showed that school wasn't always a good thing in her world, but perhaps that's more realistic than I just want it to be.  I loved the drawings and laughed at most of the times that Babymouse got into trouble, like what seems to be a usual joke, her battle with her locker at school.  She has one loyal friend, Wilson Weasel, that appeared in both books.  I imagine these books might be fun for young children needing a boost in finding a book that feels comfortable.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Moving Means A Book Pleasure

Thanks to Irene for hosting this week's poetry Friday!  Run over to her blog, Live.Love.Explore.

    For several reasons, I know I will be moving this year, out of my home of 34 years, to be closer to my daughter and family and closer to work.  It will be nearer the city too so I can run over to a museum and other places for a few hours instead of making it an ‘event’.  But moving out of my home is not easy.  We’ve adapted it to us through the years, have lovely built-in shelves in several places, have created a wonderful porch with a good roof over our heads on rainy days.  I have planted so many flowers throughout the yard, some from a grandmother, some from my mother-in-law.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to transplant them because I don’t know if I’ll have a yard.  I will be saying goodbye to many kinds of things, and then also the intangible memories.  There is where the swing set used to be.  There is where the kids jumped the fence to take a shortcut to school.  Here is where the globe table sat.  Here is where the family pictures hung.  And on and on.  I actually am somewhat excited about going to a new place.  I don’t mind new.  I just mind leaving.

    A friend knows about this and gave me a book of poetry titled Home, Illustrated by Thomas Locker who also edited it with Candace Christiansen.  It is subtitled A Journey Through America, and filled with poems, prose pieces and blessings of what home means to many kinds of people.  There is a part of the poem Once By The Pacific by Robert Frost, John Muir’s Climb The Mountains, a portion of My Ántonia by Willa Cather, The River by Jane Yolen and others, ending with writing by Henry David Thoreau.  There is Tree by Eloise Greenfield and Lincoln’s My Childhood’s Home.  Each page is accompanied by a gorgeous painting by Locker.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

A New Meme To Celebrate!

Tara Smith who writes the blog A Teaching Life is inviting any blogger who wishes to link up to a new meme, SOCIAL STUDIES WEDNESDAYS, for teachers of different areas of social studies to share ideas from their teaching or other resources discovered.  I am happy to join her and share some of the ideas I've used in the past and those the teachers with whom I work are discussing.  I am the school's literacy coach and try to incorporate literacy into every area of the school through sharing ideas and discussions of what's currently happening with a group, a class or an individual student.

Social Studies is defined by the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary as a part of a school or college curriculum concerned with the study of social relationships and the functioning of society and usually made up of courses in history, government, economics, civics, sociology, geography, and anthropology.  It's a big subject!  I also found at that site that the first known use of the term social studies happened in 1926.  Obviously, it encompasses such a wide area and I know that many schools focus grade by grade on a set curriculum, yet within each curriculum study there is a wealth of possibilities. I imagine that what Tara is hoping is that we will share those possibilities.

In my thinking for this new challenge, I thought I would begin with a basic topic/theory I have often taught to students, or have had a student research it herself when appropriate.  You may already know about it, and I think it's probably most appropriate for about 10 years and up.  It is a theory of Abraham Maslow, a psychologist, named Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.  Essentially it is the idea that people need to fulfill certain basic needs in order to move to another level.  I have used this when studying the motivation for cruelty in the world, for theft, for heinous acts like slavery and the Holocaust.  It seems important to me that children learn some reasons for people's acts, to try to figure out their world.
Even young children can benefit from a conversation about the differences between "wants" and "needs".

The chart found in the link above, or in numerous graphics on Google images is endlessly interesting to students, and helps them to find out more about themselves, too.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Looking Long

                    The Tuesday Slice of Life is hosted by Ruth and Stacey at their blog,       
                         Two Writing Teachers.  Go on over to read some terrific slices!

I am reminded of the John Moffitt poem that begins like this:

To look at any thing,
       If you would know that thing,
     You must look at it long:

and you can find the rest here.

I had Sunday afternoon, a cooler day, to do some yard work.  A cold front is on its way, so the temperature had dropped to the 60’s and it was a pleasure to be outside doing a task that I had put off, but needed to do before the Monday trash pickup.  This is definitely a slice of my life, to work outside when I can, now planting a few seeds, pulling grass from the flower beds, sweeping the caterpillar-like seeds dropped from the aspens. 

This time, my task was to rake all the little sticks that drop consistently from the cottonwood tree in our backyard.  While it’s a beautiful old tree that gives wonderful shade, cottonwoods are messy and drop sticks constantly.  We’ve had some high winds recently and more have blown down because of that too.  And so I grabbed my rake, a trash bag and was off to the chore. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Reading Mentor Texts - And Other Books

              My blog today is participating in the Blogiversary of Jen and Kellee from Teach Mentor Texts. It is their second year blogging, hence the BLOGIVERSARY!  To celebrate, they have created a two-year anniversary Blog Tour, and I am Monday’s post on the tour.  Katherine, at Read, Write, and Reflect started the tour on Saturday, and Maria, of Maria’s Mélange shared yesterday.  Be sure to read their posts about their favorite mentor texts if you haven’t already.  Thanks to Jen and Kellee for asking me to share. 

My personal favorite!
              I believe I’ve become a better writing teacher and writer because of Byrd Baylor.  I’ve used each of the following books in one way or another for many years, to read to inspire writing about personal connections to the outdoors, to show how to incorporate the details of research, to write poetry.  Baylor’s words are spare and includes some philosophy of Native Americans and their connection to nature.  I hope you will find one of her books that is a surprise to you.  In my research, I have not found a book by Byrd Baylor published since the 90’s.  The little I can find is that she lives in the high desert area of Arizona near the Mexican, state-of-Sonoran border.  I found one reference that said she presented at the Arizona Book Festival in 2004. 

Love Those Books!

 Visit Jen and Kellee at Teach Mentor Texts for this meme where you can find many ideas for children's book (YA too!), and Sheila at Book Journeys for even more. And Happy Blogaversary to both of htem for their celebration of their birthday!  

Picture Books this past week: see my other post today about mentor texts and the books by Byrd Baylor that I reviewed.  Plus, I read some of these next books, & others several weeks ago.

Traces by Paula Fox & illus. by Karla Kuskin

         Here are things that leave traces, foxes, frogs, airplanes, children (shadows) beautiful collage work.  Good book for younger children to learn a new, more abstract, word.  This was loaned by a friend.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Words Worth Saving

                Poetry Friday is hosted today by Elaine at her wonderfully inviting and creative blog,  Wild Rose Reader.  Thank you for hosting Elaine!

            I have wanted to share this piece from Gregory Orr and NPR’s program This I Believe for a long while.  A friend of mine brought it to me because she had found it in the published book of the essays, and she knows how much poetry means to me.  And I have read it and loved these words often since she brought it. And then poetry month came along and I had taken the challenge of writing a poem every day, instead of writing about poetry.  So the piece waited. 
Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits.  ~Carl Sandburg

Now that it’s glorious spring, and we might all take a deep breath to smell the flowers better, we may also take the time for other things, like enjoying what others say about poetry.  You may have seen or heard this before, but if so enjoy it again.  And if it is new, take it in for the first time.  It is titled The Making of Poems, and begins with this sentence:  I believe in poetry as a way of surviving the emotional chaos, spiritual confusions and traumatic events that come with being alive.

Mother’s Day is coming next week, and I like Mother’s Day.  My son is flying in with his family and it will be a good weekend.  But some of us also think of our own mothers.  When I buy cards for my daughter and daughter-in-law, I feel a tinge of sadness because I miss my mother and no longer choose a card just for her.  We were close, talked on the phone often.  I often have called this our very good long-distance relationship because she lived a few states away, and long phone calls kept our relationship strong.  I lately read a poem by Ted Kooser that I love, about a mother gone.  It touched me.