Thursday, August 30, 2012

Once In A Blue Moon

               Poetry Friday this week is hosted by Sylvia Vardell, at her blog site, Poetry for Children.  Thanks to Sylvia, we can enjoy much poetry today from many.  Come read!

I love Karla Kuskin’s poem, Write About A Radish, and often use it to encourage students to write about the little things, the small unnoticed parts of their lives that are important in personal ways, or important because of an emotional connection-seeing, hearing, touching, and so on. 

I also love the moon, perhaps since I watched those courageous astronauts walk there, and then another connection occurred this past week when we said goodbye to Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon.   I become moon struck perhaps because I grew up singing the old songs about the moon with a piano-playing grandmother.  Several times through my classroom years, I did a moon journaling unit when we observed the moon for 31 days, journaling each night, drawing, painting and writing-yes, about the moon.  It became beautiful science, art and writing that culminated in a full moon walk on the prairie. 

Yesterday, I read an article from The Smithsonian magazine announcing that tonight is a blue moon, the last one we’ll be able to view until 2015.  You can see more about this rare beauty at this Nasa site. And, it’s poetry Friday, so I thought I must write something to reflect this special event.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Finding Time

The delightful and valuable slices of life on Tuesday are hosted by Ruth and Stacey from their blog, Two Writing Teachers.  Please post your own slice or visit to read other's.  It's a wonderful community!

       In these beginning days of school, teachers begin the lament of “Time, we never have enough time!”  And it’s true, there doesn’t seem to be enough time to talk with all the students, teach all the lessons, evaluate all the projects, respond to all the writing, read all the books, sharpen all the pencils.  How longingly we look at a short few weeks ago—summer!
       I don’t have the answer that will solve every time challenge, but I do want to remind everyone that it’s a good teaching habit to ask this question of yourself:  What task am I doing that students in class could handle just as well?  Another way to look at it is to ask what task can be given away that also might teach students a new skill?  It’s a conversation with yourself or your team of colleagues that may take some of that heavy load off your shoulders.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Books for All Ages!

          Jen and Kellee host this kidlit meme atTEACH.MENTOR.TEXTS.  Join them and the other bloggers who are sharing what they are reading.

          It's Monday! What are you Reading? is another meme hosted by Sheila at BOOK JOURNEYS that offers reviews of all kinds of books.  

        If you’re on Twitter, use the hashtag #IMWAYR when sharing your link!

The Boy Who Loved Words – Roni Schotter, Illus. by Giselle Potter
       "Upon my word!" you may say. "How lucky I am!" are words you would hear from me after reading this book, and you will also see those words a number of times in the book. Roni Schotter tells the story of a young boy who collects words, and notices things for much of his life. He is lonely and feels set apart, but carries on with his word gifts! Words-both beautiful and intriguing-float around the man, pleasing, but not without experiencing loneliness still. At last he hears a lovely song, and thus begins a new part of life, with his wife, but that's the last of the story which I'll let you read. It's a great story, whimsical too, with numerous uses in the writing workshop.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Beginnings Also Mean Goodbyes

                     Poetry Friday this week is at Dori Reads with Doraine Bennett.  Thanks to her, we are able to enjoy everyone's posts this week.  Thanks for hosting Dori!

I’m still writing goodbye poems for a personal project 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 want to put them together in a book with pictures at the particular stage I am describing in the poem.  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.  Someday I hope to put it all together in a book for my family.   Here is my most recent one, about my grandson Carter.

From fields of childhood,
hop the fence
and then you will be there,
middle school,
a world of your own.
Always summer there,
with slamming lockers
and clanging bells,
assembly line lunches where
I hope that most of the food
won’t kill you, at least on the days
before tests,
for teachers on whom you must depend
on their own hope for tomorrow.
And for friends, that surround with
crazy words and shoulder slams,
heys for the mornings.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Gathering Ideas For Writing

 Tuesday Slice of Life is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at Two Writing Teachers.  Come visit to see what everyone is up to, here as a new school year arrives.

A very old cemetery in Missouri where some of my ancestors lie.  My mother's maiden name is Coleman.

       I love talking about different kinds of writing with students, and offering different experiences.  No matter what kind of writing we discuss, we seem to end up ‘telling stories.

        My school is near a beautiful cemetery.  Many visit there for various reasons.  Groups may have a tree tour to learn about and visit the numerous examples of tall, mature trees that grow there.  The place is very old, and they can study history there, visit some of the tombstones of famous people who have lived in this area and marvel at their monuments, their places of rest.  There is a tour dedicated to distinguished Colorado women.  People bike on the numerous paths through the grounds.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Reading for Others Now!

Jen and Kellee host this kidlit meme at TEACH.MENTOR.TEXTS.  It’s a wonderful group of readers who blog and tell, what they’re reading lately. 

        It's Monday! What are you Reading? is another meme hosted by Sheila at BOOK JOURNEYS that offers reviews of all kinds of books.  There are more reviews to help find that next great book here!

        If you’re on Twitter, use the hashtag #IMWAYR when sharing your link!

And: if you still haven’t looked at the blogs who wrote the 10for10 picture books posts, go to Cathy’s blog Reflect and Refine: Building A Learning Community or Mandy’s at Enjoy And Embrace Learning to find the lists

    Here’s what I’ve read and/or listened to this week, lots of good reading for me this week.  I'm reading as fast as I can so I'll have lots of good recommendations for teachers!

The Penderwicks by Jeanne Birdsall is the beginning of a series I will booktalk and share as much as possible for all those readers who love a good story that includes numerous memorable characters, some loved and some disliked.  Birdsall manages to keep readers on the edge often.  Because I listened to this book read expertly by Susan Denaker, who managed to pull off voices so real I thought there was more than one reader, I found myself sitting in the car more than once until the “dangerous situation” was resolved.  It is a wonderful story for middle readers.

      I was loaned a couple of books by a new teacher I’m working with this year.  Lucky me! 

Planting The Trees of Kenya by Claire A. Nivola is an inspiration, especially for those who are working to make a difference in first steps.  When Maathai returned to her Native Kenya after college in the U.S., she was troubled by the amount of land that had been stripped of trees in order that farmers plant crops to sell.  The result was becoming an economic and personal disaster.  No longer was there good land to grow small gardens to feed one’s family, or close trees from which to gather fallen wood for cooking fires.  Starting with a few trees, Nivola walked the land teaching how to plant trees, especially the sacred fig, and teaching why.  This wonderful story is one that children can easily understand, the beginnings and the resulting successes.  The illustrations are breath-taking.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Sky Reminds Me Fall Is On Its Way

Wonderful poetry and words about poets arrive each Poetry Friday.  This week Mary Lee hosts at her blog, A Year of Reading.  Thanks, Mary Lee!  Come visit!

      Last weekend the Perseid Showers arrived, and when I saw the announcement of their time, I knew school was about to begin and fall was on its way.  In this last week, we've had a little rain and a little cool!  In fact, as I write this, I have closed the windows because I'm chilly.  It is heavenly to have the temperature drop.

     For a number of years my husband and I traveled outside the city to a friend's house with sleeping bags and a few treats to contribute to a Perseid party.  I repeat this line, but for a different reason: it was heavenly.  To snuggle into a sleeping bag on a cool night and watch hundreds of meteors stream across the sky eclipses all the fireworks displays I've ever seen.  It is a terrific memory.  I wasn't able to watch this year, only some pictures on the news, but I won't forget what I've seen.  I found a poem by Rainier Maria Rilke that reminds me of the meteor showers, although it really speaks of stars.

           The title is Falling Stars.  It begins:

                              Do you remember still the falling stars
                              that like swift horses through the heavens raced

                                                          Read the rest here.                 

photo credit: NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center via photo pin cc

A Caldecott for School's Beginning

Myra, Fats & Iphigene host this meme at Gathering Books, and today I'm reviewing a Caldecott winner, Mirette On The High Wire by Emily Arnold McCully for that challenge.

It’s always good to find a book that offers a flavor of another time and place.  Mirette On The High Wire does that well.  The illustrations capture the flavor of France’s impressionists in lovely watercolor.

       The time is 100 years ago in Paris, where a little girl named Mirette is the daughter of the boardinghouse owner.  As she goes about her chores, she notices a man named Bellini who keeps to himself, is not interested in interacting with anyone, especially young girls.  Mirette discovers that he is walking on a wire in the inner courtyard ‘walking on air’.  She is enraptured with the idea; the story says that ‘her feet tingled’.  She tries to convince Bellini to teach her.  He refuses, saying that ‘Once you start, your feet are never happy again on the ground’.
       Mirette doesn’t give up her quest to learn, and practices in secrecy.  Soon she is discovered, and then Bellini does teach her.  There is a frightening climax where Mirette helps Bellini as he has helped her.  The story is about courage and persistence as well as kindness and caring for others when they are in need.  It will open good conversations with students about following one’s dream when the opportunity arises. Here at the beginning of the school year, it’s also time to talk about being mindful of others’ feelings and taking time to help when one can.  Mirette’s character shows her willingness to do that beautifully.
      The book cover shares that McGully has the idea for the story when she  was researching a real life daredevil named Blondin, who lived about a hundred years ago, and really did cross Niagara Falls on a wire.  You can find out a little more about him and see a photo of him crossing the falls here.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Whistling In The Dark

Slice of Life sharing is hosted by Stacey and Ruth at their blog, Two Writing Teachers.  Please visit, or add your own slice! 

        I am back to work, although the real thing (meaning the students arriving) doesn’t happen for another week.  I have met with some teachers, dusted and moved things around my office. I’ve been browsing files and adding new ideas to them in order to give good support to those I work with.  What do they need:  magic words, lesson ideas, book suggestions for read alouds, mentor texts and possible book for groups.  Some need a big picture and others want to discuss the smaller ones.  All of us are doing what some call “whistling in the dark” because until the students are here for a few weeks, we can only speculate, surmise, imagine, wish, read and talk about general ideas.  By now it is hard to wait.  Teachers are restless during these days before school really starts.  They move desks and tables, make endless lists, cut out cute pictures, rearrange book baskets, hang flags.  They are tired, yet tireless in the talk about the future. 
First Inspiration!

        So that is part of my job, to support, and then help everyone wait, too.  There is only so much I can do these next weeks.  I have a tech tool class to prepare, and I am ready with a few ideas but will wait to see student goals and knowledge before I do more. 
        What do you do in this waiting period? 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

A Reading Frenzy This Week!

Jen and Kellee host this kidlit meme at TEACH.MENTOR.TEXTS.  Please take a look at all the great books people have read & are writing about.

        It's Monday! What are you Reading? is another meme hosted by Sheila at BOOK JOURNEYS that offers more reviews of all kinds of books.

        If you’re on Twitter, use the hashtag #IMWAYR when sharing your link!

It’s been an exciting week for books.  I finished several terrific ones and found several other older ones that I want to share.  My school bought a retired teacher’s collection and after our librarian went through it for the library, now I’ve been sifting through, finding books for use for a variety of reasons.  There are old and out of date books, but I really enjoyed browsing through the 100's of books.  I had the time and made piles for my colleagues and myself.  I brought a few home to read. 
   Also, along with many others, I participated in the 10 for 10 picture book sharing that occurred last Friday.  If you can, check out all those who linked up with Cathy at Reflect and Refine: Building A Learning Community or Mandy at Enjoy And Embrace Learning to find the lists.

First, I must give an acclamation for Liar and Spy by Rebecca Stead.  Several of you readers have talked a little about it, and that’s all I can do, too.  I don’t want to give away a thing.  Here are two quotes that I liked, however: I smile.  I have a strong feeling that I’ve just met two kids who will never make fun of my name. and also: I used to know which one was the real me, but now I’m not so sure.  Now it’s like maybe there is no real me.

I’ve owned it for a while, but just had too many other things happening, but finally sat down and read Babymouse for President written and illustrated by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm.  I know that others have reviewed and shouted about this to the rooftops.  It did not disappoint.  In these days of constant presidential campaign commercials (here in Colorado) it was refreshing to read a book that poked a bit of fun at all those promises and attacks.  Babymouse is at her best when thinking about herself, but in the end, she figures out what being president really should be, and cupcakes are not a bad idea either. 

Friday, August 10, 2012

10 for 10 Picture Book Bonanza!

        This is my second time writing for the August 10 for 10 Picture books one cannot live without.  It’s a terrific place to find new books you haven’t discovered or that you might know, but find a new way to use it in the classroom.  Since I am now working with teachers who teach ages 4-14, I know I’ll find many new books this year for a good list to share.  Please be sure to check all the links to read what others have put on their lists.  Go to Cathy’s blog Reflect and Refine: Building A Learning Community or Mandy’s at Enjoy And Embrace Learning to find the lists, or to link up with your own.  Thanks for this, Cathy and Mandy!

I’ve put some of mine into categories.  Some old favorites are not here because I shared them last year, but that’s okay, because I have ten others that also can be on the list, and struggled with sharing only ten.  Many of these are old favorites, but a few are recent.

First, books that my three year old granddaughter loves, but I believe one could use them for early primary too.  They are classic stories with beautifully detailed illustrations.  If you don’t know them, please check them out!

Millions of Cats written and illustrated by Wanda Gรกg.  Published in 1928, a Newbery Honor Book in 1929.  How wonderful that this book, 84 years old, is still giving so much pleasure to young children.  The repetition is just right.

Red Light, Green Light by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Leonard Weisgard – Simplicity of story is Margaret Wise Brown’s forte, and this story, taking the life of a community with people and animals from waking up to going to sleep is simply told, and holds all the details a young child wants to know:  Where do people and animals sleep, how do they travel, when should they stop, when go?  It’s terrific.

Bears by Ruth Krauss illustrated by Maurice Sendak – If you aren’t familiar with this fun story, you should find it.  It’s a little rhyme with lots of repeating of the word bears, and they are everywhere, with the character Max appearing from Where The Wild Things Are interacting with all those bears.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Reflection - Dejection

Violet at Violet Nesdoly/Poems is our wonderful host for Poetry Friday today.  Friday postings are something I always look forward to, and I'm sure you readers will love reading the exquisite postings of those who join up.  Thank you Violet!

    My poem today is my own, written in response to the terrible drought and heat we've had this summer, in Colorado and across the nation.  When I visited my brother in mid-Missouri, I was shocked at the look of his property with so little moisture.  People don't always have the facility to irrigate, especially when their usual weather is plentiful rain, like in Missouri.  I am saddened by the plight of those who depend on moisture; the recent news about our nationwide drought is both sad and frightening for the future.  Here is a reflection:

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

To celebrate my son's birthday

The Slice of Life on Tuesdays can be found with Ruth and Stacey at their blog, Two WritingTeachers.  It’s a wonderful group of writers who share pieces of their lives.  Go visit!

My son Nathan, his wife Barb and son (my first grandchild Carter, almost 11) moved to another state over a year ago.  We lived close to each other and saw them at least once a week, and spoke on the phone often.  I had the privilege of picking up my grandson from school once in a while and he spent a night with us on the weekends often.  As I've said in other posts, I miss them a lot.  But one of the good things about people moving away is that it is so exciting when they come for a visit.
       My grandson arrived a week ago to spend time with me, and his parents just came for a long weekend to pick him up, visit a few days more, and see old friends, too.  This is Nathan's first time living in a different city except when he was in college and in an internship in Washington DC.  He’s had some experiences finding his way around through those years and in traveling, but when one has to make a “home” in a new place, with wife and child, and start a new job with many responsibilities, it’s quite different. He has met these challenges with enthusiasm, and I believe it’s been a good time for him.  I’m proud of my son and how he lives his life.  Today is his birthday, so I thought I would write some things about him as one of my gifts to him.
Here are some things I know about Nathan.  Some are qualities I have recognized since he was a young child.  He is such a special person.  HAPPY BIRTHDAY, NATHAN!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Still Reading While Visiting Family

Jen and Kellee host this kidlit meme at TEACH.MENTOR.TEXTS.  Please take a look at all the great books people have read & are writing about.

        It's Monday! What are you Reading? is another meme hosted by Sheila at BOOK JOURNEYS that offers a variety of reviews of all kinds of books.

Myra, Fats & Iphigene host this meme at Gathering Books, and today I'm reviewing Leaving Gee’s Bend by Irene Latham for that challenge.

       This week, it was a bit slow reading because I had company all week, I but did manage to read a few books to share and to recommend.

             Leaving Gee’s Bend, by Irene Latham, who blogs at LIVE YOUR POEM... is a story of a young girl whose strong voice is the touchstone of this book.  Irene has brought to life a character so real that it’s hard to believe she’s a fictional young woman that does such courageous things for her family.  Ludelphia Bennett is only ten years old, but she takes such steps into adulthood as helping her mother deliver her new little sister, then going away from Gee’s Bend to try to find a doctor for her sick mother.  She rides a raft, which runs away down a river, jumps into the river when she loses the pole, and teaches herself to swim because she has to.  In fact, Ludelphia shows well that she can do anything needed, because she has to.  She might be afraid, but she takes action with little deliberation, when she must. 
       The story offers parts of the lives of the sharecroppers in Gee’s Bend, like their spare homes, their dependence on a few chickens and mules, and what feed for the animals and canned goods they can manage to have from their gardens.  Despite the poor lives with leaky roofs, love abounds in the household from Ludelphia’s parents and her brother, Ruben.  A neighbor and former caretaker of the young girl while her parents worked the fields also plays an important role in their lives, a sixteen year old named Etta Mae, who has knowledge of helping with babies being born, but who is also accused of possible witchcraft.  With the simplicity of a strong first person telling of the story, Irene manages to include the layers of complexity when one struggles to survive.  The small pieces of a quilt that Ludelphia keeps always in her pocket gives strength and the ultimate need for survival because of the loving goal of finishing the quilt for her mother.  It is the weft that keeps the weaving of the story together, along with love and courage.  Ludelphia grows up in this adventure of leaving her home, and finds that all those homilies about home hold so true.  She says it best here:  I reckon when you grow up in one place you just naturally think every other place is the same as your home.  I reckon it takes leaving to appreciate all the things about that place that make it special. (page 166)

Friday, August 3, 2012

Poetry Friday - Plans Change

Poetry Friday today is hosted by Rena at On The Way To Somewhere.  Thanks, Rena!  She also has a contest offer, so go over to visit for lots of fun.

I wasn't going to post today because I was taking my grandson to Santa Fe, but plans had to change, and his parents traveled here for the weekend instead.  While reading my early e-mail, I found a poem by Edwin Romond from Jayne Jaudon Ferrer at Your Daily Poem.  I love the way he takes that one moment to give us good advice.  And because of events that have happened in Colorado this summer, to me this year and to those close to me, the poem is an important reminder, to celebrate the moments we have today.  I hope all of you enjoy this too.

  Asbury Park, August 3, 1962.

              I am 13 and smiling
              in this photo with my father
              on his 53rd birthday.
                                the rest is here.