Sunday, August 31, 2014

Monday Reading

              Thanks to Sheila at Book Journeys who started It's Monday! What are you Reading?, a meme where bloggers share the books read recently. Now, thanks to Jen Vincent of Teach Mentor Texts and Ricki and Kellee at Unleashing Readers, there is one with a children's focus. Come join in to share your own reading!
Caminar – verse novel by Skila Brown
             Based on real events in Guatemala in the early 80s, this story breaks your heart. It is not the usual growing up story where one celebrates a hard passage. Yet, the ending of the choice made by the young boy who tells the story brings tears, is to be celebrated. Although he has survived much loss,, his decision holds true to the character he was at the beginning. Skila Brown’s poems circle in and out of  terrible tension, exceptional feelings, and just enough information to make us, the readers, want to find out more. The use of movement of words and lines can show action, sorrow, and happiness. I loved reading and re-reading the stories told, was saddened by the obvious results that are foreshadowed. The subtle connections within the poems make the book worth re-reading to see what was missed the first time, so I’m not only recommending the book, but sharing that it should be read more than once.  There is a glossary that translate the Spanish words and phrases included in the poems, and a short Q & A about real events from the author.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

A Bonus Swap

         Jone McCullough is our host today, inviting everyone over to share some good poetry.  Visit this Poetry Friday at  Check It Out where Jone is celebrating the beginning of the school year. Thanks, Jone!
        I received wonderful poems from the swap organized by Tabatha Yeatts this summer. Finding a new piece of mail that I knew was not an advertisement or a bill was an extra treat. One time recently, I received mail that was extra, a bonus, a wonderful blog-gem from Donna Smith. If you aren't sure what I'm referring to, look here and scroll down! Donna's created a new kind of poem, a personal connection for those fortunate enough to receive one. I am grateful that I know Donna through her lovely words, and for this 'extra' gift! If you'd like one more back-to-school poem, see Donna's post here!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Non-Fiction - Always Good!

Alyson Beecher hosts Non-Fiction Picture Book Wednesday at her blog, Kid Lit Frenzy.  Because the students at my school study individual topics, the need for great non-fiction that will help in their research is vital. I've learned much from other blogs in this group, about books, authors, and illustrators. Thanks for hosting Alyson!

Sophie Scott Goes South – written and illustrated by Alison Lester
                     I know this is an imagined story about a little nine year old girl who gets to travel to Antarctica with her father on his ship, an ice breaker on its way to Mawson to make the final delivery before the community is cut off, and to deliver some scientists and other wrokers who will spend the winter there. Yet, Alison Lester based the book on her real life experiences and includes much information, about the ship, the animals who live there, what the workers do, and bits about the harsh weather there. During her own voyage, Alison contacted schools all over via e-mail about her trip. Some of the pictures that children sent her are included in the book, along with small sketches that explain some things, photographs that explain others. It’s a “full” book of information given in the text as well as the illustrations. What an adventure to be able to experience such a voyage on the Aurora Australis!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Linking Up-Jigsaw Art

       Time to link up at the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesday Slice of Life! Thanks Stacey, Tara, Dana, Betsy, Anna, and Beth!

             I'd like to share an activity that I enjoyed doing every few years for a community, getting-to-know-you, art project. This will be displayed on a large bulletin board, and unfortunately I don't have a picture of one we did on paper. What I do have are photos of a large table that sat in front of the sofa in my room, but also served as a worktable for kids who liked to work sitting on the floor. It was a long black table, and one year I had twenty-four students, exactly right. And I had quite a few good planners and artists. One student measured and drew out the puzzle, and we drew names to see who would do each piece. The ideas is that you must coordinate with those people whose pieces you touch, and for this one, at the most it meant three people. If you used something like the template I'm sharing, those "inner" students need to do even more collaboration. Here are some photos and a puzzle template for planning.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

It's Monday - Books Everywhere!

         Thanks to Ricki and Kellee at Unleashing Readers, and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts for hosting this group!

         It's been a terrific week, loving the books I've read, and discovering more. It's busy, but still some time to read! I hope you're having fun reading to (and with) students if you're back in school!

The Secret Hum of a Daisy – written by Tracy Holtzer           
          For those who believe that children get over a loss fast, this book is for them. For anyone who has had a loss, adults too, this book is for them.  Young twelve year old Grace has not only lost her mother, she’s had to say goodbye to many communities while her mother, estranged from her own mother, wanders from town to town, until a tragic accident takes her life. Grace has to say goodbye not only to her mother, but to the good home where she and her mother had been living. Being taken in by her grandmother is not at all what she wants, and Tracy Holtzer describes a mix of strong emotions all through the story as Grace figures things were not exactly how her mother had seen them. Anger, sorrow, and happiness too all play a part in this beautiful story of a young girl grieving and being helped by her grandmother and the small community she eventually calls home. It’s a great read!

Friday, August 22, 2014

Celebrating - Always Something!

           It's good to look for celebrations, for they are many, every single week. Thanks to Ruth Ayres, we also get to share them with others every Saturday. Check HERE for the links. And tweet at #CelebrateLu

          "In our work and in our living, we must recognize that difference is a reason for celebration and growth, rather than a reason for destruction." Audre Lord

           I do have things to celebrate. It's been a good week for me, but I also know it's been a hard week for many others in our world. I hope that good can come from the talk, peace for those parts of the world who haven't had it in a long while.

       Although many of my colleagues have been in to work in offices and classrooms for several weeks, even sometimes in the summer, our beginning official day with staff was Wednesday, and it was terrific. We shared, did a few activities, but mostly we walked and talked, played and talked, and ate and talked. Here is where we were, a beautiful lake in our near foothills.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Summer Goodbye Swap - from Robyn!

              Poetry Friday is hosted today by a lovely substitute, Irene Latham of Live Your Poem. Her new book Dear Wandering Wildebeast and Other Poems From The Water Hole will be out September 1st, so it's time to begin celebrating.  Robyn Hood Black, of Life On The Deckle Edge, our 'supposed-to-be' host, is taking some time off with a hurt shoulder, but lucky for us, she's here at my blog because I was fortunate enough to receive my final swap poem from her this past week. It couldn't have been more appropriate. She saw my post a few weeks ago about the light changing, and wrote a poem about August for me. I just returned to work officially this week, and it's a wonderful poem for a school year's beginning. Thank you Robyn! And of course, thanks to Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference one more time for her sensational swapping idea.

Special Birthday - Wow-Thirteen!

           Thirteen years is a lot of years of knowing someone, and learning to love them at each step of growing up. It's my grandson Carter's thirteenth birthday today!
        I’ve written quite a few poems about him through the years, what I call “goodbye” poems because each one is a goodbye to who he was before, no longer a toddler, no longer filling the room with toys, no longer a lap sitter. Yet there are important parts that have remained.  He is someone who’s a joy to be with, excited to try new things, helpful, and kind. If you could see him with his two young cousins, you know that he’s a young boy who will grow into a wonderful young man.  Here are thirteen ways of looking at Carter and one more poem.

For Carter’s Thirteenth Birthday

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Non-Fiction - always good!

Alyson Beecher hosts Non-Fiction Picture Book Wednesday at her blog, Kid Lit Frenzy. I have learned about so many wonderful books from reading others' posts. Learning about anything through good stories and beautiful illustrations is inspiring. I hope you visit to learn about the books available.

Here are three books I read this week that I enjoyed, new to me, but I've seen them reviewed by more than one person. Thanks for the recommendations!

(This book meets the challenge to read more books about or by Latinos at the blog, Latin@s In Kid Lit) See the link at the right!
Separate Is Never Equal, Sylvia Mendez & Her Family’s Fight for Desegegation – written by Duncan Tonatiuh
            Well before the Civil Rights Act, Sylvia Mendez and her family fought a years long battle to get her children into the schools where everyone went instead of those “for Mexicans” which were nearly falling down, without playgrounds, not to the standards of those built for white children. When her husband stopped being a migrant worker, leased his own land to become his own boss, they went to enroll their children in the nearby school. They were told they had to attend the “Mexican” school.  The family, and along the way, more families, fought back, and when they still couldn’t change the policy they sued. And they won their case, even on appeal, in 1947! There is a good author’s note and extra information at the back that extends the story. It’s wonderful to hear stories that were not told in the past, about those who fought for their rights, paving the way for freedoms for others. The story is straightforward, with lovely folk-art styled illustrations.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Don't Miss This Book!

             Two Writing Teachers sponsors the Slice of Life community sharing each Tuesday.  

Come join in the fun here. Tweet at #SOL14
          At the beginning of the school year, my brain swirls with thoughts for lessons, and this time I'm going to do something I've never done before. I'm going to share a book I just shared yesterday. Some of you read my posts on Monday, but some do not, and this book is too good a mentor text for history research and presentation to ignore.

           A long time ago I discovered The Jolly Postman, or Other People's Letters, by Janet & Allan Ahlberg.  My daughter and I loved it, and then I used it for creative writing purposes, to show how someone can present information through letters, and so on. It's a delightful book that can be used for all ages. And probably many of you know and love it.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

It's Monday - Great Week

             Thanks to Ricki and Kellee at Unleashing Readers, and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts for hosting this group!
        I've finished quite a few books this week, and am excited about what I'm reading now, and have a pile of picture books from the library, too. It's back to work officially Wednesday, but I'll be in Tuesday for a while too. Less reading time, but it is exciting to be back, too. 
chapter books

The Riverman – written by Aaron Starmer
            I don’t know what to imagine about this book other than it grabbed me and wouldn’t let go. Alistair tells the story, but Fiona drives the rest of it, until Alistair realizes he must act. He is almost thirteen after all, and cares for Fiona very much, and wants to help her. Her story doesn’t make sense, and Alastair believes it’s a form of metaphor for something else happening in her home. Perhaps it’s her uncle, newly back from somewhere that wasn’t good. We don’t know where until the end. Perhaps there’s someone else in the neighborhood that’s the Riverman? My imagination whirled during the book, filling with “what ifs” or “if this, then…”. It’s complex, and I will need to consider carefully what student I might recommend it to. Definitely it’s older middle grader or young adult.  It’s a fascinating book.

DigiLit Share - A Poem on ThingLink

             Margaret Simon, at Reflections on The Teche, hosts Digilit Sunday, a way to share anything about technology learning, for the classroom or personally I don't always share, but have enjoyed what others do, and thought I'd try a ThingLink for today. I realize there is much more that can be done with this app. Yet I also thought that ThingLink, text only this time, could be a great device for highlighting a poem. Here's one today. Read top to bottom, left to right.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Celebrating, But Sometimes Challenging

           Come celebrate your week with Ruth Ayres at Discover-Play-Build. It's a pleasure to share with others the joys of the week!

           It is not so easy to gather the good things of this week that was also filled with heartbreak for families I don't know, but I hope that somehow peace will come for them. I also understand it was hard for many of us from afar as we heard and watched the news. And I kept remembering the quote from R.J. Palacio's Wonder: "When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind." And although many did not choose kind, some did, and I celebrate that.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Poetry Gifts

         Mid-August, summer is still twirling along this Poetry Friday with Heidi Mordhurst at My Juicy Little Universe.   (I had to add this in. Just noticed, it's my seven hundred seventy-seventh post! Three sevens have to be lucky, right?)

                Thanks Heidi!  

         Thanks also to Tabatha Yeatts at The Opposite of Indifference, many of us have had the summer pleasure of swapping poetry. I've received such marvelous surprises in my mailbox, and thank everyone for taking the time to create and send. This time, my next to last package, I had a huge surprise, poems from Tabatha, the swapping guru! She certainly stretched my vocabulary with her creations, but thankfully also included glossaries. Here they are in wonderful tongue-in-cheek fashion. Laughter is ever so nice when opening the mail. Thank you again, Tabatha!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Time for Clean Slates

          Time for our Tuesday Slice of Life Sharing at theTwo Writing Teachers blog. It's a wonderful place to share. Last night, even more sharing happened on Twitter, at the #TWTBlog chat. Thanks for a great conversation!
          It was quite a day yesterday, one that was cut into tiny, tiny slices;  I'm actually happy it is over. As I said above, I enjoyed the twitter chat from everyone here, but the day itself was filled to the brim. I hoped to write a long post about the first days of school, but it will be brief today, sharing only one thing that became so important to me in the first days of school. 
          While even from the first day, I wanted my class to know that this would be a reading and writing year, even more I wanted them to realize that they were the ones that would be driving the year. I taught a mix of 6th, 7th and 8th graders and many of you know that personal choice is a top priority for all of our students, K through 8. One of the things I did on the first day was to share a poem or a poetic quote to help us leap into the year. I gave each student a copy, they taped it into their writers' notebooks, and then responded to it. In that response, I asked them to make one secret and very personal goal for the year.  Although I never knew what those particular goals were, I would re-visit students once in a while to ask how they were doing with it, and if there was something I could provide that would help reach the goal? Obviously, it involved a lot of trust. There were other times that students created goals that I did know about, but I always felt that trusting that they could work to reach a goal secretly was inspiring and empowering. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

It's Monday-More Reading!

          Ricki and Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen atTeach Mentor Texts host this meme that encourages bloggers to share what books they're reading. Come check everyone's posts of their reading last week!
         It was terrific reading everyone's posts yesterday for PB10for10, and I managed to find over 20 books I wanted at the library. They're on the way!

I finally remembered to share this. I don't think I've shared
it with all you readers. It's at the library at Texas Tech,
 & I saw it when I visited my son and family in June.

        This first book meets the challenge for reading more books by or about the Latino experience. Thanks to Cindy Rodriguez for hosting the challenge at her blog, found here.

Papรก and Me – written by Arthur Dorros and illustrated by Rudy Gutierrez

               The book title grabbed me because my son-in-law likes to be called Papa, so I read every picture book I can when I see it’s about a Papa!  It’s a story about a boy’s day with his Papa, filled with swirling illustrations that are filled with excitement and high adventure. No matter what they do, it’s full of love in their relationship, ending with a visit to the grandparents.

PB10for10! - A Mix of Favorites

Cathy Mere of Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Community and Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning host this wonderful tradition, the annual #PB10for10, 10 "must have" picture books for the classroom. Get your library site open, or your list of books to buy!
             Tweet #PB10for10

     Thank you Mandy and Cathy for doing this for the 5th year!

           I tried to think of a theme to share, and then I tried to do only certain kinds of books, but I checked the past lists, and I was repeating too much. Today I'll share some old favorites, a few recent ones that "perhaps" you haven't read, and one that hasn't even been published yet, but I know it'll be great.  Here's my list, and the ways I use them, or will use them. 
          Also, except for the final one, I'm not going to comment on the illustrations. Each book in its own way has been illustrated beautifully, and that art is an integral part of what makes the books we choose shine.

      For use in writing workshop: Sometimes it's good to choose a topic, to show students that writing about a common topic can show the diversity of our opinions, and we learn so much about each other.  Bookspeak, Poems About Books is a great mentor text for celebrating point of view. Laura Purdie Salas shares her lovely poems in both different structures and different kinds of ways to look at writing. A favorite is her poem about the sadness of being the book's "middle" instead of being "first" or "last". 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Celebrating Big and Little Again!

           Thanks to Ruth Ayres for Celebration Saturday! Visit here for all the posts. 
Special Note: Cathy Mere of Reflect and Refine: Building a Learning Communityand Mandy Robek of Enjoy and Embrace Learning are getting ready for SUNDAY, August 10th (TOMORROW), their annual sharing of #PB10for10, 10 "must have" picture books for the classroom. See all about it here!

Terrific big and little celebrations every day. It was a lovely week. (Getting busier, however.)
  • Sunday: Loved the NEW twitter chat plan with Ruth Ayres (@ruth_ayres) and Christy Levine (@rushlevine) on Sunday evenings. They will happen every first Sunday of the month at 8 eastern time, hashtag #TandCWriters. This time Katherine Sokolowski (@Katsok) was the host and questions were asked about the use of writers’ notebooks. How does one start them, etc.? Terrific! I can't find the archive, but you can view all the tweets by searching the hashtag.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Light Is Changing

          It's the first Poetry Friday of August, and Mary Lee Hahn is gathering the posts today at A Year of Reading. Come visit!

       Yes, I know it's the first week of August (NOT September), and I'm used to being outside, very hot, wondering if the summer heat is ever going to change. But the past few days, the light has changed, and it's cooler. I can see it, and feel it! I found two poems to share. School is starting soon, supplies are in every store. I've been in already, working with a few teachers, organizing more books in my office. The first football games are being played. The light is changing. 
The grasses are high, and the late flowers of the prairie are blooming in a nearby park.

William Wordsworth writes:


Departing summer hath assumed
An aspect tenderly illumed,
The gentlest look of spring;
That calls from yonder leafy shade
Unfaded, yet prepared to fade,
A timely carolling.

and John Updike understands exactly how I feel in this beginning of his poem:


"The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.

        You can find the rest here.

         Poetry Swap this summer has been a delight.  I'll share the poems that I've received soon. They are special!          

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Non-Fiction PB Wed. - Two New!

              Come visit Alyson Beecher at Kid Lit Frenzy for Non-Fiction Picture Book Wednesday!  It's great to see the varied books that others share! 

           Two biographies this time, both inspiring in their life's work! First, I'd like to tell you that I posted yesterday about Non-fiction for older students. Would love to hear ideas for more books if you would like. I've started a list!

A Home for Mr. Emerson - written by Barbara Kerley and illustrated by Edwin Fotheringham

               With both front and back endpapers filled with quotes from Ralph Waldo Emerson, Barbara Kerley begins this story for children of this important man in our literature. I really didn't know anything about his life except that he lived in Concord, and made his living through lectures and his writing. This book shares the man who loved his home and his community, of his wife and children, and a little bit of how his fame grew. Tragedy struck when he found his home on fire, and throngs of townspeople rushed to save his books and papers, the beautiful treasures in his home. There is a moment that is special, telling about his sorrow for the loss, going to Europe to recuperate, but discovering that home was really where he needed to be. 

Monday, August 4, 2014

Slice of My School Life - Non-Fiction for Older Students

           It's Tuesday, time for a slice of life at the Two Writing Teachers blog. Thanks to Stacey, Tara, Dana, Anna, Beth and Betsy, this community thrives. Please come visit for lots of interesting topics!
          Many blog posts and tweets are buzzing with plans for the school year. My mind is swirling, I have piles of work all over my dining table, trying to create a way to organize what I hope to do this year. Maybe I’ll never be done, but I’m beginning!
         There are numerous professional books that help with ideas about getting started in the school year, and blogs are lately filling up with ideas for starting reading workshop, writing workshop, writers’ notebooks (see Two Writing Teachers’ blog series this week! The first one is by Tara Smith, workshop routines).        
              I just enjoyed a NEW twitter chat with Ruth Ayres (@ruth_ayres) and Christy Levine (@rushlevine) on Sunday evening that will happen every first Sunday of the month at 8 eastern time, hashtag #TandCWriters. This time Katherine Sokolowski (@Katsok) was the host and questions were asked about the use of writers’ notebooks. How does one start them, etc.?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Monday Reading - a good week!

Ricki and Kellee at Unleashing Readers and Jen at Teach Mentor Texts host this meme that encourages bloggers to share what books they're reading. It's a terrific place to find new titles to enjoy, to use with students.

I've read 13 of 26 books now on my #MustReadIn2014 list, and added to Gathering Books CORL challenge. (See above and the button on the right)

       It’s been a good week with time to read and catch up on writing, cleaning, just being home. I had a wonderful week of vacation at the beach with family before last week, and then spent time at school helping interview for a new staff member. I’ll be in and out planning for the beginning of the school year from now on. We start officially on the 20th-16 more days!
chapter books - both YA
The Dream Thieves – written by Maggie Stiefvater
          I don’t know why I wait so long to read a book that I’ve had since it came out, but finally I took the time! And now I have to wait for what’s next. This time, book two, holds more mystery, new characters, and consistent tension that kept me reading quickly. I love Stiefvater’s writing. The fantastical creations woven in with real characters is exciting stuff, and I imagine older students love the complexity of the story. Here are those same characters, Gansey, Ronan and Adam, along with Blue and her family playing a larger role, plus a new sinister character, the Gray Man. The deepening of the characters enriched the story, and made me the reader care about the outcome even more. I hope Maggie Stiefvater writes the next one quickly!

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Celebrating - Small & Big Things

      Time again to celebrate with Ruth Ayres for Celebration Saturday! Visit here for all the posts. Like always, thanks Ruth for starting this community!

     Still sharing a little more of our trip to Captiva Island. It was a wonderful week, and I celebrate that my children and their families are able to join me each summer.
Most evenings we found a special restaurant for dinner.
This is everyone but me, after eating, full and happy!