Friday, May 18, 2018

Poetry Friday -- Imperfect

I am honored to be a part of Team Imperfect. It's so me. Just the other day, I shared with my students that I was thankful for a new day and the chance to fail better than I did the day before. We embrace our failures and mistakes in Room 226.

Imperfect: Poems about Mistakes, collected and edited by Tabatha Yeatts, is aimed at the perfect audience: middle schoolers. We were at our most insecure about our mistakes at that age, weren't we? This is a survival handbook that will help tweens and teens navigate those tricky times.

My poem, A Note From the Architect, is in the collection.

Today on the Mistakes Anthology blog, my mistake mini is being featured. Go over and check it out.

Rebecca has this week's Poetry Friday Roundup at Sloth Reads.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Poetry Friday: One Topic Many Ways

I was so inspired by the 30 poems Amy wrote about Orion for her NPM18 project. I thought, "What a perfect way to end the year--with an engaging, choice-filled writing workshop!"

We're studying the similarities and differences between first- and second-hand accounts of immigrants, so I put the names of about 15 countries whose people have emigrated to the US in one bag, and, knowing that countries and people wouldn't be everyone's first choice, the names of about 15 animals that migrate into another bag. After the choosing (and liberal numbers of trades), we spent some time gathering information from the encyclopedias. (It's what you do when all of the computer carts are being used for MAP testing.)

Tuesday we started our digital collections in either Google Docs or Google Slides. On Tuesday, the anchor poems/strategies we looked at from Poems Are Teachers were write from first person, start with a question, and use repetition. On Wednesday, the anchors/strategies were write from facts, write from a photo, and ask What if?.

A new poetry form was invented on Tuesday. Harmony attempted a haiku, but counted words instead of syllables, so we named this form the Harmoniku. On Wednesday, Monta reversed the word count to 7-5-7, inventing the Montaiku.

Here is a selection of poems from my students:

Why We Left

When I asked my mother why we left,
she said, “ We couldn't worship freely.”

When I asked my father why we left, 
he said, “ It was the government’s will.”

When I asked my sister why we left, 
she said, “ For a chance.”

by Jawaher


I was in WWII, FIGHT!!
I had a terrible leader, Adolf Hitler.
I am strong, proud, GERMANY! 

by Harmony


Why is this baby so heavy! I am flying at 60 mph because I’m late.
Why is this baby so heavy? I betcha her parents are worried.
Why is this baby so heavy! I’m almost there!
Why is this baby so heavy? I’m getting tired!
Why is this-AHHHHHHH!!!
Why is this baby so----HEAVY!
At least the baby made it when I threw her!
I ate that big bass for lunch
So that means…..
I’m the heavy one!

by Juan

Spain. Especially
Spain. Immigrants all over earth.
Some come, some leave. Why?

by Rayan


Millions a night fly in the sky
Hunting thousands in the dark
Hunting moths, mosquitoes every night then rest

by Monta

Jama has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

A Trio of Graphic Novels

I'm always on the lookout for new graphic novels to add to my 5th grade classroom library. Lucky me (lucky readers in my room!), three of our favorite series have a new book out! This trio of books really shows that graphic novels are a FORMAT, not a genre. The first is a fantasy-adventure story with a strong female protagonist, the second is mythology, and the third is nonfiction.

Monsters Beware!
by Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre
First Second, 2018

A glorious ending to a fabulous series. Claudette for the win -- OVER monsters and FOR her friends and family. Great back matter that shows how the story was revised even after it was finished.

by George O'Connor
First Second, 2018

Readers of mythology love this series, and they won't be disappointed by Hermes' tale. He is quite the trickster, with surprises from the beginning of his story (he was a John Henry kind of baby, but maybe not as nice), until the very end.

by Mairghread Scott
illustrated by Jacob Chabot
First Second, 2018

This is one of the most kid-accessible in the series, while still being packed with information.

Thursday, May 03, 2018

Some Glad Morning

Some Glad Morning
by Joyce Sutphen

One day, something very old
happened again. The green
came back to the branches,
settling like leafy birds
on the highest twigs;
the ground broke open
as dark as coffee beans.

The clouds took up their
positions in the deep stadium
of the sky, gloving the
bright orb of the sun
before they pitched it
over the horizon.

It was as good as ever:
the air was filled
with the scent of lilacs
and cherry blossoms
sounded their long
whistle down the track.
It was some glad morning.

Spring has finally arrived in our neck of the woods. It's as shocking and glorious as ever to see life erupt again. Never mind that in three months it will all be past its prime and in another three more after that we'll be raking up the mess again. Never you mind! Gather some rosebuds, check out the cherry hung with snow, glory in nature's first golden-green. All the rest can wait.

Brenda has this week's Poetry Friday Roundup at Friendly Fairy Tales.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Wordless Picture Books in Read Aloud

Professional Crocodile
by Giovanna Zoboli
illustrated by Mariachiara Di Giorgio 
Chronicle Books, 2017

A crocodile gets ready for work and travels to the zoo, where he is (what else?) a professional crocodile.

Owl Bat Bat Owl
by Marie-Louise Fitzpatrick
Candlewick Press, 2017

The adults can't get past the differences, but the kids can. When the lives of their children are endangered, the adults are finally united.

Little Fox in the Forest
by Stephanie Graegin
Schwartz & Wade, 2017

A little girl loses her beloved stuffed animal, gets it back again, then gives it away.

*   *   *   *   *   *

These are just three of the wordless picture books I've shared for #classroombookaday this year. But how do I read aloud a book without words?

  1. Gather the students close. Let them know that it's a wordless book and that they'll have to pay close attention to the illustrations in order to understand the story.
  2. Study the cover, both front and back. 
  3. Look under the dust jacket to see if the book cover is the same or different.
  4. Study the end papers.
  5. Begin the book with the very first page turn. The story in some picture books begins before the title page!
  6. After showing a spread of the story to all of your audience (take your time moving the book so they have time to really look at the illustrations), ask, "Who would like to narrate this spread?"

That's it -- no big secret or earth-shattering instructional move. I let the students tell the story! The fascinating thing is that often the students who don't participate in a picture book discussion are the first to raise their hand to narrate, and with a keen eye for details that are vital to the story. There is no worksheet, no calling on someone who doesn't have their hand raised to try to catch them not paying attention (because with a wordless book, 99% of them are, and part of the fun of it is you can watch them looking because your head is not turned away from them reading the words!!), no quick check or written retelling. Try it! You'll have so much fun (both you and your students) that you'll make space in #classroombookaday not just for nonfiction picture books, but for wordless picture books, too!

Monday, April 30, 2018

It's All About the Books Blog Tour

We are so happy to be the first stop on the It's All About the Books book tour!  We are so excited about this book. We have always been fans of Tammy and Clare's work --loved their book Assessment in Perspective and were part of their tour then!  We love this new book and are excited about the impact it will have in schools across the country.  Make sure to stop at all the other stops on the blog tour this week!

And we are giving away a copy of It's All About the Books! To enter, post a picture of some part of your classroom library somewhere and put the link in a comment below.  At the end of the week (Friday after 5 pm), we'll choose a random winner to receive a copy of this fabulous new book! (Don't forget to check back to see the classroom library photos:-)

We asked Clare and Tammy some questions about the book. Here is what they said:

Franki and Mary Lee: How has your thinking evolved about classroom libraries over the years?

Clare and Tammy: Initially, we set up our classroom library before the students arrived at school. All of our books were organized in plastic bins and we knew exactly where each and every book was located.  Our library remained the same all year except for one book display that rotated each month. Now we include students in the process of setting up and maintaining our classroom library.  Instead of getting everything set up before they arrive, we provide the baskets, labels, and markers and let the kids set up the library.  When the students set up the library, they know where the books are and feel more invested in the space.   As they decide how to organize the books, we listen in to learn more about their interests and passions. The more students are part of the process, the more we learn about them as readers and the better we can help them find books they love.  The classroom library is now more than a place to pick books.  When we design it with our readers, and when we are set up to flexibly meet their changing needs and preferences, the classroom library truly becomes the home of an active reading community.

Franki and Mary Lee: What advice do you have for teachers about keeping up with good books to add to their classroom libraries?

Clare and Tammy: We keep up with good books by relying on our PLNs, both locally and globally.  We connect with our local PLNs by visiting book stores and public libraries to check out what is new.  We also speak with the school librarians, teachers, and reading coaches at our partnership schools to hear about what they are reading and what their students are enjoying.

Our global PLN on social media helps us know what is up and coming. We participate in #IMWAYR every Monday and join #titletalk chats on the last Sunday evening each month.  We read lots of blogs including yours - A Year of Reading, Watch Connect Read with Mr. Schu, Nerdy Book Club, and Colby Sharps book talks on Sharpread.  We have additional resources we rely on listed in the online resources in our book - OR 6.1

Franki and Mary Lee: How do you think classroom libraries should evolve over the course of a single school year?

Clare and Tammy: Readers love new books! Classroom libraries should be refreshed and revised to meet the ever-evolving needs of our students. A classroom library should reflect the growth and curricular journey of the students throughout the year. When the class studies particular authors, genres, and topics, we add these texts to the library.  As students share their personal interests and preferences we can also add these texts to our library. We are purposeful in introducing new series and authors to add complexity to the library as our students’ reading skills develop.  Throughout the year, we try to look at our library through the eyes of our students.  We ask, “Does the library offer a range of choices that will engage and support all the readers in the class?"  We take this information and use it to revise and refresh the classroom library.

Franki and Mary Lee: How has your thinking about bookrooms evolved over the years?

Clare and Tammy: We used to think about bookrooms as a place to store shared leveled texts for small group instruction (i.e. six-packs.) As we observed bookroom after bookroom not being used by teachers, we decided to revise our thinking.  Now we design bookrooms as an annex to every classroom library – we design each with the other in mind.  Teachers need books to support all aspects of reading and writing instruction, not just books for small group instruction.  As we talked with teachers, we heard again and again that they did not have the volume or range of texts they needed for their students to read independently.  It is near impossible for a classroom teacher to source a library that is equipped to meet the needs of each student year after year. We shifted our thinking and decided the largest section of the bookroom needs to support independent reading. These texts are organized by bands of text complexity into baskets of approximately 20 single titles that are categorized by genre, author, series, and topics of interest.  This design makes it easy for teachers to grab a few baskets and add them right to their classroom library.  The bookroom also has baskets of read aloud suggestions organized by grade level, mentor texts for units of study in writing workshop, texts to support content area curriculum, and even baskets of paired texts to support partner reading.  We still have some texts organized in 6-packs for small group instruction and book clubs, but this is now only one section of the bookroom.  Ideally, bookrooms supply the depth, breadth, and volume of books to supplement what each teacher needs and every student wants. All of this organized in grab-and-go baskets for a teacher to simply (and quickly) take and incorporate into her classroom library.

Franki and Mary Lee: For teachers who have very few books provided by their schools/districts, where do you suggest they start?

Clare and Tammy: This is a tough question because we believe that books are an essential tool for teachers.  When schools provide desks and chairs for students, they should also allocate funds to ensure that every classroom has a vibrant and engaging classroom library. In the first chapter of the book, we cite research to support teachers in advocating for what they need to inspire lifelong readers.

That being said, here are a few of the ideas we share in the book to get you started without school or district support …  

If you don’t have books to source a classroom library, we recommend you get in touch with your school librarian and begin by borrowing books from the school and public libraries.  You can borrow collections of texts organized by author, genre, series and topic to figure out what your students love.  Once you have a sense of what engages your students, ask the school librarian to help you gather some of these texts.  Some teachers even ask parents to help out by going to their local branch of the public library to pick up books they need for the classroom library.  Colleagues are another great option for borrowing books.  Many teachers have a wealth of books and are happy to loan books, especially texts their students are not accessing at that time of the year. Even colleagues with a small collection may be willing to rotate books between classrooms to increase their volume of books as well.

At some point, teachers do need to get some books of their own.  Scholastic book orders are a great option for teachers to earn bonus points to purchase books.  Box Tops is another way to earn money for books and families are happy to help out by organizing a collection. Families are also often willing to donate gently used books to supply classroom libraries.  Grants are another source of funding. Many schools offer grants through the parent organization or local school foundation.  Teachers also seek grants through Donors Choose and The Book Love Foundation (see question 6) to fund a classroom library.  If you do receive funds be sure to check out specials with vendors, discount book stores and even public library book sales to get the best bang for your buck!  We have many resources in our book, including lists of our favorite vendors and some of our tried and true texts, to support you once you are ready to go shopping!

Franki and Mary Lee: Can you tell us why you chose to donate all royalties from this book to Book Love. Of all the literacy organizations out there, why this one?

Clare and Tammy: When we decided to write a book advocating for more books in classrooms, we felt we had to help get more books into the hands of students and teachers.  I didn’t feel right to highlight the problem without trying to be a part of the solution. We were trying to figure out how we could make an impact.  Then we heard Penny Kittle speak at the Donald Graves Breakfast at NCTE.  She shared how Don impacted her personally and professionally, “That generosity for someone he didn’t know just became a theme in my life.” We looked at each other in that moment and knew what we needed to do.  We found Penny at the end of the session and asked her if we could join her mission for Book Love. Book Love is a not-for-profit organization founded by Penny Kittle with one goal: to put books in the hands of teenagers.  We were fortunate that Penny and Heinemann both supported our vision and helped us bring it to life by generously agreeing to allow the royalties of our book to expand that goal and put books into the hands of elementary and middle grade students as well. Each time someone purchases a copy of It’s All About the Books, the royalties go directly to the Book Love Foundation to fund elementary and middle grade libraries. This made the project so meaningful for us – a book about books that will bring books into the hands of readers – what could be better than that!

If you would like to donate directly to the Book Love Foundation simply send a check or donate online  If you would like your donation to fund elementary and middle grade libraries, please send an email to or write elementary or middle grade libraries in the memo line of your check.  Checks can be mailed to Book Love Foundation, PO Box 2575, North Conway, NH 03860-2575.

High Flight

Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.
~Kevin Durant

High Flight

The last day of school is in sight. You can’t imagine how hard
it is to release my masterpieces, say goodbye to my best work.
Launching you, I imagine the sigh of wing-beats
as you fly away, soaring with your talent,
your sense of humor, your desire to set the world right. When
you alight again next fall, don’t you dare hide your talent,
head under wing, letting others lead. Genius doesn’t
need adult plumage to rise and spiral. All genius needs is work.
And remember, the work of flight is joyful, not hard.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Word Game Wednesday

Do not go where the path may lead. Go instead where there is not path and leave a trail.  ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Word Game Wednesday

What would you like to do?
Play Word Around? Rhyme Out? Bananagrams? Do not
dawdle; find a group and go
tinker with words! Play Scrabble; observe where
words intersect, criss-crossing a path
of letters that may
to unexpected mergers. Perhaps go
online instead
and play Free Rice, where
you earn kernels of rice for nuggets of knowledge. There
guarantee, but Word Game Wednesday could have been the path
that led us to be homophone, homonym, and
homograph hunters. Words open the world. Using them, we leave
splendiferous trail.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Winter Memory

Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.  ~Unknown

Winter Memory*

When you consider the life
of another creature, it is is
often humbling. The temperature that day was not
much above zero. We measured
the cold by
frost on our scarves from our breaths.
were by the lake to take
winter pictures, but
we became fascinated by
geese in the water. After a few moments
of observation, we could see that
the cold didn’t seem to bother them. We had begun to take
photos when we saw it – goose breath
puffing in the cold air. Blew us completely away.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

*Mr. Wald, our classroom stool-repairer, provided the memory that became this poem.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Poetry Friday

Whatever you are, be a good one.  ~Abraham Lincoln

Poetry Friday

Pick a poem about whatever
captivates you
endangered animals, a hotdog car, dinosaurs, or ants – you are
in charge of choosing and practicing. Be
an attentive audience for others. Then, be a
positively excellent performer. Make us sigh, or laugh and say, “Good

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2018

Poetry Friday is one of the most beloved routines in our classroom. My students start the year not knowing the names of any children's poets and end the year with favorite poets and favorite books. (I'm pretty sure someone has hidden I'm Just No Good At Rhyming so they won't have to share it!) One of my greatest hopes is that they will be able to hold onto this love of poetry!

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