Friday, January 31, 2014

Poetry Friday -- Sweet Little Kitty

Photo by Mary Lee Hahn

Sweet Little Kitty

Cat curls up tight,
closes eyes, purrs.
Disguised by sleep,
sinks down deep where
cat dreams are found
and stalks, soundless,
huge now, lethal.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2014

This is the poem I wrote for this week's Poetry Stretch at The Miss Rumphius Effect. The form is called "Climbing Rhyme." Each line can either have four words or four syllables. I went for syllables. The rhyme is internal. For more details, read this post. Here's a nice visual Tricia gave us to track the rhymes:


Besides hosting the weekly Poetry Stretch challenge (c'mon, folks, jump in and give them a try!), Tricia has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at The Miss Rumphius Effect. Go check out the week's offerings!

Thursday, January 30, 2014

A Year of Reading Award Winners

Here are the award-winners I read in 2013:

Newbery -- Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures

Newbery Honor -- The Year of Billy Miller

Caldecott  (and Robert F. Sibert Informational Book Award Honor) -- Locomotive

Caldecott Honor -- Journey

Caldecott Honor -- Mr. Wuffles!

Coretta Scott King Author -- P.S. Be Eleven

Coretta Scott King Honor -- Words with Wings

Coretta Scott King Illustrator -- Knock Knock: My Dad's Dream for Me

Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor -- Nelson Mandela

Michael L. Printz Honor -- Navigating Early

Mildred L. Batchelder Honor -- The Bathing Costume: Or the Worst Vacation of My Life


Pura Belpré Illustrator -- Niño Wrestles the World

Pura Belpré Illustrator Honor and Author Honor -- Pancho Rabbit and the Coyote: A Migrant's Tale

My only regret was that The True Blue Scouts of Sugar Man Swamp didn't win an Odyssey Award for best audio book.

2013 was a great reading year! Can't wait to see what 2014 holds in store!

Wednesday, January 29, 2014


Josephine: The Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker
by Patricia Hruby Powell
illustrated by Christian Robinson
Chronicle Books, January 14, 2014
review copy provided by the publisher

I have a dancer in my room this year. She spends hours every week at dance. Was excited just before the holidays to get her toe shoes. One glance at this book and I knew she'd love it. She did, and agreed to write a guest review of it. Thank you, V!

I love the book Josephine by Patricia Hruby Powell. I read it to my sister and she liked it too. Before I started this book I didn’t think she would be famous for things besides dancing. Josephine was born in 1906, so she was alive when the color of your skin still mattered. Josephine loved to dance. Josephine performed in the streets with The Jones Family. The Dixie Steppers needed an extra act, and The Jones Family won the job. They got to perform on stage! Josephine was so good the Dixie Steppers asked her to join their group. They were going to leave on a tour to Saint Louis, but at the age of thirteen Josephine was too young. But she went anyway. She told her sister not to tell their mom, so Josephine went with the Dixie Steppers.

Josephine became famous after Caroline Dudley invited her to Paris to perform in La Revue Negre. The name Josephine Baker was up in lights. She became rich. People sent her shoes, perfume, dresses. Josephine was all the rage! She made records and starred in movies. She danced through Germany, Russia, Egypt, Sweden, South America.

Josephine became a stunt pilot. She met a millionaire and married him. But he wanted her to live at home so she divorced him. In 1939 war erupted in France. So Josephine joined the Red Cross. But Josephine got Pneumonia. Newspapers reported her dead, but she got better, well enough to perform for the U.S. troops. She helped win the war for France and became a hero. Josephine was awarded France’s highest honor.

She married Jo Bouillon and started to adopt children of different races and from different countries. Josephine adopted twelve children in all. She called them her rainbow tribe. They lived in a mansion with a farm and resort, where visitors could stay. But Josephine spent money faster than she could earn it. She left so she could tour the world and dance and sing. She sold her gowns, her art, her jewels, but not enough money. Josephine was evicted. They lived off of friends and fans. At sixty-seven, Josephine booked a performance in New York City. The audience loved her. That led her to starting a new show in Paris called Joséphine. Her doctors told her to rest, she couldn’t. One night Josephine went to sleep and never woke up.

I think it was very extraordinary when Josephine joined the Red Cross and adopted children. She really was an amazing person.

The book Josephine is really unique. Some words have all capital letters and there are quotes from Josephine throughout the book. There are beautiful drawings and the sentences are arranged in a very specific, artistic way. (For a peek at the way the text dances across the page and the energy-filled illustrations, click here.)

Monday, January 27, 2014

Changing My Stance on Charts and Chart Creation

So, I've been fascinated and blown away by Smarter Charts by Marjorie Martinelli and Kristi Mrax since I picked up the book a while ago.  I had a basic understanding of charts but after reading this book, I realized that I wasn't as thoughtful as I needed to be about the charts in my room.  I usually just used easel paper to capture thinking or post ideas around a topic, etc. There were charts everywhere and kids used a few.  After reading Smarter Charts, I realized I had to play around a bit and figure out how to do a better job.

I did a podcast with Kristi and Marjorie for Choice Literacy and one comment from the interview stayed with me.   At one point in the interview, Kristi said, " I feel like planning out chart goes right alongside with planning our units in reading, writing, math, and inquiry."  She talked about how planning charts was part of the planning and I had never really done that. I just picked up a marker when I thought we needed to capture something. Of course, I had an idea of what kinds of charts would be part of a study but I never really thought them through, planned them out and built them over several days as part of the learning.  Then they blogged sharing their process and the blog post made it much more clear to me.

For a while, I tried to play around with the specifics that Kristi and Marjorie talk about. They are so great at drawing and sketching and I am hopeful I'll get more comfortable with these at some point. But in the meantime, I wanted to just rethink the planning of my charts-the purposes, the supplies, the visual support, the construction, the student piece, etc.   So, for our nonfiction study that we are doing, learning to build stamina in nonfiction reading while we write informational pieces, we created this chart over the last two weeks.

This is a chart of the learning we did around nonfiction series books in our classroom.  I chose 7 series or authors that seemed to be books most 3rd graders could read on their own--books that stretched from the skimming and scanning I've noticed they do in nonfiction.  We studied several stacks of these books in small groups, looking for the decisions authors made to make the informational interesting and accessible to readers.  This piece of the study served a few purposes.  First, it gave my kids lots of time with nonfiction books I am hopeful they'll want to read in the near future--books they haven't looked closely at. It also gave them time to have conversations about the decisions authors made and the features they used in each book.  It gave us a common set of books to talk from and it also started conversations about stamina and how these books were all designed to be read from cover to cover.  Although we created this chart in a study of reading, I plan to build on what we learned as we move to write our own informational texts.

Here is what I took from the brilliant Chartchums girls that really helped me:

-I actually planned out the chart. I chose the books, pulled stacks and sketched out the way I envisioned the chart.  Part of planning was finding books that matched my learning goals for the kids.  I planned it along with the planning of the unit of study.  

-I changed up the visual piece. I made color copies of book covers to kids could revisit the chart easily as needed throughout the unit. I used 24 X 36 construction paper to give it a background different from those non-thoughtful charts they've become used to ignoring.  

-I involved the kids in the process as they added the information about their stack to the chart.
-We built this over days and the chart grew as the understanding grew.

-It is a chart we'll use for more than a few days.  It is one that will carry us for several weeks as we've anchored our thinking and can use the books and ideas generated to build our strategies as writers.

I still have a lot to learn about creating better charts and I know Marjorie and Kristi may be cringing as they read this, seeing how much of their brilliance I've missed in this first chart.   I do want to get more comfortable with drawings and lettering. I want to play with restickable glue sticks and having min-versions of charts available for kids in the classroom.  I want to revisit the book and the blog to see what else I've missed. But,  I feel like this first step was about changing my stance about charts. And I feel like I did that.  I approach them differently now.  I no longer just pick up a marker and fill my classroom with charts no one uses.  And I think over time, I will see a huge difference in the ways my students use them because of that.  

Love the Chartchums girls and highly recommend their book if you haven't read it.
(And, there is a great new post on Chartchums sharing lots of great posts that go along with the thinking in book and podcast!)

Sunday, January 26, 2014

#Nerdlution Round 2: Lipstick?

As we get ready for Round 2 of #nerdlution, I thought long and hard about #nerdlution as a way to change habits a bit.  Even though I was not successful at Round 1 of #nerdlution, I learned a lot.

#Nerdlution #1
Since I am not so good at doing things every single day (I love days of nothingness:-), I've decided to make exercise 5 days a week part of my #nerdlution goal.  Last week, I ran/walked 3 times and went to 3 yoga classes.  6 is a great week but I know some weeks won't allow me to fit in 3 yoga classes and 3 runs, so 5 seems reasonable.  Right now, I am all about running and yoga but in 50 days, that might change and when I think about big goals, it is about consistent exercise, so I will leave it at that.

#Nerdlution #2
My OLW is "TODAY" and I got a bracelet that I love to help remind me to live in the moment just a little bit more.  I've done a much better job of slowing down in the classroom and I can see more (and happier) learning because I am not always in a rush or rushing the children.  I find that I am a little kinder and more willing to be helpful when I am not in such a hurry and not always moving to the next thing.  I need to continue to live this word a little better outside of school.  The word is making me a kinder person and I like that. So my second #nerdlution is to continue working on this idea of Today.

My bracelet from Hands Free Mamma

#Nerdlution #3
Lipstick. I will put on lipstick (yes, lip gloss counts) every day for 50 days.  This sounds a little shallow I know but it is about taking the time for little things that I've let go slowly over the years.
I've learned that there are times in our life when we have to let things go.  When my kids were little, I stopped wearing earrings for a long while because babies seem to pull at earrings.  When I got Plantar Faciitis a few years ago, I stopped wearing shoes with heels because they hurt and made the injury worse. When I got my concussion last year and was off work for 6 weeks, I started to wear yoga pants and sweatshirts every day.  When life gets busy or things happen that require that I take care of something--family, work, writing, house, etc.--I tend to drop little things that aren't the priority.  Like putting on lipstick in the morning.  When we drop little things, over time though, those little things add up if we don't build them back into our routines.  This is what happens to me and exercise. To me and healthy eating.  To me and lipstick.

Now, I have never been one to refresh my lipstick during the day. I am too busy doing things to remember to reapply lipstick. But there is something about starting the day in a way that is not in a hurry that is good for me.

So, the lipstick is not about how I look really (although I should look a little better!). It's about making a decision to not let little things go because I'm in a hurry and I want to get to the next thing faster.  That the 15 seconds I gain from not putting on lipstick is not going to make me any more productive during the day. If I am going to slow down and enjoy the days, it has to start with the morning, the "getting ready for the day" part.  So, lipstick seems to be a good reminder of that. (And my mother will be oh, so happy at this #nerdlution!)

Looking forward to this round of #Nerdlution. I feel like I learned lots about myself during Round 1 and I am ready to try for some new habits and routines.  And, there is nothing better than the #nerdlution community to cheer you on!

Saturday, January 25, 2014


Join others who are celebrating at

Today I'm celebrating Belgian food and responsible attribution of Creative Commons photos found on Flickr.

Last night, my friend Lisa forwarded me an email from her friend asking, "Is this your Mary Lee Hahn?" (click to enlarge -- see photo attribution)

Yup. That's my photo. That's AJ's hand. That's the waffle we shared when we were in Belgium in 2011.

Here's the full article in the Huffington Post. We ate 9 of those 13 foods while we were there. Some of them multiple times...can you guess which? My Belgian Food set on Flickr is here.

And this is why I'm so diligent in teaching my students to use Wikimedia Commons or a Google image search that filters for "labeled for reuse." (click on "search tools" and choose "usage rights.") I can't wait to show them this real life example of responsible use and attribution of Creative Commons images!

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Poetry Friday -- Indoor Recess

Indoor Recess

Too cold again.
Too snowy for outdoor recess.
Too many days spent with the same twenty classmates.
Too limited without electronics.

We already built with blocks.
We already played board games.
We already made up a storytelling game.
We already finished four jigsaw puzzles.

Let's play all together!
Let's play a whole class game!
Let's play Heads Up Seven Up!
Let's play!


It's amazing to see them ALL play together.
It's amazing -- first time in my career it's happened.
It's amazing to know that collaboration can emerge so naturally.
It's amazing to have faith and hope reaffirmed during indoor recess.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2014

The Poetry Stretch at Tricia's blog was a new form to me -- anaphora, "the repetition of the same word or phrase in several successive clauses." There are some spectacular examples in the comments. Mine describes what happened at recess this week. 

Tara has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at A Teaching Life.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Thank you, Blog Readers!

Some time in the past few days, we passed the one MILLION visitor mark (according to SiteMeter).

Mind boggling.

A small city's worth of people have visited our blog.

Thank you for stopping by!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Groundhog Weather School by Joan Holub

A few years ago, when I was a K-5 librarian in our district, I remember clearly a first grader visiting the library on a cold day in winter.  She looked at me with a determined face and said, "I NEED a book. About Flowers. And Sun."  And she waited. I chucked as I knew how she felt. Winter was miserable and we needed there to be an end in sight!  We found a few Lois Ehlert books and she was on her way.

I felt the same way at the bookstore last weekend when I saw the book Groundhog Weather School: Fun Facts About Weather and Groundhogs on display. I am not a fan of holiday books or of Groundhog Day. But the book reminded me that there might be an end in sight to this miserable winter.  It reminded me that Groundhog Day is right around the corner and then spring follows at some point.  It ended up that I loved the book so I bought it to share with my kids on February 2.

The book is a fun one in that it is filled with information but it is in the context of a fun story.  The story is one of groundhogs who go to Groundhog Weather School and learn to predict spring on February 2. The story is fun as there are fun visuals throughout (an add for the groundhogs made me laugh). There is a graphic feel to the book and the talking bubbles will engage kids immediately.  But the thing I like most are the nonfiction features and the way that this author embedded information in the book.

A page of "GeHOGraphy gives information on Groundhogs in North America.  The page of "Famous Furry Hognosticators" gives us basic info on 8 famous groundhogs in the US and beyond.  Readers learn about weathermen and how groundhogs build burrows. And the final page gives us more history of the day.

I love this book because of the visuals. I never buy a book that we'll only enjoy for one week out of the year. But this will be one we can read all year.  It will be a fun book to share on Groundhog Day but we can also revisit the visuals any time of the year to see how this author shared important information in a visual way.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Thanks to the #nerdlution Community!

So, #nerdlution began in November.  A group of us started chatting about goals and I decided I'd try to do something (or 3 things) daily for 50 days. The 50 days was random but it sounded rational.  I was amazing for 20 days. I ate an apple every day, I ran or walked for 20 minutes each day, and I wrote for 30 minutes each day.  This was all in crazy December so I tried to fit lots in before work.  I figured the 2 week break at the holidays would make #nerdlution easy! But that's not what happened.  First I got a huge canker sore from the apples, then my husband got sick with the flu, the the puppy stopped sleeping through the night and so I took a few days' break from my #nerdlution goals.  And I never got back to them......20 days and then I pretty much quit. It's kind of how 2013 went for me overall and it is what it is.

But I consider #nerdlution a success and the 50 day challenge has made me think about communities we create in our classrooms in new ways.  I've realized that I've learned and grown a ton by sitting on the sidelines these last few weeks.  That even though I wasn't meeting my personal goal, I still felt part of the #nerdlution community. No one kicked me out of the community, even when I wasn't doing my part. There is something important about that.  It reminds me of workshop, where everyone in the room learns from others' goals and the progress others are making.  And that you are part of that community whether you are participating or sitting on the sidelines watching.  

I am amazed by how much I learned by sitting on the sidelines:

-I didn't choose a goal for commenting on blogs but when I watched Kevin comment for 50 days on 50 different blogs, I decided I needed to visit new blogs and to be a better commenter. I almost NEVER comment on blogs and I typically visit the same blogs each week.  I didn't set a goal and didn't do anything consistently but being part of Kevin's #nerdution helped me change a few of my blog reading habits...just a little.  I am finding new blogs and also commenting a tiny bit more because of watching Kevin meet his #nerdlution goal.

-I didn't choose Random Acts of Kindness but Patrick did and when I'd read his daily posts, I realized how much I'd been caught up in getting stuff done instead of doing kind things for others. Even though I didn't choose this as a goal, listening in on Patrick's #nerdlution progress helped me to take a breath and be a little kinder during the hectic holiday season. And just by being kinder, I slowed down and enjoyed the days better than the days that I spend rushing around and I still got as much done.

-I didn't choose to read for pleasure, but Clare did and I realized that one of these days, I wanted to give myself a round of #nerdlution that was just for me. An excuse to do the one thing I love to do but don't always make time for.  I was jealous of Clare's nerdlution each time I was eating an apple. Not in a bad way, but in a way that let me know it is something I want to do in the future. Although I read a lot, giving myself to read for pleasure for an hour every day seems like a goal I'll have someday soon.

-I saw the power of cheerleaders like Kevin and Bonnie.  These two, along with others, seemed to somehow cheer everyone on. It would make a difference and I realized again how much you need some cheering when things get tough.

-I loved that Betsy chose a #nerdlution she was already passionate about and made it a daily thing.  It seemed like a real treat for her to try a #chalkabration each day.  Seeing her daily chalkabration helped me bring more of this into my classroom when it felt right--rather than waiting for an official #chalkabration day.

-I loved how Mary Lee tweaked her #nerdlution to be 5 days a week and wondered why I hadn't thought of that! Even though I was part of the group that invented #nerdlution, I never thought to give myself permission to revise it to make it work for me. 

-I appreciated tweets from others who had missed some days or those who couldn't find time to fit in their #nerdlution over the holidays. The honesty of how things were going helped me think about the goals I was setting and whether they were really realistic.

-Because of #nerdlution, I jumped into things that I never would have.  I picked a OLW for 2014 because I saw the power of a long-term focus and saw the connection to what I was trying to do with #nerdlution.

So, I learned a lot from the #nerdlution sidelines.  Even though I didn't meet my #nerdlution challenge, the #nerdlution community taught me what was possible. And even though my goals were focused on fitness and writing, I grew in other areas too, because I felt part of everyone's goals.  

I also learned about goal setting and what makes sense for me. Even though I didn't meet my #nerdlution goal, my habits have changed a little and I've learned how to set a better goal for Round 2 of #nerdlution.  I've learned that I can't commit to anything for 7 days a week (and that's okay).  I've learned that goals that are overambitious don't actually work for me (took me 50 years to figure that out...) I've learned that 5:00 am isn't such a bad time to be awake and there is something wonderful about spending the first hour of the day reading, writing or walking.  I've learned that cheering others on, actually changes me too.  I've learned what is possible in terms of goal setting. I loved the variety of goals people had and I loved the way the goals impacted others.

#Nerdlution didn't turn out the way I had hoped it would. I did not even come close to meeting my goals.  But sitting on the sidelines for the last 30 days and watching others in this community have had a huge impact on the way I live my life.  

And, I can't help but think of the reading and writing communities in our classrooms. Those kids who seem to be sitting on the sidelines, are learning from being part of the community --learning what's possible. Sometimes it might be enough for them

So, as I go into #nerdlution Round 2, I've discovered that goal setting is a process and I meet some goals and I don't meet others. But I learn things we didn't expect along the way, thanks to community. These were things I have always known but things that became so clear to me during these last 50 days.  

Congratulations to everyone on this first round of #nerdlution and thanks for letting me learn from all of you!

Saturday, January 18, 2014


Check out all the celebrations at

Today I'm celebrating my school mailbox. 

Not because it gets filled with fliers to be passed out, 
paper work to be filled out, 
and junk mail to be tossed out 
(into the recycling bin, of course).

I'm celebrating my school mailbox 
because of the surprises I found there this week:

The first was from Franki. My OLW. It calms me down just to look at it. I wear it on my watch wrist, so when I check the time, it's always "time to breathe." 

The second is a long-standing joke with a friend who shares my love of Russell Stover Coconut Cream and Maple Cream Easter eggs. As soon as the Christmas candy is reduced to 50% and the Valentine's Day candy appears, we're on the lookout for the first sighting of the Russell Stover eggs. Whoever finds them first sends the other a pair. Julia wins this year. Bonus points for sending them interoffice mail in the exact same (perfect-sized) box I used last year. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

Poetry Friday -- In Praise of Challenges

It started with #nerdlution, back on December 2. Fifty days to try something new, get something back, make a habit. My #nerdlution was to walk a mile and write for 30 minutes every day. The walking has dialed back to 5/7 days a week, but the writing has stayed strong.

At the end of break, I layered in a weekly TED Talk/illustrated notes challenge.

On January 1, I started writing a poem a day for Month of Poetry.

For the last couple of weeks, I've been giving Tricia's Monday Poetry Stretch challenges a try.

So what's up with all of these external challenges? Can't I keep busy enough on my own?

I look at them as nudges. Each has moved me to a new level of creativity and into new ways of thinking. The funny thing is, they don't really function as layers. It doesn't feel like I'm doing more and more. Because things like this happen:

I watched this TED talk on doing something new for 30 days. My notes weren't rich

and his talk wasn't so much of a WOW as a *nods head in agreement.* But that idea of Rut vs. New got in my head and became a part of my first ever pantoum that I wrote for #MoP and Monday Poetry Challenge in my #nerdlution 30-minutes-a-day writing.



I crave both
the comfort of routine
and the thrill
of unknowns.

The comfort of routine:
the well-worn path through a day full
of unknowns,
surprises at every turn.

The well-worn path through a day, full.
And the thrill --
surprises at every turn.
I crave both.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2014

(Here's last year's version on this theme.)

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

Thursday, January 16, 2014

What Feeds My Soul

The birthday cake I made myself last year.
Three layers of chocolately goodness,
with two coffee buttercream layers,
covered in ganache.

Well, yes, there's that.

But that's not what I was thinking of this time. (except I sort of am, now...)

What feeds my soul is Environmental Club.

Here's why:


I do this club in my own free time, for no pay. It's my choice.
And the activities we do are my choice,
not tied to standards or state tests.
The students who are are in the club are there by choice.
It's a multi-age group, my favorite age group:
4th and 5th graders (some returning members).

We like each other in a way that assessing and grading
will never taint.

Last week and this, we wrote poetry
inspired by the photos I've taken of the club and our activities
so far this year.

For the next month or so, we will focus on birds
as we work up to
The Great Backyard Bird Count.

Then it will be almost March, and time to plan for our garden.

You might think that I'd come home exhausted
after a full day of teaching
and then yet another hour with children
(more children than I have in my homeroom).


I come home jazzed up and happy.

My soul runneth over.

Thank goodness for Environmental Club.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Last Week's TED Talk

You might remember that I recently challenged myself to watch a TED talk every week and take illustrated notes. Here are my notes from last week's video: Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts. Susan Cain wrote Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking  

Before I watched the video, I thought about that word power. When I considered my own introversion, power was not a word I would use to describe it. I thought of pain, loneliness, uncertainty and hesitation.

By the end of the video, I was at peace with my introversion. 

I saw the truth in what Cain said about introverted leaders -- that they achieve better outcomes because they let employees run with their own ideas rather than always trying to micromanage and put their stamp on everything.

I thought hard about what she says is a prevalent attitude in education that the best students are extroverts. Do I believe this? Does my classroom look like I believe this? In her call to action, Cain made three points that I will take to heart:

  1. Stop the madness for constant group work. Students need privacy, need to experience freedom, and learn to deal with autonomy.
  2. Go to the wilderness. Have revelations. Unplug.
  3. Know yourself. Accept yourself. Play to your own strengths rather than those you perceive society values.

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking -- Kindle edition is only $2.99!

Monday, January 13, 2014

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It's Monday! What Are You Reading is a meme hosted by Jen of Teach Mentor Texts and Kellee of Unleashing Readers. Visit their blogs to see the round up and discover great new books!

Here are some highlights from my latest reading.

Two Recent Picture Books I've Loved:

A New Early Reader Series I Discovered 
Thanks to CYBILS Finalist Lists:

New Nonfiction Picture Books I Love:

(I reviewed this one last week on the blog.)

My Latest Adult Read that I Highly Recommend:

Books We are Enjoying in the Classroom: