Monday, October 16, 2017

New Books from Weekend with The Literacy Connection Part 2

Of course Beth from Selections Books had SOOOO many books that were new-to-me. I try to keep up with new books and I count on Beth to share the best new that there is when I see her. She had some great new nonfiction that I know my kids will love.  Here is what I bought:

Trickiest: 19 Sneaky Animals by Steve Jenkins (There is a partner book to this called Deadliest!)

Penguins vs. Puffins, by Julie Beer, a National Geographic Kids title--For kids who love The Who Would Win series, this is a great ladder for them.

Song of the Wild: A First Book of Animals by Nicola Davies--The writing in this book is incredible and will be part of many mini lessons I imagine.

50 Cities of the U.S.A. by Gabrielle Balkin and Sol Linero--so much on every page and not all capital cities--a different way to look at US cities I think!

These all seem perfect for 5th graders!

Sunday, October 15, 2017

New Books from Weekend with Literacy Connection Part 1

We had a great weekend with Pam Allyn at our Fall Literacy Connection event. More on that in another blog post. But when you are around so many great book people and when Beth of Selections Books brings a bazillion books to sell, you find new books to read! September and October are never my best reading months. With all that happens in the fall in the classroom, I don't usually find much time to read. But I did pick up several books that I hope to read soon (unless my kids grab them and I can't get them back!). Here are some that I picked up that I am excited to read soon!

Pam Allyn (and several members of the audience) mentioned this adult fiction book--Eleanor Elephant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. I don't fit in much adult fiction but I love it and after hearing Pam and others talk, I ordered it right away. Thanks Pam and Stella!

Two middle grade novels that were suggested as strong 2017 titles (I'll share these with Mock Newbery Club members if they aren't already on our list) were Pablo and Birdy by Alison McGhee and Insignificant Events in the Life of a Cactus by Dusti Bowling. Thanks Brian and Mary Lee!

And I always love new fairy tales so I picked up Snow and Rose by Emily Winfield Martin and Brave Red, Smart Frog: A New Book of Old Tales by Emily Jenkins.

I also picked up a new book by an Ohio author that Beth said my students would love.  It is called Things That Surprise You by Jennifer Maschari and it sounds fabulous! Thanks, Beth!

Friday, October 13, 2017

Poetry Friday -- Walt Whitman

Unsplash photo by Echo Grid

First this:

Poetry Ruined My Life
From the essay: 
I still have the Leaves of Grass that dad gave me for Christmas in ninth grade. “Whitman loved much that you love—beauty, openness, honesty, freedom, nature. Inside here is his “Song of the Open Road.” You are entering your open road years. Demand much of them; give them fully of yourself and you will have come to terms with being.”
Then, this:

Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass (INCIDENTAL COMICS)

And some more Walt Whitman on Zen Pencils, just for good measure.

Irene has the Poetry Friday Roundup at Live Your Poem.

Thursday, October 12, 2017


There's that one thing that you did that one year and it was magical, so you decided you would do that same thing every year in exactly the same way so you could replicate that magic, except you neglected to remember that each year is different and magic does not replicate and so you almost threw the whole thing out.

Yup. That was me and classroom blogging.

Instead of throwing it out, I changed my entire approach. In the magical year, we did a 15-minute free-write, then spent some time reading and commenting. That year (and only that year), it worked not to have rules and boundaries.

This year, we've been talking about our passions -- the things in life we care most about. My students had a week-long homework assignment to write a handwritten page about their passion(s) before they ever knew that that writing would/could be their introductory blog post. This year, the students' blogs have a theme, or topic, the way most blogs do in real life. They will be (mostly) exploring their topic/passion in a new way each time they write a blog post.

The biggest change for this year is in the settings. Every blog post and every comment must be approved by me before they go live. I've realized that in order for students to understand and learn to use good online etiquette, their practice needs to be closely monitored and controlled. Comments will be thoughtfully written complete sentences, and blog posts will be on topic and carefully edited.

So far, so good. It looks like perhaps the magic hadn't gone completely away, it was just hanging around waiting for me to be responsive and flexible about the way it would show its face.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Poetry Friday -- The Three Goals

Photo from Unsplash by Jeremy Thomas

The Three Goals
by David Budbill

The first goal is to see the thing in itself
in and for itself, to see it simply and clearly
for what it is.
No symbolism, please.

The second goal is to see each individual thing
as unified, as one, with all the other
ten thousand things.
In this regard, a little wine helps a lot.

The third goal is to grasp the first and the second goals,
to see the universal in the particular,
Regarding this one, call me when you get it.

Violet has the Poetry Friday roundup at Violet Nesdoly | Poems.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Best Recent Picture Books

Baabwaa & Wooliam: A Tale of Literacy, Dental Hygiene, and Friendship
by David Elliott
illustrated by Melissa Sweet

If the author/illustrator duo didn't make you want to read this book, then the goofy names should do it. (Baabwaa...Barbara...Wooliam...William...groan!!) This book turns a traditional tale on its ear and add some sarcastically funny parts. It made me laugh out loud at the end! Check out the subtitle -- that says it all!

The Only Fish in the Sea
by Philip C. Stead

So much story packed into one picture book! The whole thing starts PAGES before the title page, and there are at least six subplots in the illustrations.

by Sharee Miller

A book to celebrate all kinds of hair textures, shapes, and styles.

by Matt Tavares

Destined to become a new Christmas classic, this book has a twist of nature and environmentalism, plus overtones of immigration. Gorgeous illustrations.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Poetry Friday -- Casting for Recovery

Ode to Bluegills

Though you are small,
you are mighty,
fighting like a fish ten times your size.

You make us cheer
and call for the photographer.
And you make us cringe

when we remove the hook.
Why must you swallow the fly
so far down it takes magic to extract it?

Never mind.
All turns out well for you in the end,
and you swim away gladly.

We thank you for your spiky dorsal fin,
the distinctive black beauty spot near your gill,
your iridescent scales.

We thank you for the tug on our line,
reminding us that we are connected --
the two of us; all of us.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

Laura has this week's Poetry Friday roundup at Writing the World for Kids.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Did you ever have one of those days?

Unsplash photo by Adrian

Did you ever have one of those days? A night of your soul so dark that you couldn't see around the next curve? An inner critic shouting so loudly about your faults that you lost the energy to shout back the truths you know to the bottom of your heart? A mire so thick you couldn't even lift a foot to step out of it? Some More added to the Too Much you already had to do (never mind about the Want-To-Dos)?

If you've had one of those, I hope you've also had the day that sometimes comes after.

The day when the PD you dragged your feet to gave the the exact tool you needed to move in a positive direction with behaviors in your classroom.

The day when your students got ridiculously pumped about learning exponents (and even tricked you into teaching them about negative exponents...because they were curious and totally could understand how they work).

The day when the visitors came to your classroom and everything went as smooth as silk.

The day when the gigantic atlases were discovered. (They were donated to the classroom by a superhero public librarian who couldn't stand the thought of them being thrown out in the course of the shelf-weeding that was happening at his branch.) Not only was it a joy to see kids poring over maps of here and there, one student came staggering up to me with a book half her size and showed me the negative and positive exponents she'd found in an article on the formation of the universe. What we just learned that morning! Right there in real life! And then later, she lugged it up again and said, "I think I just found out how stars were formed!" You can't assign kids to tackle nonfiction reading that dense and difficult. They have to want to know. And when you realize that you've planted the seeds for that curiosity...Boom.

The day when your sentence observation and word observation come from a song you can sing together: "Accentuate the Positive," the 1944 version sung by Bing Crosby.

The day that ended with a student coming up and asking you, "Is there something nice that you could do for yourself after school, because I noticed that you met your goal of smiling more."

Here's to the day after the dark day. Here's to the light at the end of the tunnel, or at least the light that leads you around the dark curve.

Monday, September 25, 2017

A Visit from Mr. Schu!!!

If you read my tweets last Thursday, you know how magical it was to have Mr. Schu visit our school. We were so lucky to have him and what a day it was!  I have been a huge Mr. Schu fan for years and have heard him talk any chance I get over the years. I always love his sessions--love hearing him talk books and smell books and give away books. Somehow his talks are energizing and packed with information and great books. They are always such fun.

For all the times I've heard Mr. Schu, I've never heard him with kids and I've never experienced him talking to our kids as part of our reading community.  It was the best day ever. You can see in the photo below how engaged the kids were and how much energy was in the room. He kept 350 kids engaged for 45 minutes. Engaged talking about books and reading.  Seriously I have been teaching 30 years and have experienced many school visitors, speakers and assemblies. Mr. Schu's visit stands out to me as one of the best in my career. It was like he joined our reading community and made it stronger.  Connecting with him on his blog and Twitter felt very different after his visit because now we know him!  My kids can't get enough of Mr. Schu talking about books:-)

We have our Scholastic Book Fair coming up soon and I can hardly wait after hearing him share some of the books we will see at the fair.  It is going to be an expensive week...

If you have never had the chance to hear Mr. Schu, I would travel a long way to make it happen. His energy and passion for books is contagious and even more so when he is in the company of children.  What a gift to have Mr. Schu join our community of readers for the day. Thank you Scholastic for such an amazing day!

Mr. Schu asking kids to share any of their heart print books--so many had books to share! An added bonus--so  many kids and teachers left with books that Mr. Schu gave away. 

Three students getting ready to introduce Mr. Schu while he talks to them about which book to give them! They were thrilled with their new books!

We could not let Mr. Schu leave without a photo!  Teacher Fans!!

The minute we got back to our classroom, these two students asked to go to the library. I think they checked out every Kate DiCamillo book they hadn't read!

A group of us got to have dinner with Mr. Schu the night before his visit (I know--how lucky can we be right?). My daughter (middle) is participating in Dublin's Teacher Academy so was able to meet Mr. Schu as a future teacher. What fun for her!

I was very sad to miss the Scholastic Reading Summit this year as it is one of my favorite days of the year. I am so hoping to make it to one this coming summer.  I don't want to miss a chance to hear Mr. Schu talk about great books. I was a huge Mr. Schu fan before he visited our school and I had no idea that it was possible to be a bigger fan but I am!

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Learning from Debbie Reese

I love the Educator Collaborative and look forward to their Fall Gathering each year. This year I was thrilled to see that Debbie Reese would be the opening keynote for this event.  I have followed Debbie's blog and tweets for years but have never heard her speak so I thank The Educator Collaborative for giving me that opportunity.  If you don't know her blog, it is American Indians in Children's Literature. And you can follow her on Twitter at @debreese. If you did not get a chance to see her talk, you can watch the recording at the Educator Collaborative site. (You can watch ALL of the recorded sessions on the site!)

During the session, Debbie recommended a few books. I've been able to read a few and highly recommend the following from Debbie's list. I am hoping to read the others she recommends in the near future but these 3 seem like must-haves.

I Am Not a Number by Jenny Kay Dupuis and Kathy Kacer is the story of a girl who was taken from her family to live in a residential school.  This is not an easy read as it highlights awful treatment of children.  The story is an important on. Debbie Reese's review is here on her blog.

When We Were Alone by David Robertson would make a good companion to I Am Not a Number. A grandmother is talking to her granddaughter about important things that she holds dear--things that were taken away during her time in a residential school. Debbie Reese's review is here on her blog.

Mission to Space by John Herrington is one I've already shared with my students and it invited good conversations. This is the story of astronaut John Herrington. This book includes information about being an astronaut as well as information about the Chickasaw Nation, Debbie's review is here on her blog. (The 4 descriptors at the top of this post are important for all of us as we read new books.)

Friday, September 15, 2017

Poetry Friday--Bike Ride Blessing 3.0--A Counting Out Rhyme

Bike Ride Blessing--A Counting Out Rhyme

One for the moon
in the morning sky,
two deer watching
as I ride by.

Three steep hills
to make me work,
paired with coasting--
that's the perk!

Four herds of runners
clog the path.
Ring my bell,
pedal past.

Three ponds total--
rising mists.
Two geese honking--
they insist:

One is presence,
patience, too.
Eyes and ears,
one is you.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

Three Saturday morning bike rides three weeks in a row--that's a celebration even without three Bike Ride Blessing poems in a row! 

No bike ride this weekend. I'll be spending the weekend at the Ohio Casting for Recovery retreat, enjoying the company of 14 breast cancer survivors and a fabulous retreat team. I'm (new this year) Ohio's CfR co-coordinator as well as continuing in my role as knot-tying and fly fishing instructor.

Michelle has the roundup this week at Today's Little Ditty.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Math Monday

Thanks to friend and colleague Maria Caplin (@mariacaplin) for tagging me in a tweet with this video. She knows I am always looking for great math ideas and this one looked promising! (And how was it that I was not following Marilyn Burns (@mburnsmath) on Twitter before this--thanks again, Maria!)

The 1-10 Card Investigation on Marilyn Burns' blog looked like a fun thing to try have my 5th graders try.  So last week we gave it a try.  It was our best day of math so far this year.

Marilyn Burns 1-10 Card Investigation

There was so much about this investigation that was perfect for math, especially early in the school year:

  • The talk as students struggled with the problem was fabulous. Kids had a partner (one that they'd had for a few days in math) and this investigation invited purposeful collaboration. Kids were truly thinking together and we will build on that using this as an anchor.
  • No one was upset about making mistakes as they had been over the. last few weeks. This investigation pretty much assumes you are going to make mistakes-many mistakes.  We used this experience to talk about why these mistakes felt more comfortable for them than other mistakes that they'd gotten upset about previously.
  • Everyone wanted to figure this out on their own. They didn't want anyone to share their answer or strategy and they worked hard to think on their own. The fun was in the challenge. 
  • There was so much laughing in the room during this 30 minute investigation.  It sounded like a big party. Most of the laughing came when kids thought they had it but then an incorrect card showed up.  The sound in the room is what math should sound like every day and we talked about that feeling of joy you have when you are solving something challenging.

In the 30-40 minutes we worked, about 3 groups figured this out.  (2 could not remember exactly what they did to make it work but they knew they could quickly figure it out again.) Many asked about continuing during an indoor recess one day and some were going to play around with the cards at home. No one asked for the answer and all were excited to get back to it sometime soon.  I looked back at the investigation after we finished and Marilyn Burns also offers a few extensions.

There was so much good about this day in math--I highly recommend this math lesson for upper elementary classrooms.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Setting Writing Goals

The first few weeks of writing workshop has gone well. We are keeping writers' notebooks and beginning to learn from other writers.  I feel like our workshop runs well when kids have as much choice as possible. As a community, when kids are doing different things in their notebooks, we learn from everyone and I find it easier to teach into that than a workshop with no choice. The challenge is always giving choice while also making sure kids are growing and learning the things they are supposed to learn in 5th grade.  So early in the year, there are a few things that I want my 5th graders to know.  I want them to see writing workshop as a time for them to learn new things/try new things/grow as a writer. I want them to see the things they learn in mini lessons as a kind of menu--as options to help them grow as writers. And I want them to have a voice in how they grow as writers--which things that we are learning are things that they need as writers?

Lots of the mini lesson work we've done is about what is possible in a writer's notebook. So we've read various pieces and learned from each. I didn't go in knowing what kids would notice from each piece--I just trusted that if I pulled a variety of pieces, kids would notice things that we could then build on. I wanted to give them lots of opportunities to think about what writers do and how they might use that in their own writing. So I chose lots of different pieces and after each one, we talked about what they noticed about the writing--what did the writers do that they liked?  I used many pieces from these books.  I imagine these beginning-of-the-year conversations will be anchors throughout the entire year.

So after a few mini lessons I started a board in the room to scaffold kids' learning a bit. The board had covers of the books we'd read and a reminder of the ideas we talked about in each--what we noticed the writer had done. As we added more mini lessons, the board grew. Then I added a few copies of student work--samples of things they'd tried using something from a mini lesson--and those went in the appropriate spots on the board.  The board continues to grow and it is a great way for kids to remember what we've learned, the books we learned from, and the idea that they may want to use these ideas to grow as writers.

This week we used the board to start conversations around goal setting. Our minilesson focused on really looking at the list of the things we'd learned (adding dialogue, stretching out a moment, similes to describe something, describing someone you know in a unique way, setting the scene with a strong paragraph, etc.).  We quickly went over the list and thought about what one thing we might focus on-one thing we wanted to try out in our writing over the next few days, one thing that might take us out of our comfort zone. Kids took a sticky note, added their name and a specific idea and then placed it where it belonged on the board--making public their goal for the next few days. This allowed me to have quick conversations with kids as I bopped around the room. It also allowed me to see across the class and to see where kids were focusing their work.  Most importantly, this gave kids a low-stress way to look at the list of mini lessons as a menu that will grow with the year. A way to think about the ways they can use what we learned to make their writing better while still having control over their own writing.

We'll continue to think in this way for a few weeks--thinking in short bursts of goals and practicing using the minilesson work that will most help our writing. Then we'll move on to goal setting within a unit of study and beyond. I am excited to see how this group of writers grows!

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Two Must-Have Picture Book Biographies

If you read this blog, you know I am a huge fan of picture book biographies. I am just going to leave these right here. They are two of my new favorites and I highly recommend them both. I like so much about each one--the writing, the illustrations, the story, the bigger message. Read them an enjoy!

Danza! by Duncan Tonatiuh

Friday, September 08, 2017

Poetry Friday -- Bike Ride Blessing, 2.0

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by stevep2008

ducks on the path
feet slap, slap, slap
I glide past

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2017

Two bike rides in a row inspire poetry. It's starting to feel like a pattern, like a thing. We'll see what happens this coming weekend!

Matt has this week's Poetry Friday Roundup at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme.

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

Newish Books That Have Fun With Words

During the first week of the school year, I read the book Animal Soup asking my kids if they liked words. They seemed confused. "What do you mean? Do we like words?"  I explained that I loved playing with words and the fun that writers had with words. I liked when writers did clever things with words. A few nodded while others tilted their heads not quite sure what I was getting at.

Some of the work we'll do in word study this year revolves around figurative language and using various parts of speech. The way I learned about figurative language and parts of speech was not joyful.  We learned about it in an isolated way and learned to recognize and name it but we didn't see the fun or joy in the clever ways people used words. Don't get me wrong,  I LOVED diagramming sentences (it was actually one of my biggest talents in middle and high school) BUT I never actually transferred any of that to using the language or to finding joy in the words and phrases that made up the sentences.

So I've been thinking hard about how to best move my students from not really thinking about words to finding joy in them to paying attention to the use of words in writing. So many days I find myself looking at my shelves of books, pulling collections of books based on some conversations we've had in class. These last few days I've pulled the following newish books to add to our conversations around words.

Words by Christopher Niemann
This small chunky book is mostly visual and is a great celebration of words of all kinds. This is one kids spend a lot of time with and one that they go back to again and again.

Not only is this a fun book that explores fun fruit words but the character of Orange (who has no place in a rhyming story) is hilarious!

A Greyhound a Groundhog by Emily Jenkins
This book plays with just a few words to tell a story and is fun to read aloud.

Guess Who, Haiku by Deanna Caswell and Bob Shea
These are fun riddles written in Haiku. This one is fun to read and guess the answers to these riddles. After reading a few kids will want to try writing some of their own.

Yaks Yak: Animal Word Pairs by Linda Su Park
What a fun way to look at words that can be used as different parts of speech--lots of noun-verb combinations to create fun scenes.  

Blue Sky White Stars by Sarvinder Naberhaus and Kadir Nelson
The brilliance in the way the author uses words invites conversation. This book is powerful and gorgeous and gives readers so much to think about, even though there are so few words.

Although this one does not focus on word play, kids definitely notice the fun in the author's use of words in several places.

This House Once by Deborah Freedman
The partnered language in this book may invite readers to try describing things in new ways. The author says a great deal in short, beautiful phrases.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Things I've Read Lately

In the first few weeks of school, I have much less time for my own reading than usual. I am sure that's true for many of us.  But I have read some very powerful things that I thought were worth sharing.  Hopefully you'll find something that makes you think about something in a new way:-)

Not This But That: No More Telling as Teaching-This is a great podcast with Cris Tovani connected her new book from Heinemann, No More Telling as Teaching.

NCTE Annual Convention Updates--Coming up sooner than we think!

Silence is Not Always Golden--Another great post by Lynsey Burkins on the newish Classroom Communities blog.

What Are Your Superpowers--From the same amazing blog, Andrea Smith shares some powerful thoughts on beginning of the year conversations

Learn Their Names. Learn Their Stories And one more amazing post from that same blog by Aliza Werner

7 Reflections to Quiet the Ghosts of Grading's Past by Sarah J. Donovan is an article to help you rethink grading at any level.

Proctor and Gamble's New Anti-Racism Ad is Roiling White America --I had not seen this ad until recently and I am glad I finally watched it and read the conversations around it.

My Favorite Reads of 2017 from Pernille Ripp is a great one to add books to your TBR stack (even though you don't have time to read all of these right now--it is a great list!)

Voices from the Middle Episode 22 with Donalyn Miller-Another great podcast from Voices in the Middle. There is always something new to learn from Donalyn Miller.

And School Begins by Kylene Beers gives us important things to think about as we start a new school year.

Which Childhood Experiences are "Appropriate"? and Says Who? by Christina Berchini on the NCTE blogs shares important thoughts on who decides what is appropriate for students to read.

Curriculum for White Americans to Educate  Themselves on Race and Racism--From Ferguson to Charleston--This one will take months to read through but there is so much here and much of it seems extremely important.

And this Ted Talk by Verna Myers, How to Overcome Our Biases: Walk Boldly to Them-- although it is not new, is new to me. A must-watch.

Happy Reading!