Saturday, October 23, 2010

Where Are You From?

That's a fairly direct question, but the answer to that is more complex.  The surface question is" Where do you live?", the underlying question is "What influences made you the person you are?"  These questions came to the surface for me a couple of years ago when I was introduced to two pieces of literature. "Where I am From" by George Ella Lyon and "Momma, Where are you From" by Marie Bradby.

As I thought how I would use it with my students, the possibilities tantalized me.  I was not the only person who was touched by George Ella Lyon's poem, other teachers had been inspired and shared their ideas and experiences.  I found a template for student's to write their own "Where I am From" poem.  I also found some great ideas at The Book Chook for using the poem with students. at The Book Chook, Sue has a link where George Ella Lyon reads her own poem. Using these pieces of literature would make a great bulletin board by combining your students poetry and a childhood snapshot.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Two Voice Poems

Two voice poems are an interesting form.  They are great at showcasing different points of view.  Paul Fleischman first showcased this type of poetry in his book "Joyful Noise: Poems for Two Voices".  Reading this type of poetry is a great tool for helping students develop fluency.  David L. Harrison wrote the book "Partner Poems for Building Fluency" to help teachers use this strategy with students.

In the American Memories(Library of Congress) lesson section "Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself" there is a poem called "A Graduation Poem for Two", that is a great example of comparing two different points of view.  Lesley Roessing writes eloquently about comparing and contrasting a students life with a person from another culture.  I think this poetry format has lots of applications.

Mary Ann Hoberman has written several books in her series "You Read to Me, I'll Read to You".  They are delightful.  Great two people stories.  The one I think makes a good October selection is titled "You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Scary Tales to Read Together."  I think my favorite story in the book is called "The Witch and the Broomstick.".  In her book she uses color to make it easier to read - purple (reader 1), lavender (reader 2), orange both read together.  I am going to share her first poem in the hopes that you will explore this format further.


Do you like to
Quake and quiver?
                              Do you like to
                               Shake and shiver?
Do you like your
Mind all jumpy?

                             Do you like your
                             Skin all bumpy?

                  If you do,
                  Then take a look
                  At the stories
                  In this book!

I'll read here
And you'll read there.

                             Both sides give you
                             Quite a scare.

                 Then, with middle
                 Words before us,
                  Read together
                 In a chorus.
                 Now we know
                 Just what to do:

You'll read to me!

                           I'll read to you!


Monday, October 18, 2010

Carousel Magic

GUILDFORD, ENGLAND - MAY 31: Children enjoy a ride on a carousel during the Surrey County Show 2010 at Stoke Park on May 31, 2010 in Guildford, Surrey, England. The annual Surrey County Show is the biggest one day agricultural show in the UK attracting up to 40,00 people. A surge in the numbers of people keeping livestock and growing their own produce has led to a focus on a more rural atmosphere at this year's show. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)
I have always loved the carousel horses.  I first met them in books as a child, oh how exciting to be able to ride a real Merry-go-Round whenever you wanted.  I looked forward to the carnival that came to out community every year, because they had a Merry-go-Round!  My love for the beautiful horses continues to this day.

A few years ago Doris a friend who lives in Helena, MT took us to "The Great Northern Carousel".  What a great piece of art by many wonderful artists.  Here is an excerpt from the website:

"The Great Northern Carousel is a modern hand built menagerie carousel reminiscent of the splendid, turn-of-the-century carousels. Most of the 37 animals and one chariot were hand-carved by Ed Roth of Long Beach, California and hand painted by Bette Largent of Spokane, Washington. Todd Goings built the mechanism in Marion, Ohio and also built the spinning tub for the carousel.  And, local artist Mary Harris created the original glass artwork depicting Helena area landmarks and scenery on the Carousel rounding boards."

Last year one of art teachers did an art unit with Carousel Animals.  I did a little research for her and learned about the National Carousel Association.  Last year they visited  two Montana carousels the Great Northern Carousel in Helena, MT and "A Carousel for Missoula" in Missoula, MT.  When looking at the archives I found out about a private carousel "Dream Maker Carousel" that is open to the public in Somers, MT.  I told my husband I want to go see it next year.

This brings me to one of the new books that I added to our school library collection.  "Feivel's Flying Horses" by Heidi Smith Hyde.  This picture book tells the story of a woodcarver that comes to America and became one of the wood carvers making carousel horses for Coney Island.  I found the historical note by the author very informative.  It is a great book to introduce the Jewish immigration to America in the late 1800's.

Links of Interest: Carousel News Carousel links
Carousel Live Binder -  

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Making Movies in the Mind

One of my greatest "Aha Moments" as a teacher happened early in my career.  I had a student who was reading a book and listening to the story on a "Walkman" at the same time. For you youngsters out there a Walkman was an individual cassette player with headphones.  I was teaching in a juvenile detention center and this student was about 16 and a struggling reader.

When "Sam" finished the book he looked at me with a very satisfied smile.  Then shared "Wow, that was a great book.  That was the first time I could see a movie in my mind when I read."

I looked at him with total surprise.  I had no idea that there were readers who didn't see the movies in their mind.  For me this conversation was a "Touchstone Moment".  Since then I have learned that many students can't make pictures in their mind as they read.  This conversation with "Sam" has influenced how I teach and one of my major goals - letting kids discover the movies in their minds.

Ralph Fletcher is a terrific writer.  I love his writing for the wonderful words and rhythm.  His books are great for "seeing" pictures in your mind.  I read "Hello, Harvest Moon" to my students.  It has great illustrations and rich vocabulary.  I am a big fan of Ralph Fletcher, and have learned a lot from reading the professional literature he has written.


Saturday, October 16, 2010

Halloween Poetry

A great seasonal book with poetry and rhymes is Halloween Hoots and Howls by Joan Horton.  My students laughed at the play on words.  the illustrations are colorful and playful.  Writingfix is sponsoring a Halloween poetry writing contest.  It closes Oct 21, 2010.

You can also find Karen Mcgee's lesson for Halloween Hoots and Howls at Writingfix.  I used her Halloween word bank as a starting place and then added other seasonal words. In th book there are several poems - that are great to share with students who cannot participate in holiday activities.  I love the "Spider on the Ceiling".  I then had the students fill out the Noun, Adjective, Verb chart in th lesson.  I loved this lesson because it tied into what my 5th graders were learning in their classroom about parts of speech.

I used the ETTC (Educational Technology Training Center) poem templates to experiment with writing poetry.  I only have one computer in my classroom so I put the poem template for "Noun + Adjective + Phrase = Poem".  You can find it by name listed on the left side of the screen.  I had my students to use the word bank and charts that they had made to write their poems.  It makes for a great introduction.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Using Show Not Tell in the Classroom

I introduce the topic of show not tell by reading a touchstone text that exemplifies the writer's craft I want my students to focus on and practice in their own writing.

Reading from the Magic Thief by Sarah Prineas - p7
     “The pork chops were fragrant and crisp, the potatoes swimming in butter with a sprinkling of black pepper over their shiny brown backs.  The chop house keeper returned briefly and added a plate oozing with berries and dusted with sugar.  The wizard said something, but I didn’t hear him.  I picked up my fork and cut open a potato.  I let butter soak in for a second and then took an enormous bite.”

In the center of our mall there is a little kiosk that sells Cinnabon cinnamon rolls.  The smell of freshly baked bread spiced with cinnamon wafts through the air.  The scent tantalizes and teases me, taunting that it is within reach.  As the enticing aroma tickles my pleasure centers, my brain goes on full alert.  I reconnoiter the kiosk, surveying the display case.  Scouting out calorie laden pleasure bombs, knowing that one bite will detonate my greed for more.  I set about capturing the enemy, a choice roll that has both rich caramel flowing over the sides and thick luscious frosting standing guard on top.  After capturing this sinful delicacy, I savor it with a frosty chilled latte.  Mission accomplished.

“Breakfast Toast” is a successful writing-exercise, I have used with my students.  I ask the students if they have ever eaten toast.  They all look at me as if I have lost my mind.  I go on to describe how I like my toast.

“I like my toast golden – not crisp, not blackened, just lightly browned.  I sniff the melting butter – spreading like a puddle over my golden brown piece of toast.  To this I add jelly or better yet honey.  The smell of hot toast beckons as I sit down.  Honey butter with its sweet flavor teases my tongue as I bite down into the lightly toasted bread.”

Student Example:

Pancakes by Lily Slunaker (5th grade 2009)

I love my pancakes golden brown and soft. I love it when the smell is sweet, and the taste is warm and delicious. I like the taste of the rich maple syrup against my tongue and the sound of the batter getting poured into the sizzling hot pan. I love having pancakes for breakfast because of their delicious taste, sweet smell and the sound of the batter sloshing in the hot pan. I love pancakes.
The prompt: – Write about how you like your toast or another food.  I then let them write for seven minutes followed by sharing.

The Sharing – This is a very important part of the Writing Workshop and writing process.  There are many ways to approach this.  I modeled my classroom procedure after the National Writing Project class I attended in Laurel, MT. 

I had the students bring their writing to the back of the classroom.  We sat in a circle and I talked to them about being good listeners and a good audience.  I also told the students when called on to read they had some choices they could make – (1) Read their writing (2) Have another student read it (3) Have me read it (teacher) (4) Say pass.  As a reader make contact with your audience.  Use inflection.  Project your voice so everyone can hear you.

The listener’s role is to understand the writer.  Ways to be a good listener: watch the reader, interact with the reader - nod your head, smile encouragingly, make eye contact, what part of the writing works.   After the reader has shared their writing – thank them for sharing.  I then tell them, they can retell the part that they liked best and why.  I encourage them to use as many of the author’s exact words as they can.  They can ask questions for clarification.  They can talk to the speaker about what they are still confused about (I remind them they must do this in a respectful way.)  In the book p 36 “Don’t Forget to Share” by Leah Mermelstein are some great questions audience members can ask the speaker.  As a final step I ask the writer, “What part of the conversation was most helpful?”

This sharing and reflection is very powerful.  Even though I give suggested prompts I always leave writing about something else as an option.  I remind them that they need to keep the content school appropriate.  Last year I had a young woman (4th grader) share about her cousin’s murder.  Two students moved to sit by her giving her support and comfort.  These sessions are important to building community and a safe place to share their writing.  It also provides the writer with a real audience for their work.

Recommended Professional Literature:

Don’t Forget to Share: The Crucial Last Step in the Writing Workshop by Leah Mermelstein
    ISBN: 13: 978-0-325-00951-3

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

What Would Happen If Animal Migration Stopped?

Robert Krulwich - wrote a post called "Migration Blues: When Birds Don't Fly South".  As I read his post my mind had a hard time wrapping my head around what is happening.  If the animals stop migrating, not only will it affect their own species but what does it mean for human kind?  What is causing this phenomena?

Krulwich creates a powerful scene when he writes - "Simply stated," says Princeton professor David Wilcove, "the phenomenon of migration is disappearing around the world. The great salmon runs of the Pacific Northwest have been reduced to a trickle ... Monarch butterflies are threatened by illegal logging of the Mexican forests where they winter. "

More and more studies show fewer creatures are migrating and those who do more often don't make it.  There is no easy way to address this problem."
Krulwich writes: "Krulwich Wonders, NPR Sciency Blog.  He tackles science and explains what is happening.  A great science blog to use with students.  The migration post shows the interconnectedness of many issues.  Great discussion piece.

Links of Interest   Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Hooking Kids on Literature

James Prosek is a fabulous water-colorist.  He has written and illustrated several books about fish for adults.  His picture book "A Good Day's Fishing" is exquisite.  The image on this post is from the book.

The writing is a great hook for kids who love the outdoors.  It provides a great model for their own writing.  Prosek takes a nonfiction subject and turns it
into a memorable picture book.

"Hooked On Fishing—Not On Drugs" is a unique, nationally accepted drug prevention program offered through the American Sportfishing Association's Future Fisherman Foundation. It is presented by certified instructors at the local level with lessons that are geared towards students in grades K-12 and is correlated with MT Core Curriculum Content Standards."

Montana Fish Wildlife & Parks sponsors the Montana Hooked on Fishing program.  This program is a way to provide students with alternatives to drugs - by becoming fisherman.  The national program has been very successful.  MT Fish Wildlife and Parks have several posters of native fish available for classrooms that would connect beautifully with this book.

Newspaper article      Future Fisherman     Angler Editions  Take Me Fishing


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Those Sparkling Memories

I have been working on a great part of my job choosing and ordering new books.  This last week some of those orders arrived.  Each time I open a box of books it is a treasure hunt.  Oh I need to share this book with so and so.  Last year I wrote two grants to buy fiction and nonfiction mentor books that will be added to our school collection.

One of the first books I shared with my students was "Canoe Days by Gary Paulsen (1999).  The illustrations Ruth Wright Paulsen add depth to the wonderful prose.  The pictures portray the vivid descriptions. Great example of taking a memorable day and melding it with exquisite words.  

Before reading this book aloud - I selected approximately 20 words from the selection and broke them into 4 groups.  I wrote the groups on the board and had my 4th & 5th graders use them for an alphabetizing activity.  Once I started reading the story I could see the students' eyes light up as they made the connection to the vocabulary on the board and the selection I was reading.

All in all it is a great book to model for word choice and memories.  It can also be used as a "boys" book - I heard the "ahs" when I read the author's name.

Links you might like Two Writing Teachers and WritingFix