Tuesday, October 06, 2015

A Day With Chris Lehman: Falling in Love With Close Reading

On Saturday, I attended The Literacy Connection workshop with Chris Lehman. Wow! What an amazing day. I know I can't capture in words how amazing the day was but I wanted to share the highlights. If you have not had a chance to hear Chris Lehman or to read his books, I would highly recommend it. He is an important voice in literacy education and he shares his understandings generously. It was a great way to spend a Saturday in early October.

I am so lucky to teach in Central Ohio. Being part of the Literacy Connection and this group of teachers from Central Ohio who is passionate about literacy learning is such a gift. And so many of these teachers are Dublin colleagues. I feel lucky every day to learn with such an amazing group of people who care so much about what is right for kids. We always have a great time learning and thinking together.

I started my day picking up coffee at the brand new Starbucks that is only a mile or so from my house! I already love this Starbucks and the feel that I have when I walk in there. As busy as they were since they are newly opened, they didn't hesitate when I asked about providing coffee for the teachers. So happy to start all my days here, especially rainy Saturdays when it is still dark! Picking up the coffee here was the perfect way to start the day!

I always love the beginning of the day at these events.  Reconnecting with friends and colleagues and having a few minutes to chat over coffee before the session begins is always important.  Saturday morning there was so much energy in the  room as we knew what a great day we had ahead of us. Lots of people had some time to chat with Chris and to each other.

And if you missed my tweet--Dublin librarian, Marisa Saelzler found the perfect dress for the event. A Lularoe dress that perfectly matches the cover of Chris's book, Falling in Love with Close Reading! (You have to zoom in to see the perfect fabric!)

The day started off with Peggy Oxley welcoming the crowd and introducing Chris. If you don't know Peggy, she is the woman who has run this organization for years.  Her vision for teacher learning and how The Literacy Connection can support that is amazing.  

And of course there were books! Cover to Cover came with so many great new titles.  I showed some control and only bought a small stack. Some great new books that I am excited to share with my students soon.

I can't possibly summarize all that I learned on Saturday, but the day was exactly what I needed when I needed it. Chris's whole message was perfect for early October. Chris gave us so much to think about. Here are some of the quotes I kept throughout the day--quotes that I will revisit over the next few weeks:

"Joy is grounded in good literacy."

"Reading closely is a very natural thing for our kids to do."

"Close reading is about discovering new meaning through looking at details."

"For close reading to go well, reading needs to go well!"

"In close reading you are trying to discover things you didn't notice before."

"If we are asking kids to close read, it has to be a text kids can read successfully by themselves."

"Our kids need access to a lot of books that they can read with strength and that they are interested in reading."

"Nothing's magic in education except your relationship with your students."

"If we develop a structure, it will become a habit which will lead to independence."

"The purpose of the structure is that we can make it more sophisticated over time."

"Young readers need a lot of time to talk and develop the oral language to talk about their thinking around ideas."

"Ultimately, good reading work is good life work."

"It is so important that we are really good kid-watchers. We need to see what our kids do well and build on that."

"Effective literacy instruction requires knowledge of what book levels require readers to be able to do to gain meaning."

Chris Lehman will be back for another day with The Literacy Connection in March. I can't wait to learn more from him then!

**On a related note, if you haven't been keeping up with all of the great work Chris is doing with The Educator Collaborative, I would go check it out. Great Think Tanks and all of the session from the September Gathering are archived and free. Lots of great PD by amazing people.

Monday, October 05, 2015

Math Monday: Family Math Night!

This is the 2nd year we've hosted a Family Math Night early in the school year.

We use games in our classroom and we've seen the power of these when it comes to math skills and strategy work.  We also use Games for homework a lot.  We want homework to be fun and stress free. We know kids work hard all day and are often tired at the end of a school day. The games and the talk around games is a powerful way to learn lots of math concepts.

A few years ago, we started to send home Math Boxes with our students.  We wanted kids to have all the math tools they needed in one spot so they could play math games at home.

Then last year, thanks to our colleague Katie DiCesare, we started to host a Family Math night in mid-September.  By mid-September, our kids have learned at least 3-4 math games well enough to teach someone else.  On Family Math Night, parents come in and play a game with their child then take home a folder of games as well as the Math Box of learning tools.

It is such a fun night!  Lots of laughing and cheering.  It is a nice time of year for families to get to know each other and to see the classroom. We know families are busy so they can stop by for 15 minutes or they can stay the full hour-whichever works. And for those who can't attend, we send the math box and folder of games home.

Throughout the year, we'll send new games home and we know our students have a spot to keep those games. And since most families have seen the fun in playing games and most have seen how much math is involved in each one, we hope they'll pull the games out and play once in a while.

Family Math Night is one of my favorite fall events now.

Friday, October 02, 2015

Poetry Friday -- Beyond Thrilled

National Geographic Book of Nature Poetry
edited by J. Patrick Lewis
National Geographic, October, 2015

I am beyond thrilled to have a poem in this gorgeous book! To have my words share covers with some of my favorite poems of all times, and to be included with so many of my favorite poets (some whose words-on-page I know, but some whose handshake-hug-or smile I know)...wow! And to be able to page through this book savoring the pictures as much as the words...wow! Thank you, Mr. JPL, for this opportunity, this gift.

My poem is in the ocean section, and to write it, I did exactly what Pat encourages in his forward:
"You needn't leave your chair to write a poem about the wilder shores of creation. A book is your ticket to ride; a photograph is rapid transit to the brain. What kind of poem would you  write if all you had in front of you was an image...?"
I've never been to the Great Blue Hole off the coast of Belize, so I went there through pictures and research. I gazed into its depths and wondered (both with questions and awe). When I finally wrote, I let the Great Blue Hole speak, giving its tribute to the water that created it one drop at a time with the eternal power of erosion.

Flickr Creative Commons photo by Eric Pheterson

I Owe it All to Water

Back in the ice age,
I became a cave.
In my hollow heart, I meditated
on my maker.

Water’s three little atoms have such power:
dripping steadily,
grinding microscopically,
sculpting artistically.

(or so it seemed)
the oceans rose, my ceiling fell, and I was completely
submerged. Filled to the brim. Literally.

Now I am a deep, indigo blue. A circular
sapphire in a turquoise sea: singular.
Breathtakingly spectacular.
And I owe it all to water.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2014

Heidi has the Poetry Friday roundup today at My Juicy Little Universe.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

Celebrating Raina Telgemeier! #GNCelebration

We are excited to begin our monthlong celebration of Graphic Novels.  Every Thursday in October, we'll be celebrating Graphic Novels here on our blog.  We are teaming up with blogger friends at Kid Lit Frenzy and Assessment in Perspective, so you'll want to check out their blogs every week too!  If you want to know more about our monthlong celebration, read our Nerdy Book Club post announcing it.  We also hope you'll join our Google Community where the party will come together!  We love Graphic Novels and we want to share that love with the world.

It was not easy for me to fall in love with graphic novels, but once I read Babymouse and fell in love with that character, I gave others a try.  (Thank you Jenni and Matthew Holm!).  I still find them a bit tricky as I have to constantly remind myself to spend time with the visuals--I tend to want to read quickly through the words and move on.  But knowing Graphic Novels and having many in my classroom has changed our Reading Workshop. I have several baskets of favorite authors and series in the Graphic Novel section. I have graphic novels in a variety of genres and I have graphic novels that span a variety of levels. So there are graphic novels for everyone.  I find that these are fabulous additions to our classroom and I am so glad I listened to Mary Lee and let her show me how to read these.  In preparation for today's post, I dug into the Graphic Novel tag on our blog and was amazed to see how many graphic novels we've shared on the blog over the years.  

To kick of our Graphic Novel Celebration, let's celebrate Raina Telgemeier!  I discovered Raina's work in 2010 when I read Smile. I fell instantly in love with it and couldn't wait to read more by this author. The idea of a Graphic Novel memoir was something I hadn't considered and I found the story to be fascinating.  This was one of the first graphic novels I read that helped me understand that graphic novels were not a "genre". Instead they could be any genre and Raina wrote a genre I had never read in a graphic novel.  It totally drew me in!

Since then I've read all of her books and have loved every one. She is already a favorite in our classroom as my children can identify her art and notice when they see a new piece in a graphic novel anthology (such as Comic Squad Recess!). My student relate to her stories and talk about "Raina" like she is sitting with us sometimes. Her writing and art combine to create some of the most amazing stories I've read.  She really changed my whole understanding of what a graphic novel could be and the impact it can have on readers.

Raina is a rock star in the graphic novel world. She was one of the authors who changed the way we thought about graphic novels and she continues to create amazing works.  If you did not get a chance to hear her interview on The Yarn about Graphic Novels, it is so worth listening to. It is an amazing interview by Colby Sharp and Travis Jonker.

Lately, Raina has been updating the Baby-Sitters Club books by Ann M. Martin. I love that these books that so many of us loved years ago, are back in graphic novel form. This gives students two ways to fall in love with the characters. A few years ago, Raina  did black and white versions of a few of the Baby-Sitters' Club books but now they are being published in FULL COLOR. And they are fabulous.  It is amazing to see my kids pick these up BECAUSE they know and love Raina's work.  I love that they can see the power of her work in so many different stories.  

I can't imagine what it takes to create one of these full color Baby-Sitter Club graphic novels. Needless to say, they are not being released as fast as we would all like as I am sure they take a while to create! But this week, the full color edition of book #3 was released:  Mary Anne Saves the Day. And we are giving away a copy as part of today's celebration! Complete the Rafflecopter below for a chance to win. Comment on this post for an optional entry!  

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Celebrate graphic novels with us today by reading or sharing one of Raina's books with students or colleagues! Go Raina!

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Bully on the Bus by Kathryn Apel

Bully on the Bus
by Kathryn Apel
University of Queensland Press, 2014
review copy purchased for my classroom library

It's hard to know what to do when a bully is making your life miserable. Katheryn Apel captures the emotional upheaval and the unwillingness to tell trusted adults perfectly in her verse novel for younger readers. An older girl is bullying Leroy every day on the bus and he feels wretched. His big sister Ruby tries to help, but ultimately, Leroy is the one who must reach out for help.

This is a book that might help a child who is being bullied have the courage to tell a trusted adult or stand up to a bully. In an interesting parallel, Leroy's teacher gives him a book that contains HIS secret weapon against the bully!

There are just a few Aussie words that might be unknown to a US reader, but nothing that can't be understood with just a bit of inference.

Monday, September 28, 2015

How's That Workin' For You? -- Classroom Design Edition

Just about a month ago, I was setting up my classroom and imagining how all of the spaces I'd designed would be used once the students came.

Last week, during independent work time in science, when students had the choice to work on some anchor charts for the classroom, or on a 3-D energy pyramid, I looked around the room and was thrilled to see that every single space I had imagined was being used! YAY!

The small round table

Standing desk

Back table


Room for more than one group on the tile

Table group

Lap desk and meeting area

The other standing desk

Friday, September 25, 2015

Poetry Friday -- Eclipse

Flickr Creative Commons Photo by John 'K'

As If to Demonstrate an Eclipse
by Billy Collins

I pick an orange from a wicker basket
and place it on the table
to represent the sun.
Then down at the other end
a blue and white marble
becomes the earth
and nearby I lay the little moon of an aspirin.

(read the rest of the poem here)

Mark your calendar and set your alarm -- there's going to be a total lunar eclipse this Sunday night peaking about 10:00 PM. It's an eclipse of a Supermoon! Way cool. The eastern half of North America will be able to see the entire eclipse. Read more about it here and here.

This week, Janet Wong is hosting the Poetry Friday roundup at Sylvia's blog Poetry For Children.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Join us for #GNCelebration in October

We'll be celebrating graphic novels every Thursday in October! Head over to The Nerdy Book Club for 10 Reasons to Join Us in Our October Graphic Novel Celebration

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

I Don't Like Snakes by Nicole Davies

I don't remember where I heard about the book I Don't Like Snakes but I am always looking for good nonfiction and I pretty much buy anything and everything written by Nicola Davies.  Thank you to whoever it was that posted about this book because I am so happy I discovered it!

A little girl is part of a family who has snakes. Everyone in her family LOVES snakes but she does not like them. At all.  She has lots of reasons for not liking snakes--they slither, their skin is slimy and scaly, they have flicky tongue, and more.  There are so many reasons not to like snakes!

But on each 2 page spread, the little girl is spending time with her family, letting them know why she doesn't like snakes. They start to explain to her why the things she doesn't like, are actually pretty cool things.  The right side of each spread is more informational and takes the reader outside of the story to learn more about the characteristic that the family is explaining.

Predictably, the little girl decides that she "really, really, reeeeealllly" likes snakes by the end of the book and readers may do the same. I love the way this is written and the way that the information is embedded in a story.  It is a book that will answer lots of kids' wonders about snakes.  The illustrations by Luciano Lozano are quite fun and will draw readers in who may not typically read books about snakes.  A great combination of story, information, and art.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar

Fuzzy Mud by Louis Sachar is not the kind of book I would typically pick up. It looked like more of an adventure than anything else to me and I read more for character than plot. But this book is getting a ton of buzz and I LOVED Holes and Sachar's other books so I picked it up.  Well, I was hooked on page 2 and am so glad I read it! What a great read!

The book is about Tamaya, a 5th grader.  Her friend, Marshall walks home with her each day but one day, (due to a bullying-type incident), Marshall decides that they need to take a shortcut through the forbidden woods. Needless to say, it doesn't go well and Tamaya discovers something in the woods that will change their city.

The writing is fascinating as Sachar moves between Tamaya's story and excerpts from secret Senate Hearings.  Sachar weaves this story together in a way that builds suspense and gets you to care about the characters.

I don't want to give lots away as I loved reading this story and seeing how it unfolded without knowing too much about it.  My thinking is that this would be a fabulous read aloud for 5thish grade. So much to talk about in terms of choices, consequences, how we treat others, etc.

I also think this is the perfect book to hand to kids who love adventures, fantasy, science fiction, etc.  I know that much of what I read is a more realistic, quiet, sad,hopeful type of reading and I love finding more books for readers who want more adventure.  5th grade seems to be a great age to introduce kids to science fiction/dystopia and this seems to be a good transition to that genre.

Really, one of my favorite reads of the year!