Monday, March 31, 2008

Celebrating National Poetry Month

Lots of people will be highlighting poetry in April since it is National Poetry Month. Over at a wrung sponge you can read about the ways folks in the kidlitosphere will be celebrating.

Here at The Miss Rumphius Effect I will be highlighting a poetry book a day and suggesting ways to use these books in instruction. I will also be suggesting companion books, web sites and activities to accompany the reading of selected poems from the books. I hope you will join me in exploring poetry for instruction and will consider suggesting your own ideas for sharing poetry with kids.

If you're looking for resources to use in teaching poetry, check out this post by Elaine at Wild Rose Reader.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Clerihew

Since tomorrow marks the first day of April, I thought something silly would be fun for our stretch this week. A clerihew is a short verse that is biographical and humorous. Here are the rules for writing a clerihew.
  • The poem must be four lines long.
  • The rhyme scheme must be a/a/b/b.
  • The first line should consist of the name of a person.
  • The poem should be biographical and humorous. Often times clerihews poke fun at famous people.
You can learn more about clerihews at Poetry for Kids and Wikipedia. You can get some advice on writing clerihews at Giggle Poetry. Here's an example.
The enemy of Harry Potter
Was a scheming plotter.
I can't tell you what he's called; I'd be ashamed
To name "he who must not be named."
So, what kind of clerihew will you write? Will your subject be literary or political? Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll post them here later this week. Have fun with this one!

March Carnival is Here!

The March Carnival of Children's Literature is up over at Scrub-a-Dub-tub, The Reading Tub Blog. Terry has done a fine job pulling it all together. Do take some time this week to check in and check out this month's contributions.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Green Earth Book Award 2008

The winners of the Green Earth Book Award were recently announced. Given by the Newton Marasco Foundation in partnership with Salisbury University, this award recognizes books that inspire children and young adults to appreciate and care for the natural environment.

2008 Winners

Children's Fiction
Winston of Churchill: One Bear’s Battle Against Global Warming
written by Jean Davies Okimoto and illustrated by Jeremiah Trammell

Young Adult Fiction
Chronicles of Faerie: The Light-Bearer’s Daughter
written by O. R. Melling

The Down to Earth Guide to Global Warming
written by Laurie David and Cambria Gordon

Honor Books

The most recent issue of Book Links (March 2008) has an article by Fred Chapel, Sharon James, and J. Cynthia McDermott on previous winners of this award.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Poetry Friday - Celebrating Van Gogh

Sunday is the 155th anniversary of Vincent Van Gogh's birthday. In honor of his work, I am sharing this poem by James Magorian. It was first published in the Summer 2001 issue of The Literary Review.
The Wheatfield of Van Gogh
by James Magorian

The wheat is lifted, bent back like a trapdoor,
a searching, sweet reek of the past:
the paths--wet sticks poked into a fire--
hunter's bread, howl of flowers,

the earth red where the angelus bell is buried:
bright sorrow, light rattling
on the crooked stairway to the cloud-orchard,
that wheat, dependable chaos, ripening,

(stem rust, cutworms, 20 bushels an acre?),
that wheat, held open, scold
of color--whooping it up to no avail--
one torment like any other,

the body (a century of dark cellars,
all the hours huddled at the end of the day)
remembers, deepens, what is left
in dreams, desperate in an ashy intention,

that wheat, a warding off (time, pout of desire),
gruff yellow, molten oddities,
finished things, denials--the crows departing,
one field like any other.

Copyright 2001, Fairleigh Dickinson University. All rights reserved.
The round up this week is being hosted by Gina over at Cuentecitos. Do stop by and take in all the great poetry being shared. Before you go, don't forget to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Pardon My Dust ...

Yes, I'm back to the original template this blog started out with. I've lost some things, gained some others. Please bear with me while I play with XML and try to figure out how to widen this template!

Springing to Life

With the official start of spring just behind us here in the northern hemisphere, my thoughts have turned to polliwogs, baby birds, and butterflies. Last year in honor of spring I put together a thematic book list on seeds and growing things. This time around I thought it would be fun to look at books for examining the early stages of life in some animals.

Let's start with some books on eggs and oviparous animals.
  • Guess What is Growing Inside This Egg by Mia Posada - This interactive books includes a poem and visual clue before asking readers to guess what is inside the egg. Once they turn the page the answer is revealed along with a bit of information about the animal. This is another great book for looking at different animals that lay eggs.
  • What Hatches? by Don Curry - This book describes different types of eggs and the animals that hatch from them, including birds, butterflies, frogs, alligators, and fish.
  • An Egg is Quiet by Diana Hutts Aston - With gorgeous ink-and-watercolor illustrations, this beautiful book explores eggs in their many sizes, shapes, colors, and textures.
  • Egg to Chick by Millicent E. Selsam - This Reading Rainbow selection explains in clear and simple language how an egg cell develops from fertilization through hatching.
  • A Nest Full of Eggs by Priscilla Belz Jenkins - This book in the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series follows a robin family a robin family from early spring, through nest building, hatching, and fledging.
  • Where Do Chicks Come From? by Amy Sklansky - This book in the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series describes the development of a baby chick from fertilization until it hatches. This is a simple, yet scientific introduction to the subject.
  • Bird Eggs by Helen Frost - This book identifies and describes different bird eggs by their size, color, and pattern.
  • The Emperor's Egg by Martin Jenkins - This book highlights the role of male penguins in incubating the eggs of the young in the harsh Antarctic winter.
  • The Emperor Lays an Egg by Brenda Guiberson - This book begins with the laying of an egg and goes on to describe the care given to the baby penguin from the time it hatches until it is on its own.
  • Penguin Chick by Betty Tatham - This book in the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out-Science series follows the growth of one penguin chick from egg to adulthood.
  • A Platypus, Probably by Sneed Collard - In discussing egg-laying animals, one can't leave out the platypus. This book clearly describes the physical characteristics and behaviors of this unusual animal.
  • You Can't Lay an Egg if You're an Elephant by Fred Ehrlich - This book looks at the difference between animals that lay eggs and animals that give birth to live young. The first two chapters are devoted to birds.
If it's fiction you're looking for, stop by Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup and check out her post featuring some of her favorite "eggy picture books."

Here are a few books that look at the life cycles of birds, frogs and butterflies.
  • From Tadpole to Frog by Wendy Pfeffer - This book in the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series introduces readers to the life cycle of frogs.
  • From Caterpillar to Butterfly by Deborah Heiligman - This book in the Let's-Read-and-Find-Out Science series introduces readers to the life cycle of the butterfly.
  • Where Butterflies Grow by Joanne Ryder - This book follows the growth of a butterfly from its beginning as an egg. Also included are directions for attracting butterflies to your garden.
  • Waiting for Wings by Lois Ehlert - This beautifully illustrated book introduces readers to the wonder of butterfly metamorphosis.
  • Robins and Their Chicks by Linda Tagliaferro - In text and photos this book describe the lives of baby robins from birth to early maturity.
  • Two Blue Jays by Anne Rockwell - In this book a child describes the mating ritual, nest building, and feeding and brooding habits of a pair of blue jays. All of this is observed by a group of children observing the animals outside their classroom window.
  • Hummingbird Nest: A Journal of Poems by Kristine O'Connell George - What happens when a poet awakens one morning to find a hummingbird nest in a tree on her patio? She writes about everything she sees. This wonderful volume of poems follows the hummingbirds from egg stage through leaving the nest. Included is an author's note and information about hummingbirds.
If you want more books about frogs and and toads, try this thematic list. You can also find a great list of frog poetry at Wild Rose Reader in a post entitled Leaping Lizards! It's the year of the Frog.

Finally, here are a few poems that support this topic.
  • Eggs by Steven Schnur in Spring: An Alphabet Acrostic.
    Egrets, ducks, and
    Geese nest in the marsh
    Grass, waiting for their
    Shells to hatch.

    You will also find poems for the words frog, nest, and young here.

  • The Mother (p. 32) by Marilyn Singer in The Company of Crows: A Book of Poems.
    Three messy nests my last year's brood
    are building:
    one lopsided
    one slopsided
    the third half washed away
    by last night's rain.
    I help them by not helping.

    Without practice
    how would they ever learn
    the roundness
    the tightness
    the rightness
    of a nest?

    There are several other poems in this book that examine mother and father birds and their young.

  • Spring Splashdown by Joyce Sidman in Song of the Water Boatman & Other Pond Poems. The double page-spread includes a poem describing newly hatched wood ducks and some information about them.

    Peck, peck,
    crackle, crackle.
    Fluff, fluff,
    wiggle, wiggle.
    Snooze, snooze . . .
    Mommy calling!
Over at Wild Rose Reader, Elaine put together a terrific list of of books to welcome spring with poetry. You're sure to find some other useful titles there.

I'm sure there are many more terrific books that touch on these subjects. These are the ones that speak to me of spring and new life. If you have a book to recommend, please let me know and I'll add it to the list.

Poetry Stretch Results - Tanka

The challenge this week was to write in the form of tanka, a Japanese poetic form that can be thought of as an extended haiku. The poems are generally composed in five phrases of 5/7/5/7/7 syllables, though the emphasis is on lines that are short/long/short/long/long. Here's what folks shared this week.
Marianne Neilsen at Doing the the Write Thing! shares a tanka inspired by a photo.

Daisybug at Things that make me say... shares a tanka on the nature of longing.

Noah the Great has some great alliteration going in his tanka on sunburns.

cloudscome at a wrung sponge wrote a tanka inspired by a visit to the zoo.

Laura Purdie Salas shares three tankas on a variety of subjects.

Elaine at Wild Rose Reader also shares three tankas, hers all on the the subject of spring. One of them even fits very nicely with the theme of my tankas!
I have been working on a thematic book list for the last week or so on the new life that abounds in spring. Since my brain has been thinking hatching eggs and baby animals, my poems naturally went in that direction.
four blue treasures
warmed by a hot, bare tummy
turned, rolled, turned, rolled
brooded over day by day
until helpless chicks emerge

hatched from an egg
a munching machine is born
eating, growing, eating, growing
until a chrysalis forms
grand metamorphosis

hatched from jelly eggs
big-headed polliwogs
swim, grow, swim, change
growing legs, losing tails
leaving water for land
It's not too late if you still want to stretch with us. What kind of tanka will you write? Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

StoryTubes is Coming!

Have you seen/heard about this contest?
Beginning April 1st, kids across the country (grades 1-6) will be making and posting videos to YouTube about their favorite books. Coming in at 2 minutes or shorter, kids can enter their video in the StoryTubes contest by filling out an entry from and selecting a category for their book:
  • Hair-Raising Tales
  • From or For the Heart
  • Of Heroes and Heroines
  • Facts, Fads and Phenoms

Voting on videos will occur each week in May when the top ten videos in each category will be featured. At the end of each week, one contestant will win $500 in books. The winner's sponsoring organization (school, library or designated organization for home-schooled youth) will receive $1,000 in books. Book prizes are sponsored by publishers Simon & Schuster, Scholastic, Eaglemont Press, DK Publishing, Charlesbridge Publishing and Shenanigan Books.

Sounds like fun, doesn't it? Get over to StoryTubes now to learn more.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Poetry Across the Curriculum

With the start of National Poetry Month just one short week away, I've been thinking about how I want to mark the occasion on this blog. Last year, two of my favorite poetry bloggers, Greg K. at Gotta Book and Elaine at Wild Rose Reader, published a poem a day in honor of the month. I would love to be able to do something like this, but with the end of the semester, beginning of exams, and a conference taking place in April, I don't know that I would be successful.

Even so, I've been thinking a lot about what I might write. Since my passion is for information, I've been focused on poems for teaching. Largely, this means nonfiction. I love nonfiction poetry, so I was thrilled today to see David Schwartz's column at I.N.K. entitled Poetry in Nonfiction? In it he says:
So poetry can evoke a mood. There's a "Duh!" moment for you -- any English teacher can tell you that and I'm sure many did. Chances are that your English teachers were not thinking of non-fiction. But why shouldn't the wary eyes of the coyote lurking within the pages of a science book be just as mood-invoking as those of an entirely fictitious coyote? And why does the non-fiction reader deserve any less of a mood, conveyed in as few words as possible?
That's a really good question. I wish more teachers would consider the use of poetry for sharing information with their students. I think some are reluctant because it's POETRY, and for many people, poetry is a scary thing, but it needn't be. What they need is some gentle nudging and to be pointed in the direction of great nonfiction poetry.

Here's a start. Last year I wrote a post entitled The Poetry of Science. In it, I scratched the surface of some titles for teaching science with poetry. Elaine and others left some very helpful comments and expanded the list of titles. I also wrote a post on the Poetry of Math. I haven't written one on social studies yet, but will work on this as a project for April.

What are some of your favorite poetry books that share information in a nontraditional manner? I'd love to hear your thoughts. In the meantime, if you're looking for resources for National Poetry Month, head on over to Wild Rose Reader and check out the post Gearing Up for National Poetry Month 2008.

**Updated** - I forgot to mention that the most recent issue of Book Links (March 2008) has an article by Sylvia Vardell called "Doing" Science with Poetry. It's marvelous! You can read a bit about this column at her blog, Poetry for Children. You can also download it from the Book Links site.

Are We REALLY Reading Less?

Today in the Wall Street journal, the Numbers Guy asks Are Americans Really Reading Less? Here is an excerpt.
Fewer Americans are reading, the National Endowment for the Arts concluded in a report last year entitled, “To Read or Not To Read: A Question of National Consequence.” This prompted hand-wringing, including a New Yorker article that asked, “What will life be like if people stop reading?”

But the study has also prompted criticism of its statistical methods. Charges lodged against the NEA include sloppy presentation of data and an arbitrary choice of reference year that combine to overstate the decline in reading skills. Others criticize the NEA for using numbers that omit computer-based reading, and failing to demonstrate that less book reading has dire consequences.

Read the rest here. Then come back and let me know what you think. Are we reading less?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Monday Poetry Stretch - Tanka

Tanka is a form of Japanese poetry that has been practiced for more than 1000 years. Tanka are composed of 31 syllables in a 5/7/5/7/7 format. Most tanka focus on a single event of some significance.

In her article Tanka as Diary, Amelia Fielden writes:
Tanka, meaning ‘short song’, is a 1300 year old Japanese form of lyric poetry. Non-rhyming, it is composed in Japanese in five phrases of 5/7/5/7/7 syllables.

In English, tanka are normally written in five lines, also without (contrived) rhyme, but in a flexible short/long/short/long/long rhythm. Due to dissimilarities between the two languages, it is preferable not to apply the thirty-one syllable standard of the Japanese poems, to tanka in English. Around twenty-one plus/minus syllables in English produces an approximate equivalent of the essentially fragmentary tanka form, and its lightness. To achieve a “perfect twenty-one”, one could write five lines in 3/5/3/5/5 syllables. If the resulting tanka sounds natural, then that’s fine. However, the syllable counting does not need to be so rigid. Though no line should be longer than seven syllables, and one should try to maintain the short/long/short/long/long rhythm, variations such as 2/4/3/5/5 or 4/6/3/6/7 or 3/6/4/5/6 syllable patterns can all make good tanka.
Tanka Online has a wonderful Quick Start Guide to Writing Tanka.

Will you write some tanka with us this week? What will you write about? Leave me a comment about your poem(s) and I will post the results here later this week.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Poetry Friday - Spring

Spring is here, at least by all accounts of the calendar and in the northern hemisphere! In honor of the season, I share two of my favorite spring poems.
by Gerard Manley Hopkins

Nothing is so beautiful as spring—
   When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
   Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
   The glassy peartree leaves and blooms, they brush
   The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.

What is all this juice and all this joy?
   A strain of the earth’s sweet being in the beginning
In Eden garden.—Have, get, before it cloy,
   Before it cloud, Christ, lord, and sour with sinning,
Innocent mind and Mayday in girl and boy,
   Most, O maid’s child, thy choice and worthy the winning.

The Enkindled Spring
by D.H. Lawrence

This spring as it comes bursts up in bonfires green,
Wild puffing of emerald trees, and flame-filled bushes,
Thorn-blossom lifting in wreaths of smoke between
Where the wood fumes up and the watery, flickering rushes.

I am amazed at this spring, this conflagration
Of green fires lit on the soil of the earth, this blaze
Of growing, and sparks that puff in wild gyration,
Faces of people streaming across my gaze.

And I, what fountain of fire am I among
This leaping combustion of spring? My spirit is tossed
About like a shadow buffeted in the throng
Of flames, a shadow that’s gone astray, and is lost.
The round up this week is being hosted by Elaine at Wild Rose Reader. Please stop by and take in all the great poetry being shared. Before you go, do check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Poetry Stretch Results - Terza Rima

This week's challenge was to write in the form of terza rima, a series of three-line stanzas (tercets) with the rhyme scheme aba bcb cdc ded and so on. Here's what's been shared so far.
Marianne Neilsen at Doing the Write Thing! gives us Return to Sender.

Tiel Aisha Ansari at Knocking From Inside is thinking seasonally with Spring Hat.

Noah the Great wrote about Friendship. He explains a bit saying, "Mine's short and doesn't quite make sense. Well, my last name is Champoux, (pronounced shampoo,) so I think it makes more sense, if you know that."

cloudscome at a wrung sponge shares Daffodils on a City Street.

concrete godmother at Madeleine's Child joins us for the first time (welcome!) and shares a poem in honor of Holy week entitled Trinitas.
For my contribution this week, I couldn't get the image of a fallen baby bird out of my head. My poem ends in the way I only wish it had.
I once beheld a fledgling in my hand,
some minutes after it fell from the nest,
colliding with the unforgiving land.

A sigh escaped while breath caught in my chest,
as cautiously I bent to hope, to see.
My finger gently stroked its heaving breast.

Brief words I uttered but a silent plea,
for restoration of that fragile thing,
to soar on outstretched wing from tree to tree.

To join the randy band that mornings sing,
to one day watch its own chicks test the sky,
I prayed release from this unpleasant sting!

Just like commanded it began to cry,
as I did when that baby learned to fly.
It's not too late if you still want to play. Write your terza rima and leave me a note, then I'll add your poem to the list.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Computation Book Podcast #8

A new computation book podcast is up over at Open Wide, Look Inside.

Today's podcast highlights Greg Tang's book, The Grapes of Math.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Terza Rima

After my sonnet writing experience, I've had iambic pentameter on the brain. I thought we should try another form that uses this meter, so this week I've chosen Terza rima. The Handbook of Poetic Forms defines terza rima in this fashion.
Terza rima is a tumbling, interlocking rhyme scheme that was invented by the thirteenth-century Italian poet Dante for the creation of his long poem, The Divine Comedy.

Terza rima (an Italian phrase meaning "third rhyme") consists of a series of three-line stanzas (tercets) with the rhyme scheme aba bcb cdc ded and so on. It can go on as long as the poet wishes. At the end of the poem an extra line is often added to complete the structure: yzy z.
You can read more on this form at Here is a poem written in terza rima by Robert Frost.
Acquainted with the Night

I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain -- and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.

I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.

I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,

But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
A luminary clock against the sky

Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.
You can read another example in Percy Bysshe Shelley's poem, Ode to the West Wind.

So, what kind of terza rima will you write? Leave me a note about your poem and I will post them all here later this week.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Poetry Friday Mash-Up!

Today is Pi day, Einstein's birthday, and Jama has asked us to share a favorite Dylan lyric. So, in honor of all these events, I have a bit of everything today. Let's call it a Poetry Friday mash-up!

Let's begin with Einstein. This first poem was written by Einstein himself.
Watch the stars, and from them learn.
To the Master's honor all must turn,
each in its track, without a sound,
forever tracing Newton's ground.
At you can read a wonderful prose poem by A. Van Jordan entitled Einstein Defining Special Relativity.

In 1906, A.C. Orr published this poem about pi in Literary Digest. The number of letters in each word corresponds to the digits in pi (3.14159 ...).
Now I, even I, would celebrate
In rhymes inapt, the great
Immortal Syracusan rivaled nevermore
Who in his wondrous lore
Passed on before
Left men his guidance how to circles mensurate.
Finally, here is one of my favorite lyrics from Dylan. These lines come from the song Every Grain of Sand.
I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea
Sometimes I turn, there's someone there, other times it's only me.
I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man
Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand.
The round up and Dylan homage is being hosted today by Jama at Jama Rattigan 's Alphabet Soup. Please stop by for some wonderful poetry to begin your weekend. Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Poetry Stretch Results - March Inspired Image

This week's challenge was to write a poem to accompany this image.
This photograph of Artelia Bendolph was taken by Arthur Rothstein while working for the U.S. government to document resettlement housing projects during the 1930s. You can learn more about it and the others Rothstein took.

Here are the poems inspired by this photo.
Daisybug at Things that make me say... shares a poem entitled Inside Out.

Laura Purdie Salas began her poem as a haiku, but ended with a poem that was very different.

Kim from Hiraeth shares a poem entitled Questions.

Marianne Neilsen at Doing the Write Thing! shares a haiku.

Jan Fields at No Bunnies Here also shares a poem. Welcome, Jan!
Here is my offering.
Stronger Than it All

This place
of mud and wood
and thatch,
though cold and wet,
is warm with love
and fuels my dreams

The wind
slides through
the cracks
and seeps
into my bones

It fans the flames
that flicker
on candlesticks
casting dancing shadows
on the wall

Raindrops splash
from roof to floor
and drip
from log to log
collecting in pools
in the dirt and mud

There is little
that this place
keeps out
and even less
it will
keep in

It cannot
hold me--
will not
keep me

I will rise
and stretch beyond
the bonds
that hold me

You do not
want me
in your world,
but I will arrive
and live
to soar
above it all.

It's not too late if you still want to play. Write a poem inspired by this image and leave me a note so I can add your work to the list.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Pi Day is Coming!

All you math lovers out there should know that tomorrow is Pi Day. You can read more about this in my Pi Day post over at Open Wide, Look Inside.

If you want to try something fun yourself, why not make a pi necklace?
Can you find your birthday in pi? My birthday begins with digit 7669!

Learn more about pi at Ask Dr. Math FAQ: About Pi.

National Mathematics Advisory Panel Speaks

President Bush created the National Mathematics Advisory Panel in April 2006 and charged them with the responsibilities of relying upon the “best available scientific evidence” and recommending ways “…to foster greater knowledge of and improved performance in mathematics among American students.”

The Panel's final report was issued today and contains 45 findings and recommendations on numerous topics including instructional practices, materials, professional development, and assessments. Here are some of the highlights. My comments are in red.

Core Principles of Math Instruction
  • The areas to be studied in mathematics from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade should be streamlined and a well-defined set of the most important topics should be emphasized in the early grades. Any approach that revisits topics year after year without bringing them to closure should be avoided. YES! We do have a spiral curriculum, and it is important to revisit certain concepts each year, but we should always be pushing to move students forward in their understanding. This can't happen if 60% of the material "taught" each year is review.

  • Proficiency with whole numbers, fractions, and certain aspects of geometry and measurement are the foundations for algebra. Of these, knowledge of fractions is the most important foundational skill not developed among American students. Yes, it is. The problem here stems from learning rules about fractions and not really understanding what they mean and why they are of value. For example, do you know why fractions were invented? Just thinking about this makes them vastly more understandable.

  • Conceptual understanding, computational and procedural fluency, and problem solving skills are equally important and mutually reinforce each other. Debates regarding the relative importance of each of these components of mathematics are misguided. AMEN. We can't keep focus on procedures devoid of meaning. We must teach the how and the why.

  • Students should develop immediate recall of arithmetic facts to free the "working memory" for solving more complex problems. Learning basic facts is a must. However, flashcards and rote memorization techniques are not enough. We need to teach fact families, underlying patterns, and relationships of operations to one another if we want kids to remember facts automatically.

Student Effort Is Important
Much of the public's "resignation" about mathematics education is based on the erroneous idea that success comes from inherent talent or ability in mathematics, not effort. A focus on the importance of effort in mathematics learning will improve outcomes. If children believe that their efforts to learn make them "smarter," they show greater persistence in mathematics learning. Amen, again. However, we also need to make sure that ALL children get this message. Even if it's unconsciously done, many young women still get the message that math is not for them. Math can be done by young and old, male and female, white and non-white. ANYONE can be a math whiz.

Importance of Knowledgeable Teachers
  • Teachers' mathematical knowledge is important for students' achievement. The preparation of elementary and middle school teachers in mathematics should be strengthened. Teachers cannot be expected to teach what they do not know. We absolutely must focus on content and pedagogy. Teachers also need to understand how children learn mathematics, what misconceptions they may hold, and how best to overcome them.

  • The use of teachers who have specialized in elementary mathematics teaching could be an alternative to increasing all elementary teachers' mathematics content knowledge by focusing the need for expertise on fewer teachers. NO! I absolutely, positively do not agree with this one. Every elementary teacher needs to know and understand the mathematics children learn. Period! By allowing elementary teachers to specialize, we lose the ability to integrate the curriculum. We also begin to adopt a middle school mentality when it comes to teaching, with "each to their own" area of expertise. Taught the right way, every elementary teacher can have a deep and broad understanding of the math content taught at this level. If they don't, we need to work harder.

Effective Instruction Matters
  • Teachers' regular use of formative assessments can improve student learning in mathematics. Yes, it can. But keep in mind that formative assessment means more than paper and pencil tests each week. It could take the form of journal entries, observation, interviews, performance assessments, class participation, etc. This type of ongoing assessment is what teachers do well. Assessment of this kind is an integral part of good instruction.

  • Instructional practice should be informed by high-quality research, when available, and by the best professional judgment and experience of accomplished classroom teachers. Well, yes, we should be looking at what the research says. We should also be looking closely at those classrooms where teaching is a challenge, and despite this, teachers are helping children to grow mathematically.

  • The belief that children of particular ages cannot learn certain content because they are "too young" or "not ready" has consistently been shown to be false. I tell my students all the time that we teach algebra in kindergarten and first grade. Don't believe me? Well, remember those "box" problems you solved as a kid? They looked like this.
    Now, I wouldn't teach the use of the variable x to first grade students, but that doesn't mean they're not capable of thinking algebraically. What matters here is the delivery. Teachers need to work to make the content meaningful for kids, and teach it in a way that makes sense.

  • Explicit instruction for students who struggle with math is effective in increasing student learning. Teachers should understand how to provide clear models for solving a problem type using an array of examples, offer opportunities for extensive practice, encourage students to "think aloud," and give specific feedback. I am all for using multiple models to help students learn a concept, and believe that "think alouds" are one of the best tools we can use to really see how students are thinking about concepts.

  • Mathematically gifted students should be allowed to accelerate their learning. Of course, but I worry a bit about who will teach them. This is where I can see the use of math specialists.

  • Publishers should produce shorter, more focused and mathematically accurate mathematics textbooks. The excessive length of some U.S. mathematics textbooks is not necessary for high achievement. AMEN, AMEN, AMEN!

There is much more in this report for folks to consider. Please take some time to read it.

Computation Book Podcast #7

A new computation book podcast is up over at Open Wide, Look Inside.

Today's podcast highlights Demi's book, One Grain of Rice.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Outstanding Science Trade Books 2008

The NSTA list of Outstanding Science Trade Books for K-12 Students is out. The introduction to the list includes this excerpt about the books selected.
Each of these outstanding selections defies the traditional image of a child “curling up with a good book.” Yes, they can be a source of great personal reading, encouraging students of all ages to stretch their skills and their imagination as they interact with the printed page. But these journeys of the scientific imagination seldom end with the final chapter. They have the capacity to draw the reader out from that cozy seat and into the natural world—to observe, investigate, and continue the process of discovery that has characterized scientists from Aristotle to Hawking. The adventures begin here.
The list of books is below. Each title was assigned a reading level by the reviewers. These suggested levels are intended as guidelines and are not meant to limit the potential use of titles. Reading levels include: P = Primary (K–2); E = Elementary (3–5); I = Intermediate (6–8); A = Advanced (9–12). Finally, titles marked with a * are books that individual reviewers responded to with particular enthusiasm.

Archaeology, Anthropology, and Paleontology
Earth and Space Science
Environment and Ecology
Health and Science
Life Science
Physical Science
Technology and Engineering
Back in January I created my own list of outstanding science books published in 2007, and even used some of the NSTA categories. A few of my selections made this list. You should also recognize some of these titles as Cybils nominees and finalists.

Heavenly Doors

Sara Lewis Holmes at Read*Write*Believe writes:
"It's a blog group art event!" as Jennifer Thermes says. Bloggers from all over the world are posting pictures of doors today. Go check it out. (Do not miss the doors from Marrakesh.)
Here are my contributions.
Sera Monastery Debate as seen through the doors to the courtyard. (Tibet)

Potala Palace Doorway (Tibet)

Doors into the Temple of Heaven complex (Beijing)

Computation Book Podcast #6

A new computation book podcast is up over at Open Wide, Look Inside.

Today's podcast highlights Christina Dobson's book, Pizza Counting.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Meme: Passion Quilt

The wise and inspiring Monica Edinger at educating alice has tagged me for a meme. Here are the rules:
  • Think about what you are passionate about teaching your students.
  • Post a picture from a source like FlickrCC or Flickr Creative Commons or make/take your own that captures what YOU are most passionate about for kids to learn about…and give your picture a short title.
  • Title your blog post “Meme: Passion Quilt” and link back to this blog entry.
  • Include links to 5 folks in your professional learning network or whom you follow on Twitter/Pownce.
David Hawkins said of curriculum development, “You don’t want to cover a subject; you want to uncover it.” This more than adequately describes my approach to teaching. My classes revolve around central questions and illustrative activities. Good questions asked at the “right” time can deeply engage students, excite them intellectually, and result in significant gains in learning. Once the right question is raised, students are motivated to find an answer. In most cases, the answers do not come easily for students. Many struggle to grasp old ideas in new ways.

I am convinced that people must construct their own knowledge and must assimilate new experiences in ways that make sense to them. What then is my role if I believe that each individual in my classroom must construct his/her own knowledge? My first role is to put students into contact with real experiences related to the topic to be studied, not just textbooks or lectures about it. These experiences can take many forms, and may include, but are not limited to classroom observations, tutoring sessions, experiments, virtual field trips, etc. Once motivated, I must prompt, question, and nudge students into conversation with me and their peers in an effort to engage them so fully that they will continue to think about old and new ideas even after they have left the classroom. My second role is to listen while students try to explain what they are learning, and, instead of always providing the answer or explaining things to them, try to offer further experiences that will help each one uncover and more fully understand these new ideas.

Guided by this philosophy, I am most passionate about instilling in my students (pre-service and practicing teachers) a love for the discovery and excitement that resides at the very core of every learning experience.

I'm not sure I have pictures for this, but here are a few that may work. The first shows a group of teachers during a professional development workshop. They are modeling the vests they made from grocery bags that model the structure of a tree from outside in.
The second picture shows this same group of teachers acting out the parts of the tree and the function of each.
The dearth of pictures of my teaching reminds me that I should bring a camera to class and record what happens more often!

Now that I've had my say, here are some passionate teachers and librarians (who haven't already been tagged) that I'd love to hear from.

Computation Book Podcast #5

A new computation book podcast is up over at Open Wide, Look Inside.

Today's podcast highlights Stuart Murphy's book, Shark Swimathon.

Mole, Badger and Mr. Toad Turn 100

The Guardian reminds us that Kenneth Grahame's book, Wind in the Willows turns 100 today.

Read all about it in Holy Mole.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Monday Poetry Stretch - Inspired Image

At the beginning of the year I promised to devote the first Monday of each month to writing poems inspired by images. I blew it this month and forgot that last Monday was the first one in March. Please forgive me for the delay. Here is this month's image.
This photograph was taken by Arthur Rothstein while working for the U.S. government to document resettlement housing projects during the 1930s. I came across this photo while looking for images of African American schools. I was so struck by this young girl that I couldn't get the image out of my mind. You can learn more about this photograph of Artelia Bendolph and the others Rothstein took.

So, what kind of poem will you write? What kind of words will this image of Artelia inspire? Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

Don't forget that if you like this kind of stretch, you can take it up every week with Laura Purdie Salas and her 15 words or less challenge.

Computation Book Podcast #4

A new computation book podcast is up over at Open Wide, Look Inside.

Today's podcast highlights Nathan Zimelman's book, How the Second Grade Got $8205.50 to Visit the Statue of Liberty.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Computation Book Podcast #3

A new computation book podcast is up over at Open Wide, Look Inside.

Today's podcast highlights Eve Merriam's book, 12 Ways to Get to 11.

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Computation Book Podcast #2

A new computation book podcast is up over at Open Wide, Look Inside.

Today's podcast highlights Shelia Bair's book, Rock, Brock, and the Savings Shock.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Computation Podcasts

My students left for spring break today, but not before turning in their second podcast of the semester. This time around they have highlighted books for use in teaching whole number operations. Over at Open Wide, Look Inside I will be posting one podcast every day for the next week. Please stop by, have a listen, and leave a comment for them. I know they will appreciate the feedback.
Today's podcast highlights Pam Calvert's book, Multiplying Menace: The Revenge of Rumpelstiltskin.

Poetry Friday - Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Yesterday was the anniversary of Elizabeth Barrett Browning's birth. Born in 1806 in Durham, England, Browning is best known as the author of work is Sonnets from the Portuguese. To celebrate her birthday, I share my favorite sonnet and one other poem.
Sonnet XVI
If thou must love me, let it be for nought
Except for love's sake only. Do not say
"I love her for her smile--her look--her way
Of speaking gently,--for a trick of thought
That falls in well with mine, and certes brought
A sense of ease on such a day"--
For these things in themselves, Beloved, may
Be changed, or change for thee,--and love, so wrought,
May be unwrought so. Neither love me for
Thine own dear pity's wiping my cheek dry,--
A creature might forget to weep, who bore
Thy comfort long, and lose thy love thereby!
But love me for love's sake, that evermore
Thou may'st love on, through love's eternity.

The Best Thing in the World
What's the best thing in the world?
June-rose, by May-dew impearled;
Sweet south-wind, that means no rain;
Truth, not cruel to a friend;
Pleasure, not in haste to end;
Beauty, not self-decked and curled
Till its pride is over-plain;
Love, when, so, you're loved again.
What's the best thing in the world?
--Something out of it, I think.
The round up today is being hosted by Christine at The Simple and the Ordinary. Do stop by and take in some of the great selections being shared this week. Before you go, check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Poetry Stretch Results - Mask Poems

This week's challenge was to write a mask poem, or one written from the perspective of someone or something else. Here's what we have.
The talented Elaine over at Wild Rose Reader consolidated all her mask poems in one post. They're amazing!

Tiel Aisha Ansari at Knocking From Inside was thinking like a pigeon when she wrote Avian Graffiti.

Noah the Great shares a poem entitled Hey Baby.

sister AE at Having Writ wrote a poem from the perspective of a neglected chair, called No Longer in the Catbird Seat.

Marianne Nielsen at Doing the Write Thing! has written a poem from the perspective of a lion cub called Another Home.

Mad Kane shares a poem entitled If I Were a Judge.

paisley from why paisley? gives us an excerpt from a novelette that is written in rhyming prose. It is called silence.
It's not too late if you still want to play. Write your poem and then leave me a note so I can add it to the list.

The Stubborn Guest

The flu bug took up residence in my house on February 24th. I'm happy to say, I think that stubborn pest has finally left. William will go back to school tomorrow (after nearly 6 days of fever), and while we all sniffle, snuffle and cough our way through the days still, we're finally feeling better. Today I did seven loads of wash, stripped the beds, opened the windows, and tried desperately to bring the clean, fresh air in. Out darned germs, out!

So, now you know why the blog has been quiet -- too quiet for my tastes. It's been hard to drum up the energy to teach this week (I only went in Monday and Wednesday), let alone think about writing. But of course, my thoughts now turn to poetry. I haven't stretched yet this week. I'd like to write my mask poem as a germ, but I'm afraid I'll jinx myself. I haven't selected my poem for tomorrow yet, but I will. I have a meme waiting for me, a stack of books to be read, job applicant files to review, papers to grade and just a few other little things nagging at me. Hmmmm.... maybe I'll just go back to bed!

Don't worry, I'll be back with some regularly scheduled blog posts shortly!

Monday, March 03, 2008

Monday Poetry Stretch - Mask Poems

Last week we wrote poems to people or things, so this week I thought it would be fun to write as someone or something else. Mask (or persona) are poems in which the subject is the speaker.

Kristine O'Connell George has written a wonderful book entitled Old Elm Speaks: Tree Poems, in which her poems take on many different voices, including an oak tree, a willow, a tree with a secret, and many others. She even has a page of writing prompts to accompany the book.

Here's your chance to be someone or something else. What or who will you be? Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll share them later this week.

Aren't We Doing Better?

Here's the headline from an article in yesterday's Courier News.
With few books for black children, teacher writes her own

The article begins:
As a child growing up, Mabel Elizabeth Singletary found herself with a burning desire to read fictional stories in which the central characters looked and sounded like her.

As an adult -- and a school teacher -- she decided to fill the void by writing the books herself.

I see and read many more books each day that highlight non-white characters. Am I off the mark in thinking that kids today can find more books in which they read about characters like themselves than they could a few years ago? Aren't we doing better? Your thoughts, please!

Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Magic of a Well-Turned Phrase

There are times when reading that I am completely overwhelmed by the sheer beauty that emerges when an author puts words together in ways I've not imagined. I am currently reading People of the Book by Geraldine Brooks. Barely two pages in, I was struck by these words.
It was supposed to be spring; down in the small garden by the bank's entrance, the crocuses were blooming. But it had snowed earlier that morning, and the bowl of each small flower brimmed with a foam of snowflakes, like tiny cups of cappuccino.
I don't know why I love this so much, but with these words I can see those crocuses, feel the spring air, and imagine exactly what Hanna sees and feels as she presses her hand to the cold glass and looks down from the window.