Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Back in the Saddle Again

I'm finally back at work and playing catch-up. Here at the old blog I have two very important announcements.
  1. I will be hosting the 5th edition of Learning in the Great Outdoors. This blog carnival focuses on environmental education. You have until Friday, August 3rd to get your entries in. Please send me a note if you want to participate.

  2. Poetry Friday will be making its first appearance at my home on the web this week. Stop by on Friday and let me know all about your poems of the day.
That's all the news that's fit to print. I'll look forward to seeing you all back here real soon.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Scenes From a Vacation

William and I had a fabulous visit with my family. The two days of travel were not one bit of fun, as we were stuck for hours at LaGuardia on the way to Rochester, and at JFK on the way home. When we drive, it takes between 10 and 11 hours. Generally, airline travel is much easier and quicker, but with the airlines in the US in such disarray (does any flight ever leave on time?), I'm beginning to rethink this option. I met folks today who were on day 3 and 4 of trying to get to their destinations. Perhaps we will tackle the drive next summer.

I missed Poetry Friday, blog reading, answering e-mails, and lots more. However, I enjoyed every minute of my time away. I read HP 7 but had to wait a long time to talk about it. I ran into Adrienne at the release "party" for the book, at her amazing library, and again at the Farmer's Market. We did actually meet up for ice cream and got to talk about HP7, books, blogging and all sorts of kidlit stuff. I loved meeting her and connecting to someone in my hometown. She made me realize how much I want to attend the 1st Annual Kidlitosphere Conference. I'm still hoping to find a cheap flight to Chicago.

I spent quality time with my family, saw a longtime friend from high school and had great fun with William. Here are some of my favorite pictures from our trip to see Oma and Opa.
Thanks Mom and Dad! We had a great time.
Tricia and William

Friday, July 20, 2007

Poetry Friday - Going Home

I leave this morning with William for 10 glorious days in western New York (outside of Rochester) for a long overdue and much needed visit with my parents. As an added bonus, I will have the great pleasure of meeting up with Adrienne of WATAT fame for coffee and conversation. Since my mind is racing with thoughts of home and hitting the road, I offer up this gem.
The Road Beyond the Town
by Michael Earls, S.J.
found in the Anthology of Massachusetts Poets (1922)

A ROAD goes up a pleasant hill,
And a little house looks down:
Ah! but I see the roadway still
And the day I left the town.

The day I left my father’s home,
It’s many a year ago,
And a heart and hope were brave to roam
The long, long road I know.

The long, long road by hill and plain,
It’s tired the heart might be:
But hope stayed bright in sun or rain,
And a Voice that called to me.

A Voice that called me over the hill
And out of the little town:
Ah! but I see the roadway still.
And the good house looking down.

The house that spake me never a No!
As I started brave away,
But said with a blessing, Go!
And followed me every day.

It followed me down the road of years,
For a father’s heart is true,
And joy is sweet in a mother’s tears
For the deeds her child may do.

The poor little deeds, all powerless
or the Kingdom of God would be,
Save in His mercy will He bless
The road that goes with me:

The road that left a pleasant hill,
Where a little house looks down:
Ah! but I bless the roadway still,
And the land beyond the town.
The house I return to is the one my father built, and the place that I still refer to as home. It sits atop a steep hill that offered thrills riding down it on a bicycle, and prompted considerable complaints on the way back up. Here is an image of it from LiveSearch. When I was growing up, those pine trees were no taller than me. Look at them now!
This little trip home means I'll be on a temporary hiatus. I know I haven't posted much lately because of my teaching schedule, but I promise to return refreshed and ready to go. Until then, don't forget about all the other great kidlit blogs out there. Also, since today is Poetry Friday, there is lots of great stuff to read. Do head on over to the round up at Mentor Texts & More and follow the links for your weekly fill of poetry.
L8tr G8trz!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

My Fickle Heart

Just last week I wrote a post entitled "Where Would I Be Without the Times?." It began with the sentence, "Oh how I love the New York Times." Well today, I'm just not feeling the love. I am so disappointed that my beloved paper chose to run a review of HP 7 before the official release. Yes, I know it's news. I still think it stinks.

P.S. - The recent spate of posts can be attributed to my amazing talent for procrastination. Yes, that's right, I'm in the midst of grading and looking for diversions to keep me from losing my mind. Don't worry, it will all be over soon.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Sadness About HP Leaks

The Baltimore Sun just posted an article entitled An Inevitable Ending to Harry Potter Series. I refuse to link to it, and didn't read beyond this note of introduction.
Editor's Note: A hard copy of the book was obtained by The Sun yesterday through legal and ordinary means. The reviewer read the book overnight and wrote this review this afternoon.
Legal and ordinary means? I find it hard to believe that anyone was granted access to the book before the official release date/time. Sadly, I will now stop reading anything related to HP 7. I simply don't want the experience of reading the last book spoiled by anyone.

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today my Mom celebrates her 78th birthday. She doesn't read my blog, but I'm still thinking of her and want to acknowledge her publicly. Here is a picture of her from February (07). She is helping William celebrate his 6th birthday, and since they're both wearing birthday hats, it seems most fitting.
William and I will be with her and my Dad in two days, and we can't wait to help celebrate the occasion!

Trouble for Tintin

When I was in China recently, I went to a large bookstore so that I could see what young people in China were reading in their efforts to learn English. The fifth floor of an expansive building was filled with nothing but children's and young adult books. There were the requisite Dr. Seuss and beginning readers, Harry Potter (though outrageously expensive), lots of nonfiction of the Eyewitness variety, and a large section of graphic novels. I was particularly surprised to see a huge selection of Tintin books by the Belgian cartoonist Herge. Most of the titles I saw were not particularly flattering to the cultures they portrayed. The fact that they were being snatched up by the young people in the store was a bit shocking. I can remember thinking something like "Thank God we don't sell these in the U.S."

Oops. How wrong I was. Here is an excerpt from an article released yesterday by Reuters.
The U.S. Borders said in a statement received on Tuesday that it was committed to carrying a wide range of materials and supporting its customers' right to choose what to read and what to buy. But the retailer also said it was committed to acting responsibly and with sensitivity to all communities.

"Therefore, with respect to the specific title 'Tintin in the Congo,' which could be considered offensive by some of our customers, we have decided to place this title in a section of our store intended primarily for adults - the graphic novels section," Borders said.

"We believe adults have the capacity to evaluate this work within historical context and make their own decision whether to read it or not. Other "Tintin" titles will remain in the children's section."
You can read more at Tintin's Troubles in the Congo Spread to U.S..

NPR also highlighted this controversy yesterday. Give a listen to Lynn Neary's story, Store Bans 1930s Kids Book for Racist Illustrations.

Finally, Publishers Weekly wrote about this last week in Uproar Over Racism in Popular 1931 Children's Book Set for U.S. Release.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

More on HP

Oh, how I love Cheryl Klein. If you haven't read her blog, you should check out Brooklyn Arden. Yesterday she was interviewed on Talk of the Nation. You can hear her in this wonderful piece entitled How to Spell the Spells: Continuity in Harry Potter.

For those of you who listen to your books, you can read all about Jim Dale, the voice of HP in America in the New York Times article, The Voice of Harry Potter Can Keep a Secret.

Monday, July 16, 2007

HP Overload? - Never!

I know that many of you are in Harry Potter overload, but for those of you still anxiously awaiting Friday night festivities and the release of Book 7, here are two links for you.
Goodbye, Harry by Stephen King

Harry Potter - The Cultural Phenomenon
Listen in as Andrea Seabrook fills in for Diane Rehm and hosts a conversation with:
  • Nancy Pearl, librarian and author of "Book Crush," "Book Lust," and "More Book Lust"
  • Desson Thomson, movie critic for the Washington Post
  • Jennie Levine, curator for historical manuscripts at the University of Maryland Libraries and headmistress of the Sugar Quill, a Harry Potter fan site

Reconsidering Ten Little Rabbits - Evaluating Books From the Viewpoint of Other Cultures

Imagine you are a teacher looking for counting books for your classroom. You want to include books that showcase a range of diversity, so in your search you come across a book that not only "celebrates Native American traditions" (from the publisher's description), but one that has been noted in the following ways.
Best Books
  • Adventuring with Books: A Booklist for Pre-K-Grade 6, Tenth Edition, 1993
  • National Council of Teachers of English
  • Recommended Literature: Kindergarten through Grade Twelve, 2002; California Department of Education
Awards, Honors, Prizes
  • ABC Children's Booksellers Choices Award Winner 1992 Picture Books
  • International Reading Association Children's Book Awards Winner 1992 Younger Readers International
  • National Association of Parenting Publications Awards (NAPPA) Winner 1991
  • Redbook Children's Picturebook Awards Winner 1991
Chances are, with these honors behind it and the recommendation of school librarians and state sanctioned reading lists, you would be persuaded you to use this book in instruction.

Published in 1991, Ten Little Rabbits, written by Virginia Grossman and illustrated by Sylvia Long, is ostensibly a counting book that introduces rabbits in dress and activities typical of Native American tribes. However, the book does little to refute the stereotype that all Native Americans are alike.

Why am I rehashing the issues surrounding this book? I am working on a piece about using children's literature in math instruction, rigorously reviewing books in my collection and on suggested reading lists, and thinking deeply about what it means to include books that represent peoples and ideas outside of mainstream (dare I say white?) American culture. Have you any idea how hard it is to find a counting book that highlights African American children (there are lots set in Africa, but few of black children in the U.S.) and their experiences? The same is true for Native American children.

I was one of those teachers who eagerly bought Ten Little Rabbits upon the recommendations of librarians and instructors. I never really thought much about the message sent by this book when I first read it. I saw possibilities in the last pages for using the blanket images for studying patterns, symmetry and shapes. However, in 1995 I read the article "What's Wrong with Ten Little Rabbits?" in the children's literature journal The New Advocate. Reading Theresa McCarty's short review was like receiving a slap in the face. I wondered how I could have been so naive and so quick to accept a book about another culture without subjecting it to a more critical review.

The answer is, I didn't know any better. (A poor excuse, I know.) I have since learned that it is difficult, if not impossible, to evaluate what you don't know. While I hate having to rely on members of the Native American community to help me make these judgments, I know that I will never have the depth of knowledge or background necessary to accurately evaluate instructional materials that draw heavily from Native American history and storytelling.

So how do I evaluate books of other cultures? I currently use several resources to guide my selection of pieces for instruction. One is Donna Norton's Multicultural Children's Literature: Through the Eyes of Many Children. I find this short volume to be particularly helpful in applying evaluation criteria and identifying stereotypes. A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children, edited by Doris Seale and Beverly Slapin, is an enormous and comprehensive volume that not only includes author reviews from A to Z, but also a range of essays that provide a wealth of information about Native Cultures and insights into reviewing works about Native peoples. This is not an easy book to read and at times, the anger in the reviews can be disconcerting, but it is valuable and educational nonetheless. I also read the following blogs for very helpful information and reviews.
Ten Little Rabbits still remains in my teaching collection, but not in the way it was originally intended. I now give the book to students (all preservice and inservice teachers) and ask them to review it for use as a counting book. Then, once all the glowing reviews are in (and they are all glowing), I hit them with the McCarty article and watch the blood drain from their faces. They are shocked, astounded and embarrassed -- all feelings I know well. From here we proceed to talk about why this book is not a resource we should use for instruction, and then push on to discuss how we can be more thoughtful evaluators of books for children. It's a tough lesson, but one that works well, and while my teachers learn new strategies, I learn right along with them. What more could I ask for?

No Child Left Inside - Time Out for a Political Announcement

Last week, Congressman John Sarbanes introduced the No Child Left Inside Act of 2007 to the House Committee on Education and Labor (House Bill 3036). This bill urges Congress to include critical environmental education measures in the No Child Left Behind law.

Section 2 of the bill presents the following findings.
  1. Environmental education is essential for--

    • (A) enhancing student learning and problem solving skills, especially in science;
    • (B) creating responsible and engaged citizens; and
    • (C) producing graduates who are prepared to address the challenges, adjustments, and opportunities that will be present in the life and the workforce of the 21st century due to threats to human health, economical development, biological diversity, and national security arising from environmental stresses.

  2. Studies documenting the increasing indicators of nature-deficit disorder show that time spent out of the classroom for learning during the school day is critical to the intellectual, emotional, and physical health of children and that providing students with quality opportunities to directly experience the natural world can improve students' overall academic performance, self-esteem, personal responsibility, community involvement, personal health (including child obesity issues), and understanding of nature.

  3. Fewer and fewer students are becoming involved in important environmental education courses, classwork, and field investigations as an unintended consequence of the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (20 U.S.C. 6301 et seq.).
The language in the No Child Left Inside Act of 2007 recommends including environmental education in NCLB in these ways.
  • Provide incentives for state educational agencies to create a State Environmental Literacy Plan for integrating environmental education into their K-12 curriculum to ensure that graduates are environmentally literate.
  • Provide funding to help states, schools systems, and environmental education partners to implement the State Environmental Literacy Plan.
Since the inception of NCLB, most schools have curtailed or eliminated environmental education programs to allow them to focus on meeting the standards in reading and math. The reauthorization of NCLB could provide for positive change in this area.

You can learn more about this bill at No Child Left Inside.

Arthur Levine on NPR

In case you missed it this weekend, Margot Adler interviewed Arthur Levine about his role in bringing Harry Potter to the United States. Head on over to NPR and give a listen to Potter Publisher Predicted Literary Magic.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Why I Love Teaching Teachers (or Changing the World One Classroom at a Time)

I spent the last two weeks sharing ideas for improving math instruction with a fabulous group of elementary teachers. We all worked hard and learned from one another. They have turned in their final projects and I am excited to read what they have done. However, before reviewing their enormous portfolios (most are spilling out of 3 and 4 inch binders!), I have been reading their daily journals and final reflection papers. I'd like to climb to the mountaintops and shout with joy some of what they have shared, but since those shouts would fall on deaf ears, I'm sharing here so that all you teachers with a bit of math phobia may perhaps be persuaded by their words. Here are some quotes.
"My hands were so busy moving objects around, I could FEEL my brain working just as hard and fast! Kinesthetic teaching is truly the way children internalize new and/or abstract concepts." (1st grade teacher)

"I never realized that there were so many books about the concepts I teach." (3rd grade teacher)

"I will try to incorporate more literature into my my lessons." (1st grade teacher)

"All these new ideas are going to push me out of my comfort zone this year. Change is hard." (5th grade teacher)

"I have learned the importance of using more manipulatives in my my math lessons. I have been reminded of the importance of children having hands-on materials to really understand the concept before moving to the paper/pencil tasks. (3rd grade teacher)

"I have decided to set up a game corner with math and literature based activities. This will be perfect for those students who are fast finishers, and also indoor recess. What better way for them to spend the extra time than having fun while reinforcing skills learned?" (4th grade teacher)

"This class has reinforced for me the belief that children must experience math concepts on the concrete level, especially during the early childhood years." (1st grade teacher)

"Manipulatives challenge me to think in different ways, but they also allow me to seek help when I feel frustrated. I must remember this when I go back into the classroom this fall." (1st grade teacher)

"I found the activities we did were fun and at times challenging. It seemed everyone was enjoying themselves and I thought that if we as teachers were enjoying the activities, then our students would too." (Kindergarten teacher)

"I have never had the training to use the tangrams, color tiles, pattern blocks, etc. that I had during these two weeks. Someone always did it who "sort of" understood how to use them and passed that half knowledge on to me. Now these manipulatives make sense to me. . . Now I can implement them in the classroom." (5th grade teacher)
All I can say is YAHOO! Here is one final quote.
"I look forward to e-mailing you throughout the school year to let you know how much my children are enjoying the new activities that I will be teaching them." (3rd grade teacher)
You know what? I can't wait to read them.

Poetry Friday - Flowers

I've been inside teaching all week, and like flowers without water, I can feel myself withering without time in the fresh air. I did get to enjoy a quick walk around campus yesterday in which I passed some beautiful flower beds. I'm still thinking of them today, so I thought I'd share some of my favorite flower poems. (Sorry, I'm not a rose girl, so you won't find them in this post.)
by Bliss Carman
Published in Modern American Poetry, 1919

Over the shoulders and slopes of the dune
I saw the white daisies go down to the sea,
A host in the sunshine, an army in June,
The people God sends us to set our hearts free.

The bobolinks rallied them up from the dell,
The orioles whistled them out of the wood;
And all of their singing was, "Earth, it is well!"
And all of their dancing was, "Life, thou art good!"

Ah Sunflower
by William Blake

Ah Sunflower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the sun;
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller's journey is done;

Where the youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves, and aspire
Where my Sunflower wishes to go!

The Bluebell
by Anne Bronte

A fine and subtle spirit dwells
In every little flower,
Each one its own sweet feeling breathes
With more or less of power.
There is a silent eloquence
In every wild bluebell
That fills my softened heart with bliss
That words could never tell.

Read the rest of The Bluebell.
The round up today is at Chicken Spaghetti. Please stop by and check out all the great poetry posts. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

New Seven Wonders Revealed

Yesterday in Lisbon, the New 7 Wonders Foundation announced the winners of a global vote on the New 7 Wonders of the World at the official declaration ceremony. Do read a bit about the history of the project.

Millions voted to create a list of 77 candidates. At the beginning of 2007, a panel of experts created a short list of 21 candidates. Since then, more than 100 million votes have been cast worldwide. The winners, listed alphabetically, are:
The sites not chosen included:
I'm a bit disappointed that the Pyramids did not make the list. Yes, I know they are still on the list of 7 Ancient Wonders of the World, but the fact that they are all that remains of the original seven is a testament to the ingenuity of those responsible for designing and building them. And really, aren't they the symbols that come into your mind when you think of Egypt? I wasn't impressed by the inclusion of the Statue of Liberty or the Christ the Redeemer statues on the short list. In this category, I am moved more by architecture than art. I also wonder why Christ the Redeemer made the short list and not the Tian Tan Buddha. A bit more religious equity would have been nice. Having just recently visited China and Tibet, I am also puzzled as to why the Forbidden City and Potala Palace weren't on the short list. I am thrilled that Petra made the list of 7, and really wish that the Hagia Sophia or Timbuktu had made the final cut. What do you think?

What's next for the Foundation? Why it's a contest for the New 7 Wonders of Nature. Go now and nominate sites for consideration.

Where Would I Be Without the Times?

Oh how I love the New York Times. Where would I be without it? Certainly not laughing out loud as I was this morning. Check out the the Op-Ed section and the series on Five Ways to End Harry Potter. The essay by Damon Lindelof had me rolling on the floor. It's entitled The Boy Who Died. Go on, check out all five. You know you want to compare your predictions to theirs.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Learning in the Great Outdoors: Fourth Edition

Since I've been busy at work this week, I haven't been reading many of my regular blogs. Therefore, I am a bit late in mentioning that the fabulous Terrell over at Alone on a Limb has posted the fourth edition of Learning in the Great Outdoors.

Okay, so this is where I tell you (gulp) that I have agreed to host the next carnival.
That's right, I'll be collecting entries for the August edition right here. Please e-mail me by August 3rd with your contributions. I will post the fifth edition sometime that very weekend. This ought to be fun, so please, do join us!

Poetry Friday - Infinity

Hello Friends! Please forgive the silence this week. I have been teaching my brains out (8am-1pm every day). I am exhausted, both physically and mentally, as I am arriving at work around 5:30 am each morning and still teaching my evening class (4-7pm) to boot. However, I am surrounded by a group of amazing teachers and am energized by their enthusiasm.

Since I am teaching a course on improving elementary math, my mind is on numbers this week. Here are a few poems about infinity.
by William Blake

To see the world in a grain of sand,
And a heaven in a wild flower;
Hold infinity in the palm of your hand,
And eternity in an hour.

by Jacob Bernoulli (a 17th century mathematician)

Even as the finite encloses an infinite series
And in the unlimited limits appear,
So the soul of immensity dwells in minutia
And in narrowest limits no limit in here.
What joy to discern the minute in infinity!
The vast to perceive in the small, what divinity!

Revelation At Midnight
by Piet Hein (a Danish mathematician known for writing gruks)

Infinity's taken
by everyone
as a figure-of-eight
written sideways on.
But all of a sudden
I now comprehend
that eight is infinity
standing on end.
The round up today is over at Farm School. Head on over and check out some great posts. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Champagne Taste

My mother always told me I had champagne taste on a beer budget. This is still pretty much true today, but instead of buying for myself, I spend all my extra pennies on William or on gifts for others. Don't get me wrong, I love this gift giving thing. My Christmas shopping is already half done. (Insert delighted smile here.) When I see something that is just perfect for a friend or family member, I buy it right then and there. The only problem is remembering what I have when the holidays roll around. I'll admit that it's getting harder keeping things under wraps these days. I seem to find reasons to give the gifts, even though I keep promising myself I will hold onto them until the appointed day. However, there is no greater satisfaction than seeing a loved one's face when they receive a gift they truly love. For me, it's not about how much money I spend, but how much time I spend thinking about that perfect gift, because really, there is great pleasure in that knowing smile that says, "You know me so well."

I have dear friend with a birthday coming up and I am purchasing a purse for her made from a book. It's absolutely perfect for her. Here's where the title kicks in. While I rarely make purchases for myself, I'm so besotted by these two beauties I may just splurge. Check out the Wuthering Heights and Pride and Prejudice bags. Someone please buy them first and save me from myself! You can find more of these book bags at Rebound Designs, where Caitlin has taken the gifting of books to a whole new level.