Friday, August 31, 2007

Those Amazing Animals!

Studying animal adaptations is a part of the elementary science curriculum in VA in both second and third grade. Students study hibernation, migration, camouflage and more. One of the things that kids find most fascinating (teachers too!) are the interesting and outrageous way some animals take the art of adaptation to the extreme. The books listed below are wonderful resources for examining the many ways animals adapt to their environments.
  • What Do You Do With a Tail Like This? written by Robin Page and illustrated by Steve Jenkins - Beautifully illustrated with cut paper collage, this book explores the amazing things animals can do with their eyes, ears, noses, mouth, feet and tails.
  • What Do You Do When Someone Wants to Eat You? by Steve Jenkins - This book, also illustrated with Jenkins' signature cut paper collages, describes how various animals, including an octopus, a bombadier beetle, a puff adder, and a gliding frog, escape danger.
  • Exploding Ants: Amazing Facts About How Animals Adapt by Joanne Settle - Who can resist a book with chapter titles like fooled ya, invasion of the body snatchers, and sucking blood? Learn about frogs that use their eyeballs to help swallow their food, caterpillars that look like animal droppings, worms that live in a dog's nose mucus, and many other approaches to survival.
  • Picture Window Books has two terrific nonfiction series. The first, called Animal Wise, was awarded a Distinguished Achievement Award from the Association of Educational Publishers. Written by Patricia Stockland and published in 2005, this series includes the following titles:
    • Pointy, Long, or Round: A Book About Animal Shapes
    • Red Eyes or Blue Feathers: A Book About Animal Colors
    • Sand, Leaf, or Coral Reef: A Book About Animal Habitats
    • Strange Dances and Long Flights: A Book About Animal Behaviors
    • Stripes, Spots, or Diamonds: A Book About Animal Patterns
    • Swing, Slither, or Swim: A Book About Animal Movement

    The second is called Animal Extremes. Written by Michael Dahl and published in 2006, this series includes the following titles:
    • Cold, Colder, Coldest: Animals That Adapt to Cold Weather
    • Deep, Deeper, Deepest: Animals That Go to Great Depths
    • Fast, Faster, Fastest: Animals That Move at Great Speeds
    • High, Higher, Highest: Animals That Go to Great Heights
    • Hot, Hotter, Hottest: Animals That Adapt to Great Heat
    • Old, Older, Oldest: Animals That Live Long Lives

  • Claws, Coats and Camouflage by Susan Goodman - Using photographs and questions to get kids thinking scientifically, this informative text looks at all the different adaptations animals use to adapt to their surroundings, stay safe, get food, and reproduce.
  • Fur, Feathers and Flippers: How Animals Live Where They Do by Patricia Lauber - This photo-essay explores the seas of Antarctica, the grasslands of East Africa, the forests of New England, the desert of the southwestern U.S., and the tundra of the Far North while showing how animals adapt to living in these places.
The books on this list provide a good introduction to a myriad of adaptations. Since the topics of migration, hibernation and camouflage are topics unto themselves, they will be tackled in later posts.

Graphic Poetry

I am scouring the web today, looking for great new resources for my secondary teachers. I have six in history (social studies), one English, one Spanish, and one double majoring in Physics and Latin. I seem to be striking it rich in English today. Here's another great site.
What do you get when you combine the feel of comic strip panels with photographs and text that floats among the images? Absolutely amazing, thoughtful and thought-provoking graphic poetry. Do visit and ponder the work of W. C. Pelon.

Free Stories and Poems at Lit2Go

I found Lit2Go today while searching iTunes for some Jane Austen. Lit2Go is a free online collection of stories and poems in MP3 (audiobook) format. You can visit the web site and browse by author or title or search the database. You can also go directly to iTunes and download from the audiobook library.

Files are available for grades K-12. You will also find a few selections in Spanish. At the primary level you will find nursery rhymes and poems. In upper elementary grades you will find Alice in Wonderland (5th), The Secret Garden (4th), plus fables and fairy tales. At the high school level you will find many of the "traditional" classics, as well as some odd titles, such as Deductive Logic, The History of Modern Mathematics and Spherical Trigonometry. Phew! I love math, but I'd need to see it when I read it. The narrators are, for the most part, pleasant and easy to listen to, though a few read a bit quickly. I listened to the beginning of Beowulf, but had a hard time following without the text in front of me.

I can see great promise for some of these files in the classroom. For example, the page for A Was An Apple Pie has links to the MP3 file, a downloadable PDF of the text, and a list of the related Sunshine State Standards. Even though these are FL curriculum standards, they do map pretty closely to the language arts/English standards in most states.

I will point out one major problem I noted in looking at the grade level audio files. In this day and age, how could developers think it was appropriate to provide resources for the nursery rhyme Ten Little Indians? Perhaps I'm naive, but I'd like to believe that teachers know better than to use this degrading piece in their classrooms. Given the fact that these materials are available on the web and likely to be used by teachers all over the country (world?), I would like to see more attention given to the inclusion of materials appropriate for ALL children, regardless of their race, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, etc. This means the exclusion of time-honored favorites that do nothing more than perpetuate unacceptable stereotypes.

Okay, I've shared my thoughts. Take a look at these new resources and let me know what you think.

Poetry Friday - End of Summer

After spending the day at the beach yesterday, wondering where summer had gone, I thought it appropriate to end with this poem by Rachel Hadas.
The End of Summer
by Rachel Hadas

Sweet smell of phlox drifting across the lawn—
an early warning of the end of summer.
August is fading fast, and by September
the little purple flowers will all be gone.

Season, project, and vacation done.
One more year in everybody’s life.
Add a notch to the old hunting knife
Time keeps testing with a horny thumb.

Read the rest of the poem here.
The round up today is being hosted at Mentor Texts, Read Alouds & More. Stop by and check out all the great poetry. If you want even more, you can take in the results of the most recent poetry stretch. Here's wishing you all a great Poetry Friday and happy end to summer.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Poetry Stretch Results - List Poems

List poems seemed to inspire lots of folks to write this week. Here are some of the pieces.
Heather at 20's Going on Spinster with Cats shares the poem Let Me Hug You.

Cloudscome shares her To Do List over at a wrung sponge.

Bonnie Jacobs shares an untitled poem over at Words From a Wordsmith.

Over at Little Cool Shallows, Cath shares Comm: ment.

Terrell at Alone on a Limb pays homage to some of his favorite bloggers with It's a Stretch.

Elaine at Wild Rose Reader has a fun little list poem entitled Backpack.

I wrote a list poem about my Mom.
I would also like to point you to some very fine lunes written by Elaine at Wild Rose Reader. She may be a week behind, but these pieces were worth the wait.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Another List Poem

Since this week's stretch was a list poem, and since I've been writing to do lists and thinking this way in recent days, here's another list poem. I think it's much better than my last.
She talks to herself while washing the dishes.
     And thinks we don't hear her.
She laughs at my jokes.
She talks loudly in church.
     Even when she means to whisper.
She likes to gossip.
     And gets all the good dirt.
She take time to write notes.
     And puts newspaper clippings inside.
She forgets what she's saying mid-sentence.
     And she laughs at herself.
She gives the greatest hugs.
She used to be tall.
     But now she's shrinking.
She came to see me defend my dissertation.
     And smiled through it all.
She bakes the best Christmas cookies.
     And sends them in a care package every year.
She tells the greatest stories.
She keeps a photo of her mother and me on her dresser.
She secretly sends money.
     And tells me to spend it on myself.
She is fond of odd phrases and sayings.
If she read this she'd say
     "Who is She? The cat's mother?"
She is my mom.
Lots of folks are playing this week. Do you want to join them? Post your creation(s) on your blog and then leave a link in the comments. A bit later this week, I'll link them all here.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Monday Poetry Stretch - List Poem

I read Leaves of Grass in college and fell in love with Whitman. In much of this work, Whitman uses lists. Since I've been re-reading some of these poems, list poems have been on my mind. Therefore, today's poetry stretch takes the form of the list poem.
A list poem can take many forms. It could be a list of:
  • things or events
  • a person's traits or qualities (also called a blazon)
  • a series of events or activities
List poems can any length, rhymed or unrhymed.
(Adapted from The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms.)

Bruce Lansky has some ideas for encouraging kids to write list poems. You can try writing an instant list poem or read these instructive notes. However, the best example I've read lately is the amazing piece by Sara Lewis Holmes entitled 39 Reasons to Write.

Here is the list poem I wrote this morning.
The Chorus of Dawn
It begins with the
of the woodpecker raising
the conductor's baton and
calling all to life.

Next comes the
of the leaves,
as scurrying squirrels begin
their daily quest for food.

They are joined by the
of myriad songbirds
calling for a mate.

The sound crescendos
but is broken by the noisy
of the neighborhood dogs,
calling out to one another.

Silence again.

The calm is broken by the
of the wind through the trees,
ushering in a new kind of music.

It is followed by the
of the cooling rain,
bringing water to the
thirsty ground.

I can hear the flowers
as they drink until full.

I open my eyes to a new day,
already revealed in
morning song.
So, do you want to play? What kind of list poem will you write? Post your creation(s) on your blog and then leave a link in the comments. Once we have some poems, I'll link them all here.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Letter to My Mom

In a few short days I'll be celebrating another birthday. These have always been low-key affairs in my life, largely because I hate parties. Don't get me wrong, there are times when I love to be center of attention, but my birthday is not one of those occasions.

My parents threw me a birthday party just before I entered first grade. It was a miserable experience, so I made my family promise never to have one again. They made good on their promise. In the years that followed, my birthday was happily spent back-to-school shopping and lunching with my Mom. Sometimes we ate dinner out, and other times we just did something simple at home. These days were pure heaven.

When I became a teenager we still kept to this tradition, though my outlook on the day changed. As an adopted child, my birthday became a private celebration of family. I found myself spending a great deal of time reflecting on the amazing people who took me in and made me their own. I often felt that my birthday should be about celebrating their gift to me, though I never told them this. I still feel this way today, and each year try to find some way to tell them all how amazing they are.

When I was home a few weeks ago, my mother called me Fredericka, something she does when she thinks I'm acting like my Dad. It happens quite often, actually. She said, "Not one of you kids are anything like me. You're all like your father." I've thought about this a lot since then, and know without a doubt that she is wrong. I am like her in ways she'll never know.

In response to her statement, I have decided that this year I will celebrate my Mom. Since she will be in the hospital having surgery on my day, I want to share my thoughts a bit early.

Dear Mom,
You say I'm nothing like you,
but no words are
farther from the truth.
Because of you I know the
meaning of love,
the tenderness of a kiss,
and the joy of a hug.
From you I've learned
the gift of forgiveness,
the value of charity,
and the meaning of faith.
Because of your example
I am
generous in spirit,
kind of heart,
and accepting of others.
Like you I am quick with a smile,
fond of laughter,
and a friend to all I meet.
I share your love of children,
but wish I had your patience.
I know you see Dad in me,
but you're there too.
You may not see it,
but I hope others do,
for I see you
in the best parts of me.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Poetry Friday - Tea

I love all things related to tea. Even though I did not have a tea set as a child and therefore, did not throw tea parties, the thought of this one makes me smile. Tudor Jenks has described the very party I might have thrown.
Small and Early
by Tudor Jenks

When Dorothy and I took tea, we sat upon the floor;
No matter how much tea I drank, she always gave me more;
Our table was the scarlet box in which her tea-set came;
Our guests, an armless one-eyed doll, a wooden horse gone lame.
She poured out nothing, very fast,—the tea-pot tipped on high,—
And in the bowl found sugar lumps unseen by my dull eye.
She added rich (pretended) cream—it seemed a wilful waste,
For though she overflowed the cup, it did not change the taste.
She asked, “Take milk?” or “Sugar?” and though I answered, “No,”
She put them in, and told me that I “must take it so!”
She ’d say “Another cup, Papa?” and I, “No, thank you, Ma’am,”
But then I had to take it—her courtesy was sham.
Still, being neither green, nor black, nor English-breakfast tea,
It did not give her guests the “nerves”—whatever those may be.
Though often I upset my cup, she only minded when
I would mistake the empty cups for those she ’d filled again.
She tasted my cup gingerly, for fear I ’d burn my tongue;
Indeed, she really hurt my pride—she made me feel so young.
I must have drunk some two score cups, and Dorothy sixteen,
Allowing only needful time to pour them, in between.
We stirred with massive pewter spoons, and sipped in courtly ease,
With all the ceremony of the stately Japanese.
At length she put the cups away. “Goodnight, Papa,” she said;
And I went to a real tea, and Dorothy to bed.

This poem comes from An American Anthology.
John Mutford is hosting the round up this week is at The Book Mine Set. Please stop by and check out all the great posts. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

On Scrabble and Poetry

I have been playing Scrabble ever since I was a little girl. When I was young I played with my Mom and grandmother. My grandmother always won, but she also cheated. We all knew it, but no one was ever brave enough to dispute her invented words or creative arithmetic. Whenever I visit with my Mom now, we play at least one or two games every night. For a while, the games were very one-sided. (I hate to lose and for several years, I rarely lost. I'm sure I was no fun to play with!) Now that my Mom has become a Jumble expert, I lose as often as I win.

Why write about Scrabble and poetry? Lately, I see a lot of connections between the two, particularly when the right words just don't come. At least once during every Scrabble game I find a word in my tile rack that I can't let go of. That one word is all I see no matter how I rearrange the letters. Usually this occurs when there is simply no place to position it on the board. It seems to take forever to find another to play when that one pesky word is burned in my brain. The same thing happens when I write poetry. Sometimes I cannot find just the right word to express the image I want to convey, yet once I've chosen a word--the wrong word--I can't get past it. Does this happen to you?

The other day I was reading the dictionary (yes, you heard me) when my husband asked what I was doing. "Searching for new words," I said. I have now started a list of words with interesting meanings and sounds. Perhaps I should take this new obsession even farther and emulate Max in Max's Words, cutting words from newspapers and magazines and sorting them into categories. After all, this will not only leave me with an expanded pool of words for poems, but also a collection of new words for Scrabble.

Poetry Stretch Results - Centos and Lunes

First, last week's form, the cento, was particularly challenging. However, two folks recently posted centos that are superb. Please do take some time to read them.
Jules at Seven Imp offered up a cento for Eisha's birthday. Instead of lines from other poems, her cento is composed entirely of lines from songs.

The fabulously talented Elaine over at Wild Rose Reader wrote a cento on writing. It's beautifully done and fully captures the essence of writing a rough draft.
This week's form seems to have inspired a number of bloggers. Here are the folks who took up the challenge of writing a lune. You can read the rules here.
Terrell at Alone on a Limb shares several lunes accompanied by photos.

Joan at Daddy's Roses also shares several inspired poems. As a former middle school science teacher, I relate particularly well to the one about adolescent angst.

MotherReader shares a lune about the end of summer.
Still want to play? Try your hand at writing a few lunes and then leave me a comment. I'll post a link to your efforts here.

Monday Department Retreat

The first Monday back before the fall semester is always reserved for a department retreat. We generally meet in our conference room for several hours before sharing a potluck lunch and celebrating the start of the new year.

This year we tried a new location for our retreat, escaping to the eastern shore. When we arrived, we took a quick walk on the beach. Here are some of the things we saw.

The water was warm, the shells plentiful, and the number of blue crabs washed up on the sand was surprising. After our time on this wild and nearly deserted beach, we went inside for lunch and then got down to business. Inspired by our surroundings, we actually accomplished quite a bit. It was a good day.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Monday Poetry Stretch - Lune

One can find many variations on haiku these days. Often these forms attempt to find a syllabic pattern that is more appropriate to English than Japanese. Today's poetry stretch takes the form of one of these variations in the lune.
The lune is a haiku variation invented and named by poet Robert Kelly. The lune, so called because of how the right edge is bowed like a crescent moon, is a thirteen syllable form arranged in three lines of 5 / 3/ 5 respectively.
(Adapted from The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms.)

You can try your hand at writing an instant lune or read some examples by Robert Kelly here.

Here are two lunes I wrote when I woke up this morning.
Lune #1
wings beating, whirring
you float there
sipping sweet nectar

Can you guess what I was watching when I wrote this?

Lune #2
watermelon days
rush headlong
toward pencils, books, desks

I suppose none of us can escape this one. I, for one, can't wait!
So, do you want to play? What kind of lunes will you write? Post your creation(s) on your blog and then leave a link in the comments. Once we have some poems, I'll link them all here.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Poetry Friday - Morning

I was awake for several hours last night as a thunderstorm rolled through. My six year old son and nine year old dog joined me in the bed, stealing the best bits of pillow, blanket and bed while complaining loudly about the din. Their presence was a testament to the power of the storm. Once they settled in, I listened and thought. This is the poem that came out of my wakeful hours.
moon, rising sun
reveal day's beginning
joined by chorusers on the wing
Sing! Sing!

Sweet bird
friendly flower
oh visit me as the
quiet hour of dewy morn
Kelly has the round up today at Writing and Ruminating. Do drop by and take in the pieces that others have shared. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Poetry Stretch Results - Centos

It appears my second stretch was a bit of a challenge. I promise to go easy on you next week.
Only Terrell at Alone on a Limb was brave enough to give this one a try. Check out his cento entitled A Breath of Wind.
Would you like to try your own cento? Read the rules and my example here. Then leave me a comment about your poem and I'll include it on the list.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Monday Poetry Stretch - Cento

Today's poetry stretch takes the form of thievery. Actually, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so let's think about this as an exercise in honoring our favorite lines of poetry. Today's exercise in mental gymnastics takes the form of the cento.
The cento is a poem made entirely of pieces from poems by other authors. Centos can be rhymed or unrhymed, short or long.
(From The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms.)

You can read more about the cento here. I also like this article about found poetry.

I took about an hour this morning and read through some of my favorite poems and my journal of favorite lines. Here's my first attempt at a cento. It is, as yet, untitled.
Like as the waves make toward the pebbled shore
   the wrinkled sea beneath him crawls
   over earth and ocean, with gentle motion
Sheets of rain swish through on the wind
   the morning comes to consciousness
   in other lands where other songs be sung
Where had I heard this wind before?

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 60; Alfred Tennyson, The Eagle;
Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Cloud; Carl Sandburg, Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind; T.S. Eliot, Preludes; E. E. Cummings, This is the Garden; and Robert Frost, Bereft.
So, do you want to play? What kind of poem will you assemble? Post your creation on your blog and then leave a link in the comments. Once we have some poems, I'll link them all here. Don't forget to let us know what poets and poems your lines came from.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Book Review - Do the Math: Secrets, Lies, and Algebra

Let's just put all the geekiness out front and admit that I am a Nerd Fighter and proud of it. Actually, I've been a closet nerd for a long time. My father was a science teacher, so we spent many afternoons and weekends doing experiments in the basement. We also frequently visited Ward's, a science supply company that had a rock pile out back where they discarded samples that weren't perfect enough for sale. This is where the core of my rock collection came from. I spent a lot of my free time outside, exploring the woods and fields, picking up every manner of creature, and taking in all that I could. When I wasn't off on my own, I was watching my Dad and brother rebuild old cars, anxious to know how they worked and desperate to get greasy with the boys.

All of these experiences have led me to view my world through the lens of science. It is this proclivity to see connections to science that made me so identify with Tess, an eighth grade girl who sees her world through the lens of mathematics. In Wendy Lichtman's book, Do the Math: Secrets, Lies, and Algebra, Tess struggles with typical middle school problems--friends breaking promises, peers cheating on tests, the boy that may-or-may not be interested--all while negotiating some drama at home. That she examines everything mathematically may not appeal to some readers, but surely, if they don't see themselves in Tess, they're bound to have a friend just like her. And really, how can you not like a girl with insights like these?
We're spending a lot of time studying inequalities in algebra now, which makes sense, since who you're greater than (>) and who you're less than (<) is kind of the point of eighth grade. (p. 3)

The very first thing that Mr. Wright talked about in history class was the U.S. Constitution test. "This test is of infinite importance" is what he said, which is, of course, ridiculous. Infinite means that there's no end to something--that it's immeasurable. You can never get to the end of the number line, for example, because you can always add one more number, so that is infinite. But give me a break, no test is close to being of "infinite importance." (p. 32)

The way Sammy spoke about her mother made me think of what Venn diagrams look like when the two sets have nothing in common--like, for example, the set of odd numbers and the set of even numbers. Their intersection is called an empty set, because there's nothing in it. There's not one number that can be both odd and even. I didn't like thinking of Sammy and her mother like that--like an empty set. (p.49)
I not only found myself thoroughly identifying with Tess, but found myself secretly thrilled that the teachers in the story were enthusiastic about their subjects, good at what they did, and sympathetic to the needs of their students.

Do the Math: Secrets, Lies, and Algebra is a quick and enjoyable read. I found the characters to be likable and the situations about middle school to be entirely believable. I recommend it without reservation.

Book: Do the Math: Secrets, Lies, and Algebra
Author: Wendy Lichtman
Publisher: HarperTeen
Publication Date: June 26, 2007
Pages: 183
Grades: 5-8
ISBN-10: 0061229555
ISBN-13: 978-0061229558
Source of Book: Copy purchased at local bookstore

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Poetry Friday - Topsy-Turvy World

William and I have been reading silly poetry this week, so my offering today is this fun piece by William Brighty Rands.
Topsy-Turvy World
in A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895

IF the butterfly courted the bee,
   And the owl the porcupine;
If churches were built in the sea,
   And three times one was nine;
If the pony rode his master,
   If the buttercups ate the cows,
If the cats had the dire disaster
   To be worried, sir, by the mouse;
If mamma, sir, sold the baby
   To a gypsy for half a crown;
If a gentleman, sir, was a lady,—
   The world would be Upside-down!
If any or all of these wonders
   Should ever come about,
I should not consider them blunders,
   For I should be Inside-out!


Ba-ba, black wool,
   Have you any sheep?
Yes, sir, a packfull,
   Creep, mouse, creep!
Four-and-twenty little maids
   Hanging out the pie,
Out jump’d the honey-pot,
   Guy Fawkes, Guy!
Cross latch, cross latch,
   Sit and spin the fire;
When the pie was open’d,
   The bird was on the brier!

The round up this week is at Big A little a. Stop by and check out all the great posts this week. Happy Poetry Friday, all!

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

On the Right Wavelength

I've had the work of Diana Hutts Aston on the brain the last few days, hence my last entry on science and metaphor. However, I am a bit surprised (and a tad excited) to find myself on the same wavelength as the fab folks at Just One More Book. Today they posted a podcast entitled Beautiful Beginnings: An Egg is Quiet. Do give a listen. It's terrific.

Science and Metaphor - Why Poetry in Science Matters

In the spring I wrote an entry about selecting literature for science instruction. In it, I mentioned the book A Seed is Sleepy by Diana Hutts Aston. Here's a portion of what I had to say.
The one guideline that students struggle most with in its use and application is: Are the animals/objects portrayed naturally? In this case, I like to encourage them to think more broadly about "living things," since often times plants and animals are anthropomorphized.

I'll admit, that I find this difficult myself. Take for example, the new book by Dianna Hutts Aston entitled A Seed is Sleepy. I love the artwork and the sheer poetry of the language. It is a glorious book. I bought it and I plan to use it with my students. However, somewhere between the strong science and the poetic language is this nagging feeling that the seeds are just too "human."
Since writing this in March, William and I have been reading and re-reading and re-reading (you know how 6-year old kids are) A Seed is Sleepy and An Egg is Quiet (the 2006 Cybils winner in the nonfiction picture book category). Both books are beautiful to look at (the illustrations by Sylvia Long are gorgeous and beg to pored over) and lyrical in language. In addition to the "story" that leads the reader from each beginning to end, there is quite a bit of scientific information sprinkled throughout. Our numerous readings have inspired William to ask lots of questions about birds, eggs and seeds. We have been to the library to check out other books on these topics, planted a variety of seeds throughout the yard, and experimented with eggs.

All this new exploration has me thinking more about the value of poetry in science. I have long been a fan of using poetry to teach science (read more here), but often get caught up in the uneasiness expressed above. However, while recently revisiting some of the essays of Chet Raymo, I've come to the conclusion that I need to let go of this concern and simply enjoy the words while thinking about how much the poetry can teach us. Here's an excerpt from the article that convinced me that poetry in science should not just be encouraged, but required.
Make no mistake, I am not dismissing the scientific way of seeing. Weighing, measuring, abstraction and dissection have proved their worth as royal roads to truth. But the poet's eye guides us to truths of another kind.
Metaphor is a way of seeing non-causal connections, as when Ted Hughes speaks of April "struggling in soft excitements/ Like a woman hurrying into her silks." On the face of it, there's nothing in the metaphor of use to a scientific student of the seasons, yet the words significantly alter our perception of spring. "Struggle," "soft," "excite," "hurry," and "silk" force us to think in layers and levels of meaning.

Scientists, especially those working in narrow areas of specialization, are often trapped by tunnel vision. Metaphors have a way of exploding the bounds of perception. Some of the best, most creative science occurs when likenesses are perceived where none were thought to exist. Life is a "tree." The electron is a "wave." Thermodynamic systems are "information."

You can read the essay, Science and Metaphor, in its entirety here.
Raymo is right. As a teacher, I know that metaphor and analogy are often the most appropriate tools to help students understand complex ideas. I now believe that when I review new science books, I will be less concerned about anthropomorphism, particularly when the metaphor and the science are good. I have Diana Hutts Aston and Chet Raymo to thank for that.
While I am at, I should also thank Randall Jarrell, Joyce Sidman, Douglas Florian, Kristine O'Connell George, Marilyn Singer and too many other great writers and poets to mention. They've all helped me to see the poetry of science and nature, while inspiring me to learn and read more.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Poetry Stretch Results - Bouts-Rimés

Well, that idea went over like a lead balloon. Perhaps I can attribute the lack of entries to bloggers on vacation. There were two brave souls who wrote their own bouts-rimés using these words in this order.
nest, rest, flight, sight, flower, hour, wing, sing
Terrell at Alone on a Limb shares A Song Unsung. It's a lovely and heartwrenching poem about upsetting a bird's nest.

Heather at 2o's going on spinster with cats offers up her poem crafted in the midst of a bout of procrastination.

MotherReader offers up her meditation for Poetry Friday.
Here's my own prosaic offering. It definitely needs revision. Perhaps there's a kernel of an idea here I can use for some other poem.
Fledglings huddle in their nest
Enjoy the morning’s dewy rest
While mom takes flight
Not far from sight
She flits and floats among the flowers
Returning to feed her brood each hour
Tiny and fragile on the wing
Just listen as they beat and sing
Still want to play? Read the rules here. Then leave me a comment about your poem and I'll include it on the list.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Monday Poetry Stretch - Bouts-Rimés

I've been writing poetry every day for the last few months and have been experimenting with lots of different forms, aided by The Teachers & Writers Handbook of Poetic Forms. I have also been inspired by the much more colorful A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms.

As part of this writing, I exercise my poetry muscles every Monday by trying out a new form. This week I am starting with Bouts-Rimés. The Handbook of Poetic Forms defines bouts-rimés in this fashion.
A bouts-rimés poem is created by one person's making up a list of rhymed words and giving it to another person, who in turn writes the lines that end with those rhymes, in the same order they were given.
You can read more at Wikipedia and learn a bit about the history of this form.

For today's stretch I asked a friend to generate a word list for me. Here it is.

nest, rest, flight, sight, flower, hour, wing, sing

I set the timer for 10 minutes and wrote one poem. I have posted it in the comments section so as not to prejudice writers as to the content of their poems. So, do you want to play? What kind of poem will you write? Post your creation on your blog and then leave a link in the comments. Once we have some poems, I'll link them all here.

Let the games begin! If this works, I'd like to post a poetry stretch every Monday. What do you think? Can we write some poetry together?

Celebrating Barbara Cooney

Barbara Cooney was born on this day in 1917. For more than sixty years she illustrated books for other authors, while writing and illustrating her own stories. When she died in 2000, she had created nearly 120 books. She once said:
"I want children to bubble up with laughter, or to cry over my books. I want to picture them under a cherry tree, or at the library with my book in their hands. But more, I want to see them reading in the classroom. I want to see children in solitude at their desks, absorbing, lost in a book."
I imagine she'd be thrilled to know that they are. William and I are going to mark the anniversary of her birthday with readings of Miss Rumphius and Chanticleer and the Fox. Won't you join us?

Sunday, August 05, 2007

5th Edition of Learning in the Great Outdoors

The Summer Morning Snail
by N.M. Bodecker in Water Pennies

The summer morning snail
she leaves a shiny trail.
At sunrise in the chill, wet grass I
    find her;
so I shall always know
wherever she may go,
she leaves that guiding sliver thread
    behind her.

For long before it's day
she's up and on her way,
the moon still in the pale dawn sky
    above her;
if I could be a snail,
I'd hurry on her trail,
to tell her just how very much I
    love her.
Welcome to the August edition (5th!) of Learning in the Great Outdoors. As we brave our way through the last hot days of summer, there are many folks who choose to stay indoors to beat the heat. Not me! This is when I look forward to early mornings in the shade, sipping tea and watching the birds in the yard. These are the days when hot walks on the beach or in the shade of the forest can open your eyes once again to the wonder of the natural world. This month, let's look at the all ways we can explore the great outdoors.

Get Your Sunscreen on and Head Outside
Let's begin with picking some ripe, delicious blueberries. This post is by one of my favorite bloggers, cloudscome, who writes awesome haiku poems accompanied by some amazing nature photos at her blog, a wrung sponge.

When outdoors, always keep your eyes open, as you never know what you might see. Oh, look over there! It's that darn snake! Over at Po Moyemu, Sylvia not only writes about the snake that can't seem to stay away from the hen house, but also shares this Odd Egg Update.

Would you like to explore colors in your garden? Barb at The Heart of Harmony shares this nature activity from Another great idea from Barb is on how to make a nature journal. This one has great pictures that show the process step-by-step.

I love my nature notebook, as it often helps me remember where I've been and what I've seen. Over at Backyard Birding, Dana shares some thoughts on notebooks and birds.

Speaking of birds, I'm crazy about them. I recently discovered the blog of a Bird Study Ecology Group. Okay, I know these folks are in Singapore, but the pictures are terrific and I'm learning quite a lot about bird behavior. Check it out and see what you think.

With fall fast approaching, now is a good time to think about making your yard a bit more nature-friendly. Tiffany at Natural Family Living shares a slide show that highlights their backyard wildlife habitat.

Well, I thought mountain climbing in Tibet was adventurous, but it seems that Stephanie over at Adventures in the 100 Acre Wood has me beat! Read all about the Infamous Alaskan Backpacking Trip. (If you want to read about that mountain in Tibet, follow this link.)

For a trip closer to home, the folks at Free Range Academy share their pictures of a recent trip to the Lynde Shores Conservation Area.

Over at the Yellow House Homeschool, nature walks are a way of life. Check out the prairie walk, the tree study, and plant things. If you want to learn to take better nature photos, be sure to read the entry entitled Scale Matters.

Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight often shares shares pictures and writes about the flora and fauna that surround her family. I love this entry entitled Little Nature Stories: Birds, Bugs and Berries.

I'm always on the lookout for a new blog (at least new to me) that celebrates nature. Join me in visiting one of my new faves, Beyond the Fields We Know. The photos of this little corner of Ontario are amazing. While you're visiting, be sure to reflect on the passing of July with the entry entitled The Blessing Moon of July.

Let's Head Back in to Find Some Good Books
Becky at Becky's Book Reviews shares Shape Me a Rhyme, a poetry book written by Jane Yolen and illustrated with photographs by her son, Jason Stemple.

Would you like to learn about worms? Julie at Pines Above Snow shares some great reads for those with more than a passing fancy. If you want to follow up these books with a great online resource, I'm partial to the UIUC site The Adventures of Herman the Worm.

Over at True Colors, Dawnelle introduces us to the book Handbook of Nature Study by Anna Botsford Comstock. Using this same title, Lindafay at Higher Up and Further In writes about using this book to guide their study of butterflies.

Funding and a Bit O' Politics
Sometimes finding money for outdoor education can be a problem. Terrell from Alone on a Limb and the inventor of this here blog carnival shares a fantastic proposal for a nature study project.

Given all the federal mandates mucking up public education these days, I'm not one for adding even more requirements, but this one has me nodding my head in agreement. If you haven't read about the proposed addendum to NCLB entitled No Child Left Inside, please do.

Just for Fun
On July 7th, the New 7 Wonders Foundation announced the winners of a global vote on the New 7 Wonders of the World. You can read about it here. The Foundation has now set off on a campaign to nominate the sites for the New 7 Wonders of Nature. Where in this big beautiful world have you been that is a worthy nominee? Think about it and then head on over and nominate your favorite spot.

That's it for this edition. Thanks so much for visiting. I leave you with and excerpt from Ordinary Things: Poems From a Walk in Early Spring by Ralph Fletcher, for it's also time for me to leave my desk behind. Enjoy!
Time to leave my desk
and leave my house,
pulling the door behind.

I walk the way I write
starting out all creaky,
sort of stumbling along,
looking for a rhythm.

Each footstep is like a word
as it meets the blank page
followed by a pause
before the next one:
step, step, word . . .

Friday, August 03, 2007

Poetry Friday Round Up - August 3rd

Today's roundup is filled with people, places and things. (Nouns, anyone?) There are also poems about being and doing. Really, just look at this wonderful offering of words filled with heart, soul and imagination. You'll also find some book reviews. Happy Poetry Friday, all!

Book Reviews
Franki at A Year of Reading has posted a review of the imaginative book Meow Ruff: A Story in Concrete Poetry.

Over at Charlotte's Library, Charlotte has posted a review of A Kick in the Head.

Adrienne at WATAT shares the third in a series about Casey at the Bat. Be sure to check out the first two installments while you're there!

Elaine brings us a poetic twist on Hansel and Gretel over at the Blue Rose Girls. The poem Gretel examines female stereotypes.

Over at Mentor Texts and More, LiteracyTeacher shares a poignant poem written by a former student.

Akelda the Gleeful over at Saints and Spinners is in with a lovely original poem entitled This Century of Sleep.

Liz at A Chair, A Fireplace & A Tea Cozy shares some songs by Tommy Makem.

The Wordy Girls offer us some terrific poems inspired by a picture of a boy alone on a sidewalk.

Places and Times
Little Willow shares Summer by John Ashbery.

Over at Reader's Carousel, Julie treats us to the poem Once Around the Sun.

Stacy over at Two Writing Teachers brings us a Billy Collins poem about morning.

Rebecca at Ipsa Dixit shares Ocatvio Paz's Agua Nocturna. (Don't worry, translation included!)

John Mutford over at the Book Mine Set has a poem about road in Iqaluit, Nunavut. Even more exciting is the news that John recently had a poem published. Congratulations John! You can read an early draft of Capelin of Mutford's Cove, a poem about his grandmother's home.

Bri at Bri Meets Books is in with a William Jay Smith poem about polar bears.

Sylvia Vardell at Poetry for Children introduces us to the U.S. Poetry Map and shares The List by Naomi Shihab Nye.

Suzanne at Adventures in Daily Living shares Elsa Beskow's August.

Sarah shares a little August Light at Learning on the Edge.

Jenny at Little Acorns Treehouse shares some poems about our flag and country.

Dawn at By Sun and Candlelight reminds us of that glorious summer sun with an offering by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Elaine at Wild Rose Reader brings us a story about a young cancer survivor named Daisy, with some daisy poems in her honor.

In honor of my blog title, I bring you lupins in two forms. First, the poem A Song of the Flowers (which briefly mentions them), and the terrifically funny Dennis Moore skit from Monty Python.

Our favorite Journey Woman, Nancy is in with Charles Simic and Pigeons at Dawn.

Sam Riddleburger is in with an ode to his Star Wars Mobile.

Fuse #8 shares more of her mother's poetry with Mariah Educates the Sensitive, a fabulous poem about wool.

Becky at Becky's Book Reviews gets us thinking about our bellybuttons.

Being and Doing
Miss Erin is in with an original entitled Color.

Christine at The Simple and the Ordinary shares At the Sea-Side by Robert Louis Stevenson. (Great pictures too!)

At MsMac, Jone is thinking about the tragedy in Minneapolis and offers up some comfort.

Over at a wrung sponge, cloudscome treats us to a poem called Can't Sit Still.

Karen Edmisten shares the lovely poem Leisure, by William H. Davies.

Becky at Farm School reminds us to make the most of our time this summer with The Nurse's Song by William Blake.

Katie at Pixiepalace shares the Robert Louis Stevenson favorite, Bed in Summer.

Over at Living, Loving and Learning you can read Robert Frost's poem, A Minor Bird.

BondGirl over at Shaken and Stirred offers up a Charles Simic poem entitled Read Your Fate.

At Hiraeth, Kim leaves us thinking about rest and quiet with the poem Vacation by Rev. Lawrence Keister.

Hornblower at HMS Indefatigable give us Pablo Neruda and La Muerta.

Jules over at Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast presents Raw Silk and Uncut Wood by Lao Tzu.

Liz in Ink has ideas for poems about reading.

Over at Brand New Ending, Schelle has posted two poems. One is a about a puppet and another about doings at the beach.

Thanks to all who participated. This has been fun!

Poetry Friday - Lupins

This blog is named for Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney. (You can learn why I chose this name here.) Since the anniversary of Barbara Cooney's birthday is approaching, I thought it appropriate to make today's entry about lupins and other beautiful flowers. This poem comes from a book by Harriet Anne Wilkins entitled Victor Roy, A Masonic Poem.
A Song of the Flowers
"Why are you weeping, ye gentle flowers?
Are ye not blest in your sunny bowers?
Have you startling dreams that make ye weep,
When waking up from your holy sleep?
And the glorious rose with her flushing face,
And the fuschia with her form of grace,
The balsam bright, and the lupin's crest,
That weaves a roof for the firefly's nest;
The myrtle clusters, and dahlia tall,
The jessamine fairest among them all;
And the tremulous lips of the lily's bell,
Join in the music we love so well."

Read the poem in its entirety here. (Scroll down about 2/3 of the page or search for the title.)
Happy Poetry Friday, all! If you are looking for the round up, it's here.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Thoughts on Writing

I have been writing a lot these days, and reading a lot about good and bad writing. When the new edition of Newsweek arrived, I had to chuckle upon reading the My Turn essay. Do have a look.

Let's Think Outside the Box of Bad Clichés

Alright Already, I'm Going!

Yes, you heard me. Chicago, here I come! For those of you who don't know what I'm talking about, it's the 1st Annual Kidlitosphere Conference, and I am psyched. What I want to know now is, where are the Blue Rose Girls, Mitali Perkins, and my fab blog friend Elaine (also a Blue Rose Girl)? These are just a few of the folks I hope we can convince to join us.

If you're reading this and haven't signed up, do please think about it. I'm sure it will be a grand old time.

Happy Birthday to Gail Gibbons

Gail Gibbons was born on this day in 1944. Her books have found a home in my classroom and are wonderful tools for introducing concepts in science and social studies. I am constantly impressed by her ability to take seemingly difficult concepts and make them accessible to children. You can view some of the books in my collection over here. You can also learn more about this talented author by viewing her video interview at Reading Rockets.

The author provides a wonderful teacher's guide over at her web site. Do head on over and check it out.
Happy Birthday, Ms. Gibbons! Thanks for all you do to make nonfiction engaging for kids.