Friday, February 29, 2008

February Carnival is UP!

The February Carnival of Children's Literature is up over at Anastasia Suen's place, Picture Book of the Day. Since it's Leap Day, hop on over and see what she's put toegther so we can all leap into a book!

Poetry Friday - An Early Bluebird

I have spring on the brain, as I'm sure many of you do. Growing up in western New York, the robin was always the harbinger of spring. I would turn cartwheels upon seeing the first one of the season, because I knew it signaled the end of winter. Now that I live in Virginia, I see robins all winter. Who now brings the promise of spring? The bluebird.
An Early Bluebird
by Maurice Thompson

Leap to the highest height of spring,
   And trill thy sweetest note,
Bird of the heavenly plumes and twinkling wing
   And silver-toned throat!

Sing, while the maple’s deepest root
   Thrills with a pulse of fire
That lights its buds. Blow, blow thy tender flute,
   Thy reed of rich desire!

Breathe in thy syrinx Freedom’s breath,
   Quaver the fresh and true,
Dispel this lingering wintry mist of death
   And charm the world anew!

Thou first sky-dipped spring-bud of song,
   Whose heavenly ecstasy
Foretells the May while yet March winds are strong,
   Fresh faith appears with thee!

How sweet, how magically rich,
   Through filmy splendor blown,
Thy hopeful voice set to the promise-pitch
   Of melody yet unknown!

O land of mine (where hope can grow
   And send a deeper root
With every spring), hear, heed the free bird blow
   Hope’s charmed flute!

Ah! who will hear, and who will care,
   And who will heed thy song,
As prophecy, as hope, as promise rare,
   Budding to bloom ere long?

From swelling bulbs and sprouting seed,
   Sweet sap and fragrant dew,
And human hearts, grown doubly warm at need,
   Leaps answer strong and true:

We see, we hear (thou liberty-loving thing,
   That down spring winds doth float),
The promise of thine empyrean wing,
   The hope that floods thy throat!
Puzzled by syrinx? I was too, until I pulled out the Oxford English Dictionary. A syrinx is (1) an ancient musical instrument (pan pipe) or (2) the organ of voice in birds.

The round up this week is being hosted by Kelly Fineman over at Writing and Ruminating. On this fair leap day, do be sure to stop by and take in all the wonderful poetry being shared. Before you go, don't miss this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Poetry Stretch Results - Apostrophe

This week's challenge was to write a poem that directly addressed someone or something. Here's what was shared.
Noah the Great addressed the sea in Interviewing the Ocean.

Tiel Aisha Ansari at Knocking From Inside is back (we've missed you!) with To Whomever Abandoned a Pot of Zinnia Seedlings on Our Porch Steps.

cloudscome at a wrung sponge wrote a lovely sonnet for her grandmother.

Diane Davis was thinking politics when she wrote Election Race.

Daisybug at Things that make me say... addresses that thing attempting to take over her garden in Exiled Wisteria.

Mad Kane is in with an apostrophe in the form of a limerick, called Ode to a New York City Walk Signal.

Marianne Neilsen at Doing the Wrie Thing! gives us a poem entitled To My Self-Motivation.

sister AE at Having Writ is thinking of her spreadsheet in her poem, Caged.

Laura Purdie Salas is also thinking computers and gives us To My Backup Disk.
Speaking of Laura, I couldn't get the image from this week's 15 words or less challenge out of my head, so my poem is to that tree, and the one like it in my front yard.
To the Winter Tree
Pardon me
oh giant one,
with your bony limbs
stretched skyward.

I stop
beneath your boughs
each day,
hungry for
a sign,
just a hint
of change.

Tell me,
When will you
throw off
the mantle
of winter
and embrace
the gown of spring?
It's not too late to play. Write your own apostrophe and leave me a comment. Then I'll add your piece to the list.

Leaping Into Books About Frogs (And Other Amphibians)

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has declared 2008 as the Year of the Frog. (You can learn more about this at Leap Into the Year of the Frog.) In honor of all things amphibian, I thought it might be fun to explore some books and poems for learning about frogs, toads and other amphibians. I have grouped these selections into nonfiction, poetry and fiction. Since the frog life cycle is usually a very big topic in the early elementary classroom, this selection of books will be particularly useful for these units of study.

  • Nic Bishop Frogs by Nic Bishop - This engaging text is accompanied by gorgeous photographs of frogs in their natural habitats. Readers will learn an amazing array of facts, both scientific and quirky. (You can read my review.)
  • All About Frogs by Jim Arnosky - Accompanied by beautiful acrylics, this book introduces amphibians and then discusses the characteristics, habitats, life cycle, diet, and more about frogs.
  • Frogs by Gail Gibbons - In steady Gibbons' style, full-color illustrations show readers the life cycles of frogs, exploring the stages from tadpole to adulthood. One helpful feature is the presentation of scientific terms in phonetic form. If you download the teacher's guide from her web site, there are two pages devoted to this book.
  • What's In the Pond? by Anne Hunter - This volume in the Hidden Life series looks at the frogs, tadpole, painted turtle, red-winged blackbird and more. On 10 double-page spreads, readers are presented with information on the left and illustrations on the right. Each section of text describes the physical features and behavior of each animal.
  • Frog Heaven: Ecology of a Vernal Pool by Doug Wechsler - Vernal pools are temporary wetlands that dry each summer, then refill during the fall, winter and spring. This book examines the changes in a vernal pool in the woods of Delaware and describes the creatures that live there.
  • 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.
  • Red-eyed Tree Frog by Joy Cowley - Accompanied by the amazing photographs of Nic Bishop, this book describes the life of the Central American red-eyed tree frog.
  • The Moon of the Salamanders by Jean Craighead George - One of the books in the 13 moons series, this title describes the emergence of a spotted salamander from his winter hibernation.
  • The Frog by Sally Tagholm - Part of the Animal Lives series, this book focuses on the common frog (European) and describes its life cycle in rich detail.
  • Pond Life by Barbara Taylor - A title in the Look Closer series, this book uses amazing photographs and snippets of text to describe newts, jelly babies (frogs from egg to tadpole), adult frogs, and other pond inhabitants.
  • At the Frog Pond by Tilde Michels - Originally published in Germany, this English translation begins, "Did you ever wonder how a tadpole turns into a frog?/Did you ever stumble onto a secluded spot where you could hear and see the wondrous ways of nature--a clearing, a marsh--or a small frog pond?" From here, readers discover the ecology of a frog pond.
  • Lizards, Frogs, and Polliwogs by Douglas Florian - In 21 poems, brilliantly illustrated, Florian introduces readers to all manner of amphibians and reptiles, including polliwogs, the midwife toad, glass frog, wood frog, red-eyed tree frog, bullfrog, poison-dart frog, and spring peepers.
  • Pollywog Fishing in Water Pennies and Other Poems by N. M. Bodecker - This book contains poems about a variety of pond creatures. This one begins:
    polly woggle-woe
    --where did Polly go?
  • Listen for Me in Song of the Water Boatman and Other Pond Poems by Joyce Sidman - The first poem in this book describes spring peepers waking from their winter hibernation. It begins:
    Listen for me on a spring night,
    on a wet night,
    on a rainy night.
    Listen for me on a still night,
    for in the night, I sing.
  • It's a Frog's Life: My Story of Life in a Pond by Steve Parker - Written in journal format and accompanied by illustrations in different styles, a frog describes his life in spring when he wakes from hibernation, to winter, where he prepares for another long sleep.
  • Tuesday by David Wiesner - This Caldecott medal winner is a wordless picture book (almost!) in frogs riding lily pads like magic carpets sail over the countryside and into an unsuspecting town for an evening of fun.
  • A Toad for Tuesday by Russell Erickson - This is the story of an unlikely friendship between an owl and the toad he intends to eat for his birthday dinner. Read Puss Reboots review of the book.
  • A Frog in the Bog by Karma Wilson - A frog in a bog, sitting on a log, eats nearly everything in sight, from 1 tick to 5 snails. Now that he's fat from his meal, imagine his surprise when the log he is sitting on turns out to be alive!
Finally, and just for fun, you can download directions on folding an origami frog from the New Zealand Frogs site. You can also try this origami math lesson which includes a "fabulous frog" reproducible. Thanks to everyone who suggested titles on my original post. If I've missed a favorite of yours, please let me know and I'll add it to the list.

**Updated on 2/29/08** - Elaine at Wild Rose Reader has written a fabulous post called Leaping Lizards! It's the year of the Frog. In it she presents an original poem and highlights a number of outstanding poetry titles for studying frogs, toads and other amphibians.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Leap Into the Year of the Frog

Did you know that the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) is highlighting 2008 as the Year of the Frog? In an effort to raise awareness and mark a major conservation effort to address the amphibian extinction crisis, the AZA has created a series of educational activities and resources.

Starting February 29th (Leap Day), more than 70 members of the AZA will be holding fun, family-friendly events and programs to educate people about amphibian conservation. Zoo and aquarium visitors can take part in a variety of activities including leapfrog contests, frog calling, zookeepers and aquarist talks, amphibian scavenger hunts, investigating salamander habitat, and close encounters with our colorful frog friends! Learn more about events near you.

In support of Year of the Frog, National Environmental Education Week has developed a section on amphibians and reptiles for its EE Week Curricula Library.

This year we'll not only be jumping into froggy activities, but reading these froggy titles.
What are you doing for leap day?

Dime Store Novels and Boys Reading

Today in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Mark Bauerlein, a professor of English at Emory University tackles the question of what boys should read. In it, he mentions the iPulp Fiction Library, a site that offers free online fiction in the dime-novel tradition. He writes:
Books of any kind compete with so many digital diversions that just about any fiction that encourages long reading hours is worth a look — pulp or sports or Western or murder mystery or classic novel. Reading researchers believe that sheer volume of reading plays a large role in the acquisition of basic literacy skills and vocabulary, and that print matter of even child-oriented books can be more verbally challenging than some of the best television shows.
It's an interesting piece. Do read the article and the comments, and when you get a chance, stop by the iPulp Fiction Library and check it out. There are titles by Orson Scott Card (Ender's Game), Bruce Coville (Wizard's Boy) and more.

Books By Mail (E-Mail, That Is)

Today in the Guardian, Graeme Allister writes about, and the notion of receiving books in daily installments through e-mail. He writes:
Despite this flexibility, there's a certain sterility in reading in ready-sized portions. Perhaps it's a little too reminiscent of homework. Then there's the problem of reading a screen, a sensation which, in my opinion, doesn't really lend itself to fiction.
I have been receiving and rereading Little Women for the last few months. It is in 227 installments, and I am somewhere in the eighties. I must admit that there are days when I want to read more, but I am trying to be patient. As someone who receives close to 200 e-mail messages a day (some of it junk), this snippet of a book is like a little piece of sunshine in my mailbox. I look forward to finding it in my list and catching up with Jo.

What do you think about this idea? Head on over to read The Book is Dead ... Long Live Inboxed Gobbets! Feel free to leave a comment here or there.

Counting Book Podcast #8

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

Today's podcast highlights Joyce Dunbar's book, Ten Little Mice.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Monday Poetry Stretch - Apostrophe

There are many days when I want to talk to someone who isn't here, to ask questions, to wonder. I've been mulling this over for a while now and think it's time we wrote some apostrophe. An apostrophe is a poem which directly addresses a person or thing that is generally absent. Here are some beginning lines from poems that use this form.
Edgar Allen Poe - To Science
Science! true daughter of Old Time thou art!
Who alterest all things with thy peering eyes.
Why preyest thou thus upon the poet's heart,
Vulture, whose wings are dull realities?

Percy Bysshe Shelley -
Ode to the West Wind
O Wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being
Thou from whose unseen presence the leaves dead
Are driven like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,

John Pierpont - The Fugitive Slave’s Apostrophe to the North Star
Star of the North! though night winds drift
The fleecy drapery of the sky
Between thy lamp and me, I lift,
Yea, lift with hope, my sleepless eye
To the blue heights wherein thou dwellest,
And of a land of freedom tellest.

William Shakespeare - Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 1
O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!
Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
That ever lived in the tide of times.
Now that you've read a few examples for inspiration, who or what will you write to for your apostrophe? Leave me a comment about your poem and I will post the results here later this week.

Counting Book Podcast #7


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

Today's podcast highlights Barbara Barbieri McGrath's book, The M&M's Count to One Hundred Book.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Art of a Child

William spent the last four weeks attending Saturday Art School at a local University known for its outstanding art program. Taught by students in the undergraduate and graduate art education programs, he had two glorious hours each week to explore art beyond the boundaries of regular classroom instruction. He created artwork with natural pigments (foods, minerals, plants), worked with tissue paper in warm and cool colors to create stained glass images, and made mixed media artwork along with many other projects. Most work centered on themes of the natural world. On their last day, students studied van Gogh's self-portraits and created their own. At the end of the session they held an exhibition where all student artwork was displayed. The teachers told us about each project and the goals for instruction, then the children got to talk about their work.

Here is William's natural pigment piece, created with charcoal, grape juice and "something green."
Here is his pastel piece on the food chain. If shows a snake, meerkat and scorpion. (Yes, we're faithful Meerkat Manor watchers!)
Here is his final piece, the self-portrait.
William has always been highly engaged in looking deeply and reflectively at the art in the picture books he reads, commenting on the aspects that appeal most to him. This experience has given him additional tools with which to look at art, and given him a new appreciation for the work that illustrators do.

Counting Book Podcast #6

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

Today's podcast highlights Dan Andreason's book, The Baker's Dozen: A Counting Book.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Counting Book Podcast #5

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

Today's podcast highlights Barbara Barbieri McGrath's book, The M&M's Brand Counting Book.

Friday, February 22, 2008

New Blogs and Fun Stuff

New Blogs
One of the things I love about Poetry Friday is that we often have new people join us, and when they do, I learn about new blogs. Today I found my way to these two blogs that I'll be keeping a close eye on and visiting regularly.
Paper Doll - Lara, this blog's author, worked at one of the oldest literary agencies in the country for nearly 3 years, and before that interned at an educational publisher and was an independent contractor for a well-known children's publisher. She is willing to answer questions about agents, submissions, or children's publishing in general if you e-mail her. I predict lots of mail in her future.
Oh, and by the way, her mother is this amazing writer!

Audiobooker - Mary, this blog's author, is a middle school teacher-librarian, audiobook addict, and author of Book Link Magazine's audiobook column "Voices in My Head." Her post today highlights the book Blues Journey, by Walter Dean Myers and his son, Christopher. It includes an audio sample that is simply lovely. I must have this book in both print and audio format!
Fun Stuff
Horton Hears a Who - Teachers can register to receive a free animated e-book for this year's Read Across America event. This looks like great fun. (Thanks to Audiobooker for the link.)

Poetry Friday - Edna St. Vincent Millay

Edna St. Vincent Millay was born on this day in 1892. In honor of her birthday, here are two poems of hers I particularly enjoy.

I will put Chaos into fourteen lines

I will put Chaos into fourteen lines
And keep him there; and let him thence escape
If he be lucky; let him twist, and ape
Flood, fire, and demon --- his adroit designs
Will strain to nothing in the strict confines
Of this sweet order, where, in pious rape,
I hold his essence and amorphous shape,
Till he with Order mingles and combines.
Past are the hours, the years of our duress,
His arrogance, our awful servitude:
I have him. He is nothing more nor less
Than something simple not yet understood;
I shall not even force him to confess;
Or answer. I will only make him good.

Afternoon on a Hill

I will be the gladdest thing
   Under the sun!
I will touch a hundred flowers
   And not pick one.

I will look at cliffs and clouds
   With quiet eyes,
Watch the wind bow down the grass,
   And the grass rise.

And when lights begin to show
   Up from the town,
I will mark which must be mine,
   And then start down!
The round up today is being hosted by Kelly over at Big A little a. Please stop by and check out all the great poetry being shared today. Before you go, be sure to have a look at this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Counting Book Podcast #4

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

Today's podcast highlights Peggy Rathmann's book, 10 Minutes Till Bedtime.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Poetry Stretch Results - Rhyming Chant

This week I challenged folks to write rhyming chants. What fun! Here's what has been shared so far.
Mary Lee at A Year of Reading (the creator of this challenge) gives us a chant about home, entitled The Solace of Open Places or It's Not the End of the Earth, But You Can See it From Here.

You know I love any post that includes the words "a poem for Miss Rumphius." Sam Riddleburger is in with an Empire Strikes Back poem (just for me!).

Diane Davis was not only thinking lines and meter, but lines, color, shape and more in her poem, An Art Lesson.

Madelyn Ruth joins us with a tribute to the Carter family. (Now I must go dig out some CDs and listen!)

Daisybug at Things That make me say ... basks in the glow of a day off and gives us a rhyming chant called Snow Day.

sister AE at Having Writ went to the kitchen for inspiration and gives us Searching My Spice Rack.

Beth at Endless Books joins us for the first time with a chant inspired by Harry Potter.
I've been working on several different chants. This one highlights some of my favorite animals. When you say it (sing it?) think in the rhythm of the William Tell overture (not too fast and with feeling). Here we go.
African Mammal Chant
Elephant, rhinocerous
pygmy hippopotamus
mongoose, leopard, impala
mountain gorilla

Eland, puku, bontebok
zebra, cheetah, bat-eared fox
ring-tailed lemur, bushbaby
kudu and lechwe

Antelope, red hartebeest
serval, camel, wildebeest
baboon, eland, tsessebe
colobus monkey

Meerkat, gemsbok, nyala
giraffe, warthog, hyena
aardvark, aardwolf, pangolin
oribi and lion

On safari, at the zoo,
in some books you'll find them too.
Every color, shape and size,
beauties before your eyes.

If you haven't heard of some of these animals, you can learn more about them at the Southern African Mammals Guide.
It's not too late if you still want to play. Write your rhyming chant and leave me a comment, then I'll add your poem to the list.

Everyone is Talking Reading These Days

Everywhere I look (read) these days, people are writing and talking about reading. In Sunday's Washington Post, Howard Garnder wrote a piece entitled The End of Literacy? Don't Stop Reading. In it he says:

But now, at the start of the 21st century, there's a dizzying set of literacies available -- written languages, graphic displays and notations. And there's an even broader array of media -- analog, digital, electronic, hand-held, tangible and virtual -- from which to pick and choose. There will inevitably be a sorting-out process. Few media are likely to disappear completely; rather, the idiosyncratic genius and peculiar limitations of each medium will become increasingly clear. Fewer people will write notes or letters by hand, but the elegant handwritten note to mark a special occasion will endure.

I don't worry for a nanosecond that reading and writing will disappear. Even in the new digital media, it's essential to be able to read and write fluently and, if you want to capture people's attention, to write well. Of course, what it means to "write well" changes: Virginia Woolf didn't write the same way that Jane Austen did, and Arianna Huffington's blog won't be confused with Walter Lippmann's columns. But the imaginative spheres and real-world needs that all those written words address remain.

Then, in today's New York Times OpEd column, Timothy Egan writes about Book Lust. In it he says:

Reading is something else, an engagement of the imagination with life experience. It’s fad-resistant, precisely because human beings are hard-wired for story, and intrinsically curious. Reading is not about product.

For most of my lifetime, I’ve heard that reading is dead. In that time, disco has died, drive-in movies have nearly died, and something called The Clapper has come and gone through bedrooms across the nation.

But reading? This year, about 400 million books will be sold in the United States. Overall, business is up 1 percent — not bad, in a rough economy, for a $15 billion industry still populated by people whose idea of how to sell books dates to Bartleby the Scrivener.

Add to this mix the LeGuin article I talked about here and here, and you have a veritable stampede of folks reflecting on the place of books and reading in our society.

More NCLB News - Impact on Subjects Beyond Reading and Math

The Center on Education Policy just released the results of a study that indicate some school districts increased math and reading time by as much as 150 minutes a week, while cutting time for social studies, science, music and art by one-third. This survey of 349 school districts nationwide shows that more teaching time is being devoted to math and science while time is cut for social studies, science, music and art. Here are some highlights.
  • In the six years that the No Child Left Behind law has been in effect, 62 percent of the school districts surveyed had increased the amount of time spent in elementary schools on reading/English language arts and/or math. Those districts, on average, added 141 minutes a week to reading, while others added 89 minutes a week, on average, to math.
  • About 44 percent of the districts increased time for reading and/or math while cutting time spent for elementary school science, social studies, art and music, physical education, lunch or recess. On average, time spent in those subjects was cut by 32 percent.
  • The average time for social studies decreased by 76 minutes per week, 57 minutes per week in art/music, 50 minutes per week in recess and 40 minutes per week in physical education.
While I'm all for enhanced instruction in reading and math, I don't value it at the expense of other areas of instruction. You can download the full report, entitled Instructional Time in Elementary Schools: A Closer Look at Changes for Specific Subjects.

Counting Book Podcast #3

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

Today's podcast highlights Ellen Stoll Walsh's book, Mouse Count.

You Must Read This

I was happily preparing dinner last night when one of my favorite occasional series aired on NPR. Called You Must Read This, the series gives authors a chance to talk about the books they love. In the newest installment, Sloan Crosley discusses The Secret Garden, one of my childhood favorites. It's a lovely essay. Do listen.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Counting Book Podcast #2

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

Today's podcast highlights Yuyi Morales' book, Just a Minute: A Trickster Tale and Counting Book.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Act of Reading

While at a faculty meeting today, I stole a few minutes to reread Ursula Le Guin's article in Harper's Magazine entitled Staying Awake: Notes on the Alleged Decline of Reading. There is a particularly noteworthy section where she talks about the act of reading. A portion of it resonated with me and reminded me of something John Green said in the talk he gave at UR last fall. John talked about reading as an act of negotiation between writer and reader, in which the reader engages in quiet conversation with the author. Here's Le Guin's spin on the same idea.
A book won't move your eyes for you the way images on a screen do. It won't move your mind unless you give it your mind, or your heart unless you put your heart in it. It won't do the work for you. To read a story well is to follow it, to act it, to feel it, to become it--everything short of writing it, in fact. Reading is not "interactive" with a set of rules or options, as games are; reading is actual collaboration with the writer's mind.
I think this might have been what Sara was getting at yesterday when she wrote I don't need you to be me.

Counting Book Podcasts

My students turned in their very first podcasts this week. Each one has highlighted a counting book for instruction in early elementary grades. 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 Tana Hoban's book, So Many Circles, So Many Squares.

Preserved by Poetry

Today in the Guardian, Sam Jordison gives us much to think about in his piece, A Nation Preserved by Poetry. It is poignant and thoughtfully written. Do take a few minutes to read it.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Thinking Ahead - Cybils 08

I know that the Cybils 2007 winners have just been announced, but I'm already looking ahead to 2008. I reviewed the forthcoming book It's Moving Day! over at my other blog. (Read it here.) Looking into my crystal ball, I predict it will be a nominee for picture book nonfiction.

I'm starting my lists now. How about you?

Monday Poetry Stretch - Rhyming Chant

Mary Lee over at A Year of Reading wrote about April Pulley Sayre's book Bird, Bird, Bird for Nonfiction Monday at the beginning of the month. In that entry, she wrote:
How's this for a poetry stretch -- could you take the names of a group of, say, 10-20 rodents, or mammals (or even poets, authors or bloggers) and make them into a rhyming chant? I'm heading over to Miss Rumphius right now to suggest it!
Gauntlet thrown and accepted. For me, the ultimate rhyming chant is Tom Lehrer's song The Elements.

All my chant attempts so far have fit this tune (a parody of Modern Major General from The Pirates of Penzance). It's sad, really, because I can't get it out of my head. I began with this:
Counting 1 and 2 and 3
Shapes and patterns, symmetry
Algebra, geometry
I'm not sure I have enough math to write about, so I set it aside and began thinking about mammals. Here's how it started.
Elephant, rhinocerous
kangaroo and platypus
Rabbit, fox and polar bear
Bats are flying through the air
The rhyme works, but I have a strong desire for these animals to be related in some way. Perhaps I'll try continent or biome.

So fair poetry writers, your challenge for this week is to write a rhyming chant of your own. What will you choose? Will it be cities, food, flowers, or something else? I'll continue working on my mammal chant. Leave me a comment when your poem is complete and I will post the results here later this week.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Happy Birthday to Art Spiegelman

When I began teaching a course in Content Area Literacy, I decided to introduce preservice teachers to graphic novels as a means of integrating reading into middle and high school subject area classes. They were skeptical, but after reading Art Spiegelman's book Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History, they were convinced. This graphic novel presents the story of his father's struggle to survive the Holocaust and is drawn from information gleaned when Spiegelman interviewed his father about these events. In graphic format, the Jews are portrayed as mice, the Germans cats, and the Americans dogs. In addition to presenting the events of the Holocaust, Spiegelman shares the effects of these events on survivor's years later, as well as the impact on later generations. Despite the graphic format, Spiegelman was able to convey the terror of the Holocaust. Maus is not an easy read, largely because it places readers squarely in the midst of the action and forces them to rethink their views of these events.

Maus was the first graphic novel I read. I fell in love with the form and have not been disappointed since. I was particularly moved by his recent book, In the Shadow of No Towers, a collection of comics in response to the events of 9-11. You can learn more about this book at these sites.
Together with his wife, Françoise Mouly, Art Spiegelman has edited three anthologies of comics for children, entitled Little Lit. You can read more about Little Lit in this interview with Françoise Mouly.

Art Spiegelman celebrates his 60th birthday today. You can learn more about this talented comic artist, author and illustrator at these sites.
Best wishes for a fabulous birthday, Mr. Spiegelman, and many happy returns.

Poetry Friday - Babylon

My amazing boy will be seven tomorrow. It's heartbreaking, really. He's growing up too fast. This year, for some reason, it's hitting me hard. Perhaps it's all the new babies I'm surrounded by at work these days. It seems just like yesterday that we were driving to the hospital for delivery day, not sleeping at night, celebrating first steps, and many other milestones. I read this poem a while ago, and it captures the melancholy I feel.
By Robert Graves

The child alone a poet is:
Spring and Fairyland are his.
Truth and Reason show but dim,
And all’s poetry with him.
Rhyme and music flow in plenty
For the lad of one-and-twenty,
But Spring for him is no more now
Than daisies to a munching cow;
Just a cheery pleasant season,
Daisy buds to live at ease on.
He’s forgotten how he smiled
And shrieked at snowdrops when a child,
Or wept one evening secretly
For April’s glorious misery.
Wisdom made him old and wary
Banishing the Lords of Faery.
Wisdom made a breach and battered
Babylon to bits: she scattered
To the hedges and ditches
All our nursery gnomes and witches.
Lob and Puck, poor frantic elves,
Drag their treasures from the shelves.
Jack the Giant-killer’s gone,
Mother Goose and Oberon,
Bluebeard and King Solomon.
Robin, and Red Riding Hood
Take together to the wood,
And Sir Galahad lies hid
In a cave with Captain Kidd.
None of all the magic hosts,
None remain but a few ghosts
Of timorous heart, to linger on
Weeping for lost Babylon.
The round up this week is being hosted by Vivian over at HipWriterMama. Do stop by and read all the great poetry being shared this week. But wait! Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Poetry Stretch Results - Metaphor Poems

This week I challenged folks to write metaphor poems. All I can say is, what a clever lot you are! Here's what the creative people have done.
just paisley shares a poem entitled fire, or the lack there of.

cloudscome at a wrung sponge has a photo and the poem In February.

Daisybug from Things that make me say ... gives us a Glimpse of Stillness.

Laura Pudie Salas wrote A Dream Is ..., while she was unable to sleep.

sister AE at Having Writ shares a poem entitled Criminals.

Elaine at Wild Rose Reader has a number of metaphor poems for us.

Amy at My Breakfast Platter joins us for the first time and shares A Classroom is ....

Cheryl Rainfield also joins us for the first time with this lovely piece.

Marianne at Doing the Write Thing! is another first timer who shares a poem entitled A Leak.
It's not too late if you still want to play. Write your metaphor poem and leave me a comment, then I'll add your poem to the list.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Notes on the Alleged Decline of Reading

In the February issue of Harper's Magazine you can read an article by Ursula Le Guin entitled Staying Awake: Notes on the Alleged Decline of Reading. In it, she directly challenges the "moralizing tone" of the NEA report, To Read or Not to Read. You'll remember that this report, released last November, found that nearly every kind of reading, at nearly every level, is on the decline.

Le Guin has an interesting response. Do try and get your hands on a copy of the magazine. This is provocative stuff.

Cybils Love

The wait is over! You know you want to see them. Go Now!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Contests for Students

Doodle 4 Google - You know all those great thematic banners Google has? Well, Google has announced a competition that invites school children to design a Google logo inspired by the question, “What If ...?” The winning student’s doodle will be displayed on the Google homepage on May 22, 2008, with the champion “doodler” winning a $10,000 college scholarship and a $25,000 technology grant for his/her school.

America the Beautiful Scavenger Hunt - School Library Journal is sponsoring a contest where participants submit 10 questions and answers that reveal the most wonderful and wacky facts that answer the question: What should everyone know about your state? Hurry, the deadline for this one is March 15th. Two winning librarians in each state will receive a free collection of America the Beautiful, Third Series and the scavenger hunts will be published in an additional title of America the Beautiful WOW! WEIRD, wacky and OUT of this WORLD state facts!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Australia Apologizes

Important news today from down under.
"Australia apologized Wednesday to its indigenous people for past treatment that "inflicted profound grief, suffering and loss," in a historic parliamentary vote that supporters said would open a new chapter in race relations in the country."
Read more about this historic event. I'd lay odds that our Congress will never go this far, but wouldn't it be nice to see the US government consider making an apology to Native peoples?

Steve Jenkins Writes on Science and Censorship

The inaugural post of Steve Jenkins is up at I.N.K. this morning. Entitled Science and Censorship, he speaks eloquently about the more subtle forms of censorship that exist when we choose to ignore the science behind something because it's easier or more economic.

This is thoughtfully written and makes for good reading. Do take a look.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Homework a Homewrecker

Okay, here's one more article I had to share. This one is from the The Star. It is titled Homework a Homewrecker. Here's how it begins.
Homework is of little benefit to students from junior kindergarten to Grade 6, say the authors of a just-released Canadian study, who also found it is often the source of stress and burnout in children, as well the cause of conflict – even marital stress – for many families.
I spend a lot of time with my students discussing the merits of homework. I recommend a lot of games for math homework as a fun way to practice skills. What do you think? What are the advantages/disadvantages of homework?

Free Books on the Web

I read this in today's NY Times. HarperCollins Will Post Free Books on the Web. Go now and read.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Metaphor Poems

I was cleaning out the files in my office this week and came across some literacy poems published in The Reading Teacher. One got me thinking about about similies and metaphors. Here it is.
A Book Is Like
by Kathy Leeuwenburg

A book is like an open flower, scented pages, fragrant hours.

A book is like a crafty fox, surprising in its clever plots.

A book is like a fairy's wings, with princesses, enchanted kings.

A book is like a windowsill, where breezy thoughts are never still.

A book is like an hour glass, whose pages flow as hours pass.

A book is like a lock and key that opens doors and sets minds free.

A book is like an ancient clock that speaks the times but never talks.

A book is like an open letter, when read again the friendship's better.

A book is like an apple core with seeds inside for growing more.

A book is like a trusted friend that keeps its secret to the end.

Leeuwenburg, K. (1994). A book is like. The Reading Teacher, 47(6), 463.
Elaine left a comment suggesting this poem would work better as a metaphor poem (taking out all the "is like" statements). I completely agree. Here's what it would look like with this revision.
A Book Is
adapted from a poem by Kathy Leeuwenburg

A book is
an open flower
scented pages, fragrant hours

a crafty fox
surprising in its clever plots

a fairy's wings
with princesses, enchanted kings

a windowsill
where breezy thoughts are never still

an hour glass
whose pages flow as hours pass

a lock and key
that opens doors and sets minds free

an ancient clock
that speaks the times but never talks

an open letter
when read again the friendship's better

an apple core
with seeds inside for growing more

a trusted friend
that keeps its secret to the end
So, your challenge is to write a metaphor poem. Once you're done, leave me a comment about your work and I'll post the results here later this week.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Poetry Friday - William Butler Yeats

Last week I picked up a copy of Under the Moon, a book of unpublished early poetry of William Butler Yeats. It contains thirty-eight poems written between the poet's late teens and early twenties, and was published under the title Yeats had once planned to give his first volume of collected poems. Here is one poem I can't seem to shake.
Wherever in the wastes
by William Butler Yeats

Wherever in the wastes of wrinkling sand
Worn by the fan of ever flaming time
Longing for human converse, we have pitched
A camp for musing in some seldom spot
Of not unkindly nurture, and let loose
To roam and ponder those sad dromedaries
Our dreams, the Master of the pilgrimage
Cries, "Nay -- the caravan goes ever on,
The goal lies further than the morning star."
The round up this week is being hosted by Gina at AmoXcalli. Do stop by and read all the great poetry that's been offered up. Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Poetry Stretch Results - February Inspired Image

This week's challenge was to write a poem to accompany this image. The photograph was taken by Mark Knobil, a freelance video/film photographer from Pittsburgh. The image is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License.
Here are the poems inspired by this photo.
cloudscome at a wrung sponge shares a haiku.

Diane Davis gives us an untitled piece.

sister AE at Having Writ gives us a limerick.

Laura Purdie Salas
also shares a haiku.
For me, this photograph got me thinking about eating the same thing day in and day out, which led to some thoughts about single life and Ramen Noodles.
I Had It Good

I shudder when I pass them in the market,
the Ramen Noodles and Mac & Cheese,
sometimes even peanut butter.

I wonder how I made it through the
weeks and months on cheap food,
sleepless nights, and days upon days
in front of wide-eyed kids,
wondering if I was doing it right.

I entered adulthood
earning $8000 a year,
living in a tiny space, made larger
only by the Murphy bed.
Exactly one mile from school,
I walked when the snow wasn't
blinding or deep.

My window looked out on the zoo
just across the street.
In the dead of winter
over howling winds,
I could still hear the elephants trumpet
and lions roar,
so far from their homes.

See those yams? They remind me of
Ramen Noodles. Do you think
those women ever hate
that which nourishes them?
Get tired of it? Regret not having more?
I did. But those yams,
baking in the sun,
feeding the hungry,
remind me how good I had it,
even when it didn't feel that way.
It's not too late if you want to play. Take a look at the image and see what it inspires. Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Story Contest Fails to Find a Winner

Thanks to the Guardian blog for this one.

It seems that this year's Willesden Herald International Short Story competition is over, and that the winner is ... no one. Due to the judges' inability to a find truly outstanding entry, the decision was made not to award a prize.

Here is an excerpt from Zadie Smith's post, breaking the news.
And we received a whole bunch of stories. We dutifully read through hundreds of them. But in the end – we have to be honest – we could not find the greatness we’d hoped for. It’s for this reason that we have decided not to give out the prize this year.
The little Willesden Herald Prize is only about good writing, and it turns out that a prize faithfully recognizing this imperative must also face the fact that good writing is actually very rare. For let us be honest again: it is sometimes too easy, and too tempting, to blame everything that we hate in contemporary writing on the bookstores, on the corporate publishers, on incompetent editors and corrupt PR departments – and God knows, they all have their part to play. But we also have our part to play. We also have to work out how to write better and read better.
There are many thoughtful comments, but this one had me nodding in agreement.
I wonder how many PUBLISHED stories Zadie Smith and the other judges would read to find one “great” story? Of course a free competition will have some chaff, but to expect “greatness” in a mid-level short story competition might be overstating the competition’s importance. Especially one “established to support unpublished writers.” Few writers achieve greatness without first passing through mediocrity, promise, proficiency…

Are We Stifling Imagination?

At the end of January, the results from a national poll were released indicating that "30% of American voters are not only dissatisfied with public education’s narrow focus on the “so-called” basics but that they also believe developing the imagination is a critical, but missing, ingredient to student success in 21st century schools and moving students beyond average. . . The majority of voters surveyed believe that it is extremely important to have good public schools nationwide, but there is also concern that public education in the United States is behind what is offered to students in other parts of the world and that we devote less attention to developing the imagination, creative skills, and innovation than other nations."

Here are some of the results of the poll.
Almost nine in ten voters (89%) say that using the imagination is important to innovation and one’s success in a global knowledge-based economy and essential to success in the 21st Century.

69% of American voters believe that, when compared to other nations, America devotes less attention to developing the imagination and innovation.

88% of respondents indicated that an education in and through the arts is essential to cultivating the imagination.

63% of voters strongly believe that building capacities of the imagination that lead to innovation is just as important as the “so called” basics for all students in the classroom and that an education in and through the arts helps to substantiate imaginative learning (91%) and should be considered a part of the basics.
This is interesting stuff. It is particularly timely for me, as my class is discussing the impact of NCLB on subjects outside of reading and math.

For additional resources and more information on the poll, please visit the imagine nation.

Teaching Resources - African American History

Each week I receive messages from EdInfo, an informational list that highlights new resources at FREE (Federal Resources for Educational Excellence). If you are interested in finding good resources for teaching and learning, this is a great list to join.

This week a number of really outstanding sites and materials were listed for African American history. Since I was moved when exploring them, I thought you might want to see them as well.

We Shall Overcome: Historic Places of the Civil Rights Movement
This site from the National Park Service shows 49 churches, houses, and other properties related largely to the post-World War II civil rights movement. The links to these properties consist of photographs and texts, and the exhibit offers a bibliography and links to websites relating to civil rights. Here is an excerpt from the Introduction.
In visiting the 49 places listed in the National Register for their association with the modern civil rights movement, as well as the Selma-to-Montgomery March route--a Department of Transportation designated "All-American Road" and a National Park Service designated National Historic Trail--two things will be apparent. First, although they had white supporters and sympathizers, the modern civil rights movement was designed, led, organized, and manned by African Americans, who placed themselves and their families on the front lines in the struggle for freedom. Their heroism was brought home to every American through newspaper, and later, television reports as their peaceful marches and demonstrations were violently attacked by law enforcement officers armed with batons, bullwhips, fire hoses, police dogs, and mass arrests. The second characteristic of the movement is that it was not monolithic, led by one or two men. Rather it was a dispersed, grass-roots campaign that attacked segregation in many different places using many different tactics. On this itinerary you will learn about the people and places associated with one of the most important chapters in our history.
Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers' Project, 1936-1938
From the American Memory Project at the Library of Congress, this site offers 2,300 first-person accounts of slavery and 500 photos of former slaves. The collection can be searched by name, city, state, topic, or other key words. These narratives were collected in the 1930s as part of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). This is heartbreaking and essential reading.

Drop Me Off in Harlem
This ArtsEdge site, a project of The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, is a multimedia exploration of the Harlem Renaissance (1920s-1930s). Students can hear Langston Hughes read his poems, listen to Duke Ellington direct his orchestra, or watch "Shorty" George Snowden dance the Lindy Hop. An interactive map displays important cultural, social, and political establishments. Lesson ideas and learning activities facilitate an arts-integrated approach to the study of key works and themes that emerged.

Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits
This site from the National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution presents photos of 100 famous and influential African Americans, from with Frederick Douglass and to Wynton Marsalis. Each portrait includes a brief biography.

Exploring Amistad: Race and Boundaries of Freedom in Antebellum Maritime America
Mystic Seaport's site explores the Amistad Revolt of 1839-1842 and how we make history of it. It uses timelines, a library of historical documents, a discovery section and bibliography to teach about this watershed historical event, which set off a legal, political, and popular debate over the slave trade, slavery, race, Africa, and ultimately America itself.

This should be enough to get you started. If you are hungry for more, visit African Americans Teaching and Learning Resources.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Judy Blume Interview

Shriek now in horror as I admit I have never read a book by Judy Blume. My son has Freckle Juice on his bookshelf, so I'll get to one soon, but I've not read the stuff everyone talks about, like Are You There, God? It's Me, Margaret (which came out when I was 5), Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing, or Blubber.

Scary admission aside, I do know a good interview when I read one. The Guardian writes about Judy's Blume's Lessons in Love as she approaches her 70th birthday. Once you're done with the article, head on over and check out her blog.

I guess now I'll need to pick up a title or two. Which one, dear readers, should I start with?

Monday, February 04, 2008

New Blog for Nonfiction!

I.N.K. - Interesting Nonfiction for Kids

Here's what the sidebar says.
Here we will meet the writers whose words are presenting nonfiction in a whole new way. Discover books that show how nonfiction writers are some of the best storytellers around. Learn how these writers practice their craft: research techniques, fact gathering and detective work. Check out how they find unusual tidbits, make the facts interesting and write something kids will love to read. Explore how photos and illustrations are integrated with the text to explain an artists vision of the world. Consider what subjects are flooding the market and what still needs a voice. Rethink nonfiction for kids.
Contributors include (just look at this list!):
Woohoo! I can't wait to read what these fine folks have in store. Do click on over and check it out.

Steve Jenkins Talks - Take Two

Last week over at the Cybils, we got a sneak peak at Steve Jenkins. Today, the entire glorious interview is up at Seven Imp. Stop by and learn more about this talented author/illustrator.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Inspired Image

Last month I promised to devote the first Monday of each month to writing poems inspired by images. 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.

Here is your inspiration.
This photograph was taken by Mark Knobil, a freelance video/film photographer from Pittsburgh. The image is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License. Please be sure to include this information on your site if you include the image with your poem.

Alright, there's your stretch. Write any form of poetry inspired by this image. Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll round them all up later this week.

P.S. - Next week we'll take up rhyming chants, as suggested by Mary Lee over at A Year of Reading, so be prepared to put your thinking caps on!

Friday, February 01, 2008

Poetry Friday - The Secret of the Universe

While going through some old journals this week I came across some some poems I wrote in high school. After forcing myself to read some excruciatingly bad stuff, I was rewarded when I found scraps of paper among the pages. Folded carefully and hidden between lists of favorite words and poem ideas were works by real poets. I didn't remember most of them, but they must have meant something to me at one time. Here's one that I've been thinking about since I pulled it from those dusty pages.
The Secret of the Universe
by Edward Dowden

I spin, I spin, around, around,
   And close my eyes,
   And let the bile arise
From the sacred region of the soul’s Profound;
Then gaze upon the world; how strange! how new!
   The earth and heaven are one,
   The horizon-line is gone,
The sky how green! the land how fair and blue!
Perplexing items fade from my large view,
And thought which vexed me with its false and true
Is swallowed up in Intuition; this,
   This is the sole true mode
   Of reaching God,
And gaining the universal synthesis
Which makes All—One; while fools with peering eyes
Dissect, divide, and vainly analyse.
So round, and round, and round again!
How the whole globe swells within my brain,
The stars inside my lids appear,
The murmur of the spheres I hear
Throbbing and beating in each ear;
Right in my navel I can feel
The centre of the world’s great wheel.
Ah peace divine, bliss dear and deep,
   No stay, no stop,
   Like any top
Whirling with swiftest speed, I sleep.
O ye devout ones round me coming,
Listen! I think that I am humming;
   No utterance of the servile mind
With poor chop-logic rules agreeing
   Here shall ye find,
But inarticulate burr of man’s unsundered being.
Ah, could we but devise some plan,
Some patent jack by which a man
Might hold himself ever in harmony
With the great whole, and spin perpetually,
   As all things spin
   Without, within,
As Time spins off into Eternity,
And Space into the inane Immensity,
And the Finite into God’s Infinity,
   Spin, spin, spin, spin.
The round-up this week is being hosted by Karen Edmisten. Before you head over to read all the great posts, be sure to read the results of this week's poetry stretch, where lots of creative people wrote roundels. Happy poetry Friday, all!