Saturday, May 31, 2008

Coming Soon - LIGO

The 13th Edition of Learning in the Great Outdoors will be delivered in a few short days. I forgot to post a reminder, so if you have any last minute entries, please send them directly to me and I will include you.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Poetry Friday - A Poem by J. Patrick Lewis

What do you do when an outstanding poet knocks on your (virtual) door? Why you open it and welcome the poet in, of course! That's just what I'm doing today.

J. Patrick Lewis (I think I can call him Pat now!) sent me a new poem and asked if I would like to share it on my blog. How could I say no? I'm throwing the doors of my virtual home wide open and asking him to make himself at home. Heck, you can all come over and join us. So, without further ado, here's an original. Thanks so much to Pat for letting me share it.
A Baseball Poem
by J. Patrick Lewis

A baseball poem
should swerve
like a sidearm curve

or tease a designated reader
with sublime

A baseball poem
should be as unexpected, say,
as an undetected
squeeze play

or explode like a six-run
bonanza and a grand slam
into the leftfield stanza.
Now that your mind is firmly on the diamond, why not check out this list of baseball books I posted last year? Alas, Kadir Nelson's book We Are the Ship hadn't been published yet, so it isn't on the list.

Today's round up is being hosted by Elaine at Wild Rose Reader. Do stop by and enjoy all the great poetry being shared this week. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Why I LOVE the Kidlitosphere

No, it isn't my blogiversary. I noticed that post 600 came and went a week or so ago, but that doesn't feel like much of a milestone. Life has been good to me lately, and in small part this is due to my participation in this lovely community. Here are some of the reasons why I love this little corner of the web.
It is a great place for sharing a love of books (and even the kids who read them!) with like-minded folks.

Smart, talented, BUSY authors take precious time from their days to e-mail thank you notes and kinds words for reviewing their books.

Folks who read my stuff and find it informative or interesting highlight my posts on their blogs. (Thanks to you generous people who do this.)

Thoughtful readers who know my blog send me links to articles they know will interest me. Likewise, I can write to others and say "I saw this and was thinking of you."

In a show of support for one our own, we banded together in support of Robert's Snow. The 2007 auction raised more than $63,000 to benefit sarcoma research.

Out of the blue I sometimes receive packages in the mail, like the signed copy of Mia Posada's Cybils nominated book that showed up this week. Thanks, Adrienne!

Generous bloggers hold contests and when you win, they send you things! Elaine, Jama, and MR have sent me books and pictures. How cool is that?

Authors invite you to join blog tours of their books. William and I just finished reading the ARC for this one and can't wait to talk about it!

A group of accomplished poets took a chance on me and included me in an amazing project to write a crown sonnet.

Last year this virtual community got together in Chicago for the 1st Annual Kidlit Conference. They're doing it again this year in Portland!

J. Patrick Lewis sent me an original poem to debut for Poetry Friday. HURRAY!
Yup, you read that last one correctly. Tomorrow I have the honor and pleasure of unveiling an original poem by one of my favorite poets. I could go on, but these are just some of the reasons I love this place. How about you? Why do you love the kidlitosphere?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Importance of Math in Our Lives

Summer school begins this week. The first session of my class The Teaching of Mathematics begins tomorrow. In addition to reviewing the syllabus and work of the semester, we spend a portion of our time thinking about math and why it is so important in our daily lives.

I begin by showing the animated short of Sandburg's Arithmetic. I then ask students to take five minutes to brainstorm and list all the ways they have used math in the last 24 hours. We discuss their lists as they share and then I read Math Curse by Jon Scieszka. It begins:
On Monday in math class, Mrs. Fibonacci says,
"You know, you can think of almost everything as a math problem."
On Tuesday I start having problems.
Through the eyes of a child we see that getting dressed, eating breakfast, catching the school bus, eating in the cafeteria, English, P.E., geography and just about everything else is related to math. How are these "problems" solved? With math, of course!

At this point the students are given a math attitude and anxiety assessment. Using a Likert scale they respond to a variety of statements like these.
  • Mathematics is very interesting to me, and I enjoy math courses.
  • My mind goes blank, and I am unable to think clearly when working math.
  • I am interested and willing to acquire further knowledge of mathematics.
  • Math has contributed greatly to science and other fields of knowledge.
  • Artists and writers as well as scientists need an understanding of math.
  • I feel a sense of insecurity when attempting mathematics.
  • Mathematics is dull and boring because it leaves no room for personal opinion.
  • Math helps develop a person’s mind and teaches thinking skills.
  • There is nothing creative about mathematics; it’s all about memorizing formulas and algorithms.
After this I ask students to think about what a world without math would look like. This is where I used to read a poem from Marvelous Math: A Book of Poems. Here is an excerpt.
from Take a Number
by Mary O'Neill

Imagine a world
Without mathematics:

No rulers or scales,
No inches or feet,
No dates or numbers
On house or street,
No prices or weights,
No determining heights,
No hours running through
Days and nights.

(Note: This was originally published in 1968 as the book Take a Number which introduced the basic concepts of mathematics in poetic form.)
This year I'll ask students to read and discuss the poem in small groups. After a brief class discussion I will follow with a reading of Missing Math: A Number Mystery by Loreen Leedy. In this new book (2008), Leedy shows readers what happens when the numbers all over town suddenly vanish. Beyond the obvious delight some children will have when they recognize that math can't be done (for shame!), they will soon recognize the dire situation we face without numbers, when we can no longer play sports (no scores), watch television (no channels), elect officials (no votes), send mail (no addresses), nor do lots of other things. This book is an imaginative romp through a world devoid of numbers that makes readers really take stock of the value of numbers and math in their lives. You can view the trailer for an inside look at the book.

All this takes about 45 minutes. It opens up a healthy discussion about the value and importance of math, while modeling for students the importance of integrating reading (poetry and children' literature) and other literacy skills (speaking and writing) into the mathematics curriculum. It also gets students thinking about real world connections and the ways in which they will need to begin thinking about how math is used. I want every teacher who leaves this class to be able to respond to the question "When will we ever use this stuff?" in meaningful ways, and I want them to have more than one answer!

Here are some resources I ask my preservice teachers to explore as they think about this question.
  • It's a Math World is a WebQuest in which students are asked to create a book that answers this question.
  • What Good is Math? is a site for students that attempts to answer this oft-asked question.
  • Mathletics looks specifically at the mathematics of sports. (Mathletics=Math +athletics--get it?)
  • Math in Daily Life examines how we use math to get things done, from cooking to decorating to playing games.
  • Get Real: Math in Everyday Life provides some examples of real world connections to math and suggests links to explore these ideas.
  • When a sixth grade class talked about math in everyday life, their teacher put their ideas together in Math is Everywhere!
  • has a series of articles about how we use math every day.
What do you do to help your students (young or old) think about the importance of math in their lives?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Monday Poetry Stretch - Another Cento

Since the inception of the Monday Poetry Stretch, we have practiced writing centos in two different ways.
The first cento excerise focused on writing a "true" cento, or poem made entirely of pieces from poems by other authors.

The next cento challenge was to write a "modified" cento, one in which the poem was composed of titles of books.
This weekend I read Michael Albert's book, An Artist's America. In it, Albert presents a series of collages created by taking everyday objects, like cereal boxes and soup cans, cutting them (or their labels) into pieces, then putting them back together in a new form. What is intriguing about these pieces of art is that even reassembled, many iconic images are still recognizable, like Tony the Tiger, the Campbell's soup label, the Trix's rabbit, and more.

So, inspired by Albert's book and art, I would like to suggest that this week's challenge be to write a cento composed of popular slogans and/or advertising phrases. I am trying to imagine how snippets of phrases like "it takes a licking and keeps on ticking" and "good to the last drop" might find their way into a poem.

Therein lies your challenge for the week. Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll post all the entries here later this week. Have fun with this one!

Memorial Day - Music and Lyrics

Today would have been a good day to debut my review of America a War by Lee Bennett Hopkins, but I couldn't wait so long after reading it to hit publish. It was such a moving collection of poems.

Instead, I have some music and lyrics for you. Let's start with lyrics. Yesterday on The Folk Sampler, the show was called "Remember This" and devoted entirely to songs commemorating Memorial Day. They played one of my favorite songs from the album Hearts in Mind by Nanci Griffith. The song is Big Blue Ball of War.

Big Blue Ball of War
by Nanci Griffith

In 1914 this ball was at war
It went from Belgium on through Ireland
The Congo, then back home

This big blue ball of war spun on its own
Spinning history in lines of blood
When many souls fell off

(chorus) We all ride on (we all ride)
This big blue ball of war
Souls with tickets through the veil
We all ride on
We all ride on (we all ride)
This big blue ball of war
We choose to spin around and ride
This big blue ball of war

Almost a century, the blood has flowed
We’ve killed our men of peace around this ball
And refused to hear their ghosts

We spend our destinies in deeds of hate
Humanity upon this ball
Is just a bloody fall from grace


A reformation might just save us all
A voice of harmony and open heart
Where the women teach the song

These men of evil deed can be proven wrong
If we join hand to hand with Abraham
So not a soul falls off

Memorial day has always been a solemn day for me. Here's a little something that just might heal some of the wounds that this day reopens for so many.

Visit the Free Hugs Campaign to learn more.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Giza's Beast - Writing and Revising

I posted an ottava rima for Poetry Friday from a collection of poems I've been working on about Ancient Egypt. These are nonfiction based and meant to be accompanied by a footnote or information section. I'm also working on a glossary. As I draft and revise poems multiple times, I'm very conscious of word choice and poetic form. I thought it might be interesting to share some of my thoughts on this one with you.

First, here's another copy of the poem.
Giza's Beast
Twice buried, twice unearthed from shifting sand,
four thousand years or more it's held this ground.
Colossus carved in limestone ever grand,
recumbent lion with a body crowned
by battered visage that surveys the land.
A monolith that guards the tombs renowned,
three pyramids from massive blocks of stone,
he keeps his secrets silent and alone.
Right now I'm working on the words that need definition. (Keep in mind that these poems are for kids.) I'm beginning with the Oxford English Dictionary, then will revise (simplify?) the definitions with the audience in mind. The first section contains words that must be defined. The second, words that might need to be defined.
Section 1
Colossus - Anything vast or gigantic, or which overawes by its greatness
I was bit worried about the use of this word, because the first definition is "A statue or image of the human form of very large dimensions." The sphinx is, after all, only part human. However, I love the rhythm the word imparts and the way it sounds when read aloud.

Recumbent - Of persons or animals: Lying down, reclining, reposing
I like this word for the same reason I like colossus. It sounds great and so much more sophisticated than lying down. I love words and want kids to appreciate that there are many, many ways to communicate a single idea.

Visage - The face, the front part of the head, of a person
I love this word for face. If you've seen images of the Sphinx, "battered visage" makes a lot of sense. The nose is broken, the eyes pierced with holes, the beard broken from the chin. In fact, it is this missing beard that is the reason the Sphinx was mistaken for having the head of woman.

Monolith - A single block of stone, esp. a large one shaped into a pillar or monument.
I thought it was important to select a word that described how the Sphinx was formed. I also like the way this one sounds. It works well in iambic pentameter.

Section 2
Unearth - To dig out of the earth, to exhume; to disclose by the removal of earth
While this makes sense, I can't see using the word earth in the definition. Perhaps ground or soil would be better choices.

Grand - (1) Eminent; great in reputation, position, scale of operations; (2) Great or important above all others of the kind; (3) With reference to physical magnitude, applied to objects that are magnificent in size and adornment; (4) Characterized by great solemnity, splendour, or display; (5) Of persons, their belongings or surroundings: Fine, splendid, gorgeously arrayed; (6) Used as a general term to express strong admiration: ‘Magnificent’, ‘splendid’.
When I wrote this line, I was going for magnificent. However, I worry I may have too many words that refer to the large size. Is this redundant? When you learn that some of the original paint can still be seen on the head of the Sphinx, I certainly picture it (or try to) in all its past glory.

Crowned - To occupy the head or summit of (a thing)

Battered - Bruised and shattered by repeated blows; worn and defaced by rough or hard usage, the chances of time, etc.

Renowned - Celebrated, famous
If read closely, this poem provides a lot of information about the Sphinx. Are there too many difficult words? That answer rests with the age of the intended readers. For what age do you think this poem is appropriate?

The facts in the poem will need to be reiterated (I think) in the footnote or endnote. Beyond that, I'm still thinking about how much information to include. A few simple sentences or a paragraph. What do you think?

Poetry Friday - Ottava Rima

This week's poetry stretch was to write an ottava rima. This is an Italian form that consists of eight line stanzas with the rhyme scheme abababcc. When written in English the lines are usually in iambic pentameter. Since no one took me up on the challenge this week, I'm debuting my (very rough draft) poem here.
Giza's Beast
Twice buried, twice unearthed from shifting sand,
four thousand years or more it's held this ground.
Colossus carved in limestone ever grand,
recumbent lion with a body crowned
by battered visage that surveys the land.
A monolith that guards the tombs renowned,
three pyramids from massive blocks of stone,
he keeps his secrets silent and alone.
The round up this week is being hosted by Becky over at Becky's Book Reviews. Be sure to stop by and take in all the great poetry being shared. Happy poetry Friday, all!

**Updated - If you're interested in my thoughts about the writing process and where I'm going with this, I have shared them.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Mo Talks Elephant and Piggie

I'm sure MR is all over this one, but for those of you who didn't hear it on NPR today, Mo Willems talked with Michelle Norris about Elephant and Piggie. Do give a listen. It's great stuff.

Chess in Books, Movies and More

I am in the process of moving my university web pages to a new site. As I work through the many, many pages I have created over the years, one old favorite was crying out for attention. I spent time today updating it, so if you have any interest in chess, quotes on chess, chess in books, movies and more, please check out my chess page.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

For My Teacher Friends

I am busily preparing for classes that begin next week while also working with some classroom teachers who are already looking towards the start of the NEXT school year. Say it with me now, the word is DEDICATED. In working with these teachers they asked me to come up with (in their words) a "quick and handy guide to web sites for content teaching." Okay, why not ask me to empty the ocean with a bucket? Seriously, there is so much great stuff on the web, I wasn't sure where to start.

What I've put together for them is a guided tour of sorts, to help them just scratch the surface of what's available. I have completed guides for math and science and am now working on social studies. If you have time and any interest in this, would you take a look and let me know what you think? If I've missed some broad category that should be included, please let me know.
Elementary Math on the Web - Guided Tour
Elementary Science on the Web - Guided Tour
**Updated** - Woohoo! The last tour is done. Please have a look at it as well.
Elementary Social Studies on the Web - Guided Tour

Monday, May 19, 2008

Some Things to Chew On

I have been mulling over book reviews, some topics I want to write about, and frankly, still trying to recover from the frenetic pace of posting during April. I never imagined writing a post a day would be so hard! Not only did I write 30 posts on poetry in the classroom, but posted an additional 33 entries for the month.

There is much worth reading about these days, so please forgive me for sending you on to some pieces worthy of your attention.
Yesterday on Weekend Edition there was a story about Isamu Fukui, a teenager who has written a book called Truancy. I was a bit surprised by some of the comments of his editor. Do take a few minutes to listen. It's interesting stuff.

My friend and colleague Libby Gruner has a terrific piece up over at Literary Mama on The Arrival and The Invention of Hugo Cabret. By the way, she's also posting once a week (Tuesdays, I think) over at Mama PhD.

The Summer Blog Blast Tour is underway. You can see the full schedule at Chasing Ray.

The May issue of The Edge of the Forest is out and packed with lots of thoughtful pieces.

Just down the road from me at William and Mary, Denise Johnson has started a blog entitled The Joy of Children's Literature to accompany her book of the same name. She's been posting since March, but it took me a while to find her. Welcome, Denise!
That's all for now. I'm off to bake cookies with my son. I'll be back soon with some posts of actual substance.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Ottava Rima

I'm back on my iambic pentameter kick. I have been working on a collection of poems about ancient Egypt, and have been trying out several forms in this meter. This week I thought it might be fun to try ottava rima. Ottava rima is an Italian form that consists of a stanza of eight lines with the rhyme scheme abababcc. In English, the lines are usually written in iambic pentameter. Ottava rima is generally associated with epic poems (like Don Juan), but can be used for shorter poems.

An example of ottava rima can be found in the poem Sailing to Byzantium. Here are the first two stanzas of the poem.

Sailing to Byzantium
by William Butler Yeats

That is no country for old men. The young
In one another's arms, birds in the trees
- Those dying generations - at their song,
The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas,
Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long
Whatever is begotten, born, and dies.
Caught in that sensual music all neglect
Monuments of unageing intellect.

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress,
Nor is there singing school but studying
Monuments of its own magnificence;
And therefore I have sailed the seas and come
To the holy city of Byzantium.

So, this is your challenge for this week. Write a poem in the form of ottava rima. This is a great form for storytelling, so if you have one to share, go for it! Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Meme of Five

I've seen this meme around lots of blogs in the last two weeks. I'll admit to feeling a bit left out around midweek when I hadn't been tagged yet. Yes, I was swamped with work, so what better time to wade in the mire of procrastination? I shouldn't have worried, however, because Elaine made sure I was included in the fun. Hang on because here we go!
  1. The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
  2. Each player answers the questions about themselves.
  3. At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read the player’s blog.
  4. Let the person who tagged you know when you’ve posted your answer.

As per my prerogative, I'm going to change a few of these rules/questions.

What were you doing one year ago?
Last year at this time I was just beginning my trip to China, Tibet and Taiwan. It makes me very sad to see all that has happened in Tibet and China since then. I can happily relate that nearly one year after meeting Ma Ying-jeou, he will be sworn in as President of Taiwan on May 20th.

What are five things on your to-do list for today (not in any particular order)?

  1. Write a thank you note.
  2. Rehearse the songs for mass on Sunday.
  3. Take my son and his friend out to dinner.
  4. Laundry.
  5. Read today's poetry Friday entries.

What are five snacks you enjoy?

  1. Chips, chips, chips (Lots of salt, no flavors)
  2. Cashews
  3. Olives
  4. Cheese and crackers
  5. Dried fruit (especially apricots and dates)

What five things would you do if you were a billionaire?

  1. Fly to see my family as often as I want or am needed.
  2. Send all my nieces and nephews to college without student loans.
  3. Travel extensively with William so he can learn about the world through more than just books.
  4. Supply books for kids and families that can't afford their own.
  5. Keep working, because I love what I do, though my department would never lack for anything.
What are five of your bad habits/traits?
  1. I am stubborn, stubborn, stubborn.
  2. I must always be right. (No, really.)
  3. I drink milk from the gallon when no one is looking.
  4. I like my music LOUD--in the car, the kitchen, my headphones, you name it.
  5. I stick my tongue out at my husband when he annoys me. This annoys him, but makes me feel oh so much better.

What are five places where you have lived? (I've included places I lived while in college.)

  1. Rochester, NY
  2. New London, CT
  3. StonyBrook, NY
  4. Buffalo, NY
  5. Richmond, VA

What are five jobs you've had?

  1. Marine Science Research Assistant (I sat in a darkened room in front of an electron microscope and counted red tide cells for hours on end.)
  2. Waitress (StonyBrook Catering, Andriko's Place (Flushing, NY), Miss Buffalo/Niagara Clipper)
  3. Factory Worker (I assembled physics equipment, like circuit boards, Van de Graaff generators, and more.)
  4. Quality Control (I tested dog biscuits for fat content. This was a job where I spent 8-hours a day doing organic chemistry. Very cool.)
  5. Teacher - In all of its various forms, still my best job EVER!
I'm not tagging anyone else. If you are reading this and haven't participated yet, why not?

Poetry Friday - To Sleep

Work was crazy this week and I've had a lot on my mind, so I'm very tired and desperate for a good night's sleep. Apparently, people had this same problem in the 16th century. Here is a sonnet from that time about sleep.
To Sleep
by Sir Philip Sidney

Come, Sleep; O Sleep! the certain knot of peace,
The baiting-place of wit, the balm of woe,
The poor man’s wealth, the prisoner’s release,
Th’ indifferent judge between the high and low;
With shield of proof, shield me from out the prease
Of those fierce darts Despair at me doth throw:
O make in me those civil wars to cease;
I will good tribute pay, if thou do so.
Take thou of me smooth pillows, sweetest bed,
A chamber deaf to noise and blind to light,
A rosy garland and a weary head:
And if these things, as being thine by right,
Move not thy heavy grace, thou shalt in me,
Livelier than elsewhere, Stella’s image see.
I checked the old Oxford English Dictionary, but could not find an entry for prease. Any thoughts on this one?

The round up this week is being hosted by the fine ladies at Two Writing Teachers. Do stop by to read some of the wonderful poetry being shared this week. Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!

**UPDATED - Believe it or not, I was exhausted at the close of last semester (what does THAT say about me?) and posted a poem about sleep then as well. It was a sonnet by John Keats, also entitled To Sleep. Drug of choice, indeed!

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Poetry Stretch Results - Six-Words

The challenge this week was to write a poem that contained the five words hole, friend, candle, ocean, and snake, as well as either bucket or scarecrow as the sixth word. Here's what people came up with.
Noah the Great shares a poem entitled Digger.

sister AE at Having Writ gives us a poem called With.

cloudscome at a wrung sponge shares a diamante.

Elaine at Wild Rose Reader makes it all look so effortless in Poetry on Demand.
My poem this week is about one of my favorite summer pastimes from childhood.

It's not too late if you still want to play. Write your own six-word poem using the guidelines above, leave me a comment, and I'll add it to the list.

Checking In - And Yes, I'm Still Here!

Sorry I've been silent this week, but it's been very busy since graduation on Sunday. Here's what I've been doing.
  • Monday - faculty meeting, department meeting, strategic planning meeting/training
  • Tuesday - strategic planning meeting, human subjects review board meeting
  • Wednesday - department retreat, grants meeting
As you can see, I've been drowning in a mire of administrative work. Today, however, I had the distinct pleasure of serving on a team that reviewed nominees for Virginia's Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science in the area of elementary (K-6) science. I can't tell you how inspiring it was to read about and watch exemplary teachers at work. It was a long day, but well worth every minute.

Tomorrow it's back to the office and a more regular schedule. Thanks for checking in!

Monday, May 12, 2008

Original Poem - Six Words

I know I just posted this week's poetry stretch this morning, but I was inspired while scribbling away during a LONG meeting today. I began by doing some word association to see how I might use the seemingly six unconnected words in a poem. When I was reminded of one of my favorite childhood summer activities, the words began to spill out onto the page. These are the moments when I am reminded of just how magical writing poetry can be. (Now, don't go equating magic with ease. I've already revised five times, and it's not finished yet! The magic came in making these wonderful memories concrete.)

Here are the words: hole, friend, candle, ocean, snake, and scarecrow.
Here is the poem.
Swimming in an ocean of corn,
stalks straight and tall,
we run,
carving paths that snake
between the rows,
avoiding the gaze of
a watchful scarecrow,
defending the far end of the field.

Arriving somewhere in the middle,
we make a hole,
a circular fort where
two friends whisper secrets,
until the candles of evening
flicker and flame.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Six Words

In the book I Am Writing a Poem About . . . A Game of Poetry, Myra Cohn Livingston writes about three of the assignments she gave to students in her master class in poetry at UCLA. A while back, Elaine at Wild Rose Reader and Janet Wong, one of the students in Livingston's master class, challenged folks to write ring/drum/blanket poems. This is one of the assignments that is described in the book. The third assignment Livingston gave was to write a six-word-based poem. Here is a description from the book's introduction.
About the last assignment--a six-word-based poem--there was some debate. Everyone agreed that hole, friend, candle, ocean, bucket, and snake presented possibilities, but a few preferred the word scarecrow to bucket, so a choice was given. Hole, friend, candle, ocean, and snake were mandatory, but one could choose either bucket or scarecrow as the sixth word.
Now, that is a challenge! We are going to follow Livingston's directions, so your job this week is to write a poem that contains the five words hole, friend, candle, ocean, and snake, as well as either bucket or scarecrow as the sixth word. Leave me a comment about your poem and I will post the results here later this week.

New Learning in the Great Outdoors

The new edition of Learning in the Great Outdoors is up over at 10,000 Birds. Charlie has done a magnificent job putting it all together. If you have any inclination towards learning outside (and even if you don't!), do head over and check it out.

BTW - I'm hosting next month, so get your submissions to me by June 11th!

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Read/Heard Today - Our Deepest Fear

This poem was shared by our commencement speaker today.
Our Deepest Fear
by Marianne Williamson

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness
That most frightens us.

We ask ourselves
Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?
Actually, who are you not to be?
You are a child of God.

Your playing small
Does not serve the world.
There's nothing enlightened about shrinking
So that other people won't feel insecure around you.

We are all meant to shine,
As children do.
We were born to make manifest
The glory of God that is within us.

It's not just in some of us;
It's in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
We unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we're liberated from our own fear,
Our presence automatically liberates others.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Write Some Science Verse

Found this in today's Guardian Unlimited blog.
Write Some Formulaic Verse
The idea that science and poetry are mutually exclusive realms is a widespread misconception. Please prove it wrong here.
There are some interesting submissions in the comments. Do take a look.

Poetry Friday - Flowers

It's raining this morning, but until now, it's been beautiful. I've been admiring the flowers. While I can't show them to you, I can share them in another way.
by Florence Taber Holt

Not all flowers have souls,
But roses, for they are memories of lovers,
And lilies, their prayers,
Azaleas; who give themselves to the winds,
And irises, beloved of Pindar,
And the pale oenothera,
Incandescent in the twilight,
And many sweet and simple flowers—
Snowdrops and violets,
White and delicately veined—
And all shadowy wind-flowers.
But not tree blossoms,
Which are the breath of Spring,
Nor poppies, splendid and secret,
And sprung from drops of Persian blood,
Nor water-lilies, who have but their dreams,
And float, little worlds of scent and color,
Wrapt in their golden atmosphere.
The round up today is being hosted by writer2b at Findings: Threads of Revelation. Do stop by to enjoy all the great poetry being shared this week. Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Poetry Stretch Results - May Inspired Image

This week's challenge was to write a poem in response to this image.
This photograph was taken by lijojohnson and is protected under a Creative Commons license.

Here's what folks are sharing this week.
Daisybug at Things that make me say... shares a poem entitled Lessons.

Marianne Nelson at Doing the Write Thing! shares a poem entitled Mountains.

sister AE at Having Writ give us a poem entitled Sand.
My poem is entitled Two Boys Build.

It's not too late if you still want to play. Leave me a comment about your poem and I'll add it to the list.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Visual Literacy - Part 2

We spent some time in the later part of the morning looking at some amazing tools for examining text. The first one should be of interest to Monica.

TextArc - A TextArc is a visual representation of a text—the entire text (twice!) on a single page. A funny combination of an index, concordance, and summary; it uses the viewer's eye to help uncover meaning.
Be sure to explore the Alice in Wonderland link.

US Presidential Speeches Tag Cloud - This tag cloud shows the popularity, frequency, and trends in the usages of words within speeches, official documents, declarations, and letters written by the Presidents of the US between 1776 - 2007 AD. The dataset consists of over 365 documents downloaded from Encyclopedia Britannica,, and WhiteHouse.Gov.

I'm not sure how I'll use these, but I'm going to share them with teachers and see what they think.

Thinking About Visual Literacy - Notes From a Workshop

Dear Blog Readers,
I spent the day yesterday in a series of workshop on integrating technology into undergraduate education.

Today I am spending the day in a workshop on visual literacy. I am learning a lot and finding some really interesting resources for my teaching. Here are two you may want to explore on your own.

Periodic Table of Visual Literacy

WordCount - WordCount™ is an interactive presentation of the 86,800 most frequently used English words.
Make your guess as to the top five words before you click.
Here's where you'll find some of the my favorite words.
  • abstruse - 46,891
  • gossamer - 46,065
  • wanderlust - 69,638
Where do some of your favorite words rank?

Alright, back to work. Stay tuned for an update during our next break.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Original Poem - May Inspired Image

This week's poetry stretch was to write a poem inspired by the image below.
This photograph was taken by lijojohnson and is protected under a Creative Commons license.

When I saw this photo, I couldn't help but compare it to this one of my son.
I began thinking about two boys, worlds apart, engaged in the same activity. Here is the poem that resulted.
Two Boys Build
Near the Bay of Bengal
and the Chesapeake Bay,
two boys build.

Covered in sand
they dig,
dump, pat,

They sit back,
evaluate, and
admire their work.

Both wonder when
rolling waves
will flatten their

After destruction comes,
they build
again—more carefully,
solidly, passionately,

Divided by time,
language, country
and culture,

united by this
simple childhood

two boys build.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Nonfiction Monday - Sea Queens

Before we begin, let's play a bit of word association. What comes to mind when you hear the word pirate? When I was younger the response probably would have been Errol Flynn or the Dread Pirate Roberts. For today's movie-goers it's probably Johnny Depp. But move beyond the movie swashbuckling for a moment and think about pirating as a profession. Now what comes to mind? Thieves? Murderers? Skull and crossbones? Black eye patch? Wooden leg? Dirty? Dastardly? Yes, I know, stereotypical all. During this little experiment in word association did the word woman come to mind--not in the damsel-in-distress connotation, but as the PIRATE?

Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World, written by Jane Yolen and illustrated by Christine Joy Pratt, is a thoroughly engrossing book about women in history who joined the ranks of pirate. The first chapter, entitled Sea Queens, begins this way.

A pirate is a robber who roams the oceans of the world. He thieves and pillages and murders. Above his ship flies the skull-and-crossbones flag.

The pirate is a low-class dirty dog, a dirty down-and-outer with few teeth and a black patch on his eye. His is as often dead drunk as sober.

But wait--not all of that is true.

Some pirates did their thieving on rivers.

Some pirates, called privateers, robbed only enemies of their country. They sailed under a letter of marque--permission from their king or queen.
And not all pirates were men.

Not all pirates were men?

Yes, some of the greatest pirates ever known were women.

This introduction goes on to describe the "basics" of the pirate world, from flags to vocabulary, the pirate code, treasure and more.

What follows are 12 biographies of women pirates through history, beginning with Artemisia, Admiral-Queen from Persia (500-480 BC) and ending with Madame Ching from China (early nineteenth century). Accompanied by illustrations done in pen and ink on scratchboard, the biographies attempt to separate fact from fiction while providing as much solid information about the pirates as possible. The narratives are engaging and fun to read. They are accompanied by highlight boxes that provide a bit of context for the time and place, as well as interesting tidbits learned while researching the pirate. For example, the chapter on Anne Bonney and Mary Read, two pirates in the American colonies in the early eighteenth century, includes boxes on Piracy in the Carolinas, Anne's Poem (a poem said to have been written by Anne Bonney), How Anne's Story Was Told, How American Pirates Attacked, Women as Soldiers, Who Was Wood Rogers?, Who Knew They Were Women? and Captain Barnet's Attack. The biographies vary in length, with some extending only three pages, and others well beyond ten.

The book concludes with a chapter entitled Roundup, which includes a list of other women pirates about whom only a little is known. The chapter states:

Most pirates--men or women--have remained unknown to history unless captured and hanged or pardoned. Also the earlier accounts have been so compromised by folklore and legend, there are often few facts to back up the stories we do have.

This is a well researched book, as evidenced by the extensive bibliography of books and web sites. In fact, Jane Yolen includes a bibliographic note that says:

When I wrote an earlier book on women pirates, there was little easily obtained information about them. I didn't know then about Grania O'Malley, or Artemisia, or Teuta. In the over forty years since publication of that book, Pirates in Petticoats, scholars have done much work on the subject of women pirates. This book uses a lot of that new material.

If it's any indication of how much I enjoyed this book, you should know that day it arrived I sat on the couch in my office (okay, reclined!) and read it from cover to cover. It is a fascinating, well-written text that is thoroughly engaging. This may actually be one of my favorite nonfiction reads of the year to date. I highly recommend it.

Sea Queens: Women Pirates Around the World
Jane Yolen
Christine Joy Pratt
Charlesbridge Publishing
Publication Date:
July 2008
104 pages
Source of Book: Review copy received from Raab Associates.

This post was written for Nonfiction Monday. Head on over to Anastasia Suen’s blog and check out all the great posts highlighting nonfiction this week.

Monday Poetry Stretch - Inspired Image

It's the first Monday of the month, so that means this week's poetry stretch is to write a poem from an image. The poem may take any form that inspires you. Here is the image we'll be writing about.
This photograph was taken by lijojohnson and is protected under a Creative Commons license. You may include this photo with your poem as long as you include this attribution on your blog.

What does this photo say to you? What kind of poem will you write? Leave me a comment about your work and I'll post the results here later this week. Don't forget that if you like this kind of stretch, you can take it up every week with Laura Purdie Salas and her 15 words or less challenge

Friday, May 02, 2008

Poetry Friday - Love's Perjuries

I mentioned earlier this week that I am not a fan of love poetry, but I withhold any reservations for the work of Shakespeare. Today I'm sharing one of his poems.
Love's Perjuries
On a day, alack the day!
Love, whose month is ever May,
Spied a blossom passing fair
Playing in the wanton air:
Through the velvet leaves the wind,
All unseen, 'gan passage find;
That the lover, sick to death,
Wish'd himself the heaven's breath.
Air, quoth he, thy cheeks may blow;
Air, would I might triumph so!
But, alack, my hand is sworn
Ne'er to pluck thee from thy thorn:
Vow, alack, for youth unmeet;
Youth so apt to pluck a sweet.
Do not call it sin in me
That I am forsworn for thee:
Thou for whom Jove would swear
Juno but an Ethiope were,
And deny himself for Jove,
Turning mortal for thy love.
The round up this week is being hosted by Kelly over at Big A little a. Do stop by and take in all the great poetry being shared this week. Before you go, don't forget to check out this week's poetry stretch results, where you'll find some yummy poetry on food. Happy poetry Friday, all!

Poetry Stretch Results - Food Poems

This week I challenged folks to write poems about food. Here are the delicious results.
Mad Kane at Mad Kane's Humor Blog is in with a limerick entitled Ode to an Ill-Tempered Felon.

Cassy at Reach for More - Aspira a más shares a salad poem entitled En busca de la ensalada perfecta. Welcome Cassy!

Elaine at Wild Rose Reader shares three poems about food.

Evelyn at Light One Small Candle is in with a series of limericks entitled A "god" called food. Welcome Evelyn!

Linda at Write Time shares two food-inspired poems.
My poem was written in haste on the back of an envelope as I watched my toothless son attempt to eat an ear of corn. I was temporarily heartbroken for him, then greedily ecstatic for myself. The poem is called Uneaten Ears.

It's not too late if you still want to play. Dash off your food poem and leave me a comment. As soon as you do, I'll add your poem to the list.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Opportunity Cost with Clementine

I am always looking for good ways to help students understand the concept of opportunity cost. One activity I like is to give students a coloring page with something like an elephant on one side and a panda on the other. After students have colored both sides, I inform them that they must choose their favorite to cut out and post on the board. This is where the problems begin. In order to choose one, the other will be destroyed. Very quickly, students learn that opportunity cost is the alternative given up when making a choice.

Tops and Bottoms, a Caldecott honor book written and illustrated by Janet Stevens, is a terrific book for introducing this concept. Until now, this was one of only a few books I relied on for this topic. Thanks to Sara Pennypacker, I can now add The Talented Clementine to the list. Here is an excerpt (pp. 67-68).
My parents always try to bribe each other into taking me shopping, which I do not think is funny. But--okay, fine--I take a really, really long time in stores. My parents think I have a hard time choosing things, but that's not it. I can choose things just fine. The problem is, whenever you have to choose something, that means you have to not-choose about a hundred other things. Which is not so easy.

Like in the candy store. If you choose peanut butter cups you have to not-choose red licorice and M&M's and Starbursts and bubble gum. And Tootsie Rolls and Gummi Worms and Pixy Stix.

And no matter what you pick, as soon as you take the first bite, you suddenly know you wanted one of the other ones.
Out of the mouths of babes. This will be a great example for my next classroom visit.