Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Tuesday Poetry Stretch - Snow

William and I have been reading books about snow -- Snowflake Bentley, The Story of Snow, and The Secret Life of a Snowflake.

Sadly, we won't be having white holidays this year. In fact, it looks like it will be raining. Even though we don't expect to see flakes any time soon, we're still dreaming of snow angels, sledding, snowball fights, and hoping for at least one snow day.

Have you been dreaming of snow? Whether you love it or hate, we've all got some snow poetry in our hearts. I particularly like to read about it during this time of year. I'm fond of Dickinson (It sifts from leaden sieves,/ It powders all the wood,/ It fills with alabaster wool/ The wrinkles of the road.), Collins (Today we woke up to a revolution of snow,/ its white flag waving over everything,/ the landscape vanished,), Stevens (One must have a mind of winter/ To regard the frost and the boughs/ Of the pine-trees crusted with snow;) and many others.

So, I've been inspired to read and write about snow this week. How about you? Leave me a note about your poem and I'll share the results later this week.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Monday Poetry Stretch - "Index" or "Table of Contents" Poem

If you could write your life or someone else's in an abbreviated form, what would it look like? This is the question I ask myself every time I read Paul Violi's poem "Index." You can read the poem at The Agonist. You may also be interested in Violi's words on the poem.

While thinking this might be an interesting form to try, I came across some "table of contents" poems.

So, I'm imagining this as something of a biographical (or autobiographical) list poem. Let's see what kind of poetry we can make of this, shall we? Leave me a note about your poem and I'll share the results here later this week.

Elementary Math Work Stations

My students have begun to turn in their final projects for math. This semester, a few brave souls are putting all their materials online. As their work goes live, I'll link it here for those of you with an interest. 

Today I am highlighting the work of Christine Mingus. Check out her project entitled Playing With Patterns. You'll find kindergarten resources for at least 10 different station activities, all complete with downloads.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Encouraging Reluctant Mathematicians at Home - Part 1

Encouraging and nurturing the love of mathematics can be a challenge both at home and in the classroom. One way to support reluctant math lovers is to get them reading about math. There are many terrific books that include mathematical content or challenging puzzles to solve. Here are some titles that will encourage children to stretch their mathematical muscles in a different way.

The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster - Take a journey with Milo, a young boy who drives through a magic tollbooth into the Lands Beyond and embarks on a quest to rescue the maidens Rhyme and Reason from exile and reconcile the estranged kingdoms of Dictionopolis and Digitopolis. This is a great book for kids enamored of words and/or numbers.

Grandfather Tang's Story: A Tale Told With Tangrams by Ann Tompert and The Warlord's Puzzle by Virginia Pilegard are both stories that revolve around an ancient Chinese puzzle made from a large square cut into seven pieces. The seven shapes include a small square, two small triangles, a medium-sized triangle, two large triangles and a parallelogram. Kids can read the stories and follow along with their own set of tangrams!

The Number Devil: A Mathematical Adventure by Hans Magnus Enzensberger - With full color illustrations, this book tells the story of a twelve year old boy and math hater named Robert, who meets the Number Devil in his dreams. Over  the course of twelve nights, the Number Devil illustrates different mathematical ideas using things like coconuts and furry calculators. Along the way he also takes Robert to Number Paradise where he meets different mathematicians.

Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett - Petra and Calder are preoccupied with Vermeer. When a Vermeer painting is stolen in transit from the National Gallery in Washington D.C. to the Chicago Institute of Art, they become intent on finding the painting and solving the mystery. Clues and mysteries abound.
  • Calder carries a set of pentominoes in his pocket at all times, so be sure to print your own set to use while reading this one!
  • Play pentominoes online.
  • Learn more about the book, the author, and the other books in the series at the Scholastic site
Brown Paper School Math Books by Marilyn Burns - Don't let the publication dates fool you into thinking these are out of date (one was first published in 1975!). These are great books for helping kids see that math is fun and for everyone.

The Book of Think: Or How to Solve a Problem Twice Your Size
The I Hate Mathematics! Book
Math for Smarty Pants

The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart - Eleven year-old Reynie Muldoon is intrigued by an ad in the paper that asks “Are You a Gifted Child looking for Special Opportunities?” Reynie and dozens of other children show up to answer the ad and take a mind-boggling series of tests, but only Reynie and three others are left at the end. Puzzles and mysteries abound in this adventurous tale. Sequels include The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey and The Mysterious Benedict Society and the Prisoner's Dilemma.

Books by Greg Tang - Greg Tang has written a series of books that encourage children to look for patterns in math and find more "economical" ways of solving problems.

The Best of Times: Math Strategies That Multiply
Grapes of Math: Mind Stretching Math Riddles
Math Appeal
Math Fables: Lessons That Count
Math Fables Too: Making Science Count
Math for All Seasons: Mind-Stretching Math Riddles
Math Potatoes: More Mind-Stretching Brain Food
    The Man Who Counted: A Collection of Mathematical Adventures by Malba Tahan - Orginally published in 1949 as O Homem que Calculava, this book of mathematical puzzles was written by Júlio César de Mello e Souza and published under the pen name Malba Tahan.  The book is an enjoyable  series  of "Arabian nights"-style tales, with each story built around a classic mathematical puzzle. In each tale, Beremiz Samir uses his mathematical powers to "settle disputes, give wise advice, overcome dangerous enemies, and win for himself fame and fortune."

    The Puzzling World of Winston Breen by Eric Berlin - Winston sees puzzles everywhere. Imagine his dismay when he gives his sister a box for her birthday, only to learn that it has a secret compartment containing four wood sticks with puzzle clues. Readers will solve puzzles right along with Winston and his sister Katie as they try to solve the mystery. The sequel to this book, The Potato Chip Puzzles, is also highly entertaining.

    Books by Theoni Pappas - Written in the same vein as the Brown Paper School Books, Pappas has written many books about math, my favorites of which are those where a cat explores the math in and around his house.

    The Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat
    Further Adventures of Penrose the Mathematical Cat

      The Origami Master by Nathaniel Lachenmeyer, Lissy's Friends by Grace Lin (picture books), and Fold Me a Poem by Kristine O'Connell George (poetry) are all books about origami. Paper folding is a great visual and spatial puzzler for kids and adults. It's also fun!
      Do the Math: Secrets, Lies, and Algebra by Wendy Lichtman - Tess is an eighth grade girl experiencing typical middle school problems--friends breaking promises, peers cheating on tests, the boy that may-or-may not be interested--as well negotiating some drama at home. Tess examines everything logically and views her world through the lens of mathematics.
      "The way Sammy spoke about her mother made me think of what Venn diagrams look like when the two sets have nothing in common--like, for example, the set of odd numbers and the set of even numbers. Their intersection is called an empty set, because there's nothing in it. There's not one number that can be both odd and even. I didn't like thinking of Sammy and her mother like that--like an empty set." (p.49)
      While the book isn't necessarily about math, Tess has many interesting mathematical insights and how they relate to the world we live in. 

      That's it for now. Do you have a favorite book that offers something mathematical to puzzle over? If so, please share. I would love to add your ideas to this list.

      Tuesday, November 29, 2011

      Tuesday Poetry Stretch - Hay(na)ku

      We tried this form back in 2009, so it's time to dig it out and try again! The hay(na)ku and was created in 2003 by poet Eileen Tabios. Here are the guidelines.
      Hay(na)ku is a 3-line poem of six words with one word in the first line, two words in the second, and three in the third. There are no other rules and no restrictions on number of syllables or rhyme.
      Need some examples? You can find some Hay(na)ku poetry contest winners at the Hay(na)ku Poetry blog. There is also a thoughtful essay about the form at Dragoncave. As you'll see from the examples, some folks create poems comprised of several hay(na)ku strung together. 

      So, what kind of hay(na)ku will you write? Leave me a note about your poem and I'll share the results here later this week.

      Monday, November 14, 2011

      Monday Poetry Stretch - Ideograms

      On Poetry Friday I shared this poem by May Swenson.
      Cardinal Ideograms
      by May Swenson

      0     A mouth.  Can blow or breathe,
             be a funnel, or Hello.

      1     A grass blade or cut.

      2     A question seated.  And a proud
             bird’s neck.

      3     Shallow mitten for a two-fingered hand.

      4     Three-cornered hut
             on one stilt.  Sometimes built
             so the roof gapes.

      I love the notion of writing about the shape of things. What do you see in the number 6? Or the letter Y? What kind of ideogramatic poem can from the word L-O-V-E? (Ideogramatic? Yeah, I just made that up!)

      Visit Joyce Sidman's site to see how she used the words in her name to write an ideogram poem. Now it's your turn to write an ideogram poem. Leave me a note about your work and I'll share the results here later this week.

      Friday, November 11, 2011

      Poetry Friday - Cardinal Ideograms

      I have been reading a bit of May Swenson these days. I always read Analysis of Baseball each spring as a way to celebrate the return of the sport. Currently I'm ruminating on the poem below.
      Cardinal Ideograms
      by May Swenson

      0     A mouth.  Can blow or breathe,
             be a funnel, or Hello.

      1     A grass blade or cut.

      2     A question seated.  And a proud
             bird’s neck.

      3     Shallow mitten for a two-fingered hand.

      4     Three-cornered hut
             on one stilt.  Sometimes built
             so the roof gapes.

      The round up today is being hosted by Teaching Authors. Do stop by and take in all the wonderful pieces being shared this Veteran's Day. Before you go, check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday all!

      Monday, November 07, 2011

      Monday Poetry Stretch - Commemorate

      Yesterday this little blog was 5 years old. I suppose I would throw more of a celebration if I was more productive than I have been in the last year and a half. A lot of the meaty, nonfiction stuff is appearing on the blog I now write with my students. Miss Rumphius, save for poetry, has been sadly neglected. Neglected and all, I'm still thinking about celebrations and commemorations. This Friday is Veteran's Day. Thanksgiving is around the corner. My dog just turned 14. There are lots of things we can celebrate and remember, from the grand to the small. What would you like to remember?

      Let's write about that this week. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll share the results later this week.

      Monday, October 31, 2011

      Monday Poetry Stretch - Three Words

      I've been fiddling with the sestina as of late and having difficulty, so I thought a three word prompt might inspire me a bit. Since I'm still thinking fall, here are the three words I have been working with.
      • gate
      • leaf
      • moon
      Your challenge this week is to use these three words in a poem. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll share the results later this week.

      Monday, October 24, 2011

      Monday Poetry Stretch - For the Season

      Fall is my favorite season. I'm so grateful I still live in an area where the leaves change color. Fall poetry inspires me almost as much as the season. I could live on a steady diet of Frost during these months. I've read and re-read October, Gathering Leaves, After Apple-picking, and Nothing Gold Can Stay. I've also spent time perusing Keats and Ode to Autumn.

      So, now that you're thinking fall, let's write about that. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll share the results here later this week.

      Friday, October 21, 2011

      Poetry Friday - At the Sea Floor Café

      At the Sea Floor Café: Odd Ocean Critter Poems, written by Leslie Bulion and illustrated by Leslie Evans, is a collection that contains 18 poems, a helpful glossary of scientific terms, poetry notes that describe the form of the poems, and suggestions for additional resources. Did you know that Bulion has a graduate degree in oceanography? That means you'll find poetry and science--a perfect pairing in my opinion--that are nicely matched in this collection. 

      Here's a poem about an octopus.
      Walk Like a Nut

      This octopus walks backwards on two arms,
      And wraps the other six around its top.
      It ambles free of predatory harms,
      And thus avoids become shark-chewed slop.

      It winds six tentacles around its top,
      Pretending to be flotsam sharks ignore,
      And treads away from trouble, flippy flop,
      Instead of being chomped to guts and gore--

      A coconut that strolls across the ocean floor.

      Poem © Leslie Bulion. All rights reserved.
      The poems in this collection are accompanied by factual information. Here's the text about the coconut octopus.
      The coconut octopus wraps six of its arms around its head and walks backwards on its other two arms. This movement makes the octopus look like a coconut drifting across the shallow sea floor near Indonesia. Predators hunting for an eight-tentacled snack pass on by.
      This is just the type of book I enjoying sharing with my preservice teachers. The blending of poetry and informational text makes this a good choice for teachers attempting to to integrate children's literature into the content areas.

      If you want some additional information on ocean life, here are just a few resources you may find useful.
      The round up this week is being hosted by Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup. Do stop by and take in all the terrific poetry being shared. Before you go, be sure to check out this week's poetry stretch results. Happy poetry Friday all!

      Monday, October 17, 2011

      Monday Poetry Stretch - Children's Book Inspiration

      I was thinking about selecting words for a prompt today, but then decided it might be more fun is you could pick your own, within some parameters. So, here's the challenge. Head over to Fuse #8 and check out the titles on the Top 100 Picture Books Poll. Pick a title with at least three words. Write the words in the title down the page and use these words as the first line in your new poem. 

      For example, if I chose IN THE NIGHT KITCHEN, my poem starter would look like this.


      And the starter for MAKE WAY FOR DUCKLINGS would look like this.


      Easy-peasy, right? Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

      Wednesday, October 12, 2011

      Poetry Stretch - It's Never Too Late!

      Monday was a holiday for some folks, so I took fall break quite literally and completely unplugged for the weekend. It was wonderful, though I am a bit overwhelmed with e-mail at the moment.

      I had a bad day yesterday. My sister had a bad day too. Today it's rainy and kind of yucky. My son was looking forward to his first tree-climbing class, but it looks as though it will be canceled. So, while last week we wrote about what makes us happy, today I'm thinking we should write about what makes us sad. Too depressing? I hope not. Sometimes the strangest things bring on melancholy and longing. 

      Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

      Tuesday, October 04, 2011

      Tuesday Poetry Stretch - What Makes You Smile?

      Yes, I'm late, but Mondays are horrible days. I also scheduled this to post, but had the wrong date and didn't check the calendar, so I was off anyway!

      Originally I wanted to write about things that make you happy, but this morning while stopping for a cup of tea, I saw two dogs outside my local coffee shop. They were both wagging their tails so vigorously that their whole behinds were shaking. If a sight like that doesn't make you smile, there isn't much that will. Babies make me smile, as do puddles (preferably ones I'm splashing in), bubble baths, the song Young Folks, Daniel Pinkwater talking children's books non NPR, and much more.

      So, let's write about what makes you smile. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

      Monday, September 26, 2011

      Monday Poetry Stretch - We Are Connected

      I spent a lot of time flying in the last four days and had plenty of time for my mind to wander. I found myself thinking about connections. Then, as I reflected back on my classes last week, I thought about trains, snap cubes, paperclip chains, popcorn strings, and other things that are connected. After returning home late last night, I thought more about connections as I held my son's hand on the way to the bus stop. So, it seems only fitting that we write about connections.

      Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

      Monday, September 19, 2011

      Monday Poetry Stretch - Magnitude and Scale

      I missed you last week, but I was putting the finishing touches on a grant application, one that came in at 1.8 million dollars. Think about that for a minute. That's a lot of money. Just a few days before finishing this application, I heard the President speak at UR. The numbers he tossed around were in the trillions. Even with my knowledge of math, those are numbers that are hard to understand.

      While I was thinking about these big numbers, I was also working on some lessons in nanotechnology. So, I've been thinking about extremes, from very large to very small in the last week. Size can be relative though, because things that seemed enormous when I was a child often appear much smaller today.

      As I ruminate on the big and the small, let's write about magnitude and scale. Anything on the continuum is fair game. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

      Monday, September 05, 2011

      Monday Poetry Stretch - For Those Who Labor

      After mass yesterday I found myself contemplating these words from the prayers of the faithful.

      May all who labor or seek to labor find
      mutual respect,
      just conditions,
      fair pay, and
      a safe environment to work.

      While I've been rather whiny about going so long with no power (it went on last night after 8 days), I had it easy in many respects. I had the luxury of hot showers and a working stovetop thanks to the power of natural gas. Others were not so lucky. While I waited for power to return, hard working men and women from Virginia and other states worked around the clock to get things fixed. I'm grateful to them. I know it was not an easy job.

      For these folks, and all others who labor, let's write for them. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

      Friday, September 02, 2011

      Poetry Friday is Here!

      I am still without power (that's SIX days now!), but consider me your postal carrier of poetry. There is nothing, not even an electrical shortage, that will keep me from delivering "the best words in their best order" to you. (Thank you Samuel Coleridge.)

      Today I'm sharing a poem from Leaves of Grass.
      Italian Music in Dakota
      by Walt Whitman

      Through the soft evening air enwrinding all,   
      Rocks, woods, fort, cannon, pacing sentries, endless wilds,   
      In dulcet streams, in flutes’ and cornets’ notes,   
      Electric, pensive, turbulent artificial,   
      (Yet strangely fitting even here, meanings unknown before,           
      Subtler than ever, more harmony, as if born here, related here,   
      Not to the city’s fresco’d rooms, not to the audience of the opera house,   
      Sounds, echoes, wandering strains, as really here at home,   
      Sonnambula’s innocent love, trios with Norma’s anguish,   
      And thy ecstatic chorus Poliuto;)     
      Ray’d in the limpid yellow slanting sundown,   
      Music, Italian music in Dakota.   
      While Nature, sovereign of this gnarl’d realm,   
      Lurking in hidden barbaric grim recesses,   
      Acknowledging rapport however far remov’d,     
      (As some old root or soil of earth its last-born flower or fruit,)   
      Listens well pleas’d.
      I'll be stealing time throughout the day in establishments around the city that DO have power. So, leave me a note about your contribution and I'll add it to this post. Happy poetry Friday all!

      Good morning poetry lovers! This is your intrepid host, checking in from my local Starbucks. I've used my free birthday drink coupon, am sipping an iced chai, eating a whole-grain bagel, and loving your choices this sunny morning. So, without further ado, here's what the early bird dug up.

      Robyn Hood Black is attending another Founder's Workshop (lucky girl!) and is signing in from Honesdale, PA. Today she is sharing a poem by Paul Fleischman in honor of his birthday.

      Amy LV of The Poem Farm is sharing an original poem entitled My Blanket Smells.

      Steven Withrow of Crackles of Speech shares an original poem inspired by  Irene entitled Storm's Alarm.

      Over at The Write Sisters, Barbara is sharing a bit of Roald Dahl in the form of Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf.

      Melissa of through the wardrobe shares an excerpt from an original work entitled Zoo.

      Mary Lee of A Year of Reading shares an ode to the first weeks of school. Is that James Taylor? I do believe it is. Oh, what a fitting choice.

      Maria Horvath is in a romantic mood and sharing the poem/lyrics If I Were a Carpenter.

      Charlotte of Charlotte's Library is sharing a review of a book of graphic novel style nursery rhymes entitled Nursery Rhyme Comics: 50 Timeless Rhymes from 50 Celebrated Cartoonists.

      Heidi Mordhorst of my juicy little universe is sharing fishy reflections on her first week of school and the poem Fish by Mary Ann Hoberman.

      Diane Mayr of Random Noodling  is sharing a poem by Hal Sirowitz entitled The Benefits of Ignorance.

      Diane Mayr shares original poetry at Kids of the Homefront Army. Today's entry is entitled Model Airplanes.

      Finally, over at Kurious Kitty and Kurious K's Kwotes, Diane is sharing Wislawa Szymborska.

      Jama Rattigan is sharing three poems and spreads from Marilyn Singer's new book, A Full Moon is Rising. Coincidentally, I brought this one home yesterday to read by flashlight in bed (no lie)!

      Tara of A Teaching Life is sharing the poem she using to launch her poetry study, Where I'm From by George Ella Lyon.

      Sally of Paper Tigers is sharing a brief review of the book Something Nice by Misuzu Kaneko.

      Tabatha Yeatts of The Opposite of Indifference is sharing the poem Firefighter's Prayer by David Cochrane.

      Jennie of Biblio File is sharing the poem by Naomi Shihab Nye that opens the book Denied, Detained, Deported: Stories from the Dark Side of American Immigration by Ann Bauseum.

      Welcome back folks! It's a bit after 7:00 pm and I'm coming to you thanks to the University's internet connection. Hey, it may be work, but my office has air conditioning! And now, on with the poetry parade.

      Jone of Check It Out is sharing an original list poem on Summer 2011.

      Violet Nesdoly is sharing an original poem entitled Seasonal Junction.

      Karen Edmisten is sharing the poem Short Order Cook by Jim Daniels.

      Karissa Knox of The Iris Chronicles is sharing a ghazal by Agha Shahid Ali.

      Ruth of There is no such thing as a God-forsaken town is sharing the lyrics from the Sara Groves song Fireflies and Songs.

      The poetry stretch this week challenged folks to write about the forces of nature. Boy, did they deliver! You'll find some terrific pieces by Jane Yolen, J. Patrick Lewis, Kate Coombs, Steven Withrow, Diane Mayr, Amy LV, and Carol Weis at Monday Poetry Stretch - Natural Forces.

      I'll check back in first thing on Saturday to round up any late posts. Enjoy your weekend. I hope it's filled with poetry!

      Monday, August 29, 2011

      Monday Poetry Stretch - Natural Forces

      In the last week Virginia has experienced an earthquake and a hurricane. It's hard for me to look at these events and NOT be amazed by the power of the natural world.

      We were very lucky in both instances. I may be complaining about lack of power, but while others in our neighborhood lost trees and sustained damage to their homes and cars, we came out quite unscathed.

      So, I'm thinking this is a good time to write about the power of nature, whether it be earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, or just a good old-fashioned rain storm. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

      Friday, August 26, 2011

      STEM Friday - What's for Dinner?

      Over at my new blog, Bookish Ways in Math and Science, you'll find an annotated bibliography on food chains. I wrote it as a sample for my students, who will soon be creating their own bibliographies for a range of topics in math and science. (If you want to the see the math sample, check out the post on ordinal numbers.) I hope you'll visit often and check out their work.

      In reviewing books for inclusion in the food chain post, I decided not to focus on nonfiction works about the food chain, but rather picture books and poetry. I was particularly taken with What's for Dinner?: Quirky, Squirmy Poems from the Animal World, written by Katherine B. Hauth and illustrated by David Clark.

      While the title may not indicate that this is a book of poems about organisms and where they fit in a food chain, one need only look at the cover to see fly--frog--big, nasty predator. Before even reading the poems you could engage students in a discussion of the partial food chain in this illustration. What kind of ecosystem is this? What are the likely producers? What do flies eat? What kind of animal might eat a frog? 

      Inside readers will find 29 poems about a range of food chain topics. The introductory poem, "What's for Dinner," explains why animals must find food. What follows are humorous, graphic, scientific, inventive and just downright fun poems. Accompanied by equally graphic and humorous illustrations, the perfect pairing of word and art gives us a book that readers will love.

      In the poem entitled "Waste Management," a rather haughty-looking vulture pulls at a strand of the innards of a carcass while standing on the exposed ribs. Here is the poem that accompanies it.
      No dainty vegetarian,
      the vulture rips up carrion.
      It likes to feast before the worms,
      which saves us all from stink and germs.
      While most of the poems are about animals, the last entry, "Eating Words," uses poetry and word roots to define insectivore, carnivore, herbivore, and omnivore.

      The back matter includes a section entitled More Words About the Poems, which explains a bit more of the science and further explains vocabulary terms such as symbiosis, parasitism, mutualism, commensalism, and more. More Words About  the Animals provides background information for each of the poems. Here's the text that expands on the poem "Waste Management."
      Turkey vultures don't have strong beaks and feet. They can't tear into tough hide and muscle until it's been "tenderized" by decay. A turkey vulture's featherless head and neck may look strange, but skin is easier to clean than feathers after the bird plunges its head into a rotting carcass.
      The final page of the book provides some additional titles for learning more about the animals in the book.

      Overall, this is a fine book for readers interested in predators and prey. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED.

      For more information about the book and its author, download the file Author Spotlight with Katherine B. Hauth.

      This post was written for STEM Friday. Today's round up is being hosted by Anastasia Suen at Picture Book of the Day. Do stop by and see the great books being shared for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM).

      Monday, August 22, 2011

      Monday Poetry Stretch - Postcards from Summer

      Last week I wrote about the project sponsored by the Academy of American Poets in which they supplied poets with blank postcards and asked them to fill them in, in any way that struck their fancy, and mail them back. (You can see the results at Poets Via Post.)

      This got me wondering about what my postcard from summer would look like. So, that's your challenge. Write a poem, "find" a poem, draw a picture, or stretch in some other way, but share with us your poetic postcard from summer. Leave me a note about your work and I'll post the results here later this week.

      100 New Book Lists from Scholastic

      Scholastic has just posted links to a series of more than 100 new book lists. Created by teachers for teachers, these lists range from preK through grade 8 (though a few lists extend through grade 12) and are organized into the following categories:
      • Animals
      • Biographies and Memoirs
      • Families and Social Issues
      • Folktales, Myths and Legends
      • History and Historical Fiction
      • Holidays and Celebrations
      • Read Alouds
      • Science Fiction and Fantasy
      Within these categories you'll find topical lists by grade level. The book lists can be downloaded in Excel or .csv format and include basic information as well as interest level, reading level (grade equivalent), lexile framework, and more. The web page for each book list often includes links to teaching resources for particular titles. 

      Once you're done exploring the 100 highlighted lists, you can check out Scholastic’s List Exchange, which features thousands of shared Book Lists. You can  even create your own book lists.

      Thursday, August 18, 2011

      Best Vocab Lesson Ever!

      Hats off to The Atlantic for their piece 24 Songs The Prematurely Expanded Our Vocabularies. Here's how it begins.
      Lyrics in popular music have been blamed for social ills ranging from drug use to the London riots. But as back-to-school season approaches, it's worth pointing out how Top 40 radio can make people smarter—by teaching them new words. 
      Check out the article for songs, lyrics, and video clips. You'll find the Beatles, Blink 182, Nine Inch Nails, David Bowie, Paul Simon, Liz Phair, Rihanna, and more. What fun!

      Poets Via Post

      What happens when a poet receives a blank postcard and is asked to fill it in, in any way, and mail it back? The Academy of American Poets asked this very thing in June and the postcards are trickling in. Check out the results at Poets Via Post.

      I was struck by the number of poets who chose to use pictures instead of words. Given the time of year, I'm quite drawn to E. Ethelbert Miller's baseball poem.

      Wednesday, August 17, 2011

      Inspiration for Neverland to Become Center for Children's Literature

      Have you seen the article Peter Pan's Neverland could become forever-land? Here's an excerpt.
      For the teenager James Matthew Barrie, the sloping, terraced garden overlooking a gentle river was an enchanted land where he and his friends became pirates, clambered over walls, built hideouts and scaled trees in the sunshine.

      But the back garden of Moat Brae, a late Georgian villa in the rural town of Dumfries, became more than a playground for the aspiring novelist and playwright. Thirty years later, it inspired Neverland, the magical kingdom where Peter Pan and Tinkerbell flew into battle against Captain Hook, an adventure that captured the imaginations of millions of real-life children.

      Now, nearly 140 years after JM Barrie played there as a boy, the mansion and gardens are to be transformed into a national centre for children's literature, after the derelict and decaying building and its garden were saved from demolition by a local trust.
      Read the article in its entirety at The Guardian.

      Tuesday, August 16, 2011

      Poetry's Most Poignant Lines

      The writers at Stylist Magazine has selected what they believe are the 50 most poignant lines of poetry ever written. The lines are connected to images. The first image is a bird. Can you guess the line? Here's a hint, it's Dickinson. You may not agree with all the choices, but it is an interesting read. I also had a bit of fun trying to guess the lines based on viewing the images.

      Why Science Is Important


      Favorite quote: "If there is a basketball court in every single elementary school, then there needs to be science programs. It needs to be a priority. It needs to be mandatory."

      Monday, August 15, 2011

      For All You Seuss Fans

      Did you hear that Random House will be publishing a collection of seven tales by Seuss that were originally published in Redbook between 1950 and 1951? Come September you can find them for the first time in book format. 

      Nonfiction Monday - Fastest and Slowest

      Author:  Camilla De la Bédoyère
      Publisher: Firefly Books
      Publication Date: 2011
      Pages: 32 pages
      Grades: K-4

      Quick! Before you peak at the cover to the left, what animals come to mind when you think about speed? Which ones stand out as slow?

      When my son handed me this book and I saw the cheetah and sloth on the cover, I didn't think there would be much new ground to cover. However, I was pleasantly surprised by the organization of the book and the variety of animals described.

      This title in the Animal Opposites series is divided into a series two-page informational sections. It begins with On the Move which provides a brief introduction to types of animal movement. The next section, A Need for Speed, explains why speed is often key to a species survival, whether it be to catch prey or avoid becoming a meal for someone else. Go Slow further explains that some animals use lack of speed for survival as well, moving so slowly that they are more easily camouflaged. Additional sections focus on swimmers, flyers, runners, diggers/burrowers, climbers, slitherers, mini-movers, weird walkers, energy savers, and growers.

      The double page spreads are filled with vivid photographs and sidebars that describe animal record breakers or show others in actual size (ruler-included). To get a feel for the book's layout, take a look at these sample pages. While the topics are covered with more breadth than depth, there is an amazing wealth of information and odd factoids that many students will find engaging.
       Here are some of the interesting things I learned while reading this book.
      • Gentoo penguins are the fastest underwater birds, reaching a speed of 22 miles (36 km) per hour in short bursts.
      • One mole can dig 65 feet (20 meters) of tunnel in a single day.
      • The Potoo bird spends all day motionless where it positions itself in a tree and mimics a branch.
      The book contains a table of contents, glossary of terms, index, and activity suggestions for parents and teachers.

      Overall, this book will appeal to reluctant readers, as well as kids with an interest in animals.

      This book was written for Nonfiction Monday. Today's host is Amy O'Quinn. Do stop by and check out the titles being shared this week.

      Monday Poetry Stretch - Three Letter Words

      Every so often I revisit the articles written by James Fenton for his poetry masterclass. In the article To villanelle and back, Fenton looks at a variety of forms and the challenges they pose. I was particularly taken with this excerpt.
      John Fuller, in response to a competition challenge, set out to write a poem consisting only of three-letter words. And in order to add to the interest, he decided on a form in which there were three three-letter words per line, and the lines came in groups of three.
      What an interesting idea! Here is how the resulting poem begins.
      The Kiss
      by John Fuller

      Who are you
      You who may
      Die one day

      Who saw the
      Fat bee and
      The owl fly

      Read the poem in its entirety.
      This amazing poem has me wondering what kind of poems can be crafted using only three-letter words. That is your challenge. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

      Friday, August 12, 2011

      Lev Grossman on Writing

      If you liked Lev Grossman's book The Magicians (I know I did) and are looking forward to reading the sequel, The Magician King, then you'll enjoy this article. In Writing the Magician King, Grossman describes the process of writing the novel. It's an interesting story, with some nice insights into the life of a writer. Here's an excerpt.
      There’s a reason they don’t have reality shows about writers: it’s not visual. There’s nothing to see and not much to tell. When you’re really getting stuff done, you’re just sitting in a chair with a laptop and trying to type fast enough to keep up with the movie in your brain. That’s the glamorous life of the writer for you.
      To learn more about the book, check out Upping the Ante: A Review of Lev Grossman's The Magician King.

      Poetry Friday - On the Beach at Night, Alone

      I spent the afternoon at the pool with a well-worn copy of Leaves of Grass. My reading inspired me to share this poem.
      On the Beach at Night, Alone
      by Walt Whitman

      On the beach at night alone,   
      As the old mother sways her to and fro, singing her husky song,   
      As I watch the bright stars shining—I think a thought of the clef of the universes, and of the future.   
      A vast similitude  interlocks all,   
      All spheres, grown, ungrown, small, large, suns, moons, planets, comets, asteroids,            
      All the substances of the same, and all that is spiritual upon the same,
      All distances of place, however wide,   
      All distances of time—all inanimate forms,   
      All Souls—all living bodies, though they be ever so different, or in different worlds,   
      All gaseous, watery, vegetable, mineral processes—the fishes, the brutes,
      All men and women—me also;   
      All nations, colors, barbarisms, civilizations, languages;   
      All identities that have existed, or may exist, on this globe, or any globe;   
      All lives and deaths—all of the past, present, future;   
      This vast similitude spans them, and always has spann’d, and shall forever span them, and compactly hold them, and enclose them.
      The round up is being hosted by Karen Edmisten. Do stop by and take in all the wonderful poetry being shared this week. Happy poetry Friday all!

      Thursday, August 11, 2011

      Discouraging News on Reading and Math

      The National Center for Education Statistics just released the report Mapping State Proficiency Standards Onto the NAEP Scales: Variation and Change in State Standards for Reading and Mathematics, 2005-2009. This report compares the standards that states use in reporting 4th- and 8th- grade reading and mathematics proficiency using NAEP as a common metric. 

      Here's the gist of the report and why I use the word discouraging in the title of this post.

      There is wide variation among state proficiency standards.
      • In 2009, using NAEP as common metric, standards for proficient performance in reading and mathematics varied across states in terms of the levels of achievement required. For example, for grade 4 reading, the difference in the level required for proficient performance between the five states with the highest standards and the five with the lowest standards was comparable to the difference between Basic and Proficient performance on NAEP.
      Most states’ proficiency standards are at or below NAEP’s definition of Basic performance.
      • In grade 4 reading, 35 of the 50 states included in the analysis set standards for proficiency (as measured on the NAEP scale) that were lower than the scale score for Basic performance on NAEP and another 15 were in the NAEP Basic range. 
      • In grade 4 mathematics, 7 of the 50 states included in the analysis set standards for proficiency (as measured on the NAEP scale) that were lower than the Basic performance on NAEP, 42 were in the NAEP Basic range, and one in the Proficient range.

      Are you interested in seeing where your state fell in this mix? Here are some graphics of the fourth grade results to help you better understand. Click to enlarge.

      Tuesday, August 09, 2011

      Bloom's Digital Taxonomy Pyramid

      We use the revised version of Bloom's taxonomy in teaching our candidates how to write objectives and plan for instruction and assessment. As they plan, we also want them to think about all the tools appropriate for instruction, including technology. The Bloom's Digital Taxonomy Pyramid makes thinking about technology tools in this context a breeze. For each level, direct links to a number of web applications that can be used to support instruction are included.
      (The above work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
      Author: Samantha Penney, samantha.penney@gmail.com)

      Even if you don't teach, you'll find something here of interest. As a word lover I'm crazy about Visuwords, Wordnik, and Ninjawords. The visual learner in me loves Creately and Gliffy.

      How about you? What are some of your favorites?

      New Blog on Books in the Elementary Classrom

      As I prepare for fall classes, I find that the WordPress blog my students were using has lost much of its appeal. Because of the problems we experienced last year, we barely used it. So, I have given up on Open Wide, Look Inside and have started a new blog for my classes. (Don't fret, as the content from OWLI will still be available!)

      I hope you'll join us over at Bookish Ways in Math and Science. The blog will be devoted to using children's books in teaching elementary math and science, though I have no doubt some books for social studies will make an appearance. Case in point is my first post on books for going back to school.

      Monday, August 08, 2011

      Thinking About Graphic Novels

      I've been pondering a recent post on graphic novels and following the comments with interest. The post, Wondering (Worrying?) About Graphic Novels takes a rather short view of the genre. Here is an excerpt.
      I can hear graphic novel enthusiasts everywhere groaning as I type—and I’m all-too-familiar with the argument that graphic novels require students to make meaning from pictures, drawing subtle inferences based on what they’re seeing.

      But is that REALLY true?

      Let’s be honest, y’all: Graphic novels ALREADY take away the need for students to visualize anything while they are reading.

      . . .

      Will students who are hooked on graphic novels ever be terribly excited about picking up a text where they’ve got to do the imagining on their own again?

      Think about it: Can YOU imagine trying to imagine—or wanting to imagine, or seeing a need to imagine—after discovering an entire genre where imagining just isn’t necessary?

      Interestingly enough, when I taught a course on Content Area Reading for middle and secondary teachers a number of years ago, I included Maus I: A Survivor's Tale: My Father Bleeds History and a few of Larry Gonick's Cartoon history books. Mind you, this was before the explosion of graphic novels, so the pickings were slim. However, there are so many terrific books today.

      Do I agree with Bill Ferriter? HECK NO!

      First, let me give you a personal response. I have a ten-year old who spent all of fourth grade reading through the Percy Jackson books. It ignited an interest in all things mythological. He's since read a number of mythology books, most recently Mary Pope Osborne's Favorite Greek Myths and Tales from the Odyssey, Part 1 and Part 2. In the mix of books you'll find the first three titles in George O'Connor's Olympians series. (You can read more about George and his work at Seven Imp.) These graphic novels distill the stories of each Olympian into 80 vibrant, action-packed pages. They have been read and re-read by my son. And honestly, they leave him wanting more, not less.

      Okay, now for a more academic response. The graphic novels being published today demand readers engage in the same kinds of skills needed to make sense of more "traditional" literary works. The notion that "real reading" doesn't occur while students interact with the text of a graphic novel is simply false. Sometimes this genre may even require more finely honed skills, as readers are required to make sense of a range of literary devices (think about the complexity of narrative structures in a graphic novel) and vocabulary that can be more advanced than other books written for students of the same age.

      Check out the article The Case for Graphic Novels in Education that responds to this issue much more eloquently than I have.

      If you are interested in learning more about graphic novels in the classroom, check out these links.

      So, what do you think of graphic novels? Leave me a note here or head over to Wondering (Worrying?) About Graphic Novels and leave your thoughts there.

      Monday Poetry Stretch - Tritina

      I have been grappling with the sestina as of late. My attempts have been less than successful, so I've decided to step back and try a simpler form, the tritina.

      Helen Frost has a number of worksheets on poetic form on her web site. She suggests starting with the tritina since the sestina is a more difficult form. What a great idea! Here are the nuts and bolts of the form.

      10-line poem made of three, 3-line stanzas and a 1-line envoi

      There is no rhyme scheme but rather an end word scheme. It is:




      A, B, and C (all in the last line/envoi)
      So, your challenge is to write a tritina. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week. Have fun!

      Friday, August 05, 2011

      Poetry Friday - W.S. Merwin

      I have been reading Merwin for some time now. A book of his poetry accompanied me on our recent trip to Mexico. The poems somehow seemed fitting of the place.

      He is quite an interesting man. Here's an excerpt from The Poet's View in which he recounts meeting Ezra Pound, describes how his poetry is a reflection of how he lives, and reads a poem he wrote for his wife.
      Merwin's nature poetry is what first drew me to his work. He still writes about nature and is a strong advocate for conservation. In fact, he recently gave the keynote address at this year's Hawaii Conservation Conference. You can read more about it in the article entitled US Poet Laureate Says Humans Failing Themselves.

      The round up is being hosted by Libby at A Year of Literacy Coaching. Do stop by and take in all the great poetry being shared this week. Happy poetry Friday all!

      Thursday, August 04, 2011

      What Math Skills in Early Years Are Key to Later Success?

      Here's some interesting news on the research front that has tremendous implications for teachers of young children.
      Psychologists at the University of Missouri monitoring a group of 177 elementary students from 12 different elementary schools since kindergarten have identified the math skills students should have in the first grade to have success by the fifth grade. After factoring out intelligence, working memory and other abilities, researchers were able to determine the most critical beginning-of-school math skills.

      Researchers found that beginning first-graders that understand numbers, the quantities those numbers represent, and low-level arithmetic will have better success in learning mathematics through the end of fifth-grade. They also found that first-graders who understood the number line, how to place numbers on the line, and those with some knowledge of basic facts showed faster growth in math skills than their peers during the next five years.
      The results of the study will be published later this year in the journal Developmental Psychology. Look for the paper entitled “Cognitive Predictors of Achievement Growth in Mathematics: A Five Year Longitudinal Study.”

      Wednesday, August 03, 2011

      Reading and ASL

      Every so often I have a student looking for reading ideas that incorporate American Sign Language. I am thrilled to report that the Illinois Service Resource Center has made available ASL Literacy Packets based on seven popular children's books. Each packet includes three literacy activities, a list of vocabulary words in which each word is defined and the sign is described, photographs showing the proper way to make each sign, and all reproducibles needed for the activities. Each packet can be viewed as an e-book or download as a PDF.

      Literacy packets are available for the following titles:
      • A Fine Fine School by Sharon Creech
      • I Know an Old Lady Who Swallowed a Fly by Mary Ann Hoberman
      • The Little Old Lady Who Was Not Afraid of Anything by Linda Williams
      • Miss Smith's Incredible Storybook by Michael Garland
      • Rainbow Fish by Marcus Pfister
      • Read All About It by Laura & Jenna Bush
      • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
      These look like useful resources. Check them out at ASL Literacy Packets.

      Children's Literature Conference in Virginia

      I am thrilled to report that the amazingly talented Denise Johnson, author of The Joy of Children's Literature and professor of reading, language and literacy at the College of William & Mary, will be hosting a new children's literature conference this fall. Here are the details!
      • The conference will be held Saturday, October 15th from 8:00 - 5:00 at he College of William & Mary.
      • The cost of the full conference is $100 (breakfast and lunch included).
      • The deadline for registration is October 3, 2011 or until the conference is full.
      The lineup for this one-day event is terrific. Presenters include:
      If you are in Virginia or somewhere close by, I hope you take advantage of this wonderful opportunity. I know I will! Please visit the Joy of Children's Literature Conference site for a registration form and more information.

      Back to Life, Back to Reality ...

      We had a wonderful break. Lots to tell, but this picture just about says it all.
      I know we'll look back on our time away with great fondness. While William gets to enjoy what's left of summer, I'm back at work and preparing for fall. Faculty return on the 15th and classes begin the 22nd. I regret to admit that my summer is officially over. While this makes me sad, I'm thrilled to be back with you.

      Friday, July 15, 2011

      Poetry Friday - What I Learned From My Mother

      I am hitting the road today to spend some time with my mother. This poem is for her.
      What I Learned From My Mother
      by Julia Kasdorf

      I learned from my mother how to love
      the living, to have plenty of vases on hand
      in case you have to rush to the hospital
      with peonies cut from the lawn, black ants
      still stuck to the buds. I learned to save jars
      large enough to hold fruit salad for a whole
      grieving household, to cube home-canned pears
      and peaches, to slice through maroon grape skins
      and flick out the sexual seeds with a knife point.

      Read the entire poem.
      The round up is being hosted by Mary Lee over at A Year of Reading. Do stop by and take in all the wonderful works being shared this week. Happy poetry Friday all!

      I'll be on hiatus (yeah, I've been on one for a while) for the rest of the month, but I'll be back in August. I'm hoping to pick up where I left off about a year ago with, you know, regular blogging, book reviews, and poetry. See you soon!

      Wednesday, July 13, 2011

      Science, Art, and a New Book

      Tonight is my last night of summer school. I've had little time for anything but teaching as of late, but when this came across my desk I had to share. Take a look at the excerpts from the fascinating and absolutely stunning book Field Notes on Science & Nature, edited by Michael Canfield.

      Monday, July 11, 2011

      Monday Poetry Stretch - Books and Reading

      I am five days away from vacation--count 'em--just FIVE! If I can get through 6 candidate interviews, my last class sessions, and final grades, I'll be home free. I am looking forward to the last HP movie and reading until my eyeballs fall out of my head. As Emily said, "There is no Frigate like a Book/To take us Lands away," so let's write about reading and books. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

      Tuesday, July 05, 2011

      Tuesday Poetry Stretch - Fireworks

      So yesterday was a holiday, and as you can see, I took that quite literally. I love those days when the pj's don't come off until noon! We saw fireworks on Saturday, which was fortuitous since they were rained out last night.

      I haven't been able to stop thinking about fireworks since the weekend, in large part because the display we saw was once of the nicest I've seen in a while. So let's write about fireworks, the ones in the sky or the ones in your heart. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

      Until I see you back here, here's a short poem.
      colors galore
      dancing before the sky
      launched heavenward to fall again

      Monday, June 27, 2011

      Monday Poetry Stretch - Sleep (or Sleepless)

      Blogging here has come to a near standstill as I teach Monday-Thursday from 9-3 and Monday and Wednesday nights from 4-10. I am tired, tired, tired. Some afternoons I find myself longing for a nap. This, of course, has me thinking of sleep, counting sheep, and sleepy poetry. Let's make that our topic for this stretch. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.

      Monday, June 20, 2011

      Monday Poetry Stretch - Small Moments

      My dad's been gone just over two years now, and I find myself thinking back on the small moments we shared. These musings have me wondering what events my son will one day remember. Will it be eating chocolate gelato at the farmer's market at 8 am? (Yes, that was this weekend!) Will it be curled up on the couch together reading a book? Or perhaps the times hunched over the dining room table working on a puzzle?

      Let's write about little things this week--the things we do with others that lead to lasting memories. Leave me a note about your poem and I'll post the results here later this week.