Monday, November 26, 2012

Monday Poetry Stretch - Alexandrine Verse

Last weekend I saw Molieré's play The Learned Ladies performed by the University Players. I was surprised to learn that poet Richard Wilbur had translated/adapted the play. I was quite caught up in the meter and rhyme, and loved the turn of many of the phrases. In some cases I found myself trying to anticipate how the verses would finish. The play opens with two sisters discussing the younger sister's intent to marry the man cast off by the older sister. Here's an excerpt.
What, Sister! Are you truly of a mind
To leave your precious maidenhood behind,
And give yourself in marriage to a man?
Can you be harboring such a vulgar plan?
Yes, Sister.
Yes, you say! When have I heard
So odious and sickening a word?
The rhyme scheme used by Wilbur was based on Alexandrine (Alexandrian) verse. In English this is usually a 12-syllable iambic line, though you can see Wilbur often used 10. 

I do love to write in iambs, and since I've just seen a play about love and marriage and contemplated both a lot while hosting my in-laws this holiday (she writes with a smile), let's write about the virtues (or vices) of love and marriage! There is no requirement for length here, just to write to the topic in iambic pentameter or hexameter.  Leave me a note about your poem and I'll share the results in time for Poetry Friday.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Nonfiction Monday is Here!

Hi Folks! Welcome to Nonfiction Monday. I'm offering up a review of a book about autumn, as well as rounding up today's posts. Read on!

Author/Illustrator: Bruce Goldstone
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: August, 2012
Pages: 48 pages
Grades: K-4
ISBN: 978-0805092103
Source of Book: Borrowed from my local library

Inspired by Thanksgiving, the mounds of leaves in my yard, the rising of Orion in the sky, and the chill in the air, fall is still very much on my mind. As classrooms prepare to head into winter, I hope they'll hold onto to fall for just a bit longer and delve into Bruce Goldstone's book AWESOME AUTUMN. One of the most comprehensive books on fall I've seen in a long time, the text opens with the heading "AUTUMN IS A SEASON OF AWESOME CHANGES." In text and bright photographs Goldstone explains how these changes affect plants, animals, and humans. Readers learn how days get colder and clothes get heavier, days get shorter and nights get longer, leaves change color, frost forms, crops are harvested, animals migrate and hibernate, and so much more. In addition to a cause/effect approach to some of the double page spreads, there are pages about the feel, tastes, shapes, and sounds of autumn. There are also nods to Halloween, Thanksgiving, and what people do in autumn.

The scientist in me is particularly thrilled with the treatment of leaves changing color, how leaves "know" when to fall off the tree, what happens to fallen leaves (decomposition, anyone?), and how frost forms. The text is straightforward and highly accessible for kids. Here's an excerpt.
Leaves that fall can help keep the environment healthy. As they break down, they give food to the earth and to tiny living things in the soil. Fallen leaves also act as sponges. They mix with the soil to help it hold rainwater.
The book ends with pictures of autumn activities and then directions on how to do them.

Overall, this is an engaging and wide-ranging book about fall. Highly recommended.
And now, on to the round up!

Myra from Gathering Books shares a review of Queen of the Falls by Chris Van Allsburg.

Tara from A Teaching Life tells us about a number of books she's been reading including Count on Us: American Women in the Military, Spirit Seeker: John  Coltrane's Musical Journey, and Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America. Check out these Monday reads and more.

Jean from True Tales & A Cherry On Top features the picture book biography Helen's Big World - The Life of Helen Keller.

Jeff from NC Teacher Stuff has a review of Apples A to Z by Margaret McNamara.

Sarah Albee shares an interview and review of Michaela Muntean's book Stay: The True Story of Ten Dogs.

Louise from A Strong Belief in Wicker shares Alison Lester's book about Macquarie Island (a remote subantarctic island), One Small Island.

At Booktalking, Anastasia Suen is reading A Christmas Cookbook: Simple Recipes for Kids by Sarah L. Schuette.

Alice from Supratentorial is sharing three picture book biographies on the likes of Thomas Edison, Julia Child, and Abraham Lincoln.

Jennifer from Jean Little Library also has a picture book biography. See her review of Annie and Helen by Deborah Hopkinson.

Roberta from Wrapped in Foil shares a review of the picture book biography I, Galileo by Bonnie Christensen.

Wendie Old from Wendie's Wanderings writes about the Common Core Standards and encourages us to read the NYTimes article about why kids should read nonfiction.

Ami from A Mom's Spare Time reviews From Peanut to Peanut Butter and Circles, Stars, and Squares: Looking for Shapes. Be sure to leave a comment and your ideas for pairing the books with gifts for a chance to win these titles!

Cindy from Bookends is digging up a hoax with a post about Jim Murphy's book The Giant and How He Humbugged America.

Margo from The Fourth Musketeer shares a review of The Fantastic Jungles of Henri Rousseau by Michelle Markel.

Tammy from Apples with Many Seeds writes about The Ruins of Detroit by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre.

Keep those links coming and check back frequently as I round up today's posts. Happy Nonfiction Monday all!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Monday Poetry Stretch - Prayers and Morning Rituals

Don't ask me where I was last week because I surely won't remember! Work has been crazy busy and I'm feeling like the hole I've dug myself is getting bigger. Perhaps this holiday will afford me some time to catch up.

Even thought I'm going slightly crazy, I still have time to read poetry. These days it's Mary Oliver's work that graces my nightstand. I've been thinking a lot about the poem "I Happen to Be Standing," in which Oliver meditates on her morning ritual with a notebook. The poem begins this way:

I Happened to be Standing

I don't know where prayers go,
   or what they do.
Do cats pray, while they sleep
   half-asleep in the sun?
Does the opossum pray as it 
   crosses the street?
The sunflowers? The old black oak
   growing older every year?

You can hear Oliver talk about this poem and others in this NPR interview.

Do you have a morning ritual? Do you say prayers at night,  in the morning, or whenever the urge hits you? These are the things I'm thinking of and want to write about. Won't you join me? Leave me a note about your poem and I'll share the results in time for Poetry Friday.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Monday Poetry Stretch - To the Dogs

My pound puppy turned 15 on Saturday. She's had a rough year but seems to be doing much better these days. It makes me a bit sad to know her days are numbered. She's been a loyal and constant companion and a good friend. In her honor I'd love to see some dog poems this week. (Sorry all you cat lovers. You'll get a turn one of these days!)

Leave me a note about your poem and I'll share the results in time for Poetry Friday.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Poetry Friday - O Captain! My Captain!

Election day is around the corner. All eyes are on the presidential election. When I think of presidents and poetry I can't help but think of Whitman.

O Captain! My Captain! 
by Walt Whitman

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done;
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won;
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring:
    But O heart! heart! heart!        
      O the bleeding drops of red,
        Where on the deck my Captain lies,
          Fallen cold and dead.

Read the poem in its entirety.

The roundup this week is being hosted by Donna at Mainely Write. Do stop by and check out all the great poetry being shared. Before you go, do take a minute to see the wonderful poems written for this week's poetry stretch on weather. Happy poetry Friday all!

Blog the Vote - Why Every Citizen Matters

When I was visiting my mother a few weeks ago she told me that the "seniors" she knew weren't going to vote this year. She asked, "What's the point?" Since then I've heard many people suggest that their votes don't count, their voices aren't heard, and that they just don't matter. You know what? THEY'RE ALL WRONG. Before I explain why, here's a bit of a history lesson. Forgive me please, I'm a teacher.

Question - What does the Constitution say about voting rights?
Answer - Actually, there is no right to vote in the United States Constitution. However, a number of amendments to the Constitution have made provision for this right in circumstances where it had been denied.
Fifteenth Amendment (Ratified on February 3, 1870) - The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.
Even though the 15th amendment was ratified in 1870, it took passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 before the majority of African Americans in the South were actually registered to vote. For years states in the south used literacy tests, poll taxes, and other means to prohibit and disenfranchise large numbers of African American voters.

Nineteenth Amendment (Ratified on August 18, 1920) - The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.
It took decades in which suffragettes marched, wrote, picketed, lobbied, spoke, and protested before they were granted the right to vote. At the time, many in America considered this amendment to be a radical change to the Constitution.

Twenty-fourth Amendment (Ratified on January 23, 1964) - The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax.
Should your financial circumstances determine your eligibility to vote? At the time this amendment was passed the states of Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Texas, and Virginia were still using poll taxes as a means to exclude African American voters and extend the practice of segregation.

Twenty-sixth Amendment
 (Ratified on July 1, 1971) - The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age.
Imagine you live in a world where you can be drafted to fight for your country, yet aren't afforded the opportunity to vote. That's the position young people found themselves in during the Vietnam War when the voting age was 21. This amendment has the distinction of being ratified in the shortest period of time, only 107 days after its proposal.

It took people from all walks of life many long years of fighting for what was right to ensure that all Americans are entitled to vote. I cannot and will not take for granted the privilege their hard work won for me. The law of this land can only take us so far. If we wish for our "government of the people, by the people, for the people" to serve us well, we MUST exercise this right and see it for the solemn responsibility it is.

It is easy to become complacent and believe that one vote, one voice doesn't matter. But when those missed votes and voices are added up, important and diverse groups in our society are left out. For many, many years voting was a right afforded to privileged white men. We have a come a long way since those days, but we still have a long way to go. Every voice, every opinion matters. We cannot move this country forward without the thoughtful participation of ALL our citizens, young and old, male and female, partisan and non-partisan.

On November 6th I will fulfill my civic responsibility. I will wait in line, no matter how long, and cast my ballot. I will wear my "I Voted" sticker to work. At the end of the day I will come home and spend the evening watching history unfold. No matter the outcome, I will be proud that I participated.  Won't you join me?

You can read what others have to say about the importance of voting at Blog the Vote 2012.