Thursday, December 31, 2009
Almost exactly two years ago, I started CAROL W's CORNER. OK, technically, I started it in October 2007, but I only posted once, then didn't post again until January 1, 2008. In that post, I said I was starting a blog because I thought teachers should always be learners. The blog was my learning for 2008 and thanks to people like Franki and Mary Lee, I learned a ton. Now, two years later, I'm writing my 305th post (nothing compared to how faithfully some people post) and I feel like I've got the hang of blogging, or at least most of the time.
My project for 2010: figuring out the i-phone I bought two days ago. Let me backtrack a little. I've been with the same phone company since 2002. That's a pretty long time, I think, in terms of customer loyalty. Recently, however, I have begun to think about changing. First, the company accidentally turned off my son's unlimited text messaging. My December phone bill was over $500 ($335 more than usual). After I recovered from my heart attack, I called the phone company to sort it out. An hour later, they realized it was their mistake, and that my son had had unlimited texts for more than three years, but they would not give me my money back, they would only credit my account. Then my sons got some money for Christmas and wanted to use it to buy new phones. No deal at our company- the boys had gotten new phones for Christmas last year. One son is eligible now, the other, for no reason anyone can figure out, cannot have a new phone until October 24. The boys had been begging for iphones anyway, so we walked across the street to our local BIG BOX, and somehow we all ended up with iphones. The old phone company can use my $335 credit to cancel my account.
So now I have an iphone. Of course my sons were using theirs by the time we had driven the mile from the store to the house. Me? Not so quick. Mine sat in the bag on the kitchen table until later that afternoon, when my younger son got impatient with his slow mother, and set it up for me. That night, he showed me how to make a phone call. Yesterday morning, waiting for K at basketball practice, I figured out how to use the calendar (and then I read an editorial in the paper this morning from a columnist who is going back to a paper and pencil calendar! Hmm).
I have always had a very basic cell phone- the kind where I could call or text my sons, and that's it. The i-phone is a whole new ball game. I don't know how to do anything fancy- can't quite access the internet, or take pictures or videos, or play Scrabble with my niece at college in California. But I'm working on those things. I guess the iphone will be my new learning for 2010!
Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Skeeter Phelan has just graduated from Ole Miss. She really wants to get a job in the world of publishing in New York City, but returns instead, to her family's plantation in Jackson, Mississippi. Skeeter is surprised to discover that Constantine, the family's maid and one of Skeeter's closest confidantes, is no longer employed by the family. No one will tell Skeeter where Constantine has gone.
Skeeter seeks out a job in journalism and ends up writing a housekeeping advice column for the local newspaper. The problem is, she has never done housework, and has no idea how to answer the questions given to her each week. She seeks advice from Aibileen, a friend's maid, and also becomes connected with Aibileen's best friend, Minny. The three women come together around a very important writing project…
I loved THE HELP. It made me laugh and it made me cry. I fell in love with Skeeter and Aibeleen and Minny, and wished I could sit at Aibileen's kitchen table drinking coffee with them. I admired the strength, and courage, and wisdom of these three women. As with most works of historical fiction, I had new insights into that particular period of time (I think this would be a great read aloud for a high school American History class).
A terrific read-- I can't recommend it highly enough!
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Anyone who knows me at all, knows that I am an avid reader. A gotta-read- every-day kinda gal. I read just about anything with print- magazines, newspapers, cereal boxes, kids' books, professional books, poetry, signs on mailboxes, blogs etc., etc. What I don't read, at least not much during the school year, is adult fiction. It's not that I don't like adult fiction, it's just that between a full time educator, and a full time mom, I don't have a whole a lot of time. I'm starting to believe, though, that I need to rethink that decision.
Last night I finished THE STORY OF EDGAR SAWTELLE. Edgar is a middle-grade boy growing up on a farm close to Lake Superior. He can hear, but has never been able to speak. Edgar's family survives by breeding and training a line of dogs they call Sawtelles (because of my own background knowledge, I kept picturing the dog as labs, but they really sounded more Shepherd-ish). Edgar's father, Gar, is responsible for tracking the dog's lineage and making decisions about breeding. His mom, Trudy, trains the dogs. Edgar, under the watchful eye of his four legged best friend, Almondine, helps with chores and training. Life on the dog farm is hard, but it's happy until Gar's brother Claude arrives…
EDGAR SAWTELLE brought me back to the roots of what I believe about teaching kids to read. First, it reminded me of the importance of background knowledge. As a dog lover, I totally connected with Edgar and his family. Almondine was my Ramsey, and now, to a degree, the dog that Jack Black is becoming. Smart, impudent, strong-willed Essay, another dog important to the story, was my Maggie, and now Stargirl. I loved reading about how the family cared for their dogs. The book made me want to dig out DOG TRAINING FOR DUMMIES and spend some time working with my badly behaved teenager puppies. I don't think my non dog-loving friends would connect with this book or enjoy it quite as much as I did.
Second, the book reminded me of all of the strategies readers use. I read the prologue a couple of times, still didn't totally understand it, and finally just decided to push forward and see if I could figure it out as I went along. I had to reread and reread and reread from page 1 to page 525-- this morning, even though I should be wrapping Christmas presents, I really want to go back and do the least twenty pages again. David Wrobleski is a very talented writer, but sometimes, when I just wanted to know what was going to happen next, I kind of raced through his beautiful descriptions in search of more plot. I "talked" to Wrobleski, fought with him, and asked lots and lots of questions, especially about character's motivation. Last night, after I finished reading, I laid awake for another hour or so, thinking about the ending…
Finally, EDGAR SAWTELLE reminded me how much readers need to talk. I loved EDGAR SAWTELLE, but there is a lot I didn't quite understand. Today, even though it's Christmas Eve and even though I have plenty to do, and even though I'm sure most of my friends are spending time with family and friends, I want to talk to my dog-loving, book-loving friends-- Laura, or Stevi, or Kyle to see if they have read the book, and to see what they thought. I want to talk about Almondine. I want to talk about the ending. I need other readers to help me make sense of what I read.
I've always known that teachers need to be readers. Sometimes, though, I need to be reminded of what that really means…
Saturday, December 19, 2009
Friday. The last day before Christmas vacation. Ten year old D. stops by the library to return A DOG'S LIFE by Ann Martin. He hands the book to our librarian then stands for a minute. Gretchen is not sure what he wants.
"Do you need a new book for vacation?" she asks.
"No," D. says.
Gretchen notices a ribbon bookmark sticking out of the book. She opens the book to hand it to him. "No," says D., "I want it to stay with the book." The ribbon, one that D probably got in class, says EXCELLENT. "It goes with this book," D. declares. He asks Gretchen if they can tape it into the book so it will be sure to stay there. Gretchen obliges then D shows her a review he has written.
Today I read A DOG'S LIFE. This book is the most amazing book I have read so far in my life. This book is mostly about a dog and her life. This now old dog that has been named many names is now Addie, and has been through many hard things. Addie has lost her brother, mother, and friend, Moon, but Addie has not lost hope, and has not lost her soul. Today I've finished this amazing book and hope I can find this book again and keep it instead of borrowing it.And that is why I became a teacher.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Windows to Your Soul
There's a tiny place
That lets thoughts
soar through your body
it's the place
the beauty of
the mind of
Audrey- McKinley Thatcher- 4th grade
My blankie's name is Stripe
I snuggle with her every night
She is my best
I use her
When I am sad
When I am angry
When my feelings are hurt too.
She is my best!
Maya- Kindergarten- Stedman
You can buy the book at THE TATTERED COVER.
The website for THE PLACE WHERE POETRY BEGINS is here.
You can watch a few of the kids reading their poems here.
Thank you Steve for this amazing gift of the heart!
Saturday, December 12, 2009
Review copy provided by publisher
I'm dating myself, but when I was a little girl, one of the books I absolutely loved was the WORLD BOOK ENCYCLOPEDIA, and specifically the H volume of the WORLD BOOK. I loved H because H contained the Human Body. And the Human Body had all of these great color transparency diagrams. First, you saw the outside of the body. Carefully, carefully turn that page, and you saw the nerves and blood vessels. Turn again, and you were inside the body, looking at the organs. I spent hours poring over the pages in that book (and fighting with my sisters over who got to look at the H book, but that's a story for another day).
This book would make a terrific Christmas present. It would be a terrific invitation for those "developing readers" in your life- they could pore over the images in this book for hours, and the need to know about those pictures would get them through the brief amount of text. It would be a great mentor text for a nonfiction unit- you could teach kids about simple and complex diagrams, cutaways, writing interesting captions. There is also a really interesting color coded table of contents.
A plethora of images and information sure to delight any reader…
Sunday, December 6, 2009
This is a really different information picture book. It's chockful of terrific information that starts on the front endpages and doesn't stop until you close the back cover. The information is really specific, really scientific, and really accurate (e.g. that the spaceship doesn't smell very good after a week of astronauts using the restroom in space) and yet the text sounds almost poetic. Listen to this description of the rocket…
Their (the astronauts) two small spaceships areThe illustrations are a contrast too. Some pages are done in very light pastel colors. Others, when the astronauts are in space, have an all black background. Some two pages spreads are black on one side, showing the astronauts on the moon, and then pastel showing people on earth. There's a tremendous sense of perspective and movement. A really nice addition to any classroom library (or for the space lover on your Christmas list)!
Columbia and Eagle.
They sit atop the rocket
that will rise them into space,
a monster of a machine:
it stands thirty stories,
it weighs six million pounds,
a tower full of fuel and fire
and valves and pipes and engines,
too big to believe, but built to fly--
the mighty, massive Saturn V.
Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Author- George Ella Lyon
Illustrator- Stephanie Anderson
The kids at my school don't have much, or at least they don't have much in terms of material goods. I want my kids to know, especially at this time of year, that they are not alone. That things will get better someday. And that no matter how little you have, you can still give something. This weekend, I found a new favorite Christmas book, YOU AND ME AND HOME SWEET HOME by George Ella Lyon, based on the author's experiences building a home for HABITAT FOR HUMANITY.
Eight-year-old Sharonda and her mother have worn out their welcome sleeping on the couch at her auntie's house. They are feeling hopeless until one day, their church offers to build a home for them. Sharonda and her mom work at the house from Day One. Sharonda is eager to help and even rides the bus to the house every day after school. One day a volunteer helps her build a window box. Another day, she passes out water to all of the workers. Finally, the house is ready and Sharonda and her mother move into their new home.
Stephanie Anderson's illustrations are perfect. Early in the book, they are dark. As the house goes up, and the family's situation becomes more hopeful, the illustrations become lighter, and more colorful. And there are lots of good construction type pictures for the "Bob (or Bobette) the Builder" types.
The gift of helping. The gift of yourself. Something everyone can give. Is there a more perfect Christmas present?
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Friday, November 27, 2009
Thursday, November 26, 2009
Jim Burke posted this poem on the ENGLISH COMPANION NING this morning.Jane Kenyon is much more articulate than I am, so I'm borrowing it, with huge thanks to Jim (not sure why the whole poem can be posted, but I figure Jim is much savvier than I am on the ways of the internet, so I am posting the whole thing too).
by Jane Kenyon
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
The Global Fund for Children has come out with a new book this year, and it's a stunner. FAITH is a photo essay that captures the essence of different religions around the world. Each two-page spread addresses a different tenet of faith, e.g. we pray, we chant and sing, we read our holy books, we listen to and learn from others, we cleanse ourselves, we visit holy places, we observe holidays in our homes or places of worship, we care for those around us. The text is usually only one sentence; it's the beautiful, beautiful photographs that proclaim, again and again, that though we are all very different, we are also very much alike. On one page, for instance, the text says, "We show our faiths through what we wear…" The photos show six different religions- four little Muslim girls from Turkey, wearing decorative head scarves, an Indonesian boy wearing a songket udeng (a ceremonial headdress), a Mennonite boy dressed in "plain clothes," a Buddhist girl with thanaka face paint, three beautiful Jain girls in ceremonial headdresses before a procession, and Sikh boy wearing a Patka. The authors have included every religion I can think of-- there are photographs of Jews, Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Farsi, Native Americans, Hindus, Jains, and many others.
A map in the back shows the loctions of all of the countries in the book. There are also three or four pages of notes about the elements of faith, as well as an extensive, and very detailed glossary of words to know.
Thank you, Global Fund for Children, for helping us to understand that we are all much more alike than different!
Friday, November 20, 2009
A THANKSGIVING BLESSING
but of all that we have.
but the warmth of hope rising.
POETRY FRIDAY IS AT JULIE LARIOS' DRIFT RECORD.
Thursday, November 19, 2009
For twenty years, Tarra was a performing elephant. After many years of hard work, she was allowed to retire to a newly created elephant sanctuary in Tennessee. All of the other elephants who came to the sanctuary quickly found elephant friends, but not Tarra. Tarra was a loner until she met a yellow mutt named Bella. From that day on, Bella and Tarra were inseparable.
A really nice dog story, a story about friendship and loyalty, that I know kids are going to love…
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Matthew Henson was born about the time the Civil War ended. As a young African American boy, he had big hopes for seeing the world, but not much hope of fulfilling them. Orphaned at 13, Henson somehow managed to convince the captain of a sailing ship to hire him as a cabin boy. The captain took fondly to young Matt and schooled him in the ways of the high seas. Five years later, the Captain died, and Matthew Henson ended up back on land, working in a store. That's where he met Admiral Peary.
Admiral Peary is a man many of us know as the discoverer of the North Pole. But did you know that he was actually not alone when he made this discovery? Peary was accompanied by none other than Matthew Henson. In fact, Henson was actually the one who bonded with the Inuit people, trained the sled dogs, and stood next to Peary at the Pole (after surviving a fall into the icy water a few days earlier). Amazingly, after they returned from their expedition, Henson worked as a parking lot attendant because that is the only job he could get.
I loved everything about this book- Hopkinson's powerful storytelling, Henson's journal entries, the end pages that include author's note and timeline, and Stephen Alcorn's oh so beautiful illustrations, done in hues of blues, and oranges, and golds. I will be using KEEP ON as the center of an African American history unit in January. Matthew Henson has a lot to teach my kids about dreams, and tenacity, and perserverance, and dignity. Some pretty important life lessons, I think!
P.S. In case you are wondering why I have not been blogging--Ten days ago, my computer had an unfortunate accident (laptop bag meets parking lot, parking lot 1, laptop 0) and I have been without internet at home since then.
Saturday, November 7, 2009
John Brown was an ardent Christian. He believed that blacks should not only be free, but that they should be EQUAL- toward that end, he was kicked out of his home church for giving African Americans his pew at the front of the church after they had been seated in the back. Brown began his abolitionist roots working on the underground railroad in Hudson, Ohio. After the United States passed the Kansas-Nebraska act, which said that those two states could vote on whether they would enter the Union as free or slave states, Brown fought tirelessly to ensure that Kansas would be free. In one well-known battle, John and his sons stormed the homes of five pro-slavery settlers who had been threatening his family and other abolitionists, took the men to a creek, and killed them.
John Brown is perhaps best known for his role at Harper's Ferry. Harper's Ferry, the home of a federal armory which housed more than one hundred thousand rifles, was viewed as a symbol of Southern power. Brown decided that he and a small band of abolitionsists would capture the armory and seize the rifles, then use them to battle the Southern slave owners. Although he was initially successful, he made several poor decisions during this battle, and was eventually captured and hanged as a traitor. Many dismiss Brown as a madman. Hendrix, however, believes that we must see Brown as a man with huge passion and convictions for the downtrodden.
"I will raise a stom in this country that will not be stayed so long as there is a slave on its soil."I love when illustrations help kids understand a complex story, and John Hendrix's frontier style water colors (I'm not sure that is exactly how to describe them, but it's the best this non-artist can do) done on backgrounds of blues, tans, and golds, definitely do that. Most are bold, two-page spreads, that include a larger than life John Brown, but a few are also maps. Key quotes figure prominently in many of the illustrations. And if you enjoy reading author's blogs, John Hendrix has a great one- he includes photographs from a recent John Brown book tour, but also pages from his sketchbook.
I'll be sharing this book not only with our fourth and fifth graders, but also with some of my high school history teacher friends!
Friday, November 6, 2009
Poetry by Ntozake Shange
Paintings by Kadir Nelson
For POETRY FRIDAY today, I'm not sharing just a poem. Instead, I'm sharing a biography in a poem. Actually a civil rights biography in a poem. Today I'm sharing Ntozake Shange's beautiful poetry picture book, CORETTA SCOTT. Shange has taken just a few events from Coretta Scott's life, and shaped them into a beautiful poem. Listen to this page, when Coretta and her younger siblings are walking to school…
The illustrations in this book are by Kadir Nelson (WE ARE THE SHIP, HENRY'S FREEDOM BOX, HE'S GOT THE WHOLE WORLD IN HIS HANDS) who is most definitely one of my all-time favorites. The illustrations in CORETTA SCOTT are his usual- rich details, vivid colors, so real the people almost seem to jump off the page.white school bus
funnel of dust
on their faces
songs and birds of all colors
and rich soil
where slaves sought freedom
in the face of danger
If I was doing a unit on biography, or teaching students about Coretta Scott King, I would probably read a more traditional biography first (there is actually a brief biography in the back of this book), then share Shange's poem. Prior to reading CORETTA SCOTT, I'd ask kids to list important events from her life, then to listen for these as I read. The book is short, so I could read it two or three times to let kids soak in the beautiful language. If kids were writing biography, I might ask them to choose a few important events from the person's life, then write a poem, using CORETTA as a mentor text.
This is definitely a book to add to your poetry and/or biography collection…
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
THE DAY-GLO BROTHERS: THE TRUE STORY OF BOB AND JOE SWITZER'S BRIGHT IDEAS AND BRAND NEW COLORS is a "where things came from" kind of a book. Bob Switzer dreamed of being a doctor until a work-related accident left him with headaches and double vision. His younger brother Joe wanted to be a magician. Instead, the two ended up inventing day-glo paint. This book chronicles their journey with all its stops and starts, and false tries, e.g. the time they used their mom's mixer and turned her angel food cake a pale fluorescent pink. It's an engaging story, but the book also has lots of potential life lessons about creativity, risk taking, mistake making, patience, and perseverance. Character education at its finest!
First-time illustrator Tom Persiani has done a terrific job with the artwork in DAY-GLO BROTHERS. According to the back of the book, he used the computer to create fifties-style characters and settings in various hues of blacks, grays, and whites. He then digitally colorized the pictures with various day-glo oranges, yellows, greens, and pinks. At first, these colors are really pale, and there is just a little bit of color on each page As the Spitzers refine their invention, the colors become brighter and brighter, and there is more color on each page. Really clever!
In the back of the book, Chris Barton explains where he got the idea for the book, and how he did his research. He also includes a page about how regular and daylight fluorescence work. And if you want a quick, simple, explanation of fluorescence vs. day-glo fluorescence, check out this Charlesbridge site.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
ELEANOR: QUIET NO MORE traces the life of Eleanor Roosevelt through a wealthy but very lonely childhood, overseas travels, meeting and marrying FDR, dealing with a domineering mother-in-law, managing a new kind of life after FDR was stricken with polio, advocating for the downtrodden, and finally living the life of First Lady.
I love the layout of this picture book. Each two-page spread includes a picture and two or three paragraphs about a particular section of Roosevelt's life. It also includes, in a very large font, a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt. Here are a couple of my favorites:
"We must be able to disagree and to consider new ideas and not be afraid."
"Do what you feel in your heart to be right-- for you'll be criticized anyway."
"I have never felt that anything really mattered but knowing that you stood for the things in which you believed and had done the very best you could."A brave strong woman I want all my students to know!
Monday, November 2, 2009
As someone who has been known to "make a wave or two," I knew, the minute I read the first line, that I was absolutely going to love this book. And I did. MERMAID QUEEN: THE SPECTACULAR TRUE STORY OF ANNETTE KELLERMAN, WHO SWAM HER WAY TO FAME, FORTUNE, AND SWIMSUIT HISTORY tells the story of Annette Kellerman, the Australian woman who invented water ballet and maybe more importantly to many of us, the modern woman's swimsuit.
Annette Kellerman was a sickly child whose father taught her to swim to strengthen her legs. Soon Annette was winning races and setting records. In 1903, however, not many women were athletes, and Annette's mother wished she would choose something a little more artistic. Ignoring all criticism, Annette and her father left Australia and traveled to England, where Annette was the first woman to attempt to swim the English Channel, then to Paris, and finally to Boston's Revere Beach. There, Annette was arrested and had to appear in court to defend her racy bathing suit! The tone of this book is bold and joyful and dashy and fun. And I don't know whether it was the author or illustrator or picture book designer, but they made some choices about font that I think kids (and their adults!) will find really interesting.
The illustrations, by Edwin Fotheringham, are exuberant and splashy and fun. Each page has kind of a "wavish" background done in blues, or greens, or oranges, with cartoonish-characters kind of super-imposed over the waves. Sometimes there are "mini-illustrations," done in water droplets, super-imposed on top of all that. And then there are a few random comments, e.g. "How sweaty! How rugged!" worked into the illustrations. It's kind of hard to explain, but the illustrations really add to joy and exuberance of this book. Kit lit blog extraordinaire, "Seven Impossible Things Before Breakfast" did an interview of Shana Corey, and included several of the illustrations. Check them out here.
A splashy, joyful, strong, fun picture book that I can't wait to share with the strong girls and women in my life!
Saturday, October 31, 2009
When I work with developing readers, I have three goals. First, I want to help them develop the heart of a reader- the attitudes and beliefs, that readers carry in their heads, e.g. reading is valuable to me, I am able to read, there are reasons to want to read, reading has value to me. Next, I want to help kids develop the skills and strategies readers need, the phonics and comprehension strategies that will help them make meaning from those funny little black squiggles on the page. Finally, I want kids to develop the voices of readers, to become fluent, to read like people talk.
I put attitudes and beliefs first, because I truly believe that until kids WANT to read, see value in reading, and think they CAN read, not much else is going to happen. With that in mind, I'm always on the lookout for books that kids will WANT to read. I've found a new one this weekend. BUBBLE HOMES AND FISH FARTS, by Fiona Bayrock, and illustrated by Carolyn Conahan, begins with this introduction:
Bubbles are soft and squishy and full of air. They shimmer. They float. And they are very handy. Animals make bubbles, ride bubbles, breathe bubbles, and even live in bubbles. Animals use bubbles in amazing ways.The remainder of the book is organized into two-page spreads, with each spread focusing on a different way that each of the sixteen featured animals uses bubbles. The section begins with a statement about how the animal uses bubbles, e.g. Bubbles are for fishing (humpback whales), bubbles are for talking (herring), bubbles are for nesting (African gray treefrog), followed by a paragraph of more detailed information. The illustrations are mostly pastel colors, watercolor I think. Each illustration contains a few cartoon bubbles that capture the essence of the text in a fun and different way. An appendix in the back contains more information about each animal, including scientific name, size, habitat, and a few fun facts, as well as a glossary. And don't miss the acknowledgments, with its extensive list of scientists who were consulted for this project!
I can't wait to share this one with my developing readers!
Wednesday, October 28, 2009
If you have hung out in the world of children's nonfiction at all in the last few years, you've almost surely heard of uber-photographer Nic Bishop. Last year, Bishop won a CYBILS award for NIC BISHOP FROGS. The annotation on the CYBILS website pretty much says it all:
Nic Bishop is known for his jaw-dropping nature photography. Open a book cover with his name on it and you'll be greeted with stunning action shots, exquisite attention to detail, and sharp, sharp close-ups that inspire awe. Couple that with Bishop's equally crisp, up-close and personal writing in Nic Bishop Frogs, and you've got an award-winning combination of text and illustration that captures a child-like wonder about a topic that is anything but new. That's quite a feat. Bishop's language is interesting and playful, and his analogies and references are right on, squarely aimed at where kids' heads are at. Simple word choices never talk down, but will allow newish readers to find success easily. The book flows logically, covering life cycle, defense, diet, habitat, and other essentials you'd expect to find in an animal book, but the organization is refreshingly kid-friendly, meandering through the topics as though Bishop and the reader were having a conversation while sitting in a marsh waiting for a frog. It's intimate and personal and accessible---frogs as you've never seen them before. Fascinating process notes are sure to inspire young photographers.Substitute moths and butterflies for frogs, and you would have a pretty good review of NIC BISHOP MOTHS AND BUTTERFLIES. MOTHS AND BUTTERFLIES is an absolutely gorgeous book of nature photography, written by a biologist who clearly knows tons and tons and tons about his subject. He shares his knowledge in a way that is kid-friendly and accessible, yet not at all condescending or watered down.
At the end of the book, Bishop shares a little about his process, including a story of an overnight trip to Costa Rica to photograph a rarely seen rainforest caterpillar that is able to puff up its body and look like a snake. I was fascinated by this story and dropped in at his website to look for similar stories about his process. One whole section of his site is devoted to an explanation of how he takes his photographs. Fascinating stuff!
Ted and Betsy Lewin have spent their lives travelling the world, collecting stories and creating beautiful picture books. Their latest book, BALARAMA: A ROYAL ELEPHANT. For this book, the Lewins travel to southern India, to meet Drona, the lead royal elephant in an annual parade held in celebration of Dasara, a centuries-old royal and religious festival. The Lewins are so taken with Drona, that they decide they must return the next year for the parade.
Unfortunately, sometime that year, Drona is electrocuted when a branch he is eating touches an electrical wire. When the Lewins return to India, they meet Balarama, the newest lead elephant. This book chronicles the Balarama's role in parade in words, but maybe more importantly, in Ted Lewin's glorious, glorious, glorious watercolor illustrations. The pictures are so real that I feel like I'm right there watching the parade. Wow, wow, wow!
An appendix contains lots of helpful nonfiction text tools to share with kids. There's a list of interesting facts (did you know, for instance, that elephants' trunks contain tens of thousands of individual muscles, or that elephants are left or right-tusked, just like humans are left or right-handed?). There's also a pictorial comparison of Asian and African elephants, and a short bio of the five most recent lead elephants in the Mysore Dasara celebration.
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
This new animal alphabet book is about as perfect as perfect can be. Each four-page spread begins with a photograph of an animal and a large upper and lowercase letter. The next two-page spread has a different photo of the animal, as well as its name. Readers have the opportunity to peruse an alligators' toes, get close enough to tickle the hair under an elephant's chin, flinch at kangaroos kicking, feel the prick of a porcupine's quills, and caress a vulture's wing feathers. The animals' photos, placed against a plain white background (with the exception of N for nocturnal, which is black) are absolutely stunning. Emergent readers can practice strategies like predicting and cross checking picture against word. This book is a treat for the reader's eyes!
Sunday, October 25, 2009
I am a charter member of the the Steve Jenkins Fan Club. I love the way Jenkins draws on children's natural curiosity to teach them about our world. I love how he makes complex information accessible to kids. And of course I love Jenkins' beautiful collage illustrations. SISTERS AND BROTHERS, and ACTUAL SIZE have long been two of my favorite nonfiction mentor texts. This weekend, Jenkins' newest book, DOWN, DOWN, DOWN: A JOURNEY TO THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA, leaped to the top of my list of all time favorite nonfiction/information picture books.
DOWN, DOWN, DOWN begins with this one page introduction:
"Viewed from space, the earth looks like a watery blue ball. Oceans cover more than two-thirds of the globe's surface, and well over half the planet lies beneath water more than a mile (1 1/2 kilometers deep). We have explored only a small fraction of the oceans. In fact, more humans have walked on the moon than have visited the deepest spot in the ocean.Jenkins begins at the surface of the ocean, and takes his readers on a journey 35,838 feet down, to the bottom of the Marianas Trench. Each two-page spread represents a different cross section of the ocean. A "depth-meter" on the righthand side helps readers to know how far down they have travelled. Headings, accompanied by one or two paragraphs of text, explain to the reader what might be going on at that level. The text is typical Jenkins- meaty, yet accessible and interesting to kids. Here are a few facts that I found particularly interesting:
In this book, we'll descend from the ocean's surface to the sea floor and travel through one of the most extreme environments on earth. Along the way we'll encounter some unusual creatures…"
- The bodies of most ocean animals are filled with fluids, so they don't have a problem with the pressure found under the ocean.
- Nine out of every ten animals that live below the sunlit layers of the ocean are bioluminescent- they can produce their own light. Anything containing a hollow, air-filled space, such as a human body or a submarine, risks being crushed as it descends.
- At 3,300 feet, marine snow, composed of dead plankton, fish scales, animal waste, and bits of larger creatures that have died in the waters above, is the primary food source for small animals, who then become prey for larger hunters.
DOWN, DOWN, DOWN is a book that will fascinate kids (not to mention parents and teachers!) I could use the book to teach kids about tools such as headings and diagrams and appendixes. I could use it as a mentor for interesting nonfiction writing. I love having kids draw on Jenkins' work to create illustrations for their own research reports. A must-own for any library, classroom, or family!
Friday, October 23, 2009
by Georgia Heard
walk to recess and back
in a perfectly straight line
no words between them.
They must stifle their small voices,
their laughter, they must
stop the little skip in their walk,
they must not dance or hop
or run or exclaim.
They must line up
at the water fountain
straight, and in perfect form,
like the brick wall behind them.
One of their own given the job
of informer – guard of quiet,
soldier of stillness.
If they talk
or make a sound
they will lose their stars.
Little soldiers marching to and from
their hair sweaty
from escaping dinosaurs
their hearts full of loving the world
and all they want to do
is shout it out
at the top of their lungs.
When they walk back to class
they must quietly
fold their pretends into pockets,
must dam the river of words,
ones they’re just learning,
new words that hold the power
to light the skies, and if they don’t
a star is taken away.
by one star
until night grows dark and heavy
while they learn to think carefully
before making a wish.
I've followed your work for many, many years, and have been really convicted by the notion that teachers need to first be writers and poets themselves, if they are going to teach others to be writers and poets. As I read TIME FOR WONDER, I kept thinking about that, and wondering if teachers didn't also need to see the world through wondering eyes, if they were going to evoke that same sense in children. Do you think that is true? If so, what are some of the ways you evoke and cultivate wonder in your own lives?
I do believe that teachers need to be writers and poets themselves if they are going to teach others to be writers and poets. I’ve always loved what Cynthia Rylant wrote: I once met a boy who was a poet. I believe he was born with a way of looking at things…and even if he never writes one single line of poetry, he’ll always be a poet. I believe that we’re all born with a poetic way of looking at things, and that young children are natural poets, but as we get older life sometimes squeezes the poetry out of us. Our job is to try and find that poetry inside us again; to try to find our voices. Writing alongside our students, at home, or briefly in the classroom, can help spark this.
I try to find beauty everywhere I go. You don’t have to live in a rural or suburban setting -- I lived in NYC for over twenty years – and there was so much beauty there: flowers sticking out of the water buckets at the corner deli: the way the sparrows flitter and squawk over a bagel scrap in the street; morning light blazing down side streets; and so many other moments. It might take more effort in an urban setting, but if we just open our eyes we can find it.
Having a young child in my house is an everyday reminder to see the world through different eyes. He is full of "whys" and "how comes," and teaches me to slow down and think about how kids see the world around them.
I taught in schools in NYC that were like the one you describe above, and I really know how difficult it can be. The kids in your school need that sense of wonder nurtured. Bring the beauty of the world inside the classroom. Here is a gathering of a few ideas (all from NYC classrooms) to bring wonder and beauty inside. Bring in a small cherry tree branch (found at a corner deli in spring), and place it in a water bucket in the corner, and wait for it to bloom. If allowed, bring in hermit crabs, and other living creatures. Bring in blooming plants. A terrarium. A discovery table with shells and nests displayed next to a magnifying glass. A single flower in a vase. Hang a cloth or a quilt on the wall -- especially if there is a story behind it. Ask kids to plant seeds or bulbs, and watch them bloom. One small square would be a great idea for kids to really look deeply and see their world with new eyes. Even putting the square on concrete and looking at it through a microscope can evoke a sense of wonder at what unexpected things they might find. And so many more ideas… Make your classroom the beauty that the kids might not be able to see outside. Read The Old Woman and Her Secret by Eve Merriam, and tell them that their job this year is to ask questions, and be filled with wonder; and then set up wondering centers so the kids can begin to express that wonder.
We do lots with nonfiction and research with our students. I don't think, howeer, that we are as good at researching their "heart wonders." I'm wondering if you could talk a little more about the kinds of things that you do to help kids address their "heart wonder" questions.
“Heart Wonders” are the big, pondering, and sometimes personal questions that we ask ourselves such as: What will my future be? ; What makes a friend? ; Why do bad things sometimes happen to people? These questions are meant to be pondered, savored, and explored by reflecting on them but also by having a conversation with another person; they are not necessarily researched in the same way as more informational questions. We tell younger kids that “research wonders” are questions about things that you can hold in your hand (although this isn’t always true), and “heart wonders” are those questions that are about what’s in your heart and mind. As we describe in our book, the two types of questions often blend. Many personal essays come from “heart wonders” – explored through personal writing.
So, so, so many ideas in the book could be used in intermediate grades. I'm wondering, though whether, you would whether the two of you might ever consider doing a sequel, with Jen teaching and Georgia conducting research in an intermediate grade classroom? That would be a fun book to read?
Thanks for the suggestion! We’ll definitely think about it.
I'm also the mom of two high school kids. My guys go to a high school that is considered to be the best in the district, yet there is very little, if any, space for kids' passion or interest, or engagement or wondering within the walls of the classroom. I wonder, then, how can middle and high school teachers embrace your ideas? What can parents of high school kids do to restore joy, and passion, and wonder to their kids' learning lives?
You’re so right – when kids get into high school their passion, interest and sense of wonder diminishes. This should be the subject of another book but, briefly, teachers could make room for students’ questions in each subject – and devote part of the class to exploring these questions. Can you imagine if there was a class called Pondering Time where students ask “heart wonder” questions and, then write to explore the answers?
I so, so, so loved this book. I so, so, so needed this book. I want you to read it too. You can read the book or order it at Stenhouse.
Saturday, October 17, 2009
I love when people who know a lot about a topic can make the information interesting and understandable to someone who is not an expert in their field. That's exactly what happens in JUST THE RIGHT SIZE: WHY BIG ANIMALS ARE BIG AND LITTLE ANIMALS ARE LITTLE. Author and zoologist Nicola Davies draws on her considerable expertise as a zoologist to help kids understand some pretty complex information about animal evolution and physiology. Davies begins by explaining the BTLT (Big Thing, Little Thing) Rule (which would be terrific to link to intermediate grade math or science lessons on surface area and volume):
the surface area and cross section
go up FOUR TIMES,
while its volume and weight
go up EIGHT TIMES.
Kids (and adults) will also love Neal Layton's humorous, cartoon- style illustrations. They're funny, but also packed with tons of information that complement the text. The illustrations will be great "mentor texts" for my fourth and fifth graders, who already know quite a bit about diagrams, and need to stretch themselves a little. I think it would be fun for them to choose three or four significant facts, then try to embed those some how in their illustrations.
This probably is not a book for most little guys, but I think third, fourth, and fifth graders would really enjoy it. I could even see reading it aloud to my son's high school biology class…
Friday, October 16, 2009
So what to do?
it seems to me.
At least two.
Two, begin now.
Mend a fractured friendship,
mail an overdue letter,
repair a broken heart,
lay aside a griveance,
act on a noble impulse.
As we all know,
"The night cometh".
-- POETRY FRIDAY is at the home of poet extraordinaire, Laura Salas.
Thursday, October 15, 2009
"Our goal was to create a landscape of wonder in primary classrooms—a landscape in children’s minds and hearts ﬁlled with wonder and awe about this amazing world we live in."
"We knew that it’s important to not just ask the questions but to learn to explore questions. We wanted to set up time for the children to ponder their questions and teach them how to go about exploring those questions."
Young children need to know that nonﬁction writing is varied, but at the core of all nonﬁction writing is often a question, an observation, a passion fermenting in the author’s mind and heart. Heard and McDonough, p. 58
I loved this book and have been trying to implement many of Heard and McDonough's ideas into my teaching, and also into my parenting. I was thrilled to be included on Heard and McDonough's blog tour, which starts later this week.
October 19: A Year of Reading
October 23: Carol’s Corner (can you believe it, right here!).
As part of that tour, I get to send some questions to Georgia and Jennifer, so I'm opening this up to my readers. Take a look at the book (you can preview the entire book online here), then email me with your questions. I'll pass them onto Georgia and Jennifer, and maybe they will answer them!
Also, as an EXTRA SPECIAL SUPER DUPER AUTUMN TREAT, Stenhouse will wrap up the blog tour with a LIVE WEBCAST with Georgia and Jennifer on Oct. 26th at 8 p.m. EST. This will be a great opportunity to join a small group discussion with the two authors. Five participants for this live webcast will be chosen from the comments in this post and the blog tour post on October 23 If you would like to have your name thrown in the bowl, post a comment or question about the book here. Include your email address so I can contact you if you win! No special software or equipment are needed to participate in the webcast – just a phone and your computer.
LAST DAY TO NOMINATE FOR CYBILS
Have you nominated your favorite new books for the CYBILS? Anything published between October 16, 2008 and October 15, 2009 is eligible, but TODAY is the last day you can nominate a book for this honor! Hurry on over to the CYBILS site and get busy nominating!
Friday, October 9, 2009
We are about a month from the end of the boys' high school football season. And I have decided that being the mother of a football player causes every weird and dormant alter ego that I might have ever had (and would have vehemently denied was a part of me) to come to the surface. That person that wants to stand up and punch the person who is criticizing the fourteen-year-old freshman quarterbacking the varsity team, who happens to be my son. And that selfish one who prays, when somebody's baby is down on the field a little too long, "Oh, please, don't let it be my child…" And that one who does not quite know how to support her child and balance his dreams, with the cruel realities of life…
THE WOMAN FIVE DOORS DOWN- Francis Duggan
The woman five doors down tells me her son Ted is the best player in the school football team
And that one day he will play in an A.F.L. Grand Final and that more than once of late she's had this dream
Of watching him receive the Coleman medal for best on ground on football's biggest day
Watched by well over ninety thousand people who cheer him on with a loud hip hooray.
Read the rest of the poem here.
POETRY FRIDAY is at PICTURE BOOK OF THE DAY.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
Last summer, I tutored a little guy who was going into third grade, but reading at a beginning first grade level. Three or four times a week, I picked G. up and we went to the neighborhood library and read. Originally, I tried to steer him toward the easy reader section- Dr. Seuss, the Elephant and Piggy books, and the Rookie Reader science series. G would have none of it. He wanted books about cars, and more specifically, books about low riders. We exhausted all of the books in that library, then moved to the larger world of interlibrary loan. By the end of the summer, I knew quite a bit about low riders, and G had started to read and had written a twenty-page book about low riders.
G reminded me (AGAIN!) about the importantce of motivation and engagement in reading. The EASY READERS were painful, but put G in a book about low riders and he could read words like Chevrolet Impala, hydraulics, chrome, velvet and horsepower with absolutely no problem. He could read those words because he cared about them.
This year I'm spending my mornings teaching intervention groups to second and third graders. The groups are about 75% boys. We are reading a lot of nonfiction and I've just found a new book I think they will love. TRUCKS is a Level 1 (first grade, not DRA Level 1) National Geographic Reader in a series that also includes topics like storms and frogs. The book is narrated by Slick, a truck driver who appears on every page. Each two-page spread is about a different kind of truck-typical ones like dump trucks, tow trucks, and cement mixers, but also some that are more unusual, e.g. the world's largest truck, the Liebherr 282. The last three pages show Slick's rig, including the cab and dashboard, and his office/sleeping quarters. Each two-page spread contains a great picture, and 2-4 sentences of juicy information.
I know G and has buddies are going to love this book. After they are done examining all of the different kinds of trucks, I can use the book to teach them about nonfiction tools, because TRUCKS has all of them- a table of contents, headings on each page, labeled diagrams, "truck talk" vocabulary that is pulled out in a little text box on many of the pages, and a glossary in the back. Many of the pages have truck-related riddles, e.g. "Q: What is the laziest part of a truck? A: The wheels, they're always TIRED."
I'm putting this book in my school bag right now. I can't wait to share it with my reading buddies. I know they are going to love it.