Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Here's are some of our favs - Part I :)

Books meant for little ones but edifying for everyone!
Great Joy by Kate DiCamillo [Thank you, Terri Cramer!]
Rules by Cynthia Lord [Thank you, Carol Wilcox!]
The Underneath by Kathy Appelt
One Boy
One Thousand Tracings: Healing the Wounds of World War II
Across the Alley

A Circle of Friends
Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech
The One O'Clock Chop by Ralph Fletcher
Big Words for Little People by Jamie Lee Curtis
Bats at the Library by B. Lies
Brothers by Yin
Henry's Freedom Box
That Book Woman by Heather Henson
Wave by Suzy Lee

Great Book for Parents:
Look Who's Learning to Read: 50 Fun Ways to Instill a Love of Reading in Young Children by Shelley Harwayne
[And thank you Wanda Coleman for the supportive "empty nest" books, too!]

Wonderful Resource for Presenters and Teachers:
Presentation Zen [Thank you, Angela Peery!]

Books for Big People :)
Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
Letter to My Daughter by Maya Angelou
Summer People by Brian Groh
Three Cups of Tea by Greg Mortenson
Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan
Dream Me Home Safely: Writers on Growing Up in America
The Child That Books Built: A Life in Reading by Spufford
The Most Wonderful Books: Writers on Discovering the Pleasures of Reading
The Faith Club: A Muslim, A Christian, A Jew-- Three Women Search for Understanding
Leaving Church: A Memoir of Faith

A New Earth

Monday, December 22, 2008

Dave Benson nominated for Colorado Teacher of the Year!

Tim and I salute our favorite history teacher and ask you to join us in lifting up our glasses to Dave! We are so proud of you, Sweetie! Hooray!!

Benson's Best Books of 2008

A Benson family tradition is sharing some of favorite reads from the year with all of you as a wee holiday gift. We will soon be adding our "best books" to my blog (We just have to finish up a few Christmas tasks first!). For some of our thoughts, look back to my August 12 entries for a list of some of our recent favorites (The first long lists are mostly for educators. The next listings should include some interesting titles for all passionate readers.).

One to share now: How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor

Please check back in soon for our updated and more inclusive list. Also, we love hearing your recommendations. So, please offer us your "best books" ideas...and any of your favorite movies or plays for the year, too. :) [We DO love stories.] Wishing you abundant joy, glowing peace, and infinite love now and always. Happy holidays!
Dave, Laura, and Tim Benson (with hugs from Buddy and Chester) xoxoxo

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Short and SPIRITED Texts

Going Short to Go Long: Supporting Students' Literacy Growth and Passion with Short and Spirited Texts
(c) Laura Benson

[*Cutting and pasting these notes into this blog template is creating some adjustments in formatting. Please forgive the lack of italics and alignment here.]

Finding short and spirited texts for students, I often harvest texts from unusual and often free sources. Here are some of my favorite “beg, borrow, and steal” wells of short and spirited texts:
+STUDENT-AUTHORED TEXTS: First and foremost, I turn to these. The writing students produce can provide us with superb short texts. Student-authored texts often represent not only excellent sources of brief and motivating texts but accessible language/vocabulary and schema, too. A huge bonus – student authors always give us permission to duplicate their writing make their pieces perfect for book clubs, guided reading, and shared reading!

+NEWSPAPER ARTICLES: Reflecting on my life as reader, newspapers launch my day. It’s like newspaper reading is my brain warm up for the rest of the day. Every newspaper contains a variety of genres and styles of writing. So, now, as I read the paper each morning and linger over two or three papers each Sunday, I do so with a pair of scissors to snatch that “just right” piece for a current group of students. When you read the newspaper, think outside of the box, too. How about using a map or the captions to new photographs as the text for your next small group (guided reading, interactive writing group, book club, etc.)? What about turning to your own newspaper reading to develop your next reading comprehension demonstration? Why not steer students to book reviews and movie reviews from your favorite journalists to help the kids know how to craft their own powerful synthesis texts?

+FREEBIES: With your teaching antennas tuned in to short and spirited texts, you will soon find millions of free texts as you go about your daily life in and out of school. Free texts such as museum and art exhibit brochures; community newsletters; flyers; computer manuals; insurance form or tax form direction cards; book store bookmarks (which often profile biographical information about authors);

+FREE TIME PASSIONS: What students love to do outside of school and how they learn beyond our classrooms can give us a bounty of short and spirited texts.
o CD jacket covers frequently offer juicy information about the singer or band as well as insights about how the composer gets and crafts his/her ideas for music making.
o Photo Albums, especially with captions, are compelling short and spirited texts and can often be connected to many content area themes or literacy studies.
o Pet care guides or reference texts are fabulous options for bringing concise and motivating texts into students’ lives. Each time we take our pets to the vet, I come home with excellent – and short – examples of nonfiction texts complete with supportive graphics, too.

+WORLD WIDE WEB: Google www [just about any topic or author’s name] and you will find so many which will draw you into the site more deeply. Among all these treasures, I can consistently find texts which reflect students’ passions, strengths, and/or needs.

+MAGAZINES: I adore magazines of all kinds. I cannot pass by a rack of free magazines outside a store or recycled magazines at our local library without stuffing a few in my bag (not to mention that magazine “logs” stuffing my mailbox each week)! I almost always have a pair of scissors as I read magazines because I find so many short and spirited texts for Pre-K to 12th grade students (Think pictures for younger students and longer pieces such as book reviews, essays, one page biographies, and a provocative chart for older students.). A few periodicals that my son, nieces, nephews, and students have loved include:
o Adventure Box
o American Girls
o Appleseed
o Ask
o Baby Bug
o Boy’s Life
o Boy’s Quest
o Brio
o Calliope
o Career World
o Chickadee
o Children’s Digest
o Chirp
o Cicada
o Comics
(numerous titles)
o Cousteau Kids
o Creative Kids
o Cricket
o Crinkles
o Dig
o Disney Adventures
o Dogs for Kids
o ESPN Magazine
o Girls’ Life
o Highlights
o Hopscotch
o Horn Book
o Humpty Dumpty
o Jack and Jill
o Junior Baseball
o Kid Zone
o Kids Discover
o Kids On Wheels
o Ladybug
o Muse
o National Geographic for Little Kids
o Nick
o Owl
o Ranger Rick
o Scholastic News
o Skipping Stones
o Spider
o Sports Illustrated for Kids
o Teen People
(in English and in Spanish)
o Time for Kids
o Tracks
o Turtle
o Weekly Reader
o WinnerItalic
o Young Rider
o Your Big Backyard
o Zillions
o Zoo Books
+POETRY: Poems are perfect for the pocket reading, another way my students and I describe short and spirited texts because they are small enough for us to easily carry them around. Every child should know and come to love poetry because it is good for the soul. To keep joy at the center of their reading practice with poetry, I often develop rituals such as Theater Thursday. During the week, as child read and find a favorite poem, they have the opportunity to practice the poem as if it is a script so that they can read or act out the poem to us on Thursday afternoon (Students are also encouraged to find favorite scenes in the fiction or biography they read and exciting facts in creating readers’ theater sharing during our Theater Thursday rituals.). Sometimes students read their poem alone and sometimes students perform a poem with peers (The kids have time to meet, discuss, and practice their performance during Readers’ Workshop and/or D.E.A.R./Drop Everything And Read time after lunch.). Mastery of a short poem would cause students to feel confident and successful early in the program, similar to the success that other researchers found in the use of short texts in conjunction with fluency development (Rasinski, Padak, Linek, & Sturtevant, 1994) and gains in students’ comprehension and motivation (Homan, Klesius, & Hite, 1993; Moyer, 1982; Rasinski, 2000). For these reasons and more, draw from the following cornucopias of poetry to infuse poems into your students’ independent reading, collaborative reading or guided reading, and for our modeling, too.

*POETRY collections:
o Baseball, Snakes, and Summer Squash: Poems About Growing Up by Donald Graves
o The Book Worms Feast: A Potluck of Poems by Lewis
o The Bug in Teacher’s Coffee and Other School Poems by Kalli Dakoss
o Definitions by Sara Holbrook
o The Dog Ate My Homework by Sara Holbrook
o Extra Innings: Baseball Poems by Lee Bennett Hopkins
o A Family of Poems: My Favorite Poetry for Children by Caroline Kennedy
o Fireflies in the Night by Jonathan London
o the flag of childhood: poems from the middle east Selected by Naomi Shihab Nye
o Fold Me a Poem by Kristin O’Connell George
o The Forest Has Eyes by Bev Doolittle and Elise Maclay
o The Great Frog Race by Kristin O’Connell George
o Heartsongs by Mattie Stepanek [CHILD POET]
o Hello School! A Classroom Full of Poems by Dee Lillegard
o Honey, I Love and Other Love Poems by Eloise Greenfield
o if there would be no light… by Sahara Sunday Spain [CHILD POET]
o In the Land of Words by Eloise Greenfield
o It’s About Dogs by Tony Johnston, Tony
o A Kick in the Head: An Everyday Guide to Poetic Forms selected by Paul Janeczko
o Least Things: Poems About Small Natures by Jane Yolen
o Like Butter On Pancakes by Jonathan London
o Little Dog Poems and Little Dog and Duncan by Kristine O’Connell George
o Locomotion by Jacqueline Woodson
o Me I Am! by Jack Prelutsky [book-length poem]
o Mountain Dance by Thomas Locker
o Ordinary Things: Poems from a Walk in Early Spring by Ralph Fletcher
o Pass it On: An African American Poetry for Children by Wade Hudson
o Popcorn by James Stevenson
o Swimming Upstream: Middle School Poems by Kristin O’Connell George
o Toasting Marshmallows: Camping Poems by Kristin O’Connell George
o Wham! It’s a Poetry Jam: Discovering Performance Poetry by Sara Holbrook
o Wonderful Words by Lee Bennett Hopkins
o A Writing Kind of Day: Poems for Young Poets by Ralph Fletcher
o Zany Zoo by William Wise

Novels written in poetic form:
*Creech, Sharon Hate That Cat
*Creech, Sharon Heartbeat
*Creech, Sharon Love That Dog
*Myers, Walter Dean Monster [for high school and college level students]

Poet Author Studies: I love connecting students to the poetry of the following poets because their poems are invitations. Their poems say “Come in. Read me.” and “You can do this, too! Put your thoughts into a poem…and grow your readers’ hearts!”
§ Students as Mentor Poets
§ Maya Angelou
§ Byrd Baylor
§ Billy Collins
§ Sharon Creech
§ Douglas Florian
§ Robert Frost
§ Kristin O’Connell George
§ Donald Graves
§ Eloise Greenfield
§ Nikki Grimes
§ Georgia Heard
§ Sara Holbrook
§ Lee Bennett Hopkins
§ Langston Hughes
§ Paul Januzco
§ Jonathan London
§ George Ella Lyon
§ Sharon Olds
§ Valerie Worth
§ Jane Yolen
§ Charlotte Zolotow

NONFICTION TEXTS: Take an appetizer out of a longer volume of nonfiction to create a rich and juicy short text for your students’ guided reading or independent reading. For example, in studying clouds with students during our weather unit, I have drawn one to four page pieces from Spencer Christian’s It’s Raining Cats and Dogs (while also giving students a variety of other texts and genres so that they can read about clouds
v Dogs and Cats by Steve Jenkins
v Girls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women by Catherine Thimmesh and Melissa Sweet
v Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What is an Adjective? by Brian Cleary
v It’s Raining Cats & Dogs by Spencer Christian
v What a Great Idea! Inventions That Changed Our Lives
v On Earth by Brian Karas
v Only You by Margaret Chodos-Irvine
v Owen and Mzee by Isabella Hatkoff, Craig Hatkoff and Paula Kahumbu
v Thank You, World by Alice B. McGinty
v Tiger Math by Ann Whitehead Nagda
v Transformed: How Everyday Things Are Made by Bill Slavin
v Until I Met Dudley: How Everyday Things Really Work by Roger McGough & Chris Riddell
v We by Alice Shertle
v We Are One by Ysaye Barnwell & Brian Pinkney
v What Stinks? by Marilyn Singer

Nonfiction Mentors for Author Study:
§ Aliki
§ Melvin Berger
§ Franklyn Branley
§ Joanna Cole
§ Donald Crews
§ Lois Ehlert
§ Allan Fowler
§ Rita Golden Gelman
§ Gail Gibbons
§ Linda Glasser
§ Ruth Heller
§ Barnabas & Annabel Kindersley
§ Patricia Lauber
§ Milton Meltzer
§ Charles Micucci
§ Ann Morris
§ Ifeoma Onyefulu
§ Mary Pope Osborne
§ Jerry Pallotta
§ Laurence Pringle
§ Seymour Simon
§ Gail Saunders Smith
§ Jane Yolen
§ Also, check out all the authors who contribute to

v Promises to Keep: How Jackie Robinson Changed America by Sharon Robinson
v John’s Secret Dreams by Doreen Rappaport
v Rosa by Nikki Giovanni, illustrated by Bryan Collier
v Show Way by Jacqueline Woodson

Living Literate Lives Text Set
Living a Literate Life
Amber on the Mountain – Tony Johnston
Aunt Chip and the Triple Creek Dam Affair – Patricia Polacco
Book – George Ella Lyon
The Girl Who Hated Books – Manjusha Pawagi
I Can Read with My Eyes Shut – Dr. Suess
Library Lil – Suzanne Williams
Oh, How I Wished I Could Read – John Gile
Oh, the Places You’ll Go! – Dr. Seuss
Oh, the Thinks You Can Think – Dr. Seuss
More Than Anything Else – Marie Bradby
Papa’s Stories – Delores Johnson
Read to Me Momma – Vashanti Rahaman
Richard Wright and the Library Card – William Miller
Thank You, Mr. Faulker – Patricia Polacco
Wednesday Surprise – Eve Bunting
Wolf – Becky Bloom

Journal Book BundleWhile some of the following texts are collections, I draw short and spirited selections from them for modeling, collaborative practice, and students’ independent reading. Additionally, to create their short and spirited texts journal or diary type texts, the following mentor text offer students a variety of ways to structure their own journal/diary writing.
Adshead, Paul Puzzle Island
Cronin, Doreen Diary of a Worm
Filopovic, Zlata Zlata’s Diary: A Child’s Life in Sarajevo Fitzhugh, Louise Harriet the SpyHunter, Latoya The Diary of Latoya Hunter: My First Year in Jr. HighMoss, Marissa Amelia’s Notebooks (numerous titles)Park, Barbara Junie B., First Grader (at last!)Snyder, Carol Memo: To Myself When I Have A Teenage KidTalbott, Hudson Safari Journal
Wardlaw, Lee 101 Ways To Bug Your ParentsWatt, Melanie Chester (journal style writing, animals as writers)
Wilder, Laura Ingalls On The Way Home
Dear Children of Earth: A Letter from Home – Schim Schimmel
Dear Dragon…and Other Useful Letter Forms for Young Ladies and Gentlemen Engaged in Everyday Correspondence –Sesyle Joslin
Dear Mr. Blueberry – James Simon
The Jolly Christmas Postman – Janet and Allan Ahlberg
The Jolly Postman, of Other People’s Letters – Janet and Allan Ahlberg
The Teacher from the Black Lagoon – Mike Thaler
Ada, Alma Flor With Love, Little Red HenAda, Alma Flor Yours Truly, Goldilocks
Ahlberg, Janet & Allen The Jolly Postman Or Other’s People’s Letters The Jolly Pocket Postman Banotuk, Nick Griffin and Sabine (trilogy) Caseley, Judith Dear AnnieChristelow, Eileen Letter From a Desperate Dog
Cleary, Beverly Dear Mr. HenshawCronin, Doreen Click Clack Moo Cows That Type
Diary of a Spider
Diary of a Worm
Giggle Giggle Quack
Dannenberg, Julie First Year Letters
Day, Alexandra Special DeliveriesDupasquier, Philippe Dear Daddy...Fox, Mem Dear Mem Fox, I Have Read All Your Books Even The Pathetic OnesGeorge, Jean Dear Rebecca, Winter Is HereGiff, Patricia Reilly The War Began at Supper: Letter To Miss LoriaJames, Simon Dear Mr. BlueberryJohnston, Tony Amber On The MountainNagda, Ann Whitehead Dear WhiskersNichol, Barbara Beethoven Lives UpstairsNordlicht, Lillian A Medal for MikeNye, Naomi Shihab Sitti’s Secret
Pak, Soyung Dear JunoPomerantz, Charlotte The Birthday Letters Ross, Tony Little Wolf’s Book of BadnessSelway, Martina Don’t Forget To WriteWhybrow, Ian Little Wolf’s Book of Badness

An earnest plea: Picture books are very much a forever genre for our students and for us. If you teach students in third grade and above and especially if you are secondary teachers, continue to guide your students to picture books. Many picture books focus on content or messages intended for more mature readers. All picture books represent an invitation to Pre-K to 12th grade writers; picture books are a genre worth all students writing study and practice.
v Alice & Anatole by Sam Childs
v Am I a Color Too? by Heidi Cole & Nancy Vogl
v The Boy Who Love Words
v Brothers in Hope: The Story of the Lost Boys of Sudan by Mary Williams
v Carmine: A Little More Read by Melissa Sweet
v Charlie Cook’s Favorite Book by Julia Donaldson
v The Golden Rule by Ilene Cooper
v Imagine by
v Is There a Human Race? by Jamie Lee Curtis
v Hubert Horatio Bartle Bobton-Trent by Lauren Child
v How Much? Visiting Markets Around the World by Ted Lewin
v Keep Climbing, Girls by Beah Richards
v Letter From a Desperate Dog by Eileen Christelow
v The Librarian of Basra: A True Story from Iraq by Jeanette Winter
v Meet Wild Boars by Meg Rosoff & Sophie Blackall
v The Milestone Project by Richard Steckel and Michele Steckel
v Miss Malarkey Doesn’t Live in Room 10 by Judy Finchler
v My Librarian Is a Camel by Margriet Ruurs
v No Dogs Allowed! by Sonia Manzano
v The Pickle Patch Bathtub by Frances Kennedy
v Room on the Broom by Julia Donaldson
v The Secret by Lindsay Barrett George
v The Smartest Giant in Town by Julia Donaldson
v Tsunami: Helping Each Other by Ann Morris and Heidi Larson
v What a Family by Rachel Isadora
v Why War is Never a Good Idea by Alice Walker
v Wild About Books by Judy Sierra

Humor Texts
Calmenson, Stephanie What Am I? Very First RiddlesdePaola, Tomie Hey Diddle Diddle and Other Mother Goose RhymesKeane, Bil Pun-Abridged Dictionary
Merriam, Eve Higgle Wiggle: Happy RhymesO’Donnell, Rosie Kids Are Funny 1 & 2Terban, Marvin In A Pickle and Other Funny IdiomsFunk, Charles Hog On Ice & Other Curious Expressions.
Gwynne, Fred Chocolate Moose for Dinner
Gwynne, Fred The King Who Rained
Wonderful Pictures Books for Grades 3 – 12

Literary Focus
Character Analysis
Amazing Grace – Mary Hoffman
Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters – John Steptoe
Oliver Button is a Sissy – Tomie dePaola
Agatha’s Featherbed – Carmen Agra Deddy
Creativity & Topic Generation
A Boy, a Dog, and a Frog – Mercer Mayer
A Boy, a Dog, A Frog and A Friend – Mercer Mayer
Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day – Judith Viorst
The First Forest – John Gile
Flying Saucer Full of Spaghetti – Fernando Krahn
Freefall – David Wiesner
Frog Goes to Dinner – Mercer Mayer
Frog on His Own – Mercer Mayer
Frog Where are You? – Mercer Mayer
Fortunately – Reny Charlip
The Fortune Tellers – Lloyd Alexander
The Important Book – Margaret Wise Brown
The Mysteries of Harris Burdick – Chris Van Allsburg
The Paper Bag Princess – Robert Munsch
The Relatives Came – Cynthia Rylant
Squids will be Squids - Jon Scieszka
Time Flies – Chris Can Allsburg
Tuesday – David Wiesner
The Book that Jack Wrote - Jon Scieszka
The Frog Prince Continued - Jon Scieszka
Slender Ella and Her Fairy Hogfather – Vivian Sathre
The Stinky Cheese Man - Jon Scieszka
Grammar, Conventions, & Parts of Speech
Behind the Mask: A Book About Prepositions – Ruth Heller
A Cache of Jewels and Other Collective Nouns – Ruth Heller
Eats, Shoots, & Leaves: Why Commas Really DO Make a Difference! - Lynn Truss
Fantastic! Wow! and Unreal!: A Book About Interjections and Conjunctions – Ruth Heller
Hairy, Scary, Ordinary: What is an Adjective? - Brian Cleary
Kites Sail High: A Book About Verbs – Ruth Heller
Many Luscious Lollipops: A Book About Adjectives – Ruth Heller
Merry-Go-Round: A Book About Nouns – Ruth Heller
Mine, All Mine: A Book About Pronouns – Ruth Heller
Up, Up and Away: A Book About Adverbs – Ruth Heller
The War Between the Vowels and the Consonants – Priscilla Turner
Chester – Melanie Watt
George & Martha – James Marshall
Mouse Soup – Arnold Lobel
Owl at Home – Arnold Lobel
Stella Luna – Janell Cannon

Play on Words/Vocabulary Focus
A Chocolate Moose For Dinner – Fred Gwynne
Crash, Bang, and Boom – Peter Spier
Fingers are Always Bringing Me News – May O’Neil
The King Who Rained – Fred Gwynne
Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Distaster – Debra Frasier
Ounce Dice Trice – Alastar Reid
Previously – Allan Ahlberg
The Sixteen Hand Horse – Fred Gwynne
What is that Sound – May O’Neil
What is that Thing? Whose Stuff if This? – John Gile
Point of View
Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing – Judi & Ron Barrett
Encounter – Jane Yolen
Morning Milking – Linda Morris
Piggie Pie! – Margie Palatini
Somebody and the Three Blairs
Something Beautiful – Sharon Wyeth
The Three Little Wolves and the Big Bad Pig – Eugene Trivizas
The True Story of the Three Little Pigs – Jon Scieszka
The Three Little Javelina’s – Susan Lowell
Fly Away Home – Even Bunting
The Roosters Gift – Pam Conrad

Wordless Picture Books
Dylan’s Day Out – Peter Catalanotto
Why? – Nikolai Popov

Social Studies
African American History
Amistad: A Long Road to Freedom – Walter Dean Myers
At the Crossroads – Rachel Isadora
Black Snowman – Jacob Miller
Chicken Sunday – Patricia Polacco
Christmas in the Big House/Christmas in the Quarters – Patricia McKissack
Cornrows – Camille Yarbrough
From Slave Ship to Freedom Road – Rod Brown
Follow the Drinking Gourd – Jeanete Winter
Harlem – Walter Dean Myers
Smoky Night – Eve Bunting
The Sound that Jazz Makes – Carole Boston Weatherford
Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt – Deborah Hopkinson
Tar Beach – Faith Ringgold
Through My Eyes – Ruby Bridges
The Wagon – Tony Johnston
Ancient Civilizations
Hieroglyphs from A to Z – Peter Der Manuelian
Look at the Moon – May Garelick
Asian American History
Grandfather’s Journey – Allen Say
Stranger in the Mirror – Allen Say
Amelia and Elanor Go for a Ride – Pam Munoz Ryan
Bard of Avon: The Story of William Shakespeare – Diane Stanley
Charles Dickens: The Man Who Had Great Expectations – Diane Stanley
Cleopatra – Diane Stanley
Coming Home: From the Life of Langston Hughes – Floyd Cooper
Duke Ellington – Andrea Davis Pikney
Eleanor – Barbara Cooney
Good Queen Bess: The Story of Elizabeth I of England – Diane Stanley
Joan of Arc – Diane Stanley
Leonardo Da Vinci – Diane Stanley
Michelangelo- Diane Stanley
Minty: A Story of Young Harriet Tubman – Alan Schroeder
My Dream of Martin Luther King – Faith Ringgold
Peter the Great – Diane Stanley

Civil Rights Movement
Freedom School, Yes! – Amy Littlesugar
I Have a Dream – Martin Luther King, Jr.
If a Bus Could Talk: The Story of Rosa Parks – Faith Ringgold
Civil War
Aunt Harriet’s Underground Railroad in the Sky – Faith Ringgold
Diary of a Drummer Boy – Marlene Brill
Pink and Say – Patricia Polacco
The Promise Quilt – Candice Ransom
Colonial America
The First Thanksgiving – Jean Craighead George
On the Mayflower – Kate Waters
Samuel Eaton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Boy – Kate Waters
Sarah Morton’s Day: A Day in the Life of a Pilgrim Girl – Kate Waters
The Thanksgiving Story – Alice Dalgliesh
Depression Era
The Gardener – Sarah Stewart
Potato – Kate Lied
Something Permanent – Cynthia Rylant
A Day’s Work – Eve Bunting
How Many Days to America? – Eve Bunting
Immigrant Kids – Russell Freedman
Peppe the Lamplighter – Elisa Bartone
The Memory Coat – Elvira Woodruff
My Grandmother’s Journey – John Cech
Watch the Stars Come Out – Riki Levinson
When I First Came to This Land – Harriet Ziefert
Native American History
Abuelita’s Heart – Amy Cordova
Children of the Earth and Sky – Stephen Krensky
Hiawatha – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Knots on a Counting Rope – Bill Martin Jr. & John Archambault
The Legend of the Indian Paintbrush – Tomie dePaola
Love Flute – Paul Goble

The Faith Club [to pull short vignettes]
Hanukkah – Miriam Nerlove
Just Plain Fancy – Patricia Polacco
Mrs. Katz and Tush – Patricia Polacco
Tikvah Means Hope – Patricia Polacco
The Trees of the Dancing Goats – Patricia Polacco
What is Hanukkah? – Harriet Ziefert
Revolutionary War
Boston Tea Party – Pamela Edwards
Paul Revere’s Ride – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Grandfather’s Dream – Holly Keller
Journey Home – Lawrence McKay
Sweet Dried Apples: A Vietnamese Wartime Childhood – Rosemary Breckler
The Wall – Eve Bunting
All Those Secrets of the World – Jane Yolen
The Butter Battle Book – Dr. Suess
The Cello of Mr. O – Jane Cutler
Westward Expansion
Going West – Jean Van Leeuwen
Gold Fever – Verla Kay
World War II/Holocaust
Baseball Saved Us – Ken Mochizuki
The Bracelet – Yoshiko Uchida
The Butterfly – Patricia Polacco
The Faithful Elephants – Yukio Tsuchiya
Hiding from the Nazis – David Adler
Let the Celebrations Begin – Margaret Wild
The Lily Cupboard: A Story of the Holocaust – Shulamith Oppenheim
One Yellow Daffodil – David Adler
Pearl Harbor Child – Dorinda Nicholson
Rose Blanche – Roberto Innocetti
Star of Fear, Star of Hope – Jo Hoestlandt
Terrible Things: An Allegory of the Holocaust – Eve Bunting

*See texts and web pages from Steve Spangler

Animals Nobody Loves – Seymour Simon
Big Cats – Seymour Simon
Bird Alphabet Book – Jerry Pallotta
Butterfly Alphabet – Kjell Sandved
The Butterfly Alphabet Book – Jerry Pallotta
Crocodiles and Alligators – Seymour Simon
The Freshwater Alphabet Book – Jerry Pallotta
Frog Alphabet Book – Jerry Pallotta
Furry Animal Alphabet Book – Jerry Pallotta
Gorillas – Seymour Simon
How to Hide a Crocodile – Ruth Heller
How to Hide a Parakeet – Ruth Heller
The Icky Bug Alphabet Book – Jerry Pallotta
They Walk the Earth: The Extraordinary Travel of Animals on Land – Seymour Simon
Saving Endangered Birds! Ensuring a Future in the Wild – Thane Maynard
Snakes – Seymour Simon
Wolves - Seymour Simon
Yucky Reptile Alphabet Book – Jerry Pallotta
Starry Messenger – Peter Sis
Talking with Adventurers – Pat Cummings
Antarctic Diary – Trish Hart
The Desert Alphabet Book - Jerry Palotta
Deserts – Seymour Simon
Icebergs and Glaciers - Seymour Simon
Earth Keeper – Joan Anderson
Everglades – J. C. George
The Great Kapok Tree – Lynn Cherry
Just a Dream – Chris Van Allsburg
Loon Lake – Ron Hirschi
Marshes and Swamps – Gail Gibbons
Wildfires - Seymour Simon
Vanishing Habitats – Noel Simon
Volcanoes – Seymour Simon
The Grouchy Ladybug by Eric Carle
Peanuts, Popcorn, Ice Cream, Candy and Soda Pop: How They Began by Solveig Russell
June 29, 1999 by David Wiesner
Human Body
Bones: Our Skeletal System – Seymour Simon
The Brain: Our Nervous System – Seymour Simon
The Heart: Our Circulatory System – Seymour Simon
It’s Disgusting & You Ate It!
Muscles: Our Muscular System – Seymour Simon
Stephen Biesty’s Incredible Body – S. Richard Platt
Planets and Space
Comets, Meteors, and Asteroids - Seymour Simon
Destination: Jupiter - Seymour Simon
Destination: Mars– Seymour Simon
Galaxies – Seymour Simon
Mars – Seymour Simon
Mercury – Seymour Simon
Neptune – Seymour Simon
Nova’s Ark – David Kirk
Our Solar System – Seymour Simon
Saturn – Seymour Simon
Stars – Seymour Simon
Sun – Seymour Simon
The Universe - Seymour Simon
Uranus – Seymour Simon
Venus - Seymour Simon
The Flower Alphabet Book – Jerry Pallotta
The Tiny Seed – Eric Carle
Sea Life
Dory Story – Jerry Pallotta
The Ocean Alphabet Book – Jerry Pallotta
Oceans – Seymour Simon
Out of the Ocean – Debra Frasier
Sea Songs – Myra Livingston
Sharks - Seymour Simon
They Swim the Seas: The Mysteries of Animal Migration – Seymour Simon
The Underwater Alphabet Book – Jerry Pallotta
Whales - Seymour Simon
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs – Judi Barrett
Earthquakes - Seymour Simon
It’s Raining Cats & Dogs – Spencer Christian
Lightening – Seymour Simon
Storms - Seymour Simon
Snowflake Bentley – Jacqueline Martin
Tornadoes - Seymour Simon
Weather - Seymour Simon
Math Picture Books
Divide and Ride – Stuart Murphy
The Doorbell Rang – Pat Hutchins
How Hungry are You? – Donna Napoli
A Remainder of One – Elinor J. Pinczes
Eating Fractions – Bruce McMillian
Fraction Action – Loreen Leedy
Fraction Fun –David Adler
Gator Pie – Louise Matthews
Hershey’s Fraction Book – Pat Hutchins
Skittles Riddles – Barbara McGrath
Betcha! – Stuart Murphy
A Cloak for the Dreamer –Aileen Friedman
The Greedy Triangle – Marilyn Burns
The King’s Chessboard – David Burch
Sir Cumfrance and the Dragon of Pi - Cindy Neuschwander
Sir Cumference and the First Round Table – Cindy Neuschwander
Sir Cumference and the Great Knight of Angleland: A Math Adventure – Cindy Neuschwander
Spaghetti and Meatballs for All: A Mathematical Story – Marilyn Burns

Lemonade for Sale – Stuart Murphy
Tiger Math - Ann Whitehead Nagda

Math Concepts:
A Dozen Dozens – Harriet Ziefert
Anno’s Math Games – Mitsumasa Anno
Anno’s Magic Seeds – Mitsumasa Anno
The Best Vacation Ever – Stuart Murphy
Counting of Frank – Rod Clement
A Dollar for Penny – Julie Glass
The Fly on the Ceiling: A Math Myth – Julie Glass
G is for Google – Stephen Kellogg
The Grapes of Math – Greg Tang
Is a Blue Whale the Biggest Thing There Is? – Robert Wells
Knots on a Counting Rope – Bill Martin & John Archambault
Marvelous Math: A Book of Poems – Lee Bennett Hopkins
Math Curse – Jon Scieszka
Math Riddles – Harriet Ziefert
More M&M’s Brand Chocolate Candies Math – Barbara McGrath
Mother Goose Math – Harriet Ziefert
Oh, Beyond a Million: An Amazing Math Journey – David Schwartz
One Grain of Rice – Demi
One Hundred Hungry Ants – Elinor Pinczes
How Tall, How Short, How Far Away – David Adler
Room for Ripley – Stuart Murphy
Super Sandcastle Saturday – Stuart Murphy
Twelve Snails to One Lizard: A Tale of Mischief and Measurement – Susan Hightower
Amanda Bean’s Amazing Dream- Cindy Neuschwander
The Amazing Pop-Up Multiplication Book – Kate Petty
Anno’s Mysterious Multiplying Jar – Mitsumasa Anno
Bats on Parade – Kathi Appelt
The Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Multiplication Book – Jerry Pallotta
Twizzlers Percentages Book - – Jerry Pallotta
Jumanji-Chris Van Allsburg
Probably Pistachio – Stuart Murphy
Grandfather Tang’s Story – Ann Tompert

Saturday, December 6, 2008

POWER HOUSE: A Tribute to Dr. Angela Peery

In honor and gratitude for a treasured mentor and beloved friend, Dr. Angela Peery...
Angela, you grow my thinking to new vistas. Your wisdom lights my path. Please know that YOU make a difference in the lives of thousands of children and educators. We are blessed by your energy, brilliance, and integrity. Here's to you - our sage, our own "Nancy Grace-Parker Palmer" power house of pedagogy!

"In her classroom our speculations ranged the world.
She breathed curiosity into us, so that each morning we came to her carrying new truths, new facts, new ideas, cupped and sheltered in our hands like captured fireflies."
John Steinbeck

ROCKET FUELS for Learning: Questioning and Inferring Strategies to Support Student Engagement

Questioning and Inferring:
Rocket Fuels for Learning!

Brain Show & Tell: Model your rocket fuel brain work - why and how you wonder and infer before, during, and after you read/learn/view/etc. and practice the self talk of great thinkers with students:
o “I wonder….”
o “I bet…”
o “I think ____ will happen because…”
o “Why did they….?”
o “What…when…where…how…why…?”
o “I am really curious about….because…”
o I wonder…I found out…”
o “I bet…I knew it…&/or I was surprised to learn…”

Go Public: Publish students’ insights by building an Anchor Chart with students. This serves as a touchstone as you work with your students to define the why's and how's of questioning and inferring (and later this ritual can be a touchstone for harvesting students’ questions and inferences in units of study for any/all content areas). Add guiding questions as students innovate, discover, or learn new questioning-inferring self talk.
o See Bloom question examples
o Provide students with bookmarks to nudge their questioning and predicting as they engage in independent and partner work. Please see my “Thinking Strategy Bookmarks” and “Stop Sign Reading” tools as well as some of my articles (especially "Deep Thinking").
o Offer students a choice of (previously modeled) advanced organizers to guide their meaning making and trigger their own questioning and inferring.

Word Clues: Key Word Prediction
o Working in small, cooperative groups, give each cluster a collection of magazine pictures (or photographs) with the invitation to predict the content or key points you will make in studying a current unit of study/focus topic.
§ Study your picture set and choose one provocative print. Make your choice with this question as your compass: “What do you predict we will discuss as we explore (this topic)?” or “What do you think we will be studying today?” or “What do you predict this word has to do with ________ (current focus/unit of study)?”
o Adaptations: Picture Prediction, Picture Prediction Walk, video clips as text/key words

Title Tip: Turn the title of the text into a question

Go Short to Go Long! Engage students in reading, writing, and hearing short and spirited texts to marinate students in key concepts, build their schema/ background knowledge, foster their wonder and inferential thinking, and expand their confidence and motivation.
o Poetry
o Short video clip
o Letter to the editor
o Picture books
o Flash fiction
o One paragraph or one page essay
o Magazine articles
o Newspaper articles
o Songs/lyrics

In The Mind of Sherlock Holmes: Detective Thinking
o Looking for clues: reading to answer your own questions; attending to important ideas; identifying signal words
o What if…What then… thinking/writing/drawing

Get In The Game! Utilize Power Point games to ignite students’ curiosity and to launch or deepen students’ generative thinking.
o Good old Jeopardy can be a wonderful juicy vehicle for exploring questioning with students. As partners or small groups, students can develop a category for a whole class game of Jeopardy.

Reciprocal Teaching

o Utilizing student generated questions and/or end of the chapter (or other provided) questions, engage students in Question-Answer-Relationships/ QARS to marinate them in key concepts and birth their curiosity about unit of study/focus of student learning

RESEARCH QUOTES in Support of "Rocket Fuel" Pedagogy:
Proficient readers use their existing knowledge to facilitate their understanding of new ideas encountered in text.
Nell Duke & P. David Pearson, 2002

Good readers use many types of connections to help them relate and understand what they are reading. They know that background knowledge helps them relate to characters, visualize, avoid boredom, pay attention to the text, listen to other’s responses, read actively, remember information, question the text, and infer answers.
Cris Tovani, 2000

Research has shown that the improved ability to compare correlates well to increased success in academic tasks.
Robert Marzano, 2001

Thoughtful reading is only rarely a matter of flashy insight.
More often it is a gradual, groping process.
Dennie Palmer Wolf, Harvard University

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Come Home My Beloved Boy (Inspired by Cynthia Lord and Carol Wilcox)

In about thirty hours,
I will have
my sweet boy
in my arms
and smell
his once-boy
and get his whiskered
kiss on my hopeful
In about thirty hours,
our house will feel
like our home
filled with boy
and men
sharing sport stories
with words
which feel like
ancient Hebrew
and modern Chinese
to me.
I love it!
In about thirty hours,
I will bake, bake, bake
cook, cook, cook
and be Julia Child
and June Cleaver
and confidant.
In about thirty hours,
my heart
does not have
to be two
states away.
Our son,
our blessing is
coming home.
Thank God!
LB 11/25/08

Thinking of Tim's homecoming, I was so tickled to read Walter Dean Myer's poem in Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech:

Love that boy
like a rabbit loves to run
I said I love that boy
like a rabbit loves to run
Love to call him in the morning
love to call him
"Hey, there, son!"

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
I wish you the blessing of being with those who bring you joy and peace...and always give you a soft place to land.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Our Youngest Growing Writers and Readers: Professional Texts to Light Our Paths as Pre-Kindergarten, Kindergarten, and First Grade Teachers

It's exciting time for teachers of Pre-K, K, and first grade students because so many of our most treasured and respected mentors have recently published incredible professional books. Sharing their teaching with us, their words light our paths as we work to strengthen not only students' emerging literacy skills but expand their confidence and purposes for writing and reading.
Here are a few of my favorites (and, knowing that my tired old jet lagged brain is likely to forget a really important title or two, I will keep updating this list for you all in future BLOG entries):
Already Ready: Nurturing Writers in Preschool and Kindergarten by Katie Wood Ray and Mark Glover
Of Primary Importance: What's Essential in Teaching Young Writers by Ann Marie Corgill
Look Whose Learning to Read! by Shelley Harwayne
Talking, Drawing, and Writing: Lessons for Our Youngest Writers by Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe
Growing Up Writing: Mini-Lessons for Emergent and Beginning Writers by Connie Campbell Dierking and Sherra Ann Jones
Spaces and Places by Debbie Diller (*creating an inviting and intentional literacy learning environment; I will post a BLOG entry about my own thoughts about the setting of our classrooms soon.)
The Reading Bug by Paul Jennings
Hey, Listen to This! by Jim Trelease
Beyond Bedtime Stories by Susan Bennet-Armistead
Creating Literacy Rich Pre-Schools and Kindergartens by Anne K. Soderman
And a few which were previously published but deserve a second (or third!) read:
No More Letter of the Week by Pat Lusche
Joyful Learning by Bobbi Fisher
About the Authors by Lisa Cleaveland with Katie Wood Ray
Growing Readers by Kathy Collins
The Read Aloud Handbook (6th edition) by Jim Trelease
Developmental Continuums and Classroom Based Assessment by Bonnie Campbell Hill
Words Their Way by Don Bear and his brilliant colleagues :)
Texts by Carol Avery, Gail Saunders Smith, Vivian Paley, and, of course, Margaret Mooney and Marie Clay, too!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

It is Time

My husband, Dave, is a history teacher (and a darn great one, too!). For many years, I have placed my votes, my voice, and my vision toward civil rights for all people of all races, faiths, and sexual orientations. Over nine years ago, I joined a church focused on equality and hope for all people (a passion and effort of the church for over 200 years). Until recently, I worked for an organization devoted to the academic achievement of African American students. I am a mother of a nineteen year old son. I am self employed and incur tremendous and sometimes daunting taxes.
For these reasons and a million more, today is a day of reflection and promise. It is election day. I am hoping with all my soul that the next president brings compassion, wisdom, and integrity to his work. He needs to build bridges between and among all people. He needs to listen to those he knows and respects and those who question his decisions, too.
Senator Obama, I am voting for you for all our children. You carry our precious trust and faith. God speed, brave brother.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wise Words About The Head & The Heart of Our Work

I am currently rereading two edifying texts - Smart Answers to Tough Questions: What to say when you're asked about fluency, phonics, grammar, vocabulary, SSR, tests, support for ELLs, and More by the ever brave writer Elaine Garan and No Quick Fix: Rethinking Literacy Programs in America's Elementary School - The RTI Edition edited by a true literacy super hero, Richard Allington, and Sean Walmsely. When problem solving learning journeys and developing responsive learning for your students OR when faced with challenges from parents or colleagues about the why's of your teaching practices, turn to these texts. As I engage in "I believe...I do..."/"We believe...We do..." conversations/study groups with colleagues to articulate essential learning experiences for growing readers and writers (and develop curriculum support resources) and in preparing several upcoming parent workshops, the research references and portraits of "what works" in these texts are richly clarifying. Addtionally, Garan, Allington, and Walmsely's (along with the brilliant fellow writers of No Quick Fix) wise words can be a catalyst - or a compass - as you engage in necessary (but too often rare) professional development conversations with your colleagues about the intentions of your teaching rituals and routines. As Garan puts it, "What shines through every research-based recommendation and quote in this book, nestled between every single line, is that you are the head and you are the heart of the classroom (p. 157)."

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Time Trials!

A schedule is a net for catching days.
Annie Dillard

What we give our time to shows what we value. Sculpting time for literacy learning, as is true with all of life's journeys, means being thoughtful about every minute of our students' day. Studying why and how to develop edifying and practical schedules with colleagues of The American School of Dubai, I offered the following suggestions:

1) Think Like Georgia Heard
As you explore scheduling options, give yourself permission to think with Georgia Heard's lens: “I have abundant time…I have so much time to accomplish all I need to and all I want to do.”

2) Stay Open Minded and Feel Creative
And consider Dr. Phil's advice, too :) "Live with an idea for 15 minutes before dismissing it."

3) AAA to the Rescue!
Now, let's think about essential experiences for learner's of every age, what I call AAA (Benson, 1995) in responsive "dosages" ~
ALOUD ~ modeling & mentoring
ALONG ~ fellowship & collaborative practice
ALONE ~ independent practice

To profile these further, our students need differentiated literacy learning with: Essential Literacy Learning Experiences
–Read Alouds
–Focus Lesson: Modeling & Shared Reading/ Collaborative Practice
–Independent Reading
–Guided Reading
–Book Club/Literature Circles
–Peer Partners

–Focus Lesson: Modeling, Read Alouds-Mentor Texts, & Shared Writing/ Collaborative Practice
–Independent Writing
–Clinics/Small Groups
–Buddy Projects/Writing Clubs
Word Study
–Embedded into Readers' Workshop, Writers' Workshop, & Content Learning (focus and context are very important; word study in isolation does not support students' transfer and implementation of their learning)
Content Area Learning
–Infuse literacy as vehicle for learning content area concepts
–Use thinking strategy focus to support content area learning/cross-fertilize

Gathering kids in front for instruction, releasing them to practice, and then bringing them back to share their thinking represents the steady flow that is at the heart of effective teaching and learning. From Strategies That Work by Harvey & Goudvis

4) Consider "What does the research say about TIME?"
Student achievement goals = 90 minutes of independent reading EVERY DAY
Student writing achievement= 35 – 75 independent writing EVERY DAY

"Extensive reading is critical to the development of reading proficiency
(Krashen, 2001; Stanovich, 2000). Extensive practice provides opportunity for students to consolidate the skills and strategies teachers often work so hard to develop…Exemplary elementary teachers recognized this critical aspect of instructional planning. Their students
did more independent reading, more guided reading, more social studies and science
reading than students in less-effective classrooms.

Research References:
Allington, Richard. [All titles]
Kohn, Alfie. [Numerous titles]
Krashen, Stephen. [All titles]
•Pearson, P. David. Handbook of Reading Research (2000).
•Dolores Durkin’s early studies

* and read Regie Routman's and Shelley Harwayne's thoughts about time in their many edifying books!

Or (thinking about the above), in the case of many international school schedules when instructional time is so limited because of the blessing and challenge of many additional learning experiences embedded into students' learning days...
Highest percentage of students’ time = engaged in independent reading & writing
Minutes count!
Beginning to end of school day and over the course of a week, how much time are our students reading & writing on their own?

*Engage students in literacy the minute they walk in the door! Give students time and a calm, focused start to their day by starting the day as we do - reading the newspaper, pouring over e-mail, jotting down lists of things to do, writing letters and note. As my students entered our classroom, they grabbed their independent reading boxes and/or their writing folders (with drafts in progress of mostly self generated topics) and began their first dose of reading/writing. *To make the above possible, steal minutes from morning message &/or find quiet, student controlled ways to take attendance, lunch count, etc. Post announcements for students to read rather than having to tell students [Use pictures & cues for young students.]
*Infuse content area learning texts into modeling, shared, guided, and students’ independent reading.
*Rather than trying to fit it ALL into a day, strive to fit in essential learning experiences within a week/within your 6 days
*Give yourself permission to engage in Conferences & GR in doable rhythms: M, W, & F = Conferences and T & Th = GR [beginning of year; later, flip this pattern].
*Cycle your younger or more vulnerable students into your conferences and small groups/guided reading-writing more often
*Engage in short conferences often
*Use short & spirited texts to create edifying but efficient guided reading groups and manageable writing tasks, too.
* Consider integrating your focus in reading and writing [e.g., Focusing on making connections in reading, I engage students in writing connected text such as memoir, pattern books, haiku, compare & contrast, etc. We are thus studying connecting as a thinking strategy which generates understanding and possibilities in reading and writing (and content area learning, too!).

•All previously mentioned suggestions and
•When time is really tight, consider utilizing block type scheduling during this fragmented or “too full” period – but not always [e.g., Readers’ Workshop for 2-3 weeks and, then, Writer’s Workshop for 2-3 weeks OR Monday – Wednesday = Readers’ Workshop and Thursday – Friday = Writers’ Workshop]

Just adding more time and space for independent reading is not enough. I’m advocating
a carefully designed, structured reading program that includes demonstrating, teaching, guiding, monitoring, evaluating, and goal setting along with voluntary reading of books students choose…When an independent reading component is added, test scores go up.

Regie Routman

8) Reflect On Your Schedule
Every decision is important. Thinking about time, I ask myself:
*What would be most helpful in helping my students grow right now?
*How does doing this help my students move forward (confidence, motivation, relationships, and academically)?
*What is my intention here? Does doing this serve the focus of students’ learning right now?
*Is this really necessary or could I accomplish this in another way?

When we follow routines day after day, our students can use their energy to grow as readers and learners rather than to figure out what we expect them to do. And we in turn, can focus our energy on teaching, not managing, our independent learners.
Kathy Collins in The Daily 5 by Gail Boushey & Joan Moser

As you craft and shape schedules for and with your students, it is critical to consider how you can help students learn literacy deeply, purposefully, and with passion. Take time to be focused on one or a few student learning goals at any given time over a long period of time. Because you have so much to teach, you have to prioritize. Reach out to your colleagues and share how each of you are prioritizing student learning and share solutions. Knowing we want and need to develop student learning based on what we know about them from our monitoring systems/assessment and evaluation practices, think about how to best shape your schedule so that you can be a responsive and supportive teacher - and still have a rich life outside of school, too!

10) Take literacy out solitary confinement! Alias, nothing in isolation! If your current schedule is challenging or never seems to provide enough time to get to what you most know your students need, create more time by taking a thorough and honest look at your daily and weekly schedules. Is there anything that might be better served by integrating it into your literacy block/workshops, deleting the ritual altogether (such as taking attendance and lunch count with the whole class or engaging all your students in a morning meeting now that the kids know the days of the week and/or can do these tasks as a center), or utilizing more of a "block-type" scheduling? If you are teaching any aspect of literacy in isolation, stop. Steal the time you have been teaching say spelling or grammar in isolation and weave these minutes into your Readers' and/or Writers' Workshop. Our students cannot transfer isolated learning skills lessons well. Teaching literacy skills void of their immediate application within the context of authentic reading and writing are not good uses of your time or theirs. Be bold! Look for minutes at every turn of the day and think about how you can create larger, uninterrupted time for more independent reading and writing - which will give you more time to meet with students in one-on-one conferences and small groups as well giving you some time for your own independent writing and reading (including the authentic teaching tasks you need to address such as lessons planning, reading to research a topic, or pouring over students writing samples as you evaluate his/her growth AND your own pleasure reading/writing and reflective literacy, too).

Cheers for great joy on all your journeys!

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Empty Nest, Full Hearts


You have earned this journey and deserve this joy. We are so proud of you, Sweetie. It is only right that our sadness is vast because, for ever nineteen years, you have been our gold light, our compass, and our greatest blessing. It is only right that your happiness is endless because, for many years, this is where you have longed to be, worked to be, and need to be.

We are with you.

All our love,

Mom and Dad

Empty Nest, Full Hearts

Today is the day.

Today, we three

become two

as You

grown into

Your One.

Today, we leave You


in college

and head for


Today, we leave You

with all our hope

and all our

forever love.

Today, we wish You

oceans of joy,

our beloved son,

our only child,

our most radiant


Today, we wish You

the dreams

of your heart.

Today and always,
"a good time
to laugh
is anytime
you can."

Today and always,

live knowing

that the song of

your childhood

(and ours)

"Jesus love me,

this I know..."

is truth

for You

and for All.

And that

none of us

have to be


to feel that Love.

You are loved

just because.


and endlessly.

Today and always,

You carry

our heart

with You.

Today and always,

we cherish

the goodness

and dignity

of Your Soul.

We trust You.

Never doubt

Your Goodness.

Believe in

Your Wisdom.

We treasure



And always will.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sharing great books is a great love of mine. When you are a reader and a writer, passing on treasured words is a habit (or maybe an addiction!). Because I am frequently asked "What have you read lately?" when I am brain fogged with jet lag, my tired old brain struggles to spit out some best books quickly and thoroughly. So, if you will forgive my absent-mindedness, I will continue to post books worth your time here on my Blog.

In honor of one of my favorite reads from the last year (and, as I mentioned her in August, a recommendation from frequent book guide Mary Denman), here is an appetizer of Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely Tree Diary of a Part-Time Indian.

Gordy: Listen, you have to read a book three times before you know it. The first time you read it for the story. The plot. The movement from scene to scene that gives the book its momentum, its rhythm. It’s like reading a raft down a river. You’re just paying attention to the currents…The second time you read a book, you read it for its history. For is knowledge of history. You think about the meaning of each word, and where that word came from. I mean you read a novel that has the word “spam” in it, and you know where that word comes from, right?

Junior: Spam is just e-mail.

Gordy: Yes, that what it is, but who invented the word, who first used it, and how has the meaning of the word changed since it was first used?

Junior: I don’t know.

Gordy: Well, you have to look all that up. If you don’t treat each word that seriously then you’re not treating the novel seriously.

Gordy:…and you read a book for joy.

*From The Absolutely Tree Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Poetry Friday - on Tuesday

Soon, we will be taking our son to his first year of college (and my heart is too full to even record some thoughts about this here). So, I will offer a Poetry Friday entry a wee bit early in honor of great friends at CAIRO AMERICAN COLLEGE. This poems makes me think of earlier conversations I have engaged in with so many of you about books being mirrors and windows in our students' lives...and in our own children's lives, too.


The biggest
On the library shelf
Is when you suddenly
Find yourself
Inside a book –
(The hidden you)
You wonder how
The author knew.

Beverly McLoughland, Cricket, September, 1985

Connection Quote

In an connection to yesterday's Blog entry, a favorite quote...

The most important thing I know about living is love. Nothing surpasses the benefits received by a human being who makes compassion and love the objective of his or her life. For it is only by compassion and love that anyone fulfills successfully their own life’s journey. Nothing equals love.”
Sargent Shriver

Monday, September 15, 2008

Extending Our Hands of Friendship

In response to my learned friend Paul's message (included below), I offered the following response tonight:
Brilliant, Paul...I was so bewildered when I read the words on this DVD...I have recently returned from Egypt where it is Ramadan...I challenge each of us to look at our address books as one way to evaluate our sense of connectedness and, as Paul wisely advises, to make sure that love and not fear is our lens. How many Muslim friends do you have living on the pages of your address book?...Does your address book reflect people of multiple faiths, diverse racial heritages, many chronological ages, and embrace those whose sexual orientation is different from your own? Expanding our hearts to see a brother or sister in all human beings is critical and, for me, my best way of living my Christian beliefs. God is truly all in all.
Love and respect,Laura

Greetings! I found it very disturbing that a DVD entitled "Obsessions, Radical Islam" was included in the Denver Post on Sunday. I wrote the following for my church members. If you find it of use, please distribute it to you networks. Paul

In Sunday's Denver Post there was a mass distribution of a DVD entitled "Obsession, Radical Islam's War Against the West." This distribution represents an action with which we should be deeply concerned. It represents desperately inflammatory material that loosely charades as being factual and therefore accurate. This DVD was initially created back in 2005. The timing of this distribution is directly tied to the upcoming election. If you go to the website, the website makes it very clear which candidate you should vote for in this election if you want to fight radical Islamists. While the website does not actually tell the viewer which candidate to vote for, the video clip does end up with John McCain's face in full view of the screen and Barack Obama's profile view in the back ground. What becomes clear is that this material is intended to make fear be the primary motivation for how people vote. History has shown over and over again that when we allow ourselves to be motivated by fear, we allow ourselves to be manipulated by the very people who say that they will protect us. There are many reasons to vote in this election. I truly believe that both presidential candidates are worthy choices. But please encourage those around you to be NOT be so bluntly manipulated. Here are five reasons to say NO to such blatant material:

There are radical, militants who are Muslims, whose desire is to force the world back into a type of Medieval existence. The issue is not whether these individuals are serious threats. The issue is how best to fight them so that we do not inadvertently create a world public sympathy for them, which will only increase their ability to inflict violence.
Our best resource in this fight is to befriend the moderate Muslims here and around the world. To help them build quality lives and remove the sympathy and intimidation that the radicals try to form with them. But this alliance with moderate Muslims cannot be created with bombs and guns. We have to demonstrate that we can assist them in their efforts to create better communities and lives for themselves and for their children. The efforts of an American named Greg Mortenson [ Three Cups of Tea ] illustrate the effectiveness of such quality community building efforts.
On Wednesday, September 10, Admiral Mike Mullen chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff acknowledged in front of the House Armed Services Committee that "we cannot kill our way to victory." His statement was that while we must have a military presence, we must be more diligent to offer effective nonmilitary assistance to the Afghans.
Senior editorialist for Newsweek Fareed Zakaria wrote on May 24, 2008, "The Simon Fraser study notes that the decline in terrorism appears to be caused by many factors, among them successful counterterrorism operations in dozens of countries and infighting among terror groups. But the most significant, in the study's view, is the "extraordinary drop in support for Islamist terror organizations in the Muslim world over the past five years." This study directly counters the fear that Sunday's DVD is attempting to instill.
There are numerous Muslim voices that speak out against the extremists [yes, in some cases at great risk to themselves]. One such voice is Fethullah Gulen. I would invite you to "google" his name and read his writings. He has millions of Muslim followers around the world. In Denver, we have many Muslim voices that speak strongly against terrorism.

We really do have two quality presidential candidates for this November's election. It is imperative though that people study the issues and be informed in their vote. Do not let yourself be motivated by television "sound bites" and fear-mongering. If these two influences carry the election, then we will be at risk of having created that which we most feared.

Rev. Paul Kottke
Senior Pastor
University Park UMC

Draw From Your Well

When you are just not sure how to teach what your students most need, draw from your well. When you know you have no words to model and demonstrate the literacy strategies for and with your students, draw from your well. Think about what you DO as you read and write. Record what you do and what you say in your head as you construct understanding and compose to be understood by others. Your notes will give your brilliant and radiant words for explaining the why's and how's of literacy to your students. It is like Glenda the "good" witch of the Wizard of Oz said, "You have always had the power within you." By being wide awake to your own reading and writing, you will know how to support your students' literacy journeys with insight and confidence. Your well is deep, your well is perfect.

Compass Quotes

No matter the instructional format – lecture, small-group activity, or individualized assignment – students make their own sense of what they’re taught. Ideas don’t fly directly from teachers’ minds into learners’ minds. Effective instruction requires teachers to be able to assess what students are taking from instruction and adapt their instruction to meet the differing needs of students.
Jayne Boyd-Zaharias and Helen Pate-Bain in “Class Matters – In and Out of School” in
Phi Delta Kappan, September 2008 (p. 40-44)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Learning From Our Students ~ GRADED SCHOOL, Sao Paulo, Brazil

Studying why and how writers "work hard," Brooke, one of the third grade children I am learning with this week offered this advice: "Keep your chin up and charge the mountain!"
Asking her to tell us more, Brooke offered us incredible insights about what it means to be a writer..."Stay with your writing - and don't give up!"
Right on, Brooke! Right on, Graded School Teachers!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Poetry Friday

From the kind invitation of Dr. Carol Wilcox, I join the ritual of so many Bloggers - Poetry Friday. Like a prayer for letting in the pocket jewels of a poet's heart, I so often turn to poems as reader and in my humanness when I need comfort or direction. In honor of one of our favorite poets, Don Graves, Carol and I offer you a wee poem of my own here. Angela, this one is for you, soul sister!


golden friend,
it is
too hard
to say
to you now.
a little longer.
I need
the length
of your days
and want
the playfulness
of your possibilities
with me
within me

Laura Benson ~ August, 2008...
Marking a BIG milestone