Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Snow Day!

In the midst of another round of unseasonably high temperatures, I'm dreaming of a snow day.

Before Morning, by Joyce Sidman and illustrated by Beth Krommes needs to be your next picture book read aloud, whether to your whole class, or to the child on your lap.

Study the details on the cover carefully for foreshadowing.

Read the story in the pictures along with the story in the words.

Make your wish...and see what happens!

Best in Snow, by April Pulley Sayre is a great companion to Before Morning. With rhyming text and gorgeous photos, Sayre teaches about the formation of snow and the way it changes with temperature shifts. There are more facts in the back of the book.

A Poem for Peter by Andrea Davis Pinkney, and illustrated by Lou Fancher and Steve Johnson, is the perfect third book in this snowy trio. It, too, is a poem. As Pinkney describes, it is a " 'collage verse,' 'bio-poem,' or 'tapestry narrative' in which factual components are layered with a mix of elements." Readers learn the story of the man who created one of the THE most iconic snowy day book AND transformed children's book publishing at the same time by including a "brown-sugar" "cocoa sprite" character.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Still Learning to Read: A New Nonfiction Book

This is one of a series of blog posts that continue the conversation around Still Learning to Read--teaching reading to students in grades 3-6.  This series will run on the blog on Tuesdays starting in August 2016 and continue through the school year.

We are getting ready to really dig into nonfiction reading so I am on the lookout for nonfiction books that will engage my students as well as nonfiction books that I could use for mini lessons.  I found the perfect book last week. My colleague, Brenda Fields, had Grover Cleveland, Again! A Treasury of American Presidents by KenBurns on her ledge when I walked into her classroom the other day and I had to ask about it and check it out! The next week I picked a copy up from Cover to Cover. What a great find!

There is so much to love about this book. When I was in elementary school, my dad bought me a similar book and I spent tons of time digging into it over the years.   When I brought this book into the classroom last week, several kids were anxious to read it. (We keep sticky notes on the popular books so we know who to pass it along to and you can see by this sticky note that there is a long line of kids waiting to get their hands on this one!)

This will definitely be a great book for independent reading. There are so many ways in for kids that it will be accessible to many readers. But I looked more closely at it and realized how perfect it would be for a mini lesson.

One of the things I know my kids need to learn more about is previewing nonfiction.  One of the things we'll do early on in our study is to learn how to preview nonfiction differently than we preview fiction. At the beginning of this idea, we'll look at books and series and authors and think about what, as a reader, we can expect before beginning to read.  This book seems perfect to introduce this topic.  After flipping through it and spending a bit of time with it as a reader, I notice that all of the presidents from George Washington  to Barack Obama are included and they seem to be in order of presidency.  There are numbers in the top left corner of each spread that tell readers the "number" of each president.  Another thing that is consistent is that there is a two page spread on each president. The spread included a box with a photo and basic facts. There is also a multi-paragraph piece that is in nonfiction narrative form telling a bit about the president's life, including his presidency. Then each page has some other interesting information in red boxes. So readers know what to expect on each page.  One thing I liked is that there is variety in the craft of the writing so I can see using some of these as mentors for writing too.

I think this will be a great book to introduce the idea of previewing books that are not meant to be read from cover to cover--those nonfiction books that you can dip in and out of. Knowing what to expect as a nonfiction reader, can help with choosing books and with comprehension.  And as I said before, this book is far more than a book that makes for a good mini lesson. It is one that will engage a variety of readers.

(Our new edition of Still Learning to Read was released in August!  You can order it online at StenhouseYou can follow the conversation using the hashtag #SLTRead or you can join us for a book chat on Facebook that began this week by joining our group here.)

Monday, November 28, 2016

NCTE 2017 Charlotte Huck Awards

I have served on the NCTE Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for Children for the past three years. It has been an amazing experience. I've learned so much and have met so many great people.  I was never lucky enough to study under Charlotte Huck but her work has had a huge impact on me and my work.

Last year's Charlotte Huck Award committee presented the winning titles at this year's NCTE convention.

The Charlotte Huck Award is a new one and I was part of the first committee. The award's commitment is that it "recognizes fiction that has the potential to transform children's lives by inviting compassion, imagination and wonder." I have LOVED reading with the lens of the Charlotte Huck Award as the award recognizes the power of books for a child. 

I have also LOVED having the book awards announced at the Children's Book Award Luncheon at the NCTE Annual Convention. If you haven't been to this lunch, you are missing out on a fun time!  Previous year's awards are given to authors/illustrators, new awards are announced and there is an author at every table for lunch.  This  year, I got to sit with Mitali Perkins! And Mary Lee was able to sit with Loren Long!  Definitely a fun time!

Loren Long and Mary Lee at the Children's Book Award Luncheon!

This year the 2017 Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction was announced and here are the winners! I would definitely check out all of the books on the list--as it is one of my favorite award lists of the year!

2017 Winner

Ghost by Jason Reynolds

2017 Honor Books
Worm Loves Worm by J. J. Austrian

The Night Gardener by Terry Fan and Eric Fan

Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

The Wild Robot by Peter Brown

2017 Recommended Titles

The Seventh Wish by Kate Messner

Luis Paints the World by Terry Farish

Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

A Bandit's Tale by Deborah Hopkinson

Hoot and Peep by Lita Judge

One Half from the East by Nadia Sashimi

The Princess and the Warrior by Duncan Tonatiuh

For past lists and more information on the Charlotte Huck award, visit the award page on NCTE's website.  You may also be interested in reading The Power of Children's Book Awards and 

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Poetry Friday -- #haikuforhealing

An unsolicited email showed up in my inbox. Rather than spam, it seemed like a message from the universe. Here are the big ideas:

5 Insights for Recording Artists, Performers, and Creatives 

1. Make Art for Social Change

2. Channel Your Pain into Art

3. If You See It, Say It, Sing It, or Sculpt It...

4. Be Visible

5. Collaborate

In a seemingly unrelated email, Carol Wilcox asked if I was planning to write a haiku a day in December again this year. 

My creative spirit, who has been sitting out on the porch with her head between her knees for the last couple of weeks, looked up and nodded. Yes, that seems right, she said. A response to the news of the day, shared in the concise metaphorical form of the haiku. 


Perhaps a month of haiku won't heal the world, but it may begin the process of healing my spirit. Join in if you'd like.

image via Unsplash

waning moon
darker nights ahead
light the lanterns

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

Carol has the Poetry Friday Roundup this week at Carol's Corner.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Stray Dogs Who Save Lives

First there was Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo. This scruffy dog who smiles shows up in India Opal's life and helps her to make friends and learn to navigate through a life without a mother.

Then last summer, there was Wish by Barbara O'Connor. Wishbone the stray and Howard the surprising neighbor help Charlie deal with her challenging family while she works on making her wish come true.

Last month, when I read Full of Beans by Jennifer Holm, I realized there was a text set coming together -- here's another book with a stray dog in it! Beans saves Termite's life.

The very next book I read after Full of Beans was Liberty, the third (and best, in my opinion) book in Kirby Larson's Dogs of War series. Here we have yet another stray dog who gives the main character purpose and direction. Set in the 1940's in New Orleans, Fish is a white boy with polio who lives with his older sister while his father is away fighting in Europe. His friendship with his neighbor Olympia crosses racial lines and they are unified by their plans to save Liberty. There's even a subplot with a German prisoner of war.

Besides having stray dogs in common, each of these books has a strong sense of place and time, and I just realized as I'm typing this that they are all set in the South!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Guest Post: Olivia Van Ledtje (@thelivbits)

Today, we are thrilled to welcome Olivia Van Ledtje to A Year of Reading as a guest blogger. Liv is a lover of books, sharks, ballet, and all things Disney. You can visit Olivia at her Livbits Vimeo Channel or you can follow her on twitter (@thelivbits). We have learned so much from Olivia in the short time we've known her. She is fabulously brilliant (and fun!) and we think you'll probably want to share this blog post with colleagues and students.
#KeepReading!  #KeepThinking!

Have you ever thought about how powerful it feels to share your story with the world?

I’m Olivia, and I am a 4th grader in Durham, NH. I use Instagram and Twitter and have my own Vimeo channel to share my thinking about books and life with the world. I was inspired to start this from work my mom was doing with teachers called the Selfie Center.

Most people know what a selfie is. Lots of people probably don’t think about what a selfie tells. When you take a selfie and post it on social media, you are asking for feedback. You want people to like it, share it, or comment on it. It’s like the selfie is a chance to start a story and you hope that the story is one that people will like. Usually, no one wants to post a bad selfie.

The Selfie Center is about kids sharing their thinking by making short videos. It makes a single selfie into a video version just like a Harry Potter moving portrait. When I saw all the selfie videos my mom had from other kids, I begged her to let me try it. I saw a first grader’s selfie example and I was inspired. His name was Charlie and he made his selfies into the Charlie show. He would talk about his thinking, his teacher’s lessons, and his questions about his work. I wanted to try doing something like the Charlie show, so I started LivBits.

I use my LivBit videos to share my thinking with the world. They are a little bit of me, Liv and a little bit of my thinking, Bits. The fancy word for what I do is called metacognition. When you can talk about your thinking, you are thinking at a very deep level, and especially when you share your thinking to teach or inspire other people. I want kids to be inspired to read and think more. I love stories, I love thinking, I love talking, and I love sharing! Put that altogether and you have LivBits!

I think kids should be able to share their thinking with bigger audiences than just their classroom. It gives kids more ideas, more feedback, and more inspiration. Social media has helped me create my LivBit digital identity. Everything I post tells a little bit more about who I am and what I believe. Social media helps me tell my story. You can learn a lot about a person by what they post. I hope that my followers see how fun reading, thinking, and sharing can be! One of the best compliments I can get is when I meet a follower face to face and they say, “You are JUST like you are on your LivBits!” It’s really important that who you are online is who you really are in person. Your posts define who you are and are a mirror to the world.

I get my ideas for posting by thinking about my audience. I ask myself questions like: What will people want to learn from this book? What did the author hope to teach me? How can I share this message in an interesting way? Some of the best advice about life can come from characters in stories. And, when I read informational books, I think about what I might be able to teach my audience.

I think it’s really important to share my story, and I get a lot of really awesome feedback when I do. When you post on social media, you can hear from lots of people who can teach you things you didn’t think about. You can also be encouraged to keep going with your message and you can learn from their stories too. I’ve been lucky that my followers believe in the LivBit message.

A big part of my message is that kids can teach us. I use this hashtag a lot because it defines what my LivBit work is all about. Lots of times people think that only grown ups can be the teacher, but I think that you don’t really have to be a grown up to teach others. I can use my social media accounts to share important ideas I have. My followers can teach me, and I can teach them. It’s like a really awesome shared story when you post on social media. Lots of people don’t even think about how you tell a story through your posts.

If you look at people’s social media posts, you can usually see what they value, wish, and dream. If you look close enough you can probably see other information too. If you read their hashtags they tell a story. I always say my hashtags are like “my people.” What I mean is that my hashtags group me with other people on social media. When people comment or share my posts, they become part of my story. It’s really incredible when you see how one post can travel to so many places so quickly all over the world! One of my posts on Twitter was retweeted over 80 times by people in 22 different countries! Some of the countries were not places I had ever even thought about, but after we became part of each other’s story, I wanted to know more about those places.

Hashtags are also like the big ideas in your story. They let people see what your story is all about. They are like the shortened version of what is most important in your post. They give people lots of clues about what to pay attention to in your story. My mom always says that hashtags are the synthesis of your story so that means you have to choose them wisely if you want to share a message.

LivBits is a home project, but I would love it if my school would start to use the Selfie Center so more kids could have the chance to read, think, and share their ideas in a bigger way. Sometimes teachers are too scared to use technology or to have kids on social media, but I think we have to learn how to be safe from doing meaningful work.

LivBits has been the best project I have ever done in my whole entire life! I have teachers all over the world who follow me, give me feedback, and encourage me to do more thinking. My LivBit work started as a chance to grow my thinking, sharing, and reading, but it also grew my heart. I’ve learned how to be a good digital citizen from this work. One of my favorite authors, Peter Reynolds calls it connecting the dots. And, that’s exactly what being a digital citizen is – a connector of dots! You meet so many amazing people and you have the chance to learn and grow together. You connect to their ideas, you retweet, and comment, you share your thinking, and you grow.

Your posts are your story to the world. Make your story one that matters, not just to you, but to others. Connect your dots to places you never dreamed possible. Become a digital beam of light that connects in positive ways to others. Your story matters and deserves to be shared.

Keep reading! Keep thinking! And, keep watching LivBits for more ideas about your books and your world because #kidscanteachus!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Blog Vacation!

We are taking a weeklong blog vacation from November 13-November 20..  No, we won't be going to the beach but we will be going somewhere even more exciting. Both of us will be at NCTE's annual convention!  We'll have lots to share when we get back the week of November 20!

We hope to see lots of you at NCTE!

From Pixabay

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Poetry Friday -- The Impeded Stream

The Real Work
by Wendell Berry

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

***        ***        ***        ***

Poetry writers and readers, let's gather at Jama's Alphabet Soup to share the words that will begin to heal our hearts, and then let's roll up our sleeves and get to work. I'm thinking about volunteering to support senior citizens through my community's resource center, getting involved in Stonewall Columbus' PFLAG group (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays), and donating to the NAACP. 

What causes will you champion with your discretionary income and your volunteer hours? 

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

The Kindness of Author Friends

Back in October, before I had to cut and run for home, my students benefitted from the kindness of a couple of my author friends.

My first read aloud this year in my fifth grade classroom was The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan. The story of a class of fifth graders who are fighting to save their school was the perfect way to start the year. My students read along on Kindle as we listened to the full cast audio via Audible. We had great conversations about the poetry forms, the characters, and the inferences that a reader must make when reading a verse novel.

I crossed my fingers that Laura would be available for a quick Skype visit after we finished the book, but lo and behold, she was driving from Cleveland to Cincinnati and was willing to stop in Dublin for an hour to visit with my students. She brought her big binder of the book and talked about her planning and revision process. The students were wowed by the length of time it took for the book to grow from the idea stage to a published book.

The day after Laura visited, I presented my students with their very own complimentary copies of Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong's new Poetry Friday project, You Just Wait. Some immediately wanted to dive in and try out the Power Play activities and Power2You poetry prompts, while others read through the story in the poems first.

After I got back from Colorado, I met with a small group who had written poems from some of the mentor poems in the books. It was an unfortunate series of events that resulted in not being able to do more with this magnificent gift from Janet and Sylvia, but my students and I remain thankful for their generosity.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Still Learning to Read: Our New Favorite Folder

This is one of a series of blog posts that continue the conversation around Still Learning to Read--teaching reading to students in grades 3-6.  This series will run on the blog on Tuesdays starting in August 2016 and continue through the school year.

I know these posts usually focus on reading but I feel like this writing tool has huge implications for readers so I decided to include it in this series.  We are all very excited about the new folder we have in Writing Workshop.  I have been struggling with the ways my kids think about writing and the need to write all three types of writing all year. We have focused units of study on narrative, information and opinion writing but we want kids to do writing in all genres across the year. I have struggled with how to make this work for kids, so that they get better and also understand the genre they are writing when we are not in a unit of study. 

So this year, I purchased these 3 pocket folders from Amazon. I am hopeful that they will make a difference at how kids look at writing and use what we've learned throughout the year.  The kids were VERY excited when I passed these new folders out, telling them we had a new awesome tool for writing workshop.

My plan for these folders is to label one pocket Narrative Writing, one pocket Information Writing and one pocket Opinion Writing. This folder will serve as a place to keep mini lessons, rubrics, pieces of writing etc.  Kids can sort things into the appropriate pocket as they work.  So when kids are working on an information piece, they can easily access texts from any mini lesson work we've done, etc.    For the past few years, I have struggled with a system for kids to have access to tools and resources they need when we are not all working on the same genre or when they are working on multiple pieces.

Kids already have these folders with them during writing time. As we fill them with more tools, I am hoping they become more useful.  In 3rd grade, one big goal is for them to think about the purpose of what they are writing. So, just the act of deciding where to put an in-process piece of writing will take some thinking on their part and I am hopeful that they will become more comfortable with these genres/purposes.

I think understanding genre and purpose as writers will help them be more thoughtful and critical readers of all types of writing.

(Our new edition of Still Learning to Read was released in August!  You can order it online at StenhouseYou can follow the conversation using the hashtag #SLTRead or you can join us for a book chat on Facebook that began this week by joining our group here.)

Monday, November 07, 2016

NCTE: Things I Am Most Looking Forward To

The NCTE annual convention is one of my favorite events of the year. If you've followed this biog for a while you probably know that as we blog about it often! This year, I am looking forward to so many things about the convention.  I will be busy and not able to attend everything I want to attend but I think that is a good problem to have! There are so many  good things happening simultaneously all weekend. So many opportunities for learning and connecting.

Elementary Section Get-Together
The section get-togethers are always fabulous. Not only do you get to reconnect with old friends, but the speakers and award acceptance speeches are always the best way to kick off the convention. At this year's Elementary Section Get-Together, we'll get to hear Bess Altwerger, Ann Marie Corgill and Barbara Flores.

General Sessions
 I always think the general sessions have such good energy.There are so many amazing people speaking at the general sessions this year. Diane Ravitch and Doug Hesse (Thursday), an amazing panel of Author Advocates (Friday,) Ta-Nehisi Coates (Saturday), and Brad Meltzer (Sunday-And, if you missed his Why I Write podcast, you can  listen to it here.).  So many great speakers around such an important topic!

My Sessions
People often ask me why I write and present. First of all, I love to think with people around topics I care about.  I always learn so much in the process of thinking through a session. This year, I am excited about my sessions--the people I am working with are amazing and I have learned so much with them throughout the year.  I have 3 sessions that I am part of:

Staying True to our Beliefs: Advocating for Literacy and Learning Through Our Stories (Friday at 11) is a session I am doing with Ann Marie Corgill, Jen Allen and Cris Tovani on the ways we have stayed true to our beliefs and advocated by telling our stories.

Strategies for Equitable, Sustainable Literacy Assessment: A Roundtable Offering (Saturday at 11 a.m.) is a discussion around The Assessment Story Project. If you have not taken a look at it, I would highly recommend it. There are so many ways teachers can use the information.

Beyond Cute: The Digital Work of Young Children --an IGNITE Session that I am most excited about! I am chairing this one and excited to be able to chair for such an amazing group of people.

Children's Book Award Lunch
This has always been one of my favorite events of the convention each year.  Not only do you get to hear great authors, but you get to sit at a table with an author. Yes, an author at every table!  The winners of the 2016 Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction (Sharon Draper) and the Orbis Pictus Award for Outstanding Nonfiction for Children (Don Brown) will speak at the luncheon. This is the place to be if you love children's literature!

Orbis Pictus/Charlotte Huck Award Sessions
There are so many great children's literature sessions at the convention.  I love the years when I am able to attend the Children's Literature Assembly and the ALAN Breakfasts.  But there are lots of other sessions that focus on children's books.  I have been a committee member of the Charlotte Huck Award for Outstanding Fiction for the past 3 years. The Charlotte Huck Award and the Orbis Pictus Award have a few sessions where you can learn more about the winning titles and meet some of our award-winning authors!

I am excited about all of this before I even look at the program to see what concurrent sessions I can attend!

And don't miss this week's NCTE Twitter Chat about the #ncte16!  You'll get lots of information and tips!  The Twitter chat is at 8 pm EST on Sunday, November 13. Just follow the hashtag #nctechat

Friday, November 04, 2016

Poetry Friday -- Pain and Glory

Life is Full of Pain and Glory

Like a single leaf
spiraling lazily down
through a china blue sky.

Like a hangnail
which, in careless irritation,
is yanked and bleeds.

Like a fragile, confused iris
blooming in October
one block from the hospital.

©Mary Lee Hahn, 2016

It's good to be back. Mom survived cellulitis and unintentional poisoning by two different antibiotics, my class survived two weeks without me (the sub and my grade level team survived two weeks without any plans because it was a "drop everything and go" situation), and I not only survived, but was profoundly changed by the entire experience.

Laura has the Poetry Friday roundup this week at Writing the World for Kids.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

Still Learning to Read: Sketchnoting

This is one of a series of blog posts that continue the conversation around Still Learning to Read--teaching reading to students in grades 3-6.  This series will run on the blog on Tuesdays starting in August 2016 and continue through the school year.

Another reason I LOVE having a coach--Sometimes they push me to study things that I can't seem to find time to get to on my own.  This week, our literacy coach Heather Halli, helped my students and me think about Sketchnoting.  She sent an email out a few weeks ago, sharing an article she had read on Two Writing Teachers called Sketchnoting: My First Attempt by Dana Murphy.  I had been trying to attend one of Tanny McGregor's sessions on Sketchnoting but my schedule hadn't worked out.  So, Heather and I talked about sketchnoting informally after her email and we quickly shared resources over text and email for the last few weeks.  I had been meaning to watch Tanny McGregor's  and Shawna Coppola's Sketchnoting webinar that was recorded from the Ed Collaborative online PD Day but hadn't had the time. When Heather said she watched Tanny McGregor's EdCollaborative webinar on Sketchnoting, I knew I needed to watch it too. So I made the time. (See what I mean about coaches--after months of trying to make time to learn from Tanny, Heather's thinking helped me to actually move forward!)

Introduction to Sketchnoting
To begin our thinking about sketchnoting, we shared this video with my 3rd graders.  We watched it a few times and noticed new things each time.  It was a fabulously simple introduction to the idea of Sketchnoting called Sketchnoting for Newbies.

Sketchnoting: Learning from a Video
The next day, we shared this image we found that we thought was a good example of Sketchnoting that we found in the post Adventures in Sketchnoting and a Book in Five Days by David Burton. Then we invited kids to create Sketchnotes on a short bird video we discovered. We watched the video 2 times so they could jot notes. The second time we watched it, we paused it every 20-30 seconds so kids had time to jot/sketch.

Sketchnoting: New Learning from Reading 
On the third day, I asked kids to Sketchnote while reading several things about maps on the site, Pebble Go. There was lots of information here and I wanted to see what kids did when they could work at their own pace--stopping to sketch and jot when they needed to.

Sketchnoting About Ourselves
Finally on Thursday, we decided to invite the kids to Sketchnote about themselves. We shared the Tips on this blog and then shared some of the other slides from this presentation on Tech and Learning. (We even printed some to keep around the room so kids can play with font, dividers, etc. as they get better at Sketchnoting.) We wanted kids to focus on the techniques of sketch noting so we thought taking away new content would help them think about structure, organization, design, etc. This was also the day we added colored pencils which seemed like perfect timing!

My Reflections on Our Week of Sketchnoting
This was one of the most exciting new things I've tried in a while.  In just a few days, kids were excited about the possibilities of Sketchnoting, they saw the power in making their thinking visible in this way, and we have lots to build on throughout the school year.  I saw changes in the ways kids read information as they were deciding where to put things on a page. I saw rereading with purpose as kids went back to think about information they missed on the first read. I saw kids who love to draw add more words to their thinking and kids who write lots think differently when added visuals. I am excited to see where this weeklong study will take us.  I'll  keep you posted!

(Our new edition of Still Learning to Read was released in August!  You can order it online at StenhouseYou can follow the conversation using the hashtag #SLTRead or you can join us for a book chat on Facebook that began this week by joining our group here.)