Archive | April, 2014

Out like a lion

30 Apr

National Poetry Month is almost over, but it went out like a lion last night at Verselandia, the   high school poetry slam presented by Literary Arts.


It is the Grand Slam for individual school slams hosted by PPS high school library media specialists. I got to see some old friends and some great, young slam poets. You can see an  interview and short performance with last night’s winner, Bella Trent, and runner up, Sam Burnett if you want to learn more.

The emcee was Anis Mojgani who might just be my new poetic crush! He was the final performer, make us laugh and think while the judges tabulated the results. Intermission also saw a performance by Mahatma Poe and we were treated to a sacrificial poet, Doc Luben,  at the beginning to help the judges  establish a baseline.

It was my first poetry slam. Now, I want to figure out a way to get my students to slam their poetry.





Keeping a lid on it: A Slice of Life Story

29 Apr

Spring in Oregon is notoriously changeable. It was in the mid 50’s Sunday and is supposed to be in the mid 80’s Thursday. On Sunday we had rain, 1/2 inch hail and glorious sunshine.

With the good weather comes lack of focus. On my part, on the part of the kids. After the last weekend of warm weather, teachers reported record-breaking amounts of homework not done. In one classroom of 26, only 20 kids were present and only 8 turned in their interactive journal. I’ve been known to search for flights to Toronto in July during my plan time.

In 4th grade we tend to keep the good topics for this part of the year: Lewis & Clark, the Oregon Trail, engineering & design. I think all three classes will design and build pet carriers again this year. This is a great project because all 4 of us have dogs, so the kids can build one for a specific pet.

This weekend,it is supposed to be cool & rainy again.

Screen Shot 2014-04-29 at 5.36.36 AM

Maybe that’ll help keep a lid on the end of yearitis.

You are special

28 Apr

Mr. Rogers’ song and the feeding of his fish, reminds me of the book Not Norman by Kelly Bennett.


It’s the story of a boy who wanted a cool pet, but got a goldfish instead. eventually, he learns what a great friend Norman the goldfish is.

Along those lines, two new picture books remind us of the beauty of being especially ordinary.

Extraordinary Janeby Hannah Harrison is the tale of a circus dog named Jane, who has no circus talent.


She isn’t strong, graceful, or brave like her family. But the illustrations show us more than the text does. Jane might be ordinary, and she might even be a poor circus dog, but she is an extraordinary friend. 

And so is Sparky from  Sparky!  by Jenny Offill.


It’s the classic sloth as a pet dilemma and very much like the Norman situation. But, in the end Sparky is perfect.


A Good Time Was Had By All

27 Apr

Every year the Oregon Association of School Libraries holds a big Fall conference. And every Spring, each region hosts a small conference. Fortunately for me, as the region 1 rep, I get the pair up with the region 4 rep to plan this conference. We decided on a poetry theme, since the one day event would take place at the end of April,national Poetry Month. Then came the scramble for presenters. I think we did a great job and ended up with a fun & informative day for people, who have some really great ideas to take back to their buildings.

First up was Nancy Sullivan, librarian at Madison High School in Portland. She shared her experience with poetry slams, which started small 10 years ago and has now gone city-wide with Verselandia.


Tickets to this event, which is this Tuesday, April 29th,  are only $10! You can buy them HERE! I already have my ticket. Maybe I’ll see you there.

We followed Nancy;s presentation with on e by Deborah Vaughn, who is the Oregon coordinator for Poetry Out Louda contest that encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. 


Although the official contest is designed for high school students,we all went away with ideas on how to make poetry recitation work at any level.

I was the last presenter before lunch. I shred what I’ve done with NaPoWriMo, National Poetry Writing Month.


After lunch, attendees shred their favorite poetry idea then rotated through three stations:  looking at online poetry resources,  browsing a selection of poetry books selected by  Multnomah County Library’s School Corps, creating a pocket to celebrate poem in your pocket day.


It was great day and a good time was truly had by all.


Mr. Emerson

25 Apr

One of the worst movies I have ever seen is Perfect, starring John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis. It came out in 1985, in case you missed it.


In the movie, Travolta goes undercover at a health club to get the scoop on why aerobics was becoming so big. Along the way he gets converted to the club lifestyle and falls in love with Jamie Lee Curtis. As his perspective changes, he changes the title of the article he’s writing from “Looking for Mr. Goodbody” article was “Looking for Mr. Emerson”. Yes, he links Emersonian philosophy to the health club lifestyle. You can see why this movie is so bad.

If you are interested in Ralph Waldo Emerson, Barbara Kerley’s new book would be a far better option.


Paired once more with illustrator Edward Fotheringham, Kerley has another hit on her hands.This biography illustrates the rewards of a life well-lived, one built around personal passions: creativity and community, nature and friendship.

I have been very interested in teaching philosophy to kids and have use resources from Teaching Philosophy to Children in my small reading group. Just the other day, one of the students asked me when we could get back to it.

You can teach kids about philosophy and you can introduce them to important people and big ideas. This book is a great resource to let kids learn about Emerson and maybe aspire to be like him, rather than like the celebrities that are paraded in front of them on TV.


Poetry Comes Alive

24 Apr


In honor or today,Poem in Your Pocket Day, I have collected a pocketful of online poetry resources you can use.

1. NaPoWriMo  or National Poetry Writing Month, is an annual project in which participating poets attempt to write a poem a day for the month of April. Although designed for an older audience, there are some daily prompts that can be adapted for younger writers. 

2. Scholastic has some fun resources to use with younger students.

3. (The Academy of American Poets) has a page for educators. Activities are suitable for students of all ages.

4. Poetry Out Loud has a downlodable teachers guide and other resources.

5. The BBC also has some great resources.

6. The Poetry Foundation also has tons of resources for teachers.

7. Teachervision has slideshows, printables, activities that connect poetry across the curriculum…..

8. The Poetry Archive has a wealth of information, lesson plans and ideas.

9. The Favorite Poem Project  is dedicated to celebrating, documenting and encouraging poetry’s role in Americans’ lives. It has resources for all levels. 

10. Read Write Think has lesson plans for k-12 teachers.

11. Reading Rockets has videos & lesson ideas suitable for elementary grades.

12. The National Writing Project offers an impressive array of resources to help teachers and students celebrate National Poetry Month, an annual 30-day event that celebrates and promotes the achievement of American poets.

13. You’d expect the NAtional Council of Teachers of English to have some good resources. You can select information based on

14. The NYC Department of Education has lesson  and unit plans you can use.

15.Eductopia provides some online and interactive poetry resources.

16. Education World editors have gathered poetry resources from our archive of lesson plans, activities, projects, articles and Resources.

17. You can learn more about  Verselandia on their blog.

If you have some favorite online  resources, please share them in the comment section below. I will add them to my list.

Here is the booklist from the OASL Regional conference April 26th.

Poems to Learn by Heart 

Leave your Sleep: A Collection of Classic Children’s Poetry

Firefly July

The Crossver by Kwame Alexander

We Go Together by Calef Brown

Your Skeleton is Showing by Kurt Cyrus

The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle

Shiver Me Timbers – Pirate Poems  by Douglas Florian

A Dazzling Display of  Dogs  by Betsy Franco

Dear Hot Dog  by Mordicai Gerstein

I, Too, an America by Langston Hughes

Requiem by Paul B. Janeczko

Poems I Wrote When No One Was Loking by Alan Kurtz

The President’s Stuck in the Bathtub by Susan Katz

Against Butterflies by Ann Lauinger

When Thunder Comes  by J. Patrick Lewis

World Rat Day by J. Patrick Lewis

Cat Talk by patricia MacLachlan

Dizzy in Your Eyes  by Paat Mora

Hi, Koo!  by Jon Muth

How I Discovered Poetry by Marilyn Nelson

Stardines Swin High Across the Sky by Jack Prelutsky

Bookspeak by Laura Purdie Salas

My Brother’s Book by Maurice Sendak

Swirl by Swirl  by Joyce Sidman

What the Heart Knows  by Joyce Sidman

Follow Follow  by Marilyn Singer

Everyone Out Here Knows  by William Stafford

Digger Dozer Dumper  by Hope Vestergaard

Literally Disturbed  by Ben H. Winters

The Watch that Ends the Night  by Alan Wolf

Pug and Other Animal poems  by Valerie Worth















23 Apr

I first learned about Lois Ehlert from our kindergarten team. With every unit they taught, they requested a large treasure pile of books that connected to the theme.  Lois Ehlert’s books were always on the list. And now, she has a  memoir that looks back on her life and connects it to her art.


Ehlert tells us about growing up, her family and how she learned to create art. There are a few photographs,but Ehlert mostly uses her art to tell her story. And she goes into quite a bit of detail to tell us how she gets ideas, turns them into collage, and creates a book.  Here a re a few sample pages.




The book stands alone, but would be a great part of an author study or as part of an art unit on collage. You could even have kids write their own autobiography and collage it. No matter how you use it, this is a must read.

Once u-pawn a time

22 Apr

A book about chess might not sound interesting, especially if, like me, you don’t really play chess. But Grandmaster by David Klass  is a really good read.


It centers around Daniel Pratzer, a high school freshman and new to his school’s chess club. In fact, he is new to chess. When two of the chess team’s top players invite he & his dad to a tournament because tell his father is a chess grandmaster, Daniel is incredulous. He has never seen his father play chess, or heard him talk about it. When Daniel and his father go to the tournament, the true story comes out. But it comes in small pieces, which is what makes this such a page turner.

Grandmaster  reminded me of another really good novel about a game that seems dull. The Cardturner: A Novel About a King, a Queen, and a Joker by Louis Sachar.


Reading this one, I wanted to join a Bridge league. My parents played bridge and it looked weird and boring to me. but Sachar manages to teach you enough about bridge, without boring you, and tells a really good story along the way.

The summer after junior year of high school looks bleak for Alton Richards. His girlfriend has dumped him to hook up with his best friend. He has no money and no job. His parents insist that he drive his great-uncle Lester to his bridge club four times a week and be his cardturner—whatever that means. Alton’s uncle is old, blind, very sick, and very rich. Alton soon finds himself intrigued by his uncle, by the game of bridge, and especially by the pretty and shy Toni Castaneda. As the summer goes on, he struggles to figure out what it all means, and ultimately to figure out the meaning of his own life.

So two books in which a game sheds some light not he human condition.

Whale Song

21 Apr

In my favorite Star Trek movie,  Star Trek IV The Voyage Home,  Mr Spock swims with whales.

And now, just to be funny, check out this Partridge family clip  Whale Song  and notice the similarity between Admiral Kirk’s uniform and the Partridge family’s outfits.

I posted these two clips because I have whale song on my mind after reading two books about whales.



Ice Whale is Jean Craighead George’s last book. It was nearly complete when she died in 2012, so her children collaborated with the publisher to finish editing and have it published.

Here is the Goodreads summary: In 1848 in Barrow, Alaska, a young Eskimo boy witnesses a rare sight—the birth of a bowhead, or ice whale, that he calls Siku. But when he unwittingly guides Yankee whalers to a pod of bowhead whales, all the whales are killed. For this act, the boy receives a curse of banishment. Through the generations, this curse is handed down. Siku, the ice whale, returns year after year, in reality and dreams, to haunt each descendant. The curse is finally broken when a daughter recognizes and saves the whale, and he in turn saves her. Told in alternating voices, both human and whale, Jean Craighead George’s last novel is an ambitious and touching take on the interconnectedness of humans, animals, and the earth they depend on.

The novel shows how both whale and native American communities have changed over time. It would be a great book to read aloud when studying the Arctic or looking at environmental and cultural changes.

For younger readers, Following Papa’s Song by Gianna Marino might be more appropriate.


This book is based in science but tells a story of a relationship between after & son. The illustrations re gorgeous reflecting the changing colors of the ocean as the whales dive deep. I also like the metaphor of calming down when we are lost and listening for papa’s voice to guide us back home. This book would be a great jumping off point for whale study.



How does it make you feel? or, Kandinsky’s Synesthesia

19 Apr

What turns a proper little boy into a pioneer of abstract art?


The Noisy Paint Box: The Colors and Sounds of Kandinsky’s Abstract Art by Barb Rosenstock attempts to show young readers how Vasya Kandinsky went from a proper little Russian boy to groundbreaking artist.

The story opens with little Vasya, behaving properly, until given a paint box by an aunt. When he opened it, according to his autobiography, he heard a hiss. 


The book draws on other experiences that helped Kandinsky develop his artistic style, and the very critical reception to it. And yet he did not give up, although no one seemed to understand his painting. He didn’t care about what they saw, he wanted to know how it made them feel.

The simple but expressive language of the text is augmented by  Mary Grandpré’s vivid illustrations. She shows what Kandinsky must have seen when hearing the opera and what he heard when the colors spoke to him.

The author’s note at the end reproduces some of Kandinsky’s paintings and explains a bit more about his life, including how he likely experienced synesthesia.

This is  great book to introduce attract art, but also a great book about following you muse.

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