Sunday, May 20, 2018

Share Your Summer Professional Reading Stack #cyberPD

The time between the end of one school year and the beginning of another always gives me an opportunity to catch up with professional reading.  There are many titles out that I want to read over the summer and always a few I hope to revisit.  As usual, my list is more ambitious than the time I am likely to have.  In addition to professional books I'd like to read, there are middle-grade books, picture books and self-improvement books.  Of course, it is summer so I'll have to sprinkle in a little fiction as well.  ;o)

Making a plan and getting the books read is always the challenge.  Thankfully, #cyberPD will bring some focus to my world mid-summer.  As you may have read last week, it's time to share our stacks for #cyberPD.  #cyberPD is a virtual book talk that takes place each summer.  The #cyberPD community shares their book stacks in May, a book is selected at the beginning of June, and in July we all come together to read and discuss the books across Twitter, blogs, and our Google Community (you can find out more there).

Here is my book stack of new professional reading for summer.  There are some big questions I'm pondering over the summer that will take me back to some books I've loved, but these are the books I plan to read cover-to-cover.  Of course, that's going to take a good plan and some strong self-discipline....and maybe a nice comfy spot on my patio.  I'm looking forward to seeing the books in the stacks of other community members.  Remember, our title for July's #cyberPD chat will be announced on June 2nd.  We want everyone to have plenty of time to purchase and plan.

Can't wait until our July conversation!!!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

It's Time: Share Your Summer Reading Stack #cyberPD

Time sure does fly!  Here we are already in May.  You know what that's time to think about our #cyberPD book selection.   This event is always at the top of my summer learning list.  This year will be our eighth year of learning together as a community.

Each summer the #cyberPD community chooses a professional book to read and discuss in the month of July.  The event has certainly grown since its first year which began with less than fifteen people, but the community has remained collaborative.  You can join the conversation and see past years' discussions in our #cyberPD Google Community.

Here are the books selected since 2011: 
Share Your Stack
To get started, we first need to select our book for the 2018 July virtual book talk.  To help to do this, we are asking the #cyberPD community to share their book stacks.  By May 30th, please share the professional books you hope to read this summer.  Participants can share their stacks using the Twitter hashtag #cyberPD and post in our #cyberPD community under the "share your book stack" tab.  We'll select the title from these stacks.  It seems there are always about three that show up across stacks.   

The #cyberPD selection announcement will be made June 2nd!  We want everyone to have time to get their books and mark their calendars.  We're looking forward to this amplified learning opportunity with all of you.  Join us.  

Share your stack....and join the fun.  

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Poetry Pleasures: Five Poetry Picture Books

It's National Poetry Month.  I'm busy celebrating at Merely Day by Day by attempting to write a poem each day.  Of course, it's also the perfect time to share a few new favorite picture poetry books I've purchased this year.  These are selections perfect for any classroom library.

New Poems Inspired by Art from The Metropolitan Museum of Art edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins.

There's so much to love about this collection of poetry edited by Lee Bennett Hopkins:  the beautiful artwork, the wondrous words, the surprise of favorite poets selected.

A selected snippet from This is the Hour by Irene Latham, a poem within this collection:

"This is the hour
when sun dreams,
when river
its' silky song...."

I Am Loved:  A Poetry Collection by Nikki Giovanni with illustrations by Ashley Bryan.

This collection of poems by Nikki Giovanni is a delight from start to finish.  A celebration of life, each poem selected is complemented with art sure to delight.

A selected snippet from No Heaven, a poem within this collection:

"How can there be
No heaven...

When shadows
And owls
And little finches
eat upside

Sakura's Cherry Blossoms by Robert Paul Weston and Misa Saburi.

This book is a bit different from the others shared as it is a story written in Tanka.  In this story, Sakura lives in Japan and loves spending her time with her grandma under the cherry blossoms.  She has to move to America with her family but misses her grandma and the cherry blossoms.  Nothing is the same in this new place.  This is a delightful story of love, change, and the little gifts life gives us as a reminder of all we hold dear.

A snippet from the story:
"Sakura's new school
was a big, boisterous place
where each word was new.

They nipped and snapped on her tongue
like the tang of pickled plums."  

Out of Wonder:  Poetry Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander, Chris Colderley, and Marjory Wentworth with illustrations by Ekua Holmes.

Every time I pick up this book, I notice something new.  In this book, the authors celebrate famous poets by writing poems in similar styles to the poet.  Each section shares a way poets work and offers advice for the budding poets in our classrooms.  As in the other examples, this books is a celebration of poetry, but also of art; each page illustrated with art to inspire.

This snippet from How to Write a Poem was written by Kwame Alexander in celebration of Naomi Shihab Nye:

"Let them dance together
twist and turn
like best friends
in a maze
till you find 
your way
to that one word." 

Shaking Things Up:  14 Young Women Who Changed the World by Susan Hood with multiple illustrators featured in this collection.  

This collection features poetry to celebrate the lives of 14 women who helped to pave the path for the rest of us.  Each poem features an illustration by a different artist celebrating the lives of these women.  I was fascinated by the variety of styles of poetry used by this poet in this many possibilities.

This snippet is about Molly Williams and is titled, "Taking the Heat."

"The fire laddies gave her praise
respect where it was due
dubbed her Volunteer 11 - 
a member of the crew.

She glowed with pride.  A pioneer!
She blazed a path, it's true,
yet women weren't hired here
'til 1982." 

I love poetry tucked within my day, and it certainly is perfect for the little cracks in our day with students.  Whether you plan to use poetry for shared reading, as a mentor text for young writers, an opportunity to study wondrous words, or just to delight in a little read aloud, these titles will be celebrated additions to your collection.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Poetry Month Pleasures: Five Poetry Month Challenges Your Students Will Love

It's April and poetry is in the air.  While every day is a good day for poetry, I love the way poetry just seems to find me in April.  I've downloaded a few poetry audiobooks from the library (yep, I might have scored a few books where the poets actually are reading their own poetry), filled my living room shelf with poetry, pulled out all of my books about writing poetry, and am attempting to write a poem each day at Merely Day by Day (just a poetry playground this month, nothing like the poems you'll see linked below).

Of course, this is also the month that poets everywhere dress up their blogs and celebrate poetry with a monthly challenge.  As a teacher, if you're looking for a little inspiration, a mentor poem, or poetry your students will love, here are a few sites that might be perfect for your exploration:

The Poem Farm
Want to think about technique?

The Poem Farm:  Each day, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is sharing a poem about Orion written using a different technique.  Her poetry month challenge is to write about one subject thirty different ways.  Each day she highlights a new technique, shares her poem, and reflects on the process.

A Year of Reading
How about a golden shovel poem?  

A Year of Reading:  Mary Lee Hahn has decided to take on the challenge of writing a golden shovel poem each day this month using a student selected quote.  I've been absolutely fascinated by the process and challenge of writing a shovel poem.  A daily stop by A Year of Reading will certainly give you and your students much to ponder, and a daily dose of wondrous words.

Live Your Poem
Does art inspire you?

Live Your Poem:  For the last several years I have been following Irene Latham's April ARTSPEAK challenge.  Each day, you can stop by Irene's blog for a poem inspired by a piece of art.  This year, Irene's poetry is focused on art from the Harlem Renaissance.  I'm learning a lot as I follow her journey.

Carol's Corner
Hoping to write about a topic from a variety of angles? 

Carol's Corner:  This year, Carol has decided to write a poem each day about the life of a reader.  As teachers working to help our students build a reading life, I am enjoying looking at reading from so many angles.  What a great way to have our communities consider their reading lives.  A stop by her blog is also a smart reminder that we can take one topic and write about it in so many ways.

Check It Out
Need a mentor poem for your students?

Check It Out:  There's nothing better than student poetry.  If you find yourself in need of a mentor poem this month, you might want to stop by Jone MacCulloch's blog.  She's sharing a student poem each day during the month of April.  Oh, my heart.  I love student poetry.

Other Poetry Links:

  • Jama's Alphabet Soup:  2018 National Poetry Month Kidlitosphere Event Roundup (more poetry month possibility)
  • The Poem Farm:  Drawing into Poems (Amy's 2013 poetry challenge was one of my favorites to help students write poetry.)
  • Writing the World:  A Little Haiku (if you just want a little Haiku, Laura Purdie Salas, has one each day for you.) 
  • Tyler Knott Gregson:  This one is just for you.  Tyler Knott Gregson shares his poetry on Instagram and Twitter.  He has two books out, and shares is poetry almost daily on his site.  It's one of my favorite stops.  

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Lessons from Writing: It Takes a Community #sol18 week 4

For the month of March, I participated in the Slice of Life Challenge on my other blog:  Merely Day by Day.  Writing every day isn't easy, and I've learned some lessons I want to remember when I sit beside young writers.  Thanks to the team at Two Writing Teachers for pushing me to be a teacher who writes, and helping to grow my reflections.

Today is the last day of Two Writing Teachers' Slice of Life Challenge.  For 31 days, a community of at least 300 participants have come together to share their story, support and learn from one another, and grow as writers.  Writing every day isn't easy so, at the beginning of the challenge, I made a list of tips and tricks I had learned in past years that might help me when things got tricky.  This year I found the rhythm of the process to be essential.  My process went something like this:  find a possible slice, spin it in my head (sometimes this was a voice recording and sometimes a quick jot), write it early in the morning, let it sit and gel.  The next morning I would edit, revise, and hit the publish button.  I was really writing two posts a day:  one "final" copy and one draft.

While the routine was certainly essential, it was the community that made all of the difference.  Here's why:

The community commitment kept me writing each day.  I knew this was a community that would write each day so I felt I also had to write each day not doing so would have let the community down.  I suppose it's like having an exercise buddy or an accountability partner, it just always seemed like the right thing to do.

The community opened my eyes to new possibility.  In reading the work of other writers, I discovered new crafting techniques and could envision new possibilities.  Sometimes the writing of others served as a mentor text.  Other times, I discovered new ways with words.  At times, I really was made aware of the power of the clarity of message.  Each stop to read the work of another writer taught me something.

The community helped me to find my voice.  Putting writing out into the world each day is a bit of a stretch.  As community members stopped by to comment, I learned what worked for my audience.  Their comments helped me to see the parts of my writing where I had captured their attention.  Starting to learn what works for an audience, in combination with daily writing, helped me to find my comfort zone in writing.

The community cheered me on.  The effort made by the community really helped me to continue to write.  A few years ago, I wrote about the types of comments people leave on a blog.  Just hearing that people often shared in my experience in some way, affirmed my point, or noted a part of the writing that spoke to them, kept me going.

The community connected me beyond my daily world.  Having a writing community that connected beyond my daily world broadened my experience.  It amplified the possibility in writing and discovering the power of the message.

Being a part of a writing community helped me to grow as a writer but, most importantly, it kept me in the chair each day.  It showed me the power of possibility and connected me with other writers who understand the struggle and the small victories.  Each year we grow and nurture our writing community so that across the year we can learn from another.  Each day of our workshop, we carefully stitch together new conversations that connect and lift our writers.  We find ways to help our writers reach out into the world to learn from other writers.

If you want to think more about how writers support one another, check out this video lesson from Ruth Ayres.

Lessons from Writing (other lessons from #sol18)


Sunday, March 25, 2018

Lessons from Writing: That Piece Isn't There Yet #sol18 week 3

For the month of March, I'm participating in the Slice of Life Challenge on my other blog:  Merely Day by Day.  Writing every day isn't easy, and I'm learning some lessons I want to remember when I sit beside young writers.  Thanks to the team at Two Writing Teachers for pushing me to be a teacher who writes, and helping to grow my reflections.

I've been writing with the community of Two Writing Teachers for the month of March.




Writing every day certainly makes me think a lot about what I ask of writers in my classroom, and maybe what I should do differently.  After 25 days of writing, I've been surprised to not find myself in crisis over what I will write about this year.  I seem to have found a rhythm that works, and I've just been plugging away.  It's probably the gift of our writing workshops; knowing you're going to write every single day (and the challenge).

Though I've been able to write every day, most days I publish my pieces knowing they aren't quite there yet.  After twenty-five days of posting, there's hardly a piece that I wouldn't go back to and try to rework.  You see, I know why each piece isn't there yet.  I'm not always sure how to get it there, but I can detect the parts of each post that work --- and those that don't quite make it.

That makes me wonder, do we ask our students, "Is your piece of writing where you want it?  Is it there yet?"  I'm going to guess that if asked, most of our writers could tell us the part of their writing that works, the new things they've tried, AND the parts that aren't quite there yet.  Instead, we often show them parts we think aren't there yet.  We require particular types of revision and lament that students don't make enough changes to their pieces.

As I get ready to write for the final week of March, I wonder what would happen if we just asked writers, "What works in this piece of writing?  What isn't quite there yet?".  Then, after a bit of conversation, perhaps the next question is, "Are you moving on or going back to try to strengthen the piece?".  Either way, the writer has learned something to carry forward.

As Georgia Heard reminds, "Revision is seeing and reseeing our words and practicing strategies that make a difference in our writing."

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Lessons from Writing: 5 Questions to Help Young Writers Find Their Own Process #sol18 week 2

For the month of March, I'm participating in the Slice of Life Challenge on my other blog:  Merely Day by Day.  Writing every day isn't easy, and I'm learning some lessons I want to remember when I sit beside young writers.  Thanks to the team at Two Writing Teachers for pushing me to be a teacher who writes, and helping to grow my reflections.

These lines caught my attention as I visited Mandy Robek's post, Fumbling, on day 2 of the Slice of Life Challenge:
"I think I've learned the benefits of using my notebook during the day, along the way.  It's a spot to hold my thoughts until I can embrace them with intention."                                  - Mandy Robek, Enjoy and Embrace Writing
As I read posts from other writers during the Slice of Life Challenge, it isn't uncommon to see a participant write about the challenges they are facing.  There are the days the idea bucket is empty.  There are days our writing goes out into the world without the polish we would like it to have.  There are days when the voice of the writing doesn't feel quite right or the craft doesn't seem to take the message to the place we'd like it to go.

It isn't uncommon to hear someone write about their process.  Participants in the event talk about where they get their ideas, crafting techniques they've discovered, new types of writing they're trying, or the way they're playing with words.  It's not uncommon to read posts about participants' favorite writing spaces, times, or tools.

This is my seventh year participating in the challenge to write 31 days, but this might be the first year I have felt I've found a rhythm to this writing.  This year, I've decided to write my posts the day before I post them.  I get up at about 5:30 in the morning, reread the post I started the previous day, complete some quick revisions, and then post it for the day.  I then spend some time drafting the post for the following day.  This habitual rhythm has certainly helped me to feel less overwhelmed by the requirements of writing every day.

Mandy talks about using her notebook to collect ideas during the day.  She finds this helpful in her writing.  I, too, love a notebook, but I find that I never have it with me.  This year, when an idea strikes, I either go into Blogger and start the post with a quick five-minute write or I open voice recorder to record my idea at the moment it hits.  Most often, ideas come in the day when I don't have time to write so voice recorder has really come in handy.

As I interact within the writing communities I belong, I've learned that everyone has their process.  I love to listen to people share their process as it often helps me to reflect and to be more intentional in my own way of writing.

Helping Young Writers Find Their Process
As I listen to adult writers talk about their work, I can't help but think about the young writers we are shaping.  Do we allow students the opportunities to find their own their process or do we assign the process?  Do we allow students to find their writing territories or do we tell them what they will write about?  Do we acknowledge that the writing can be hard or do we expect perfection in every piece?  Do we allow students to find the structure and craft of each piece of writing or do we give them formulas for completion?

Here are some questions for helping young writers find their process and rhythm as writers:

  1. Where do writers find their ideas?  This is a little different than what do writers write about.  This talks about memories, books, conversations, daily events, and maybe some good eavesdropping.  
  2. How do you collect your ideas?  Often we're in the middle of a piece of writing when we get an idea for another piece of writing.  How do we capture those ideas before they are gone?  Writers do this in a variety of ways, especially now that we have digital possibilities.  Of course, the notebook is still a favorite for writers.  Amy Ludwig VanDerwater has a site called Sharing Our Notebooks that is full of possibility to share with students.  
  3. How do you grow your ideas?  This is a topic often shaped by opportunities and challenges.  Some people sketch, some web, some research, some list.  These possibilities are often driven by purpose.  Additionally, when do you revise?  Some writers revise as they work; others work to get the idea onto paper and then return for revision.  How do you strengthen your lines and words?  
  4. Where do you like to write?  During a school day, young writers have very little say in where they write, but that doesn't mean they can't make some decisions about their spaces.  Providing alternate seating, allowing writers to write on the floor, creating quiet spaces, and maybe even just pulling out a picture and a favorite pen can help to create an atmosphere for writing.  Additionally, digital spaces may allow writers to carry their reading beyond the school day and write in their favorite spaces at home.  
  5. How will you use your time as a writer?  In classrooms, having a regular daily time to write is essential.  If young writers know they will have time to write each day, they can begin to collect ideas.  Writing every day is essential, but isn't always easy.  Allowing writers to be in different stages of the process, knowing the process is not linear, and understanding that writers may take a short break from a piece to grow a burning idea all provide flexibility for the writer. 
Young writers need the opportunity to find their own process.  If we truly want our writers to write with purpose, to develop their voice, to utilize craft, to move their audience, we have to let them write.  

Lessons From Writing Series