Friday, July 31, 2015

Poetry Friday - My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks and Brothers

 Today Poetry Friday is at Keri Recommends
Be sure to visit and check out all the great poetry posts!
I've had this book on my TBR list for a long time and I finally requested it from the library. It's a cute book that could easily be a fun activity with kids. My own kids loved listening to the comparisons and we started coming up with our own. 

The author takes all sorts of everyday objects and uses them to create portraits of different members of her family and then works them into her description of them, too. Here's my favorite snatch of text from My Dog is as Smelly as Dirty Socks by Hanoch Piven.

"And then there 
is Schmutz.

I'll be honest with you...
Schmutz stinks!

Schmutz is as stinky
as an ONION.

He's as nasty 
as canned FISH,

as icky as PEPPERONI,

and as smelly as
DIRTY SOCKS."

Reading this book is a great opportunity to talk to students about using similes to describe in their writing. I love that this book combines an artwork activity and thinking about how that can link to their writing. I don't think this a book kids will soon forget so it'll be great for them to remind them of when they need to add some description to their writing.

I had so much fun with this book, I thought I would try some similes myself!
Little Bean has a spirit 
as free as a song traveling in the wind.

Peanut has a soul
as thoughtful as a gentle giant.

Little Bean has a face that lights up
as bright as the morning sun.

Peanut has a laugh
as pure as a bubbling stream.

Brothers

as proud as superheroes 
zipping across the sky,

as wild as monkeys 
swinging through the jungle,

as sticky and sweet 
as the gooey chocolate and melty marshmallow 
in a campfire s'more.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Lost In The Sun

Title: Lost In The Sun 
Author: Lisa Graff 
Publisher: Philomel Books 
Publication Date: May 26th, 2015 
Genre/Format: Realistic Fiction/Novel 
GoodReads Summary: Everyone says that middle school is awful, but Trent knows nothing could be worse than the year he had in fifth grade, when a freak accident on Cedar Lake left one kid dead, and Trent with a brain full of terrible thoughts he can't get rid of. Trent’s pretty positive the entire disaster was his fault, so for him middle school feels like a fresh start, a chance to prove to everyone that he's not the horrible screw-up they seem to think he is. 
If only Trent could make that fresh start happen.It isn’t until Trent gets caught up in the whirlwind that is Fallon Little—the girl with the mysterious scar across her face—that things begin to change. Because fresh starts aren’t always easy. Even in baseball, when a fly ball gets lost in the sun, you have to remember to shift your position to find it. 
What I Think: Lisa Graff lets readers into Trent's complicated story by bringing his thoughts to life in such a way that we can truly see Trent and not just what other people see. So many people in the book judge him or decide what they think about him based on his actions but knowing what he's going through on the inside, readers can relate to Trent and understand why he acts like he does. I know this is what books are all about...but Lisa Graff so easily brings character to life so that we can see their motivations and root for them even when they don't make the best decisions. 
     As a writer, this isn't easy to do. As a character, Trent is dealing with a lot and he doesn't treat his family, friends, or teachers well for much of the story. But at the same time, the author has to make Trent like-able to the reader. I know this is only something I've realized as I've been working on my novel. Of course a main character is going to be dealing with difficult situations and sometimes making bad choices, but the job of the author is to make sure the reader can see enough of the good in a character or at least understand his or her motives so they keep reading. It's just not easy! But Lisa Graff has done a really great job. 
     Thinking about Lost In The Sun and its characters as a mentor text, I would look at how concise Lisa Graff is in her description (see the snatch of text below) but also think about how Trent's interactions with others in the book paired with his own inner dialogue interact to build our understanding of Trent's life. There are so many great characters in this book to talk about. 
     At an author panel at Nerdcamp, Lisa Graff shared how she writes her first draft, and then goes back and tries to cut the number of words in half. This makes her rethink every word and make sure that every word counts. It truly shows because her writing is to tight and descriptive because of this. This would make an awesome shared writing activity or an independent/partner revising activity for students. Being able to combine sentences and make the most of words on a page is an amazing skill that pushes students to make their writing stronger. You could start by asking students to write about a topic, then ask them to cut the number of words in half and to see how their writing changes as they do. 
Read Together: Grades 4 - 7  
Read Alone: Grades 5 - 7 
Read With: Okay For Now by Gary Schmidt, Drums, Girls, and Dangerous Pie (and others) by Jordan Sonnenblick, Stupid Fast by Geoff Herbach, See You At Harry's by Jo Knowles
Snatch of Text:    
     "I saw the side of her face first, the left side, while she was walking her fluffy white dog not far from where I was sitting on the side of the baseball field. I didn't recognize her at first, actually. I thought she might be a new kid, just moved to town. Thought she had a good face for drawing. 
     Big, deep, round brown eyes (well, one of them, anyway - the left one). Curly, slightly frizzy brown hair pulled back away from her face. Half of a small, upturned mouth. She was dressed kind of funny - this loud, neon-pink T-shirt blouse thing with two ties hanging down from the neck (were those supposed to do something? I never understood clothes that were supposed to do something), and zebra-print shorts, and what looked like a blue shoelace tied into a bow in her hair. The kind of outfit that says, 'Yup Here I am. I look...weird.'" (p. 8-9)
Writing Prompts: Write about a time in your life when you needed to regain someone's trust. How did you do it? Were you successful? 
Topics Covered: Family, Friendship, Grief, Guilt, Forgiveness, Honesty 
I *heart* It:

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The One With Erin Jackle's Awesome Words #sol15


Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post on Tuesdays or you can just head on over there to check out other people's stories. For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here

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You know those people who climb into your heart and settle in? The ones who believe in you and trust you but make you better at the same time? I have a friend like that. Her name is Erin Jackle. I'm going to try not to cry as I write this. Erin is amazing and over the last two years I've gotten to work really closely with her. This year I'll be working in a new district so our collaboration won't be the same but I'm so appreciative of her and know we'll continue to work together and influence each other. 
I actually knew Erin from her blog before we ever met in real life. Even though we worked in the same district, it was a big district so I had never met Erin until I was desperate to go see the last Harry Potter movie at the midnight release. Erin and I had young children but we realized we could both sneak out of the house at midnight, meet up to see the movie together, and be back home before anyone realized we were gone or missed us. So we did it. It was maybe a little awkward but completely amazing at the same time. 
Back in June, I saw a post on Instagram from Ruth Ayres where she showed some beautiful cards that educator, blogger, and writer Christy Rush Levine sent her with words from Ruth's blog. (Can you see them in the picture above? I took a screenshot from Instagram but hope you can see them.) This spoke to me. Erin is a friend whose words I adore and I thought this would be a great way to celebrate her. I opened up Erin's Mischief Managed blog and read all of her words from the very beginning, copying my favorite words into a Google Doc. Then I created a slideshow that I would like to share with you today. I call this Erin Jackle is Awesome...and I hope you enjoy her words and maybe find some that speak to you. 

This Sunday and last Sunday, I shared some great quotes from two books I recently read: In Pictures and In Words by Katie Wood Ray and Writing Down The Bones by Natalie Goldberg. It was awesome to see my Teachers Write friends sharing which quotes spoke to them and how so many of them were inspired by the words. Sometimes we connect with words - finally what we've been feeling is there in the words and someone else feels them - or sometimes we are inspired by words - these words give us inspiration and motivate us, they get us going. Erin's blog is reflective and honest, full of raw emotions that aren't always easy to feel but nonetheless hopeful. She tells her story, clear and true, and I'm glad to be part of it. 

I hope in celebrating Erin and her words you think about words that have inspired you. Maybe you want to share them with me in the comments? I can always use more words to read and celebrate!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/27/15

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Last Week's Book Adventures:
My reading went in a completely different direction than I expected it to last week! I ended up reading Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg and plowing through One Night by Amy Pine. We also finished Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate. I'm still listening to Revolution and now Peanut started listening to the first book in Brandon Mull's Spirit Animal series.

Reviewed Last Week:

Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
I'm hoping to dive into Because Digital Writing Matters by Danielle Nicole DeVoss, Elyse Eidman-Aadahl, and Troy Hicks and Teach Like a Pirate. I'll be interesting to see what this week brings. I have two weeks of summer left and then new teacher orientation and the school year starts. I can't believe it!

This Week's Reviews:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!

Teachers Write - Sunday Check-In 4.3

Hi again everyone! We've just made it through week three of Teachers Write! There is one week left and I'm hoping to make the most of this week. How about you? We started the summer off super strong and it seems like there are less people joining in but I hope you find a way to give it your best this last week. I've been reading Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down The Bones after it was recommended by so many people. It's another gem full of thoughts and ideas about celebrating the creativity and freedom of writing but at the same time the difficulty and the work it takes to keep going. I'm sharing some of my favorite quotes here this week again. See if something speaks to you!

What I loved is that she makes a lot of reference to meditation and I've been working on yoga more lately. I took a class on Friday and did more in my sequences at home. Yoga and writing seem to have an interesting connection. But I also see how persevering in writing can be like persevering in so many other things. 
"Writing is egalitarian; it cuts across geographic, class, gender, and racial lines." (p. xii)

"Learning is write is not a linear process. There is no logical A-to-B-to-C way to become a good writer." (p. 4)

"When you write, don't say, 'I'm going to write a poem.' That attitude will freeze you right away. Sit down with the least expectation of yourself; say, 'I am free to write the worst junk in the world.' You have to give yourself the space to write a lot without a destination." (p. 15)

"If you are not afraid of the voices inside you, you will not fear the critics outside you." (p. 23)

"Don't worry about your talent or capability: that will grow as you practice....just practice writing, and when you learn to trust your voice, direct it...In the process of writing them, you will learn how. You can have the confidence that you will gradually acquire the technique and craft you need." (p. 37)

"We learn writing by doing it. That simple." (P. 37)

"We are important and our lives are important, magnificent really, and their details are worthy to be recorded. This is how writers must think, this is how we must sit down with pen in hand. We were here; we are human beings; this is how we lived. Let it be known, the earth passed before us."(p. 55)

"Don't tell readers what to feel. Show them the situation, and that feeling will awaken in them." (p. 87)

"Don't be afraid to answer the questions. You will find endless resources inside yourself. Writing is the act of burning through the fog in your mind. Don't carry the fog out on paper. Even if you are not sure of something, express it as though you know yourself. With this practice you eventually will." (p. 112)

"A writer's job is to make the ordinary come alive, to awaken ourselves to the specialness of simply being." (p. 129)

"In the middle of the world, make one positive step. In the center of chaos, make on definitive act. Just write. Say yes, stay alive, be awake. Just write. Just write. Just write." (p. 131)

"When the old nag in you comes around with 'Why are you wasting your time? Why do you write?,' just dive onto the page, be full of answers, but don't try to justify yourself. You do it because you do it. You do it because you want to improve your handwriting, because your an idiot, because you're made for the smell of paper." (p. 149)

"Be willing to look at your work honestly. If something works, it works. If it doesn't, quit beating an old horse. Go on writing. Something else will come up." (p. 204)

"See revision as 'envisioning again.' If there are areas on your work where there is a blur or vagueness, you can simply see the picture again and add the details that will bring your work closer to your mind's picture." (p. 209)

There are so many nuggets here that I can see on the walls of classrooms, shared with students, left as notes to student writers. This book is a fast read with so many stories and ideas that I connected with and I'm sure you might also enjoy since you have participated in Teachers Write this year. I hope you look for it if you haven't read it yet or maybe reread it if you have.

My Teachers Write Weekly Recap:
I don't know what happened to my week. Well, I kind of know. We had a busy week and Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, I spent in training at work all day. This is such a teacher problem, but after those three days, I was exhausted. I just didn't have the energy to write much this week. I did write once when I was up at three in the morning and then I did write another time when I had a break but I barely wrote 800 words. That was not at all near my goal. I'm not happy with myself but it has to be okay at the same time. I'm excited to have more time to write this week but also to make the time. 

While I was at work this week, I did talk to a teacher about writing in her classroom and setting up student writer's notebooks. I shared my notebook with her from when I was teaching and sharing and modeling my notebook for students. It was fun. I'm excited to talk more with her about supporting student writers in her classroom!
And finally, we did got to a baseball game where we happened to be squinting into the sun from our seats and I noticed so many people with their hands up to shield their eyes. It was a moment where I thought about all the little details a writer has to notice so he or she can put it into their writing and I sat their, not really paying attention to the game, but definitely people watching and thinking about little bits and pieces I can incorporate into my work. I'm hoping for a better week and to get back to my 7,000 word plan. Happy writing!

A reminder of my rules for Teachers Write Sunday Check-Ins:
1. We respect each other and the type of writing we do.
2. We only offer constructive criticism.
3. We are positive and encourage each other at all times.
4. We recognize and maintain this as a safe environment.

Today, in the comments section:
How did you do this week? Did you meet your weekly goal(s)?
What was the pit of your week? (The hardest part, the non-fun part?)
What was the peak of your week? (The best part, the most-fun part?)
What are you looking forward to and planning for the week ahead?

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Enormous Smallness





Nonfiction Picture Book Wednesday is hosted by Aly at Kid Lit Frenzy. 
Every Wednesday, bloggers link up their non-fiction picture book reviews. Be sure to visit Kid Lit Frenzy and see what great non-fiction books are shared this week!


Title: Enormous Smallness: A Story of E. E. Cummings
Author: Matthew Burgess 
Illustrator: Kris Di Giacomo 
Publisher: Enchanted Lion Books 
Publication Date: April 7th, 2015 
Genre/Format: Non-Fiction Biography/Picture Book 
GoodReads Summary: Enormous Smallness is a nonfiction picture book about the poet E.E. cummings. Here E.E.'s life is presented in a way that will make children curious about him and will lead them to play with words and ask plenty of questions as well. Lively and informative, the book also presents some of Cummings's most wonderful poems, integrating them seamlessly into the story to give the reader the music of his voice and a spirited, sensitive introduction to his poetry.
     In keeping with the epigraph of the book -- "It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are," Matthew Burgess's narrative emphasizes the bravery it takes to follow one's own vision and the encouragement E.E. received to do just that. 
What I Think: ee cummings is such a well-known poet and deservedly so. He played with words and structure in poetry in such a creative way and I love reading his poems. Last summer while I was in Boston, I visited Forest Hill Cemetery and tracked down his grave. I blogged about how awesome it was to stand there and read aloud one of his poems. As I read Enormous Smallness, I felt the magic of being in the cemetery in Boston all over again. Burgess plays with words and incorporates cummings' own poetry into the text in such a way that it feels woven into his own words. At the same time, Di Giacomo does an excellent job of representing words visually, helping bring meaning to life. 
     I love everything about this book. The writing is descriptive and powerful. Matched with the illustrations, it certainly brings a certain tone and mood to the text that matches both ee cummings himself but also the time period. 
     As a mentor text, I would definitely use this book to discuss how and author's word choice impacts tone and mood. In general, this book is a discussion on descriptive writing and author's craft waiting to happen. In the snatch of text I've pulled here, you can easily talk about metaphor and onomatopoeia but also rhythm and how sentence structure impacts that...but this is just one piece of text from one page in the book. It's definitely a book to be reread over and over just to soak in and savor all the textual and visual mastery here.
Read Together:  Grades 2 - 12 
Read Alone: Grades 2 - 12 
Read With: Pablo Neruda: Poet of the People by Monica Brown, Jimi: Sounds Like a Rainbow by Gary Golio, The Cosmobiography of Sun Ra: The Sound of Joy Is Enlightening by Chris Raschka, The Right Word: Roget and His Thesaurus by Jen Bryant
Snatch of Text:
"As Estlin grew, he drew many pictures
from the great circus of his imagination.

But even more than drawing
elephants, trees, and birds,
Estlin LOVED WORDS.

What words say and how they sound and look.
He loved the way they hum, buzz, POP, and swish."

Writing Prompts: In the book, Estlin made up his first poem after seeing a bird outside of his bedroom window. The author writes, "From his bedroom window, Estlin could see enormous apple and cherry trees." Write about what you see outside your bedroom window or maybe use you imagination and write about what you wish you could see outside of your bedroom window.
Topics Covered: Family, Inspiration, Imagination, Creativity 
I *heart* It:

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The One With A Dumbo Mentor Text #sol15


Every Tuesday, I participate in the Slice of Life challenge at Two Writing Teachers. If you want to participate, you can link up at their Slice of Life Story Post on Tuesdays or you can just head on over there to check out other people's stories. For more information on what a Slice of Life post is about, you can go here

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I sat down yesterday to write this post but I was stuck. I was totally stuck. I tried uploading some pictures from our Disney trip because I never shared our fun adventure here...but my heart wasn't in it. And then I remembered that my guest post about mentor texts and how I find and use them is up on Marcie Atkins' blog today so I'm going to share a link to that. Marcie's blog and website is a great resource so I hope you explore what she's shared!

Thinking about my guest post on Marcie's blog reminded me of a sort of mentor text I found when were at Disney! (Sometimes writing just anything helps to get me started when I'm in a funk!) 

When I go to Disney World the Dumbo ride is a must-do for me. I adore Dumbo but especially the ride. We've ridden it every time we've taken the kids. We last rode it when we were there in 2011 and it closed soon after. BUT, they revamped Fantasyland and now there are TWO Dumbo rides. It's actually pretty cool what they did with the ride. You go into the line and they give you a pager, kind of like the ones you get at restaurants. Then the kids can play in an amazing indoor play area, kind of like the ones they have in malls. The little kids have a small area where they can crawl and explore. The bigger kids have a climbing structure with slides and interactive elements. It's awesome. Otherwise, the two rides are the same as the original Dumbo. 
I remember riding Dumbo with Peanut when he was one. He loved going up and down and seeing the park as we went around and around. It's such a classic ride. It makes me heart swell to know that I rode it with Little Bean when he was one, too. This has become a fun family tradition for us and I hope we get to continue it.

After we got off the ride, we were already on our way to ride Goofy's Barnstormer but as Chad and the kids ran ahead, I looked up and saw Timothy Mouse spinning around. The sky was so blue, the clouds were so white and there were the words, "Believe and Soar!" Quickly, I grabbed my phone and took a picture. I see him as Dumbo's champion. He believes in Dumbo when he most needs someone to believe in him. It struck me how these inspirational words also felt powerful in a beautiful moment. We had been on vacation for a week, I was relaxed, was having fun with my family, and felt like I didn't have a care in the world. These words reminded me to acknowledge how great my life is and to continue to follow my dreams.
Of course we need words when we're struggling or in the middle of persevering through something...but words are also powerful when we're doing well. When we're feeling productive and have momentum and are on a roll, words are important, too. Wherever you are, however you are feeling, remember to "Believe and Soar!" You can do it!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

It's Monday! What Are You Reading? 7/20/15

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? From Picture Books to YA! 
It's Monday! What are you Reading? is a meme hosted by Sheila at Book Journeys. It is a great way to recap what you read and/or reviewed the previous week and to plan out your reading and reviews for the upcoming week. It's also a great chance to see what others are reading right now...you just might discover your next “must-read” book!
Kellee Moye, of Unleashing Readers, and I decided to give It's Monday! What Are You Reading? a kidlit focus. If you read and review books in children's literature - picture books, chapter books, middle grade novels, young adult novels, anything in the world of kidlit - join us! We love this meme and think you will, too. We encourage everyone who participates to visit at least three of the other kidlit book bloggers that link up and leave comments for them. 

Last Week's Book Adventures:
I finished Lost In The Sun! It was brilliant and I'm finally and officially going to review it this week! We're still reading Crenshaw and I'm still at awe of how great it is. It's amazing that both Peanut and Little Bean are enjoying it. It's making both of them really think - although clearly they are each thinking as much as their life experience allows. It's definitely different for them to try and relate to the story but I'm glad to read it and discuss with them. I'm still listening to Revolution...I'll be listening to it forever since I'm not driving as much any more! I read the first issue of Jem and the Holograms - which is random but I was excited to spot it at the comic book store. I finished In Pictures and In Words. And - get this! - I even started reading Puppy Pirates by Erin Soderberg and the graphic novel In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang.

Reviewed Last Week:
 
Click on any picture above to go read my review/post.

Upcoming Book Adventures: 
I'm looking forward to reading more of the books we're in the middle of and also rereading Teach Like a Pirate!

This Week's Reviews:
Check back throughout the week to read these reviews/posts. 

So, what are you reading this week? 
Link up below and don't forget to check out other blogs to see what they are reading!
To help build our community and support other bloggers, 
we ask that you comment on at least three other blogs before you. 
Also, if you tweet about your Monday post, don't forget to use #IMWAYR!