Sunday, April 11, 2021

National Poetry Month: Mentors for Young Poets

It's National Poetry Month! Those of you who know me know I'm a "poetry all year" kind of gal, but this extra emphasis on poetry in April always brings such joy. I love that National Poetry Month is celebrated in the spring. Even Mother Nature jumps into the action by creating a canvas of beauty for poets to capture with their pens. In the classroom, this celebration comes at a time our learning communities can use a little energy boost. 

In walks poetry.

For National Poetry Month, many bloggers are writing, or sharing, a poem every day for the entire month. As a classroom teacher, I have always found a little fresh poetry to liven up the classroom and inspire my writers so I thought I'd share three blogs you might want to follow with your students.

Raising Rooney at Carol's Corner:  Poetry can tell a story and Carol Wilcox is one of the masters of this. This month, Carol is sharing stories of Rooney each day in April. Rooney is a puppy in training to become a service dog. He's been with Carol since we was a wee pup. In this series, Carol shares narrative free-verse to tell the stories of Rooney's journey. Students are sure to enjoy the antics of Rooney. Additionally, her poetry makes an excellent mentor text for young poets looking for ways to share a story through poetry. 

Equation Poems with Laura Purdie Salas:  Have some math-minded learners in your community? They're sure to love the growing collection of Equation Poems written by Laura Purdie Salas. Each day in April, Laura will a share a new equation poem. These are quick and fun. Your students will enjoy each day's surprise. These poems make great mentors for careful thought in word choice. This daily challenge pairs nicely with Amy Krouse Rosenthal's book:  This Plus That.

Avian Allusions with Christine Wyman: Each day in April, Christine is sharing a poem about birds. Young writers will enjoy the images she shares alongside her daily poem. This series illustrates the way we can look at something of interest in many ways. There are many ways to write about the same thing. Young writers will also enjoy the way she digitally crafts image and poem for greater meaning. 

If you're looking for other links for National Poetry Month, click the blue image at the beginning of this post, follow #NationalPoetryMonth on Twitter, or stop by Soul Blossom Living to find other monthly collections from members of the Poetry Friday community. This month, I'm writing a poem each day at Merely Day by Day around JOY. If you know of other events of interest - and there are many - feel free to share those in the comments below. Enjoy!

Monday, August 10, 2020

Ten Picture Books You'd Want if You're Ordered Home #pb10for10

Please note:  today's Picture Book 10 for 10 event is hosted by Mandy Robek at Enjoy and Embrace Learning.  You will find directions to post with the community at the bottom of today's post.  Make sure you stop by Mandy's blog to see all of the collections being shared by the #pb10for10 community.  Also, follow the Twitter hashtag #pb10for10 across the day for a big dose of picture book love.  If you're joining us for the first time, please grab your library card as this event can get expensive.  Consider yourself warned.  

Today's the day!  It's our annual August picture book celebration.  

When the event began in 2010, Mandy and I started with the question:  "What are the must-have books for your classroom library?."  

Here we are in 2020.  In March, we were quickly sent home to teach from our screens during our state's stay-at-home orders to help stop the spread of COVID-19.  I don't think any of us thought we'd be out for the rest of the 2019-2020 school year.  This was a tough time, but I celebrated the fact that the first thing we all seemed to try to figure out was how to read aloud to our students in remote learning.  Authors and publishers came quickly to our rescue as we tried to keep books at the center of our learning communities.  

Of course, as schools closed, libraries were shuttered too.  It wasn't long until we realized we were home without our classroom books - and home without an open community library.  Talk about your book emergency!!!  Thankfully I had a large collection of picture books at home - and a pretty good stack from the library that was staying at home with me until libraries began accepting books again.  

As we get ready to begin 2020-2021 school year.  Not one of us is sure what is coming, but I think we all know it's going to have its hard parts.  It seems appropriate for this year's #pb10for10 celebration to share books I'd want if I was stuck at home again.  

Ten Picture Books to Have in Your Bag if You're Ordered Home

Dot by Randi Zuckerberg and illustrated by Joe Berger (2013)

I was reminded of this book recently by Deb Frazier.  It does seem the perfect book for a year that is likely to move back and forth from being together face-to-face and being together virtually.  In this book, Dot likes her time connecting and working virtually, but sometimes she gets tired.  Her mom reminds her that time to recharge outside can be equally important.  This book is available in digital and print format.  (Harper Collins COVID permissions.)

Ruby Finds a Worry by Tom Percival (2019)

There certainly is plenty to worry about these days.  Whether our learners are with us at school or we are teaching from a remote location, they may have a lot on their minds.  In this story, Ruby has a worry that just won't go away.  She spends so much time thinking about it that it just keeps growing.  Will Ruby ever find a way through this worry?  Readers will enjoy listening to this story that helps readers find their way through their worry.  A must-have book for life in 2020.  This book is available in digital and print editions.  (Bloomsbury COVID read aloud policy.)

Write! Write! Write! by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater (2020)

If you end up teaching from home, you have to have poetry!  What better poetry book to have by your side than one that inspires some writing?  When we're in the classroom, we work to connect home to school.  Let's be honest, if our young writers are home, they're surrounded by those stories.  This book is full of poems to inspire writers to put their pencils and markers to paper (or their fingers to their keyboard...whatever their preference).  Whether you're live or remote, you'll want this book close by.  Available in digital or print format. Additionally, Amy has a collection of notebook mini-lessons and an ever-growing collection of digital poetry sure to inspire your writers.  Also don't miss With My Hands:  Poems About Making Things.  Imagine what our learners can make - and teach us to make - from home.  

I Remember:  Poems and Pictures of Heritage compiled by Lee Bennett Hopkins (2019)

One poetry book probably isn't enough so let's add another to the essential bookstack.  I don't think you can go wrong with I Remember:  Poems and Pictures of Heritage.  I happened to have this one checked out from the library when it closed for COVID.  It was the perfect book to read again and again.  Readers will enjoy the collection of poems and illustrations by artists and writers who share stories of their heritage, family and childhood.  One of the gifts of our spring emergency learning was that we got to know and connect with our families in a much deeper way.  This poetry collection is not only perfect for beginning any year, but also can help build our understanding of the different identities we all bring to our learning community.  There are so many great poems in this collection to open rich conversation and create possibilities for writing.  This book is only available in hardcover.   (Lee and Low temporary read aloud guidelines during COVID.) 

Woke:  A Young Poet's Call to Justice by Mahogany L. Browne with Elizabeth Acevedo and Olivia Gatwood (2020)

Okay, maybe I'm on a poetry roll right now, but really you just can't go wrong with poetry.  We are going back to school in turbulent times.  (Check out ILA's webinar:  Teaching in Turbulent Times.)  While COVID has knocked us off our feet, the voices of Black Lives Matter are calling for change long overdue.  While these are tough times, we have the opportunity to come out of them better than we were.  Books like Woke, alongside books like Dictionary for a Better World and Can I Touch Your Hair? (yep, I snuck in a few bonus titles there - it's a well known trick in the #pb10for10 world) can help start those conversations.  You'll want this one in your collection, for sure.  (Roaring Brook Press appears to be part of Macmillon see permissions here.)

Cool Cuts by Mechal Renee Roe (2020)

Whether you're starting with students in a face-to-face or remote learning situation, this book will be perfect for getting started.  At every page turn, the reader is greeted by positive affirmation and the words, "I am born to be awesome."  Of course, the bonus is all of those great hair styles labeled for readers.  When working to build identity and community, this book is sure to be a smart addition to your collection.  This book is available in hard cover or digital format.  I have the digital format which actually shows a copyright of 2016.  (Doubleday Publishers an imprint of Random House COVID read aloud policy)

Layla's Happiness by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie and illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin (2020)

I can't imagine not having this book with me whether teaching from my classroom or at home.  This just seems the perfect book for getting to know one another at the beginning of the year.  In this book, readers discover all that makes Layla happy.  This book would make a strong mentor text for some beginning writing as we build our learning communities and get to know one another.  

The Hike by Alison Farrell (2019)

If you want to find a way to get kids away from their screens, this book might be the perfect read aloud.  If you want learners to learn to observe or find new ways to write, this book might be just what you need.  Mandy Robek first shared this book with me and every time I share this picture book with someone else it is a win.  In this book a group of friends heads out for a hike.  As they hike, they take notes and make new discoveries.  Whether at school or at home, this book has a myriad of possibilities.  (See Kate Messner's copyright update for information about Chronicle Books and COVID read aloud permissions.) 

The Serious Goose by Jimmy Kimmel (2019)

I'm not one to pick up picture books written by already famous people, but I'm glad I decided to open this one.  In the heaviness of the times, a picture book to make kids laugh can be just what is needed.  In this book, the narrator assures us nothing will make Serious Goose smile, but can a serious goose hold tough when kids are making faces?  Whether reading this live from a distance or in a Zoom room, kids are going to love making faces to get a smile out of Serious Goose.  This book is available in hard cover or digital edition.  I have the digital edition of this one.  If you need a laugh, this book is a must-have.  (Penguin Random House COVID read aloud policy)

Misunderstood Shark by Ame Dyckman and illustrated by Scott Magoon (2018)

Seriously, what #pb10for10 list would be complete without a book by Ame Dyckman?  Her books always make for a fun read aloud.  I haven't had one of them fail me in front of kids.  As I think about beginning a year that may be started remotely, it's likely easy to be misunderstood.  Even in our day to day life in the classroom, friends often do things that get misunderstood.  This books surely sets up a story that makes this a fun discussion.  Let's be honest, just the fact that this book has a shark in it makes it sure to be a winner.  

Want to Join?  
  1. Choose Your 10 Favorites:  All you need to do is choose ten picture books you cannot live without for whatever reason.  In the first days of this event, everyone shared their ten very favorite titles.  This still works.  You will notice, however, that many past participants choose some type of theme or thread to connect their selections.  We'll leave this up to you.
  2. Write Your August 10th Post:  Write a post about the ten books you cannot live without.  
  3. No Blog?  No Problem:  If you don't have a blog, this might be the perfect time to start one --- or there are a million digital ways to join.  You could post from a Google page, create a S'more, make a Padlet, share in Twitter (and copy the Tweet link to the host blog), or any other creative idea you may be considering.  We will also be tweeting from the #pb10for10 hashtag.    
  4. Link Your Selections:  Please share your posts at Enjoy and Embrace Learning in the comments of today's celebration post.  (Share them on Twitter too at #pb10for10.) 
  5. Find Other Participants:  You will find the links to other 2020 collections in the comments of today's host blog.
  6. Connect & Comment:  Take some time to read posts from other participants.  Please comment on at least three. 
Warning:  Picture Book 10 for 10 can be hard on your wallet.  I'd pull out your library cards before you start to visit these wonderful posts below.  

Monday, August 3, 2020

The Countdown Has Begun: #pb10for10

Well, it's been a decade.  Since 2010 our community has been sharing picture books in August.  Picture Book 10 for 10 began from a conversation about must-have picture books for our classroom libraries.  Mandy Robek, Enjoy and Embrace Learning, and I were going back and forth about our favorite books for our classroom communities when we decided it would be interesting to be able to meander through the libraries of other educators to see what books were on their shelves.  #pb10for10 for short.  Since then, educators, librarians, parents, and book lovers in our PLN have been taking the time to create a list of their 10 favorite picture books to share with one another each year on August 10th. 

Mandy recently posted this reminder about the event at Enjoy and Embrace Learning:  Picture Book 10 for 10 is coming!

If you're like me, this year has been a tough one.  Educators are working through so much in their personal and professional lives right now that Mandy and I have wrestled with whether this is a good year to host this event.  Our attention needs to be on caring for ourselves, our family and preparing for the months ahead.  We need time to read and learn new things to support our learners in a variety of different modes of instruction.  We also are spending much time reflecting on the systemic racism that has to be a part of our conversations moving forward.  

In the end, we both decided that books are the only way forward.  It's books that help us to see the world from a different point of view.  It's books that help us to find answers to hard questions.  It is books that make us laugh when laughter can be hard to find.  We are going through a lot right now - and the children we spend our days with are going through a lot too.  As we open our doors (or computers) in the coming weeks, the books we select can help us to find our way forward.  

The answer is always books.  

So here we go.  The countdown has begun.  Next week #pb10for10 will step into a new decade.  

Next week we will share our collections of 10 must-have picture books because picture books can help us all to heal.  

What to join the conversation? 

The Basics
Want to join the conversation? 
  • What:  10 picture books you can't live without.
  • Hashtag:  #pb10for10
  • Hosts:  @mandyrobek (Enjoy and Embrace Learning), @cathymere (you're here)
  • Who:  Anyone interested --- educators, media specialists, librarians, parents, and book lovers.  
  • When:  Monday, August 10th
  • Where:  All posts for 2020 will be linked to Mandy's blog:  Enjoy and Embrace Learning (we had to old school so we could maintain the collections from this community)

Here's how you can participate:
  1. Grab a Badge (just copy the URL address of the one above or take a screenshot)
  2. Choose Your Favorites:  All you need to do is choose ten picture books you cannot live without for whatever reason.  In the first days of this event, everyone shared their ten very favorite titles.  This still works.  You will notice, however, that many past participants choose some type of theme or thread to connect their selections.  We'll leave this up to you.
  3. Narrow Your List to Ten:  It isn't easy, is it?  We've seen some crafty ways to get around that number.  
  4. Write Your August 10th Post:  Write a post about the ten books you cannot live without.  Share the link to your collection at Enjoy and Embrace Learning on August 10th.  
  5. No Blog?  No Problem:  If you don't have a blog, this might be the perfect time to start one --- or there are a million digital ways to join.  You could post from a Google page, create a S'more, share in Twitter (and copy the Tweet link), or any other creative idea you may be considering.  We will also be tweeting from the #pb10for10 hashtag.    
  6. Comment:  On August 10th (and maybe for a week --- there are a lot of posts) take some time to read posts from other participants.  Please comment on at least three. 
Let the countdown begin!!!!

Hope you can join us!

Monday, June 22, 2020

A #cyberPD Announcement: Maybe Year 10 Needs to Be Different

For a decade, #cyberPD has been an anticipated summer event to connect educators near and far in collaborative professional conversation. Through blogs, Twitter, and various digital media, participants share thinking around a common professional title featured for discussion. Though the main event is in July of each year, the conversations and connections carry across the year. Since #cyberPD's first event, we've grown from a group of less than 15 to a community of over 150 educators.

We have found this community to be powerful and the conversations have helped us grow in our journey as educators. These conversations have pushed us, made us uncomfortable, and allowed us the chance to see things from different perspectives. It’s amazing to think that #cyberPD was a pioneer for online book clubs and this community made it possible!

Yet, here we are today. When we got ready to “share our bookstacks,” COVID was in full swing and teachers were juggling remote teaching, staying healthy, and their family. Then, when we began to get back to the 2020 #cyberPD planning, we were shook by the death of George Floyd and heard the call across the country for an end to systemic racism. Educators are once again in the forefront of these discussions wanting to be part of the change. It seems this is a time to dig in to listen and learn, a time to lift the voices of BIPOC educators, and a time for each of us to pursue the learning we need to take action.

Therefore, after much reflection and conversation, we have decided to not select a book to read together as a community in what would have been our tenth year. We want to leave space for the important issues at hand. We want to be here for each other, to support and learn together -- no matter what your focus and goals are for this summer!

We want to thank each of you for your role in making #cyberPD the event that it has been since 2011. It is the community that has made it strong. We know that each member of our community is already busy pursuing opportunities to continue to grow into all that our students need from us.
We hope that you will continue to use the #cyberPD hashtag to:
  • stay connected as a community
  • seek support
  • share professional books you are reading (maybe even make some connections with others doing the same reading)
  • post resources (articles, book titles, webinars, videos, etc.) around questions you are pursuing that may be of interest to the #cyberPD community
  • amplify nuggets of insights, surprises, and quotes from what you are reading and learning
  • pose questions, confusions, and challenges to our community
We know that books, conversations, and this #cyberPD community can help us on that journey.  We look forward to continuing to learn alongside each of you.

We need to stay strong together. To help each other move forward. To change. To BE the change. 

Thank you for your kind understanding,
Michelle & Cathy

Thursday, April 30, 2020

(More Than) Three for Your Library: Lighten Up with Picture Books

When the #stayathome began, I asked my son who teaches third grade, "What do you think might make some great read alouds for our students right now?"

"Maybe they just need books that will make them laugh," he replied without missing a beat.

I was ready to solve the world's problems with picture books.  Isn't that what you do?  However, he had an excellent point.  Our students are away from their friends, there is much uncertainty, and all the joys of being five, seven, or nine have been placed on hold in many ways.

Since then, our #stayathome orders have been lengthened.  We are all trying to learn to teach in this new abnormal.  (Sorry, I just can't call it our new normal as there is nothing normal about it.)

Thankfully, my picture books are here with me.  If I had been in the classroom, instead of my current role, my picture books likely would have been left on the shelves of my school.  I probably would have filled a bag or two for good measure, but I would be without a lot of them.  With libraries being closed right now too, the challenge of getting books is amplified.  We've been grateful to have these books at home over the last month+, but it always makes me think about teachers who may be home without their books.

Yesterday, I hosted a Zoom opportunity to talk about picture books.  It seemed a good idea to lighten things up a bit - okay, maybe I needed to lighten up a bit.  Picture books not only solve any world problem, they also lighten things up.  They're good therapy.  I tried to consider that we are all stuck at home without access to books.  Some of the titles you see in the S'more are only available for delivery, but many are available digitally.  I found several of these titles available digitally in our local library - some weren't even currently checked out.  That's a win.

Here's what you'll find in the S'more:
Five New Picture Books:  There are many great picture books coming out right now.  While not as easy to obtain in this crisis, it is possible to order them for delivery and a few can be found digitally.  Yep, I might still be ordering books on occasion.  You've gotta support small businesses - and authors right now, right?! These are five titles I currently love. 

Five Books to Lighten Up:  My son made such a good point that I went to my shelves looking for lighter titles.  I was pleased to come up with a nice stack of funny books.  It was hard to reduce this list to five, but you'll find a few suggestions here. 

Five Digital Resources for Remote Learning:  When this situation began I started collecting resources on a Padlet.  It seemed the first thing we tried to figure out as teachers was how to maintain the read aloud.  Before authors and publishers started granting limited permission for use, I went on a quest to find some ways to get stories to kids.  This search included some of the spaces we all know and love such as:  Storyline OnlineTumblebooks, and BookFlix.  You'll find a few others, I have since discovered in the S'more.

Five Digital Spaces to Remember:  Many of us have subscriptions to digital spaces that provide books, articles, and other reading material.  These spaces are important to remember right now.  (Of course, you'll want to check into copyright:  COVID-19 Reference from SLJ:   Multiple Publishers Fair Use Policy.)  Here are a few I have found helpful in this situation.

I hope you find this resource helpful.  If you have something new, something light, or something digital you love right now, please share some of your favorite's in the comments below. 

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Three Read Alouds for Your Library: Let's Make Them Digital

In the first days of teaching our students from our homes, the scramble began for read aloud.  I have always found the read aloud to be the glue of my classroom community, but this has sealed the deal on that.  In our remote learning environment read aloud is till holding our community together, making us laugh, leading our instruction, and mentoring our writers.

With the temporary adjustments made by many publishers, teachers are finding ways to still read aloud with their classes.  Whether it be on temporary video or in a live session, many teachers have discovered their learners love seeing them.  Read aloud can certainly help maintain connection while we are away from our classrooms.  With libraries closed and books at home limited, bringing books into the living rooms of our children's homes is as essential as reading aloud in our classrooms.

Of course, as teachers, the number of books we have at home is limited too and reading aloud every day, when it requires video recording or gathering a large group, has its challenges.  There are a variety of created materials and websites that can help fill the need for read aloud at this time.

Here are three I love for your digital library:

Saturday by Oge Mora  I was excited to find one of my favorite books of this year available in read aloud....and by the author!  That's a win.  This story talks about a Saturday that doesn't go quite as planned.  As all of us are stuck at home, I think we'd love a Saturday as disastrous as this one.  Kids will love the repetitive structure of this day that has gone wrong - but then turns right.  I found this read aloud on a post by Romper:  Famous People Read Aloud.

Of course, this post led me #operationstorytime in YouTube.  Oh my goodness!!!  So many read alouds tucked in here!!!

Big Bad Baby!  by Bruce Hale and illustrated by Steve Breen.  This one made me laugh.  I hadn't seen it before, but loved all the trouble caused by Big Bad Baby.  Sometimes a little lighter picture book can certainly help us all right now and this book might be just what everyone needs.  Who knows?  Maybe one of your students is home with Big Bad Baby right now.  Ha!

I found this one in a collection of others in this post by We Are Teachers:  The Big List of Children's Authors Doing Online Read Alouds and Activities.  Check it out!

The Bear Ate Your Sandwich by Julia Sarcone-Roach.  I stumbled on another book that I love available in read aloud.  I found this one on Brightly Storytime.  This book is about a bear, tempted by a truckload of berries, who begins on an adventure that takes him right to your sandwich.  Or was it bear that ate your sandwich?  Hmmm....

Of course, I love finding a favorite picture book available for kids in read aloud, but I also appreciated the way Brightly is able to show picture and text together on the screen.  The words are bolded as the reader reads aloud.  What a great way to give our youngest readers the opportunity to see print.  You'll find other read alouds available at Brightly Storytime.

If you have favorite stops for digital read alouds, please share them in the comments below.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Collaborating with Colleagues in a Pandemic: Don't Forget Voxer

My kids have always made fun of me for my love of Voxer. "Mom, it's just a walkie-talkie," they'd giggle as if I had stepped back too far in time.  They'd laugh as I chit-chatted with friends over the app.

Voxer has remained one of my favorite apps across time.  If you asked me to pick five apps and delete the rest from my phone it would likely make the cut.  You see, Voxer lets you have conversations with people that maintain the back and forth, but allow for people to respond as they are able.

I first fell in love with Voxer when working with my team years ago.  So many times we'd get a good conversation going in the hallway or during a meeting and, you know teaching life, we wouldn't be able to finish it. Voxer let us finish it - and it let us finish it together.  It wasn't that one team member talked to another and wrapped up our next steps, it was that the group kept the conversation going until we found the next step together.  Since then, I've maintained my love for Voxer for keeping up with friends near and far.  I've solved some tough challenges with friends on Voxer.

Now, in this remote learning situation, I'm once again reminded of the power of Voxer. In school buildings there are rhythms to schedules. You know the better times to try to reach out and talk with others. In this situation, there is no way to predict someone's schedule. In Voxer I'm able to reach out and have friends respond as their day allows. We can still continue the back and forth of conversation, but slowed down a bit in time.

Voxer also makes it easier to explain your thinking or get different perspectives. Texting can be limiting as it can be hard to explain things in detail or hear the tone of words. Additionally, all of the time on screens makes Voxer a welcome relief.

If you're looking for ways to stay connected, solve problems, or have conversations in groups, don't forget Voxer. It may be just a "walkie-talkie," but it's my favorite walkie-talkie.