Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Read Aloud Isn't Just for After Lunch

What a beautiful and inspiring quote by Mem Fox.  Her words express what I see as my mission; to help teachers and children fall in love with books.  If you fall in love with books, you make the journey of learning much more rewarding and less stressful.  I hope to ignite that emotional spark!

I just did a presentation on Read Alouds and how they can strengthen writing.  The resources for this presentation are listed on my Presentations Page.  I used the book Fireflies by Julie Brinckloe to show how vivid language in the form of similes can take writing to the next level. We can teach figurative language in writing workshop.  That makes so much more sense than teaching it separately.  You give your students a "hook" to remember similes.  When they think of similes, they will remember this beautiful book.

I also added nonfiction books and websites for research. is a great website for learning about fireflies.  Here are a few books that I used:

Lester Laminack is the go-to guy for understanding the power of the read aloud.

“To make read aloud intentional I believe that we must be as thoughtful in our planning as we are when selecting manipulatives for mathematics or when establishing the flow of a classroom. We must select the books we will read with the same care we take in designing centers or in setting up a science lab. We must be as diligent in considering our reasons for reading aloud as we are in selecting the focus of a mini-lesson in reading and writing workshops. In short, we must pay careful attention to our intentions for the read aloud. So why do we read aloud to our students? What are our expectations for the experience? What result or product do we hope for? How will our students be different for living through these experiences with us? Are we hoping to motivate them to explore a topic or genre? Are we inviting them to meet a new author or illustrator? Are we leading them to compare the organizational framework of this story with a favorite known by all? Are we simply reading today for some future benefit, investing the time now to connect future instruction later? Are we reading to introduce specific vocabulary that will be essential in understanding the concepts for a unit of study in a subject area? Are we reading to contrast the multiple meanings of troublesome words? Are we reading to raise awareness of a targeted issue? Are we reading to model a specific reading strategy or skill? Are we reading to draw them in, to lure them into wanting to read more for themselves? Are we reading to bank images and language we will draw upon in an upcoming study?”
-Unwrapping the Read Aloud, 2009

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Letter Writing is Alive and Well

Thanks to the NCTE post on my Facebook page, I found this delightful NPR article and radio transcript.  It reminded me once again that letter writing is still a vital source of comfort and kindness.
Putting pen to paper does something that an email can never do. There is something real and powerful in placing our thoughts and feelings onto paper.  It is tangible proof that we exist and that we have the courage to share ourselves with others.

Letters Of Heartbreak Find Some Love In Verona, Italy
by Lulu Miller

Tatiana Schranz/Courtesy of the Juliet Club

Each year, the town of Verona, Italy — home of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet — receives thousands of letters of heartache and unrequited love addressed to the play's star-crossed heroine.

The tradition of sending letters to Juliet very likely goes back centuries. People started by leaving notes on a local landmark said to be Juliet's tomb. Later, many started sending mail directly to the city. By the 1990s, Verona was receiving so many letters, it created an office to deal with it. And each letter — the Juliet Club office gets more than 6,000 a year — is answered by hand.

The Juliet Club is housed in a small building on the outskirts of the city and is staffed by a small army of volunteers who call themselves the "secretaries." There are about 15 of them. They can read letters addressed to them in a wide variety of languages: Italian, English, German, Spanish, Japanese.

Secretary Elena Marchi says that they take their job seriously. Some of them come every afternoon to tend to the ceaseless outpouring of letters. They are grandmothers, young students, old men, divorcees, married folks, bakers, economists, scholars of literature, a ballet dancer.

The city pays for stamps and paper — promoting its identity as the hometown of Romeo and Juliet is not a bad thing for tourism — but the secretaries work free.

Marchi says they use their own experience to reply. "When there's a difficult letter, we talk to each other to see which is the best answer to give," she says.

Still, despite the heartbreak, many of the secretaries have been doing this for years — decades even. But the odd effect of witnessing so much loneliness, the secretaries explain, is that it actually makes them feel closer to humanity at large. "Seeing that so many people are sharing the same feeling," says Marchi, "makes you a little less lonely.""People start the letters often saying, 'Juliet, you are the one who can understand how I feel,' which is nice in a way, but very sad in another way, because they don't feel they can talk to the person next to them," says club manager Giovanna Tamassia.

Most likely, it is that contact that the letter writers are seeking, too. All of the secretaries say that it is not advice so much that the letter writers are seeking but being witnessed. That's what's quietly unbelievable about the Juliet Club, that in this sometimes lonely, isolating world, the secretaries are always there.

Want to write Juliet?
Club di Giulietta

via Galilei 3 - 37133 Verona ITALY

The secretaries keep every letter sent to them. There's an archive available to the public in their office in Verona.

Check out the original NPR broadcast!

Friday, April 5, 2013

Earth Day Freebie and CCSS Poetry

I made a poem for Earth Day.  I used the form of Haiku because of its emphasis on syllables.  Syllable work is of great value to the struggling reader.  Haiku poetry is designed to have a total of 17 syllables.  (Usually it is a 5-7-5 syllable rule that is followed.) 

Check here for a little history and examples of children writing Haiku.  Notice the emphasis on nature and sharing the experience.

Publishing Haiku digitally can meet the CCSS!  Have students publish their poems to a digital poster board like Glogster.  There is a fee for Glogster, but worth it if you like the application.

Poster My Wall will let teachers register for a free account.  Students can make posters with their writings.  These posters will not be published online for public viewing, but you could post them to a blog.

The CCSS are all about reading poetry!  CCSS for Reading Literature:

10.  By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, at the high end of the grade’s text complexity band independently and proficiently.

Does the Common Core forget about writing poetry?

According to Appendix A, Narrative writing conveys experience, either real or imaginary, and uses time as its deep structure.  It can be used for many purposes, such as to inform, instruct, persuade, and entertain.  In English language arts, students produce narratives that take the form of creative fictional stories, memoirs, anecdotes, and autobiographies.

I like what Burkins and Yaris say:

One of the ideas central to the Common Core writing goals is that students use writing to clearly communicate their thinking, and writing poetry is an exercise in precision.  Poets must meticulously consider words and how to organize them, considering nuance, meter, and imagery in an effort to convey their messages and appeal to the audiences for whom they write. When comparing these responsibilities of poets to the goals for writers presented in the anchor standards, one can see the following connections between the two:

Anchor Standard #3: Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details, and well-structured event sequences.
Anchor Standard #4: Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
Anchor Standard #5: Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, and trying a new approach.
Anchor Standard #10: Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, or audiences.

I hope this helps you navigate the CCSS and poetry!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Spring Break


My son took this picture of Bella in Charleston this week. She helped us enjoy a few days of Spring Break.  My week looked exactly like the picture as we began it last Friday!  Lots of days in front of us!  Now it is almost over.  I'll have to be ready to take the plunge into reality soon.