Category Archives: Books

#SOL22: Poetry Joy


Last week, the #G2Great chat focused on Linda Rief’s new book: Whispering in the Wind: A Guide to Deeper Reading and Writing Through Poetry. It’s an amazing resource. You can read more about it here in Travis Crowder’s gorgeous post. (Link)

Travis tells us about changing teacher roles with poetry when he says, “I shifted from teaching poetry to sharing poetry.” Did you catch that in his blog post above? Students are NOT empty vessels that are waiting to have knowledge poured into them.

Deep understanding.

Do we need it for every book? Is it even possible for every book?

Decodables

They’ve improved. There still remain the deplorable decodables where “the fat cat sat on a rat” where there is no setting, no plot, no character development, and minimal sense-making. There may be a lot of practice on a specific skill. But meaning? That’s why these cannot be the only books students are reading during a day, a week, or a grade level.

And yes, I know they are improving. But the vast majority of “decodable” are not texts that would serve as writing mentors.

Picture Books

Narrative. Poetry. Prose. Nonfiction. Award winners for authors and illustrators. Great for read alouds. Great for mentor texts. Easy to fit into time slots that match bell schedules. Yes to story elements. Yes to vocabulary development. Yes to knowledge building. Sometimes picture books are the hook that students need to crawl inside a specific genre and wrap themselves in the comfort of the patterns the reader finds.

Chapter Books

Longer texts. Series. Series after series. Dependable structures. Dependable friends. Bridges between foundational skills and more complex texts. A wide range of texts that meet students’ needs and interests. Books that can last more than a day. Books that the reader does not want to end. Books that linger in our minds.

Non-traditional texts

I love books. I’m sure that I overemphasize books. So I would be remiss if I didn’t deliberately include songs (often poetry) and their deeper meaning. Also, video and its ultimate combination of visual and spoken elements leading to deeper meaning appeal to many students.

Depth of meaning can occur in a wide range of text formats. The complexity varies by the task that students undertake. Worthy tasks. Real tasks. Real reading. Real writing. Real thinking!g. All require engagement with text!

Know your purpose. Know what you are reading. Know why you are reading it. Texts, whether print, musical or visual, that combine the elements of poetry and story are winners for deep dives into deep understanding whether prose or poetry!

What poetry are you reading? What poetry are you sharing?

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Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum. Check out the writers and readers here.

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Additional Resources:

Amanda Gorman – link

You can access our #G2Great Wakelet Artifact of this chat HERE

Written by guest blogger, Travis Crowder

On 9/15/22, we were honored that our good friend, Linda Rief, returned to our #G2Great guest host seat to discuss her incredible new book, Whispering in the Wind: A Guide to Deeper Reading and Writing Through Poetry (Heinemann, 2022) following a previous #G2Great chat on her book Read, Write, Teach: Choice and Challenge in the Reading Writing Workshop (Heinemann, 2014). We were also honored that our friend, teacher and writer Travis Crowder wrote this beautifully reflective blog post. Travis describes himself as a Reader. Writer. Teacher. Learner and author of Reflective ReadersThe Power of Readers Notebooks. He blogs and is currently a Doctoral student at UNCW. We are so grateful to bring these two dedicated and thoughtful minds together:

Travis Crowder Reflections on Whispering in the Wind

“Stafford didn’t read his words—he spoke them. He delivered his poetry, simple but elegant words, riding on his voice and cupped in his hands as if saying, ‘Here, peek in, look what I noticed that I want you to notice. Feel what I felt at that moment. Taste these words in your mouth and feel how they slip right through to your heart” (Rief, 2022, p. 2).

“His [Stafford’s] voice said, ‘Here, take these words. Make them yours’” (Rief, 2022, p. 3).

NCTE. Atlanta. 2016.

            I scanned the event program, looking for names I recognized and topics of interest. I recognized Linda Rief’s name amidst a row of others. Seeking Diversity, Linda’s first book, gave deeper nuance to my thinking about reading and writing workshop. At this conference, she was part of a panel discussing poetry and response. Since I had always loved reading and teaching poetry, I was sure I would gather new poems and strategies for teaching them. And further, Linda was someone I wanted to learn more from. So, I picked up my messenger bag and headed toward the lecture hall.

            The room was quiet when I arrived—thirty minutes early—but found a seat as the lecture hall filled with eager educators. Right on schedule, the session began.

            We had all been given Maggie Smith’s (2017) Good Bones, and I cradled the stapled pages in my hands as Linda stepped to the podium. She directed us to the text, and with her eloquent, dulcet tones, she breathed life into the poem. When she finished reading, she invited us to pick up our notebooks. Write anything this poem brings to mind for you or borrow a line and let that line lead your thinking. I borrowed a line and took it into my notebook. I wrote and wrote into the line/idea I found, only coming up for air only when Linda told us our writing time was over. This approach to poetry was different. It was indelible. And wonderfully humane. I was no longer just interested in this session. I was riveted to my seat, craving more of what I had felt in those precious moments of writing.

            After we had finished writing, she discussed the importance of response and artistic expression, even sharing several examples from her writing notebook. Those examples were exceptional, and they demonstrated a way of exploring poetry I had never considered. Yes, I had always loved poetry, but my way of thinking about them had been so limited. With that single session, Linda showed me a different way, and it has made such a difference for me and my students. I shifted from teaching poems to sharing poems. And while I had carried my love of poetry into the classroom years before, students were only responding to the questions generated while the poet’s gorgeous words languished underneath the weight of my thoughts. Yet here she was, saying, Try it this way. See what ideas unfurl.         

Whispering in the Wind, Linda’s latest book, is a powerful ode to poetry and response that offers more of that difference. With this professional text, Linda holds the idea of poetry out to us, nudging us to peek in and look more deeply at a poet’s language. Softly, deftly, she encourages us to find as many poetry collections as possible, read as much as possible, and share with students…as much as possible. But even more, she invites independent reading around poetry for students to discover poets they love and decide what it is they are looking for.

As students find poems they love and connect with, they are asked to take those poems into Heart Books, which are completely blank books that students fill with poetry that matters to them. On one side of a two-page spread, they write or paste in a typed version of the poem, and on the facing side, they create an artistic rendering of the poem. Of course, this structural set-up is only a suggestion. As students create the two-page spreads in their Heart Books, some keep poem and art separate while others let their sketches and drawings blend with the poet’s words. The beauty rests in choice and ownership—it belongs to the students, and they decide what works for them. Students’ work is featured across multiple pages toward the middle of the book. We, her readers, get to see the result of a master teacher leading young people into deeper reading and thinking.

Linda writes, “I was most impressed with the way so many students were motivated to go back to poems again and again, thinking through what they noticed the poet did that touched personally or helped them garner ideas or craft moves for their own writing” (p. 41). One of the things I love most about this book is a focus on possibility. There is no set group of questions or guiding ideas to take students through poems. But like that NCTE session all those years ago, Linda continues to invite all of us to read, find lines that matter to us, and pay attention to what we notice. Something is there. Just look and you’ll see what the author has for you.

There is a focus on reflection, too.

Before students begin the Heart Book process, they take note of their feelings about poetry. Then, they spend time across the year gathering their poems and filling the pages of blank books with poetry and original art. Later in the year, there is an opportunity for students to reflect on changes in their thinking. She asks them to consider: How has my thinking about the concept of poetry changed? With such a humane approach to teaching poetry, I imagine students’ thinking shifts dramatically.

In addition to Linda’s incredible philosophy about poetry and Heart Books, she adds art invitations and ideas to get students thinking about their Heart Books. There is no right or wrong—just an invitation. I can hear Linda’s voice nudging all of us to grab our notebooks, find poems that resonate, and start building our own two-page spreads.

And I can also hear her reminding us that choice matters. Yes, share poems with students. Ask them to write what comes to mind or borrow lines and write from them. But, surround them with poetry, too. Find poetry collections and help them become familiar with poets as they read and write their way into deeper appreciation. Linda advises that we “help students find poems that connect to their very core” and “see the world in ways they don’t usually see the world” (p. 156). She reminds us that connection is powerful, but so is diversifying how we see the world. Poetry is that powerful. It has the energy to change what we see and how we think.

Yes, poems are critical.

They are microcosms of the world and they guide us into intersections of thought that we may not have known were possible. For me, poetry has been a light. A radiance that emanates hope out of darkness. A spark of something more. In a time of standardized teaching and learning, I encourage language arts teachers to listen to Linda’s words. Like Stafford’s voice did to her, I am confident Linda is whispering to all of us, “Here, take my words. Make them yours.”

When we do, we’ll find the poems that matter to us, feel the poet’s words slip right through to our hearts.

We’ll find, all over again, that poetry still affects our hearts in the most unexpected ways.

And if we listen to Linda’s gentle guidance, so will our students.

References

Rief, L. (2022). Whispering in the wind: A guide to deeper reading and writing through poetry. Heinemann.

Smith, M. (2017). Good bones: Poems. Tupelo Press.

We are so grateful to Linda Rief for hosting our chat and to Travis Crowder for sharing his personal reflections and learner, reader, writer and teacher. I have included our chat question with Linda’s wonderful responses below.

Q1 In addressing “Why Poetry” on page 3, Linda describes her 8th graders response when she asked about favorite poets: “They cringed at the word poetry.” Why do you think that many students have a visceral response to poetry? How can we change this?

Q2 Penny Kittle writes in her endorsement, “This book is a master class in poetry, teaching writing, and joy.” How do you approach poetry in a way that will allow you to teach poetry writing while you also create an atmosphere of joy around it?

Q3 Linda reminds us on p. 156, “…students can do their best work when given choices, time, mentor texts, and positive responses that keep them growing stronger both intellectually and emotionally.” How do you nurture these things in your classroom?

Q4 Linda emphasizes that in Heart Books, students “are responding to the poems they chose. Responding, not analyzing.” What do Linda’s words mean to you? How can this change their perception of poetry?

Q5 Linda says, “The more the students became involved in finding poems that spoke to them and spent time planning, playing with, and crafting their illustrations, the less the evaluation form mattered to them.” (pg 148) How will you bring Linda’s words to life this year?

Q6 As we close our #G2Great discussion with Linda, what are some key takeaways that have inspired new thinking or ideas that you plan to translate into your teaching this year?

LINKS

Whispering in the Wind: A Guide to Deeper Reading and Writing Through Poetry by Linda Rief (Heinemann, 2022)

Blog post by Linda Rief: What Changes Kids’ Minds About Poetry? (Heinemann)

#SOL22: Real Life!


Do I remember our first meeeting?

A park bench outside Thorndike. Early morning. One in running clothes and me with all my gear for the day: canvas tote filled with devices, electrical bar, and books. Pounds of resources to last the day. Goal: to have an initial face to face contact before the week was up.

What about the funniest meeting?

A message to meet up at Starbuck’s. Arrival. Waiting. “I’m here.” But nary a sign. Further messages. Who knew. Three possible Starbuck’s in a 5 block radius. The first try was unsuccessful.

Which was the most unexpected?

I was fan-girling. Excited to meet up in real life. “Fran, it’s so good to see you,” as I was greeted with a hug. Only a Twitter friend. Real life exceeded my dreams as we quickly chattered like decades long friends.

_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _

Through TWT, TCRWP, ILA and NCTE I’ve met many folks in real life. I thanked many during the March SOLSC, but I want to return to two very special authors and friends: Christina Nosek and Melanie Meehan. Their talents are exceptional!

#G2Great chats highlighted their most recent books the last two weeks.

Literacy Lenses – Reading link Literacy Lenses – Writing link

Please check out the Table of Contents of both books from the links with the book covers above.

Check out the free chapters and resources.

Check out the Literacy Lenses posts (Reading by Dr. Mary C Howard and Writing by me).

What is your level of confidence in your knowledge and skills about Reading? Writing? What about your level of competence? How do you know? What questions have you answered lately?

Both of these titles would be great for a faculty book study!

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Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum.

Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOL22: And then . . .


Slicing every day in March.

31 consecutive days of writing

AND publishing.

I’ve written every day this year.

Short, long, and varied formats.

It’s a great habit.

But there was a hole

when I didn’t publish

for four days.

I could have.

But life kept me busy

And I didn’t.

I did write a #G2Great post (here) that I published

Three book reviews

But nothing on Resource-Full.

It’s great to be back

But the energy has dissipated.

Who will continue to write?

Who will be to busy?

Who will make time?

Why do you write?

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Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this weekly forum.

Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOLSC22: 31 and Finale


The plan for my “slices” in March began with this image.

A piece of cake. 31 days of thanking teachers. And then I listed the days and started listing the teachers. I hit a snag. I wanted a descriptor for each that would fit into the “total picture” of a teacher. But what if not all of my daily candidates were teachers? Was “educator” broad enough to cover all possibilities? And then to include family members? Non-traditional teachers?

My idea.

My rules.

My plan revised about 151 times during the 31 days of March.

Gratitude

All my thanks!

Those that I thanked . . .

generated with monkeylearn.com

The reasons that I thanked them. I remember days of feeling like the shipwrecked sailor on a desert island, lonely and in search of like-minded folks. I found them in places that I worked, where I lived, and across the miles via technology with twitter, book studies and PD. All of these words fit for teachers. Not necessarily every word every day, but they all fit.

generated with monkeylearn.com

Month at a Glance

DateDescriptor Words or PhrasesPerson Thankedlink
1Voracious/Professional DevelopmentDiane Ruylepost
2ExpertiseKathy Schuitemapost
3KidwatchingSharon Van Cleavepost
4CollaborationJoni Heltonpost
5IndependenceGrandma Ruthpost 5
6CreatingMompost
7StewardshipDadpost
8TipsAllison Jacksonpost
9Words Matter/PoetryMargaret Simonpost
10Being KindKitty Donohoepost
11Action ResearchSally Donnellypost
12CourageousAunt Shirley Ruthpost
13Reading and Responding to BlogsDiane Doughertypost
14Cheerleader/Cheer CoaachJohnny Downeypost
15CuratorJill Davidsonpost
16BraveSusan Vincentpost
17Fierce Brent Gilsonpost
18Meeting NeedsClare Landriganpost
19Decision-making processDr. Towanda Harrispost
20NurturerChristina Nosekpost
21ReaderJulieanne Harmatzpost
22WriterMelanie Meehanpost
23FacilitatorRyan Scalapost
24Joy and BalanceSandy Brumbaunpost
25LibrarianJulia E. Torrespost
26CoachingPaula Bourquepost
27TravelerErika Victorpost
28MentorshipDr. Mary Howardpost
29SistersSherry and Patpost
30Sustaining communitiespost

How did you organize your writing slices this month? What were your common themes? Formats? Did you meet your goals?

See you next week or next year!

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Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this daily forum during the month of March.

Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOLSC22: 30


Day 30 of the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

I have spent the last 29 days thanking educators and teachers in my life. Today, I must add in the communities that have also been a part of my life. I know I needed at least 100 entries to even begin to recognize all the folks that have impacted my life. Even with this addition, I am sure that I have left some unnamed . . .

#TwoWritingTeachers where I began this weekly blogging and daily in March

#TCRWP where the community has been welcoming and I have learned how to write more concise Tweets and blog better in response to questions and comments.

#DigiLitSunday a short term weekly blogging about technology

#BookLoveFoundation

Morningside University grad classes

#EdCollaborativeGathering

So many #bookstudies

#ILA

#CCIRA

#NCTE

#G2Great community

#CuriosityCrew

and in my family: my brothers, the Ruth Cousins and the Elders that remain. So many lessons learned. So much laughter shared.

Thank you for your past and present teaching, mentorship and opportunities to learn and grow!

Photo by Alexas_Fotos on Unsplash

Special thanks to all the slicers! Who are you thanking today?

_____________________________________________________

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this daily forum during the month of March.

Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOLSC22: 27


Day 27 of the Slice of Life Story Challenge 2022.

Who Am I?

What stories do you know about me?

Made with monkeylearn.com

I have no idea why the “cloud creator” added an “s” to teachers and books lovers? That doesn’t make sense. However, what does make sense is that these are a few of the words that describe Erika.

Thank you, Erika Victor, for your love of family whether it’s your family in the US, your family at your international school or the family of readers and writers that you navigate here!

How have you stayed connected with your family (personal or professional) the last couple of years?

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Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this daily forum during the month of March.

Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOLSC22: 24


It’s day 24 of the Slice of Life Story Challenge for 2022. (one week remains!)

One highly researched and effective reading intervention is Reading Recovery. I’ve calculated the cost savings when one student is successful in Reading Recovery and does not enter into special education.

I’m going to use $4900 as the per pupil allotment for each resource student in Iowa. It’s a rounded number for illustrative purposes.

If Reading Recovery helps one student be successful in reading, the student saves:

  • grade 2 $4900
  • grade 3 $4900
  • grade 4 $4900
  • grade 5 $4900
  • grade 6 $4900
  • grade 7 $4900
  • grade 8 $4900
  • grade 9 $4900
  • grade 10 $4900
  • grade 11 $4900
  • grade 12 $4900

Cumulative savings from grade 2 through grade 12 = $53,900.

Of course there are costs associated with Reading Recovery, but if two students are successful each year, Reading Recovery has paid for itself in savings.

A teacher leader in Reading Recovery leads professional development, teaches behind the glass, and observes teachers teaching. In some ways that work is similar to a consultant’s work: PD, demonstration teaching and classroom observations.

Yay, commonalities.

Our lives also intersect on Twitter, sometimes in chats, or also just some random retweets!

We’ve participated in multiple book studies: Including What Readers Really Do as well as online groups.

We’ve attended institutes where we’ve enjoyed the sights and sounds of The Big Apple.

We’ve shared stories of our families.

We love to learn.

Thank you, Sandy Brumbaum, for helping me strive for both joy and balance in my personal and professional life.

Photo by Alexas_Fotos on Unsplash

How do you find both joy and balance at work? At home? Who do you use as sounding boards?

_____________________________________________________

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this daily forum during the month of March.

Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOLSC22: 23


Today is Day 23 of the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

As I started writing this post, I wondered if I needed a chart to mark similarities and differences between the honorees for this March blog series. I quickly discovered MANY similarities.

Blogs? Check

Presents at NCTE? Check

Have personally presented with her? Check

Numerous zoom sessions? Check

An author featured on #G2great? Check

So many ideas were swirling in my brain, but I had already decided on “Supporting Writing” as my focus.

Today’s “Thank You” goes to an author who shares similar thoughts about students leading their own writing seminars for their fellow students. We’ve tweeted about this often. We promote student independence as much as possible.

Current books:

Available later in March, 2022 . . .

Drum roll . . .

___________________________________________________

Thank you, Melanie Meehan, for your expertise as a writer and as a teacher of students and supporter of writing teachers,

What questions do you have about writing? What writing do you support? What writing do you do yourself?

__________________________________________________________________

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this daily forum during the month of March.

Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOLSC22: 22


This book.

This book had a profound impact on my personal and professional life. This book brought together folks who continue to impact my personal and professional life.

So much of reading is invisible. So much of reading is complex. So much of reading takes a deep understanding. A reader who slows down and spies on themself as a reader can learn about the process of meaning making.

This book was the center of a book study on Twitter. #WRRD We spent time discussing the contents and the application. But additional highlights were in meeting with, chatting face to face, and having dinner with the authors. Approachable authors. Authors who share their thinking. Authors who model their own learning.

Dr. Mary Howard wrote this post after Dorothy and Vicki were on a #G2Great chat about What Readers Really Do in 2017. Now more than ever the invisible processes of meaning making must be a part of the goal setting and discourse of educators.

Beyond celebrating the authors … Thank you, Ryan Scala, for organizing what began as a book study and actually evolved into a community of scholars with common interests in improving learning, literacy and leadership.

Photo by Alexas_Fotos on Unsplash

How do you build community that endures beyond a single goal/purpose? Who leads the work? Who does the work?

_____________________________________________________

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this daily forum during the month of March.

Check out the writers and readers here.

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#SOLSC22: 21


Today is Day 21 of the Slice of Life Story Challenge.

In a book group, we respond to the text. We use words, colors and pictures. We read. We talk when physically together. We use google docs or padlet when apart. We laugh. We reread. We write.

Rinse and repeat.

Every year I participate in book groups/clubs. Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew. That was the summer that I was in seven different groups, teaching a graduate class, and attending two week long institutes out of state.

In reflection, that sounds totally crazy and overbooked. Seriously crazy. But my love of books, my desire to be better at responding to texts, and the need to accelerate my own learning led me to say yes to all the possibilities. (The inability to say “no” to book clubs will have to be a slice after March.)

We’ve presented together. We’ve laughed together. We’ve learned together.

Thank you, Julieanne Harmatz for writing about book purchases in a slice here this year, for adding to my own TBR stacks, and for adding joy to my life.

How do you add books to your reading list? What is your criteria? Who helps add to your list?

__________________________________________________________________

Thank you, Two Writing Teachers, for this daily forum during the month of March.

Check out the writers and readers here.

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