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26 July 2016 @ 08:45 pm
I am simply taking a small space here on the blog to express the incredible joy I feel today as the first woman is nominated for the President of the United States. It has been an emotional evening as I watched the process unfold on television. Yes, I knew it would happen for some time, but actually witnessing it was a moving time, a time I feared I would never have the chance to see.

So, I am taking this moment for myself and for all women who dared not even dream of today. You do not have to share my elation, my joy, my heartfelt gratitude. It is enough for me to relish this time.
Current Location: Pittsburgh
Current Mood: ecstaticecstatic
25 July 2016 @ 01:34 pm
Here is the link to the middle school authors I crowdsourced from Facebook:

24 July 2016 @ 07:54 am
I love when my brain makes unusual connections. This morning, over the first cup of hotel room coffee, I was capturing a critter on PokemonGo and, in the background, the TV was touting an anti-aging cream called RECAPTURE. This weird juxtaposition sent my thoughts ricocheting in two different directions.

First, the beauty cream ads, the ads that talk about going back to a "better you," all remind me of political slogans that say our past was a better time. Think of a kinder, gentler time or a time when there were two chickens in every pot. Why not go back to that time? I really do not want to go back in time no matter how much I love the memories I have from the past. The fact is that each and every year I have inside me makes me who I am today (for better or for worse). As Sandra Cisneros observes in "Eleven," a short story fro her collection WOMAN HOLLERING CREEK AND OTHER STORIES, the way we grow old is rather like those Russian nesting dolls or like the rings inside a tree trunk. One year builds out to another and another.

The fact is that I continue to grow and develop as an educator each and every year, each and every professional book, each and every new colleague. Last week at the Scholastic reading summit, Dr. Smith used the term "unsuccess" instead of failure. That is more than just word play, folks. That is learning to look at what went awry and try to figure out howe to make it work next time. It is a positive spin, surely, but it also makes my brain work in a different mode. I can build on my "unsuccesses."

How does the PokemonGo fit in? Sometimes, I have had to recapture a critter. It is frustrating. I mean, I had it, and then it escaped. So, I had to lure it back. Is this not what we do with kids? I meet some folks who think all it takes is ONE, and kids are hooked. Not true. How many of you hit reading slumps? Surely, it is not only me. There are days when no book seems to speak to me, where I pick up and abandon book after book. Why should it be any different for kids?

And so I read as many books as I can including professional books. Imagine if I had stopped with LESSONS FROM A CHILD (Calkins) or IN THE MIDDLE (Attwell) and never found WHEN KIDS CAN'T READ, WHAT TEACHERS CAN DO (Beers) or READICIDE (Gallagher) or THE BOOK WHISPERER (Miller) or BOOK LOVE (Kittle) or any of dozens of titles that have informed my teaching and, more importantly, my thinking. What if I stopped after I read 25 or 50 or 100 YA books? I would have missed the hundreds of thousands of other possibilities. If all I read were the award-winning books, I might never have found the books that have become some of my favorites over the years.

So, I will take the toll the years have etched on my face and body. I will use the experiences of the past to help inform what I am doing now. I will remember the books I have read that deserve another generation of readers. But I will also keep working at the recapture--at finding new tools to help build a lifelong love of reading. The work is important.
Current Location: Ohio
Current Mood: creativecreative
23 July 2016 @ 09:30 pm
When Karin Perry and I drove home from San Antonio last week, we stopped at several locations along the route to collect some Poke balls. The Bluebell Creamery had 3 good locations. There were a few along the route. Even here in Ohio, there have been some sightings. Yes, I have joined in the PokemonGo craziness. It is not because I love the game, though. It is because I can see so many applications for kids.

One of our MLS grads has decided to fold her library with lures to draw in kids. I love this idea. As for me, I want to build some ladders and reading sets that will become the subject of some displays i the library.

Of course, there are the usual suspects, the Pokemon books themselves. But let's move beyond these to the Wondla books by DiTerlizzi that have augmented reality (AR) and the Patrick Carman books that refer readers to websites as they read to solve a mystery or move the story forward.

There is a running joke in our house. When BH sees me with a new game or a new piece of music or something else that might appeal to kids, he knows I am doing "research." He also knows that sometimes what begins as "research" develops into an interest passion, or obsession of my own. As I grow older, I feel the need to dip into popular culture so I can better understand the new generations of students. I want to see what all the fuss is about. I want to reflect on how I might use the new obsession might impact learning on other ways.

Now, if you will excuse me, it is time to go out and see if there are some PokemonGo items to collect.
Current Location: Ohio
Current Mood: reflecting
22 July 2016 @ 08:52 pm
Spent Thursday at the Scholastic reading summit in San Antonio. This month has provided me the opportunity to listen to smart people talking about my favorite topics: books and reading. Listening to Matt de la Pena read LAST STOP ON MARKET STREET reminded me once again of the absolute lyricism of the text.

At the end of the day, Karin Perry and I made our way across the street from our hotel to a restaurant that BH introduced to me in 1973. I was so happy to see it still open and still serving incredible food. There is just something satisfying about being abe to return. Return to a favorite place. Return to a favorite text.

How often do we celebrate returning? How do we value the rereading of a book? Do we even allow that possibility? If our reading is driven by Accelerated Reader or another canned program, the answer is a resounding NO. And that saddens me. I would miss so many books if I did not take the time to reread them. CHARLOTTE'S WEB becomes more and more meaningful each time i return to the text. As I listen to GRASSHOPPER JUNGLE I am noticing nuances I think I blew past the first time in my rush to finish the story. WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE continues to surprise me with new insights as I return to that book each and every semester.

On the drive back today, Karin Perry and I brainstormed some ideas for my upcoming Master's Seminar. I wanted to have students return to text, too. So, we listed authors whose works either might have been missed by readers. Some of this is due to age differences. I have been reading YA since the 1970s. My students might have begun reading YA in the 1980s and 1990s or even later. Do they know M.E. Kerr or the early Richard Peck? What about Robert Lipsyte? Or Joan Lowery Nixon? Or Cynthia Voigt? Now we have what we think is a great way of looking back and looking forward for our MLS students to explore. We will work on the children's literature counterpart this coming week as we travel to yet another conference.

We are still climbing toward that reading summit. The air is pretty rare, but the view is excellent.
Current Location: home briefly
Current Mood: pondering
21 July 2016 @ 04:43 pm
While a starred review (or 2 or 3 or 4 or 5 or 6) does not necessarily mean it is a book I must read, I do consider these titles and add them to my TBR and Amazon wish list. Here is the link to the SLJ piece "The Stars So Far." How many have you read? How much longer will your wish list become?

21 July 2016 @ 09:45 am
It is impossible NOT to be political when thing about education. Education has been a political football for years. NCLB, RACE TO THE TOP, and now ESSA. Educators have lost so much autonomy to those who live outside of our classrooms. So I am compelled to make a political comment here. I cannot remain silent.

When someone who has never spent ONE SINGLE DAY in a public school, he or she cannot tell those of us in the classrooms (even the virtual classrooms of our online world) how to "fix" education. At the convention the other night, someone who is the product of private schools made several assertions about the state of education. He likened US schools to Soviet era stores, that charter schools are the solution, and that tenure is perhaps the worst thing to happen to education ever.

There is not enough blog space in the world to address these claims. Suffice to at that they are all WRONG if not outright lies. He also places the blame with the "other" party. He also claimed other countries permit choice in schools. Wrong.

The idea that competition is good for education directly reveals this misbegotten concept that education and business are somehow the same. Wrong.

I suggest we all begin our letter writing campaign now to the nominees for the Presidency. We need to speak up, SpeakLoudly about what we know works, about what we know does not work, about the TRUTH in education.
20 July 2016 @ 10:25 am
I must admit that Monday night's viewing of the coverage of the convention had my blood pressure pumping. BH and I both were talking back to the TV. Finally, I had to change the channel. And then Tuesday morning, this book landed on my desk.

ALL MY TREASURES: A BOOK OF JOY is the story of a young girl who is given a special box by her grandmother, a porcelain box to hold all her treasures. But what to put inside? Giggles, rainy days, bubbles, and so much more go into this box of joy. I love the list of things that bring our protagonist joy. And it is a good place to begin this morning.

So, what would go into MY box of joy? The crazy laughter that erupts when my conference roomies and I stay up way too late talking. That first utterance of "nana." The way my heart still flips when I look at BH. Those last moments I got to share with Meredith. Watching my grandmother play piano with such gusto. Family and friends would take up a huge portion of the box of joy.

And, of course, there is a whole big box of joy when it comes to books and reading: figuring out HOW to read, going to the library with my mother, gifts of books, meeting authors, opening up the cover of a new book and inhaling the magic that awaits (right, Mr. Schu?), sharing books and reading experiences with my reading community, having an extended community here on social media.

Is it not terrific that, whenever I begin to feel down or upset, I can open this box of treasures and see my joy right there in front of me.
Current Location: office
Current Mood: joyful
19 July 2016 @ 10:06 am
I am "that" person. I can't help myself. When I see someone violating copyright and fair use, I say something. I was sitting behind a woman who was recording an author's presentation years ago. I asked her to stop. She told me she was recording it to show to her students, and that was not hurting anyone. I have seen copies of books being distributed. I watched someone go through slides of every page of a picture book.

I have always been "that" person. When the former residents of the back bedroom wanted to share music with someone else (or when one of their friends burned them a copy of some music), I refused to let them do it. I would not let them access Napster. I sent note to a teacher about xeroxed copies of a book, and more than one note to the band director who copied music for his band kids. A few weeks ago, I informed folks at the hairdresser shop that copying movies and watching pirated copies was illegal.

Yesterday, Colby Sharp tweeted about those using Periscope to record and broadcast a presentation at a conference. He wondered if they should not get permission before doing this. Periscope and other apps do make it easier to record a presentation and share it. Ans maybe we need to consider the implications of how easy it is to record and broadcast materials that are not our own.

I did not mind that my Nerd Talk was recorded. I did a podcast of it that will air down the road sometime. I make my power points available for participants. Karin Perry and I have done videos of presentations and made them public as well. However, if we do not specifically make materials available, it is because they are still a work in progress or because we want to present the materials again elsewhere. These are products of our work. We "own" them.

But some believe that they can copy, download, or record what they wish. They cite "fair use," but they do not truly understand what fair use entails. Here is an excellent resource on fair use: http://fairuse.stanford.edu/overview/fair-use/what-is-fair-use/. I hope that, as school commences (SORRY FOR THAT REMINDER), it is time for a review of copyright and fair use.

Generally, I will give permission for recording short pieces of a presentation. Recently, I have recorded my presentations so that someone can view the power point with some narration to put it into context. As I do this, I am a trifle uneasy. I know that I am leaving myself open to piracy. I have seen materials I created copied and distributed without any attribution. I know other colleagues have found their work for sale on sights such as Teachers Pay Teachers. Make no mistake: this is illegal and unethical.

So, ask someone for permission to use their materials. I think you will find that most of us are more than willing to share (with proper attribution). Get permission to copy published works. Adhere to the fair use guidelines. Please remember that, if we want our students to be ethical people, we should set the example.
Current Location: home-office-home
Current Mood: concerned
18 July 2016 @ 01:34 pm
I wrote last week about the lack of wisdom when it comes to SELECT ONE. Then, yesterday in the sermon at Mass, Phyllis talked about the gospel story of Mary and Martha. She talked about the need to see not an either/or choice. We do not need to be either Mary OR Martha. Rather, we need to see the choice as a both/and situation. We need to be both Mary AND Martha.

It seems to me that some of the folks on Twitter need to take this idea of both/and to heart. Yesterday, there was a discussion which grew tiresome about whether or not access and choice were important or if instruction needed to be the cornerstone of the classroom. I do not think that any of my like-minded colleagues see this as an either/or situation. We all believe that instruction is a component of "whole language." Those who insist otherwise are reminiscent of the folks who waged a reading war 3 decades ago, claiming that we needed "balanced" instruction. Of course, we all saw what they meant by balance: phonics, phonemic awareness, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

I am not going to engage in this battle once more. The National Reading Panel tired its best to decimate anything that even had a whiff of whole language. They took shots at whole language, accusing (falsely) proponents of this approach as eschewing anything that looked like instruction and simply allowing kids to read anything they wanted with no time ever for instruction or discussion. This was and still is a false dichotomy.

What is important to know is this: "Whole language is not a program, package, set of materials, method, practice, or technique; rather, it is a perspective on language and learning that leads to the acceptance of certain strategies, methods, materials, and techniques." Dorothy Watson, 1989 That first sentence speaks volumes. Some of the folks who were calling for instruction during the Twitter discussion were insisting that a program would better serve some students.

I would rather take the funding spent on these programs that promise the moon and the stars and often deliver much less (RtI anyone?) and purchase real books. Allowing access and choice does not mean no instruction takes place. What it means is that every single kid has the chance to select a book for himself or herself. It means that teachers talk to readers, analyzing their responses to the book. If needed, instruction takes place where needed. It does not mean packets and worksheets and ONE approach.

Kylene Beers has written about using a different lens. I recommend this piece for a start: http://www.ncte.org/library/NCTEFiles/Press/Beers.pdf and then move on to this: http://www.heinemann.com/blog/wont-read-much-if-i-dont-have-any-books-poverty-access-to-books-and-the-richpoor-reading-achievement-gap/ and finally rad this post by Donalyn Miller on the research behind independent reading: https://bookwhisperer.com/2015/02/08/ive-got-research-yes-i-do-ive-got-research-how-about-you/.

So, instead of making this situation an either/or, we can broaden our scope and include more that one approach, one right answer, one right way. Let's think BOTH/AND.
Current Location: home, air-conditioned, home
Current Mood: weary