Archive for October, 2010

Poetry Friday: The Rolling Pin

Happy Poetry Friday! We have another original poem from Shirley McPhillips this week! Enjoy and check out her poem from last week as well!  

The Rolling Pin
Shirl McPhillips

A wine bottle for crust
would do just as well
as a rolling pin I’m told,
but the clerk hoists it aloft

like an Olympic torch
and I sprint up the aisle
to claim it, to bring it home.
Tempted as I am to take

the devil’s easy path, my
Mama Divine, I must
not scare what is sacred.
Splinters of your holy light

slice through a mountain
of shadows. Not in my house
you would say. Not in your
house where the laws

of prohibition ranked right up
there next to the tablets of stone.
Not in your house, my Holy
Mama where, heaven bent,

you cut labels off cans of cocktail,
so hellbinding was the Word—where
groceries packed in a box blazed
with Miller High Life once sat rejected

out back, like the sinner who brought it.
And a wine bottle, my Keeper
of the Faith, will not shape a pie
in my house. Chilled, heavy

with butter, the dough is stiff
and unforgiving like the promise
I wish I hadn’t made to shape it. Yet
somehow it yields to the gentle

steering of my wooden wheel
and folds up in flutes over the late
summer peaches I remember.

When your soul flew up
to its final reward, sweet mama,
Guardian of the Everafter, we
sorted the magic of  your high

craft into boxes—five dollars
take all—ice picks, oyster
knives, spatulas, eggbeaters,
skillets of iron, a rolling pin.

I claim the teapot,
the crystal candlesticks,
green plates of depression glass—
I claim your recipes,

the pinch
the tad
the dash—
small bits of grace.

I claim the taste
but not the tools of it.

Add comment October 8th, 2010

Our very own Outstanding Educator

In March we told you that Stenhouse editorial director Philippa Stratton will receive this year’s Outstanding Educator Award from NCTE. As the conference approaches, NCTE published an interview with Philippa in the October issue of The Council Chronicle. Philippa talks about how she got started in the educational publishing business, recalls the early days of Stenhouse, and gives a glimpse of up and coming teacher-authors. Visit Stenhouse at booth #717 to congratulate Philippa!

Copyright 2010 by the National Council of Teachers of English.  Posted with permission.

Add comment October 7th, 2010

Quick Tip Tuesday: Building relationships in the classroom

I don’t know about you, but every time I read one of Debbie Miller’s books, I wish I could be a student in her classroom. Reading today’s Quick Tip, you will see why: Debbie shares how she builds a connection with each student in her classroom and how she shows her students how to treat each other with respect to create a true learning community. This Quick Tip is from Debbie’s book Reading with Meaning: Teaching Comprehension in the Primary Grades.

I begin by paying attention to the little things. It’s noticing Paige’s cool new haircut, Grant’s oversized Avalanche jersey, Kendal’s sparkly blue nail polish, and Cody’s washable tattoos. It’s asking about Palmer’s soccer game, Jane’s dance recital, Elizabeth’s visiting grandpa, and Hannah’s brand-new baby brother.

It’s giving Ailey a heart rock to add to her collection, copying a poem about cats and giving it to Gina because I know she loves them, and even putting a Band-Aid on Grace’s tiny paper cut. Showing children we care about them and love being their teacher is an important first message. And at the same time, I’m modeling for children how to show someone you care about them; I’m modeling how you go about creating lasting friendships.

Teaching children how to listen and respond to each other in respectful, thoughtful ways also helps foster new relationships and caring communities. I used to have long conversations with children about this, telling them how important it was to listen carefully to each other and to really think about what their classmates have to say. I’d talk about responding respectfully, to look at the person you’re speaking to, call them by name, and on and on. But the very next day a child might groan at a song another had chosen, wildly wave a hand when someone else was talking, or flip through the pages of a book while another child was sharing. And I’d go into the whole respect routine again. During these conversations, the children were just as eloquent. They sounded just like me! But their behavior didn’t change. And I’d wonder, “What’s going on here? Why don’t they get it?” And even sometimes, “What’s wrong with these kids, anyway?”

Eventually I realized, of course, that nothing was wrong with “these kids.” They didn’t get it because I hadn’t shown them how. I’d told them to be respectful, thoughtful, and kind, but I hadn’t shown them what that looks and sounds like.

The best opportunities to show kids how occur in the moment. When Frankie says to Colleen, “Colleen, could you please speak up? I can’t hear what you have to say,” I can’t let that pass without making sure everyone heard. I can’t let that pass without pointing out how smart it is to want to hear what someone has to say. I say, “You guys, did you just hear Frankie? Frankie, could you say that again?” She does, and I ask, “So boys and girls, why was that such a smart thing for Frankie to do?” They respond, and then I use their words and mine to bring our thoughts together. And when Max tells Jack that his idea is “a little bit dumb,” I can’t let that pass either. I say, “Max, I’m sure you didn’t mean to be rude to Jack, but when you said his idea was a ‘little bit dumb,’ that’s what you were being. It’s okay to disagree with someone, but there are nicer, more polite ways to do it. You might say something like, ‘Jack, I don’t understand what you mean’ or ‘Jack, why do you think that?’ Try it again, Max.” He does, beautifully this time, and I don’t miss the opportunity to let everyone know how much we’ve learned from Max today.

Or Sean is trying to find a place in the circle, and he starts nudging himself into a spot four inches wide. I say, “Sean, could you think of a better way to get yourself into the circle?” Sean’s stumped. “Well, how about this? The next time you need to be in the circle and there isn’t room, how about asking someone to scoot back so you can fit in? Let’s try it right now. Just say, ‘Sunny, could you please scoot back so I can fit in the circle?’” He does. Next, I turn my attention to Sunny. “Okay, Sunny, Sean has asked you nicely to scoot back. What could you say back to him?” She says, “Sure, Sean, I’ll scoot back for you.” With smiles all around, she does.

Is the first time the charm? No. And probably not the third time either. But remain diligent. Remain calm. Don’t give up the good fight! Once the flagrant violations are in check, watch closely for the rolling of eyes, the private conversations, the exasperated sighs. Don’t let those go by either.

You can use these first lessons—we can call them “anchor lessons”—to refer back to. For example, when Sarah snaps at Troy, I say, “Oops, Sarah, what’s another way you could tell Troy what you’re thinking? Think back to how Max handled something like this.” We’ll assist her if she needs it, but a gentle reminder is usually enough.

Here are a few more teachable moments:
To the children with the wildly waving hand when someone is talking: “You know what, guys? I know you’re not meaning to be rude, but when your hand is up and someone else is talking, I’m thinking you’re probably focusing on what you’re going to say rather than listening to the person who is speaking. What do you think? Since we can learn so much from each other, remember to keep your hands down and really listen and think about what your friends are saying. When they’re finished, you can share what you’re thinking.”

To the children who abruptly get up in the middle of a story or discussion: “Oh my goodness, you’re going to leave us now? Think of the learning you’ll miss! Can you wait until the story [or discussion] is over? Thanks.”

To the children who always have something to say, no matter the topic or the day, and the ones who hardly have anything to say, ever: “Today I want you to think about yourselves as listeners and speakers. If you’re someone who’s great at talking a lot, I want you to be a listener today. See what you can learn. If you’re someone who is a great listener, I want you to do some talking today. We want to know what you are thinking, too. Raise your hand if you think you do a lot of listening. Raise your hand if you think you do a lot of talking. Wow! You really know yourselves. That’s so smart. Let’s try it.”

To those who have already heard every book in your library and can’t wait to let you know the minute you hold it up: “That’s so great you’ve heard this book before. And you know what? Since we know how much more we can learn and understand when we reread, I want you to pay special attention when you hear the story today. Think about what you notice this time that you didn’t notice before. Think about what puzzled you the first time, and what you think about that this time. Will you let us know?”

Doesn’t all this take a lot of time? You bet. But it sets the tone for learning and thoughtful conversation; it paves the way for the work that lies ahead. Once children realize you’re not going to relent, once they realize that this is not just a “sometime thing,” and once they understand what you want them to do and why it’s important, it becomes habit. It becomes part of the language of the classroom.

2 comments October 5th, 2010

Now Online: The Castle in the Classroom

Most children, with very few exceptions, did not see themselves as a reader or writer…it was evident that we would have to extend the scope of a reader to one who tells a story from a book or with a book, and embrace the concept of a writer as one who creates a story orally, pictorially, or with written words.
—from The Castle in the Classroom

Building on children’s love of story, in all its various forms—oral language, drama, reading, writing, art, interpretation, cultural traditions—can provide a strong foundation for a comprehensive literacy model in kindergarten.

In her new book, The Castle in the Classroom, Ranu Bhattacharyya immerses readers in her diverse kindergarten, revealing through practical structures and tools how she works with students to create a magical environment for them to play, discover, pretend, and explore—all while making great strides in learning to read and write. Three dozen focus lessons provide practice in a variety of skills, strategies, and genres as students progress through the school year. A final chapter shows how to embed assessment into daily instruction through student folders and portfolios.

The Castle in the Classroom will start shipping in mid-October, and you can preview the entire book online now!

1 comment October 4th, 2010

Poetry Friday: An original poem from Shirley McPhillips

We are again honored on this Poetry Friday to be able to share an original poem from one of our authors. Shirley McPhillips is a poet, teacher, and Stenhouse author, whose book A Note Slipped Under the Door shows teachers how to make poetry a lasting part of their and their students’ lives.

Enjoy this poem and return next week for another original by Shirley!


Today I am leaving for The Hill
before the fat air and sweet taunts
of the city stir up the work wasps
into an unstoppable frenzy.

A morning glory muse helps me pack
my bags and I head for a place where
hawks carve up clouds and streams
tangle men in high-waisted boots.

I go to stake my claim like a redwing
at the top of a northern pine screaming
this is my time. Give me something
sacred to see, I will cry, something

bold to bless, fling me screaming
into blue flame, give me something
wild to hold onto.

I will sit still in clover, let small sunsets
of Indian Paintbrush rise around my ankles,
my hands hiding in the folds of my dress.
And when I grow meek from painting

peaks and hayfields on a streak of mauve,
I will laugh into a gust of wind, trick me
into a patch of passion, I will say, shake me
dry like a gourd until my seeds clamor

and crack again, even
if all that’s left is dust.

4 comments October 1st, 2010

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