Archive for April, 2012

See you at IRA 2012 in Chicago!

We are all packing up and heading out to Chicago in a few days for this year’s IRA conference. We hope to see you at booth #1640, where we will be offering a 20% conference discount and a chance to pick up our free “Why We Write” poster.

Below is a list of Stenhouse author sessions and signings. If you can’t make it to all of them, be sure to follow #stenira on Twitter, where attendees will be live-Tweeting these sessions.

IRA Sessions & Signings

JANET ALLEN

Author of More Tools for Teaching Content Literacy, Inside Words, and more

Session: “What Should Be Common in the Common Core State Standards?” Wednesday, 1:00-2:00

Signing: Tuesday, 12:00-1:00

DAVID BOOTH

Author of Caught in the Middle, Whatever Happened to Language Arts?, and more

Session: “Celebrating the Arts in the Reading Classroom,” Tuesday, 3:00-4:15

Signing: Wed 11:00-12:00

GAIL BOUSHEY & JOAN MOSER, “THE SISTERS”

Authors of The Daily Five and The CAFE Book

Session: Teaching Edge: “The Daily 5: Fostering Independent and Enthusiastic Readers,” Wednesday, 1:00-2:30

Signing: Wednesday, 2:45-3:30

DEBBIE DILLER

Author of Literacy Work Stations, Spaces & Places, and more

Session: “Use What You’ve Got: Creating Literacy Work Stations That Meet the Needs of All Readers with Rigor and Relevance,” Wednesday, 9:00-10:00

Signing: Tuesday 3:00-4:00

CHARLES FUHRKEN

Author of What Every Middle School Teacher Needs to Know About Reading Tests and more

Session: “Making Comprehension Count—in Reading Classrooms and on Tests,” Monday, 4:45-5:45

Signing: Tuesday, 9:00-10:00

KELLY GALLAGHER

Author of Write Like This, Readicide, and more

Session: Teaching Edge: “Write Like This: Teaching Real-World Writing Through Modeling & Mentor Texts,” Tuesday, 1:00-2:30

Session: “Beyond the Common Core: Pathways to Lifelong Literacy,” Wednesday, 9:00-11:45 (with Cris Tovani)

Signing: Wednesday, 12:00-1:00

STEPHANIE HARVEY & ANNE GOUDVIS

Authors of Strategies That Work, Reading the World, and more

Session: “Comprehension Intervention: Targeted Small Group Instruction for Active Reading and Thinking,” Tuesday, 3:00-4:00

Signing: Tuesday, 2:00-2:30

PETER JOHNSTON

Author of Opening Minds, Choice Words, and more

Session: IRA Literacy Research Panel: “Big Ideas, Literacy Needs, and National Priorities,” Monday, 10:30-11:45

Session: Research into Practice: “Engaging Books, Engaging Talk, and Engaged Readers: The How and the Why,” Wednesday, 9:00-10:30

Signing: Monday, 12:00-1:00

STEVE LAYNE

Author of Igniting a Passion for Reading

Tuesday General Session Keynote Speaker

Session: “Readin’, Writin’, and ‘rithmetic Revisited Through the Common Core Standards,” Monday, 11:00-1:45

Session: “Igniting a Passion for Reading: Successful Strategies for Building Lifetime Readers,” Wednesday, 9:00-10:00

Signing: Wed 10:00-11:00

KATE MESSNER

Author of Real Revision

Ssn: “Collaborating to Engage Readers: Learn How Librarian and Teacher Partnerships Can Increase Reading…,” Monday, 4:45-5:45

Signing: Tuesday, 10:00-11:00

MARK OVERMEYER

Author of How Can I Support You?, What Student Writing Teaches Us, and more

Session: “Writing to Meet the Language Arts Common Core State Standards,” Monday, 3:00-5:45

Signing: Monday, 11:00-12:00

SHELLEY STAGG PETERSON

Author of Good Books Matter

Session: Research Poster Session: “The Teaching of Writing in Canadian Middle Years Classrooms,” Monday, 12:30-2:00

Signing: Wed 10:30-11:00

TONY STEAD

Author of Good Choice, Reality Checks, and more

Session: “Strategies for Success in Reading and Writing Nonfiction,” Wednesday, 9:00-11:45

Signing: Monday, 1:30-2:30

CRIS TOVANI

Author of So What Do They Really Know?, Do I Really Have to Teach Reading?, and more

Session: “Beyond the Common Core: Pathways to Lifelong Literacy,” Wednesday, 9:00-11:45 (with Kelly Gallagher)

Signing: Wednesday, 12:00-1:00

Add comment April 27th, 2012

Book spine poems — Write Like This, Boy Writers…

Add comment April 27th, 2012

Book spine poems: I See What You Mean…

1 comment April 26th, 2012

Poem Talk

We wrap up our National Poetry Month series today with the final post from Shirley McPhillips. This time Shirley talks about how “poem talk” can help students find ways poetry relates to their own lives. “Does it move us? What is our connection to it, if any? What does it make us feel, remember, consider, muse about, rethink? What do we think we know or understand, having read and taken in this poem? Is this a keeper? A touchstone? Will I pass this one along? We won’t be connecting to every poem we read. But we can get better at becoming open to the possibilities,” Shirley writes.

We are glad you joined us this Poetry Month. Be sure to check out Shirley’s book A Note Slipped Under the Door, as well as her previous Poetry Month posts.

Poem Talk

I’m going out to clean the pasture spring;
I’ll only stop to rake the leaves away
(And wait to watch the water clear, I may):
I shan’t be gone long—You come too.

I’m going out to fetch the little calf
That’s standing by the mother. It’s so young
It totters when she licks it with her tongue.
I shan’t be gone long.—You come too.

—Robert Frost, “The Pasture”

Every year the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation sponsors a series of group sessions for New Jersey teachers who like, or even love, poetry. Under the name “Clearing the Spring, Tending the Fountain,” they meet all over the state to talk about poems. This title derives from the understanding that, like the spring in Robert Frost’s “The Pasture,” the spring of our inner creativity and imagination needs tending.

This year’s series, called “Giving Voice,” allows teachers to experience sharing poems aloud. A number of these teachers write already; some will be moved to write as a result of their deep reading and conversation. If they wish to write, they will be in a better place for having read. But writing is not a requirement for these sessions. They read poems and talk. For hours on end. Across months. What a gift.

We hope that our students will read poems. That they will write. The poets we love, the masters of their craft, are clear. Mary Oliver said, “To write well it is entirely necessary to read widely and deeply. Good poems are the best teachers. Perhaps they are the only teachers.”

Students Need to Spend Time with Poems

In my first blog post, “Coming into a World of Poetry,” I made a list of possible ways teachers can invite students to engage in poetry. There are many. Once we all begin “clearing the spring,” we’ll want to create places and times to “tend the fountain.” Together we will want to explore, and share, our thinking. Students, in particular, need the opportunity to do the following:

  • • Read some poems without an expectation to “do” anything, just take them in
  • • Choose their own poems to explore and talk with others about
  • • Type/write out poems in their notebooks that “speak to them”
  • • Write out lines they like (for sound; for a thought, an image, a memory they evoke)
  • • Read poems more than once; revisit poems they’re attracted to for different reasons
  • • Read different types of poems and authors—broaden the field
  • • Excuse themselves from the company of those who would beat a poem “with a hose to find out what it really means” (“Introduction to Poetry,” from Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins)

Students Need to Talk with Others About Poems

The following are not prompts or fill-in-the-blanks, but some ways we might expect thoughtful people to talk to one another. Students can be nurtured in thoughtfulness.

  • • When I read this poem . . .
  • • I notice . . .
  • • This makes me think . . .
  • • I’m wondering . . .
  • • I’d like to add to that . . .
  • • I see it another way . . .
  • • Or it could be that . . .
  • • That caught my attention too . . .
  • • I’m wondering if anyone else . . .
  • • I’m thinking the same thing . . .
  • • Listen to this part . . .
  • • When I read this part . . .
  • • This reminds me of . . .
  • • Another poet (poem) who does this is . . .
  • • What if we read it this way . . .
  • • Maybe I could try this in my poem . . .

Sixth Graders Talk About “The Pasture”

Space here doesn’t allow for a transcript that would show the progression of conversation or the interaction, but I’ll jot down some ways students shared “The Pasture” in a group I visited. They were used to talking as a class about poems—mostly contemporary—that the teacher had chosen. Poems they could “dig into.”

This time, Josh chose the poem for his group of five. He found the book You Come Too by Robert Frost on his father’s bookshelf. I thought, How great that the masters who came before us are not considered “out of date.” As Mary Oliver writes, “The truly contemporary creative force is something that is built out of the past, but with a difference.

Group members had read the poem on their own, reread it, and made some jottings on paper beforehand. Not pulling water from a dry well. Ready to talk. The group is self-directed.

– Josh tells why he chose the poem. What calls to him.

– He reads poem aloud. Another group member reads it aloud. Easing into the zone.

– Quiet. Someone speaks.

– Short. Two stanzas (using poetic terms).

– Rhyme, second/third lines.

– Repetition, same line, end of each stanza, persuasive.

– Could memorize it, because of rhythm, rhyme.

– Read aloud, voice has steady rhythm, both stanzas alike.

– Small moment. Hasn’t happened yet. Seems like familiar tasks. Pleasant.

– Tone. Feels like you’re author’s friend. Want to go with him when he says, “You come

too.”

– Uses dash, can picture him, trying to persuade, pausing, looking up, urging.

– A friendly invitation.

– “Fancy,” old-fashioned language: sha’n’t, fetch, totters, but we “get it.”

– Could sketch/draw the images.

Talk shifts . . .

– A lull. A “running out of steam” feeling. What else to mention? As if finding it difficult to tolerate silence, Josh, the Frost “expert” in the class, pulls another Frost poem, “A Patch of Old Snow,” from his folder. Reads aloud. Talks between the two. A couple talk about similarities.

– Two stanzas, small image, same kind of voice/tone. What is the voice? Like telling us his secrets.

– Is it a “he”? It’s Frost! So yes, a “he.” Well, somebody. A “she”? Doesn’t have be the author. Are poets always writing about themselves? Seems like it here, though. So personal (fodder for further talk about poem as a construction, and some research).

– Does Frost always write about the familiar (fodder for more reading? Research.)?

Often a beginning discussion is more literal, figuring out what this writing is before us. That’s necessary. But we can help students learn ways to expand or layer their thinking, to go deeper (if the poem or poet seems to need that). It may require another sitting, or two. Some poems lend themselves to several discussions to get past the mentioning stage. Some poems, like “The Red Wheelbarrow” by William Carlos Williams (possibly the most talked about poem in history), have been talked about for years. And still we wonder, and still we talk.

Eventually, we want to help students imagine how this, or any poem, might play out in our lives, where it matters. Does it move us? What is our connection to it, if any? What does it make us feel, remember, consider, muse about, rethink? What do we think we know or understand, having read and taken in this poem? Is this a keeper? A touchstone? Will I pass this one along? We won’t be connecting to every poem we read. But we can get better at becoming open to the possibilities.

Perhaps there are some larger themes suggested by the poem. Without reading into it, just my thought, this poem has a lot to do with setting. Maybe because I grew up in the country, I can feel again a little of the loneliness that sometimes accompanies those acts of duty and responsibility. The longing for company. I can also sense a deep pleasure in simple pastoral observations—watch the water clear; it totters when she licks it. How might that play out in an urban setting? How is it that simple things can have real staying power, give such satisfaction? We can talk about it.

I would want students to talk naturally about poems, perhaps with a tentative voice, open and thoughtful. Sometimes passionate. Enjoying the light coming through. After all, we respond in different ways, taking what we need. But whatever we’re doing with a poem, we’ll want to make sure the hose is wound up and stashed in the garage. Before the screaming begins.*

*“Introduction to Poetry” by Billy Collins, from Sailing Alone Around the Room,

1 comment April 25th, 2012

Book spine poems — Living the Questions

Add comment April 24th, 2012

Book spine poems — Catching Readers…

It’s the last week of National Poetry Month and we thought we’d mark this week by exercising our own creative muscles. If you have browsed around blogs that celebration Poetry Month you might have seen some book spine poems. This week we will post one poem each day using our own books. Can we do it? I bet we can!

2 comments April 23rd, 2012

Now Online: Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay

Love it or hate it, the five-paragraph essay is perhaps the most frequently taught method of writing in secondary classrooms. But have you ever actually seen five-paragraph essays outside of school walls? Have you ever found them in business writing, journalism, nonfiction, or any other genres that exist in the real world? And is the practice supported by research?

In Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay, Kimberly Hill Campbell and Kristi Latimer show you how to reclaim the literary essay and encourage thoughtful writing in response to literature. They debunk common myths and provide numerous strategies that stimulate student thinking, value unique insight, and evoke lively writing, including:

  • close reading—the foundation for writing about literature;
  • writing that gets students to think deeply as they read;
  • leveraging the power of collaboration to enhance discussion, debate, and writing;
  • developing students as literature authorities, capable of taking a stand and defending it; and
  • using model texts—asking students to step into the structure and voice of an author’s work and try it on.

Beyond the Five-Paragraph Essay will help you engage students and convince them that their writing can convey something important: a unique view to share, defend, prove, delight, discover, and inspire. The book starts shipping in May, and you can access the full-text online preview now!

1 comment April 19th, 2012

A Collage Poem: The Cento

Author and poet Shirley McPhillips continues our Poetry Month series this week with a post about collage poems. Make sure to check out her previous posts on bringing students into the world of poetry and blogging about poetry. Share your own cento in the comments section!

A Collage Poem: The Cento

Recently I started a collage notebook. Each page has an arrangement of shapes, colors, and textures suggesting a theme, an idea. Keeping this notebook, I find myself being attracted to materials for making collages. I collect papers of all sorts. I save art magazines. I dismantle packaged products. The expectation of creating something keeps me looking for possibly useful and surprising materials.

After Hurricane Irene, for example, I tore pieces from an old watercolor painting and cut shapes from an art magazine to make an abstract design suggesting the ferocity of that storm. Plants spiking, twisting, wrenching. Light shafting, cutting. Water curling, grasping, overlapping. Ever after I will think of the storm with my new image in mind.

A poem form called the cento can be thought of as a collage poem. Cento means “patchwork” in Latin. It is a type of writing, especially a poem, composed wholly of quotations from the works of other authors. A whole new poem, a new meaning, is made from choosing and assembling lines from other poems.

Poets can make small changes in the lines they choose for a cento, or use lines exactly as they appear. Usually a cento will include no more than one line from each poem, and the lines may represent one poet or several poets.

Lest we get excited that this may be “stealing” lines, we can remember T. S. Eliot’s statement: “Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.” It seems respectful practice, in any case, to cite one’s sources. (My opinion.)

On the Academy of American Poets Web site, the staff show how they composed a cento using lines from Marie Ponsot, Emily Dickinson, Charles Wright, Sylvia Plath, and Samuel Beckett.

More contemporary centos, such as John Ashbery’s “The Dong with the Luminous Nose,” are often witty and play with ideas and images. See also “Wolf Cento” by Simone Muench.

Finally, creating a cento is not about constructing but rather arranging lines in a particular sequence. That arrangement can delight and inspire and move us for the same reasons that any other kind of poem can.

Cady (grade six) wrote a cento after looking through his favorite collection called ’Til All the Stars Have Fallen, poems selected by David Booth. He used sources from James Reaney, Myra Stillborn, Jane Wadley, Joanne Lysyk, Ken Stange, Robert Heidbreder, Dorothy Livesay, Chief Dan George, and Anne Corkett.

The wind was a tall sweet woman

circling the shadow of every tree
tramping the grass so that it lay flat
cackling with laughter—

speaks to me
now raise your arms and fly, fly, fly.

This night I rise and scream
Till I’ve cried the rivers full.

O where have you gone?

1 comment April 18th, 2012

Where do tomatoes come from?

This week is National Environmental Education Week and we invited author and educator Herb Broda to talk about why it’s important for children to experience the “real thing” when it comes to nature, instead of watching it on a YouTube video. To honor National Environmental Education Week, we have assembled a special package of three books that give you practical, classroom-ready ideas to bring the outdoors into your classroom and let your students experience nature first-hand. The package includes two of Broda’s books: Schoolyard-Enhanced Learning and Moving the Classroom Outdoors, as well as Childhood and Nature by David Sobel.

Citizen Science: A Powerful Teaching Tool

I heard an interesting story a few days ago. A teacher-friend of mine had her 8th grade students raise tomato plants from seed and then transplant them into the school garden. To build enthusiasm, she explained that the crop would then provide some food to be served in the cafeteria. One student was appalled, however. “ Who would want to eat those  plants!” It quickly became obvious that the student didn’t realize that tomatoes grew on plants—she thought that the entire plant would be served for lunch.

Although the story brings a smile, hopefully it is not a typical scenario.  It does underscore, however, the urgency and value of getting students involved with “real environmental learning”—handling the materials that are a part of our natural world. My friend’s student will now remember that tomatoes in the grocery store come from plants like the ones she planted!

With our incredibly easy access to media-rich websites, YouTube videos, interactive learning games, etc. we sometimes let “technomedia” trump real-life environmental experiences.

Environmental Education Week is a great time to consider incorporating Citizen Science into your teaching. It can provide a beautiful blending of hands-on environmental learning with technology.  According to Citizen Science Central at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, citizen science involves “projects in which volunteers partner with scientists to answer real world questions”.  In a K-12 context, the volunteers are our students who partner with scientists via dozens of websites devoted to exploring specific scientific questions.

Citizen science is part of a broad concept called Public Participation in Scientific Research (PPSR). Included under this banner could be everything from playground temperature recording activities by elementary school students, to sophisticated sky observations made by amateur astronomers. The unifying factor, however, is the partnering with professional scientists to intentionally gather data to focus on a question.

Citizen science projects are not new. The Audubon Christmas Bird Count has been around for over 100 years and is a classic example of utilizing citizen participation to gather information over a huge geographic area. Gathering data on the scale of the Audubon Bird Count would be impossible without citizen volunteers.

If you are looking for a handy listing of a variety of citizen science projects, there are two sources that I think are especially good. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a central place to find descriptions of dozens of citizen science projects. The site allows new projects to add information, making the site a constantly expanding resource. Although the site does not claim to provide a complete list of citizen science projects, it is an excellent starting point for teachers  curious to see if there might be a project that aligns with the local curriculum.

A second great citizen science project locator is “Scistarter: Science we can do together”. 

This wonderful site provides the ability to pick an activity (e.g. at school, at home, at the beach in the car, etc.)  or a topic (e.g. animals, food, insects, etc.). The site features a project of the day, newsletter and a blog.

For each project listed, Scistarter gives a very practical one page overview of the project, plus a sidebar that provides at-a-glance information about participation fees (if any), other expenses, location restrictions, indoor or outdoor activity, appropriate grade range, and any special gear or equipment needed. This handy overview can save valuable time by allowing you to narrow down very quickly to the project you wish to explore in more depth.

One of my favorite citizen science projects is the Journey North Tulip Test Gardens Project. The tulip project is just one of many programs available at the Journey North website.

Following easy instructions from Journey North, students plant a specific variety of tulip in the fall. They then go to the project website and log the zip code of their community. A symbol appears on a map of North America that shows their exact location. As spring approaches, students check the tulip garden for signs of emerging plants. When plants are detected, students return to the website and a new icon appears representing plant emergence at their school. When tulips are in bloom, students make a final data entry and a third icon symbolizes the blooming tulips.

As hundreds of classrooms across North America track the emergence and blooming of tulips, students can check weekly to see how spring moves across the continent. The website also provides animation so students can replay the week-by-week progression. The Tulip Garden Study is an elegant example of an engaging citizen science project that promotes interest in nature throughout much of the school year.

I continue to be both amazed and gratified at the enthusiasm  generated when children take part in scientific studies connected with other schools and real scientists.  As one student said. “This isn’t textbook stuff—it’s the real thing!”.

Add comment April 17th, 2012

Blogging about Poetry

To celebrate National Poetry Month, we asked poet and author Shirley McPhillips (A Note Slipped Under the Door) to share some of her ideas about bringing poetry into the classroom and making it accessible for teachers and students alike. This week she continues her series with a post on how one teacher uses a classroom blog to help his students respond and engage with poetry. Check back with us again next week to get more of Shirl’s practical, classroom-ready ideas. And get writing!

Blogging about Poetry

When technology puts us at a distance, I’m not interested. But when technology brings us together to talk about things that matter to us, count me in.
—Chris Kostenko, Teacher, Grade 5

Young Poets Blogging
In last week’s post, I quoted former poet laureate Ted Kooser who said, “The best way to learn the art of writing poetry is to read as much of it as possible.” I suggested starting a poetry blog as another way to invite students further into a world of poetry. But learning to blog in thoughtful and respectful ways doesn’t just happen. It arises from a carefully laid seedbed of talk and response around literature that is nurtured early on.

How Chris Kostenko Sweetens the Soil for Poetry

  • Reads poems to the class off and on all year (not just during a poetry week/month) so students fill up. They expect to react and talk to others.
  • Gives them copies so they can revisit these poems and watch their folders burgeon. They begin to feel at home with poetry, with poets.
  • Puts out piles/folders of poems that have been photocopied over the years, ones he likes or feels are provocative, that students have responded to in the past, ones the current class is reading. Highlights baskets of different types of poetry books (including novels written in verse: Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse, Something About America by Maria Testa; a memoir written in verse: Been to Yesterdays by Lee Bennett Hopkins) and multiples by the same author (e.g., Langston Hughes, Cynthia Rylant).

Introducing the Idea of Blogging Early On
What happens on the blog is fodder for the poetry mill back in the classroom as they continue creating energy over time. Chris created a “Reading/Writing Blog” early in the school year. Following is his first invitation to students on the blog. It sets the tone. He is inclusive, warm, and passionate—as he is in the classroom—and demonstrates high expectations. He holds students accountable in a respectful way.

Welcome!
I am excited about this new place we have in cyberspace. Our own space. An important place.
This place will become a library of our thinking. Be thoughtful. Do slow thinking—and then write.
Do you remember passing around a ball of blue yarn on one of the first days? We created a web as we passed that ball and shared something about ourselves. Do you remember when I pulled on the web? We all felt the tug.
I want you to think about this blog in the same way. We are making connections, so be honest, be thoughtful, and be positive to your peers. Every connection we make in this place will help to build our beautiful web.
But always remember. When anyone posts and pulls on our web, we’ll all feel the tug.
Bottom line:
• Be honest
• Be thoughtful
• Be considerate
Look forward to building a complex web of smart thinking and good writing.
Mandatory Post:
I want to be sure that we’re on the same virtual page. Send a comment that lets me know that you agree to use our space responsibly.
Thanks.
Mr. K.

Early Poetry Blog Posts
Early on, Chris chooses the poems and writes a blurb telling why, what stands out to him, and what that makes him think. Students read this and respond, sometimes taking a different tack, agreeing, expanding, finding different angles. They read each other’s responses and talk back. Keeping it simple.

Chris makes some response opportunities optional and some mandatory. He doesn’t call this “homework.” This is work done outside of the school day.

In an example of an early post, Chris writes the poem “Wars” from Jean Little’s Hey World Here I Am, with the simple instruction: “So what do you think about this poem?” In the poem the author remembers when she was in second grade, telling her father adamantly that she thinks all wars are wrong. Then she catches her sister playing with her paper dolls without asking, and they have what she calls a war. Here are two students’ responses:

Daniel: People have to know how to compromise. For example, if two people on the same team think that a play should be played differently, they have to compromise in order for the team to win. People have to discuss things more often to find the best solution.

Leonard: Some people just want ongoing war. I agree with Gabby and Claudia because the character did not really understand the meaning of war, and how horrible it can be. But I think he could understand what war is, if he knew. Sometimes kids have a soul to understand the things happening around the world.

Creating Opportunities to Be Surprised
Chris creates a category called “Poems That Make You Stop and Think.” He posts, for example, Tom Henson’s poem “The Life of a Day.” The poet writes in paragraph form, talking about the uniqueness of a day—wonderful details, kind of philosophizing. Students learn to agree, disagree, interpret, theorize.

The class is reading Maria Testa’s Something About America, a novel written in verse. Chris writes, “Let’s try to write our thoughts in verse.”

Students Preparing to Post Poems
Eventually, Chris turns the selecting and posting process over to the students. He no longer feels the need to choose the poem and write what he thinks in order to nurture them.

He demonstrates how he might choose a poem to share with others. He reminds them of the “vast jungle of poems in the classroom they can wade through in order to choose.” He instructs them to choose a poem that “speaks to you” and to write a short piece to explain why and in what ways. They might refer to some lines that resonate.

He meets with four students a day to talk about poems they want to post. Each student reads aloud the poem as well as the piece she or he wrote to explain why that particular one was chosen. For example, one boy chooses “Valentine for Ernest Mann” by Naomi Nye. He likes the voice of the poem. “This author has attitude,” he explains. She’s feisty. She finds ordinary things fascinating. She is surprising and strong about her feelings.

Group members have an opportunity to respond to each of their peers. Chris doesn’t dominate; he’s part of the conversation. Sometimes, as result of this meeting, writers want to revise their pieces before posting. He repeats this process with each group.

Posting, Responding, Plowing Back
Chris types a few students’ poems and comments as they are ready: title, author, sometimes the book the poem is from. He introduces the student comments by saying something like, “Dan chose this poem. Here’s what he thinks.” At the end of each entry he asks the rest of the class to comment: “What do you think?” The poem appears in blue, the reader’s notes appear in red, and Chris’s notes to nudge them to write appears in green.

Chris requires students to respond to two poems that have been posted. “Of course,” he says, “you can respond to more. Reading and responding to the blog is part of the work we do.”

Often, as Chris reads student poems and responses on the blog, he will bring those back into the classroom for more attention and deeper conversation. This is lively because the students have already read and reacted. And they have more to say. They’re not trying to pull water from a dry well. The written is plowed back into the richening soil of classroom work. Most important, students see the work they’ve done on the blog becoming even more valued on the home front. It’s not lost in cyberspace.

Student Posts, Interaction Online (Example)
1. Dan
“There” from Been to Yesterdays by Lee Bennett Hopkins

Here’s what Daniel had to say about the poem he chose:

This poem caught my eye because it has a lot of emotion to it.
It is very hard for me to read because my parents are divorced, but it really brings me back to that moment in time. This poem gives me a sad emotion.
I like how this poem doesn’t write what is happening; it describes it very nicely. It never says “my parents are divorcing.” I had to actually figure that out by reading the clues in the poem.
I notice that there is one sentence or less in one stanza, and about one to two words on a line. Each stanza really describes the feelings of the character.

What do you think about the poem Daniel chose? Give him some feedback.

Alex
I can feel all the emotion in this poem. Even though my parents aren’t divorced, I can feel the way this girl/boy feels because of the way Lee Bennett Hopkins describes it. At first, I didn’t know that she/he was talking about divorce, but once I read it over a few times, I figured it out. I also like this poem because it doesn’t give the obvious right away. If I felt like how this girl/boy felt or even Dan, I would be sad and I would never leave it alone either, but I would go back to the happy moments.

Claudia
I think Dan picked a good poem because he knows how this girl/boy feels and he can relate to it. It’s good also because of all the emotion which really makes the poem strong.

Christiana
I agree with you because when I read the poem I got really sad even though my parents aren’t divorced. I like how the author did that because it touches everyone in their own way. It touched me because it was hard for an adult to cry and I felt so bad for the kid in the poem. I wanted to help the kid so bad. That shows a good poem.

4 comments April 10th, 2012

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