Sunday, September 27, 2015

Links worth talking about 9-27-15

Inspired by Elisabeth Ellington's weekly Links I Loved Last Week posts, I've decided to curate my own set of notable links from the past week.

If you missed last weekend's #nctechat on censorship and young adult literature, you can read the Storify archive. I also curated my own set of Tweets for the chat that I found the most valuable.

Brian Wyzlic shared the letter he sends home to parents about his classroom library and why he won't censor books. This letter is especially poignant because, like me, he works at a Catholic school.

Teri Lesesne gets fired up about an EdWeek article that criticizes the merit of young adult literature.

On the NCTE blog, Cindy Minnich makes the case for why face to face learning at conferences still matters in this new world of social media armchair conference attendence. 

Pernille Ripp writes about public shaming in the classroom and also about the toll nonstop learning takes on students during the school day. 

From School Libary Journal: Teachers Find Many Reasons to Use Picture Books with Middle School and High School Students.

And speaking of picture books, here is a lovely interview with Kevin Henkes about his wonderful new picture book, Waiting.

Phil Bildner talks about how he used mentor texts to write his new book, A Whole New Ballgame.

Betsy Bird shares her Newbery and Caldecott predictions.

And of course, apropos of nothing:

Could the president and first lady BE any more adorable?

Stephen Colbert nails Cesar Flickerman in The Hungry for Power Games.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Links Worth Talking About 9-20-15

Inspired by Elisabeth Ellington's weekly Links I Loved Last Week posts, I've decided to curate my own set of notable links from the past week.

First off, I hope everyone reading this joins tonight's awesome #nctechat on Twitter at 8 PM ET: Say YA to Reading. A preview of tonight's chat is on the NCTE blog.

Yesterday The Educator Collaborative hosted a virtual conference called #TheEdCollabGathering and all of the sessions that were on Google Hangouts were archived. One of my favorite moments from yesterday's sessions was Kristine Mraz's closing keynote with when she says:

"If the rules of your classroom were the rules of the world, would you want to live there? "

The longlists for the National Book Award came out this week and the list for Young People's Literature is fabulous.  I'm rooting for X: A Novel because we need more diverse books like that in our canon of young people's literature. Even though it's historical fiction, it is still so very rooted in our present.

As a former classical pianist, I love this story: A Duo Raised on Hip-Hop and Classical Has It Both Ways

Language is glorious chaos

And, apropos of nothing...
Author/illustrator Jarrett Krosoczka appeared on Matthew Winner's Let's Get Busy podcast, but as you will quickly see, his snoring pug Frankie upstages him. I laughed so hard I cried.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Links Worth Talking About 9-13-15

Inspired by Elisabeth Ellington's weekly Links I Loved Last Week posts, I've decided to curate my own set of notable links from the past week.

Last week I celebrated my students' willingness to put in the hard work.

And on the NCTE blog I wrote a post about how my PLN pushes me to be a better teacher

Speaking of NCTE, If you're a teacher who has always wanted to attend the their Annual Convention but knew you'd never be able to get funding, this year NCTE is helping you make a case to your administrator as to why you should be able to go.

Continuing with more awesome NCTE info, they have a pretty epic #nctechat scheduled for next Sunday in honor of the upcoming Banned Books Week, which revolves around YA Lit this year.

Speaking of Banned Books Week, guess what, Tennessee mom? I'd never even heard of this book before and now I want to read it. #SeeWhatYouDidThere
Tennessee Mom Calls Henrietta Lacks Book 'Pornographic,' Seeks to Have It Banned in School

YA author Jason Reynolds gave this amazing virtual keynote for School Library Journal where he said that the reason he writes books is "to acknowledge the lives of those who seem to have been unacknowledged.”

After watching this video, I DEFINITELY want to read A Fine Dessert and make blackberry fool with my students. 

Michigan principal Ben Gilpin shared some amazing classroom cribs in his own building. Leaders like Ben Gilpin and Sue Haney are certainly making a name for themselves and showing that the small town of Parma, Michigan is an enviable place to work.

But while teachers in Parma, Michigan might have pretty swag classroom cribs, teachers in Silicon Valley can't even find a decent crib because even modest homes are going for millions of dollars.

Kevin English writes about what he learned teaching summer school this year (that can totally apply to regular school).

And speaking of Kevin English, he shared this video on Twitter last week with a great suggestion to pair it with the book What Do You Do with an Idea? by Kobi Yamada, illustrated by Mae Besom

Pernille Ripp bravely asks students why/when they feel disengaged.

I love debating grammar "rules" with pedantic grammarians. It's my favorite.

And here's a good blog post to also give pedantic grammarians:
Error in Student Writing: A Balanced Developmental Approach

This Washington Post article about the right and wrong way to get kids to sit still in class is everything. Bottom line: kids need time to play, not just sit on bouncy balls.

Another win for introverts:
I Argued That Class Participation Was Necessary. Then I Heard From Introverts. by Jessica Lahey

It's safe to say Stephen Colbert has started off his tenure on the Late Show making quite the impression, especially this heartfelt interview with vice-president Joe Biden.

And it wouldn't be a Links Worth Talking About post if I didn't have some "Apropos of Nothing" links to share too:

If you're not following Hipster Barbie on Instagram, remedy that right now. She's way more authentic than you.

Because I like to be on fleek with the young people lingo, I had to look up just what the heck #SquadGoals means.

This light art installation project is cool. I hope they're able to make it happen. It would be yet another reason to love Chicago.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Celebrating students willing to put in the hard work

Celebrate This Week was established by Ruth Ayres

This week I hastily gave my students some reading to do to go along with a writing assignment, not realizing just how challenging the text was.

You know how I found out?

I read it (after I assigned it).

Go figure.

See, I gave them the text of JK Rowling's 2008 Harvard commencement address because we have been talking and writing a lot about failure and why it's good for you. I remember some students at my old school did a portion of the speech as part of their forensics declamation performance and being so impressed with the speech's message. Ever since that moment, it has always been a part of my classroom mantra.

But it had been a while since I had watched the speech in its entirety and I foolishly asked my 8th graders to read it for homework without having gone back and reread it for myself. After all, if 6th graders were doing a portion of this speech as a forensics performance, surely 8th graders could handle reading it on their own.

None of my 8th graders actually complained about how hard the speech was to read. I just happened to point it out in class the next day and they affirmed my hunch. The thing is, I get the sense that they didn't mind how hard it was. They have seen that I have been modeling a reading and writing life for them, and as such, I wouldn't assign them anything that I don't see value in. Because they knew that I thought the message of that speech was worthwhile for their writing and for their lives in general,  they were willing to try without complaint. As a result, I have been reading some really thoughtful responses in their writer's notebooks. I'm looking at the printouts of the close readings they did and they have pulled out some really meaningful quotes to apply in their own writing.

So today I am celebrating my students' grit and determination to try hard things. Their acceptance and willingness to fail. Their inherent ability to know that the only way out is through and experience the rewards on the other side. 8th graders, you are awesome.

For every adult that has a lament over "kids these days,"  I have just as much, if not more, praise to dish out. To modify the well-known quote from R.S. Grey, "I believe they can, and they do."

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Links worth talking about 9-6-15

Inspired by Elisabeth Ellington's weekly Links I Loved Last Week posts, I've decided to curate my own set of notable links from the past week. Last week was my inaugural post so I'm hoping, like Elisabeth, to make this a weekly event.

Another weekly event I participate in is Ruth Ayres' Celebration Saturday. Yesterday I celebrated the music of my heart -- and even got brave and sang for my blog post.

On my other blog, I reviewed three books:

A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
This is finally the Berlin Wall novel I've been waiting for since I first visited the city back in 2004 and fell in love with its vibrant, youthful energy.

The Truth Commission by Susan Juby

Beastly Babies by Ellen Jackson, illustrated by Brendan Wenzel

On the NCTE blog, LuAnn McNabb encourages teachers to invite stakeholders into their classrooms because, as she writes:

Remember, stakeholders are just another group of students, and there’s no better way to engage students than by getting them to actively participate.

Linda Darling-Hammond, the renowned professor at Stanford who in my opinion should have been our Secretary of Education these past 7+ years, is launching an education think tank "aimed at shaping education policies nationwide." I'm excited to see where this leads.

This Chronicle Books blog post talks about the many benefits of coloring. Given my recent realization that I am struggling with anxiety, I think it's time to start pulling out the crayons and colored pencils again like I loved to do when I was a child.

Sarah Larson writes a New Yorker piece about Why You Hate Google's New Logo. Not only do I agree with her, but I also think the writing is stellar and worth sharing with students.

Thanks to Colby Sharp and Travis Jonker's new kid lit podcast The Yarn, I have begun to explore other podcasts, because sometimes I just don't feel like committing to an entire audiobook, but I can handle a 15-20 minute podcast episode. A couple of my favorites right now: Stories from the Teaching Life with Penny Kittle and Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert. What are some of your favorite podcasts?

Speaking of Travis Jonker, how can you not want to watch an Ignite Talk he gave at the 2015 Michigan Reading Association conference entitled "Be the Flava Flav of Books"? Though I was really hoping he'd wear sunglasses and a clock necklace when he gave his talk.

My friend Sarah Andersen wrote about helping high school teachers in her district and neighboring districts spread book love in their schools and classrooms.

And congratulations to my friend Kevin English who made the International Literacy Association's 30 Under 30 List. So well-deserved! 

I love Pernille Ripp's and Kristi Mraz's reasons for discouraging teachers the use of public behavior charts in their classrooms -- and also Kimberly Moran's empowering way she took the behavior chart that she was required to use and turned it over to her students.

Back in 2013, Ta-Nehisi Coates gave some wonderful advice about writing and the stamina needed for it. I think I'll be showing this video to my students in the near future.

Two Vlogbrothers videos I loved this week: John Green talks about how everyone's been misinterpreting the famous Robert Frost poem "The Road Not Taken" all these years and Hank Green talks about society's unproductive addiction to outrage.

This adorable baby who cries every time a book ends proves to us all that the struggle is real. 

Banned Books Week is coming up soon. On the NCTE blog Millie Davis talks about intellectual freedom. I particularly love the video at the end of the post.

Pope Francis continues to prove to me time after time that he is the Pope the Catholic church needs right now, choosing not to maintain the status quo, but to minister humbly and simply, just as Jesus would.

Here's another on point op-ed from Leonard Pitts, Jr. this week where he says:
In deciding between its children and its guns, America had decided the loss of the former was... "bearable."

A single Tweet is all it took for me to follow Christian author Rachel Held Evans.

Apropos of nothing related to this blog other than the fact that it includes a place in my beloved Ann Arbor, and it's a restaurant I love, here is USA Today's 10 Best: Awesome Burgers Across America.

Also apropos of nothing other than my husband and I are big Michigan football fans and have season tickets for the first time this year (and I love Charles Woodson):

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Celebrating the muisc of my heart - one imperfectly attempted song at a time

Celebrate This Week was established by Ruth Ayres

It's been almost a year since I made the decision to buy a new, shiny black baby grand piano. Just like the kind I've always wanted since I was a little girl.

I'd like to say I play it all the time and that I've gone back to the dedication and ability I had when I was younger and took piano lessons from age nine until twenty-two.

But here's the honest truth: Even though I play more than I used to, it's nowhere near as much as I thought I would.

I was hoping I'd revive some of the old classical pieces I used to play with such verve and enthusiasm that my hands would just remember how to play them. Pieces like Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C-Sharp Minor, Beethoven's Sonata Pathetique, Chopin's Waltz in C-Sharp Minor, Mozart's Fantasy in D Minor.

But that didn't happen. I just don't have the time or the stamina anymore.

What I do have, however, is the love of music. The desire to still grace my fingers across those keys, no matter how awkward and clunky it might be. The pleasure to play has come back where it wasn't before. But I have resigned myself to the fact that I will likely never really perfect a difficult piece of  classical music ever again. Very rarely do I have the stamina or attention span to attempt an entire piece from start to finish. I dip in and out of songs, playing a phrase here, a section there. When my hands don't feel like playing a particular piece, I move on to something else. When my hands tell me that they love the way a particular song feels as they move along the keys, I oblige. And while it's never close to perfect or even always pretty, my heart has finally come back to the piano. One imperfectly attempted song at a time. Just like this one (my hands are particularly a fan of playing this song):