Poem of the Week – The Dog in School. Also January winners and February word!

From The Mouse Was Out At Recess

AND THE WINNERS ARE:
My thanks to everyone who participated in January’s Word of the Month challenge. We had a record number of adults and students who wrote poems inspired by “time” and shared their work for us all to enjoy.

In the adult category our January Hall of Fame Poet is talented and prolific Steven Withrow from Cumberland, Rhode Island. Second place goes to Beth Carter from Springfield, Missouri, and the third place winner is Gay Fawcett from Palm Bay, Florida. Congratulations to all of our adult winners!

After an exciting race between the two front runners, the Hall of Fame Young Poet for January is John Sullivan a 6th grader from Maumee Valley Country Day in Toledo, Ohio. Second place goes to Rachel Heinrichs, a 4th grade student at Glen Acres Elementary in West Chester, Pennsylvania. Our third place winner is another Maumee Valley Country Day student, 6th grader Sam Shekut. Good going kids! We’re very proud of you and we know that your teachers, family, classmates, and friends are too.

NOW IT’S TIME TO ANNOUNCE THE WORD OF THE MONTH FOR FEBRUARY! Road

Start your engines. Cutoff is midnight CST on February 22. Don’t miss out on the fun.

REMINDER: Today is the last day to register on my guest book if you’d like to be in the pool for a free book or a critique of poems or picture book. This must be your first time to register to qualify for the drawing. Right now there are only 21 in the pool. To register, go to my website, open Guest Book, click on Leave a Message (under my name), follow the directions to leave a message, and click post comment.

David

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Announcing Jane Yolen

BULLETIN: TOMORROW I’LL POST THE JANUARY WINNERS!

BULLETIN: TOMORROW I’LL GIVE YOU THE WORD OF THE MONTH CHALLENGE FOR FEBRUARY.

To Laura Robb my sincere thanks for yesterday’s guest article. Laura, I always learn from you.

Today I’m pleased to announce that Jane Yolen will be a featured guest on March 12. At the bottom of this post I’ve listed other exciting guests who are already scheduled to appear.

As we come down to the wire on voting for January’s Hall of Fame Poets, the race is exciting. If you haven’t read all the poems yet, click on the line just above each ballot box and that takes you to them. Leaders going into the last day are: Steven Withrow, Gay Fawcett, and Delane Parrott for adults and Rachel Heinrichs, John Sullivan , and Sam Shekut for students. Previous Monthly Hall of Fame Poets Liz Korba and Mimi Cross continue their strong showing. Other poets are close behind and will appreciate all the support they can get.

I’m pleased to tell you that over the first four months of Word of the Month Poetry Challenge our poets have come to us from the following states and beyond: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Virginia, England, and Philippines. If I have missed anyone, please let me know.

If your state isn’t represented, I’d love to post a poem from you in February. I can’t track the origin of all the comments but I’m sure it would add many other states and areas if I knew them. My thanks to all.

Please remember that tonight the voting poles cut off at midnight CST. Voting has been brisk and fun to watch. Now is the time to pull out all the stops. Poets, if you haven’t asked your support team to pitch in, do it now. Students, have you asked your classmates, friends, and families to vote for you? Let’s see some action!

Here’s an update on upcoming blog guests. Laura Purdie Salas (2/5), Lee Bennett Hopkins (2/12), Tim Rasinski (2/19), Laura Backes (2/26), June Rae Wood (3/5), Jane Yolen (3/12), and Dan Burr (3/19). I hope you won’t miss a one of these great guests!
David

Laura Robb today

BULLETIN: Current leaders in the race for January Hall of Fame Poets are Steven Withrow, Gay Fawcett, and Delane Parrott. Student leaders are Rachel Heinrichs, John Sullivan, and Sam Shekut.

REMINDER: Balloting closes at midnight CST Saturday night. Don’t miss your chance to vote!

HELPFUL HINT: TO VOTE, GO TO THE VOTING BOXES, WHICH ARE POSTED ON JANUARY 25. YOU CAN SCROLL DOWNWARD TO REACH THEM. IF YOU WANT TO READ THE POEMS AGAIN, JUST ABOVE OF THE BOXES YOU’LL SEE A LINE THAT SAYS “CLICK HERE TO READ ADULT POEMS” OR “CLICK HERE TO READ STUDENTS’ POEMS.” WHEN YOU ARE READY TO VOTE, PUT YOUR POINTER ON THE CIRCLE TO THE LEFT OF YOUR CHOICE IN THE VOTING BOX AND CLICK IT. THEN DROP DOWN TO THE VOTE BUTTON AT THE BOTTOM RIGHT AND CLICK ON THAT. YOU’RE DONE. REPEAT THE PROCESS IN EACH BOX.

It is now my pleasure to present my friend and colleague, Laura Robb. Tell friends that Laura is posted today so they can also enjoy what she has to tell us. Her remarks today are about encouraging and supporting young readers.

THE POWER OF INDEPENDENT PRACTICE READING

by Laura Robb

A study of why students scored high on an international reading test taken by 32 countries was written up in the January, 2008 issue of The Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy. The authors were more interested in what was unique about the reading lives and habits of some students that enabled them to score high. What they discovered relates directly to independent practice reading. One indicator was the amount of leisure reading students did at home and in school. Another key indicator was the diversity and length of texts students read. Those who scored the highest read long texts that included magazines, newspapers, fiction, and nonfiction; Those whose scores were solid but not as high as the group who read long texts read shorter texts that included magazines, comic, newspapers, fiction, and nonfiction.

The choices we teachers offer students, the diversity of texts in our classroom libraries, sharing these findings with students so they know the score and can make informed decisions about practice reading, and the amount of time students have for independent reading work together to build students’ ability to concentrate on a wide variety of texts.

Providing Choice

When I invite my students to write about their experiences with class libraries, and what they value about them, two matters always surface: 1) being given the opportunity to choose their own books and 2) having time to read at school.

The word choice always reminds me of the Arthurian Legend, “Gawain and the Loathley Lady” in The Sword and the Circle (Sutcliffe, 1981). The knight, Gawain, loves and wishes to marry the Lady Ragnell who is half free of a spell that makes her hideously ugly or beautiful half of each day. Once Gawain tells his love to make the choice whether she wishes to be beautiful by day and hideously ugly at night or the reverse, he breaks the spell that is upon her. By giving the Lady Ragnell choice, Sir Gawain shows a deep understanding of a basic need all of us have–the need to choose and exercise control over our lives. The right to choose was such a powerful force that it broke the enchantment and freed Ragnell to be her beautiful self all the time. Our students, like us and Ragnell, crave opportunities to choose, for choice gives us control over our lives and supports growth in reading.

In addition to choice being a desire among all age groups, offering middle schoolers the right to choose books has extra advantages because choice:

develops

students’ literary tastes, enabling them to discover what they do and don’t enjoy reading;

cultivates

students’ personal reading lives; students are more likely to read at home when they know the kinds of books that engage and interest them;

shows

students that you trust them to select books that meet their needs;

builds

students’ self-confidence as they repeatedly choose books they want to finish;

strengthens

reading fluency and reading stamina; choice makes it more likely that a student will reread favorite books and deepen their understanding of them; and

helps

students learn to concentrate —because they are more likely to complete books they want to read.

Providing Time To Read At School

Equally as important as choice is providing time to read during class. Without exception, my own research and the research of others have shown that middle school students value class time to read because once they leave school, homework and after school activities take up most of the day and evening. Eleanor, an eighth grader, noted an added benefit of time to read at school: “People who don’t enjoy reading don’t read out of school. But if you have to read in school, you might learn to enjoy it.” Making the time for independent reading can be a challenge. Consider the suggestions that have worked at my school and at schools where I coach teachers: Language arts teachers with daily, 90 minute class blocks can reserve 15 to 20 minutes a week for independent, silent reading. Teachers with 45 minute classes can set aside 15-20 minutes twice a week.
Teachers with self-contained classes can schedule silent reading at least four times a week, preferably five.

Silent reading at home and at school provides middle school students with the practice reading they need to enlarge their vocabulary and background knowledge, improve reading rate and fluency, develop their imaginations, mental imaging abilities, and inferential thinking.

Encourage Reflection With Book Logs

To help my students think about and share their independent reading, I have them keep a book log. Students can create this simple book log form: Student’s name at the top; title and author and date completed for each book read. Book logs can encourage students to reflect on their independent reading lives, make book-to-book connections, and reveal to you their reading tastes and habits. But they’re only effective if they are used wisely. What do I mean by that? I mean that first, students have to be given three to five minutes twice a week to update their book logs. Without this time set aside, the logs suffer the same fate as home exercise machines! Students come to see them as busy work. Second, students must interact with the data in the logs. Without this social component, it seems of little value to students. For example, about half way through the school year, book log writing is in need of an infusion of prompts. I set aside about five to seven minutes for students to review their book logs. Next, I invite pairs or groups to brainstorm for a few minutes to create a list of discussion points and questions they would be eager to answer in future book log entries. I compile all the ideas on the chalkboard or chart paper.

Prompts for Book Log Reflections

Here’s the list one class of eighth graders composed:
Books we loved and reread.
The number of books read early in the year compared to the number of books read at this point in the year.
Compare the amount of independent reading completed in past years to this year.

Think about the kinds of genres you’re reading using these questions:
Is it the same genre or is there variety?
Are the books very long, short, or a mixture of both?
Is there a certain author you really enjoy and seek out?
Is there a book you have reread many times or one you plan to reread?
What makes this book so special that you repeatedly reread it?
Is there a book you’d recommend to a classmate? Explain why.
Once students experience that reviewing their book logs can help them gather insights into their personal reading lives, they tend to be serious about reflecting on their lists of books.

Book logs help students discover books others enjoyed. My students value book recommendations from classmates that come from their book logs, from short two to four minute monthly oral book talks, and by reading one another’s short, strong opinions about books on the graffiti board. Christa summed up benefits of sharing books this way: “I love the book talks ‘cause they give me ideas for reading I would never have chosen.”

Laura Robb tomorrow

BULLETIN: In the voting for January’s Hall of Fame Poet, Steve Withrow remains in the lead among eligible contenders. Mimi Cross and Liz Korba, previous winners, continue to make strong showings. For Hall of Fame Young Poet, our leaders are Rachel Heinrichs, John Sullivan, and Sam Shekut.
REMINDER: Please remember to cast your ballots, one for an adult and one for a student. Just scroll down to the ballot boxes, click on the poets of your choice, and hit the vote button. Last chance to vote is midnight CST this Saturday, the 30th.

As promised, my guest for tomorrow will be Laura Robb. Laura is a tireless promoter of reading, a master teacher, a careful researcher, a popular author of books about reading development, and much sought after consultant and lecturer. Here is more information about tomorrow’s guest.

Author, teacher, consultant, Laura Robb has taught grades 4 through 8 for 43 years. Robb continues to teach for eight weeks each year. She has written 19 books on reading and writing for teachers and published materials for Great Source for students. Robb speaks at conferences all over the country and trains teachers in school districts in Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. She has received an Honorary Doctorate from Shenandoah University for her work in literacy and in 2009 received the “Friend of Literacy Award” from Nassau Reading Council in New York. Robb has two new books coming out this spring: Teaching Middle School Writers: What Every English Teacher Needs to Know published by Heinemann and a second edition of Teaching Reading in Middle School, published by Scholastic. You can reach Laura Robb and find many teaching materials on her Web site: www.LRobb.com

Be sure to visit tomorrow to read what Laura has to share with us. You’ll be glad you did!
David

POETRY TIP #2, THE LINE: ARRANGEMENT

BULLETIN: Current leaders for January Hall of Fame Poets are Mimi Cross, Liz Korba, and Steve Withrow. Mimi and Liz have won previously so Steve is the leading contender. Student poet leaders are Rachel Heinrichs, Sam Shekut, and Cecily White.
REMINDER: Voting ends at midnight CST this Saturday, January 30.

As promised, here’s another Wednesday Poetry Tip. I hope you you’ll post comments, suggestions, and questions.

THE LINE: ARRANGEMENT

Poetry, whether verse or free verse, is constructed in lines and a great deal depends upon how the poet arranges them. Pulitzer winning poet Karl Shapiro said, “The line provides the greatest possible concentration of meaning and feeling in the most controlled manner possible.”

Free verse provides the poet with more flexibility (and more decisions) about the best arrangement for conveying meaning and feeling. Generally, positions of greatest emphasis fall near the end or the beginning of a poetic line. Read some poems by another Pulitzer winner and 2007-2008 U. S. Poet Laureate, Charles Simic, for good examples of how a single sentence can be crafted into a powerful stanza of free verse. Here’s the opening to “Evening Walk” from The Voice at 3:00 A.M. (Harcourt, 2003, page 61).

You give the appearance of listening

To my thoughts, O trees,

Bent over the road I am walking

On a late summer evening

When every one of you is a steep staircase

The night is slowly descending.

Would you have arranged any of Simic’s lines differently? It would be as simple as moving furniture around a room.

You give the appearance

Of listening to my thoughts, O trees

Bent over the road

I am walking on a late summer evening . . .”

. . . is still a poem, but in the first line the emphasis has changed from what the trees appear to be doing –listening – to how they look, which is less important at this point. In the third line we have traded off walking along the road for a stronger emphasis on the road itself, another poor exchange. The road isn’t what’s important; walking along it is.

In certain fixed forms of verse, the poet has less flexibility. A short ballad stanza must be phrased in four lines with three beats (usually iambic) in lines 1, 2, and 4 and four beats in line 3. Change the basic recipe and you bake something else.

A limerick is told in five lines with lines 1, 2, and 5 three anapestic beats long and lines 3 and 4 two anapestic beats long. A lot of limericks fall somewhat short of the goal, but they all have five lines that approximate the basic definition for that kind of Cinquain (or Quintet if you prefer).

However the poem is told, the line establishes at once the rules for reading it. Here’s “Giraffe” (from Snowman Sniffles and Other Verse, by N. M. Bodecker, Atheneum, 1983, page 18).



I like giraffe and hope that he

In his own way is fond of me

Despite the fact that he and I

Did never quite see eye to eye.

 

That’s known as a long ballad stanza (4, 4, 4, and 4 beats respectively) told in two couplets and it’s typically Bodecker-clever. But the poet didn’t choose to break the lines the way I’ve written them. Since no one could see eye to eye with a giraffe, Bodecker obligingly arranged his lines into something more appropriate.

I like

the giraffe

and hope that he

in his

own way

is fond of me,


despite

the fact

that he and I

did never

quite

see eye to eye.

The poet chose to emphasize the imposing height of his subject by breaking four traditional lines into twelve and further dividing them into two stanzas. The new lines, some now as brief as one or two words, urge us to read a bit slower and think a bit longer about the tall star of the poem.

Coming up – on Wednesdays when I can answer the bell — will be similarly brief discussions about other aspects of poetic lines, including number of beats, end-stopped, enjambment, punctuation, capitalization, syllabic, and accentual.

REMINDER: SIGN MY GUEST BOOK THIS MONTH FOR A CHANCE FOR A POETRY OR PICTURE BOOK CRITIQUE.

David