Going to see “my” kids!

Hi everyone,

It’s going to be a good day. At 12:00 I’ll participate in a Zoom meeting with editors at Shell Professional Books and my writing partners in a new book to be with Laura Robb and Tim Rasinski. We already have an agreement to write the book but need to address more of the details prior to a contract being drafted and sent our ways in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Missouri to sign. I can’t start my part before I finish work on the current project with Scholastic, but I’m now within a few weeks from completing that one and eager to begin work on something new.

After the noon meeting I’ll just have time to make a 1:00 visit to David Harrison Elementary School! Yes!! First time I’ve been there this school year, and the last day of classes is tomorrow. Whew! I was worried I wouldn’t get to see the kids and teachers this year but this afternoon I’ll be walking with the principal, Shawn DeWitt, up and down the halls, poking my head into classrooms to wave or pause to say hello. It will be so good.

Last evening Sandy and I went out to eat at a restaurant managed by our grandson Tyler Williams, and a lovely young college student (Regan) who served us (beautifully) was not only a former Harrison student, when the school opened in 2009, she was a 3rd grader and helped cut the ribbon to officially mark the occasion. Is that cool or what?

I want to talk about my books for teachers, #4, 5, 6, 7, and 8

Hi everyone,

In a September 2007 e-mail exchange, Mary Jo Fresch, who taught in the School of Teaching and Learning, College of Education and Human Ecology at the Ohio State University, suggested, “Once you get done with Tim and the fluency book….maybe we should talk about poetry that early childhood educators could use to help develop phonemic awareness.” She was referring to Tim Rasinski and the book in progress was Partner Poems.

As our exchanges continued, Mary Jo said, “Phonological awareness is the ability to hear and manipulate sounds of English. This would be a resource for teachers to have students do sound matching, blending, isolation, addition, subtraction and substitution — all with poetry.” She would provide lists of phonic sounds, I would write a poem inspired by each sound, and she would follow up with classroom activities teachers could use with their students. “How many poems are we talking about here,” I asked. “Quite a few,” she said. “There are 37 rimes plus several other lists.” I wondered if I really could create that many poems, each inspired by nothing more than a single sound.

On my annual trip to New York City that fall I met with the director of Teaching Resources at Scholastic to review my book with Tim and while there I pitched the book with Mary Jo and me. The idea found interest so we were off and running. In April, 2008, Mary Jo sent the list of rimes and I settled down to see what I could do with ack, ail, ain, ake, ale, ame, and 31 one more sounds. In July I sent Mary Jo my first six efforts, including this one, SNACK ATTACK, inspired by the sound “ack.”

When my brother
needs a snack,
he opens every
box and pack,
gobbles every
pile and stack,
empties every
jar and sack,
looks like he
could pop
or crack,
but soon
his snack
is back.

(c) 2013 David L. Harrison, all rights reserved

After two months of reviews by Scholastic, our project was turned down because they decided it might overlap with something they already had. We tried IRA. After 13 months of working and reworking the developing manuscript for their needs, the required peer reviews came in. Two liked our manuscript a lot. The third liked it but picked at one point. Based on that, we were turned down. Still thinking and writing, we tried Heinemann, then Corwin, then Brookes, then Pearson, then Stenhouse. One near miss after another. We finally found the perfect home at Teacher Created Materials. It took another 14 months between the time we submitted and the time the contract was offered, and the original book idea had expanded into five books — LEARNING THROUGH POETRY — but we got it done.
Mary Jo and I were flown to the Shell/TCM headquarters in Huntington Beach, California where we recorded all 96 poems in the 5-volume set. When I occasionally show the picture of us in a sound booth, that’s where it came from.

Webinar finished

Hi everyone,

Thank you for your encouragement yesterday. Once that Mary Jo Fresch and I got warmed up, with Kim Bernard’s able guidance we flew straight through the webinar. I think the final time was eighteen minutes so we were about where we wanted to be. I believe that the finished result will be posted today on the Shell Education site.

Learning through PoetryLEARNING THROUGH POETRY is the series of books that we wrote for PreK-2 students to help them develop the connection between the sounds they hear and the words they see. Phonemic awareness is an important indicator of a child’s readiness to read.

For each of the 96 poems in the series I began with a basic sound (phoneme), such as a short vowel, a blended sound, long vowel, digraph, or consonant. I made a list of words that contained the same sound that I wanted to write about. Then I worked them around in various ways until the thread of an idea became apparent.

The final poem, in each case, features as many of the subject sounds as I could work in while also writing a legitimate poem in the process. It was a challenge but one that I rather enjoyed.

Here’s an example. The sound was the blend GR.

David L. Harrison

Gruff old grandpa grizzlies growl
Grimly when they eat.
With grabby claws
They fill their paws
With veggies, fruit, and meat.

Grandma grizzlies’ “grrrs” are sweet,
Their love to spoil their cubs
With grasshopper grits,
Cherry pits,
And gruel with greasy grubs.

We think gruel with grubs is gross
But grand-cub grizzlies slurp it,
They grin and groan,
Grunt and moan,
And roll their eyes and burp it.

Mary Jo used her special skills and talents to create classroom activities that teachers can follow to reinforce the subject sound in fun, useful ways. She managed to find all sorts of connections to common core standards and core subjects. What originally began as an idea for one book grew over time into the series of five titles.

Our publisher flew us to California where we spent a laughter-filled day recording all the poems so that each of the books contains a CD of our voices reading the poems in that volume.

If you know someone who should know about this series, I hope you’ll pass along the information, you can open http://shelleducation.com and search for LEARNING THROUGH POETRY.

New webinar

Hi, everyone,

A new experience for me. Three hours from the time of this posting I’ll join Mary Jo Fresch in recording a 20-minute webinar about our new 5-book series — LEARNING THROUGH POETRY.The leader of the program is Kim Bernard with Shell Education. Kim will speak from California. Mary Jo from Ohio, and I’ll pitch in from Florida.
Yesterday we had a practice session that went well so today is the real deal. We’ve been reminded to turn everything off that might make a noise and even to watch the sound of paper being shuffled.

After the webinar has been shown at sales meetings I believe it will be available to other viewers, perhaps through the Shell/TCM websites. Fingers crossed.


Poetry word list challenge

Hi everyone,

We recently played a game based on the approach I used to write poems for LEARNING THROUGH POETRY, the series of books co-written with Mary Jo Fresch and published by Shell Education. Each poem demonstrates a different sound (phoneme) that children learn in the process of becoming readers. In each case I began with a list of words that featured the subject sound and looked for something to write about that would use as many as possible of those words.

A number of you pitched in a poem or two inspired by the same word list I used and it was fun to see the diversity of expression that came from the exercise. You also said you’d like to try this again so here’s another list of words to get the juices flowing.

This list features the rime sound ATE. I’ll keep this posted for a while and then show you what I wrote based on this list. Remember that your target audience is preK-2. Start your engines.

Bait, celebrate, crate, date, eight, fate, freight, gait, gate, grate, great, hate, Kate, late, mate, Nate, plate, rate, skate, slate, state, straight, trait, wait, weight, and many more that you can think of.