Friday, December 30, 2011


And lo, the blog went forth and multiplied, and there appeared on the face of the earth a new page chronicling my efforts during November 2011 to write one poem per day.  Jump to it here:

Poetry Friday--the last of 2011--is at The Drift Record with Julie.  Happy New Year to all.

Friday, December 23, 2011

and lo, sickness fell upon the house

amoxicillin ibuprofen
double triple dose
fever lingers glands are swollen
only fit part is my nose
hives and itching hands ballooned
I hope I hope to get well soon

hope you all are healthier over the holidays!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

taking care of business

Home sick today, but not too sick to appreciate this, posted on the listserv of the large, diverse middle school where my daughter attends a magnet program.  Hooray for a stroke of sanity in the world!

EMS Families,

At Eastern Middle School we are committed to creating opportunities that support each and every student being the best that they can be. Recently we have been investigating ways to help all students improve their reading ability. The research we found told us that in order to be a better reader a person must read 20 minutes per day. The teachers discussed the research and decided that our "Taking Care of Business" time could and should be used to give everyone at Eastern 20 minutes to read every day.

When we return from break we will make a change to how we use the TCB time. Every Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday students will report to their sixth period class during TCB. Students and staff will be expected to use the TCB time to read quietly. You can read any item of your choice… a novel, a magazine, a newspaper, a graphic novel… whatever you like. You can read in the language of your choice. Teachers and staff will be reading too… and reading email will not count!

For those students that were at Eastern last year and participated in Maryland State Assessment prep activities in January and February --- this silent reading program will take the place of MSA prep. This is your time to take a break and enjoy a good book. We believe that taking time every day to read will help all of us… students and adults become better readers.

During winter break visit the library and select books that you would like to read and bring them to school when we return from break. If you don't have time to visit the library or you forget… don't worry, your teachers will have materials in the classrooms for you.

If you have any questions about this change your are encouraged to contact any staff member at Eastern for clarification. We hope that you will enjoy and take advantage of this opportunity to get lost in a good book!

Casey Crouse
Proud Principal

Friday, December 16, 2011

red and gold the fluffy threads

It's taken the best part of a week, but our tree--not a Christmas tree exactly, but an evergreen Yule tree--is finally "quite dressed."  Reading at that link, I found something I didn't know, that the Druids decorated their evergreens with "images of what they wanted the waxing year to bring."  By design, our tree is hung with flora and fauna: many rustic and realistic animals, fruit and flowers, stars and snowflakes, sweet Laplanders and Alpenkinder.  I guess these images from nature are what I'm always wishing for.  (Our tradition of hanging plain little gingerbread men rather confuses the concept, but as I've done it every year since I was born, it's not December without them.)

Tonight the kids pulled a slip from the Solstice countdown calendar which invited them to make a fire in the fireplace (for Duncan), roast marshmallows (for Daisy) and read from our collection of holiday books and poems. We worked our way through toddler favorites (Happy Christmas, Maisy; lifting the flaps is still fun), classics ("The Night Before Christmas") and finally the lovely spangled little tree by e.e. cummings, illustrated by Deborah Kogan Ray. 

[little tree]

little tree
little silent Christmas tree
you are so little
you are more like a flower

who found you in the green forest
and were you very sorry to come away?
see i will comfort you
because you smell so sweetly

i will kiss your cool bark
and hug you safe and tight
just as your mother would,
only don't be afraid

look...................... the spangles
that sleep all the year in a dark box
dreaming of being taken out and allowed to shine,
the balls the chains red and gold the fluffy threads,

put up your little arms
and i'll give them all to you to hold
every finger shall have its ring
and there won't be a single place dark or unhappy

then when you're quite dressed
you'll stand in the window for everyone to see
and how they'll stare!
oh but you'll be very proud

and my little sister and i will take hands
and looking up at our beautiful tree
we'll dance and sing
"Noel Noel"

by e. e. cummings

Put up your little arms, world.

The rest of Poetry Friday is with Kate Coombs at Book Aunt.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

OIK Tuesday: desert island coconuts

Today's Overheard in Kindergarten is actually "Overheard at Hinode," the sushi restaurant where Duncan, now 9, and I have been eating together since he was a toddler.  We enjoyed the buffet dinner there the other night and had some interesting conversation during which we each schooled the other on the question of perspective.

Duncan posed me a problem involving a desert island, coconuts and some "nerds."  He then answered all my follow-up questions,  though  somewhat impatiently. When I finally got to the end of my earnest and strategic adult plan to solve the problem, he said, "Wow. You really think differently about this than anyone else I've asked. They all just throw the coconuts at the nerds." 

Of course, everyone he's asked is a 3rd-grade boy--except for Bella, his good friend who first got the nerds to help her build a cannon, from which she then fired the coconuts at the nerds! (That right there is why they're such good friends.)   Here's my poem.

What To Do If You Are Stranded On a Desert Island
with Nothing But a Lot of Coconuts and Some Nerds

Who are the nerds?
Am I friends with them?
What is my aim?
Are there coconut palms or just coconuts?
Am I trying to survive there
or am I trying to escape back
to civilization?
What time of year is it?
Why are they nerds?
What are they passionate about?
(After all, nerds are just people who are so focused on one or two things, like physics,
that they forget to notice other things, like what clothes are fashionable.)

First I would introduce myself to the nerds.
I'd ask them to help me devise a way to
crack a lot of coconuts in a short time.
We would drink the coconut water and eat the meat.
Meanwhile we would design and build a raft
out of the coconut shells and palm fronds.
Through cooperation and ingenuity
we would triumph over adversity and the ravages of nature!

Or maybe I would just
throw the coconuts at the nerds.

Heidi Mordhorst 2011
all rights reserved

Friday, December 9, 2011

picturing writing: literacy through art

At NCTE I found myself laughing at myself, because with 700 sessions to choose from, I managed to attend a session that I had already attended last year!  Not so surprising--the concept of "Picturing Writing: Fostering Literacy through Art" is right up my personal alley, and the collage-based approach called "Image-Making Within the Writing Process" is my back door.  Thanks to Beth Olshansky and her teacher colleagues for leading me home (two years in a row).

So, in our new 2.0 Elementary Integrated Curriculum we are supposed, as winter sets in, to be studying plant and animal life cycles, planting seeds and learning about baby animals. (Never mind that all around us dying, darkening, sleeping.)  To tie it all together and to lead us into a poetry project, I chose Leo Lionni's Frederick and Eric Carle's The Tiny Seed, which we have been comparing and contrasting, enacting and evaluating: which parts of this story could really happen?  do Frederick and his family do what real mice do? 

Meanwhile, each child used watercolors to paint 3-6 papers for collage, in the manner of both Carle and Lionni. As the class worked to see what animals, plants and weather their unpredictable painted papers suggested, I learned quite a lot that will help me support the project next time!  (Note to self:  20 collaging kindergarteners at once is too many.)  Still, their collages are very pleasing, often striking, and most importantly, quite individual. 

This week we're placing our collages in front of us and writing poems.  While a couple of the 5-year-olds are able to write their compositions on their own, for most I'm scribing with strategically placed blanks for them to spell juicy words like fish, rain, float and lion.  I cannot wait to share the whole collection with you, but for now I have only two to hand.  Jordan cut 4 shapes from a pinkish-purple paper, arranged them as a fish on a stripy bluish sea paper, and then painstakingly cut and glued maroon and ochre spots from another paper to create a bubbly surface. Here is his poem.

Mighty Minnow
by Jordan

mighty minnow swimming fast
in a deep, deep sea
pinkish-purple spots and dots
do you see any more colors
or anything else on me?

Ezekial is my youngest nearly 6-year-old and My Project for the year. We worked very closely to make the lion he imagined out of a deep muddyish turquoise paper. Here is the poem we negotiated.

by Ezekial

the blue dad lion
is walking to his wife
the playground is their house
they eat leaves and grass
they climb up the ladders
and they jump!

Extra poet's note: My plan, of course, was to model the collage-to-poem move using my own giraffe-under-sunset collage...but as my colleagues often say, "Kindergarten happened," and I found myself sitting down to write with children without ever having modeled. Guess what? For this class anyway, it has not mattered. Perhaps the other poetry we've been reading (most recently Frederick's "Sky Mice" poem and Douglas Florian's Beast Feast) and all the singing we've done has been enough. Their words sing, too!

Bonus activity:  the children are loving acting out each poem as it's completed. More soon...

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

OIK Tuesday: guts

Back before Thanksgiving, when I asked the children to list what they were thankful for, I went for variety by specifying some categories:  a person, a food, something in nature, something at school, something you like to play, a part of your body.   Talia suprised me by writing "my intinestinse" (which, unlike the average 5-year-old, she felt confident to spell independently).

Clearly intestines remain of great interest to her.  Having read Frederick all last week, we are looking forward to a visit from real pet mice and listing what we know and what we wonder about mice.  On our KNOW chart, Talia's statement reads, "Mice have intestines."  On our WONDER chart, her question reads, "Do mice have intestines?" She has a sense, very vague, of what intestines are for.  But I think she could use some further information.

I'm working on a mouse intestines poem for Talia--do you have one too?

Friday, December 2, 2011

give e-poetry this season!

Folks, there could not be an easier, cooler stocking-stuffer for your iGeneration kids than p*tag, the downloadable poetry anthology for Kindle, Nook or iPad.  For a mere $2.99, you can send a collection of fresh, original poems  for readers 12 and older straight to their digital devices!

In addition to p*tag for teens, there's Poetry Tag Time, perfect for your elementary teacher friends, and Gift Tag (pictured here), which features poems about presents.   All can be enjoyed on iPhones, Kindles, Nooks, computers and interactive whiteboards.

For a taste of p*tag, here's my piece "The Wishing Tree," introduced this way:

People (adults, mostly) say that “money doesn’t grow on trees, you know,” like it’s no work at all to produce a crop of juicy peaches or shiny acorns.  Other people (little kids, mostly) think that lots of things grow on trees, like corks and popcorn.  This photo came with the title “Wishing,” so it was easy to embrace the intriguing idea that wishes grow on trees.  Does that mean there’s a Come-True Tree somewhere?

A Wishing Tree

on every star
every puff of birthday breath
every penny down the well
you wish for the same thing

on every four-leaf clover
every loose eyelash
every turkey’s furcula
you wish for the same thing

(can’t tell us, can you?
if you do it won’t come true)
you wish it every day
until one day you’re walking along,

secretly wishing on random things:
cloud shaped like a duck
three green punch-buggies in a row
your own lucky-left blue shoe

and you find—who knew?—a wishing tree
hung with white wishes as light as popcorn:
“I wish I could fly”
“I wish for a slumber party with a rock star”
and of course
“I wish to have three more wishes”

reaching deeper between the leaves
you find riper, heavier wishes:
“I wish my dog was still alive”
“I wish I had stuck up for myself”
and then—no way!—
“My wish is the same as yours”

this one you pluck, fold in half and
tuck into your right shoe,
waltzing away on the soles
of twin wishes

Heidi Mordhorst 2011
from p*tag, compiled and edited by Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong

To give p*tag as an online gift, go to Poetry Tag Time.  Click on the "Give as a Gift" button at the Amazon listings for our books, follow the prompts, and a book will be ready to download instantly on a Kindle or iPad.  Be a poetry elf!