Friday, November 27, 2015

inner poetry turkey

Last Friday morning at this time I had dashed off a post (out of Poetry Friday pride, mostly--"I can get this done before my full day at NCTE") about feeding my inner poetry chickens.  Julie Larios commented that she would be interested to hear what I heard at this annual Convention of the National Council of Teachers of English, and feeling thankful for the experience, I will now get down to business and talk turkey about some details.

On Thursday...
I saw Emily Smith of Austin, TX, winner of the 2015 Donald Graves Award, talk about teaching, as a white woman, as though black and brown lives matter.  "I can’t change the color of my skin or where I come from [...] but I can change the way I teach."

I saw Alison Bechdel, cartoonist and graphic memoirist (Dykes to Watch Out For, Funhome) speak about learning to read from her father, learning to write from her mother, and creating her own mode of expression as a way both to distance herself from and honor them and her countercultural lesbian feminist experience.

Then I hung out with Laura Purdie Salas, Sylvia Vardell & Janet Wong, and met Susan Marie Swanson for the first time.  We ate and drank and yukked it up at the Ivy Hotel and its restaurant, Monello.

On Friday...
I heard some teacher-researchers talk about the effects on kindergarten writers of explicit growth mindset lessons in a writing workshop.  What the presenters did was simple but powerful.  They measured before and after indicators of effort, motivation and persistence (both observed and self-reported by the children) during writing, and in addition to standard use-your-tools minilessons they also taught this-is-hard-and-you-can-do-it lessons using two characters called Ziggy and Nash.

I saw how Gayle and Ryan Campbell, 3rd and 10th grade teachers, engaged their students in a poetry-writing project across schools.  The older kids were trained to mentor the younger in a book-based villanelle-writing collaboration...very cool.  I'm thinking about middle-schoolers, 2nd graders, and triolets....

Then I went to a session I didn't expect to get much out of:  "The Selfie Center."  I went because I know some colleagues had used a selfie theme for their back-to-school bulletin boards and I thought they might be interested, and because I couldn't picture what a selfie center would be.  I'll just direct you to this link and mention that I'm currently trying to figure out how to get this set up in my classroom using my Donors Choose Kindles....

Next I surprised myself by going to a big panel session I hadn't planned on with Katherine Applegate, Kate Messner and Heidi EY Stemple about how the writing process isn't really standardizable--every book you successfully write teaches you only how to write THAT book, not the next one or beyond.  My takeway here, for myself and for my students, is that Noticing and Wondering is the real first skill of writers, and that Your Voice Matters is the second concept I can teach, and that This Is Hard AND You Can Do It is the third and probably last most important lesson.

Are you tired yet?
Because there's still ten cool teacher/librarians talking about how the Nerdy Book Club blog changed their lives (I have no notes from this session so I guess I needed a break here too).

And then there was Margaret Simon (among others) firing me up at a session called "Igniting Wonder" by showing lots of tools for digital literacies.  My favorite were the Animoto poetry videos made by her GT students.  I had to split before the 2nd roundtable opportunity here in order to go and enjoy a simultaneously scheduled session featuring Janet, Sylvia, Susan Marie and Laura, Into the Poem, in which teachers were encouraged to use poetry for physically active "performances."  We do this all the time in my classroom (hmmm, less in 2nd than I did in K; must rectify that!) so I went mainly to support my Grapefruit peeps.  The new Poetry Friday Anthology for Celebrations is extra awesome because every poem appears also in Spanish, and the very new Poetry of Science for Kids coming out in December is a remix of the Poetry Friday Anthology for Science with black-and-white illustrations extremely suitable for home or classroom enjoyment.

At this point my task has become larger than my time available (and my borrowed computer is starting to disobey, insisting on translating Pomelo to Grapefruit!), so this recap will have to be continued later this weekend.

Please visit the roundup at Carol's Corner this week, and know how thankful I am for this Poetry Friday community and for you, dear readers!

Friday, November 20, 2015

middle of november: must be ncte!
"Who is here for the first time ever?"  Not me; but I remember that time.
"Who's attending their 2nd to 5th NCTE Convention?"  Hm, feels like longer than that.
"Who has been coming between 6 and 10 years?"  This time I raised my hand, and now let's see if I'm right...

Philadelphia 2009
Orlando 2010
Chicago 2011
I didn't go to Las Vegas in 2012; instead we moved house (fun, but not the same kind of fun at all!).
Boston 2013

DC 2014

And now here I am in Minneapolis 2015, my sixth NCTE.  I've also been to two ALAs (New Orleans and DC) and probably 3 SCBWI  February Winter Conferences in New York, as well as two very seminal workshops at the Highlights Foundation.  I'm very lucky to attend any of these, since my school district does not offer, as far as I know, any funding whatsoever (and indeed I would be stunned to find anyone from Montgomery County, MD here at NCTE--I've never come across anyone, although I have to assume that at least a few HS teachers come.)

NCTE used to be fun but stressful for me as I tried to figure out how to allocate my precious 2-3 days of attendance. (Can you say "overchoice"?)  Now I have a system which is a little confusing to some but which is working well:  I come to NCTE as a poet and not as a teacher.  Yes, I want to learn about things I can apply in my classroom, but I spend hours and hours every day being a teacher and not nearly enough, proportionally speaking, being a poet. 

So when I come to NCTE, I look for the sessions which are being given by poet friends, and that way I meet THEIR friends and colleagues who are new to me, and I find out about their work and projects.  I also seek out sessions which are about poetry and its uses and applications, and that way I meet folks and poems and streams of thought that are brand new to me (and which may well be applicable in my classroom).  It's easy to fill up a schedule that way, and I come away from the convention feeling like I did something to tend the "back 40," as it were, to toss a little feed in the direction of my inner poetry chickens.

Woman Feeding Chickens | Roy Scheele
Her hand is at the feedbag at her waist,
sunk to the wrist in the rustling grain
that nuzzles her fingertips when laced
around a sifting handful. It’s like rain,
like cupping water in your hand, she thinks,
the cracks between the fingers like a sieve,
except that less escapes you through the chinks
when handling grain. She likes to feel it give
beneath her hand’s slow plummet, and the smell,
so rich a fragrance she has never quite
got used to it, under the seeming spell...
Read the rest at The Poetry Foundation.

So here's a thank you to the lovely hostesses at the Pomelo party I attended last night--Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong;  here's to meeting up with old friends like Mary Lee Hahn;  here's a thank you to Tricia, who's hosting Poetry Friday today and whom we miss, and here's to a really full weekend of poetry tending and feeding! 

Friday, November 13, 2015

wild all right

I hope Irene is still celebrating her 10th bloggiversary over at Live Your Poem, because I don't want to miss the party and my life has been--well, a little wild lately.

wild, all right--
in all the most ordinary ways:
the wild,
mild weather,
the threat and wet,
the unexpected,
microclysmic climate

wild, all right--
the wild
child changing,
the wrest and test,

wild, all right--
the wild,
piled letters,
the "better," "best,"
the unrelenting,
college-bound suggested

wild, all right--
the wild,
whiled passage
the ebb and flow
the unremarked

all wild
all change
all right