Sunday, December 8, 2013

Holiday Haiku by Carolee Dean

I try to avoid the teacher's lounge during the holidays. The supply of sugary, buttery sweets is endless.

Several years ago I gave up baking cookies for the holidays and started giving away bookmarks with poems I'd created. Not only are these treats non-fattening, they are totally gluten free and last all year long! 

I love haiku poems. They have a simple form of three lines with a syllable structure of 5-7-5. It takes minutes to learn the rules of haiku, but a lifetime to master the art.

 I find it a great mental exercise for students of all ages to brainstorm a subject (winter holidays for instance) and categorize words and phrases into syllables. Even high school students continue to struggle with understanding syllable structure, a fundamental skill for decoding increasingly longer and more difficult words.

I like to start with a brainstorming session where we create a "word wall" on the white board. I then type the list and pass it out the next time I meet with students. Reluctant writers have the words spelled out for them and then may simply put interesting combinations together to create a haiku poem. Students who want a greater challenge are free to ditch the list and create their own. I always leave extra space at the bottom of the list for any last minute inspirations. The haiku poems may then be written on cards or custom made bookmarks. 

One Syllable
Two Syllable
Three Syllable
Four Syllable
Five Syllable

Snow Day
The Grinch
Ski Lodge

Jingle Bells
Pumpkin Pie
Black Friday
Ice Skating
Mrs. Claus
Hot Cocoa
Candy Cane
Winter Break
New Year’s Eve
Button Nose
Merry Christmas
Happy New Year
Silver and Gold
Apple Cider
Two Hour Delay
Saint Nicholas

Frosty the Snowman
Watching the Ball Drop
One Horse Open Sleigh
Gingerbread Houses
Winter  Wonderland
Nutcracker Ballet
A Red-Nosed Reindeer

Here are a few examples: 

Green elves who live in
haunted gingerbread houses
shouldn't throw snow balls

Frosty the Snowman
ice skating in Central Park
watching the ball drop

Warm, woolen mittens,
snowflakes on reindeer noses,
A cold winter's night

Drink some hot cocoa, 
and write yourself some poems. 
We'll see you next year!!

Monday, December 2, 2013

Eight Authors. Five New Titles. Two Weeks. One Fierce Tour.

...and one great giveaway.
Young Adult authors Gennifer AlbinLeigh BardugoAnn Aguirre, and Jessica Brody came through Albuquerque, NM at the end of October for stop two on their eight-city Fierce Reads tour. The Spellbinders had the opportunity to talk with the authors beforehand and moderated their discussion.

What's your weirdest writing habit? 
Gennifer Albin: I often but not always burn incense.
Jessica Brody: I never drink coffee unless I’m writing. It’s “productive juice.” I try to eat the same thing, tricking my brain into knowing it’s writing time. I listen to the same white noise track with a brain entrainment work track underneath. And I put on Mac Freedom. 
Leigh Bardugo: I use Mac Freedom, too. I eat the same thing every morning. Pot roast. When I’m on deadline, it’s 15 minutes for each meal, the rest of the time at my desk. If writing with friends, we take each others’ phones so we stay offline.
Ann Aguirre: I start at the same time every day and treat writing like a day job. I make sure my words are done before turning on the Internet and turn it off when I feel distractible. I’m generally done with my writing by lunch. Then I’ll do social media stuff.

What is cool about writing a series?
Jessica Brody: I like writing trilogies because you have more opportunity to create a bigger character arc. By the time a stand alone comes out and you are marketing it, you have moved on to other books.
Leigh Bardugo: The most intense book for me was book two because I was working on deadline. The biggest challenge was book three because it was about closing doors [rather than opening them]. 
Gennifer Albin: I wrote the first book of the Crewel series on a library computer during NaNoWriMo and now sit on the advisory board. The Crewel world trilogy starts with a secret. Book two has more secrets, more violence, and more kissing. 
Ann Aguirre: I prefer writing series to writing stand alone books. Even though I’ve written series of 5-6 books, I prefer trilogies. I have a trilogy brain. I admire writers who write 20 books on the  same character. I would have killed all the characters by now.

I noticed three of the four of you use prologues in your book.
Gennifer Albin: A good prologue is awesome, but it should serve a purpose. I write mine first. They always take place right before the story starts. They’re a bridge from the previous story to the new one. I firmly believe it’s the best page in my first novel. Hopefully it encapsulates what I’m trying to do in the whole book.
Leigh Bardugo: I knew when querying some agents were very anti-prologue, so I sent things from chapter one. All three of my books are framed with a before and after, and they are both written last. I wanted to write in first person, but wanted the sure and steady third-person guiding hand that is typical of fantasy. So the prologue has the traditional fantasy feel.
Jessica Brody: I've never heard till recently that prologues weren’t popular. A good prologue hooks you in fast. Each of my prologues will challenge my character with a different element (science vs. nature is a major part of the series). I’m inspired by Leigh’s pattern to her prologues. My second book’s prologue is a flash forward. I think prologues are great if you can find a purpose. They can’t be info dumps. Mine are called chapter zero.

How do you juggle writing and touring?
Ann Aguirre: I killed myself prior to tour to get everything turned in early. Everyday for two months was a 14 hour day. I wanted to focus on the tour and a little social media. And that’s it.
Jessica Brody: I enjoy the tour bubble. I don’t hear news. There’s not a lot of connection with family. You can set things aside for a while and choose not to think about it right now. You have to be present on tour. Give it your all. You can’t be in your head thinking about what you’re supposed to be doing [in the rest of your life]. I love being on tour. It’s easy to forget readers exist when you’re in your office, but on tour you remember why you write.
Leigh Bardugo: I’m trying to learn to be more balanced. There are phases when I’m intensely in the book, then I have a few weeks off, and then tour. Very compartmentalized. Yes, it’s challenging, but this is what I’ve wanted my whole life. I’m very happy.
Gennifer Albin: This is my third tour, and it’s the first time I’ve never had something to turn in. I have my own deadlines, things I’ve promised to readers but it’s not an editor, marketing, or PR deadline. It’s been awesome. I always think, I’ll get writing done on tour, but then I don’t.

Finally, what makes something a Fierce Read?
Jessica Brody: Something that makes you think and challenge the world around you. It brings reality to a new level, takes normal circumstances and takes them to the extreme.
Ann Aguirre: A Fierce Read has an empowered heroine. I’m tired of books with passive girls who wait for others to solve their problems, wait for the boy, wait for their families to treat them better. I want to see a character standing proudly at the helm of her own life and want readers to see what’s possible if you try. In the last 2-3 years there has been a shift in the prevailing winds. There are a lot more empowered heroines. 
Leigh Bardugo: There are lots of different ways to be empowered. For a time there was codified language used for a strong heroine. Now we can have heroines strong because they are clever or physically adept. There is so much range to build unique variety of characters.

Four lucky readers will be able to win books from the Fierce Reads Tour. Simply email Caroline directly with the heading Fierce Reads or leave a comment at the Spellbinders blog. Winners will be announced in next month's feature article.

Caroline's Classroom Connections: Jen Robinson on THE READ-ALOUD HANDBOOK

Jen Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page has graciously allowed me to share this article which originally ran at her blog. Jen knows all things kidlit, and her newsletter is a must read. Please consider clicking through to sign up

The Read-Aloud Handbook: Seventh Edition: Jim Trelease

Book: The Read-Aloud Handbook: Seventh Edition
Author: Jim Trelease
Pages: 384
Age Range: Adult nonfiction (for parents and teachers)
The 7th Edition of Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook was published in June. I pre-ordered my copy, and it arrived that day, but various things kept me from reading it until this week. I reviewed the previous edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook in 2010, having also read an earlier version before starting my blog. I was fortunate enough to hear Jim speak to parents at the Santa Clara City Library in January of 2007. My notes from that session are here. I have referenced Jim's work on encouraging reading aloud to children many times over the course of my blogging. So you may consider this more a recommendation and discussion than a formal review. 
Let me first state for the record that I believe that all parents of young children should read The Read-Aloud Handbook, as should all elementary and middle school teachers. The Read-Aloud Handbook started out as a little booklet that the author self-published in 1979 to encourage other parents to read aloud, and talk about books, with their kids. It became a phenomenon, was picked up by Penguin, and was named by Penguin in 2010 as one of the seventy-five most important books published in the company's 75 year history. It certainly had an impact on me, though I first read it long before I had a child of my own.
GBMantraThe Read-Aloud Handbook posits that instead of focusing on test-prep, flashcards, and the like, what parents and schools need to do to improve life-long levels of literacy and critical thinking, is simply read aloud to kids. I obviously agree (and posted the Read-Aloud Mantra to the left several weeks ago on my blog). 
More than 30 years after initial publication, The 7th Edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook retains Trelease's passion for reading to kids, but has a lot more references and research. The 7th Edition is about 40% changed from the 6th Edition, with new research findings, book recommendations, and discussions of the impact of eBooks and tablets. Even as someone who had read earlier editions (and follows published research studied pretty closely), once I started reading this book, I couldn't put it down. I finished it in about a day (it helps that nearly half of the book consists of a treasury of recommended read-aloud titles, which I only skimmed). 
My reading of this edition was certainly colored by the fact that I have a three-year-old daughter who I very much hope grows up to be an avid reader. I flagged a mix of items throughout the book - interesting things that I might want to share on the blog, as well as action items for myself (like getting around to putting a basket of picture books in the bathroom). I'll share some of the former here, and put the latter into a separate post. 
Here are some of the many quotes that I flagged:
"Why are students failing and dropping out of school? Because they cannot read well enough to do the assigned work--which affects the entire report card. Change the reading scores and you change the graduation rate and then the prison population--which changes the social climate of America." (Page xxvi, Introduction) 
"If we're waiting for government to save our reading souls, we've got a long wait. Ultimately it will come down to the individual student, parent, teacher, and librarian." (Page xxix, Introduction)
"One factor hidden in the decline of students' recreational reading (as they get older) is that it coincides with a decline in the amount of time adults read to them. By middle school, almost no one is reading aloud to students. If each read-aloud is a commercial for the pleasures of reading, then a decline in advertising would naturally be reflected in a decline in students' recreational reading." (Page 6, Chapter 1)
"Students who read the most also read the best, achieve the most, and stay in school the longest. Conversely, those who don't read much cannot get better at it." (Page 7)
"What motivates children and adults to read more is that (1) they like the experience, (2) they like the subject matter, and (3) they like and follow the lead of people who read a lot." (Page 10)
"The message in this kind of research (especially the Hart and Risley study on Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children) is unambiguous: It's not the toys in the home that make the difference in children's lives; it's the words in their heads. The least expensive thing we can give a child outside of a hug turns out to be the most valuable: words. You don't need a job, a checking account, or even a high school diploma to talk with a child." (Page 16)
 "Here is a crucial fact to consider in the reading and writing connection. Visual receptors in the brain outnumber auditory receptors 30:1. In other words, the chances of a word (or sentence) being retained in our memory bank are thirty times greater if we see it instead of just hear it." (Page 43, Chapter Two). 
"So how do we educate the heart? There are really only two ways: life experience and stories about life experience, which is called literature. Great preachers and teachers--Aesop, Socrates, Confucius, Moses, and Jesus--have traditionally used stories to get their lesson plans across, educating both the mind and the heart." (Page 45)
 "(Expectation of Reward / Effort Required) = Frequency of Activity... When you maintain strong reward factors and lower the number of difficulties, you will see a higher frequency of reading... If you really want to get more reading done, then take control of the distractions: needless trips to the mall, phone calls, multiple televisions, DVD players, e-mails, computer games--each calling for immediate attention or multi-tasking." (Page 84-86, Chapter 5)
"Make sure you, the adult role model, are seen reading daily. It works even better if you read at the same time as the child." (Page 92, Chapter 5)
(On applying Oprah's example of generating enthusiasm for books) "What can we apply from this to our work with children? Well, let's eliminate not all but much of the writing they're required to do whenever they read. ("The more we read, the more we gotta write, so let's read less and we can work less.") We adults don't labor when we read, so why are we forcing children to? It hasn't created a nation of writers or readers." (Page 103, Chapter 5)
"It's difficult to get good at reading if you're short of print. Government programs like No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top ensure that children who are behind in reading are entitled to after-school tutoring and extra help with phonics. Nice. But giving phonics lessons to kids who don't have any print in their lives is like giving oars to people who don't have a boat -- you don't get very far." (Page 107, Chapter 6)
"By the reckoning of its own Department of Education, California's ratio of school librarian to student ranks fifty-first in the nation, with 1 librarian for every 5,124 students, more than five times the national average of 1 to 916. Even the state's adult prison system does better, with 1 librarian to 4,283 inmates." (Page 109). Sigh!
(On reading blogs, tablets, social networks instead of books) "Reading, when it's done today, doesn't go very deep, and it's so private it's invisible. The trouble is, how do you pass invisible torches? How do you pose as an invisible role model?"
"...the e-book is here to stay, for very legitimate reasons. It's a win-win situation: a moneymaker for the publisher and a money saver for the buyer. It also saves time, space, student spines, and trees, to say nothing of what it does for the visually impaired." (Page 131, Chapter 7)
"The research clearly shows that we read more slowly (6 to 11 percent) from a screen than from paper. As with automobile driving, humans may get better and faster at e-reading over the years--but that could take generations." (Page 133) I did not know this, and found it fascinating.
"So what happens to the creative process when there is no disconnect time, when we and our children are constantly downloading, uploading, texting, YouTubing, Googling, or tweeting our 742 "friends"? Less "deep thinking" takes place, less creativity." (Page 139)
"It is not so much what children are doing while they watch multiple hours of TV; it is the experiences they are not having that make the viewing so dangerous." (Page 142, Chapter 8)
"A California professor, Jo Stanchfield, once told me that girls tend to be extrinsically motivated in their reading (favoring the choices of their peers, mom, and teacher), while boys are intrinsically motivated (favoring what they themselves are interested in). I agree. Call it selfish or pragmatic, but guys are drawn more to what interests them, not what interests the crowd." (Page 169, Chapter 10)
There's lots more to the book, obviously, but those quotes should be more than sufficient to give you a feel, and hopefully inspire you to want to read the rest. I feel that if you have kids, or you work with kids, you should read The Read-Aloud Handbook. If you feel like you don't have time, at least read the introduction, which sums up many of the findings discussed throughout the book. The Kindle edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook is $7.99, and you can read it on your phone. (I prefer the print edition for things like this, that I'm going to refer back to, but if cost or time is an object, e-books have advantages.) 
I'm pulling out a few other ideas from this edition of The Read-Aloud Handbook, and will be sharing them as separate posts in the coming days. I welcome your feedback. 
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: June 25, 2013
Source of Book: Purchased

© 2013 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook.
Reprinted with permission

Read Jen's next article, Actions I'm Taking After Reading the New Read-Aloud Handbook
Visit author Jim Trelease's webpage here.
Teaching resources for reading aloud
Reading is Fundamental