Love The Horn Book!

The Horn Book has been around at least as long as me!! And, the good news is you need not subscribe (though it’s a fabulous publication!)–now you can receive newsletters to your email.

My newsletter today included Notes on Nonfiction.


Copied below is a link where you will be directed to the page where you can sign up for emails.

The Horn Book newsletter

Listen to what two encouraging words can do…


Jarrett J Krosocza

Jarrett J Krosocza is an author of many children’s books (10 and under), as well as a moderator for author chats and talks on SiriusXM radio. I had the pleasure of having Jarrett visit my class of graduate students at Shenandoah University a few years back. He shared his story of how he “came to be” and the story itself is one of motivation and inspiration to all–especially good for teachers to hear, as he is living proof that just a couple of encouraging words can help a kid along a path to discovery of talents and passions.

So, even if you don’t teach 10 and unders, I enourage you to listen to Jarrett as he tells his story on TedTalks.

You can also visit Jarrett’s website–exciting!!

Annenberg Learner


Annenberg Learner

Teachers—if you are not already familiar with the Annenberg Learner site–I urge you to go and visit. FREE to all, the site offers extensive opportunities for teacher professional development across the curriculum–K-adult!

Annenberg Learner uses media and telecommunications to advance excellent teaching in American schools. This mandate is carried out chiefly by the funding and broad distribution of educational video programs with coordinated Web and print materials for the professional development of K-12 teachers. It is part of The Annenberg Foundation and advances the Foundation’s goal of encouraging the development of more effective ways to share ideas and knowledge.

Annenberg Learner’s multimedia resources help teachers increase their expertise in their fields and assist them in improving their teaching methods. Many programs are also intended for students in the classroom and viewers at home. All Annenberg Learner videos exemplify excellent teaching.

The Journey North program alone is worth the visit. Journey North, each year, tracks butterflies and other species that migrate.

WebCams are also captivating–the baby seal webcam is very cool.

Enough said–you need not be a teacher at all to browse and be inspired.

If you are a teacher, you have hours and hours of opportunity for professional development with the workshop videos and lessons featuring top teachers across the United Staes, and across every curriculum area.

Check it out!

The gift of poetry in our lives: One Today

Miami-raised, Cuban-born poet Richard Blanco, read his poem One Today at President Barack Obama’s inauguration yesterday. He was the youngest person to compose and deliver poetry for a presidential inauguration. He joins the ranks of past inauguration poets Robert Frost and Maya Angelou, to name two. The images in this poem are sweeping and universal–what a beautiful compliment to a theme of unity. Hopefully, all who heard the poet deliver this beautiful poem were even briefly without politics. If you missed, here is Blanco reading the poem at the ceremony, and the full text of the poem follows.

Richard Blanco delivering poem at Inauguration

Full text:

One Today
One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,
peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces
of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth
across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.
One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story
told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.

My face, your face, millions of faces in morning’s mirrors,
each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:
pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,
fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows
begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—
bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,
on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—
to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did
for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

All of us as vital as the one light we move through,
the same light on blackboards with lessons for the day:
equations to solve, history to question, or atoms imagined,
the “I have a dream” we keep dreaming,
or the impossible vocabulary of sorrow that won’t explain
the empty desks of twenty children marked absent
today, and forever. Many prayers, but one light
breathing color into stained glass windows,
life into the faces of bronze statues, warmth
onto the steps of our museums and park benches
as mothers watch children slide into the day.

One ground. Our ground, rooting us to every stalk
of corn, every head of wheat sown by sweat
and hands, hands gleaning coal or planting windmills
in deserts and hilltops that keep us warm, hands
digging trenches, routing pipes and cables, hands
as worn as my father’s cutting sugarcane
so my brother and I could have books and shoes.

The dust of farms and deserts, cities and plains
mingled by one wind—our breath. Breathe. Hear it
through the day’s gorgeous din of honking cabs,
buses launching down avenues, the symphony
of footsteps, guitars, and screeching subways,
the unexpected song bird on your clothes line.

Hear: squeaky playground swings, trains whistling,
or whispers across café tables, Hear: the doors we open
for each other all day, saying: hello, shalom,
buon giorno, howdy, namaste, or buenos días
in the language my mother taught me—in every language
spoken into one wind carrying our lives
without prejudice, as these words break from my lips.

One sky: since the Appalachians and Sierras claimed
their majesty, and the Mississippi and Colorado worked
their way to the sea. Thank the work of our hands:
weaving steel into bridges, finishing one more report
for the boss on time, stitching another wound
or uniform, the first brush stroke on a portrait,
or the last floor on the Freedom Tower
jutting into a sky that yields to our resilience.

One sky, toward which we sometimes lift our eyes
tired from work: some days guessing at the weather
of our lives, some days giving thanks for a love
that loves you back, sometimes praising a mother
who knew how to give, or forgiving a father
who couldn’t give what you wanted.

We head home: through the gloss of rain or weight
of snow, or the plum blush of dusk, but always—home,
always under one sky, our sky. And always one moon
like a silent drum tapping on every rooftop
and every window, of one country—all of us—
facing the stars
hope—a new constellation
waiting for us to map it,
waiting for us to name it—together


Washington DC’s interactive (and real brick and mortar) Newseum highlights all news–from today back through history.

If you live in the Metro DC area, or plan a future visit, I encourage you to consider adding a visit to the Newseum to your travel plans. Visiting the Newseum was one of the highlights of my years living in Metro DC area.

But–you can visit online! When you enter the site you will see an interactive map with little dots that represent cities. If you highlight and click on a dot you can see the front page headlines for that city’s newspaper on the day you visit. It’s pretty cool. There’s so much more to see and do…

Notice that there is a tab for Educators. When you enter the Digital Classroom you can browse lesson plans, videos, primary sources, and even standards documents.

If you are a news buff, or a teacher seeking quality videos or primary documents, it’s a virtual trip you’ll be glad you took!

American Life in Poetry provides newspapers and online publications with a free weekly column featuring contemporary poetry. The column is edited by former poet laureate of the United States (2004-2006), Ted Kooser. When you visit the site you have the opportunity to sign up for a weekly email of the column. I look forward each week to receiving mine. Perhaps you may discover that your local newspaper already subscribes to ALP. I hope you will visit the site. So many of the poems have the power to launch classroom celebration, discussion, and engagement.

This week’s entry:

Here’s a lovely poem for the caregivers among us, by Terri Kirby Erickson, who lives in North Carolina.

Sponge Bath

Draped in towels,

my grandmother sits in a hard-backed

chair, a white bowl

of soapy water on the floor.

She lifts her frail arm, then rests it,

gratefully, in her daughter’s palm.

Gliding a wet

washcloth, my mother’s hand

becomes a cloud, and every bruise, a rain-

drenched flower.

…from the website:
American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2011 by Terri Kirby Erickson from her most recent book of poems, In the Palms of Angels, Press 53, 2011. Poem reprinted by permission of Terri Kirby Erickson and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2013 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

Poetry Slam!–performance to reveal the power of poetry

Slam poetry, a blend of literature and performance that culminates in live competitions called slams, can transform students from reluctant or shy learners into passionate artists, not to mention change attitudes toward poetry, an often-disdained form of art.  Students–4th grade and up pour their passions into this activity. They spend weeks writing, revising, coaching each other, and revising again. When they are done, they perform their original work in front of their peers–reciting and using voices they may never have imagined they had.

What brings me to this post? A comment made this week by one of my preservice teacher language arts students. In an assignment that required students to recall a significant middle school language arts memory, she recalled the Poetry Slam in which she participated in the seventh grade. She sums it up better than I ever could. (Thanks, J!)

In her words:

I never knew what a poetry slam was until that day in 7th grade. Maybe that’s why it’s memorable. I mean, it kind of blew my mind. It was a blur, so much color and movement and sound, so many words and thoughts and people. But I remember truly enjoying it. The specifics don’t come to me but I remember the emotions and the contrast in the choices of poems. Some were fluffy and funny, others were profound, by the standards of 7th grade minds, and only a few were weighty and hard. But it all kind of worked. Made one big poem of poems, a giant composition we all made from everything we all brought in. I think Mrs. Hull said something at the end, tying it back to words and language arts and poetry. I think she tried too hard. I think we already sensed that it wasn’t just about words.