My Poem in Your Pocket…

It’s Poem in Your Pocket Day…here’s a poem that touches me as a writing teacher…I love the message…

Big Mistake
Aunt Mariah said, when I was fifteen,
I should wait until I lived long enough
to have experiences worth sharing
before I put them into words.

So I waited and lived
until my bones were old and fragile,
but when I looked for words,
they scattered like sand.

All I found were fragile bones
that made me vulnerable and scared,
as my whispered words
pulled up buried thoughts
in a voice too weak
for the old heavy secrets
that hung like drooping flowers
near Aunt Mariah’s grave.

So I left the dead words
like Aunt Mariah inside me,
still wondering what I had to say
when I was fifteen.
                                Mary Carden

Poem in Your Pocket Day is tomorrow!!

National Poem in Your Pocket Day is Thursday, April 24th. Folks across this great land share a special poem in myriad ways—through special events in schools, universities, big and small towns. You choose a poem you like, fold it up in your pocket and when that moment is right, share away! Hey, it’s not too late if you haven’t visited the site linked below to gather ideas on how to celebrate this day because if you tweet, you can share a poem using hashtag #poempocket. Hope you will! I plan to!

25 Attention-Grabbing Tips for the Classroom | Edutopia

Interesting find in my twitter feed from Edutopia. My students have so many questions about classroom management, and while so much comes from experience, there is much that can be learned from other teachers. So, I post this here in case you have an interest.


25 Attention-Grabbing Tips for the Classroom | Edutopia.

How Reading Literature Cultivates Empathy | Edutopia

I’m reading this Edutopia article..and many times have I used the word empathy this semester??? It may be the #1 thing we need to be modeling and teaching for….could not agree more with this teacher…

How Reading Literature Cultivates Empathy | Edutopia.

Promoting a Culture of Learning | Edutopia

Just blending Edutopia with my morning coffee today–finding gems that sound like my own voice echoing LOUDLY—students–are you seeing this??? YAY Edutopia!!

Promoting a Culture of Learning | Edutopia.

Teaching Students to Embrace Mistakes | Edutopia

Hoping my preservice teachers see this on this blog….it’s at the heart of our work this semester. FEEDBACK! Feed Up Feed Back Feed Forward! Mistakes are the rulers of growth!!

Teaching Students to Embrace Mistakes | Edutopia.

“Baking” a Synthesis cake…


cake analogy for synthesis strategy

So…we used the cake baking strategy (click link above to open) in class today. Students had choices of a few texts to use—texts we had previously used in class, texts even referred to on this blog: “Eleven,” and “Salvador, Late or Early” [Sandra Cisneros], and “The Flowers,” by Alice Walker. I try to model what I would have them do as teachers. So, for the synthesis activity, we worked backwards, as I would do with middle school students. We have followed Mosaic of Thought, 2nd ed this semester—by Ellin Oliver Keene and Susan Zimmerman. The text introduces seven strategies for teaching reading comprehension (monitoring your thinking, activating prior knowledge and experiences, inferring, sensory responses, determining what is important (as opposed to what is just plain interesting), asking good questions—for students be happy they ask any!, and lastly, synthesizing. Synthesis is the last strategy introduced because in essence, it really is a blending of all of the other six strategies. It is NOT summarization. It is more than a reporting of just the facts, ma’am. It’s the fact plus so much more. But that “so much more,” is difficult to retrieve for many students because it takes…work. Tenacity. And, lots of practice before it becomes second nature. And even then, the text makes all the difference. I can tell you for sure that there are some texts that leave me saying…huh??? I have to work hard at them. So, to introduce practice in synthesis as a strategy, I ask students to choose among three texts that they are already familiar with. This provides a comfort zone of sorts. No need to do a “first” read. In the cases of the three text choices, all students have participated, at a minimum, in a second reading as they used the texts for other purposes. They worked in teams. An option, for sure, and sometimes you will need to see what a student can do alone, but for this initial learning experience I wanted the students to collaborate and hash over their thinking. I wanted and they needed the dialogue. I suggested they begin at the end and work back. So, I asked them first to consider and agree upon what the author’s message, intent, purpose was for their chosen text. And, as a class, we agreed there could be more than one message, intent, purpose. This would be, as in the analogy: the cake.  They then had to decide what “ingredients” helped them to determine their author purpose. What in the text led them to understanding? Below are some team results. They got it. Not only did they get it, but I listened in on fabulous dialogue.  At close of class, they presented their “synthesis cakes.” What I think they found pretty compelling was that of the teams that chose like articles, every message was either different (but correct!), or if same message, arrived at uniquely. 
As a “writing” person, I do not mean to minimize the power of writing with my last few blog entries, but I cannot emphasize enough the power, as well, of visually representing and following up with oral presentation. If team work was involved, yet another language bonus.

IMG_9954    IMG_9956       IMG_9955

IMG_9958     IMG_9957 IMG_9959

…More on Sensory representation of short text

Interpreting text through sensory images provides a rich experience for readers. Last semester preservice teacher students worked in small groups to create a visual representation of the short, powerful text we were working through: “Salvador, Late or Early” by Sandra Cisneros. If you know this text about a young boy too soon with the responsibilities of an adult, too soon to leave childhood though yet a child, too late to be care and worry free, you can see how deeply my students connected through these visuals. The visuals reveal understanding of the reading comprehension strategies we focus on: inferring, determining what is important, making connections…..this semester’s group will create a team visual interpretation of “Eleven,” another Cisneros text. Expression through the arts is as critical as verbal-linguistic expression. 

Below the visuals I’ll post images of my to go-to Cisneros books. 

Evernote Camera Roll 20140315 084141

Evernote Camera Roll 20140315 084227

Evernote Camera Roll 20140315 084829    Evernote Camera Roll 20140315 084837  Evernote Camera Roll 20140315 084844  Evernote Camera Roll 20140315 084849

(Note: Be selective with Woman Hollering Creek and Vintage Cisneros. Some content too mature for middle graders)