Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Teaching Teachers: Poetry Performance

Sara Holbrook (@saraholbrook) and Michael Salinger (@michaelsalinger) get the teachers warmed up with Teaching Teachers!

This video was made using Vine.

Day One


I’m famous
in my kitchen.
I’m famous
on my block.
I’m famous
to my mom.
Go ahead and mock.

You’ve memorized a lot of names
of people famous in a book.
But I am famous, too.
And I’m for real,

so take a look.

©1996 Sara Holbrook, The Dog Ate My Homework (Boyds Mills Press)

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Digital Reading Writing and Thinking

Hello participants & readers!  Katie here.  You might notice that a lot of our resources are posted on Padlets, which are essentially virtual bulletin boards and sticky notes.  This is a great tool that we love to use with students to collaborate and hold thinking.  A while back I started a collaborative Padlet in response to a video that I posted from the amazing site The Kid Should See This.  I'd love for you to join in as well.

Watch the clip on the Padlet by artist Andres Amador.  Then create your own response.  You might choose to do a bit of creative writing like others have or simply jot your questions, thoughts, and wonderings.  All you need to do is double click and a new sticky pad will pop up!  Feel free to contact me if you have questions.

The Padlet is embedded below or you can click here to go to the website.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Close Reading at the Core

As I write this post I’m listening to Steph speak about close reading, listening and viewing at the All Write conference in Warsaw, Indiana.  Once again, she is blowing my mind! 

I’ve heard her speak dozens of times in the past few years, but her take on close reading has really rocked my world.  I took six pages of notes during the morning talk and came back this afternoon to hear the repeat of the session because there was so much to process and absorb!  Rest up, #RIT14 attendees—you’re going to need a fully charged brain when Steph shares about close reading next Wednesday afternoon!

To get your brain going, here are a few ideas from Steph that really got me thinking:

    Whoever does the most talking and does the most work does the MOST LEARNING! Let kids do the work!

    We teach kids to be "thinking intensive learners."

    One of the things that truly makes a text complex is what is NOT written.

    Close reading is strategic reading!

I can’t wait to discuss these ideas and more with all of you next week!  The countdown to #RIT14 has begun!  See you in 5 days!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Slimy Poetry

To piggyback a bit on Sara's last post - we can use poetry to write about our studies as well as make sense out of the world around us to – as she put so well: write from the outside in.

Sara and I were just chatting on the phone as I was coming back from meeting with an aspiring poet. We talked about showing without telling – about poetry being a snapshot  - of it being about experience not emotion – how we should be putting all the clues on a page without necessarily adding it up for our reader - allowing our reader to discover the meaning by mixing the words on the page with their own experience.

This is what we mean by writing from the outside in as opposed to the inside out. Having the ability to respond to and question the world around us will certainly help us make sense of the dynamic sphere we inhabit.  The idea that we should unceasingly be mining our inner feelings and then putting them on the page for others to read seems a bit selfish to me. It’s the me, me, me attitude that we all hope our kids grow out of as they practice their first steps whether they be literal transition from crawling to bipedal locomotion or in their writing.

It takes a mature self-awareness to embrace the fact that one is not the center of the universe.

And with that grandiose declaration, I give you a poem about tadpoles!


I caught some squiggles in the pond
And put them in a big jar
I gave them bits of lettuce to eat
‘Cause they looked kinda starved
They began to grow real fat
And as their bodies spread
Legs popped out of their sides
And eyes bulged from their heads
Their squiggle tails disappeared
They were no longer polliwogs
My squiggles they are all gone
Now what am I gonna do with these noisy frogs?

©2014 Michael Salinger all rights reserved

REAL Poetry

Poetry is creative nonfiction. 

Think of the poems most dear to you. Aren't they about real events? Or perhaps imagined events that are detailed in such a way to make them seem real enough to touch, hear, smell and feel?  

As long as we don't allow ourselves to be confined by that old-fashioned, sentimental view of poetry, "writing from the inside out," we can turn our eyes to the wonders of nature, the pyramids, child labor, photosynthesis, or tadpoles for ideas. This approach to writing Michael and I have dubbed, "writing from the outside in."

This is not just a clever turn of a phrase, it is really how we write.  Let me give you an example. One night I was walking the dog past the middle school and I heard the clanking of the flagpole and went home to write the poem below. I didn't write it because I am the loneliest person on the planet, nor because I was rummaging around in my heart for a topic to write about. No. That night the image of that flagpole, the hollow clanking from its cement perch of isolation, made me think about loneliness. 

Have I ever in my life felt lonely?  Of course.  But the true inspiration for the poem came from an outside event mixed with prior knowledge about what goes on in a typical middle school.

I am SO looking forward to learning and sharing ideas about writing to improve comprehension and how we can look outside of ourselves and at our studies as sources of inspiration in addition to using technology for research, collaboration, and taking our writing public. Writing need not be a lonely pursuit!


I'm not going steady.
I'm nobody's best friend.
I guess I'm 'bout the loneliest
that anybody's been.

There's no one waiting at the door
at three for me to meet.
And if I'm late for lunch,
no one's saving me a seat.

My love life=s not the topic
of hot homeroom conversation.
Like some old empty locker,
no one wants my combination.

This school's made up of partners,
two halves to every whole,
'cept me,
left on the outside,
like that clankin' old flagpole.

©1996 sara holbrook, I Never Said I Wasn’t Difficult, Boyds Mills Press
All rights reserved.