Friday, October 2, 2015

welcome to the diversiverse! poetry friday edition

Happy October to all! Whatever your race, creed or color, whatever your gender, age or orientation, whatever your nation, neighborhood or internet access point--your voice is welcome here.

Some while ago I was led to this post by Aarti Chapati, a Chicago reader who blogs at BookLust.  She has been hosting #Diversiverse for 3 years now, inviting bloggers to review books that contribute to the diversity of our shared body of literature.  She specializes in science fiction/fantasy but the event is for all genres.  I signed up right away and although I'm a couple of days ahead of her scheduled diversityfest, I wanted to take this hosting opportunity to highlight some of the good work that is being done to make children's literature diverse enough to allow every child to find a mirror between the covers of a book.

This link will take you to Aarti's compilation of all #diversiverse book reviews from previous years. At the bottom you'll find the spot to add your links.  Meanwhile, today is a regular school day for me, so this is going to be a self-rounding round-up and as usual, I won't get around to visiting everyone's post until the weekend.  Thanks for stopping by My Juicy Little Diversiverse this week!

I went looking for a book by an author of color to review, and found my way to this rather comprehensive and thought-provoking post by Betsy Bird of  Fuse#8 Productions at SLJ.  I've read the Nurture Shock book too, and one of the reasons I like teaching the youngest children is because of an opportunity to make an impact on their "inclusion" stance before their ideas of "us" and "them" are permanently established.

Our school system had last Wednesday off for Yom Kippur, but when my student Aini was absent on Thursday I remembered Eid Ul-Adha.  I taught Aini, who is Indonesian, in kindergarten so I know her family is Muslim.  During Morning Meeting on Friday she shared about going to a "big place like a soccer field to pray, boys in the front, girls in the back." I made a big point about how much Aini knows that many of us have never heard of and explained why.  Next it was Didi's turn to share.  He is a boy of few words and often passes up his turn to talk, but on this day he told us that his father went to pray too, at the mosque.  Well!  In a class of only 14, I have more Muslim than Jewish kids--that's a first for me at this school.

Image result for big red lollipopSo when I went to choose a new-to-me book for my #diversiverse review, I selected Big Red Lollipop by Pakistani-born Canadian Rukhsana Khan (Viking Penguin, 2010). This picture book for ages 4 and up is not primarily written to support conversations about race, religion or ethnicity (see my recent thoughts on stories that teach lessons).  In fact, it's an autobiographical story much more like A Birthday for Frances, about two siblings, a party and frustration, greed and jealousy--emotions that are just plain human.

However, these siblings, in their "regular" kid clothes, live in a "regular" house with their immigrant mother Ami, who wears a headscarf and asks, "What's a birthday party?"  (She also feeds the baby and works on her computer in the course of the book.) Ami gives her oldest daughter Rubina permission to attend the party as long as little sister Sana goes too, and of course Sana not only behaves embarrassingly at the party but eats Rubina's goodie-bag treat as well as her own--and then Rubina gets scolded for being greedy.  Oh, the unfairness!

"A really long time" passes and Sana is old enough to be invited to her first birthday party.   By now, the baby is old enough to demand to go to the party too--and Ami is set to make Sana take her, just as Rubina had to take Sana.  It's only fair.  But then Rubina intervenes, and the red lollipop of anger becomes a green lollipop of understanding between the sisters.

The first-person text is lively, full of authentic-sounding dialogue.  It skims right over that question about birthday parties ("It's when they celebrate the day they were born." "Why do they do that?" "They just do! Can I go?"), but a teacher or parent could slow down and help children investigate the information in both illustrations and text to get at the diversity agenda's best general question: the Identity Question.  Who are these characters?  What do we recognize as familiar and what do we notice as unfamiliar?  What might those unfamiliarities make us think about the characters?  What other information might each of us need to understand their words and actions?

These questions can apply to characters in any story, even (especially?) those in a culturally "normative" literary work.  That's the practice we want to develop as leader-readers--the practice of regularly investigating identity--all identities--rather than assuming that we know all there is to know at first glance.

Perhaps you know the We Need Diverse Books campaign, which took off in April 2014 "in response to the announcement of an all-white, all-male panel of children’s book authors at a major book and publishing convention. What began as a social media awareness campaign quickly grew into a global movement that demanded the attention of the publishing industry, the media, and readers everywhere."

I heard about it, of course, but it was later, by accident, that I learned it all started with my fellow soccer mom, Ellen Oh.  Our daughters play on the same school team, and as our closest neighbors there's a lot of shared driving. (The girls are often together, but the moms hardly ever are, which is how I failed to connect WNDB to Daisy's ride home.)  I am filled with admiration for the energy which kicked off this powerful campaign.

But what about poetry, you say?  Here's a place to start: a list of 10 Diverse Poetry Books compiled by What Do We Do All Day?  I see with delight that Iguanas in the Snow by Francisco X. Alarcon is front and center here--I have all four of his volumes of bilingual poetry and leave you today with this...

Para escribir poesia | Francisco X. Alarcon
primero tocar
oler y saborear
cada palabra
To Write Poetry | Francisco X. Alarcon
we must
first touch
smell and taste
every word

Again, thanks for joining Poetry Friday today, and enjoy these offerings...

Friday, September 25, 2015

on reading (and quite a few other things)

It's Poetry Friday, and if you're new to this blogging tradition, go here for an overview!

I'm having a conversation with myself--and others--about reading.  At the copier yesterday a short exchange about "stories that teach lessons" and whether "theme" = "lesson" led to a fervent and unexpected rant about my belief that writers don't write stories or novels or poems principally to "teach lessons" but to tell stories, and that if the author's purpose is to teach a lesson then her work of literature tends to suffer.

Meanwhile, I'm finding more time to read for myself, and discovering that while I've had periods of being the quintessential Voracious Reader, I'm more discerning now. After my initial childhood VRP (Voracious Reader Period) ended, around about high school, all those books I downed by the handful like popcorn have left little lasting impression; the books and poems that stay with me now are those that I have read slowly, stewing in them over days and weeks rather than hours and days.  I'm much more likely to bid farewell to a book before finishing it, and those I do finish I return to repeatedl in my mind and my conversations.  Thus I read many fewer books than I once did.

This doesn't alarm me as it used to.  In the classroom, too, my tendency is to move slowly through our shared reading.  I was delighted to unpack my hundreds of books for 2nd grade (in my particular K experience, there WAS such a thing as too many books, especially when we didn't prioritize independent reading).  But whatever the grade, when I'm planning for literature experiences, I have to ignore the curriculum suggestions that we whiz through book after book, although many of the titles are worthy.  To me, at the beginning of the year especially, a class needs just a few well-chosen anchor texts, the ones that we read through slooooowwwly and repeatedly, the ones that we know so well we can quote and look back to whenever we need a reference for structure or theme or vocabulary.  They provide context for our shared social and academic experience.

My curriculum this week (well actually last week; I'm a little behind, being new and all) is unusual because our single reading selection is the Junior Great Books version of The Red Balloon, a story by Albert Lamorisse set in Paris in the 50's that became this famous, almost wordless short film.  We are tackling it using the JGB approach (which I will say is hard to fit in when our whole-group lessons are to be 15-20 minutes).  I resisted this expectation not because I have anything against The Red Balloon, but because it seemed not obviously connected to anything else we're doing....

And then, in our small group discussions after reading only the first half of The Red Balloon, I sat with Gordy's group of the "lowest" readers.  Gordy is an English language learner and reads and writes at the most basic level in my class, but he was the one who said, "The balloon is like the pebble in Sylvester." The ability to elaborate was not available to him, so his buddy Byron C. had to make it plain for me: "Yeah, they're both red and they're  round and they're magic." 

*MIND BLOWN.*  In my rush to keep up and do some of the same things as other 2nd grade classes, I hadn't noticed the rich possibility here.  At the same time, I don't think Gordy and Byron would have been equipped to make this powerful connection if they didn't OWN Sylvester and the Magic Pebble so thoroughly from our long, slow experience of it in the first weeks of school.  I can't wait to finish The Red Balloon and see if some children still think there's a dog or mouse or butterfly inside the balloon to make it act the way it does!

Today, if I can squeeze it in around our Media Specialist-led nutrition research project (can I bring in red Skittles or M&M's to compare, say, to raspberries?), it will be Poetry Friday, and I will support further connections with this poem, first published in Canadian poet Colleen Thibaudeau’s book of concrete poems, Lozenges: Poems in the Shapes of Things, by the Alphabet Press in 1965.  It's also collected in Paul Janeczko's A Poke in the I.

For a teacher and a bunch of 7-year-olds bent on making connections, could there be a more perfect poem?

The round-up this week is with Sylvia at Poetry for Children, where she's joined by Janet Wong for a discussion of National Hispanic Heritage Month.  Next week it will be my turn to host!  And here's the movie for anyone who has 35 minutes to spend...

Friday, September 18, 2015

diamond shiners & Cybils news

I missed Poetry Friday last week while I was out communing with nature at my congregational retreat, but behind the scenes I was awaiting news.  I had applied for the first time to serve as a panelist/judge for the Cybils Awards--the Children's and Young Adult Bloggers Literary Awards--and now I can announce, with a frisson of excitement, that I won!

Well, I didn't literally win anything, but it feels like I've won some kind of prize myself, having the opportunity to participate in the process and to work with poetry-bloggin' friends old and new.  See the illustrious list below.  Once the nominations for poetry books come in--and this year the Poetry Category includes verse novels--we'll be reading and discussing and conferring and eventually selecting an outstanding poetry book published in the last year for children and young adults.  Whoo-hoo!
ROUND 1 PANELISTS:  Nancy Bo Flood, Irene Latham, Jone Rush MacCulloch, Margaret Simon,
                                          Tricia Stohr-Hunt, Carol Wilcox, Sylvia Vardell
ROUND 2 JUDGES:  Linda Baie, Rosemary Marotta, Diane Mayr, Heidi Mordhorst, Laura Shovan

Meanwhile (which I have just this moment realized is one of my favorite words ever, my favorite concepts ever), in Room 203, we have succeeded in naming ourselves!  It was a multiday process involving lots of voting and yes, a fair bit of teacher spin, but it's worked out well.  We are not Ms. Mordhorst's Magic Pebbles (although that name was nominated), but Ms. Mordhorst's...
Diamond Miners!

And here is the poem I wrote to commemorate this effort, which is designed to communicate to 7-year-olds what the hard work of second grade is all about.  We're using it during Morning Meeting for a "passing greeting," using a glass diamond very conveniently discarded last week by my spouse, who had long ago received it as a volunteer award.  (Thanks, Fiona!)

Diamond Miners,
       diamond diggers,
finding all the precious rocks.
Diamond Miners,
       diamond shiners--
lock them in your treasure box.

~ HM 2015 (c)

We pass the diamond around the circle in rhythm with the poem (which instantly became a chant).  Whomever it lands on is greeted by the whole class and then sits down as the diamond continues around the circle.  The last person standing has the hilarious job of passing the diamond back and forth to him- or herself!  They love it.  And I promise that as the year goes by we'll address this idea of mining and make sure that we understand the environmental implications as well as we can in 2nd grade.  They already are beginning to understand that their brains and hearts are both internal treasure boxes.

The roundup this week is with Michelle at Today's Little Ditty...I bet there are some poetry treasures to mine over there too!

Friday, September 4, 2015

second grade rocks

our school has a really big rock out in front
"Letter by letter, the bigger the better--
Great big words!"                                      --Michael Mark & Tom Chapin

And so a new school year begins, with a change from the tiniest full-timers at the school--the kindergarteners--to the not-very-much-bigger second-graders.  Looking back now at my consternation* over this change, I realize that I believed that 7-year-olds would be simultaneously* less innocent and more challenging* than 5-year-olds, less imaginative* and more conservative* than 5-year-olds, less new and sparkly and more ordinary*.

I must have had rocks in my head.  Second grade rocks, especially in the first week of school!  They do not consider themselves too grown-up to enjoy the same greetings and singing games as the 5's, but when you say "Please line up," they already know how to do it.  They were thrilled to climb all over the big rock, but they were able to stop climbing and thoughtfully describe it. And they are very into vocabulary* and learning great big words as well as different words for the same thing.  Just yesterday we compared vomit, puke, barf and throw up in our discussion of the very few things that might interrupt our work on Independent Reading Stamina.  (We reached 10 minutes by Thursday, without nausea* or emesis.*)  Perhaps "Magic Pebbles" would not be a wrong class name after all...thesey are small and shiny and smooth and powerful, just like Sylvester's Magic Pebble.

You'll understand why the following might be the first Poetry Friday poem for our Poetry Anthologies.  I found it in The Walker Book of Poetry for Children

Flint | Christina Rossetti

An emerald is as green as grass,
       A ruby red as blood;
A sapphire shines as blue as heaven;
      A flint lies in the mud.

A diamond is a brilliant stone,
     To catch the world's desire;
An opal holds a fiery spark;
     But a flint holds fire.

The round-up today is with Linda Baie at TeacherDance, one of the several Poetry Friday participants who generously contributed to my DonorsChoose project.  I'm thrilled and grateful to say that my request for 4 Kindle Fire HD tablets, intended for allowing kids to enjoy the ever-growing array of online read-aloud sites and apps, was fully funded in less than a week!  However, it's not too late to help,  Any additional donations will come to my classroom in the form of gift cards that I can use to purchase headphones and cases for the tablets.  Long live crowd-funding, and thanks!

Friday, August 28, 2015



Add your name to the birthday chart.
Look--on Wednesdays we have Art.
Choose three books for your reading box.
Let's all get ready 'cause Second Grade Rocks!

Not my very best little ditty, but it conveys the message:  I am no longer a kindergarten teacher.  I loved kindergarten and I'm sorry to leave it...but now that it's real and the room is set up (just about) I'm getting excited about 2nd grade.  The one thing I'm really grieving is that first-day-of-school Swimmy-Makes-us-Mighty-Minnows tradition.  I have some of the same kids I taught, and they are bigger and more grown up.  I don't think they want to be Minnows any more.

So, I'm starting the year with Sylvester and the Magic Pebble instead, because we have some rocks-and-soil science in the first few weeks to connect to, and we'll also be reading and working with Roxaboxen and If You Find a Rock, books I adore.  But I haven't figured out yet what we will become as a group.  "Magic Pebbles" doesn't capture the characteristics I want to emphasize, and "Mighty Magnets" is a bit of a stretch....I'm hoping it will come to me over the weekend, but if you have any suggestions, PoFolks, I'd welcome them.

The round-up today is hosted by Sylvester I mean Sylvia Vardel at Poetry For Children--enjoy the welcome there too, from Sylvia and my geographic neighbor Linda Kulp!

Friday, August 21, 2015

the rush

Thanks once again to Tabatha for making it happen!
Well, here it is...the rush of adrenaline that comes at this time of year: the calendreal limits of the summer, the moment when projects must be finished, first days to prepare for, new classrooms to discover the delights of.  With these also come that "oh no!" feeling of realizing that some plans have to be abandoned--such as my plan to properly round up today the riches I received from my Summer Poem Swap partners this year.  Instead I offer this instadraft in your plural honor:


This is how I sum it up,
full of gratitude:
Some were early,
some were late,
colored, plain and luscious.
Some are moving,
some are still,
folded, flat and precious. 

To know that you sat,
walked, shopped, thought,
scribbled, cobbled;
To know that you sought
to say something to me,
for me, of me--
that you made your words
a gift of art--
your gifts are greater than the
sum of all their parts.

[draft] Heidi Mordhorst 2015
all rights reserved 

The round-up is in the comments today at Reading to the Core, where Catherine is grieving and the rest of us are with her. Of all things, poetry may suffice.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

poetry friday the 14th

not that I would ever carve a tree...
Welcome one and all!  I suspect we may be a small group this week--last summer flings and all--but I also know that many of us Poetry Friday faithfuls are educators who are beginning to gear up for a new year.  This should be true for me too, but I'm holding on tooth-and-nail to "empty" summer days during which I decide what and when!  Here's a NoNotYet poem to fit that feeling....

No! Not Yet

Bare still feeting, not done yet;
peach still sweeting, not done yet!
Fan still ceiling, not done yet;
rod still reeling, not done yet!

Button snoozing,
Bug bites oozing,
Ball still foozing--
No! not yet…

Cone still snowing, not done yet;
kart still going, not done yet!
Corn still cobbing, not done yet;
odd still jobbing, not done yet.

Summer camping,
skateboard ramping,
swimsuit damping--
No! not yet…

Board still diving, not done yet;
bees still hiving, not done yet.
Beach still waving, not done yet;
Heart still braving, not done yet.

Rock band forming,
early warming,
thunder storming--
No! not yet…

Burn still sunning, not done yet;
Nerf still gunning, not done yet!
Fair still wheeling, not done yet;
bases stealing, not done yet!

Firepit smoking,
knock-knock joking,
cousin poking--
No! not yet…

Cards still warring, not done yet;
night still starring, not done yet.
Fireworks booming, not done yet;
Moon still blooming, not done yet!

It can’t be over--
                   No, not yet!
(My summer

-Heidi Mordhorst 2015
  all rights reserved

Where are you in the wheel of the year?  Clicking slowly and deliciously up-up-up to the first day of school, ready to ride that roller coaster, or noticing already the drawing in of the evening light, the scatter of yellow leaves on the still-green lawn?  Or perhaps you are good at being smack in the middle of the moment...your post should give us a clue!

Thanks for joining in this week, the last week of the Summer Poem Swap--I look forward to sharing the riches I received next Friday.  Now then, click below to leave your link for all to follow!

Friday, August 7, 2015

don't believe me just swatch

This week at The Miss Rumphius Effect Tricia asked us to write a "timeline" poem.  I thought it was the ideal moment to write about some old watches I was dispatching during this my Summer of Declutter.  I'll say no more since I'm having a devil of a time with formatting today, except that our Poetry Friday host is none other than my local friend Tabatha at The Opposite of Indifference. 

don't believe me just swatch

NYC 1986
sidewalk knockoff
of subway art
radiant, baby, in black and red
Thanks, Keith


London 94 and love is all around
on a Sunday I buy a new watch,
wear it to some weddings
but no one we know needs a funeral
we’re lucky

timetumbler 1996 flung
weightless in the air over oceans
repatriated, do I come out
more polished?

Caterpillar Classroom 2001
sewing machine runs in fits and starts
patches of orangecoralpink & one red heart
4-year-olds keep me in stitches:
Mother’s Day quilt for my wrist

-Heidi Mordhorst 2015
 all rights reserved
photos from Swatch website