Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Few Words About Love Before the Turn of the Year

Community Is Infinite (M.A. Reilly, 2012)

I. Faith in Other

I have been thinking about the mass of educational reform that has been occurring since the mid-1980s in the United States and trying to name what most disturbs me.  Yet, it was not with this in mind that I sat down to reread Pedagogy of the Oppressed and found myself lingering in Chapter 3, listening hard to Freire's words about dialogue.  He says:

Dialogue further requires an intense faith in humankind, faith in their power to make and remake, to create and re-create, faith in their vocation to be more fully human (which is not the privilege of an elite, but the birthright of all). Faith in people is an a priori requirement for dialogue; the “dialogical man” believes in others even before he meets them face to face.

And perhaps this is what is most missing from the reform efforts during the last three decades: faith in other-- a faith that is (in)formed by love.  Imagine a faith in other that is so profound, so elemental that it is present before one meets face to face? This is the foundation to Freire's work.

Faith and its correlate, love, are also largely missing in the corporate reform efforts of schools.  This is the do unto others crowd; the Manifest Destiny run amok crew.

And it may well be this absence of love and faith is why these reform efforts continue to fail, as they should (and do). These reformers don't have faith in you or me.

They do not know how to love us or even that they must.

II. And in the End...

Justice is What Love Looks Like in Public (M.A. Reilly, 8.14.14)
Freire told us that "true revolutionaries must perceive the revolution, because of its creative and liberating nature, as an act of love." Quoting Che Guevara, he adds, “Let me say, with the risk of appearing ridiculous, that the true revolutionary is guided by strong feelings of love. It is impossible to think of an authentic revolutionary without this quality" (from Venceremos— The Speeches and Writings of Che Guevara, edited by John Gerassi (New York, 1969), p. 398.).

Nothing ridiculous there.


Let us begin and end with this in mind each and every time we think about ways to (in)form our work.

Wishing you the grace to love and the faith to try in 2015.

Freire, Paulo (2014-08-18). Pedagogy of the Oppressed: 30th Anniversary Edition (Kindle Locations 1289-1292). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition. 

Poetry Break: Burning the Old Year

Black Limbs (M.A. Reilly, 2014)

Burning the Old YearBy Naomi Shihab Nye

Letters swallow themselves in seconds.   
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,   
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,   
lists of vegetables, partial poems.   
Orange swirling flame of days,   
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,   
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.   
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,   
only the things I didn’t do   
crackle after the blazing dies.
Naomi Shihab Nye, “Burning the Old Year” from Words Under the Words: Selected Poems (Portland, Oregon: Far Corner Books, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by Naomi Shihab Nye. Reprinted with the permission of the author.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Seeing Birds

The Bridal Chamber (M.A. Reilly, Philadelphia, PA, 2011)

As some of you may have noticed, I admire birds.  During the last few years, I've repeatedly posted about watching birds, poetry about birds, memoir, and books about birds.


  1. Dust of Snow (12.26.14)
  2. Littlefoot, 19 [This is the bird hour] (12.2.14)
  3. To Not Know is to Wander (11.29.14)
  4. Talking Bird Talk (11.2.14)
  5. Birds Lifting (10.12.14)
  6. Bluebird (7.21.14)
  7. Confessions: My Father, Hummingbirds, and Franz Fanon (7.19.14)
  8. For the Birds, Part 2: Books for 5-8 (5.30.14)
  9. For the Birds: 50 Children's Books for K-4 (5.29.14)
  10. The Crow and the Pitcher: A Fable for These Times (12.17.12)
  11. Crows Talking, Tacit Knowledge (7.3.12)
  12. Playing with Mixbook: Birds (6.24.12)
  13. Barefoot Knowledge and a Few Birds (5.5.12)
  14. Six Thoughts About Curriculum (3.19.11)
  15. 13 Ways of Looking without a Blackbird in Sight (8.22.10)
  16. Woman with Crow (8.14.10)

I was thinking about the many images I've made through photography, mixed media, and collage and decided to assemble these images into a slideshow. I hope you enjoy this celebration of birds.
Photographic images were made in: England, Ireland, Italy, USA (Florida, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia) and Wales

Friday, December 26, 2014

Poetry Break: Dust of Snow

Dust of Snow (M.A. Reilly, 2014)

Dust of Snow

Robert Frost1874 - 1963
The way a crow
Shook down on me
The dust of snow
From a hemlock tree

Has given my heart
A change of mood
And saved some part
Of a day I had rued.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Skating in Harlem, Christmas Day

Christmas in Harlem (M.A. Reilly, 2011)

Skating in Harlem, Christmas Day

Cynthia Zarin
To Mary Jo Salter
Beyond the ice-bound stones and bucking trees, 
past bewildered Mary, the Meer in snow, 
two skating rinks and two black crooked paths

are a battered pair of reading glasses 
scratched by the skater’s multiplying math. 
Beset, I play this game of tic-tac-toe.

Divide, subtract. Who can tell if love surpasses? 
Two naughts we’ve learned make one astonished 0— 
a hectic night of goats and compasses.

Folly tells the truth by what it’s not— 
one X equals a fall I’d not forgo. 
Are ice and fire the integers we’ve got?

Skating backwards tells another story— 
the risky star above the freezing town, 
a way to walk on water and not drown.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Teaching Plot, Subplot and Characterization in Grade 2 through Read Aloud and Writing

In this post I show how to teach plot, subplot and characterization through a multi-day read aloud, using the picture book, City Green. For additional books you can use to teach subplot, see this post: Teaching Multiple Plot Lines with Picture Books.

Text: DiSalvo-Ryan, DyAnne. (1994). City Green. New York: HarperCollins. 

Note: Book Introduction: Instead of introducing the book, begin by sharing a think aloud that you do showing students how you ask questions while reading a text.

Conduct a think aloud in order to demonstrate how to ask questions about a text while reading. Tell the students that their job is to watch and notice what you do and the questions you ask. (Below are example questions. You should pose your own actual questions.As you read, Create a Question Web, so that you model for students what you will be asking them to do independently.

Focusing on RL.2.1: Asking Questions while Reading
  1. “While I read today I’m going to share my questions about City Green, but later I’m going to ask you to share your questions. So listen carefully to how I ask questions and later it will be your turn to pose questions.”
  2. “I’m also thinking that this story is fiction because there are pictures, and it is told like a story. Can someone remind us of the difference between fiction and non-fiction books?”
1. After reading the title:
Question 1: I wonder, who is this little girl?
Question 2: Why does she have so many plants around her?
Question 3: I notice the buildings behind her and the title and think this story takes place in a city.  Could this be a garden in the city? Does she eat the foods we see?

2. After reading page 1:
Question 4: Why isn’t this building standing anymore?
Question 5: Why is Old Man Hammer so mean to the little girl?
Question 6: What city does this girl live in?

Can you turn and tell your partner what you watched me do? What did you notice about the questions I asked?

3. After reading page 6:
Question 7:  Will Old Man Hammer try to stop Marcy from planting her garden?  Might the garden change him?
Question 8: Can Marcy plant a whole garden by herself?
Question 9: Who is going to help her pick up all of the trash?

4. After reading page 9:
Question 10: What is a petition and what is it used for?
Question 11:  Why did Old Man Hammer refuses to sign it and help? What stops him?

5.  After reading page 12:
Question 12: How can Marcy rent a lot of land for only one dollar?
Question 13: What will the garden look like at the end?
  1. Now that I’ve shown you how I ask questions during the story, I’m going to let you all share your questions with me as we finish the book. 
  2. After I read a page I’ll stop and invite you to ask your questions and I’ll record them on our chart. 
(Continue through the book, and allow students to ask questions that are relevant to the story)

Question 14: I asked you when we started the story what the title might mean. [Show cover of book]. Think about the title and the events in the story and then turn and tell your partner what you think this story is mostly about? [RL.2.2; RL.2.7]

Applying What We Have Learned About Asking Questions to Independent Reading
  1. Now that you have generated questions I want you to go back to select a independent reading book that you would like to reread. 
  2. This time, though, I want you to generate questions while you read. Try to think of and record at least 5 questions that you are wondering about while reading. 
  3. To begin, write the title of your book in a circle, and then write the questions that you’re wondering about that relate  to your book. 
  4. Remember to ask questions at the beginning, middle and end of your book. 
  5. After independent reading time, we will share how well we were able to generate questions by showing our question webs to a partner.

2nd Reading/Writing: Writing in Response to Text

from City Green

Show students the story map (on the next page) and ask them to think about the characters, setting, events, problem and solution as you reread, City Green by DyAnne DiSalvo-Ryan. Explain to the students that there is the main plot and a subplot.  The main plot focuses on Marcy, while the subplot focuses on Old Man hammer and how he changes.

After reading, have partners complete two story maps for City Green: one for the main plot and one for the subplot. (W.2.2)

Main Plot
  1. Have students retell the main plot in a single paragraph.
  2. You may want to provide some of the students with a scaffolded paragraph in order to help them understand what information would be include.
Retell the main plot in a paragraph.

The story City Green is about _____________________________________________. When the city workers ___________________________________________________. Marcy and her neighbors _____________________________________________. Then they___________________________________. Next __________________________. Now _________________________________________.

Sample Paragraph: 
The story City Green is about working together to clean up a messy lot. When the city workers tore down a building it left a lot of rubble. Marcy and her neighbors went to  City Hall to rent the lot for one dollar. Then they cleaned the lot up. Next they planted a garden. Now the people go to the garden to relax and look at the flowers.

Sub Plot (W.2.2)
  1. Invite students retell the subplot in a single paragraph.
  2. You may want to provide some of the students with a scaffolded paragraph in order to help them understand what information would be include.

In the story City Green, Old Man Hammer changes from ____________________ into ________________________.  Old Man Hammer is sad because __________ ___________________________________________________. Next, ____________________________________________. Then, ____________________. _________________________.   Old Man Hammer is happy at the end because __________________________________________________________________.

In the story City Green, Old Man Hammer changes from a grumpy man into a delightful person. Old Man Hammer is sad because his old home was torn down and the lot is grimy.  The neighbors clean the lot up.  Next, Old Man Hammer plants seeds in the garden. Then, Old Man Hammer’s seeds grow. Marcy goes and gets Old Man Hammer and shows him the sunflowers. Old Man Hammer is happy at the end because the lot is clean and pretty. Old Man Hammer comes back every day to relax.

Day 3: Reread Text/Opinion Writing (W.2.1)

Create a character analysis of Marcy with the students using three charts that are similar to the ones below through shared writing.

Step One
  1. Ask students to focus on the character of Marcy.  What is she like (think about her actions)? Unlike Old Man Hammer, Marcy doesn’t undergo change.  She is consistent throughout the story.
  2. Show students the first chart (not with it filled in) and ask them to put their heads together with their partner and to name traits that represent Marcy based on her actions.  Discuss and then list these traits in the column marked, Traits.
  3. Next, tell the students that as you reread the story, they should raise a hand when they hear evidence that supports a trait. Stop reading when students raise their hands indicating evidence. Discuss the evidence so students can explicitly share their opinions.
Step Two
  1. Review the completed first chart with students and then show them the second chart (also undone). Ask students which of the traits is Marcy’s most important trait. Then provide evidence (Sequence of events that prove Marcy is _______.) List these.
Step Three:
  1. Invite students to compose a paragraph that explains which trait they think was Marcy’s most important. They should state their opinion, supply reasons that support their opinion, use linking words (e.g., because, and, also) to connect opinion and reasons, and provide a concluding statement or section.

Teaching Multiple Plot Lines with 12+ Picture Books

Subplots involve a secondary character who has his/her/its own emotional journey, yet whose story contributes and aligns in some manner (may offer contrast) to the main plot. This secondary chain of events that occur broaden the scope of the main plot by revealing perspectives about the main character. Subplots are easily found in children's easy-reader books and chapter books, but are less likely to be found in picture books. Picture book subplots are developed through the development of a minor character, interruption of the primary narrator, or through the illustrations.

These picture books have stories within stories through character development.

Bunting, Eve. (2006). Pop's Bridge. Illustrated by C.F. Payne. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers.
DiSalvo-Ryan, Dyanne. (1994). City Green. New York: HarperCollins.
Johnson, Angela. (2003). I dream of trains. Illustrated by Loren Long. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.
Noble, Trinka Hakes. (1992). The Day Jimmy's Boa Ate the Wash. Illustrated by Steven Kellogg. New York: Puffin.
Say, Allen. (2005).Kamisibai Man. New York: Walter Lorraine Books.
from The Three Little Pigs

These picture books develop subplots through the Illustrations.

Blexbolex. (2013). Ballad. Brooklyn, NY: Enchanted Lion Books.
Floca, Brian. (2014). Five Trucks. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Fox, Mem. (1998).  Tough Boris. Illustrated by Kathryn Brown. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers.
Gilman, Phoebe. (1993). Something for Nothing. New York: Scholastic.
Hutcins, Pat. (1971).  Rosie's Walk. New York: Aladdin.
Klassen, Jon. (2012). This is Not My Hat. Somerville, MA: Candlewick
Rathman, Peggy. (1995). Officer Buckle and Gloria. New York: Putnam Juvenile.
Wiesner, David. (2001). The Three Pigs. New York: Clarion Books.

To see samples lessons teaching plot, subplot, and characterization, see this post: Teaching Plot, Subplot and Characterization in Grade 2 through Read Aloud and Writing.

Poetry Break: I Am Offering this Poem

Early Winter (M.A. Reilly, 2012)

I Am Offering this PoemBy Jimmy Santiago Baca

I am offering this poem to you,
since I have nothing else to give.
Keep it like a warm coat
when winter comes to cover you,
or like a pair of thick socks
the cold cannot bite through,

                         I love you,

I have nothing else to give you,
so it is a pot full of yellow corn
to warm your belly in winter,
it is a scarf for your head, to wear
over your hair, to tie up around your face,

                         I love you,

Keep it, treasure this as you would
if you were lost, needing direction,
in the wilderness life becomes when mature;
and in the corner of your drawer,
tucked away like a cabin or hogan
in dense trees, come knocking,
and I will answer, give you directions,
and let you warm yourself by this fire,
rest by this fire, and make you feel safe

                         I love you,

It’s all I have to give,
and all anyone needs to live,
and to go on living inside,
when the world outside
no longer cares if you live or die;

                         I love you.
Jimmy Santiago Baca, “I Am Offering this Poem” from Immigrants in Our Own Land and Selected Early Poems. Copyright © 1990 by Jimmy Santiago Baca. Reprinted by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation.

Source: Immigrants in Our Own Land and Selected Early Poems (New Directions Publishing Corporation, 1990)

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Poetry Break: Don't ask me. I know it's only hunger.

Trees (M.A. Reilly, 2011)

Dreaming Winter

Don't ask me if these knives are real.
I could paint a king or show a map
the way home—to go like this:
Wobble me back to a tiger's dream
a dream of knives and bones too common
to be exposed. My secrets are ignored.
Here comes the man I love. His coat is wet
and his face is falling like the leaves,
tobacco stains on his Polish teeth.
I could tell jokes about him—one up
for the man who brags a lot, laughs
a little and hangs his name on the nearest knob.
Don't ask me. I know it's only hunger.
I saw that king—the one my sister knew
but was allergic to. Her face ran until
his eyes became the white of several winters.
Snow on his bed told him that the silky tears
were uniformly mad and all the money in the world
couldn't bring him to a tragic end. Shame
or fortune tricked me to his table, shattered
my one standing lie with new kinds of fame.
Have mercy on me, Lord. Really. If I should die
before I wake, take me to that place I just heard
banging in my ears. Don't ask me. Let me join
the other kings, the ones who trade their knives
for a sack of keys. Let me open any door,
stand winter still and drown in a common dream.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Multi-Day Read Aloud Lessons to Teach Characterization in Primary Grades

This is a multi-day lesson designed to introduce second grade children to methods of characterization by inferring about a character's actions. This is the last book read in a unit about the Himalayan Mountains. Students have heard and interacted with the following texts:

  1. Martin, Jacqueline Briggs. (2010). The Chiru of High Tibet: A True Story. Illustrated byLinda Wingerter. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin Books.
  2. Jenkins, Steve. (2002). The Top of the World: Climbing Mount Everest. New York: Sandpiper.
  3. Reynolds, Jan. (2007). Himalaya: Vanishing Cultures. New York: Lee & Low Books.

Text: Soros, Barbara. (2003). Tenzin’s Deer. Illustrated by Danuta Mayer. Cambridge, MA: Barefoot Books.

Day One/1st Reading
Book Introduction: This is a story about a Tibetan boy named, Tenzin, who finds an injured musk deer and cares for her. Eventually the deer heals and Tenzin is faced with making an important choice. Let’s read in order to find out what challenge Tenzin faces and what choice he makes.
Vocabulary: poached, extinction

Note: It is recommended that you read this book through once stopping only briefly to respond to children’s questions/wonderings. During subsequent re-readings, the following questions can be explored.
After 1st reading: Have students create a story map with you. 

When retelling the children should be able to:
  1. Retell what happened
  2. Why it happened
  3. The effect on Tenzin's mental state
  4. Be able to emphasize connections between earlier and later parts in the story. 

Day Two/Second Reading

Question 1: Listen as I reread the opening to the story (this should be written on chart paper so that students can use the written text to help them answer the question) and ask yourself: ‘What similarities are there between this story and The Chiru of High Tibet (Note: Place copy of the book on easel so students can see it):
The musk deer is a small, shy, solitary animal found throughout the forested regions of Asia and Russia. Musk, the oil base used in a number of perfumes, is one of the world’s most expensive natural products; up to five times more expensive than gold. The musk deer is widely poached for its precious scent gland and, as a result, this beautiful creature is facing extinction.
Turn and tell your partner one similarity between this book and The Chiru of High Tibet. (RL.2.9)

Question 2: Listen as I reread the first page and study the illustrations carefully. Roughly-hewn stones are stones that have been shaped with hard blows from a cutting instrument like an ax. 
What can you infer about Tenzin and the characters in this story based on what I have read and the other books we have read together?  Turn and tell your partner what you are thinking. (RL.2.3, RL.2.9)
Allow children to discuss their inferences and then show the chart below and model one inference you made and how you supported your inference with reasons from the text. Invite students to offer their inferences and then reread the passage and have students listen for and identify reasons that support their inferences. (RL.2.7, RL.3.5)

Question 3: What happened to the deer when Tenzin first finds her? Which words in the passage directly tell you? Reread page that begins: “Help me I am in pain...but he did not know what would happen now.” (RL.2.1)

Question 4: Tenzin’s first dream leads him to treat the deer. How does his dream connect with the actions he took to remove the arrow? (Reread the dream and the action. ) Turn and tell your partner. (RL.2.1)

Day 3/Third Reading

Question 5: Let’s recount each dream Tenzin has and explain how the dream leads him to care for Jampa. (RL.2.1) 

Question 6: How are Tenzin and Jampa similar? (RL.2.3)

Question 7: How did Tenzin use the myrobalan flower to heal Jampa? Explain this to your partner.(RL.2.1)

Question 8: Why does Tenzin decide to release Jampa so she can return to the wild? Turn and tell your partner. Why is this difficult for him to do?   Turn and tell your partner what he learns as a result of releasing Jampa. (RL.2.1, RL.2.2)

Question 9: How does Tenzin’s earlier years and experiences caring for Jampa prepare him to be a fine doctor?  Discuss with your partner and then write an explanation in your notebook. (RL.2.1)

Day 4 /Fourth Reading

Listen as I reread. Let’s think about specific times when we wonder while reading this story.   Use this frame: 
The moment I heard...I wondered. 

Day 5/Fifth Reading

Task 1: This time when I reread the story, let’s think about the actions that Tenzin takes in the story and what those actions suggest about the person he is. To help us keep track of our thinking we will record the actions Tenzin takes in the left column and we will record what we think motivated him in the right column. 

When you hear or think of something we should record, please raise your thumb and I will stop reading. (RL.2.3)

Task 2: We can learn a lot about a character from his actions and what we think motivates those actions. Let’s reread our chart, think about the Tenzin's actions and motivations, and then name some character traits that fit Tenzin. (Reread chart and then flip page to show Character Traits. ) To get us started I recorded some character traits on this chart. Let’s read through them chorally and as we read let’s think about which ones best describe Tenzin.

Turn and tell your partner which traits best describe Tenzin. Then in your notebook record the trait and explain why. (RL.2.3)

Task 3: Now that we have discussed traits, let’s think about the story and find evidence that supports our thinking. For example, if I think that Tenzin was dependable what evidence from the story can I find to support that idea? Who can help me complete this statement?

Tenzin shows he is dependable by taking care of Jumpa until she is healed.

Continue this chart by recording the first portion of the sentence and having students name the trait and evidence. (RL.2.3)

Tenzin shows he is ________________ by ___________________________________ . 
Tenzin shows he is ________________ by ___________________________________ . 
Tenzin shows he is ________________ by ___________________________________ . 

Task 4: Now that we have described Tenzin, have thought about his actions, and have connected those actions with our description of him--let’s write a paragraph to explain what Tenzin is like and support our ideas with evidence from the story. Note: You may want to differentiate this task by having students do as much of this work independently as possible. (RL.2.3)

Task 5: Most stories have a message, moral, or lesson about life. Let’s think about the ways Tenzin was courageous in the story.  Courageous means to be brave and not to be stopped by pain. (RL.2.2)
  • What did Tenzin do that caused him pain?  
  • What does he learn from this experience? 
  • What do we learn from Tenzin? 
Record a written response to these questions in your notebook.

Friday, December 19, 2014

15 Children's Art Books 2014 and 2015

Benny Andrews' s Grandmother's Dinner, Oil and collage, 1992

Benson, Kathleen. (2015). Draw What You See: The Life and Art of Benny Andrews. Illustrated by  Benny Andrews. New York: Clarion Books.
Burleigh, Robert. (2014). Edward Hopper Paints His World. Illustrated by Wendell Minor. New York: Henry Holt and Co. 

Engle, Margarita. (2015). The Sky Painter: Louis Fuertes, Bird Artist. Illustrated by Aliona Bereghici. New York: Two Lions.
Friedman, Samantha. (2014). Matisse's Garden. Illustrated by Christina Amodeo. New York: Harry N. Abrams. 
Kulling, Monica. (2014). When Emily Carr Met Woo. Illustrated by Dean Griffiths. Toronto, ON: Pajama Press.
from About Two Squares: A Suprematist Tale of Two Squares in Six Constructions
Lissitzky, El. (2015). About Two Squares: A Suprematist Tale of Two Squares in Six Constructions. Illustrated by Odile Belkeddar. London: Tate Publishing.
MacLachlan, Patricia. (2014). The Iridescence of Birds: A Book about Henri MatisseNew York: Roaring Brook Press.
Meltzer, Milton. (2015). Dorothea Lange. New York: Puffin.
Morles, Yuyi. (2014). Viva Frida. Photographs by Tim O'Meara. New York: Roaring Brook Press.
Powers, J.L. (2014). Colors of the Wind: The Story of Blind Artist and Champion Runner George Mendoza. Illustrated by George Mendoza. Purple House Press.
Rubin, Susan Goldman. (2014). Stand There! She Shouted: The Invincible Photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. Illustrated by  Bagram Ibatoulline. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Ruurs, Margriet (2015). A Brush Full of Colour: The World of Ted Harrison. Illustrated by Katherine Gibson. Toronto, ON: Pajama Press.
Warhol, Andy. (2014).  Andy Warhol So Many Stars Board Book. Mudpuppy.
Weatherford, Carole Boston. (2015). Gordon Parks: How thephotographer Captured Black and White America. Illustrated by Jamey Christoph. Grand Rapids: MI: Albert Whitman & Company
Winter, Jeanette. (2014). Mr. Cornell's Dream Boxes. New York: Beach Lane Books.