As summer sizzles her sunshine, be inspired by a delightful collection of clever images at our Write it…! board on Pinterest to write a poem or two. Write about some whimsical or fantastical creature from your imagination. Begin with sentences that you break into poetic pieces. Remember to “show” the reader concrete sensory details. Take inspiration from the creativity of Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky” and William Blake’s “The Tyger.”
This one lived beneath the kitchen sink:
When I was a child, I could hear its
Subterranean gurgling from the pipeline guts
Of the basement. I could have sworn I saw
The tip of its fin peek out from the drain,
Or heard the snap of its jaws, with its many
Monstrously tiered teeth after turning the faucet off.
The next time your student gets tackled in the I CAN’T zone, share a story of your own.
Yesterday I was shopping at Trader Joes, contemplating an almond milk purchase when a good friend approached me and said quite simply: “Why don’t you make your own?”
This suggestion set off a cascading thought process in me that went way beyond the situation at hand. All in a millisecond I thought about the many times I had thought about making my own, the videos I had watched, and the numerous blog posts I had read. Still I had never “pulled the trigger” so to speak. Now, I’m smart enough to know we all have “stuck” areas in our lives. There are things we aspire to in life, but we often get overwhelmed OR SOMETHING and are stopped in our tracks. Who knows all the things that hold us back. I suspect the problem has myriad roots.
Anyway, back to Trader Jones, what happened this time is that my friend continued: “Just soak 1 cup nuts (any nuts) overnight in water and in the morning drain the nuts, add 3 cups of water in the blender, and blend to liquify.”
There was something in that moment. I think it might be that the process was presented so simply to me that I thought: “Okay it’s time to do this. I have almonds. I have water. I CAN do this…!”
And so I did. I added a pinch of salt and a dash of vanilla too. And the result was delicious—you don’t even have to strain it if you don’t want too! There were no additives so MY almond milk tasted so good!
I think sometimes the moment becomes right to make a move into the stuck zone. It’s so easy to over complicate things in our minds, to Pinterest an idea to death! In the case of almond milk, you know, make it all pretty with mason jars and ribbon and chalkboard labels,etc,etc, etc. when the true beauty is in the MAKING (and consuming) of the scrumptious drink itself.
It felt SO good to FINALLY just do it! And the icing on the cake? This is going to save me a ton of money!
So back to education… What if I had failed? Would I have learned something? YES! and I would have had strengthened my tenacity to try in the process. I would have learned some right and wrong strategies. I would have been learning.
Thing is, a growth mindset is NOT always easy. Students are NOT always successful when they try, but they ALWAYS learn something that is useful. Something that will help them in the future when they are faced with something new to learn. So the next time your student shrinks into the “I CAN’T” zone, share a story of your own, hum Dory’s song, and just keep swimming!
PS By the way, my friend said the roasted unsalted hazelnuts from Oregon at Trader Joes makes an incredibly good milk. No fixed mindset here… I’m making some!!
Read Extra Yarn by Mac Bennett, illustrated by Jon Klassen and you’ll soon see.
Winner of the Caldecott, this contemporary fairy tale is bound to become a classic. Annabelle reminds us that curiosity, determination, and generosity are three ways to thwart a villainous archduke! So, like Annabelle, grab a ball of yarn and imagine the possibilities.
Write poem that is at once a story describing an image or event or memory. Be imaginative. Think Caterpillar of Birds. Be the blind man who thinks he is describing a snake but is actually describing an elephant. Draw more inspiration from metaphor and synecdoche.
“The Fish” by Elizabeth Bishop overtly describes the catching of a fish, but subtly describes the concept of choice, the wonder of the natural world, mortality, beauty, and more.
Winner of the Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award and recipient of an ALA Notable Children’s Book Award, Douglas Florian is the author and illustrator of many children’s books. He believes there is only one rule when it comes to poetry, that there are no rules. Douglas Florian gives credit to his father as his first art teacher, who taught him to love nature. He begins his poems with research of the real thing and then uses that information to create an imaginary poem. Douglas Florian lives in New York City with his wife and five children.
Try Love That Dog.
What is a poem anyway?
I don’t want to
don’t write poetry.
Meet Jack, who tells his story with a little help from some paper, a pencil, his teacher, and a dog named Sky.
Although this guide includes many of the same elements as the other Level 1 guides, such as vocabulary and comprehension, the format is unique.Each week, your student will be encouraged and guided to write poems in the style of each poet being introduced in the story.
When Lonnie Collins Motion – Locomotion – was seven years old, his life changed forever.
Now he’s eleven, and his life is about to change again. His teacher, Ms. Marcus, is showing him ways to put his jumbled feelings on paper. And suddenly, Lonnie has a whole new way to tell the world about his life, his friends, his little sister Lili, and even his foster mom, Miss Edna, who started out crabby but isn’t so bad after all
Try Exploring Poetry.
Discover the poet within you!
This unit will help you discover the craft of writing poems and the delight of reading poetry. Over the course of seven weeks you will be introduced to some of the basic techniques used by poets, explore excellent poetry, and practice writing original poems. Each section is designed to be completed in about two, one hour sittings.
The first day of Spring is right around the corner.
Celebrate spring with your students! Blackbird and Company’s Early Bird Spring Stories Thematic Unitwill help do just that! You’ll have 5 weeks of great reading and writing and projects at your finger tips.
First book in the line up is, It’s Spring by Linda Glaser. The cut paper illustrations are so adorable! It’s quite a fun project to paint a wide selection of colorful papers with tempera paint then after they dry use them to cut out a spring scene. Think of all the colors of spring like blues and greens and browns for trees and animals. Use the illustrations in the book as inspiration for your collage.
Writing with a pencil by hand is a foundational skill. But it’s also a beautiful endeavor. I have fond memories of learning to form the ABCs. This work was quiet, slow, and mysterious. Yes, mysterious. My grandmother, who raised me, wrote little notes by hand and left them in various places around the house to my great delight. Her hand was one of a kind, a lovely extension of her loving self. It was not like any other by-hand note I’ve ever encountered in life. That’s the thing about penmanship. Penmanship is personal.
Sadly, digital teaching tools have pushed handwriting instruction to the back seat. But writing by hand is multi-sensory, connecting hand-eye coordination and memory. Writing by hand, the art of encoding language, strengthens the ability to read (decode) language. Writing by hand slows us down so that we might engage with and bring shape to our ideas.
This past Sunday, January 23, was the birthday of John Hancock—the first person to sign the Declaration of Independence. I can see his strong, courageous calligraphy in my mind’s eye. His is the one famous signature that my elementary classmates and I committed to memory. So it is fitting that here at the end of January each year we celebrate the art of handwriting connected to this larger than life signature!
So at the dawn of 2022, may you pick up a pencil, craft your very own John Hancock, marveling at each individual stroke that defines your hand.
The Iron Giant. Naima. Hollis Woods. Juan de Pareja.
We readers know they are people who don’t exist but we get involved anyway.
And yet it’s simple.
They inspire is to try.
They inspire us persevere.
They inspire us to be kind.
They inspire us to take heart.
They inspire us to hope.
Great characters remind us that we may be flawed but we are incredibly able. They remind us that we are not alone. Great characters offer truths that shape and spur us on.
Think Prospero. Jane Eyre. Sherlock Holmes. Elizabeth Bennett. Atticus Finch. Jay Gatsby. Gandalf. Even Winnie-the-Pooh.
These characters, like us humans, are not one-dimensional. They are the tragically flawed heroes that inspire us to action—even if that action is simply a smile and a sigh and a moment of introspection at the end of the read.
We are here to help!
We are so happy to announce our new downloadable FREE Character Trait Decks to empower our students journalling in our Level 1, 2, 3 or 4 Literature + Writing Discovery Guides.
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“A bear, however hard he tries, grows tubby without exercise.”
“All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
“Real courage is when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
“We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep.”
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Generally Speaking, when it comes to understanding literary characters, actions speak louder than words.
Will they, like Frodo, carry the ring into Mordor? Or, like Edmund, eat the Turkish delight?
The main thing to keep in mind when considering the “character” of a literary character is this: Does the character act/think/feel this way all the time, or is this only a momentary response?
Just like real life, a character’s actions speak louder than words. Take Goldilocks. We’re all familiar with her adventure in the home of the three bears and her conundrum deciding which porridge to eat. On the surface, at first superficial glance, Goldilocks seem cute, an innocent little girl. It might be easy to describe Goldilocks as simply curious. Is Goldilocks always curious? Sure.
But might we infer that she is hungry or confused? If so is she always hungry? Always confused? And do these traits often lead her into all sorts of mischief? Maybe in the moment.
Let’s think again. What do the actions of Goldilocks within the context of the story really tell us about who she is?
Goldilocks seemsgreedy—eating food that does not belong to her without asking. She is for sure picky—dipping her spoon into every bowl before she finds the one she feels is “just right.” She seemsselfish—freely taking for her own whatever goody presents itself. But is this who she is at her core?
These are aspects of character we gather about Goldilocks as we read her story. As we trace these traits throughout the story. We stumble upon more evidence later on when Goldilocks undergoes a similar situation involving the beds of the bears. In the end, these traits seem to be ingrained in her personality and give us insight into who Goldilocks is as a whole character.
The traits of Goldilocks are perse, but I think we’d all agree her actions at the home of the three bears are greedy and picky and selfish.
When it comes to character traits, literary characters truly are the sum of their actions.