Tradition, Tradition

Cue up the orchestra. Resurrect Zero Mostel. I can’t seem to speak or write the word “tradition” without hearing this classic chorus from Fiddler on the Roof .

But I digress. I am not here to talk about the little village of Anatevka. My tradition is a lesson that has become an old standard  in my teaching repertoire. Although I have been teaching it to first graders for over ten years, it remains fitting and fresh.

A classic tale by Leo Lionni

A classic tale by Leo Lionni

Elementary teachers, librarians and parents of young children are likely familiar with Frederick by Leo Lionni, a classic work of children’s literature. Bestowed with a Caldecott Honor in 1968, at forty-five years young it still stands the test of time. Lionni tells a simple yet powerful fable about individuality, community and the value of art and poetry. Equally important, though, are the simple collage creations that illustrate the story. The beauty of Lionni’s technique is that it is easily replicable.

After listening to and discussing the story we set to work. With construction paper, glue, scissors and felt-tip pens, my eager students create their own little field mice in the style of Leo Lionni. Like Frederick, these mice enjoy the company of their friends, so the children find a home for them on the rock wall mural that I have prepared in advance. We then come back together and, using Interactive Writing, create commentary for the hall display.

In a few short sessions, this unit encompasses language arts skills such as retelling, understanding theme, and writing simple sentences, as well as the creation of a piece of unique collage art. Science is introduced in a discussion of the habitat of the field mouse. Students will work individually, with partners and in a group setting.

There are no bells and whistles in this unit. No technology. It is a simple down-home thematic study of an author/illustrator and his craft. Tradition. And I’ll shout from the rooftops (no fiddle required) that despite my love of digital-this and electronic-that, there is something to be said for a good old-fashioned story and craft project.


A snapshot of my reading life

Assignment for a grad class (Integrating the Language Arts)- Create a timeline of your reading and writing life.

Assignment for a grad class (Integrating the Language Arts)- Create a timeline of your reading and writing life.

Post a photo that gives readers a glimpse into your reading life.” That is this week’s prompt from LitWorld, the organization that supports and promotes World Read Aloud Day.

Only one photo? Are you kidding me? What to choose? I was read to as an infant, taught myself to read at age five, devoured books through high school. I read tomes for college, cooking magazines as a fledgling home chef, piles and piles and piles of books to my own children when they were young. Now I read aloud to 300 students a week, have stacks of books on my nightstand, and spend more time than I should reading blog posts and tweets. One picture to sum all that up? No way!

But then I remembered an assignment from a grad class I took two years ago–Integrating the Language Arts. The professor, to encourage us to be reflective about our experiences with literacy, instructed us to create a timeline of our reading and writing life. There were no rules, no format, no expectation other than to represent our own personal history of writing and reading.

And so I created a mini-book using the handy library card pockets I no longer have need for in my library. Each page represents an aspect of my literary life. One page is devoted to a poem I wrote in fifth grade. Another to a favorite book of my children. Yet another features my first published article. This photo, featuring The Bundle Book by Ruth Krauss, represents the importance of being read to, especially from an early age. I am forever grateful to my mother for bestowing the gift of reading upon me. If anything can sum up my reading life, this is it. It is “just what I need”.

Now and Then

Better late than never, I join the World Read Aloud Day Blog Tour by following the instructions below, taken from their website.

Week 2: Now & Then

Answer the following questions twice. First, from your ten-year-old self’s perspective and then from your current perspective.

My 10-year old response will be in italics and my current self will appear in bold.

1. I think everyone in the world should read…

I wanted to answer From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, but apparently my memory is playing tricks on me because it wasn’t published until the year of my 11th birthday. So, I’ll go with A Wrinkle in Time, a book that transported me through time and space and let me believe that anything is possible.

My ten-year old self was transported in time and space.

My ten-year old self was transported in time and space.

I would like to just end this prompt right here (with an exclamation point instead of an ellipsis). I think everyone in the world SHOULD read! But, in the spirit of the game, I think everyone in the world should read Wonder by R. J. Palacio and then should “Choose Kind”. You’ll probably see this on a lot of other “Then and Now” responses.

Choose kind.

Choose kind.

2. If I could listen to anyone in the world read aloud to me it would be…

…my mom. Listening to Winnie the Pooh and Wizard of Oz, read chapter by chapter as I ate my breakfast oatmeal was food for my soul.

…not technically a read-aloud, but I am as mesmerized as a child by the storytelling of Len Cabral.

3. When I read aloud, my favorite character to impersonate is…

I loved to read aloud to my much younger sister. One of my favorite things to read was the “voice” of the narrator, John, in Let’s Be Enemies by Janice May Udry. “I think I’ll put his crayons in the soup”

"James used to be my friend."

“James used to be my friend.”

…Granny in What! Cried Granny (by Kate Lum), Pa in Saving Sweetness by Diane Stanley, Wodney in Hooway for Wodney Wat by Helen Lester, and Baby Blair in Somebody and the Three Blairs by Marilyn Tolhurst. What? You didn’t really expect me to pick just one?

4. The genre that takes up the most room on my bookshelf is…


…realistic fiction

5. The last book I wish I’d written or inspired me to write my own story is…

the Childhood Biographies of Famous Americans

There was always one more to read at the library.

There was always one more to read at the library.

…The Book Whisperer

International Book Giving Day


Valentine’s Day, a holiday to celebrate those we love, is for me also (and apparently thousands of others) a day to celebrate what we love. So, in that spirit, I participated in International Book Giving Day by leaving two books in the children’s play area at Northboro Chiropractic Center.

According to their website, “International Book Giving Day is a volunteer initiative aimed at increasing children’s access to and enthusiasm for books. We are inviting people to celebrate International Book Giving Day on February 14th by 1. giving a book to a friend or family member, 2. leaving a book in a waiting room for children to read, or 3. donating a gently used book to a local library, hospital or shelter or to an organization that distributes used books to children in need internationally.”

There’s still time to celebrate Valentine’s Day in this worthy way. Remember, “Reading is possibly the only true magic.”

Striking a Chord

On the trail, when you take that first step, you never know where it is going to lead or what you are going to find. Will you end up in snow-frosted grove of hemlocks? At a babbling, bubbling frenzy of a brook rushing past a craggy rockface? On a summit with a 360 degree view of the autumnal splendor? Will you stumble across some funky fungi, wildflowers or wildlife?

It’s the same way with this blog. I had no idea when I wrote my post, Some Thoughts on Introversion, that I would have struck such a chord with my readers or that I was posting about such an au courant topic. The inspiration for the post was a TED talk that was a year old. And yet, it seems that this important subject is on the minds of many today. Within hours of posting I had heard from a fellow blogger who referred me to an article in The Atlantic (unbeknownst to me, published just the previous day), “Introverted Kids Need to Learn to Speak Up at School”, had a conversation with a neighbor who is currently reading Susan Cain’s book, got a Liebster Award from The Introvert Files and recorded more views than any previous post.

And then, this morning, in my Twitter feed, I came across this post on the blog Read, Write, Reflect-Speaking Up in the Classroom, Katherine Sokolowski’s response to the Atlantic article. I could have written this myself. Her closing sums up the article, but please take a moment to read the whole thing:

“Education should not be geared only to the kids who speak up because those quiet kids in the back, the ones slinking down in their seats, they have something to contribute too. We just need to let them find their own way.”

I believe that there may be some juggling of apples and oranges in the Atlantic article. In it, Jessica Lahey stated:

“If anything, I feel even more strongly that my introverted students must learn how to self-advocate by communicating with parents, educators, and the world at large.”

I applaud the idea of self-advocacy, but that is an entirely different animal than class participation. To me, self-advocacy is being able to speak up in a small group or one-on-one situation when it is critical to be heard;  it is not the ability to speak in front of crowds. Let’s also remember that introversion does not equal “shy”. The original premise of Susan Cain’s talk and the impetus for my previous post was that introverts often do their best work in quiet, solitary explorations. It is not just a matter of shy vs. outgoing. It is how individuals recharge, what they need to do their best learning.  So, I am going to watch my silent kids a little more carefully from now on. If they’re not paying attention or fooling around or being lazy, they may get called on. But, if they are just quiet, I’ll remind myself that silence is golden.

The Liebster Award

Liebster Award

Liebster Award

I was just nominated for the Liebster Award. And despite its chain-letteresque feel, I am going to accept the nomination and play the game. Hey, if I can invent the Peasleecott Award and present it to professional illustrators of note, I can certainly accept this little-known but seemingly legitimate award for my blog.

I was nominated by the blogger at “The Introvert Files”. The easiest way to explain the award is to borrow from his description.  Apparently it’s an award bloggers give to one another to help spread word of newish/little known blogs. To get one means the person who gave it to you appreciates the work you do. I can’t argue with being appreciated. So, thank you for this nomination.

Each award come with instructions. Here they are:

1. List 5 facts about yourself

2. Answer 5 questions given to you from your nominator.

3. Create 5 new questions for the bloggers you nominate for the award.

4. Chose 5 bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate.

5. Go to each bloggers page and let them know about the award.

6. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.


So, here we go!

1. List 5 facts about yourself

1) I enjoy a hobby (er, um, obsession) called letterboxing.

2) I hadn’t traveled to Europe until two years ago (and I am not a spring chicken) and now I want to return every chance I can get.

3) I survived the Blizzard of 2013.

4) I make too many lists.

5) I like to break out into show tunes while hiking.

2. Answer 5 questions given to you from your nominator.

1)What topics do you find yourself blogging the most about? Being a reflective educator.

2) Is blogging a pass-time for you, or have you made it a part of your career? Although I write primarily about my career, the blog itself is a pastime.

3) What’s your number 1 guilty pleasure? Only one? Dark chocolate.

4) What achievement are you proudest of? Honestly, being the mother of two witty and wise grown children.

5) If you could prevent one thing from happening to you in the past, would you be a completely different person today and would you rather be that different person than to have lived through whatever thing had happened to you? Every choice one makes can lead to dramatically different outcomes, but I am completely happy right where I am.

3. Create 5 new questions for the bloggers you nominate for the award

1) What blog post are you most proud of?

2) Name all the places you have lived in the world.

3) Rock, paper or scissors?

4) Where do you see yourself in five years?

5) Why did you begin to blog?

4. Chose 5 bloggers with 200 or less followers to nominate.

1) OCD Talk

2) Embracing Extraneza (Truth in advertising, this is my daughter’s blog. Mother’s pride aside, however, she is a great writer!)

3) Forgotten New England

4) Banjo Playing Music Educator

5) I am going to have to break with tradition and only go with four. All the other bloggers I follow are already “Big Deals” and have way more than 200 followers.

5. Go to each bloggers page and let them know about the award.

Off to go do that now!

6. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their blog.

Thanks, again, The Introvert Files

Time for a Change

As I alluded to in an earlier post, I have been considering a  blog name change for some time. Before I started, I was convinced that reading, writing and thinking about the Common Core would revitalize my library program. So, Common Cor(e)relations seemed like the perfect title. But, then I started blogging and I realized I was more interested in being introspective about my practice, innovative with my lessons, invested in educational theory and finding inspiration from other bloggers and forward thinkers.

And so, no longer in its infancy, my adolescent blog-self began searching for a new identity. Much like my fourteen year old self who for a few short months (thankfully) spelled Nancy with an “i (yes, complete with a daisy dot on top), I am ready to reinvent and repurpose this blog.

Introducing–The “In” Librarian: Invested, Inspired and Introspective.