"I have always imagined that Paradise will be some kind of library." ~ Jorge Luis Borges

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Art as a Threshold for Healing During World Aids Day

Tomorrow, December 1st, is World Aids Day.  For the past twenty-one years, Michael Dowling, through his organization, Medicine Wheel Productions,  has created a twenty-four hour art installation designed to bring people together for healing. Being a part of these World Aids Day vigils has been a privilege.
Yesterday, I stopped by the Cyclorama, where the Medicine Wheel vigil has been held, with my parents. The Cyclorama has its own amazing history.  It once housed a circular art installation of the Battle of Gettysburg.

Each year, there is a collection of vessels, ready to accept the offering that people want to leave.  These vessels may look like eggs boxes, suitcases and trunks, but during the vigil, they are the sum of their parts, a symbolic healing place.

Each year, the installation centers around one of the four elements. You can see pictures of past installations here

Michael is back to air and the items that have been left for the past 21 years are now hanging on red ribbon.  Visitors to the installation will add their own red aids ribbons in memory of loved ones lost.

Recognizing World Aids Day with a community of people gathered for healing is a potent reminder of how each of us is the world to at least one person.  If you are in the Boston area, I encourage you to make your way there tomorrow.

Friday, November 29, 2013

On Family, Friends, Food, and Fun

Discover. Play. Build.
For the past month or so, I've been posting a Friday Five on my blog, five memorable moments from my week. About the same time, Ruth Ayres, over at Ruth Ayres Writes started a new meme called Celebrations.  I love this idea and am going to switch gears and join the Saturday Celebrations blogging community.  I am a day early, but here I go!

Today, I am celebrating Thanksgiving because it was a beautiful day in my house.  

Like many people, yesterday was defined by family arriving at various times, a movable feast from mid-morning until early afternoon, quiet conversations catching up with cousins, rambunctious storytelling, and finally the big sit...down "meal of the year," complete with all the fixings.

After this delicious "meal of the year" (you should hear an echo reverberating in your head in the style of the old TV game show announcers), we retired to the fireplace room, where a beautiful day turned into a memorable one.  
The Oxford English Dictionary (actually a shortened OED that I hauled back from a second-hand shop in Little Hampton, England) was pulled from the shelf and the game began.  Ever since I can remember, we've played Mad Dictionary, a game where one person chooses a word (that no one else knows) from the dictionary.  Each person writes a definition for the word.  The real definition is written down on a slip of paper as well.  The person who chose the word then reads all the definitions aloud and people vote on either what they think is the real definition or what they think is the most creative definition.  Creativity must be recognized and celebrated!

Words like tabify, skellum, promerops, spinozist, mauverneen, and dyphone are now part of our lexicon. We played for two hours last night and, suffice to say, what started out more seriously with scientific sounding definitions devolved into described scenes of Upper East Side Manhattanites at a Spin class and skellums sneaking out of bathroom windows to avoid paying restaurant tabs. Have a look at some of our fun.

tabefy - apathy in the Internet age: having so many tabs open on one's browser that the content and its import are lost. 

dyphone - an App for the iPhone.  Apple's latest invention conveniently kills your battery just when you need it, "Caught in an uncomfortable conversation? No problem.  Launch the Dyphone App and bingo, "I'm sorry it looks like my battery is dying, I need to go charge my phone."

An Upper East Side mother addicted to spinning and unable to wrest herself away from the "hot" male instructors at Soul Cycle on 83rd Street.

spinozist - master of the playground tire swing. The child who does not need to go to the nurse after spending recess spinning around on the tire swing.



****blogger thinks all these words are incorrectly spelled.

From here we moved onto Sporcle. With a laptop hooked up to the TV this becomes a full out free-association, shouting-out-the-answers throw down. Sitting in the typing seat is stressful!  Country quizzes, literary quizzes, music quizzes, you name it. We tried it.

Geoguessr was next. Exploring and identifying locals around the world is a family fun activity. We travelled to Norway, Russia, United States, Australia and Sweden last night.

Today I am celebrating this beautiful and memorable day spent with family and friends.   

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

This is Not My Hat, but I know what might have happened to it....

I launched the Caldecott Medal unit with my first grade students by reading last year's Medal winner,  This is Not My Hat by Jon Klassen. 

This book is brilliant.  

I don't need to say anything about this book because it has all been said before, but should you need it, you can read what the Caldecott Committee said here

I LOVE reading this book with my students.  Last year, I read it from kindergarten through grade five and each experience was as good as the next.  What's not to love about a sassy and confident hat-stealing fish?

Like all teachers, I spend time talking about the important space that Jon Klassen has created, a space where his story ends and the reader's imagination takes over.  In This is Not My Hat, that space is where the plants grow big and tall and close together. 

Spoiler alert: there are plenty of students that believe the big fish ate the little fish and that the little fish was quite deserving of this, but in each class there are a solid number of students whose imaginations let this story take another turn.  Have a listen to just a few of them.

Today, I am thankful for books, like this one, that make teaching and learning (or just plain reading!) fun.

Not familiar with the book? Watch the trailer!


These kindergarten students are wondering about a lot of things

I am continuing the inquiry exploration with my kindergarten students.  We've been learning about fiction and nonfiction books. You can read about our last few weeks in the links below:

Learning about our "Wonder Wall." 

We're wondering about...

Bear Has a Story to Tell Gets These Students Thinking

Here's what I am learning, these five-year-olds have some wonderful wondering thoughts:

To finish up this exploration, the students used Kid Pix to create pictures of what they are wondering about.  Kid Pix allows students to add their voices to their pictures.  Not only does this process give each student a voice, it also gives them an opportunity to practice and evaluate recording their voices. 

We're leaving this unit for a while and heading into an author study.  I plan to have the kindergarten students come back to the Wonder Wall project a few more times this year to see how their idea of inquiry and questioning progresses.

**Throughout this process they have been actively choosing both a fiction book and an information (nonfiction) book from our Wonder Wall.**

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Friday Five: November 22

It's Friday!
It's time to celebrate 
5 memorable moments 
from this week.

This week was brought to you by
empowering visits 
with students across the country 
via Skype in the classroom

Having second graders answer questions 
from their Blog Pals in Minnesota.

Having first grade students 
use their time after browsing and borrowing 
to continue drawing pictures of things they are wondering about.

Having my kindergarten students 
add their voices to their pictures.
They are wondering about:

My 4th and 5th grade students took 
complete ownership over our space:
signs were made, books were shelved, 
thoughts and ideas were shared, 
and books were checked out.