Tag Archives: book review

Paint Chips and #USvsHate: NPM 2019 Day 22

I finally got the chance to break out the Paint Chip Poetry with my students–and they loved it! I shared a few of my attempts, explaining how the poems don’t have to be about color…they could use the paint chip words with whatever topic they wanted.

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And because there is an #USvsHate deadline for student anti-hate messaging on Friday, I encouraged students to write anti-hate poetry.

I wish I had taken a photo of the paint chips upside down on the back table where students were invited to choose 3 or 4 at random.  Some cheated a bit–giving back chips that they didn’t understand or didn’t like.  And some “borrowed” paint chip words that they saw and liked…from one of my poems or something they saw as I showed the huge variety they would have to choose from.

Some of the poems were simple…but oh, so interesting.  Aspen pulled “Sahara” as one of the paint chips and wrote this:

As I moonwalk

in the Sahara desert

I look up and see

the magical blue moon

and then look ahead at the

endless dunes

Luca (who broke his arm over the weekend and had to write wrong-handed today) wrote about the Earth on Earth Day.

Earth

It’s the neighbor

to the red planet

but unlike Mars

with its radical red

our world has a verdant green

and heavenly blue

with white clouds

like a blank canvas.

And Hudson, often reluctant to commit words to a page, wrote this piece in about 2 minutes! Clearly paint chips inspired him!

As I cross

those pearly gates

and cross the antique brass

I boarded that old ship

and expected smooth sailing

But soon a blizzard

created an iceberg

and before you know it

a big chunk of ice

sank that old ship that they called

the Titanic

And a couple anti-hate poems.  It was fun to see both the paint chip influence AND the influence of some of our class read-alouds.  We recently finished reading Save Me a Seat about a 5th grader who had recently immigrated from India to a school in New Jersey.  He found himself the victim of a charismatic, mean bully–making fun of him and treating him badly–to the point that he wanted to quit school.  The characters learn a lot about themselves…including the power of reflecting on their own actions.  I see evidence of this book in Elli’s poem:

Her name is Sunset

people think its weird

but I don’t get it

As she watches the bird making a nest

someone out of nowhere said

I hate you and hate the birds

As your wisdom tooth is growing

and the fire is blowing

hate shouldn’t be a thing

but kindness should always be a part of our life

the kindness of our joy

will bring us love

bad names like curryhead or bom bom butt

say who cares because that’s junk

things that do matter

are happily happy things

hate or no hate?

And Henry is thinking about how to make a difference through his poem.

US vs Hate

In a garden bed

with four leaf clovers

A boy makes good luck

turn into real life.

His wish was for everyone

to feel like they’re special.

A tiny change

makes a big change

A tiny change

makes everyone change.

For my poem I pulled four chips: wonderful wisteria, smoke signal, black tie, and lily of the valley.

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Sending Signals

Watch out for words

thoughts’ smoke signals

have fire to burn

causing damage beneath the skin

Don’t let a disguise

of suit and black tie

mask the danger,

excuse the vitriol

Listen carefully to your own words too

smell them

consider how they will affect others

Are you spreading wonderful wisteria,

lily of the valley

or the stink of malice

and stereotype?

©Douillard

 

Sorting Quiet

Today was a sorting and categorizing kind of day in my classroom.  Yesterday we read The Quiet Book by Deborah Underwood.

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In it she describes quiet in lots of evocative ways…here’s a couple of lines:

Last one to get picked up from school quiet.  Swimming underwater quiet.  Pretending you’re invisible quiet.  Lollipop quiet.  First look at your new haircut quiet.  Sleeping sister quiet.

Then we asked our students to think about the best kinds of quiet they have experienced. They had so many wonderful ideas including things like lost in a good book quiet, waking up before everyone else quiet, playing your favorite video game quiet, watching your favorite cartoon on television quiet…  They wrote their best kind of quiet on an index card before the end of the day.

Today to help us think about sorting and categories we read Shoes, Shoes, Shoes by Ann Morris–a book about shoes from around the world used for a variety of purposes.  We thought about the categories our shoes fit into…and the ways they cross categories: school shoes, running shoes, playing shoes…  And then, in groups of four students shared their best kinds of quiet and thought about ways to group their “bests” into categories.  We asked each group of four to try to find 2 categories that their 4 index cards would fit.  They came up with lots of categories: electronics quiet, family quiet, in-the-zone quiet, playing quiet, learning quiet…

And as a class we were able to narrow their categories down to four that we will use to create a class graph of our best kinds of quiet tomorrow.  Can’t wait to see what the data tells us!

What’s your best kind of quiet?

Neverwhere and more: a book(s) review

In the last few weeks I read two books written by Neil Gaiman.  I finished Neverwhere last night and read The Ocean at the End of the Lane a few weeks before that.  I read Coraline a few years ago…and remembering some picture books I bought last year, I reread The Wolves in the Walls and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish today.  In some ways I’m surprised that I like these books, they are a little bit fantasy with some parable-type qualities woven in.

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So what do I read, you might ask?  That question seems to become more and more complicated.  If you follow me on Goodreads you may notice that I have binged on several YA series.  I’ve read the Hunger Games series followed by a number of dystopian novels including Blood Red RoadDivergent and InsurgentThe Water Wars, and the Maze Runner series (that was not my favorite series).  I’ve also read some series more in the fantasy category including The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas FlamelThe Mortal Instruments (City of Bones…), The Infernal Devices, and Graceling Realm.  Interspersed were murder mysteries by Gillian Flynn and Danish author Jussi Adler-Olsen…and then there were the 4000+ pages of The Game of Thrones (haven’t gotten to A Dance with Dragons yet).  I’ve also read other odds and ends, novels and plenty of books for kids, especially graphic novels for the younger crowd.

But back to Neverwhere.  I read a lot.  Fiction and non-fiction, fantasy, mystery, realistic fiction, historical fiction and everything in between.  And some books stay with me longer than others. I liked Neverwhere.  Some reviewer described it as an urban fairytale.  In some ways I think that most of Gaiman’s books are fairytales of sort…maybe in the Grimm tradition.  When I think of Richard (of Neverwhere) and the unnamed narrator in The Ocean at the End of the Lane, they are both those anti-heroes who learn powerful life lessons as they interact with supernatural beings from somewhere other than the world of humans that you and I live most of our lives in. They are flawed, often seen as weak pushover types as the story begins.  They find their strength in unusual ways.

These are stories about overcoming difficulties…in many cases difficulties that the adults around them just don’t get.  When I think about Gaiman’s books I find myself thinking about the qualities of grit and resilience that we look to cultivate in our students…and that teachers need too in our current educational climate.   Neverwhere is a story about trusting your gut, learning from close observation, and hanging in there even when the going gets tough and things are scary.  It’s about feeling invisible and doing what is right anyway and finally about realizing that what you thought you needed and wanted for your life might not really be what you were looking for.

Gaiman’s books are richly layered, both readable and complex.  There are books for kids (The Wolves in the Walls and The Day I Swapped My Dad for Two Goldfish), for older kids (Coraline) and stories for adults.  And I haven’t read them all yet.  I think The Graveyard Book is up next for me.  What’s your favorite Gaiman book?  What else do you recommend?