Sunday, November 9, 2014


Today is Carl Sagan's birthday. I didn't know until it showed up on my Twitter feed. Nor can I say that I know a great deal about Carl Sagan other than this - the man was brilliant. But, I think sometimes that is enough.
One of the most profound pieces of writing that I carry with me is from his book,  Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space. The book contains a photograph from the Voyager 1 mission. In the photograph, the Earth is too far away to be seen with detail, but the profound thoughts that Sagan puts forth are more powerful to me than the photograph. 
From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest. But for us, it's different. Consider again that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.
The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known, so far, to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment, the Earth is where we make our stand. It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.
Carl SaganPale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, 1997 reprint, pp. xv–xvi

I love that he reminds me that I am responsible for myself. If I want to see change, I must do it. I must be kind to those around me, I must take care of our world, it is MY responsibility. These are messages that certainly can be passed on to the younger generation.

Varmits by Helen Ward

The Curious Garden by Peter Brown

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Word Choice - Verb Power

This week, I had the opportunity to read some college essays for a colleague. College essay writing is an area that I am not fluent in, but I was willing to look over the essays and see if I had any suggestions for revision.
I was reminded about the importance of choosing the right word for the sentence in order to convey the intended tone and message. Published authors talk about the importance of word choice, but it was a good reminder that verb selection is crucial in conveying a direct and correct message.

Rufus Goes to School by Kim T. Griswell

Friday, November 7, 2014

Be Yourself

A great book arrived today. I wasn't sure at first what to expect - but it was a great story about doing your best, even if it wasn't what everyone expected.

Hana Hashimoto, Sixth Violin by Chieri Uegaki

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Books About Too Much

Now that Halloween is officially over, apparently it is time for the Christmas season to begin. The girl and I went to Target the day after Halloween to try and score a half-price Halloween costume for next year. She was less interested in the costumes and WAY more interested in the trees and ornaments that were set up across the aisle. 

My family has already started asking what her 'list' looks like, what she wants for Christmas. The honest truth is the girl needs nothing. We are fortunate that my cousin hands down all her daughter's outgrown clothes, so we have plenty of clothes. In fact, we have more clothes that we will ever wear.

We have enough toys - the girl doesn't play with them anyway. She has a basement with cars, blocks, kitchen items, Little People, dinosaurs, everything a child could want. The only thing she loves are her books. Big books. Little books. Board books. Nonfiction books. Picture books. Any kind of book. But, she needs no more books. She already has over 100 board books and more than two bookcases full of other books. She does not need.

I've tried explaining over and over that we don't want items, we really would just like family to spend time with us and if they feel the need to give something, a contribution to her college fund would be great. But, the holidays bring out the nostalgia in family and they can't fathom the idea of not opening presents around a tree. 

But, if you are looking for some ideas about books that help explain why you don't need to buy that newest, bestest toy out there for your little one, these might be for you:

Too Many Toys by David Shannon

Have Fun, Molly Lou Melon by Patty Lovell

Saturday, November 1, 2014

November is Picture Book Month

I recently joined Twitter. I have to say, I have no idea what I'm doing yet. I only have four followers, I only follow a few people and I still haven't quite figured out what a hashtag is. I think I have made one 'tweet' and that was because a 5th grade student took pity on me and helped me do it. But, I'm trying. 
As teachers, parents, and colleagues we are often so stymied by the idea that we may not do something well, that we don't do anything at all. It's scary to jump in and admit that we don't have all the answers and we might not know what will happen. But, without that one small step, that one little leap, we don't know how far we (and the students) can go.
Therefore, I'm leaping a bit and revisiting the idea of great picture books. November is Picture Book Month and I want to take a bit of time to pull out some of the great picture books I have and think about them in a new way.
I don't know for sure where this thinking will take me, but I'm willing to jump in and give it a try to see just how far it can go.

Clarence Goes Out West and Meets a Purple Horse by Jean Ekman Adams

I'm sure there are better books out there, but this book is one of my favorites. There are several others in the series, but the first one is still the best, I think. I love the illustrations, Clarence and Smoky are both so cute and the colors are very vibrant.
I love to use this book to show different sentence length. There are very long, flowing sentences. And there are very short, choppy sentences. Each serves its own purpose and this book is great for showing how authors make those decisions.
I also love to use this for studying the use of commas and punctuation. There are commas in a series, clauses, introductory phrases, all sorts of interesting uses for a comma. Using an authentic text to point out how an author makes this text more readable with punctuation helps make the learning real and authentic.