Sunday, November 30, 2014

Part II. Sample Arrangements for Choral Reading

In the previous post, Part I: Recent Poetry Books for Choral Reading in Grades 2-8, I provided a book list of recent poetry books that can be used as a text source for choral reading.  In this post, I have selected a few poems from those books and created sample choral reading scripts.  I also have included a very brief slideshare  about conducting choral readings. Thanks to Jane Gangi who first showed me how to arrange texts for choral reading.

Part I: Recent Poetry Books for Choral Reading in Grades 2-8

In this post I provide a list of recent poetry books that can be used as text sources for choral reading. In Part II. Sample Arrangements for Choral Reading, I provide a slideshare explaining how to conduct choral reading and sample arrangements of poems taken from the list of books below.

Grades 2-5

Bochard, David. (2014). Voices From the Wild: An Animal Sensagoria. Illustrated by Ron Parker. Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
Elliott, David. (2014). On the Wing. Illustrated by Becca Stadtlander. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Frank, John. (2014). Lend a Hand: Poems About Giving. Illustrated by London Ladd. New York: Lee & Low Books.
Greenfield, Eloise. (2010). The Great Migration: Journey to the North. Illustrated by Jan Spivey Gilchrist. New York: Amistad.
Iyengar, Malathi. (2009). Tan to Tamarind: Poems About the Color BrownIllustrated by Jamel Akib. New York: Lee & Low Books.
Janeczko, Paul. (2014). Firefly July: A Year of Very Short Poems. Illustrated by Melissa Sweet. Somerville, MA: Candlewick.
Jiang, Emily. (2014). Summoning the Phoenix: Poems and Prose About Chinese Musical Instruments. Illustrated by April Chu. New York: Lee & Low Books.
Johnston, Tony. (2014). Sequoia. Paintings by Wendell Minor. New York: Roaring Brook Press.
Mora, Pat. (2014). Water Rolls, Water Rises: El agua rueda, el agua sube. Illustrated by Meilo So. New York: Lee & Low Books. 
Rogé. (2014 ). Haiti My Country. Illustrated by Rogé. Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
Rogé. (2013 ). Mingan My Village. Illustrated by Rogé. Markham, ON: Fitzhenry & Whiteside.
Sidman, Joyce. (2014). Winter Bees and Other Poems of the Cold.  Illustrated by Rick Allen, San Diego, CA: Houghton Mifflin. 
Sidman, Joyce. (2010). Ubiquitous: Celebrating Nature’s Survivors. Illustrated by Beckie Prange. San Diego, CA: Houghton Mifflin.
Singer, Marilyn.  (2011). A Full Moon Rising. Illustrated by Julia Cairns. New York: Lee & Low Books.

Etched in Clay art
Wood block from Etched in Clay.
Grades 5-8

Cheng, Andrea. (2013). Etched in Clay: The Life of Dave, Enslaved Potter and PoetNew York: Lee & Low Books.
Lewis, J. Patrick & George Ella Lyons. (2014). Voices from the March on Washington. Honesdale, PA: WordSong.
Nelson, Marilyn. (2014). How I Discovered PoetryIllustrated by Hadley  Hooper. New York: Dial.
Shange, Ntozake. (2012). Freedom's a-Callin Me. Illustrated by Rod Brown. New York: Amistad.
Smith, Hope Anita. (2011). The Way a Door Closes. Illustrated by Shane W. Evans. New York: Square Fish.
Smith, Hope Anita. (2009). Mother Poems. New York: Henry Holt.
Woodson, Jacqueline. (2014). Brown Girl Dreaming. New York: Nancy Paulsen Books.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

To Not Know is To Wander

Birds Flying (M.A. Reilly, November 2014)


Hear that? The call of birds at the end of fall.  Their sounds filling spaces with a cacophony of noise that I can admire and yet, not understand.  For I  know almost nothing about birds and this keeps me sharp, unsettled, cataloging--even though my attempts at each of these is poor.

To not know is to wander, searching for a foothold in the world, a boat to take you upstream.


Before the late fall storm slips in, we feel the air pressure drop and the crows and Jays swoop from oak tree to maple filling the wood lot beyond the side window with an increasing insistence--like a Morse code signaling urgency. Sparrows scour below the feeders in my neighbor's yard eating seed, making that odd chirping sound that grows louder until crows strut close and the sparrows lift as one.

The world before the storm feels busy and the birds pull me from the list of things I will not get done today--knowing that what is left undone is its own catalog, worthy of notice.

The Jays are perched on branches and wires, their feathers fluffed up, keeping them warm. I watch the black crows dart back and forth between limbs of trees, noting that where they have been marks an absence in the overcast sky. I try to watch until the sky grays completely obscuring birds and horizon but I always look away too soon. I know little about patience.  And ever so slowly snow begins to fall covering the sounds of birds huddling now on branches or crowding below bird feeders where seed has spilled.

The world quiets. And then there's only snow--each of us accepted into its stillness.


Early this morning, well after the snowfall had ended, the call of young birds punctuated the silence of the kitchen. Upstairs my husband slept on and in the far rooms at the other end of the house my son and his two friends slept too. I love these settled moments when the the trickle of water though baseboards and coffee perking are the only interior sounds I notice.

Hungry? I wondered and closed my laptop leaving it perched on the kitchen table.  I crossed the floor and opened the draw that holds bread taking out a few pieces and crumbling each. Opening the side door, I noticed that no one had shoveled the steps and so I needed to throw the crumbs a distance greater than I had wished. I watched for a while.  The crumbs lying on top of the snow and all the while I was remembering how my mom forty years earlier would send me outside to do the same.

Then it was a drudgery.  How could I know what she was preparing me for with such a simple and unassuming act as feeding the birds?

In those days our backyard was the size of a thumb and we concocted more ways to feed winter birds and did it daily. Pie plates filled with bacon grease and crushed peanuts and seeds. Homemade suet balls hanging from a fence made from seeds and fat and cut up apples. Days old bread crumbled and tossed out the back door. We were nothing less than inventive in that small house just a few miles from Manhattan.

Each time I feed the birds now I think of the children living in the neighborhood and how the bears come in early fall too to eat whatever has been thrown outside for the birds. But at November's end I think the bears must be slumbering. At least this is what I tell myself as I toss the last handful of bread and notice at how it disrupts the stillness of snow.

Upstairs I can hear the sound of my husband rising as I resettle at the table, opening the laptop.  In some small ways what we repeat most often is what we first failed to understand.

Early Snow : A Dozen Images

A few images made the last few days in northern New Jersey and in Orange County, New York. Snow came early this year.

Red Leaves in Tree (M.A. Reilly, November 2014, Ringwood, NJ)

Saying Hello (M.A. Reilly, November 2014, Tuxedo, NY)

Brown Leaves (M.A. Reilly, November 2014, Ringwood, NJ)

4 Trees (M.A. Reilly, November 2014, Orange County, NY)

Out Walking (M.A. Reilly, November 2014, Ringwood, NJ)

Icing (M.A. Reilly, November 2014, Ringwood, NJ)

Birds in a Tree in Snow (M.A. Reilly, November 2014, Ringwood, NJ) 

Woods in Snow (M.A. Reilly, November 2014, Ringwood, NJ)

Birds Flying (M.A. Reilly, November 2014, Ringwood, NJ)

During the Storm (M.A. Reilly, November 2014, Ringwood, NJ)

Snowman (M.A. Reilly, November 2014, Ringwood, NJ)
Trees After Snow (M.A. Reilly, November 2014, Orange County, NY)

Friday, November 28, 2014

K-12 Children's Books about Coal Mining

K-5 Picture Books

Carter,  Anne Laurel. (2008). Out of the Deeps. Illustrated by Nicolas Debon. Voctoria, BC: Orca Book Publisher.
Hendershot, Judith. (1992).  In Coal Country. Illustrated by Thomas B. Allen. New York: Dragonfly Books.
Love, Ann & Jane Drake. (1997). America at Work: Mining. Illustrated by Pat Crupples. Towanado, NY: Kids Can Press.
Wallace, Ian. 2005. Boy of the Deeps. Toronto, ON: Groundwood Books.

Grades 5-8

Aronson. Marc. (2011). Trapped: How the World Rescued 33 Miners from 2,000 Feet Below the Chilean Desert.   New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.
Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. (2000). A Coal Miner's Bride: the Diary of Anetka Kaminska. New York: Scholastic.
Bartoletti, Susan Campbell. (1999). Growing Up in Coal Country. Boston, MA: HMH Books for Young Readers.
Hughes, Pat. (2014). The Breaker Boys. Backshore Books. (Fiction)
Laskas, Gretchen Moran. (2007). The Miner's Daughter. New York: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. (Fiction)
Nelson, S.D. (2014). Digging a Hole to Heaven: Coal Miner Boys. New York: Abrams.
Ruby, Lois. (2012). Strike! Mother Jones and the Colorado Coal Field War. Palmer Lake, CO: Filter Press, LLC.
Scott, Elaine. (2012). Buried Alive!: How 33 Miners Survived 69 Days Deep Under the Chilean Desert.  New York: Clarion Books.

Grades 9+
Freese, Barbara. (2004). Coal: A Human HistoryNew York:  Penguin Books.
Galuszka, Peter A. (2012).  Thunder on the Mountain: Death at Massey and the Dirty Secrets Behind Big Coal.  New York: St. Martin's Press.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A Dozen Children's Books I'm Anticipating in 2015

from  The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage.

Alko, Selina. (2015). The Case for Loving: The Fight for Interracial Marriage. Illustrated by Sean Qualls & Selina Alko. New York: Arthur A. Levine Books. (Picture book story about the Loving family whose legal suit was heard by the Supreme Court and overturned Virginia’s state law that prohibited interracial marriage.)

Barton, Chris. (2105). The Amazing Age of John Roy Lynch. Illustrated by Don Tate. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Books For Young Readers.  (Picture book biography about the John Roy Lynch, the first African American Congressman. I also love Don Tate’s art work.)

Burgess, Matthew.  (2015). Enormous Smallness: A Story of E.E. Cummings. Illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo. Brooklyn, NY: Enchanted Lion Books. (Picture book biography about poet, e.e. cummings.)

Delaunois, Angèle. (2015).  Magic Little Words. Illustrated by Manon Gauthier. Toronto, ON: Owlkid Books. (Picture book featuring important words, like please, that are illustrated through collage.)

Engle, Margarita. (2015). Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl's Courage Changed Music. Illustrated by Rafael López. New York: HMH Books for Young Readers. (Inspired by the life of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba's traditional taboo against female drummers.)

Gourley, Robin (2015). Talkin’ Guitar: A Story of Doc Watson. New York: Clarion Books. (Picture book biography about Doc Wilson.)

from Chasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony, Inspired by Historical Facts.

Grimes, Nikki. (2015). Chasing Freedom: The Life Journeys of Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony, Inspired by Historical Facts. Illustrated by Michele Wood. New York: Orchard Books. (Grimes’ imagined discourse between Tubman an Anthony that is informed by historical facts.  The illustrations are deep, beautiful, moving.) [Grades 3-6]

Janeczko, Paul B. (2015). The Death of the Hat: A Brief History of Poetry in 50 Objects. Illustrated by Chris Raschka. Somerville, MA: Candlewick. (An anthology of poems that are inspired by objects the poets valued, noticed.)

Thompson, Laurie Ann. (2015). Emmanuel's Dream: The True Story of Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah. Illustrated by Sean Qualls. New York: Schwartz & Wade. (Picture book story about Emmanuel Ofosu Yeboah who disabled, cycled across Ghana to illustrate the message that being disabled dos not mean you are limited.)

from Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century

Weatherford, Carole Boston. (2014).  Leontyne Price: Voice of a Century. Illustrated by Raúl Colón. New York: Knopf Books for Young Readers.  (Picture book biography about African-American opera singer, Leontyne Price. Signature Raul Colon illustrations.)

Weatherford, Carole Boston. (2015). Gordon Parks: How the Photographer Captured Black and White America. Illustrated by Jamey Christoph. Park Ridge, IL: Albert Whitman & Company. (Weatherford’s picture book biography told in verse about Gordon Parks focusing on his work as a photographer documenting segregation.)

Wilson, Mary. (2015). The Singer in the Stream: A Story of American Dippers. Illustrated by Katherine Hocker. Yosemite Conservancy. (Nonfiction picture book about American dippers—small gray birds who live their lives near mountain streams.)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tell All Your Heart: Ferguson & A Mother's Heart

Another Mother's Grief (from M.A. Reilly's Collage Journal made on 8.11.14)


Tonight, I am wondering what I might say to my teenage son who stood 6 feet tall next to me, unwavering, as we all listened to Bob McCulloch tell America--tell the world--that a St. Louis County grand jury returned no indictment of Police Officer Darren Wilson for killing Mike Brown. Officer Wilson discharged 12 shots at an unarmed teenager--just two years older than my own child. These are facts not disputed. Wilson fired his gun 12 times at Mike Brown, killing him with a shot to the boy's head.

Tonight, I'm trying to find words, knowing the inadequacy of speech, as I watched my son turn away and walk back upstairs closing the door to his room after telling his father and me he was not surprised by the outcome.

This is America, he says.

He sees the United States as an unjust place--a place of racial and economic injustice. He has already known the repeated sting of not being white discharged by white boys who enjoyed protection from their acts by white teachers and administrators at school. Places where white principals say, We don't notice color here. We don't see color.


White privilege is a fearsome thing.

This absence of indictment confirms what my son has told us he knows: America is the land of institutionalized racism. It runs through our blood.  A river that is centuries old. It is deep. No white sheet can hide such savagery.


Tonight, I'm thinking about the long, long list of parents who have had to endure injustice when their children's blood was spilled. When their babies were cut down. When their boys and girls were murdered by men sworn to protect. I am the granddaughter, the niece, the cousin, and the sister to police officers--those sworn to protect.

Tonight I am worried that my son, a Korean teen, cannot count on the police to read his intentions correctly. To see him as his mom and dad know him.  Given the history of our country is it possible to believe that in a time of ambiguity a police office won't read his difference first? Won't read him as not white? Won't read him as other. Won't read him as threat?  Is he a young man who will be allowed to make a foolish mistake without it resulting in his death?

No amount of Abercombie & Fitch, Apple or Yankee accessories will reverse his status of other.

So what do I tell him?  What should his white mother say to him?

We talk again, after he asks me to help him study for an English exam he'll take tomorrow. After we talk about The Things They Carried and Romeo & Juliet--about needless deaths that span centuries and I talk to him as only a mother can. I make him promise me that if he is facing arrest, like 1 in 3 young men do in this country before the age of 23, that he'll submit. He'll lie on the goddamn ground. He'll put his hands up. He'll keep his mouth shut. He'll do all this to keep himself alive cause facing a white man with a gun could well be his death.


Tonight I'm tired. Tonight I am remembering the original definition of courage--a definition that in the 1400s meant to tell all of your heart. Tonight I am feeling a keen kinship with mothers across the globe prompted by that definition, by the actions reported in Clayton, MO. Prompted, perhaps because I began to cry once the prosecutor mentioned the conflicting issues of witnesses because I knew with certainty that no indictment would be forthcoming.

What we tell our boys and girls, what we say from our mothers' hearts, we should tell out loud. We should tell all of our hearts. Keep safe in this unsafe world we've made. Work to make it better than we have done. Know our failure and be undeterred. But keep safe, first. Be safe.

To remain silent is to be complicit.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Readiness is the Language of Servitude

The learning in school should be continuous with that out of school. There should be a free interplay between the two (John Dewey. Democracy & Education, p. 288).

I was reading the post, Social Media and the Law: The Future of Online Defamationby Aron Solomon and Jason Moyse and it got me thinking about the current aim of public education in the US to make all students college and career ready. Aron writes:
As 1Ls (first-year law students), both Jason and I learned about defamation law. We might as well have learned nothing, as the explosion of technology is about to result in an even larger boom in this area of the law.

Aron and Jason are writing about the changing (and emerging) understanding of defamation as it is being applied to social media based situations.  What interests me here is their claim that their former education lacks significantly in preparation for the new twists in understanding defamation. Applying the law to potential defamation cases that occur as a result of social media renders their former education as incomplete.

This makes me wonder about the efficacy of trying to ensure that all high school graduates are college and career ready. Might such an aim be off track?  Perhaps even, foolish?


The CCSS makes a pretty large claim--a claim that is bold and hopeful as it is sophomoric and delusional.
The standards were created to ensure that all students graduate from high school with the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in college, career, and life, regardless of where they live. 
I do not imagine many can actually believe this claim when they study it, especially given the impossibly narrow focus of the CCSS on school-based math and English language arts. How can the skills and knowledge most needed for children who will be graduating high school in 2028 be known? Consider Aron and Jason's assertion that the highly specialized post-graduate work of legal studies each took did not readily prepare them for the litigious world that has been disrupted by social media. Our world never stands still. The world we partially name from our skewed points of view today cannot be the world we will name in 2028. Getting millions of children ready for a future we cannot know is a fool's errand.

  • Is there a set of skills and knowledge that are most important?  And for whom?  In what context? 
  • Is there causality between the skills/knowledge selected by a handful of college educated people in 2009 and college, career, and life success in 2028?  
  • What are the meanings of success? Which of these matter most?  For whom?
  • Was it even possible for this small coterie to know what is most essential for your child to know? For mine? For the Athabaskan child living in an Interior Alaska Athabaskan community? For the child who hears music as a language and uses this as self-definition? For the dancer? For the child in living in El Paso, Texas? For the artist? For the child being held in a detention center? For the child living in Lost Springs, Wyoming? For the tinkerer? For the lost one?  For the prodigy?
  • Is there a set of educational standards that can be the key to equity in an increasingly inequitable country? 
  • Is learning a matter of what we know? Unknow? Relearn? Not know?
What are we being sold here?  And perhaps most important: What is escaping our notice while we pander to this bill of goods?


The last few weeks have found me teaching at a public high school in the South Bronx, a K-8 public school in the central ward of Newark, NJ, and at a public school in a wealthy suburb of New York City. The economic and safety issues and assets that frame each of these places is not without influence on what is learned, unlearned, and not learned by the students who attend school at each of these sites.

What is essential are often matters of geography and time.

The CCSS claim reminds me of the earlier school outcome via No Child Left Behind Act that 100% of the tested children in the United States would demonstrate school based math and reading proficiency by 2014. Even though such a claim was idiotic, an entire country swayed to its power for the better part of a decade.

What did we stop paying attention to in order to pay attention to this end goal that could never have been realized?


John Dewey in Democracy and Education told us that "the object and reward of learning is continued capacity for growth" (p. 85).  Continued capacity for growth. Further he warned that it is critical that the aims of education arise freely from one's experiences or else the aims will be "ulterior aims of others" (p. 85).

And this is the centrality of what I am writing about here and what I have written in too many posts to count. Agency is at the center of learning and the desire to learn.  Doing unto others via impositions of uniformed standards and annual standardized testing distracts us from learning by encouraging our active and/or passive resistance. This happens at the pupil and teacher levels.

We are always staring at something that is at best a distraction, chasing with dollars that which cannot be realized.  Standardized visions of learning pay homage to sameness--to readiness. Dewey warned us:
Exorbitant desire for uniformity of procedure and for prompt external results are the chief foes which the open-minded attitude meets in school. The teacher who does not permit and encourage diversity of operation in dealing with questions is imposing intellectual blinders upon pupils--restricting their vision to the one path the teacher's mind happens to approve. Probably the chief cause of devotion to rigidity of method is, however, that it seems to promise speedy, accurately measurable correct results. The zeal for 'answers' is the explanation of much of the zeal for rigid and mechanical methods. Forcing and overpressure have the same origin, and the same result upon alert and varied intellectual interest (p.145).

Kneel down before standards and find yourself unable to see the larger picture. Your vision is boot high. Readiness has always been the language of servitude.