Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Slice of Life: Digital Literacy in July

This past Sunday was a gorgeous day. The sun was shining, there was barely a cloud in the sky, and the temperature was almost eighty degrees by eight o'clock in the morning. I live in New England, so this is the type of day I dream about all winter long. On a day like this I can usually be found on the beach, catching up on some reading, or riding my bike along the ocean. On this particular Sunday, I was not doing either of those activities. Instead, I attended the first day of the Summer Institute in Digital Literacy at the University of Rhode Island.

The day before, while at the beach with a friend, I mentioned that I was spending the entire upcoming week taking this class. My friend's question was something like this: "Why would you take a class for a week in the middle of July?" I have to admit, his question made me wonder this, too. I thought about the sun, the sand, the crash of the waves. Then I questioned myself: Why would I give up my opportunities to enjoy the gorgeous July weather to sit inside all day, in most likely a windowless room with the air conditioning set too high, where I would spend hours focusing and working my brain rather than relaxing?

I wasn't at the institute very long at all when I had the answer to my question.  There were over 150 educators at the institute and they knew the answer as well. Together, we represented educators in a variety of roles, including public school teachers, school librarians, and university professors. We also came from many different places, representing twenty-one states and eight countries. The reason we all had for giving up a Sunday, as well as the following five days, in the middle of July in order to learn about digital literacy was the commonality that bonded us all.  Our students. We were all led to this professional development opportunity because we want better for our students. We all want to enhance our repertoire of tools and strategies for instruction, but the ultimate goal in doing that is improved learning.

Being in a room full of educators, all focused on student learning, is always energizing and inspiring. Part of being a professional educator is being a life-long learner.  I am continuously learning by seeking out new ideas and better ways to support my students as they grow into independent readers, writers, and thinkers. There is no better place to do this than with a group of professionals who bring varying perspectives, but a common desire to continue to learn and improve upon student learning. We were only minutes into the institute when I realized the group of educators I found myself with this Sunday in July were going to impact my learning in powerful ways. The sun, the sand, the waves were far from my mind as I looked forward to a week of learning.      

Monday, July 25, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  For more information and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach MentorTexts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week…

Babies Ruin Everything by Matthew Swanson

This is a humorous picture book about a girl who does not want to be a big sister. In fact, when she finds out her baby brother can't stand on one foot, catch a frisbee, or whistle, she asks for him to be sent back. The story shows the emotions a child may feel when a new baby arrives, but, in the end, it's also a story of learning how to enjoy being an older sibling. The illustrations and humor help to create a fun spin on the "new baby" story. 

Nightmare Escape (Dream Jumpers, Book 1) by Greg Grunberg and Lucas Turnbloom

In this graphic novel, Ben learns he has the ability to jump into other people's dreams.  The plot centers on Ben, who in the real world is trying to make sense of what is going on while he is sleeping and in the dream world has powers which he must use to save his friends.  I think many of my readers will find the concept of dream jumping interesting and enjoy the action, fast pace, and graphic format of this novel.

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill

There is a fairytale quality to this story that I found imaginative and engaging. There are two story lines that emerge, that of Luna, a girl who was abandoned in the forest and rescued by a witch who gave her magic, and Antain, who is a misfit of sorts among the people of the Protectorate, where he lives. The plot of this story, centered on fantasy and magic, unfolds as the character's stories become connected. In addition, the story is beautifully written, with sentences that often made me stop and go back to reread.  Magic, bravery, and the bonds between family members are all interwoven into this very unique tale.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

#cyberpd: Week Three

This is the third week of #cyberpd, a virtual book talk, that I am participating in this summer.  Those in the #cyberpd community are reading and discussing DIY Literacy: Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor, and Independence by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts.  This week our focus is on the last two chapters of the book.


Chapter five of DIY Literacy addresses an obstacle facing all teachers: finding ways to effectively differentiate instruction for the varied learners in our classrooms.  The authors discuss how teaching tools can help us meet students' needs and provide individualized instruction during conferences and small groups.  If students are ready to be pushed to a higher level, a teacher can use a demonstration notebook to teach them a more complex skill or strategy.  Teaching tools can also help students differentiate for themselves by reminding them of skills and strategies they can use when they are having difficulty or are ready to try something new.  For example, creating an If/Then chart provides students with a list of strategies to choose from and helps them become responsible for their own differentiation.

While reading chapter five, I started thinking about some of the problems that my students tend to have throughout the reading lessons I teach.  I spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year teaching students that reading is about understanding and supporting them in monitoring their comprehension. I started a draft of a possible If/Then chart that could help students know what to try when the are having difficulty understanding what they read.  This is a work in progress, but this is what I've come up with so far:

In addition to this book discussion, I participated in a virtual book discussion of Who's Doing the Work: How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris this summer.  One of the main takeaways for me from the book is that teaching should support students in learning to make decisions about their reading so they learn to be independent.  I am guilty, at times, of making decisions for my students.  For example, when students get stuck in their reading I often prompt them to use a specific strategy.  I have done this in the best interest of my students since I feel my prompting is helping students engage in useful strategies, but when I tell students exactly what to do I am not letting them figure out how to work through the tricky parts themselves and make their own decisions about what to do.  I think a teaching chart, such as this If/Then chart can support students as they learn to work through problems within their reading and make their own decisions about strategies they could use.  After students have had multiple opportunities to engage in the strategies with the support of the teaching chart, the goal would be for them to independently use the strategies without needing to reference the chart.

As I was creating this teaching chart, I was thinking about my messy handwriting, questioning the use of the colors of the markers I used, and critiquing my artistic skills (I should be able to draw something as simple as an arrow a little better!).  Chapter six of DIY Literacy addressed many of these issues and provided tips for making charts both appealing and engaging.  I was very relieved to read this at the end of the chapter: "But in the end, it is far, far more important that teaching tools be helpful to kids, not attractive" (p. 104).  Although I don't want my teaching tools to be so messy students can't or don't want to read them, I feel that this gave me permission to do the best I can. Not too long ago, I heard someone use the phrase "pinterest classroom" and talk about how it's not the bright borders, fancy posters, and themed decorations hanging on the four walls of a classroom that really matter, but the quality of the teaching and learning that occurs within those walls. My charts and other teaching tools will probably never be pinterest-worthy, but if they help me be effective at building student ownership and agency then they will be beautiful to me!

Monday, July 18, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  For more information and to find out what other bloggers are reading check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week…

Madeline Finn and the Library Dog by Lisa Papp

I don't know if it's because I'm a reading teacher or because I am a passionate reader, but I always love books about reading.  This is a wonderful picture book because it is about reading, but also because it's about a girl, Madeline, who keeps trying even though she is challenged with learning to read.  There is a message about persistence, but also about being confident in oneself.  This book is a great addition to my collection of books about students faced with learning challenges, such as Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco and Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt. I think young readers will enjoy reading about how Madeline read with a library dog and also be delighted by the surprise ending.  The sweet, softly-colored illustrations will entice readers, as well.

Pirasaurs by Josh Funk

Josh Funk, the author of this picture book, is a pretty active on Twitter, so I feel like I somewhat know him, but it was nice to actually meet the real person behind the tweets at the ILA conference I attended last week. Pirasaurs is a fun, rhyming book that tells a story of dinosaurs who are pirates, a combination that is sure to please students.  There is quite a cast of pirasaur characters, with one in particular who will win the hearts of readers with his determination and problem-solving skills.  One of the reasons I enjoyed reading this book, similar to the reason I enjoyed Josh's Lady Pancake and Sir French Toast is the wonderful vocabulary that brings the story to life.  I particularly loved the line, "I love to slurp and belch and burp with buccaneering beasts." Well, who doesn't? I think the story and illustrations will engage and amuse young readers.  

Hilo: The Great Big Boom by Judd Winick

At the ILA conference last week I was also lucky enough to get an advanced reader's copy of the third graphic novel in the Hilo series.  My students fell in love with Hilo when they read the first book and eagerly anticipated the second which they also loved.  Of course, they've asked for the third book and been a bit disappointed to hear that, according to Amazon, the book will not be available until 2017. I almost felt like I had a piece of gold in my hands, as I walked out of the exhibit hall clutching my copy thinking about my reluctant readers, who until reading Hilo have never expressed much interest in reading, and all the students who will be excited to know I have the book. I imagine that my students will be hooked on this book in the first few pages since it contains humor, action, and mention of bodily functions.  The adventures of Hilo, a robot who doesn't know much about where he came from, and his human friends, D.J. and Gina, continue in this book as they are trying to find their way back to earth. There's a surprise towards the end that opens up potential for an interesting storyline in a fourth book.  This is a series that has engaged my readers and I just hope Judd Winick keeps them coming.

Ms. Bixby's Last Day by John David Anderson

Sometimes I am hesitant to read a book when there has been a lot of hype about it because I often expect too much and am a bit disappointed.  There has been a lot of hype about this book, I did read it, and it turned out that it actually exceeded my expectations.  This is a heartwarming story, one that may cause tears, but also smiles.  When Ms. Bixby suddenly can't finish the school year because of a serious illness, three friends skip school in order to give her the last day she deserves.  The story is inspiring and hopeful.  I was pleasantly surprised that there were many parts of this story I found funny.  This is a well-written story with a plot that makes you wonder and characters who are real and memorable.  I highly recommend this one.

This Week's Professional Reading...

The Journey is Everything: Teaching Essays That Students Want to Write for People Who Want to Read Them by Katherine Bomer

I am only on the third chapter of this book, but it is already insightful and changing my thinking about what I know an essay to be.  Bomer begins the book by presenting an essay and engaging the reader in reading it closely to explore the craft of essay.  In chapter two, Bomer beautifully and wonderfully describes essay as "writing to think."  I love the idea of writing essay in order to discover and learn more about what we think.  Reading essay in order to write one is another important idea that comes across in Bomer's book.  I'm looking forward to reading more of this one.  

Beach Reading...

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

I don't usually share my adult reading, but I have recently finished this novel and it is so beautifully written and such a captivating story that I have to share it.  The story follows the family lineage of two half-sisters born in eighteenth-century Ghana with each chapter telling the story of a new character.  With each new chapter and character, the story moves forward in time providing an insightful look at an important part of our history.  The author tells a very powerful story.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

#cyberpd: Week Two

This is the second week of #cyberpd, a virtual book talk, that I am participating in this summer.  Those in the #cyberpd community are reading and discussing DIY Literacy: Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor, and Independence by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts.  This week our focus is chapters three and four.


As I was reading chapters three and four of DIY Literacy I felt as if the authors, Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts, must have been in my classroom alongside me at some point.  They described challenges in teaching and learning that are all too familiar.  Their description of a teacher reading student work that doesn’t show any evidence of the new strategies she taught or students finishing a task that should have taken much longer are all too real to me.  Reading these descriptions made me think the authors just took a page from my day-in-the-life-of-a-literacy-teacher story. This speaks to how relevant this book is for me.  As I was reading there where parts, such as when I read this, “Your students can be more thoughtful about what strategies they use in their reading and writing, and they can hold onto your teaching as time goes on” (p. 39) that I was thinking, Please, tell me HOW! Of course, Kate and Maggie do not disappoint.  They have provided some insightful ideas to work through the instructional challenges that I’m sure all teachers must face.

Chapter Three

This chapter focused on an obstacle in our teaching: students’ abilities to remember. The teaching chart, a tool created with students that list steps or strategies students are learning, was highlighted. These are the big takeaways for me:
  • With all the teaching students are exposed to on a daily basis, they have a lot to remember and charts can help them remember and develop automaticity with the strategies they are learning.
  • When students have charts to refer to they can be thoughtful about the use of strategies and make independent decisions about strategy use.
  • Teachers and students need to live the chart.  Tips to make frequent references to the chart, add strategies to the chart during follow-up lessons, and give students the opportunity to reflect with a partner about their use of strategies help to make the chart a useful tool as opposed to a poster that hangs on the wall.
  • Charts and other tools are scaffolds and should be temporary.  Students can be involved in the process of removing the charts with practices, such as polling them to see which ones they think can be “retired” and challenging them not to use the chart.

Chapter Four

Rigor, another common obstacle in instruction was the focus of this chapter.  Micro-progressions, examples of different levels of work that is expected of students, were presented as a tool to motivate students to work hard.  These are the big takeaways from the chapter:

  • Rigor isn’t only about the complexity of the task, but also about the work and effort that students put forth when engaged in a task.
  • Rigor may be lacking because students aren’t clear on expectations for the task they are being asked to do.
  • Micro-progressions are a tool used to show students the expectations so they know what to do to work hard at a task.
  • Rigor is linked to motivation.  Students will work hard when they are challenged, curious, given control, engaged in collaborative work, and recognized for their hard work.
Next week I will be posting a reflection on chapters five and six, as the #cyberpd community continues reading and discussing the book.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Slice of Life: Developing Students' Independent Reading Lives

As a reader, I am a bit of a book juggler.  I don’t read one book, but I have several, at the same time, that I alternate between reading.  Currently, I am reading a novel (Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi: I would highly recommend this beautifully written, stunning story.).  I am also reading a professional text because I am participating in a virtual book discussion.  I am reading another professional text to increase my knowledge for a workshop I will be teaching on mentor texts.  I am reading a children’s book so I can add a title to the list of those to book talk for students during the school year.  One morning when I go to the coffee shop, I may bring one of the professional texts with me and read and learn while I sip my latte.  When I’m at the beach, I’ll most likely read the novel so my mind can escape to another time and another place.  Before bed, when I can’t think too much because I'm so tired, I’ll choose the children’s book because it’s a fun and light read.  The reading I am doing at any moment may be influenced by my mood, my energy level, my desire to find something out or to escape on a journey.  

I recently read Who’s Doing the Work: How to Say Less So Readers Can Do More by Jan Burkins and Kim Yaris.  I have actually gotten to know this book well, since I began a virtual book club last month and have been chatting about the chapters on a weekly basis.  In their book, Burkins and Yaris (2016) discuss instructional practices that allow students to do more of the work within reading contexts (read aloud, shared reading, guided reading, and independent reading) than we traditionally have them do so that students grow into independent readers.  Providing students with the opportunity to think deeply and make decisions about their reading work is the basis for what they term next generation reading instruction.  The chapter on next generation independent reading gives a reminder that students should not be confined to reading levels when choosing books for independent reading.  Students may have “harder” or “easier” books because, as Burkins and Yaris (2016) state, “'Just right’ involves more than numbers; different books are just right for different purposes” (p. 107).  When students are choosing books by reading level the decision-making work is mostly done for them, but when students are choosing books based on their purposes they have more control and ownership over the path they take to become better readers.  

I have observed students who gravitate towards the “harder” books because they believe these are the books that make them a good reader.  Sometimes their interest, motivation, and effort can get them through these books, but sometimes they end up abandoning them only to go in search of another hard book.  Then I have observed other readers who choose the “easier” books – whatever they can find with the least pages or the fewest words on a page.  These students may need these books as they are developing their reading skills and building their confidence, but they may also be able to stretch themselves with a book that presents them with a bit more challenge.  As someone who juggles books, I know the necessity and the joy of reading a variety of texts.  Students will not always arrive at this understanding on their own, but explicit teaching about the purpose of reading and book selection will support students as they develop reading habits. I share my own reading life with my students so they can see that even as a “good reader” I sometimes choose books that challenge me and other times I choose an easy book so I can give my mind a break.  I let students know what I am reading so they can see that sometimes I read novels because fiction is my favorite genre, but I also read nonfiction in order to learn new things and sometimes I even read poetry. 

I am an avid reader.  I finish one book and I add another one to my reading stack.  I read every day (although I admit I have those days that my tired eyes only manage a sentence or two and I’m practically dreaming before the book is pushed aside).  My reading life helps me understand how to engage students in the habits of real readers. Real readers read for different purposes.  I model my reading life so that students will develop their own, not a reading life that is the exact mirror image of mine, but one that fits their interests, purposes, and needs.  I teach students to choose books that are just right for them because I want them to become better readers, but also to enjoy reading.  I have a joyful reading life and I wish the same for my students.  

Burkins, J., & Yaris, K. (2016).  Who's doing the work: How to say less so readers can do more. Portland, ME: Stenhouse.

Monday, July 11, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  For more information check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week…

A Unicorn Named Sparkle by Amy Young

When Lucy responds to an ad and buys a unicorn for twenty-five cents she imagines that it will be blue with a pink tail and mane.  When her unicorn arrives he is not what she expected - he is more goat than unicorn.  This is a story of unlikely friendship and learning to appreciate others for who they are.  The illustrations are sweet and fun.  

The Storyteller by Evan Turk

This is a lovely picture book about the power of storytelling.  A boy searching for water listens to a storyteller tell what becomes a story within a story within a story.  The author's endnote provides information about Morocco's storytellers and the fact that they are disappearing.  This book celebrates storytelling helping readers to gain a renewed appreciation for the ancient art and tradition.  Each page is filled with color that seems to sweep across the page, pulling you into the illustrations and the story.  The story and the artwork are both lovely.

Skeleton Island: An Araminta Spookie Adventure by Angie Sage

This is the latest addition to the Araminta Spookie series, which is a little scary, a little fun, and a little adventurous.  Araminta and her friend Wanda are accidentally, or maybe on purpose, left behind on a class trip to Skeleton Island and become involved in a plan to find a buried treasure.  There are ghosts, skeletons, and pirates, as well as some disgusting humor.  Readers who want to read a fun, spooky tale will enjoy this one.  

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

#cyberpd: Week One

For the next few weeks I will be participating in #cyberpd, a virtual book talk.  I am excited to take part in this community of educators for the first time.  This summer we are reading the book DIY Literacy: Teaching Tools for Differentiation, Rigor, and Independence by Kate Roberts and Maggie Beattie Roberts. I will be posting weekly reflections on the chapters we are reading. I am looking forward to the learning from the book and everyone in the #cyberpd community.


As a reading specialist I have a great interest in reading professional books on the teaching of literacy.  I heard a lot of buzz about DIY Literacy when it hit the bookshelves, but with so many great books out there it wasn’t actually on my immediate to-be-read list.  It wasn’t until the announcement that the book was the pick for #cybperpd that I ordered it.  I’ve lurked around previous summer’s #cyberpd book chats and I had decided this was the year to finally participate.  This is the reason that DIY Literacy made it into my hands and after reading just the first few chapters I am so glad that it did.   

To be honest, I wasn’t quite sure of the focus of DIY Literacy.  DIY…do it yourself…what in the world is do it yourself literacy?  If I had paid more attention to the subtitle of the book, specifically the word independence, I would have been drawn to this book sooner.  So many, many times I have heard teachers discuss the challenges of getting students to be independent.  I wrote my dissertation about how teachers support struggling writers and one of the themes that emerged from my research was that struggling writers do not apply what they have learned to their independent writing.  Our goal is for all our students to be proficient readers and writers.  Our students can’t get to proficiency without independence.  This book is all about how to support learners so they can do it themselves – read, write, and learn on their own.  My experiences and conversations with teachers indicate that there is a need for this book and I’m sure it would also be relevant to other educators, who are most likely having similar experiences and conversations and facing the same sorts of challenges as they strive to create independent literacy learners.

Chapter One

Our job in supporting learners who can do it themselves is to provide them with the necessary tools. The first chapter tells the many ways that we can get better results from our teaching with the use of tools.  These are the three big takeaways about the purpose of tools:
  • Tools are used to give students a clearer picture of exactly how they can use strategies
  • Tools help students self-monitor and self-assess their work
  • Tools help students remember and practice so that learning sticks

Chapter Two

The second chapter explains each of the types of tools that will support students’ learning.  Of the tools discussed, the teaching chart is the one that I am familiar with and use in my teaching.  The demonstration notebook is a tool that I have recently become aware of, but have not taken the time to create.  Micro-progressions of skills is a tool that I think would be very useful in my teaching.  Micro-progressions provide students with model texts at different skill levels so they can self-assess and have a guide for their work. Bookmarks, the final tool discussed in the chapter provide students with a way to record the tips and strategies they find useful for their learning.  As I read this chapter I envisioned how these tools would help my students.  As I reflect on my teaching, I know there are times in which my students forget what to do.  There are also times when I feel like I’ve taught a strategy (through an explanation or demonstration and guided practice), but my students still have difficulty using the strategy on their own. I imagine these tools would help my students know what to do and help me remember to be very explicit about what I’m asking students to do.  When students use these tools they will have a greater opportunity to engage in decision-making about their work and their learning and help them be in control of their own learning giving them a sense of agency.  After reading this chapter I wanted to immediately start making some of these tools, but these tools will be most beneficial when created in collaboration with students.  This collaboration will give students more ownership of their learning and increase the likelihood that they engage in the strategies taught to them.

Bonus Chapter

The bonus chapter made me feel like the authors were reading my mind.  As I read chapter two, I was thinking, “What strategies?” and “How do I break these strategies down for students?”  Resources mentioned, such as the Reading Strategies Book by Jennifer Serravallo, will be useful for figuring out the “what”.  I imagine the “how” is going to take more thinking to figure out.  I liked the explicit steps the authors gave to get to the how: perform the skill, study and name what you did, use kid-friendly language to explain the strategy.  I may create my own tool, such as a bookmark, with these steps so I remember to observe and think about my own use of reading and writing strategies.

Favorite Quotes

There were so many insightful lines just within the pages of these first few chapters.  There is lots of highlighting and underlining in the pages of my book, but I narrowed my favorites down to four.  Here they are:
  • “…we know deep down that when our kids aren’t engaged, or learning, or growing, there is something they are not getting from us that they need” (p. 2).
  • “True learning happens when students get the instruction that fits their needs, have the agency and motivation to work hard, and remember and recycle what they’ve learned” (p. 2).
  • “Teaching tools can be the star charts of your classroom, the seemingly simple things that cause great positive change” (p. 3).
  • “Teaching tools help teach students the way, so that someday they will know the way on their own, like the road home” (p. 11).
Next week I'll post a reflection about chapters three and four of DIY Literacy, as the #cyberpd community continues discussing the book.

Monday, July 4, 2016

It's Monday! What Are You Reading?

It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a community of bloggers who link up to share what they are reading.  For more information check out the host blogs: Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers.

What I Read This Week…

School's First Day of School by Adam Rex

The story in this picture book tells about the first day of school from the perspective of a newly-built school, Frederick Douglas Elementary.  After spending the summer with only the janitor, the school feels a little uneasy about being filled with teachers and children.  School is a charming character, showing empathy and humor and learning something about himself.  The illustrations are lovely, as well, showing the school with just a hint of a smile. This is a creative spin on the first day of school story that I think would be fun to read to students at the start of the school year.

Head Lice: Disgusting Critters Series by Elise Gravel

This is a nonfiction picture book with a lot of voice, including both facts and humor.  The book provides interesting information with just enough disgusting facts to engage young readers. Cartoon-like illustrations and speech bubbles add to the fun of reading this book.  I can imagine putting this book on display in my room and it being grabbed up by students within minutes. There are many possibilities for using this book to teach informational writing, as well.  

My Life in Pictures by Deborah Zemke

Bea Garcia is an artist who draws pictures in a book telling about her life.  She is miserable since her best friend and neighbor has moved away and she claims that the boy who has moved in is a monster. Bea is creative, funny, and likeable. Readers will be interested in reading to find out how Bea deals with the problem of the new boy next door.  This a chapter book with pictures on every page making it suitable for transitional readers.  Bea will be returning in a second book, as well.

The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary by Laura Shovan

I was lucky enough to win a Twitter contest and receive this book directly from the author who inscribed it for me.  I had been looking forward to reading it as it was the first title on my summer reading list.  The story is told through the perspective of a class of fifth graders and written as a series of one-two page poems.  The story reveals how the students feel about the fact that their school is being torn down to be replaced with a grocery store and what they choose to do about it.  The characters in the story are also dealing with issues, such as divorce and financial hardship, to which students in many of our classrooms can relate.  The story, told in a unique way, is interesting and engaging.