Book Review: Revisiting “The Hobbit” After All These Years

I’ve been “there and back” quite a few times in my life, as I dove into The Hobbit and cheered on little Bilbo Baggins. But it has been more years than I care to count since I cracked it open. Still, I knew my youngest son would enjoy the adventure, and sure enough, in just a few weeks of read-aloud, we ended the story with Bilbo alive (not dead, as his relatives would like), sitting and smoking his pipe into old age. (And we know Bilbo makes a quick re-appearance with The Fellowship of the Ring before Frodo goes off on his own epic adventure).

So, does the story hold up?

Well, yeah, it surely does. My son and I had many conversations about the story, and he kept peppering me with questions about The Lord of Rings series, which I danced around on tiptoes (Gollum? The ring? Gandalf?) so as not to give too much away for when we shift into that trilogy (which may be soon enough. I used to have two sets of The Lord of Rings and both are missing, given away to book fairs, perhaps. Time for another visit to the library …)

The story really does have the perfect arc of narrative. I hate to reduce a story to its plot outline, but gosh, Tolkien’s story is full of exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution. You’d think he had been a teacher. Wait! He was. I know this is often a criticism of The Hobbit — its predictable nature — but reading it aloud to someone who knows almost nothing about the stories that will be unfolding ahead was pure magic for me. I was shifting back in that time, too, with my son, remembering when I first discovered The Hobbit somehow or another (it may have been my mother, who was always pressing books into my hand) and how deeply I became engulfed in the story.

Yes, I enjoyed The Hobbit all over again.

Peace (in the comfy hole in the ground),

PS — as a side note, as I was in the midst of reading The Hobbit with my son, I started noticing three or four of my students had also chosen it for their independent reading, which led to more conversations in class. Interesting convergence … or some magic, perhaps?



Diagramming Sports Plays as Visual/Information Literacy


The writing prompt I had for my students yesterday tapped into their energy and enthusiasm around our game of Quidditch. They had to design, diagram, name and then explain in writing a “secret” play for their team. I’ve done versions of this prompt before, but this year, I had on the back of my mind a great video by Bee Foster around the literacies of diagramming out sports plays over at the National Writing Project’s Digital Is site. (The video — Football Plays — is part of a larger resource by Bee around Redefining Text.)

And this year, I had my interactive board, so after about 25 minutes of writing and drawing and creating, I turned the class over to my students and let them come up to the board, one at a time, and not only visually share their play, but also explain it in a sort of impromptu “how to” session in front of the class. It was pretty fascinating to watch, and I had Bee’s ideas running through my head about the learning that was going on around visual design, movement on a page, expository writing, public speaking and more.


The code for positions are:

  • K: Keeper (goalie)
  • CH: Chaser
  • SK: Seeker
  • B: Beater
  • SL: Sidelines

The dotted lines indicate movement of player and the solid lines show passing of the quaffle among the chasers and keepers, or the bludger among the beaters. Got that? (if not, check out our Quidditch Tutorial video).

Peace (on the field),


Inspired Poetry with Bud the Teacher

I’m starting to write some poetry this month with Bud Hunt (aka Bud the Teacher). Bud, a friend of mine through the National Writing Project, is posting visual prompts each day, and he asks that we consider a poem inspired by the image, and his short bit of writing. What I have always liked about Bud’s poetry prompts (this is maybe the third year?) is how open the direction can be. It’s always cool to see how other people take the idea embedded in the image, and push it around in different ways.

I did write a poem yesterday, but it wasn’t anything too special.

This morning, he had an interesting image and description about water, and what I think is a pebble or rock. (I’m not quite sure but that’s OK. I saw it as I see it, and used what I think I saw.) I also added a podcast of the poem I wrote, using Cinch.

The pebble drops –
I fall with it
splashing, crashing into surface tension
as my outline echoes from the center
on out.
If I could, I would surf this surface viscosity forever,
and never let me fall
but gravity has other ideas –
family, and school, and the whole wealth of obligations
that keep me grounded day in and day out –
so I drop, the pebble,
twisting and turning until I hit the bottom
and wait.

You come, too. Each morning, Bud will be posting an image and inviting you to write a few lines of poetry.

Peace (in the poems),


The Stickman Quidditch Video

Each year, as we approach our annual Quidditch Tournament, a member of our staff works on a video that will get burned into a DVD for all of our sixth graders. Until this year, he has had a group of fifth graders come around and interview us classroom teachers, asking a set series of questions. We, in turn, would come beforehand with nutty answers, spoofing the whole interview process. This year, he wanted to try something new and asked us to create a short video, of any kind.
I decided to try a stopmotion video with Pivot Stickfigure and a few images from my class (We are the blue team: Permafrost). Here’s what I came up with, using the first part of a Quidditch song that I wrote and recorded a few years ago:

Peace (on the stick),