The Mystery of the Poetry Book I Can’t Find

Post a Poem

This is so odd. I have written a few posts this month about this neat little book of poems that I bought from Scholastic Books from their catalog a month or two ago. It’s called Post This Poem. Essentially, it is a collection of 100 famous poems (or excerpts) on colorful sticky notes that you can hand out. It’s a great way to share out poetry and I used it last week with my students, who loved it.

Well, a number of teachers asked me where to find the book. You’d think it would be easy enough.

I went to Google and typed in the book title. Nothing. I went to the Scholastic book site and used its own search engine. Nothing. Amazon? Nothing. I grabbed the ISBN number, thinking: this will surely do the trick. No such luck. I got more of my nothing in Google and then an extra dose of nothing in a ISBN search engine. (This is the ISBN number: 978-0-545-46976-0 if you think you can help me out)

What is going on here?

I’m starting to think that the book is a poetic mirage of some sort, and I feel bad that I wrote about it with such glowing praise and now can’t send readers to find it. I suppose my next step is to call Scholastic directly and ask about it. But it is as if the book had vanished completely out of every system, or never existed.

Given that this is April and poetry month, this whole things deserves a poem of its own.

This book never existed –
the poems, never written –
you’re nothing but an imaginary reader
engulfed in an imaginary page
of poems you’ve stuck to your mind
as if that would help you remember
the space between the lines ….

Peace (in the mystery of the undiscovered book),

PS — seriously, though, if you have some ideas on how to find the book, can you let me know? I need to hire the Poetry Book Detective Agency.

Connecting Digital Storytelling with Learning Standards

Later this week, I am going to be spending the day with another elementary school in the region, working with students in some classrooms while teachers observe and then presenting to the whole staff later in the day. My presentation is about digital storytelling, which is a great theme for an entire school to adopt, and about how digital storytelling builds on much of the learning already underway and connects to our new state curriculum standards (ie, Common Core).

Here is a version of my presentation.


Do you notice any glaring holes? Any suggestions? Input?

Peace (in the sharing),


Book Review: Chase Against Time


I’m a sucker for a teacher who writes a novel for middle school age students and if that novel revolves around the theme of music, well … you had me at music. Steve Reifman, a classroom teacher and now education consultant, wrote Chase Against Time, which follows the nearly minute-by-minute account of a fifth grader named Chase Manning as he seeks to uncover who stole the prized cello that is to be auctioned off in order to save the school’s vaunted music program. The mystery unfolds over the course of a single school day, just before vacation break.

Here, Reifman has created an environment in the school where music is seen as important as sports and other academic areas (… if only that were the case in every school). Chase, and his friends, are readying themselves for stressful auditions to make next year’s award-winning sixth grade orchestra, which is highly coveted. But the arts program is in budget trouble (reality check!), the orchestra is about to be shut down, and the auction of a valuable cello at the night’s auction event is the only thing that can save the program. So, when the cello gets stolen from the display case in the school hallway, the principal turns to Chase to follow clues as to its whereabouts before the day ends. Chase is seeking to find the cello, save the orchestra, and get through a middle school day. He’s up for the task, though.

There’s a lot to like here. The pacing is quick. Chase is an intriguing character. A missing cello, and all of the various red herrings, make for an interesting mystery story. I didn’t quite buy into all of the teacher and adult characters, though. I thought a few of them were too flat, and the resolution of the mystery itself was a little predictable.  And the grand reward that awaits Chase at the end was not quite believable, even in a fiction story. (Sorry, Steve.)

But those quibbles of my adult reader eyes doesn’t mean this book won’t be enjoyed by a few of my sixth graders, particularly those in our music program. I’m definitely passing this one on to some select students.

Reifman has done a nice job crafting a mystery story in Chase Against Time, and the use of the chapters based on class periods and minutes of the day, was effective in keeping the narrative moving along at a steady clip. It does feel a bit like the television show “24,” but without the terrorists, and it replaces danger with more of the humor and pointed politics of a school. The subtitle for the book is Chase Manning Mystery #1, so I am assuming Reifman has some other stories up his sleeve. I hope he is sharing his writing and publishing process with the teachers he works with, so he can inspire more of them to become writers, too.

Peace (in the chase),



DML Talks: Chad Sansing and Peter Kittle

I love these presentations from the DML Conference from my NWP friends Peter Kittle and Chad Sansing.

First, Chad talks about gaming (check out his sketches that complement his talk).

Second, Peter talks about memes (and how ideas now get mobile quickly in this networked world).

Peace (in the shift),


Revisiting Storybird for Interactive Storytelling

I’m going to be showing how to use Storybird to create picture book stories with some first and second grade teachers (and a classroom of students) next week, so I figured, I better get back over to the site and remember how it works. It works like a charm, of course, and is so easy — which is why I think it will be a good interactive use of technology for the lower grades.

I also rediscovered some stories that I created on Storybird, particularly during a Picture Book Challenge a few years ago. This one —Writing is An Adventure — got a lot of reads and nice comments.
Writing is An Adventure by dogtrax on Storybird


Peace (in the story and the bird),


When Siblings Provide the Mentor Text: Stopmotion Movies


My older son is working on a stopmotion movie for his eighth grade science class around the thought experiment of Schrodinger’s Cat (is the cat alive or dead, or both states at the same time?). The stopmotion element is part of a larger video project that he and his friends are working on for their investigation. But all of the equipment is set up: the camcorder, the computer, the background paper.

During a lull in our vacation this week, the seven-year-old brother asked if he could make his own stopmotion movie. He’s done it before, so I said, sure. He proceeded, with a little help, to make the following movie:

What is interesting is that he revisited some characters — The Pea Detectives — that were invented by his older brother years ago (first as a comic and then as stopmotion movies), and used the echoes of some old stories that he remembered for his movie. Here is part of his brother’s Pea Detective movies:

It reminded me of the power of siblings, and how often the experiences of our brothers and sisters shape our own ideas around the world. I’m not trying to get him to branch out a bit. His next movie, which he again did almost entirely by himself, left the Peas behind, but he is still clinging to the idea of “treasure” as the hook of all of his movie stories.

Peace (in the frames),

Book Review: The Wrecking Crew


One of the secrets of the music recording industry is that for many years (and probably even into today), hired studio musicians often played the instruments on the tracks and we never knew. Nowadays, it is the producers providing samples and other layers of sound for singers to come in and lay down some vocals. But back when instruments were still played (dinosaur alert!), plenty of bands went into the studio, only to find that they could have left their guitars, bass and drums home.

The Wrecking Crew: The Inside Story of Rock and Roll’s Best-Kept Secret by Kent Hartman is an eye-opener narrative about the core of studio musicians in Los Angeles during the 1960s and the start of the 1970s who provided the soundtrack to most of the rock and pop songs that became the soundtrack for the era, including bands like The Byrds, Simon and Garfunkle, the Beach Boys and more. Anchored by legendary drummer Hal Blaine and guitarist/bassist Carol Kaye and others, The Wrecking Crew completely transformed the way music was recorded and then sold the public.

This inside look into the characters who made up that scene, and the entire music industry that formed around it, is intriguing, and it reminds me a bit of the documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, about the musicians in that studio known as The Funk Brothers who also played on just about every single hit coming out of Motown. It turns out that professional studio musicians were at just about every recording facility during that time period, cranking out hits while the artists were merely providing vocals.

The Wrecking Crew is a fun read and peels back the layer of how music used to get produced, and how we maybe should not quite trust our ears when we hear something on the radio.

Peace (in the studio),


Gaming Challenge: The Lure of the Labyrinth

Lure of the Labyrinth

I’m weighing the possibilities of having my sixth grade students join in a new gaming challenge called The Lure of the Labyrinth, which is an online math-based video game challenge that I learned about from an email newsletter from Fablevision. The gaming challenge for middle school students runs through June 15 and is described this way:

(The Lure of the Labyrinth is a) collaboration between FableVision Studios, the Education Arcade at MIT, and Maryland Public Television, Lure of the Labyrinth is a compelling online game that requires students to use mathematical thinking skills. The challenge invites groups of students to work together in a teacher-moderated environment.

And, as for what the game itself is:

Lure of the Labyrinth is a web-based game where middle-school students are immersed in a compelling storyline in which an underground monster-inhabited world comes to life. Players plunge into a shadowy factory on a mission to rescue their missing pet using mathematical thinking skills to progress through the graphic-novel story.

In the Challenge, Labyrinth is played in teams of 4 – 6 students, and was designed to give all students a chance to learn and succeed. A safe, educator-moderated game-embedded communication device allows players on the same team to exchange ideas and game strategies, and encourages collaborative game play.

Lure of the Labyrinth is intertwined with standards-based curriculum designed to improve math and literacy. Sections of the game correspond to typical pre-algebra curricula: fractions, proportions, ratios, variables and equations, and number and operations. Within each section, there are puzzles at multiple levels that the students must solve as they move forward in the game.

It appears to use a graphic novel story interface to move the student along into challenge areas (which reminds me a lot of Gamestar Mechanic).

I’m intrigued by the math concept of problem solving and am wondering if some sort of collaboration between myself and my math teacher (similar to what I did with my science teacher) might make sense. All this might have to happen after our next round of state testing. Our math assessment comes in about two weeks. But I can also imagine the pockets of students who would just jump at the chance to do this kind of complex, puzzle gaming competition (there are some prizes, which can be a motivator for some students).

I do like that there are teacher guides and connections to national learning standards and lesson plans and even a handout about the classroom teacher’s role in the whole adventure. I wonder about the collaborative element of the project (and how I might set up collaboration across all four of the classes I teach somehow … interesting).

What do you think?

Peace (in the game),



Sending off “Teaching the New Writing”

I happily sealed up and mailed off a copy of our Teaching the New Writing: Technology, Change and Assessment in the 21st Century Classroom yesterday to one of the many writers in the Slice of Life Challenge that took place in March over at Two Writing Teachers. The book was a gift as a prize that Stacey and Ruth were giving out to participants. It seemed the least I could do for them, giving their work in nurturing writers for the past five years of the Slice of Life Challenge.

I sent the book, and a short note, off to Barbara, who runs a blog called First Grade Delight. I hope she enjoys it and finds some useful ideas in there. As I noted in my letter to her, sometimes we are planting seeds of ideas and hoping things will take bloom, even if it happens slowly and over time. Our aim with our book was always to showcase some teachers, and provide some ideas to think about the possibilities of writing as technology becomes part of the lives of our students.

Peace (in the book),


Book Review: The Moment

As you might expect, The Moment by Smith Magazine packs a lot of emotional punch, as writers of all backgrounds relate “the moment” when everything shifted for them. What I found fascinating in this small book collection of 125 stories is how any of the moments seemed to take place during the middle school years. A comment from a teacher, a new friendship (or an old one, crumbling), a choice made (or not), a bit of advice from a parent …. in the sixth, seventh and eighth grade, these events can take on monumental significance.

It reminded me again of the role I have as a teacher, particularly if those “moments” are taking place right now, in my classroom, in my presence. The students may not realize the importance of it now, but later, if they have any of the reflective abilities of the writers in this fantastic collection, they will see it clearly for what it is: a life-altering moment in which everything can change.

The online Smith Magazine has been putting out some great books lately — I still love the various Six Word Memoir collections such as Not Quite What I Was Expecting — and The Moment (billed as “the instant your life changed”) ranks right up there. I was touched at many points, and even teared up a few times. There is a raw honesty in so many of these stories, and yet, so many were of an affirming nature, too. Lots of the moments in our lives are about hardship, but also, about the ways we dealt or at least accepted these situations and moved on to better things. And people keep sharing their stories. There is a whole section of the Smith website for folks to share their own moments on the website, and they do.

From a writing standpoint, particularly for older writers, The Moment would make an excellent mentor text. The stories are short and powerful, and very accessible (although a few have more adult themes, so teachers should cull from the book, not use the entire text, in my opinion).

Peace (in the many moments),