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The Big Fresh November 10, 2018 Just Keep Pedaling

Brenda Power

Life is like riding a bicycle. In order to keep your balance, you must keep moving.

                                                                                           Albert Einstein

I’m trying to get back into the rhythms of riding. Last summer I purchased a new bike so I could begin to bicycle again. It’s been years since I have ridden, and let’s just say I’m not in the same shape I was in all those years ago. Learning anything new takes work, but at least for me, adding something that requires exercise exponentially escalates the challenge. Thankfully, my new bike moves with ease across the trails, and its slimmer frame makes it effortless to pedal in comparison to my old mountain bike. Still, I’m finding as I get back into riding that I’m learning some lessons that improve my performance each time I hit the trails. Interestingly, some of the lessons apply, not only to cycling, but to life and learning in general.   

Such was the case as I recently pedaled the bike trail into our city.  Pedaling along the river’s edge, adjusting my speed along the way, I began to think of some rules of riding that I could apply to other contexts:   

Don’t make every ride a long, hard ride. I appreciate the shorter rides. Putting short rides in between makes it possible to do the hard work required of longer, more challenging rides. If I had to ride hard every time we went out, I know I’d give up.

Riding regularly makes the work easier. I’ve been trying to ride frequently. Keeping a regular riding schedule makes biking easier. Too much time in between rides can make it seem like I am starting over again.   

These are helpful lessons, but the most important one I’ve learned is:  when it’s all uphill, don’t. stop. pedaling. Hills are the biggest challenge. When I see one coming, I’ve learned to try to pick up speed before I get there and shift into a different gear. No matter what happens, I know I can’t stop pedaling. I discovered quickly that if I stop pedaling, I have to get off and walk the bike. There’s no way to make it up a hill without continuing to pedal.

When I think about the literacy learners I sit beside each day, these same lessons apply.  I don’t want everything to be hard for them. They, too, need opportunities to spend time with easier books, reflect in ways that are light, and write with whimsy. These opportunities will make the more complex thinking easier. Regular opportunities for reading and writing are essential for continued progress. It’s easy to read and write when literacy learners stay in a rhythm. The only way to grow and get uphill is to keep pedaling -- to keep reading every day, even when it is a struggle.

This week we look at reading poetry in classrooms, with a companion issue on writing poetry next week. Plus more as always -- enjoy!

Cathy Mere
Contributor, Choice Literacy

Cathy Mere is a literacy specialist in Hilliard (Ohio) City Schools. She is the author of More Than Guided Reading. A trained literacy coach and former Reading Recovery teacher, Cathy leads professional development workshops and presents at state and national conferences. She blogs at Refine and Reflect.

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Jennifer Schwanke finds song lyrics are one way for students to see the power of poems:


Franki Sibberson provides a booklist of "novels in verse" - a genre intermediate readers enjoy, especially those who struggle with longer texts:


Brett Vogelsinger shares four reasons why it's great to start every day in the classroom by reading a poem:


Check out our new online courses for teachers and literacy coaches! We're offering 12-day self-paced classes from Katherine Sokolowski on student research projects in grades 3-7, Christy Rush-Levine on quick and meaningful reading conferences in middle school, and Jennifer Schwanke on better outreach to families. Courses include three-month trial memberships to Choice Literacy and Lead Literacy, screencasts, videos, articles, and personal responses from the instructor to your questions. Explore detailed descriptions at this link:



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Gretchen Schroeder finds helping her students see the value in rereading poems is all about helping them pay close attention to imagery:


In this week's video, Gigi McAllister leads a group of boys who are just starting the novel in verse The Crossover in her fourth-grade classroom:


David Pittman delights in a student's enthusiasm for poetry, leading him to reflect on how teachers often need to overcome their own negative history with poems to spark student love of the genre:


In an encore video, Leslie Lloyd's third-grade students explore the differences between literal and figurative language. The poem they are reading is "Fireflies":



That's all for this week!

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Brenda Power

Brenda Power is the founder of Choice Literacy. She worked for many years as a professor at the University of Maine and an editor at Stenhouse Publishers. Her publications as an author include Living the Questions and The Art of Classroom Inquiry. She has worked as a book editor and video producer for many of the authors featured at this site.