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Poetry Friday posts are with Katie today at The Logonauts.

 

My Southern comrade, Keri Collins Lewis, sent me a gem of a poem this week.  She knows where I live and how much I enjoy dancing with my husband.  She captured this in a wonderful poem celebrating me.   Keri, I cherish your words.  Thank you, darlin’. (Say it with a Mississippi drawl.)

 

Last week I led a teachers writing institute.  I invited our PF friend, Catherine Flynn, to present via Skype about visual literacy.  She left us with a Marc Chagall painting to ponder.  Since Keri wrote about “my love” and we are nearing our 35th wedding anniversary, I am inclined to share my response with you.

The Promenade

In a geometric village,
sculpted lawns, a steepled church,
houses on the hillside,
a man holds his bride’s hand.
His touch sends her floating
on the wind like a pink kite
dancing with the clouds.

Your touch does this to me
even now, far from this village.
Over the landscape of life,
your soft gentle love
is enough to send
me flying, reaching
for the joy-sky.

–Margaret Simon

 

 

I am so excited to announce a new collaboration.  I have joined Leigh Anne Eck, Michelle Haseltine, and Jennifer Laffin in the debut of a new Twitter chat.  Last week I led a Twitter chat with the purpose of introducing teachers in my writing institute to Twitter.  While only 3 teachers from my workshop joined, lots of other teachers who want to nurture their writer selves joined in.  The chat was a success and spurred on an interest that was already brewing with Jennifer, Leigh Anne, and Michelle.  They contacted me to join them.  I am honored.

I met these three powerhouse teachers through blogging with the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.  There is a magic that works in cyberspace connecting people of like minds and shared passion.  We all share a passion for teaching writing.  We’ve supported each other for years by commenting on each other’s blogs and connecting on Twitter and Facebook.  With the amazing power of technology, I feel we know each other.

We want to invite you into the circle.

Do you….

Believe that teaching writing is easier when teachers are writers themselves?

Believe that our own writing lives deserve to be nurtured?

Believe that all writers grow through dedicated writing time?

Believe that all writers need support and encouragement?

Believe that writing is a messy process and the best way to learn this is through our own practice?

Believe that when teachers write, they make writing a priority in their classrooms?

Our chat will support teachers not only in their quest to become better teachers of writers, but to become better writers ourselves.

Join us the first Monday of every month for #TeachWrite, a new Twitter chat dedicated to growing teachers as writers and teachers of writers.

Our first chat is Monday, August 7th at 8PM EST with the topic of  “Writing for the JOY of It!”

Sign up for Remind on your Remind app at #Teachwrite Twitter Chat.

 

 

 

 

 

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

..out in de camp, out yonda in da camp, de ole, ole women too old to work and too old to make babies, dey stay an mind de young chilens so dat de me kin all work in de fields and dey fee dam an all so when de ma come back all dey got to do is to push ’em in de bed, all of dem in de same bed. –Frances Doby, age 100
Cammie G. Henry Research Center
Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Federal Writers Project Folder 19

On Monday, I went on a summer field trip to Whitney Plantation located in Wallace, LA. Established in 1752, Whitney Plantation was a working sugar plantation until the early 1970’s. Recently, it has been transformed into an active museum that captures the experience of enslavement.  This place tells the unheard story of all other plantation homes.  This story is not a romanticized version of plantation life.  This story is gripping and harrowing and sad.

Inside the old Antioch Church, statues of enslaved children stand, some sit on the pews.  The children of the slaves from Whitney Plantation tell you the story with their staring eyes.  These stories were captured by a Federal Writers Project led by John Lomax in 1936.  The plantation now honors over 100,000 names of slaves and children.

The Antioch Baptist Church was moved to the plantation in 1999. This church was built post Civil War (1870) by former slaves.

This memorial statue stands in the Field of Angels to honor all the slave children lost before age 3.

Panels in the Field of Angels include etched photographs, prayers, and quotes along with 2,200 names from documents in the Sacramental Records of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

A Jamaica line of sugar kettles remind us of the long, arduous task of turning cane into sugar.

If you are ever in the New Orleans area, Whitney Plantation is a worthy side trip.  I believe we must try to understand our history to move forward into a better future.

 

 

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Along with many others, I am reading and reflecting on Vicki Vinton’s book Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading.   This week’s assignment in #cyberPD is chapters 5 and 6.  In these chapters, Vicki gets down to the nitty gritty of reading instruction by taking us with her into a classroom and watching her guide students through a read-aloud. So often we are given theory without practical application. In this book, I feel I am a fly on the wall in Vicki’s classroom.

We are invited to use a Notice/ Wonder chart.  A few years ago when I participated in the Global Read Aloud, this was the way I had my students enter into a Voxer conversation with other classes.  By using notice and wonder, students can engage in the text without the stress of “text-based questions” or a “literary essay.”  It’s low-stakes reading.

Ralph Fletcher makes a case for low-stakes writing in his latest book Joy Write.  Low-stakes reading, like low-stakes writing, is necessary to build critical thinking skills as well as to honor our students for who they are as readers and writers.  All ideas are accepted so all become active participants in the discussion.

In chapter 6, Vicki writes about low-stakes writing prompts for fiction.  She gives a list of the values of this kind of writing.  I want to add to this list.  I agree that the writing can give you a glimpse into the minds of the students, but I contend that the act of writing itself helps to solidify that thinking.  By writing down thoughts about reading, students engage their core thinking.  They focus and process at a higher level.

Turn and talk can become open and write.  Adding the low-stakes writing component will help me build my students’ muscles for longer high-stakes writing.  I require a reader response each week about independent reading.  Some students struggle around what they should write.  By using read-aloud and low-stakes writing about reading alongside notice and wonder, my students will be able to practice writing about reading.

Curiosity puts the brain in a state where it is ready to learn, according to Albert Einstein.  Vicki goes on to say that curiosity is nurtured in a classroom from the inside.  No outside motivators will make this happen.  We must cultivate a classroom atmosphere that welcomes questions.  Wonder should be at the forefront.  Perhaps my daily journal prompt should be “What are you wondering about today?”  Keep curiosity alive around reading and students will lead themselves to the joy of learning.  You can just stand by and watch.

cyberpd

 

 

Add your DigiLitSunday posts below.

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do the thing that scares you.”  Armed with years of experience and a strong conviction that writing teachers should write, I did the thing that most scares me…teaching teachers.

I led a weeklong teachers writing institute.  In March I set up a meeting with the curriculum coordinator for elementary schools in our district.  I pitched my idea.  While she was enthusiastic, I never heard back from her.  So I got the guts to send an email inquiry.  Yes, she was still interested, but I needed to meet with the middle school coordinator.  Nearing the end of the school year, I had approval and sent out the flyer.  Surprising to me, the workshop filled quickly.

Since today is about celebrating, I will not go into my disappointments.  I just want to capture the shining stars and bask a bit in their glow.

  • A new teacher, second career, only man in the class said his 17 year old daughter waited each day to read what he wrote.  His father told him to submit his essay to Reader’s Digest.  He is entering his first year of teaching confident that he is a writer.
  • A colleague from the gifted program told me I was a natural.  She said, “You seem so relaxed.  You make us feel comfortable.”  She could not see or feel the nerves churning inside.
  • Following Katherine Bomer’s book, The Journey is Everything, became a guidebook to writing a final essay.  Most teachers wrote an essay they were proud of.  We read and celebrated the writers we had found together.
  • Catherine Flynn joined us by Skype to teach us about visual literacy. (The idea to connect with her came from this post.)  Teachers took notes and talked about ways they could use art with their students.  Thanks, Catherine.
  • On the last day, tears were shed as we got into the deep trenches that writing can take us.  Sharing your own words is an act of faith.  We had become a community of writers.

Writing and sharing on our writing marathon in downtown New Iberia.

I gathered words and phrases from our writing marathon into a collaborative poem.

 

Tabatha is gathering a stew of Mac & Cheese poems today for Poetry Friday.

Tabatha sent out a call for a poetic celebration of Mac&Cheese for today, National Mac&Cheese Day. I stopped making Mac&Cheese long ago when my girls began to understand and worry about nutrition.  Mac&Cheese is packaged processed food, Mom.  Don’t you know it contains chemicals?

Now my cooking skills are not of the caliber to make Mac&Cheese from scratch.  My son-in-law made it for Thanksgiving a few years ago.  It was delicious, but he made it in vats, so we had to give some away. I have to admit it was better than anything ever made from a box.

For my Mac&Cheese poem, I decided to use a form.  Form helps me when I don’t know what to write.  I chose the Zeno form created by J. Patrick Lewis that follows a syllable count of 8, 4, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1.  I think it’s quite corny, but if anything calls for a side of corn, it’s Mac&Cheese.

 

Tabatha also coordinates the Summer Poetry Swap.  This week I received a most precious set of salt & pepper shakers for my bayou home from Irene Latham.  She also sent a wonderful Nikki Grimes’ style word exploration poem in honor of my recent work-in-progress, Bayou Song.  Thanks, Irene for brightening up a rainy summer day on the bayou.

 

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CyberPD got well underway this week.  All over the globe teachers are reading and discussing Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by Vicki Vinton.  I began reading this book back in June and wrote about my first impressions here. 

I understand Vicki’s frustration with the way reading is being taught.  In order to meet the Common Core Content Standards, we have whittled down the process of reading to extracted strategies.  These strategies help teachers deal with gaps that tend to follow children through their learning career; however, they deny the full process of reading, the experience as a whole.

I am also reading Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst.  I find the theories in both of these books parallel.  The two books profess that we have taken out not only the whole meaning making process from reading instruction, we have also removed the joy.

Joy of reading is the only thing that will create lifelong readers.  By moving students through the act of reading without addressing how the text makes them feel, we rob them of the experience of seeing themselves in a book or becoming empathetic with someone who is different.

Vicki Vinton professes that we should shift the focus of reading instruction away from text dependent questions to the actual thinking that the reader does.

If our ultimate goal is truly independence, we need students to do much more thinking that highly scaffolded approaches ask of them…students build their identity and sense of agency as readers when they’re the ones doing the work. (p. 23)

At the end of chapter 2, I have highlighted an entire bulleted list of things to remember when planning for more complex reading and thinking.  I paraphrase the list here.

  • Reading is an education of the heart.
  • Meaning is the purpose of reading.
  • Consider how much the author hasn’t said explicitly, problem solve.
  • Help students build their identities as readers.
  • Every student is more than a level. Consider social-emotional needs as well when recommending books.
  • Nothing replaces your own personal judgement about what students need.

As a teacher of gifted students, I find the strict strategy based curriculum does not meet the needs of my students.  My students need more from their reading experiences.  They do not need to be confined by levels or forced to read material that doesn’t interest them.  They rebel against these strict practices.  Vicki’s ideas reflect my own philosophy of teaching.  I know as I continue to read, I will find more connections and ways to enrich the experiences of reading for my students.

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