Archive for October, 2012

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Students perch near the water for inspiration.

Our team of 6 elementary gifted teachers took the 6th graders from our parish (district) on a field trip to Rip Van Winkle Gardens on Jefferson Island. If you live around here, you know that Jefferson Island is not a true island. It is one of 5 land masses that rise up out of the South Louisiana marshes. Jefferson Island was once the home of Joseph Jefferson and holds a beautiful antebellum home with acres of tropical gardens.

Reflections on Lake Peigneur

The purpose of our field trip was to introduce our students to a natural place where water is integral to its survival. We will be working with these students once a month for the school year on a project of their choice about water. At Jefferson Island, we learned some history, discussed questions, and enjoyed the beauty around us.

I led the students in a writing exercise from Georgia Heard’s book Awakening the Heart. The pre-writing exercise asks students to use an image. (In this case, the images were all around us.) There are 6 rooms, or divisions on the paper. Each room serves a purpose, such as “describe the image,” “what sounds do you hear,” or “describe the light.” Each room leads the writer to a deeper understanding of the image and often leads to a creative poem. We sent the students off to different areas of choice with a teacher. Teachers wrote, too.

Sharing time

Out at Jefferson Island, among the oaks, bamboo, and palmettos, we became a community of writers and explorers. We set the tone for the project yet to come and generally had a grand time.

Bamboo Poem
by Dustyn

Tall, arching, stalks of bamboo,

Bright and beautiful skies of blue,

Huge structures where flowers bloom,

Trees towering over you,

It relaxes me to feel the bamboo, so smooth,

And I’ll bet you’ll feel the same way too.

Writing in the bamboo forest

Rip Van Winkle Gardens
by Rhyan

We are in a mysterious land,

An enchanted garden,

Where the butterflies roam,

and the dock hangs over the lake.

The lake is screaming “I am a wonderful lake and I shall not be destroyed.”

But now it is silent.

The only sounds are rustling leaves and chirping birds.

Wait, what was that?

Are those the loud blades of a propeller?

Does this man know he is destroying nature?

Eventually this wonderful land will be gone.

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Read other Slice of Life writers at The Two Writing Teachers

October 20th has been dedicated by the National Council of Teachers of English as the National Day of Writing. This year, the date fell on a Saturday, so my students and I celebrated on Friday, Oct. 19th. One of my favorite writing activities evolved from a workshop originated by artist Paul Schexnayder entitled, “Dancing with a Paintbrush.” Paul’s idea was to free up creativity by playing different selections of wordless music and having students paint whatever colors, lines, and shapes that come to mind. I borrowed this idea and added a writing element.

Dancing with a paintbrush

I selected some musical pieces. There is no magic in the selections I made, but basically I was looking for pieces that evoked different emotions. The ones I used were “Silent Moon” by Jia Peng, “A Day Without Rain” by Enya, “Tarantelle Styrienne” by Debussy, and “The Girl I Left Behind,” a Celtic selection.

With watercolor paints and drawing paper, the students and I painted while the music played. Then at the end of each piece, I asked them to write 4 words and a title for their painting. After all selections were played and they had a collection of 3 paintings with words and titles, I asked them to select one to write about. Make the title of the painting your title and use the 4 words in some way within the poem. The results were all different and creative.

Focused and listening leads to creative expression.

Here are some sample poems from this exercise:

it comes with amazing colors
of red,
and even yellow too
All the colors
could be a rainbow
just waiting for you
for beauty is true
telling of mood,
and imagery.
Pure beauty comes from heart,
The Rightful Beauty.

by Kendall, 5th grade

The Chinese Gates

I am a girl
I live In China
Every day I paint swirls
Ah,so beautiful
I paint the sun and water
I paint the moon and rivers
Even some Chinese words
I learn new paintings every day
And maybe some day you could visit me in China by the Chinese Gates.

by Emily, 2nd grade

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Fall Poetry

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Teaching gifted students means I teach multiple grade levels at the same time. This can be both a joy and a challenge. Some of my students come to me for their language arts block, some for math. My two second graders come to me at the very end of the day. They usually come in to an already active classroom.

One day last week when the second-graders came in, I had all the other students seated at the table writing fall poetry. On the projection screen was a collage of fall pictures for inspiration. We had collected words and were in the writing process. Tobie sat right down to write, but couldn’t find his journal, so someone found him a loose leaf page to use. Emily, however, was intrigued by the projector and started making finger puppets in the light. I sent her away to a desk in the classroom. I wanted to make sure she was behaving herself and that she wasn’t too upset about being punished, but when I looked up, I saw her perched on the edge of the farthest desk in the room quietly writing. I left her alone. Later after our lively sharing session, I encouraged the students to post their poems on our kidblog. Emily posted her poem. The next day I got an email from her mother praising me for inspiring Emily’s poem.

As I reflect on my classroom, I often worry about the constant activity and many levels going on at the same time. Sometimes, I have so many balls in the air, I just know one will clobber me in the head at any time. What I realize about writing workshop is that even when it doesn’t seem to be working, it is working. It’s about making writing an integral part of any day. It’s about safety. And it’s about providing the space for creativity to happen. And ultimately, it is about the students themselves.

I am posting Emily’s fall poem today. Originally, there were few periods and no line breaks, but I took the opportunity to have a little mini-lesson with her about this, so you are seeing the revised version.

Fall Leaves

I walk down the path.
It’s morning. The sun hasn’t even risen yet.
I watch the wind carry the leaves across the valley.
I see pumpkins in the pumpkin patch.
I love the colors falling from the trees.
I smell the sweet smell of sugarcane.
The sun is rising and getting warmer.
I feel the breeze. I find some leaves.
I pile up the leaves, and I jump in!
I love the fall,
the best season in October.

Massachusetts in October where leaves turn golden. Courtesy of my friend, Leon, who is traveling and posting beautiful pictures of real fall.

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In Louisiana, we call a little something extra “lagniappe.” Well, Saturday was just that kind of day, lagniappe. With a little nip in the air, I set out on a morning dog walk. I took my phone with me. Not sure why, except that I was going out alone, and so I chose to clip it to my waistline. I hadn’t gotten far. In fact, Charlie was sniffing and marking the front yard when I heard a strange sound. At first I thought my neighbor was pressure washing her house. However, it sounded more like air and the sound wasn’t steady. It came in bursts with long breaks in between. Then I looked up. Above me was a huge hot-air balloon. I started jogging to catch a good shot if it. I took multiple pictures of this beautiful rainbow balloon floating in the crystal blue sky. What a thrill! As I continued my walk and the balloon drifted out of sight, I approached total strangers out in their yards or walking their own dogs, “Did you see the balloon? Look, I took pictures of it.” I felt like I was spreading good news.

When I got home, I told my husband and showed him the pictures. He said, “You should send the pictures to the newspaper.” I downloaded them, posted one on Facebook, and sent two to the local paper. And sure enough in the Sunday paper, there was my snapshot on page A9 complete with a byline and everything.

What is it that a hot-air balloon offers to us? Uplifting hope? Memories of favorite movies and books? I personally think of The Wizard of Oz and The Twenty-one Balloons, both stories of hope and resurrection.

Sunday morning at choir practice, I was hoping we would sing a new anthem we have been working on, and my soprano friend turned to me and said, “I think your head is still up in that hot-air balloon.”

I would like my head to stay up in the clouds a little longer. Whenever you are feeling down, just look up. Who knows what you might see!

Looking up!

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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

That undeniable feeling of defeat I haven’t been able
to tell anyone about, not in words anyway

despite hearing the advice of my daughter
who studies this kind of thing;

She warns me of the dangers of depression:
don’t let this go on for too long

I can feel it pulse like my eyelids under my fingers
which average 10 blinks a minute varying quite

a bit based on the individual,
and things like medication and nervous disorders.

So am I normal? I listened to the weatherman’s advice.
I trusted the image of storm clouds.

Trust your inner self, says Oprah,
in this month’s O magazine advertising 101 best pieces of advice—

ever! The right words at the right time
will direct my path.

Not today–today the path

is covered in acorns that pop when I step on them.
Pop! Pop! Something satisfying in the act of

stepping on this winter squirrel snack. Hear me
stomping, making rhythm by destroying.

Bake the Best Chocolate Chip Cookie

or How to Have a Conversation: Things I need to know

to be the perfect O-mag reader, but what about
this day when I can’t focus on the words? My eyes

flutter while I hold back the tears.
I am imperfect and annoyed that this is so.

First, get a drink. Seriously, she says that, get a drink.
Something to hold on to when all else fails.

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