Archive for May, 2013

I’ve written about altered books before. I really enjoy losing my self in this project. I started working on one with my students and was determined to finish it. I left the art supplies out in the classroom, so I could paint a page, let it dry while I did paperwork, until eventually I had collected all the poems I wrote this school year. Most of them were posted on our class blogs as models. Now I have a keepsake for the year as well as my own personal book of model poems.

Found poem about bees

Found poem about bees

Found Poem about Bees can be read here.

I am From poem

I am From poem

Mother Nature (A Preposition Poem)

Mother Nature (A Preposition Poem)

Poetry Friday is hosted this week at Betsy at Teaching Young Writers.

Poetry Friday is hosted this week at Betsy at Teaching Young Writers.

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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Me with Sandy Sarr at a local restaurant.

Me with Sandy Sarr at a local restaurant.

I enjoy connecting with new people online. I met Sandy Sarr through a mutual friend. Our friend thought we would like each other because we are both authors. So I friended Sandy on Facebook, and we read each others’ blogs. But meeting someone face to face, the old fashioned way, is so much better.

Sandy has spent the month of May in Louisiana for the last three years. She comes to meet people and to work on her novel, The Road to Indigo ( her working title). We had brunch together on Saturday. Jen was right; we connected easily and immediately. Sandy is about to complete an MFA program and has been writing her novel for 3 years. This project led her to Louisiana to meet many different people. She has some wonderful stories, some of which give you the goosebumps because they are so full of connectedness and coincidence, the do-do-do-do-twilight effect. Please visit her blog The Road to Indigo to read about her process of writing.

I wrote a poem for Sandy. I am attempting to post the Soundcloud recording of it.

The Road to Indigo
The traiteur says the stories are yours to tell.

For Sandra Sarr

The traveler arrives from Puget Sound
to paddle a pirogue on the bayou.
She sees the black alligator on the bank
dive deep, barely rustling the burnished water.

She knows there are stories hiding here.
No longer alone, the train’s whistle
awakens her as it weaves
in and out of her mind
leading her on a journey.

Tracks cross as if joined for a greater purpose.
An artist,
a poet,
a healer,
a plantation proprietor
all tell their stories—
tell her to make them live again.

The steam trumpet pierces her skin,
opens blood vessels to bleed
something new of something old—
something profound,
something healing,
something eternal
–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

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Poetry Friday is hosted this week at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

Poetry Friday is hosted this week at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.

The end of the school year is always bittersweet. This year was especially so. One of my students finished sixth grade which means she is moving on to middle school. We have been together since she was in third grade. I love all my students, but sometimes one comes along who connects a little deeper. We become more than teacher and student. Kaylie is one of those students. Kaylie loves what I love. We shared books and favorite authors. We became writing partners. She read and commented on my writing as much as I did hers.

Kaylie’s mother wrote me a note saying that Kaylie was crying about leaving. She told Kaylie that I was like a mother bird that has prepared her birds to fly. It was time for her to fly. Kaylie stopped crying and said, “That was a great metaphor, Mom.”

I am so grateful for this special relationship. Kaylie wrote a poem for me. She put it in a book she made on Snapfish including pictures of us through the years. (Yes, I cried.) I wrote a response to her using her form. I put it into an accordion book, also with pictures. Call and response, so to speak. These poems are very personal, so I hesitated printing them here. But sometimes the deeply personal touches a universal theme.

What if
By Kaylie
What if you asked me-
just wondering-
If you wanted me to write
about our four years together?
What if you wanted me
to put that into a poem
Like the one you’re reading now?
Would I write about peanut butter,
nonsense talking sticking in my mouth
like the real stuff?
Or, that dreaded summer reading?
Would I tell you that I hated that?
Would I remember Daisy and Poncho,
the most beautiful spider story
I have ever heard?
Hmm…let me think…
I would definitely have to mention
all that writing: stories, poetry,
every letter, every word from my pen
inspired by you.
I would try not to talk about the tears
that shed when I left, though.
I will only think of what you showed me,
and how I will use it in my life.
If you told me to write a poem about all of that,
just to remind you of me now and then,
I think this poem
would do just that.

By Kaylie

What if?
What if you wanted me to write a poem
about our four years together?
Four years, really? Hard to believe.
No wonder you are so much a part of my life.

I know you. You know me.
Greater than a teacher and student,
yet not a mother and daughter.
(Even though I caught myself sometimes calling you my daughter.)
My poem would have to say how
teaching you was easy, fun, delightful.
I watched you blossom from a tiny, shy seed
to a dancing flower singing,

“Anything you can do, I can do better.”

And yes, you can. You can be
whatever you want to be.
Be who you are.

You are a writing teacher’s dream,
but more than that…
You trusted me with your heart,
your mind, your creativity.

If you wanted me to write a poem about our time together,
I would write through tears,
wipe them away
and say
You are ready
to fly,
sweet bird.
Your wings will
–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Class group hug, saying goodbye.

Class group hug, saying goodbye.

If I were to name an overall theme to this school year, it would be the year of blogging. This school year I started using Kidblogs with my students. I was pleased to find this site that was not blocked by our district server and was safe and easy for students to use.

At first I set up a site just for my students. I teach gifted elementary students at two schools, so this site was titled “Mrs. Simon’s GT Allstars.” I required only one post per week and comments on two posts. I created a very simple rubric that included these four aspects: 1. I posted at least one time this week. My post followed the teacher’s prompt. 2. My post was free of grammar errors. 3. I commented on at least two other posts. 4. My comment was thoughtful and constructive.

Kidblogs provided my students a forum for posting and sharing their writing. They interacted through comments. Some students built stories and would write, “Stay tuned for part 2.” We talked about commenting and creating a “compliment sandwich” or “criticycle.” Students became anxious for new writing prompts. They would rush to the computers to check on their comments.

I introduced the Kidblog site to my colleagues. We used it for responses from a group field trip with the 4th and 5th grade gifted students. We made a site for our 6th grade enrichment project. Two colleagues decided to read the same book and had conversations between their students on Kidblog.

Then came the Slice of Life Challenge in March. Being familiar with writing on a blog made it easier for my students to jump in and participate. I made this site public (after getting parental consent) so that other Slice Of Life writers could read and comment. For the Slice of Life Challenge, I raised the expectations for posting to three posts per week and commenting on three other blogs. But to win a prize, they had to write at least every day we had school. The more they posted, the better the prize. I had 4 students get the top prize for posting every day. One of these told me that she felt she was a real writer now.

I highly recommend using blogs in your classroom. The Kidblog site is easy to use. The site administrators are helpful and supportive. I think my students are better writers, but the best part is they think they are better writers.

I did a survey and here are some of their comments:

The way that people could comment on my writing helped me to improve. I think everyone built up each others’ self esteem. I can not think of a better way to improve this blog; it is already great.

During slice of life, I was able to see what others’ interests are. People’s comments helped me improve my writing. Writing should be shared with the world. Blogging has improved my writing and helped me stay connected with friends. I hope kidblogs continues.

When I commented, I tried to be as nice as possible, but still able to tell the author’s mistakes. From now on, I’ll try to think less about mistakes and be more positive when I comment.

I really enjoy blogging on slice of life challenge this year, and it was the first time I enjoyed blogging. I used to think it was boring, but it’s not. I enjoy being able to communicate with people all around the USA. YES! Blogging was so fun! I want to do it every year.

To see all of their comments and their writing, go to Slice of Life Challenge.

I want to take a moment to thank all of the Slice of Life teachers who took the time to visit our Kidblog site and comment. We even had a few authors stop in, Caroline Starr Rose and Sharon Creech. The wonders of this World Wide Web!

Making connections! Improving writing! Sharing! Building a community of writers! These are the values of blogging. Blogging is for kids!

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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Gratitude #1: My friend brought me gardenias from her garden. Just one deep breath and I relaxed into their sweet jasmine scent.

gardenia gratitude

Gratitude #2: Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week. In addition to gifts of chocolate, lunch every day, and 5 extra lbs., I received this beautiful note. My favorite line is: “You’ve given me confidence, and showed me that I can make a difference.”

Teacher appreciation note

Gratitude #3: To top off Teacher Appreciation Week was Mother’s Day. I am so grateful for my successful, beautiful, kind, and loving daughters. Here I am with 2 of my 3.

Katherine, me, and Maggie with mimosas for Mother's Day.

Katherine, me, and Maggie with mimosas for Mother’s Day.

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As we continue to make our way through the alphabet, this week we worked on persona poems in my classroom. I started the lesson by sharing Margaret Atwood’s poem, Siren Song. We discussed the poem and why it is a persona poem. Also called a mask poem, the writer takes on the persona of a famous person, historical figure, or character and writes from that person’s perspective. I gave them some line starters, such as, “My song is…” “My prayer is…” “I am from …” They were allowed to use the computer to find more information. I asked them to include known facts and little known facts.

The students who impress me most are those who take my assignment and run away with it. The poem grows into something much bigger and much more meaningful than I could’ve imagined. Two of my students decided to write about a book character. What I love about each of these examples is the poem stands alone, even if you do not know the book it is from. Two popular books in my class this year have been “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate and “Out of my Mind” by Sharon M. Draper. I hope these poems make you want to pick up and read these books if you haven’t already.

For more persona poems, visit our kidblog site.

One and only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan
by Brooklyn

I am an artist,
hairier than most artists you know.
The food I crave is a banana,
I am a gorilla.

I know what you
guys are thinking.
A gorilla is
not capable of
making art,
but I am.
I know what you’re
saying ,
most of the time.

I am from
the forest,
but I live
The Big Top Mall.
It is caged, but
I somewhat
enjoy it here.
I have friends
animal and human.
Yes, this is
and believe me
when I say,
they like me too.

I am not how you think
gorillas are.
I am not mean,
or scary.
I am not trying
to escape and run after you.
I want you to be my friend,
but you can’t hear me
when I say,
my name is Ivan,
what is your name?”
all you hear is a
and a hum,
and a grumble.

My song is
the thumping on my chest,
which you
hear wrong.
It doesn’t mean I’m mad,
I’m only trying to say “Hi”,
but most of you run.

You would never know how
nice I am,
if you always run away.

All I ever wanted,
was to talk and communicate,
without my paintings,
which look like
a black blob,
with a yellow patch,
and a gray bubble,

So here is my prayer,
don’t judge me by my looks,
look at me with
your soul,
not your eye,
and hear my words,
and be my friend.

Out of my Mind

As Melody from Out Of My Mind
by Kaylie

Elvira, Elvira
I wish I could tell you
That it hurts when you tease me
I wish,
for once,
that you would understand
what I go through.

Elvira, Elvira,
Born in Ohio soil
Raised with a disability
I want to be noticed,
But in a good way.

Elvira, Elvira,
You gasp when you see me,
Pushed in my wheelchair
By my mother.
But I’m still human, Claire.

Elvira, Elvira,
I tap out the words,
See me, for who I am.
A smart girl.

Elvira, Elvira,
You don’t know the taste
Of music like I do.
Pleasant, flowing, green, resounding.
The song passes through my fingers.

Elvira, Elvira,
I want to be like you.
They don’t know
How hard it is
To have cerebral palsy.

Elvira, Elvira,
I wish I was appreciated.
Here I am,
Being Melody,
Being myself.
Don’t you hear?

Poetry Friday is hosted this week by Anastasia at Booktalking.

Poetry Friday is hosted this week by Anastasia at Booktalking.

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Slice of Life Tuesday

Slice of Life Tuesday

In this wonderful world of blogging, I discover new and exciting writers. This weekend on a visit to Barnes and Noble, I picked up a copy of Gone Fishing by Tamera Will Wissinger. This is the kind of book I wish I had written. Gone Fishing is a verse novel, but not only that; it teaches different poetry forms and literary devices along the way, an elementary writing teacher’s dream text. I also enjoy Tamera’s posts on Poetry Friday at her blog, The Writer’s Whimsey. I used this book to introduce the ode by reading “For the Love of Harold, Best of the Worms.” The illustrations by Matthew Cordell are adorable, too.


From Amy Ludwig VanDerwater at Poem Farm, I am inspired to sketch into poetry. Amy is a much better sketcher than I, but I reminded my students that it’s not about the product, it’s about the thinking time when you are sketching.

And the last source of inspiration for writing odes came from the master himself, Pablo Neruda. I splurged and bought a hard bound copy of Odes to Common Things. I read aloud a number of his odes. From “Ode to a pair of socks:”

    My feet were
    two woolen
    in those outrageous socks,
    two gangly,
    navy-blue sharks
    on a golden thread,
    two giant blackbirds,
    two cannons:
    were my feet

My students loved hearing the rambling praise of something so ordinary. They laughed and called out,”How can he write all that about a pair of socks!”

So, inspired by Tamera, Amy, and Pablo, we sketched and wrote odes. I finally found a way to write about my ankle. I had tendonitis from November to April. I am now able to dance again and go on long walks, so I give praise to my ankle.

foot sketch 2

I never thought before
about the importance of an ankle
joint until pain came,
swelling, annoying,
limping, awkward
twisted shift in stride.
Turning talocrural-
where foot and leg unite,
back and forth fulcrum
functioning fine until
it didn’t.
My ankle wanted to be noticed,
announcing its presence
to gain some appreciation
in my world.
Here I am, said ankle to me,
the most complicated,
intricate joint
in your entire body,
thank me, why don’t you?
See how I dorsiflex
and articulate,
turn the a, b, c,
but can you make it to Z, hah!
Not without me!

Oh, gentle joint,
I love how you roll,
how you stretch and adjust;
you are a fine friend.
I will carry you tenderly,
massage you regularly,
soak you in Epsom salt,
and praise you
when I walk,
You are mine forever.
We are going places,
you and me.

To read some of students’ odes, go to our Slice of Life kidblog site.

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We are still writing poems in my classroom even though April is over and May is here. This week we worked on poems for our mothers. If you are a mother of one of my students, stop reading now and save it for after Mother’s Day. You don’t want to spoil the surprise.

love you purplestI love the beautiful picture book, I Love You the Purplest by Barbara M. Joosse. The watercolor images by Mary Whyte are amazing. The story is sweet about a mother going fishing with her two boys. The boys want to know which one she loves best, and the mother cleverly answers, “Julian, I love you the bluest. I love you the color of a dragon fly at the tip of its wing.” The other boy, Max, she loves the reddest, the color of the sky before it blazes into night.

After reading the book to my students, we talked about colors and what they can symbolize. Each student selected a color and made a list of possible things to use in a poem. There are some great resources for this lesson on Writing Fix. You can find a list of color metaphors as well as a printable form.

Specifically for the Mother’s Day poem, I asked the students to write about their mothers. They wrote some great poems. They typed and printed and painted a background for their poems on a canvas board. I think many mothers will be brought to tears by these gifts of love.

Emily purplest

Rhyan pinkest

I love you the pinkest
The color of a baby girl’s blanket
A freshly bloomed rose
The color of a small little piggy
And brand new point shoes
The color of breast cancer awareness
An October birthstone
The perfect pink for you ………
The color of your three little girly ballerinas
–Rhyan, 6th grade

Tobie greenest

I love you, Mom, the Greenest.
An emerald when a miner pulls it freshly out of the wall,
Leprechauns running around their pot of gold,
The grass when freshly mowed,
Lettuce from the sky,
The four-leaf clover on the ground,
The pickle on your burger,
The leaves you feel when you feel a tree.
I love you, Mom, the greenest.
–Tobie, 2nd grade

Matthew orangest

Mom, I love you the orangest.
I love you like the blazing sunset,
like the fire in my eyes,
like a melted orange ice pop,
dripping down my fingers.
I love you as orange as the way
your red hair used to look.
Mom, I love you the orangest.
Matthew, 3rd grade

For more Mother’s Day poems, go to our kidblog site. My students love comments.

Poetry Friday is hosted this week by Elizabeth Steinglass.

Poetry Friday is hosted this week by Elizabeth Steinglass.

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