Archive for October, 2013

Join the Chalk-a-bration over at Teaching Young Writers

Join the Chalk-a-bration over at Teaching Young Writers

I love joining Betsy’s monthly Chalkabration at the end of each month. This week my students reminded me! We had a class visitor. Kaylie, who is now a middle school student, had a fall break, so she came to visit. The kids were excited to write with her again and to have her join our Chalkabration. With the theme of Halloween, ideas flowed quickly, and we were off to decorate the sidewalk with our spooky poems.

Chalk pumpkinKaylie Chalk

Kendall ChalkMatthew chalk
Me ChalkVannisa ChalkTyler Chalk

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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!



This is Kamryn. She was the ten-year-old daughter of a colleague of mine who lost her battle with cancer last week. In August of 2011, Kamryn was diagnosed with a inoperable brain stem tumor. St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital gave her two years when she was only expected to live 6 months. St. Jude continues the commitment to cancer research and to providing excellent care for children at no cost. This is only possible through donations.


I did not have the opportunity to meet Kamryn. Her mother taught part time last year to be available to her daughter, and we spent lunch time together often. She was easy to talk to and seemed to be at peace with Kamryn’s condition. We connected because we both have 3 daughters. I came to love Kathleen and was so saddened to hear of her loss. No one should ever have to bury a child. I went by the funeral home after school. Kathleen greeted me warmly. The atmosphere was celebratory. Teachers had brought gifts for her other daughters, and many children were running around. It was as if Kamryn created an atmosphere of joy.

In November, St. Jude is holding a walkathon. I have joined Kamryn’s team. Please consider supporting this cause and donating through my page: St. Jude Give Thanks Walk.

I talked to my 5th and 6th grade students today about Kamryn. Nigel remembers her from his class in first grade. They were excited to plan a fundraiser at the school. We will hold a school walkathon. The kids had the idea to make a button to sell as well as a color page for donations. Nigel jumped over to the computer and started composing a letter. He wrote that we should honor Kamryn and support her parents in their loss. Even young students understand that we can turn grief and helplessness to action and helpfulness. I have a good feeling about this fundraiser. We’ve decided to be Shining Stars for Kamryn.

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Discover. Play. Build.

Today is Celebration Saturday over at Ruth Ayres’ Site, Discover, Play, Build.

Yesterday was a wonderful fall day! The air was clear and crisp. A perfect day for a field trip. The gifted program for our district takes the 4th-6th graders on a field trip every other year to St. Francisville, LA and Natchez, MS. Early Friday morning at 6 AM, our students and teachers, along with some parent and grandparent chaperones, boarded a chartered bus and headed north to St. Francisville.

atchafalaya sunrise

In St. Francisville, we toured the haunted Myrtles Plantation home. One of the stories we heard was about a slave who had her ear cut off. This ghost apparently steals earrings, actually takes only one for her remaining ear, and is especially fond of hoop earrings. And sure enough, one of the moms had on hoop earrings. One was gone, Poof!, by the end of the tour. I had the freezons, which is Cajun for chills.

Students pose at the outdoor fountain.

Students pose at the outdoor fountain.

After touring and walking the beautiful grounds of the Myrtles, we headed down the road to Grace Epicopal Church to their old cemetery. There the students did gravestone rubbings. Next week we will research these and write historical fiction stories.

Candice rubbinggravestone rubbing

In Natchez, we ate lunch on the grounds of the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians, and the kids had the chance to run up and down Indian mounds and learn about the pottery and basketry of the Natchez Indians. A favorite souvenir for my boys were arrowhead pendants.

Then on to Longwood Plantation. Longwood is an impressive site, the largest plantation home in Natchez; however, the only completed part is the basement. The Civil War broke out, and the owner died of pneumonia. His widow raised 8 children in the completed part of the basement which was only 10,000 square feet. Imagine the completed house would have been 30,000 sq. feet. You go up the stairs and can see the framework of the incomplete mansion. It is most fascinating. Again at this plantation, the students sketched. Back at school, they will compare and contrast the life of a child at each plantation we visited.

Longviewsketching at LongviewNigel sketching

Even though the trip was long and we didn’t get back home until 8:30 PM, the friendships made and nurtured as well as the history learned and appreciated made this field trip a valuable experience for everyone.

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Finally in the deep south the temperatures are cooling off. Everyone is putting out their decorated pumpkins and synthetic spider webs. Halloween is around the corner. Time to write some fall poetry. I introduced fall poetry by posting Amy Ludwig Vanderwater’s poem “Preserving Fall” on our kidblog site. Her poem is about pressing leaves in waxed paper. I remember doing this as a child and with my own kids, but my students have never done this. We are going on a field trip today to Natchez, Mississippi where there may be more colorful leaves to collect. I promised we could press leaves next week.

FOREST COVERwrite a poem

In the meantime, I shared Amy’s book Forest Has a Song. We picked out favorites to read aloud. From JoAnn Early Macken’s book Write a Poem Step by Step, I asked the writers to use a cluster method for gathering ideas when pre-writing. I like how clustering can bring forth words you may not find otherwise.

One of my clusters turned to my backyard satsuma tree, full of ripening fruit.

Satsuma Time

Look outside the kitchen window;
First sign of fall,
peeks of yellow,
sparkle like diamonds
ripening in the sun.
Heavy hanging on the tree,
Abundance gathered one by one.
Satsuma sweet,
Autumn citrus treat.

–Margaret Simon

See more Poetry Friday at Live your poem with Irene Latham.

See more Poetry Friday at Live your poem with Irene Latham.

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Discover. Play. Build.

Fellow blogger, Ruth Ayres starts up her Celebration Saturday round-up today. Click on the image above to find other writers celebrating today.

Gallery hanging
Excitement is in the air at A&E Gallery for the Fall into the Arts Artwalk tonight. Above is a picture of gallery owner, Paul Schexnayder on the right, showing my father, John Gibson, on the left where he will be displaying Dad’s art for tonight.

gallery hanging 2
Dad brought 8 pieces to show, a few to sell, and some prints. I am excited to introduce him and his art to my friends here in New Iberia. We will be signing and selling our collaborative book Illuminate. My brother, Hunter Gibson, completed the companion CD, and it is absolutely beautiful. My nieces added in their voices on the recording. This whole project touches me deeply. I hope others will feel all the love that has gone into the book, the love of art, poetry, music, and family. A true thing to celebrate!

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Photo by Marjorie Pierson, all rights reserved.

Photo by Marjorie Pierson, all rights reserved.

I’d like to introduce you to a my friend and cousin, photographer Marjorie Pierson. Marjie has an amazing eye for light in nature. She lives in North Carolina, teaches a fine art class at Duke, and sponsors a girls’ art club at Durham Academy. Her mother lives here (actually, across the street),so Marjie visits often. She always finds time to explore the bayous and marshes and take photographs. She creates large prints on canvas that look like oil paintings.

Marjie did not visit my class on her latest visit, but her photographs did. She has developed an inspiring website. I told my students about Marjie’s interest in wetlands preservation and talked to them about writing ekphrastic poetry. I used a 6-room organizer from Georgia Heard’s book Awakening the Heart.
Then I played classical music while the students watched a slideshow of wetlands beauty and wrote.

Magic happened as magic often does when writing combines with art. Here are some of the poems my students wrote.

Song of the Wetlands

The beautiful details of the wetlands.
Shadows reflecting off of the water.
I am silent.
I smell sweet and damp.
I feel wet, mossy, grassy and slimy.
I taste bitter, salty water and sweet.
I am pretty places
flowing everywhere,
a wetland full of
I am precious and you can preserve me to save me before I am gone.

Silhouette of the Sea

The fine art of blue dancing waters
embrace the feel of warmth

reflections of green
sounds of nature

a wind in the silhouette

smells like freshly cut grass
small droplets drip
on the smallest blade of grass

I’m Home

A green line of cane,
above the tan dirt,
under the bright blue
Louisiana sky.
Colorful, like a
shining rainbow after
a harsh rain,
like a path full of
roses and daisies.
There is a hushing noise,
made by the stalks slowly
and gently rubbing together,
hush. hush, hush.
With the touch of the angel’s wing
so delicate and free, reassuring
you that anything is possible.
Always giving off the soft, welcoming,
harmless, I’m home feeling.
I’m home,
I’m home,
I’m home.

Join the Poetry Friday blog hop at Merely Day by Day.

Join the Poetry Friday blog hop at Merely Day by Day.

Check out Matt Forrest’s Mortimer Minute over at Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme.

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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!

This morning instead of going to exercise, I am icing my ankle. Yes, I overdid it. My body is screaming at me. But I think it was worth it.

This was a great weekend for lovers of Cajun and Zydeco music. In nearby Lafayette, Festival Acadiens was held in Girard Park. The festival is full of traditional Louisiana music and all free!

Jeff and I danced Friday night to our favorite band, Geno Delafose and the French Rockin Boogie. Again, on Saturday afternoon, we headed out to the Festival Acadiens. Cory Ledet was jammin’ his accordian. We took a few rounds on the dance floor, a patch of sprayed down dirt in Girard Park. I have been a longtime fan of Michael Doucet and Beau Soliel, so we could not resist waltzing and jitterbugging when he came on stage. Michael is a master on the fiddle. He plays fast. My feet couldn’t help but move.

Downtown New Iberia skyline with Gumbo Cook-off tents.

Downtown New Iberia skyline with Gumbo Cook-off tents.

Sunday morning was the annual Gumbo Cook-off in New Iberia. Downtown filled with the scent of roux. Geno gets around and here he was in our own town playing at 9 AM. We skipped church to go zydeco dancing. I think God was smiling. A local photographer caught us and made us famous in the Daily Iberian.

A picture of our picture in the Daily Iberian.

A picture of our picture in the Daily Iberian.

My daughter said we looked like a young couple in the picture. My husband said, “That’s the point.” Of course, tell that to my ankle. The irony was apparent when I received the Poem-a-Day email featuring Jane Hirshfield’s poem:

by Jane Hirshfield

My skeleton,
you who once ached
with your own growing larger

are now,
each year
imperceptibly smaller,
absorbed by your own

When I danced,
you danced.
When you broke,
See more here.

I am excited that Ruth Ayres is starting a new blog round-up for Saturdays on her blog Discover. Play. Build. Follow the button below and link up your Celebration post this Saturday.

Discover. Play. Build.

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poetry friday button

Happy Poetry Friday! For more poetic fun, hop over to Laura Purdie Salas’ site Writing the World for Kids.

Mortimer Minute has hopped over to Michelle’s place today–Today’s Little Ditty.

 Chuck Savall  coral.org

Chuck Savall

Ever since I discovered the website, Wonderopolis, I have wanted to find a way to use it with my gifted students. On Tuesday, I saw the widget for the Wonderopolis link on Amy Rudd’s site. It caught my eye. The wonder of the day was the Great Barrier Reef. I got lost in the video swimming along the reef. I decided to make Wednesday into Wonderopolis Wednesday. I showed the Wonder of the Day and the video and asked my students to use at least 3 of the Wonder Words in their writing. I always write alongside them.

In walks my principal for a “walk-through evaluation.” We were finishing up the quiet writing time and getting ready to share. My normally vivacious class clammed up. No one wanted to share. What was I to do? I shared my own attempt at a rhyming poem with this disclosure, “I’m trying to write a rhyming poem and you know how hard this is for me.” When I read aloud, one student suddenly became an expert on rhyming poetry. He explained to me how I had to not only rhyme, but I had to have a consistent beat to each line. My students chimed in to help me write my poem. We continued revising the next morning. I think in the end we created a pretty good poem. But I must credit my students for their guidance.

By the way, my principal thought it was awesome that I had them critiquing me. She thought it was a little “teacher act.” But I explained, “No, I really needed the help. I’m terrible at rhyming.”

Living Treasure: The Great Barrier Reef

Discover our ocean friend.
Twenty thousand years to no end.
Golden-tailed hope rises on the wind.

Coral flowers sway with the tide.
Sea turtles, stingrays gracefully glide.
Among the lacy red, a mollusk will hide.

White-fingered anemone hug dancing fish.
Swimming, swaying, a rainbow swish.
A beauty, a wonder, a diver’s lifelong wish.

–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!

October is here, and the weather has turned slightly cooler. Anticipation is growing for a favorite holiday…Halloween. What better time is there to write haunted stories?

I invited my writer friend, Chere’ Coen to visit my class. She recently released a new book, Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana. You can read excerpts on her blog Haunted Lafayette. Chere’ is a journalist who has always had a fascination with ghost stories. She brought her interest and her talent together in this book published by History Press. The book blurb reads, “Ghost stories abound in the Cajun and Creole city of Lafayette, Louisiana, from those lost in Civil War skirmishes and fever outbreaks to the former living who can’t say goodbye. Haunted Lafayette, Louisiana by The History Press takes readers inside some of the most historic sites in South Louisiana, including haunted bed and breakfasts, restaurants and entertainment venues — even the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. In addition, there are the back roads and cemeteries where spirits linger, pirates who refuse to leave and ancient French legends hiding in the swamps, bayous and woods.”



My students came alive while Chere’ talked to them. They all had stories to tell and questions to ask. To illustrate the difference in style from dry, factual writing to intriguing feature writing, Chere’ read an article from the front page of a local newspaper. Then she read an article she had written about a ghost story. We discussed the differences and how we can make our writing more vivid and interesting.

Finally, we all settled down to have quiet writing time. The pens and pencils were flying. My students were primed to write their own haunted stories. Chere’ wrote, too, and shared her scary tale of a class of students diligently writing while a headless man lurked in the sugarcane fields. (In Brooklyn’s thank you note, she wrote that she keeps looking out the window for the headless man.) While we were reading aloud our rough drafts, one student proclaimed, “We are all writers!” Yes! Chere’ inspired them to understand they can be writers.

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Mortimer Minute

Mortimer is one busy bunny, hopping all over the country to interview children’s poets. I want to thank Tabatha Yeatts for tagging me in the blog-hop. Here are the rules:

1. Answer 3 questions:These questions are somewhat created by you, but you can borrow from other bloggers.

2. Invite poetry loving friends to follow you. I will introduce you to two fabulous poetry writing friends at the end of my post.

3. Say thanks and link up, so Mortimer can keep on hopping along!

Mortimer: What has been one of your favorite ways of sharing poetry in school? (question borrowed from Tabatha.)
Me: My students have been loving the end of the month Chalkabrations, the creative genius baby of fellow Poetry Friday blogger, Betsy Hubbard. However, I have to say that the lagniappe (the little something extra) that happened last April during National Poetry Month still tops my list. For every day of the month, I would introduce a poetry form for each letter of the alphabet. A for acrostic, B for bio-poems, and so on. Well, the end of the school year is always filled with those doggone standardized tests and on the day of the letter K, I was administering a test. My students were not supposed to come to class; however, three of them appeared. I told them they could stay if they worked quietly. They got together and wrote an amazing Kyrielle about Kindness. I was so blown away that I had them read it aloud on the intercom the next day. They wrote in response to the Boston Marathon Bombing. Writing is healing, and my students knew this. Had I taught them this? The link to my original post is here, but I will reprint the poem for Mortimer.

26 Acts of Kindness

There’s something kind that we must do
To pay respects, so let’s be true
It won’t be for me or for you
So help the dreams they can’t pursue

Please, show your kindness, here’s your cue
Be the person God asked you to
We can stop them from feeling blue
So help the dreams they can’t pursue

Their families are torn in two
Come, everyone, and get a clue
Those men would wish they could undo
So help the dreams they can’t pursue

What is our country going through
To me, it feels like déjà vu
You all know who I’m talking to
So help the dreams they can’t pursue

by Kaylie, Brooklyn, and Kendall

Mortimer: Do you remember the first poem you ever wrote?
Me: Yes, but it is very embarrassing. What I remember is waiting for my mother to pick me up from Miss Jo’s piano lesson. Miss Jo had a big tree in her front yard. I danced around the tree and made up this poem, “Spring is my favorite time of year/ when the sky is blue and clear./ Flowers blooming all around./ Snow is melting on the ground.” This may be the reason I need to keep my day job.

Mortimer: What is your current poetry project?
Me: I am so proud to be publishing a small book of poems to accompany my father’s drawings. I should receive my first shipment any day now. You can read a review on Diane Moore’s blog A Word’s Worth. You can order a book with CD from the page Illuminate.

My brother, Hunter Gibson, is a talented musician.

My brother, Hunter Gibson, is a talented musician.

My brother is a wonderful musician, and he has decided to add to this family project by making a Christmas CD of traditional and original Christmas songs. I sent him a recording of me reading three of the poems and he put together a mix with an original tune. This touches me to my very core. Not only do I connect with my father through his art, but I am connecting with Hunter through his music.

Here’s tagging…

Here's Michelle!

Here’s Michelle!

Michelle Heidenrich Barnes who writes children’s poetry, picture books, and greeting cards. Her creative challenge is to bring out the natural musicality and rhythm of words and let them bounce around (and otherwise run amok) within the sphere of her imagination. You can find her blog at Today’s Little Ditty. Her Mortimer Minute will be posted Oct. 11th.

Here's Matt!

Here’s Matt!

Matt Forrest writes radio commercials and poetry for adults as well as children. He is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators (SCBWI). He’s been in recording studios, on theatre stages, and in front of TV cameras…and has always managed to leave before security arrived. He’s done voicework and audio production for companies around the country, and his voice can be heard from Maine to Florida, from California to New Jersey, from the U.K. to Dubai. Matt’s post will go up on Oct. 18th at his blog site Radio, Rhythm, and Rhyme. Please hop along!

Poetry Friday is being hosted today by Doraine at Dori Reads.

Poetry Friday is being hosted today by Doraine at Dori Reads.

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