Archive for January, 2014

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Today is Chalkabration day and Poetry Friday! See more Poetry Friday posts at the round-up at Miss Rumphius Effect.

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

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

We returned to school after two days off for an ice storm, unheard of in South Louisiana. We collected words about ice and snow and cold. Then wrote our poems, chalking them on the sidewalk and playing in the ice still left in the shade. My students were so happy when they realized today was Chalkabration Day. Thanks to Betsy Hubbard for keeping this going all year long.

Icy steps crackle crispy  under my feet tingles my fingers white winter frost. --Margaret Simon

Icy steps
crackle crispy
under my feet
tingles my fingers
white winter frost.
–Margaret Simon

Snow falling outside Ice storm Leon gave me time for fun and lots of  Gumbo! --Brooklyn

Snow falling outside
Ice storm Leon gave me time
for fun and lots of

White ice falling in the winter exciting fluffy balls delicious to eat slippery to walk freezing fun. --Tyler

White ice falling
in the winter
exciting fluffy balls
delicious to eat
slippery to walk
freezing fun.

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In the cyberspace, a new revolution is surfacing. It is called “Nerdlution.” Nerdlution Round 1 started sometime back in early December. I read some blog posts and Twitter tweets about it, but I was a bit confused about this goal setting thing before the new year even started. Then earlier this week, on Sunday to be exact, I read this blog post by Chris Lehman. This thing made more sense and here they were, these nerdlutors, starting round 2. Dare I join in? Set your own goals for the next 50 days with a community of bloggers to cheer you on. Why not?

It was easy to join. All I did was hop on over to Nerdy Book Club with Colby Sharp and set my goals in a comment. Here are my goals:

1. Connect to my OLW for 2014, Open, and try one new thing each week.

2. Write daily. I am not going to count words, so even a simple blog comment or FB post will count, but I’ll try to commit to some kind of writing every day.

3. Exercise daily. This will probably prove the hardest for me because I like to find any excuse to not work out.

My cyber-friend, Michelle Haseltine has started a blog round-up at her site, One Grateful Teacher, to check in on Thursdays.

Nerdlution started Monday, and we had Tuesday and Wednesday off of school for winter storm Leon. I found it pretty easy to fit in my goals in between laundry, cooking, and throwing the ball for Charlie.

The new thing that I tried was introduced to me by my sister on Facebook. Beth has been posting some cool pictures that she is creating using an app called “Sketch Club.” I had to call her to get more instructions on how to use it. My sister is a practicing artist. She was using her own paintings as background and layering a sketch on top.

Boy by Beth Gibson Saxena, all rights reserved.

Boy by Beth Gibson Saxena, all rights reserved.

I bought the app, only $2.99. Then I started playing. This is really the best way to learn a new app anyway. I made this layered image using a gel print, a collage, and a photograph. It symbolizes my OLW Open and my commitment to the practice of writing.

nerdlution open

It’s not too late to join in the new revolution. You can read about more nerdlution commitments at Michelle’s blog.

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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!

my wordle

A few weeks into October I got the word that I would be getting a new student. This happens during the year as students complete the evaluation for gifted. But this new student was unique. She is labeled in the Special Ed. world as “twice exceptional” or as having “dual exceptionalities.” Sara’s (not her real name) first classification is autism. I have been teaching for nearly 30 years, and yet, I had never had an autistic student. I was totally unprepared.

I will not share the trials here, but there were a few. Adjusting to a new schedule and a mixed-grade class was a struggle for Sara. It was an adjustment for me and for my other students. We walked on thin ice for the first few months. Then after Christmas, I took a workshop offered by our Special Ed department on autism. My eyes were opened. I understood.

In short, the autistic brain is up to 10% larger than the average brain. While as children our brains weed out unnecessary parts, the autistic brain just adds more in. The most enlightening thing the instructor said was this: “At any given time, the autistic child is giving you the best he can.” I believe in this statement. So I must give Sara my best.

I got some great ideas from the workshop for using visual cues to calm Sara when she has a meltdown. The visuals should include the student’s interests. Autistic children tend to have intense interest areas. I wanted to prepare by implementing a visual while she was calm. I talked to her about making a Wordle. A Wordle is a word cloud. On the website, wordle.net, you can create a word cloud like the one I made above. I told Sara she was going to make a Wordle of words she liked to help her calm down. She immediately responded, “I don’t want to do it.” She did not want to do something that would make her different, make her stand out. But when T. walked into class, I said, “Tell Sara about the Wordle you made last year.” I showed her the site and did a sample one.

Sara enjoyed making her Wordle and as other students joined the class that day, she became the expert for teaching others how to make one. She printed out her Wordle. I asked her if she wanted to print out a picture to go with one of her words. She chose Hershey’s chocolate. We placed the illustrated Wordle in the front of her binder in the clear sleeve. The binder stays under her desk.

A few days later, Sara became upset about something. She was just beginning to show signs of losing control. Her eyes teared up. Her voice changed tone. So I reached under her desk and pulled out her binder. She pointed to the Wordle and said, “Look! Hershey’s!” That was it. I said nothing. Her temper was dissipated. Just like that.

I believe in my students. I believe that miracles can happen. I believe that when we are open to differences and willing to work with them, our students’ and our own lives are enriched.

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Discover. Play. Build.

Snowy mix

The sun is coming up. The ice still glitters on the trees. Soon it will all melt. Yesterday, the ice and rain and little snow flurries came down all day long. For us in the deep south, temperatures below freezing all day long are rare. I celebrate the day off of school and the beauty. I did not have to get out much, but when I did, I didn’t know that the rain would turn to ice so suddenly on my windshield. The first time I ventured out, I had to pull over to let my car warm up. I felt stupid, aggravated at my lack of expertise with this weather. So while I enjoyed having a free day, I know there were others who struggled.

Matthew's hero

I am Matthew’s hero! The fourth grade teachers have a Student of the Week every week. This week was Matthew’s turn. I didn’t see his poster until Thursday. There in the lower left corner was a section titled “My Hero.” Matthew had written about me, his gifted teacher for the last 4 years.

Mrs. Simon is my hero because she’s been my teacher for 4 years. She’s like an aunt to me, and she’s the best teacher I’ve ever had and ever will have. This is why Mrs. Simon is my hero.

Open collage

My one little word for 2014 is Open. Last Saturday, I went to A&E Gallery to paint with Marcie Melancon. She does gelli plate printing and collage. I made this collage for my OLW. It reminds me daily to be open and creative.

What are you celebrating this week? Add your post to Ruth’s round up.

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Silence of the first snow by John Gibson

Silence of the first snow by John Gibson

This never happens in South Louisiana, a snow day. Yesterday, the weather man predicted a wintry mix. All schools in Acadiana were canceled for Friday.

Like an excited child, I have been up since 5:30 AM checking for snow…no. There is some ice accumulating on the deck, so I suppose it is a good thing little southern children are not having to stand outside and wait for buses that do not handle ice on roads well. Hey, I’m not complaining. I get a free day. But as I look at my father’s drawing of this beautiful silent scene of snow, I can’t help but wish I could see this in my own yard, if only for a few moments. There is something silent and magical about the first snow.

Snow Day
Snow fell silently through the night,
Tufts of a fluffy cotton-ball sweater.
I wake to a field of white.

White-topped limbs reach out for light.
No one predicted this wondrous weather.
Snow fell silently through the night.

Come to the window to see the fresh sight.
Cancel school. Let’s play together.
I wake to a field of white.

Smooth pure canvas, all is right.
Each leaf a glass-encased feather,
Snow fell silently through the night.

–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

This poem is featured in my book Illuminate. Enjoy more Poetry Friday over at Tara Smith’s Site, A Teaching Life.

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empty tree, sky

Meditation on Empty

In that gentle space above his left eyebrow,
I focus on the emptiness,
how emptiness is not empty.

I fill my empty cup with ginger-mint tea.
Cut yellow roses for the empty vase.
Invite friends to fill the empty table.

My hand opens, then closes slightly
holding your pinky finger, tiny and delicate.
I’ll rock you until this pain subsides.

We sit together like lotus, open hands
to the Abba Father, breathe the warm
body scents that fill the empty room.
–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

yellow roses
I brought yellow roses to the writing retreat because I looked up colors of roses and their meanings, and yellow roses are for friendship and new beginnings. Then among writing friends, I polished this poem and read it for our sharing time. I’m not sure if you need to know what the poem means. It will mean what you need at the moment. For me, it’s about friends and opening myself up to being filled every day.

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!

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Discover. Play. Build.

Welcome to Saturday Celebration. I thought it would never come. Yes, it was a long week. Yet the week was full of reasons to celebrate (and sleep late) today.

1. Healing
Minga, my mother-in-law, gets stronger every day. (Last Saturday’s post was about her successful surgery.) Here she is with cards from my students. My students put effort into their creations. They know Minga because she visited last year to present about her trip to Myanmar (Burma). Vannisa made a book of character traits while Kendall, without my knowing, wrote a poem for her. Brooklyn sent her a booklet of her own writing. This pleased me because it shows how far Brooklyn has come not only in her writing ability but also in her confidence. She wanted to give Minga something to read while she recovers.
Minga with cards

2. Courage
On Tuesday, we had a Skype visit with Caroline Starr Rose, the author of May B. We had some technical difficulties. She could not hear us, so we typed our questions and comments. We could hear her. How delightful she is! My students learned so much about how to be an author, the hard work that goes into it, and the rewards. Caroline said being an author is a dream come true for her. When we discussed her visit, we decided to make a chart to remember all her advice. The chart became an acrostic of the word COURAGE.

author's courage

3. Cupcakes
One of the things I love about teaching small groups of children is the opportunity to celebrate birthdays. I sent my husband out to get cupcakes for Emily’s birthday. He bought the ones with the brightest icing. He said they reminded him of Willy Wonka. The kids loved them. The girls made the icing into lipstick. How silly!

Silly cupcake lipstick

Silly cupcake lipstick

I hope you have found some healing, courage, and cupcakes to celebrate this week!

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Another and another…
This week my students and I wrote word association poems after a movement exercise I learned from Bonny McDonald. See the post about that activity here.

I found it interesting (and so did they) where their original word led them. I wanted to make word clouds with them but am having some technical difficulty.


A fruit
Has cousins
like banana,
orange and
which bloom
in Spring
with cousins
like Fall,
Winter and
Fall has
red, yellow
orange and
brown leaves
falling everywhere
Winter has
ice and
is cold
Summer is
hot and
dry with
people swimming
at the
beach with
sand flying
people surfing
and having
fun all
from the
word apple.
by Tyler

Brooklyn chose a word that she didn’t like.








Join the Poetry Friday Round up at Keri Recommends.  Happy Birthday to Keri!

Join the Poetry Friday Round up at Keri Recommends. Happy Birthday to Keri!

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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!

My One Little Word for 2014 is Open. (See my poem about it here.) On Saturday, I was required to be Open to a new idea. I attended Acadiana Wordlab. This week the presenter was Bonny McDonald. Bonny is a PhD. candidate in LSU’s performance studies program. I got the feeling we were guinea pigs. She led us in many weird movement exercises, all new to me. At first we did something she called flocking where we walked the expanse of the room “filling up the empty spaces.” We walked in a variety of unusual ways, such as with your right elbow leading.


All the while I was making strange and new movements with my body, I was thinking about my students and how we rarely get up and move. I wanted to transfer this energizing experience to my classroom. On Monday morning, I told my students we were going to do “Bonny’s weird word association dance.” For this activity, you must think of a word (one you love or one you hate). Say the word and pay attention to what movement your mouth makes. Mimic this movement in a whole body movement. Then flock around the room saying your word and making your movement. OK, yes, we all got a little silly. Then we sat down to write free associations of our chosen word. Following a quick share, I asked my students to spend a little more time with their words and compose a poem. They will be posting this exercise (if they choose) on our kidblog site. If I get permission, I may post some of them for Poetry Friday.

Back to the word Open. When I made the movement I associated with my word, I was surprised by the closed-ness of the ending. O is very open, and my arms wrapped an O shape in the air, but then the ending closed in a clasping of my hands together. I begin with being open, but I must come back to myself and hold it in. Here is my free association with the word Open:

Ginger blossom
Fly in space
Up on my roof
Space stars
Mint leaves in my tea.
Fill my cup to the top.
Open parachute — jump
down! Catch me
little star gently
on soft petals of iris.
Fields open to me as
I walk in space to the place
where I am meant to be.
Let’s sit here a while, you and me.
–Margaret Simon

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Discover. Play. Build.

To see more Celebration blog posts, go to Ruth’s site, Discover. Play. Build.

rainbow 1

A year ago there was a spot, small but noticeable, on the CAT scan. So appointments for continued monitoring were set at 3 month intervals. No significant change until two weeks before Christmas. Then the CAT scan became a PET scan, and the spot glowed like a red-faced crab…Cancer.

I call my mother-in-law Minga. That is the grandmother name my oldest daughter gave her when she began to speak. She said words backwards, “Book” was “Koo” and “Grandma” became “Minga.” Anne embraced the name.

Minga has become my closest friend. My father-in-law died in 2004. The next year, Minga got a dog, Petey. Charlie joined our family in 2007. We spend many Saturday mornings walking our dogs together. There is nothing that brings two people closer than walking and talking, talking and walking.

This morning I am not walking with Charlie, Petey, and Minga, but I am celebrating nonetheless. My dear friend told us the Sunday after Christmas that she had a malignant tumor in her left lung. The next week, Jeff and I went with her to the surgeon. We scheduled surgery for this past Thursday to remove the upper lobe of her left lung. The procedure, as you may imagine, was complicated. We were surprised to see the surgeon only an hour after they took her in. He told us everything had gone well. The tumor was definitely cancer, so the surgery was necessary. She only had one tube, rather than two, draining her lung. In other words, the news was as good as bad can get.

I am celebrating today not only the successful surgery, but also her amazing recovery. People who know Minga already know she is in great shape. She eats right and exercises two times a day. She looks 62 and not 82. She travels to exotic countries; She had to cancel a trip to India to do this surgery. So why would you expect anything less than an amazing recovery? Yesterday, the first day following the surgery, she took three walks around the floor. She sat up for most of the day. She ate about a third of her dinner. And she did a Sudoku puzzle.

On Thursday morning, I drove alone to the hospital. (My sister-in-law was in charge of getting her to the hospital.) When I pulled into the parking lot, I noticed people stopping and pointing up to the sky. Then I saw it…a rainbow. The promise, God’s promise that all will be well. I walked in with a lighter step, knowing all would be well. All is well!

rainbow 2

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