Archive for February, 2014

Find more poetry at the Poetry Friday Roundup hosted by Anastasia.

Find more poetry at the Poetry Friday Roundup hosted by Anastasia.

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

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

For February, my students and I braved the cold temperatures to chalk some poetry on the sidewalks. The prompt came from Laura Shovan’s month long birthday project with Pantone colors. I have been participating along with my poet friends Linda Baie and Diane Mayr. Head over to Laura’s site, Author Amok, to read some great poetry.

I bought a new box of chalk and the pieces were labeled with interesting color names. Brooklyn picked out Sky Blue:

Brooklyn sky poem

The sky shines sky blue
The way the summer pool invites me
The way blueberries taste
The way hydrangeas take your breath away
The sky shines sky blue


Vannisa wants you to imagine the colors and how one becomes another in her list.

vannisa colors

Vannisa's colors

I selected the colors sunflower and golden glow to add a little sunshine to the day.

spring chalk poem

We will be on break for the Mardi Gras holiday next week, so my students got a jumpstart on the Slice of Life Challenge. Consider stopping in and leaving a comment on our public blog site: http://kidblog.org/SliceofLifeChallenge/

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Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge!

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge!

My students write reader responses each week to whatever book they are reading. At the beginning of the year, I placed some questions in their binders to prompt these responses. I find that week after week, they select the same questions to answer.

A few weeks ago, I read Dana Murphy’s post on Two Writing Teachers about reader responses. She wrote about three different strategies she teaches her students, lifting a line, character maps, and visual note-taking. I posted these ideas on our class blog and have discussed each strategy with my students.

Words with wings

I love the connections I can make with authors online. I follow Nikki Grimes on Facebook, so I saw a post about her talk on Booktalk Nation (which, sadly, I had to miss) along with the opportunity to purchase a signed copy of Words with Wings. The book arrived last week. Vannisa is a fan of verse novels and picked it up immediately. She decided to lift a line to write her own poem about the main character. When I talked to Vannisa about her poem, she told me she was interested in how the character herself was also just words on the page.

I know a girl
who waits and listens.

For her daydreams,
she awaits.

Who comes from
a family
that doesn’t

for words
to take her
high into the sky
or her mind.

Tell her to stop,
she won’t

Who comes from

in her mind.

No one even knocks
on the door
for a visit.

Who comes from
a book.

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Discover. Play. Build.

Each week I join in with other teacher-bloggers in celebrating our week. The celebration is hosted by Ruth Ayres at Discover. Play. Build. I hope I can stop sneezing long enough to write. Spring is coming and trees are blooming. My allergies tell me so. Today is a gorgeous day in South Louisiana. The sun is shining. The birds are singing. The air is crispy cool at 57 degrees. I celebrate starting my day with a walk. Minga is back to health, so we took our dogs Petey and Charlie to the park. Celebration was prevalent as old friends greeted her, happy to see her out and looking great.

I want to celebrate our 6th grade gifted students. We took them on a field trip this week as part of our WOW (Way out Wednesdays) enrichment program. First stop was Azalea Estates assisted living facility. There the students played games with and interviewed the residents. The room was full of energy. Everyone enjoyed themselves.

Brooklyn interviews Montez about her life for a Legacy project.

Brooklyn interviews Montez about her life for a Legacy project.

Next we went to downtown New Iberia to meet with various entities about our community service project plan. The students were met with respect by the head of the Chamber of Commerce as well as the mayor and city department heads. They did a wonderful job presenting their plans. I overheard one student say to another, “I like feeling special.” I celebrate their specialness and the opportunity to work with a great group of teachers and students.

I also want to take a moment to celebrate a fellow poet and cyber-friend, Laura Shovan. Laura is doing a birthday project at her site Author Amok. She is asking other poets to join in by writing to color prompts. This week I hit a hard spot. I wanted to write to the color Dubarry. I struggled after researching Madame duBarry. I tried a number of times to write something and the results were crap, let’s say less than desirable. I told Laura of my trouble and she sent me a prompt through email. “Wear it: Imagine you are putting on an article of clothing in this color. What happens when you walk out your front door?” I was getting ready for bed when a poem with the color Orange Pepper came to me. I wrote it on a sticky note in the bathroom, then sent it to her immediately. She posted it the next day. My confidence is back. Thanks, Laura, for making me feel special.

I bought a tangerine purse–
orange pepper for my shoulder.
My daughter said I looked like I was carrying a satsuma.
The mailman asked if I had anything toxic or potentially hazardous.
But you said,
“Hey, I see sunshine on your shoulder.
Let’s walk together.”

by Margaret Simon

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Find more poetry at the Poetry Friday Roundup hosted by Karen Edmisten.

Find more poetry at the Poetry Friday Roundup hosted by Karen Edmisten.

Creative Commons, flickr, by photosteve101

Creative Commons, flickr, by photosteve101

Toady is my husband’s birthday. Exactly one week from Valentine’s Day. Last week I posted a love poem. This week I am contemplating the table he made for our family meals. This poem is after Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “The Comfort of Wood.”

Wishes on Wood
For Jeff

after Naomi Shihab Nye
The Comfort of Wood

I come to this table hungry
I come empty as a vase
waiting for the scent of blossoms.

I come with no plan;
time stops.
I listen for the birds to return.

He built this table
of soft blonde maple.
If you ask, he’ll show you the joints.

The table centers the room,
colored chairs I painted with spray;
the green one could use a fresh coat.

Now I am learning the strength
of this wood, like a family,
holds all our whispered wishes.

–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

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Nerdlution Week 4

Click here to view the roundup at One Grateful Teacher.

Click here to view the roundup at One Grateful Teacher.

My nerdlution goals: 1. Exercise 2. Write 3. Open

Discipline is a good thing. My body now knows when the alarm clock will ring. I usually wake up about 4:45 and look. Ah, 15 more minutes. Then I start my day. Coffee, then Centering Prayer.

Two weeks ago I opened myself to Centering Prayer, a practice of meditation for 20 minutes. I am loving this special time alone, in silence. Yet, I find I am so comfortable here that I don’t want to get up. I am avoiding things that I used to spend time doing, like reading blogs and Facebook. I am avoiding tasks that need me to plan and be organized. I am happy to be random and free, not pinned down to ideas and plans. Is this good? A friend, who is also trying the Centering Prayer practice, told me just to go with it and see where it takes me. Open, Ok.


My writing is also not taking me where I think it should. I am feeling lost and like I can’t find the right words, or the words I am “supposed” to say. I was participating in Laura Shovan’s Pantone color prompts at her site Author Amok. I got stuck on the color Dubarry. I spent quite a while researching and found out about Madame duBarry. I wrote notes and tried them out in three different poems, even a limerick, with dismal results. Discouraging, but I know it’s all part of the process, right?

So I power on for 25 more days.

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A new button for the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge!

A new button for the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge!

Believe it or not, March is almost here. Today, I announced in my classroom, “Guess what? It’s almost March. Slice of Life time!” Over the next two weeks we will talk about it a little each day. What is a Slice of Life story? What are some things you could write about? We have been blogging all year long, but the SOLC steps it up a notch. Rather than expecting at least one post per week, I will challenge my students to write every day and post at least 3 times a week.

Linda Baie and I are sharing the responsibility for supporting the classroom challenge. I will be available to answer questions for teachers whose last name begins with N-Z. If you have questions now, just write a comment. At other times, you can email me at margaretsmn at gmail dot com.

There are two documents that I want to share with you. First, I created a parent letter. I will copy and paste the body of the letter here. Of course, you will want to personalize it for your own use.

February 18, 2014
Dear Parents,
In March, my gifted students will be participating in the Slice of Life Challenge. This challenge is lead by the Two Writing Teachers at http://twowritingteachers.wordpress.com.
My students will be asked to write every day in March. This writing should be a “slice” of life. We will discuss ideas and have time for writing every day in class. The students will be graded by a rubric requiring at least 3 posts each week and comments on at least two classmates’ writing. If they write for the full month, I will provide prizes. If a student writes 16 or more slices, he or she will get a prize.

The students have been using kidblog.org all year long. This is a familiar format to them. I have set up a kidblog specifically for the Slice of Life Challenge, http://kidblog.org/SliceofLifeChallenge.

This is a public blog; however, I will get an email for every comment and post and will have to approve it before it is posted. I will only allow the students to use their first names, and we will not post any pictures of them. You and family members will be able to access the blog and write comments. Also, I will be posting to the Two Writing Teachers blog so that other teachers and their students can read and comment. This can be a wonderful experience for the students. They will develop good writing skills as they work to make their slices interesting to other readers.
I am asking parents to support this project in the following ways:
• Read your child’s posts and make positive, encouraging comments.
• Allow your child to use the internet to post if they have not been able to at school or on weekends.
• Give permission for your child to post on a public blog.
Please sign the permission form below and return to school.
Margaret Simon

My child, _____________________________, has permission to write posts to the public kidblog, Slice of Life Challenge. I understand that only his/her first name will be used and his/her picture will not be posted.

The second document is a chart the students use to track their slices. Because we will have a Mardi Gras break in the month, I will reduce the number of days required for a prize. You can decide for yourself how many entries are needed to get a prize.
Slice of Life Challenge chart (1) copy

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Discover. Play. Build.

This was a week of feeling the love. and spreading love. Here’s how we did it.

Paw Pride valentines

1. Valentines for the elderly: I co-sponsor a leadership group at my base school, Paw Pride. These students decided last week that they wanted to make Valentines for the elderly, so we had two recess crafting sessions, created original Valentines, and delivered them after school on Thursday to a local subsidized housing facility for elderly. The students who came were filled with love and joy as they talked with the residents. A few of them expressed to me how surprised they were at the fun they had. They want to go back at Easter.

Emily's haiku to the moon

Emily’s haiku to the moon

2. Writing Love Haiku: On Friday, I decided to forego a math lesson with my youngest group of students and teach them about haiku. (I guess you could argue that counting syllables is math.) I read to them Betsy Snyder’s precious book, I Haiku You. This was their first experience with haiku. In the 10 minute writing time, a few of them wrote up to 4 haiku poems. Then they illustrated them. The feeling of pride and joy in their writing was heartwarming.

3. Love Poetry Night: Not a huge crowd, less than 20, listened to love poetry Friday night. I read my own poem and a Jane Hirschfeld poem, For What Binds Us, and choked up at the end. “how the black cord makes of them a single fabric/ that nothing can tear or mend.”
Jim recited Rumi. Phanat sang us a French love song. Clare and Bonny both made us tear up with their touching poems. Love is just like that sometimes, touches the heart.

I hope you were touched by some love this week. Join the celebration over at Ruth’s blog, Discover.Play.Build.

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It’s Poetry Friday and Love Poetry Night. Tonight at A&E Gallery in New Iberia, we will gather and love poets and poetry. The event begins at 6:00 PM with open mic. The featured poets are Clare Martin and Bonny McDonald.

I’ll be reading this poem during Open Mic, dedicated to my one true love.

The Kiss

I can remember where I put my keys,
How many eggs are left in the refrigerator.
I can remember the dance step
we practiced over and over.

I cannot remember the line in the poem
The one after the knees in the desert.
I can’t remember what you said
before you went to sleep.

I do remember the kiss,
not that particular kiss but every kiss,
gentle on my cheek,
telling me you are near. You are here,
We are here—remember.

Margaret Simon

Find more poetry at the Poetry Friday Roundup hosted by Linda Baie at Teacher Dance.

Find more poetry at the Poetry Friday Roundup hosted by Linda Baie at Teacher Dance.

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Michelle Haseltine is gathering the Nerdlution round-up at her site, One Grateful Teacher.

I am a total nerd and am embracing this nerdlution for 50 days. So how many days has it been? Eighteen, I think. I’ve had to cut my goal of exercise every day to exercise 5 days a week and I’m counting dancing as exercise. My husband and I invited some friends out for Zydeco dancing to Chubby Carrier on Sunday afternoon at Vermilionville. We love these Sunday afternoon gigs. One hour of jitterbug, waltz, and Whiskey River, and I checked off exercise for the weekend.

flickr image by Wally Gobetz

flickr image by Wally Gobetz

My second goal, writing every day, has gone OK, too, if I don’t worry about word counts. I have been journaling more and not really writing anything that anyone else will read, but practice is the important thing, right?

Staying Open, my One Little Word, is easier than I thought it would be. New things are available and happening all the time. On Saturday, I learned the art of Centering Prayer. I wrote about it on Tuesday for Slice of Life. I have kept up the practice every morning. The only downfall is that I resist the gotta-get-something-done mode. I get so calm and zoned-out that I want to stay in that moment. How many of you would love to live on a yoga mat? I know, it’s not very practical.

I got an appropriate fortune in my fortune cookie last night. “Don’t ask. Don’t say. Everything lies in silence.”

Laura Purdie Salas posts a 15 Words or Less poetry prompt every Thursday. This morning I wrote “Snow Cloud.” To see other poems in response to her picture prompt, visit her site.

Snow Cloud

Each time you
open yourself
to the world,
miracles happen
like snow from
boiling water.

My 15 word journal, a gift from my husband.

My 15 word journal, a gift from my husband.

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A new button for the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge!

A new button for the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge!

My journal "visual note-taking" at the workshop.

My journal “visual note-taking” at the workshop.

You will know that I am in the Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.”
–John 14:20

As I continue to try to practice Openness (my OLW) in 2014, I signed up to attend a Centering Prayer workshop on Saturday at my church, The Episcopal Church of the Epiphany. I have heard of meditation and the benefits of such a practice, and Centering Prayer is much like this, with a Christian emphasis. The above image shows my journal page as I listened to the presenter, Alan Prater, from Contemplative Outreach.

Alan spoke about friendship and the levels of relationship from acquaintance to intimacy. He said that our relationship with God is like those stages of relationship with others. I realized that my relationship with God has been at the friendliness level. I am comfortable in reflective prayer. I’ve tried to move to the friend level where responsiveness happens- opening my heart, feelings, and emotions fully. At this level, prayer is real and spontaneous, not rote. I asked myself if I was ready for(or even capable of) contemplative prayer, a level of intimacy. Could I open myself up to a pure gift of God’s presence, rest with God, and be totally comfortable in the beloved’s presence?

I was reminded that God does not want a wave on the street from me. God wants more. So I am committing myself to try 30 days of Centering Prayer, sitting in total silence for 20 minutes. I’ve chosen my place, a chair in the loft upstairs away from the household traffic flow. I downloaded the app “Insight Timer.” I’ve chosen a sacred word, “Abba.” One of the best gifts of the app is a journal button that comes up after the bell rings. This way I write immediately after my meditation. The words flow.

Here is my first journal entry:

Angel lights
waves of purple

Gian Lorenzo Bernini - Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican) Wikimedia Commons

Gian Lorenzo Bernini – Dove of the Holy Spirit (ca. 1660, alabaster, Throne of St. Peter, St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican) Wikimedia Commons

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