Archive for May, 2014

Discover. Play. Build.

I’m not sure if this is fair or not, today I am combining posts for Chalk-a-bration and Celebration. (I can’t help but love the alliteration!) I let my students (the three who attended) chalk the sidewalks on the last day of school a week ago and saved the pictures to post today. Betsy Hubbard leads this fun blogtivity at the end of each month. We wrote lunes, a short poetry form that uses a 5, 3, 5 syllable count. And the theme, of course, was summer.

Matthew writes about his passion for magic: Magic is my life life is magic do impossible

Matthew writes about his passion for magic:
Magic is my life
life is magic
do impossible

Go play on the beach Come with us We want you with us. by Tyler

Go play on the beach
Come with us
We want you with us.
by Tyler

Vannisa’s poem did not turn out well in the photograph.

In the sun we play
until night
takes the place of day.

slow lazy days summer sun too hot to think --Margaret Simon

slow lazy days
summer sun
too hot to think
–Margaret Simon

This week has been a week of slow days. I’ve committed myself to three things this summer, exercise daily (I have the sore muscles to prove it!), writing (Thursday I spent hours writing this sestina for Maya Angelou), and reading (I’ve read or listened to 6 books for Donalyn Miller’s #bookaday challenge). I’m glad there wasn’t much else going on this week, so I could establish this routine. Happy Summer!

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Join the Poetry Friday round-up with Diane over at Random Noodling.

Join the Poetry Friday round-up with Diane over at Random Noodling.

Photo from Maya Angelou visits YCP 2013 on Flickr

Photo from Maya Angelou visits YCP 2013 on Flickr

I suspect that Poetry Friday will be full of posts about Maya Angelou. She died this week at the age of 86. She was a gentle giant, a force in the world, an inspiration for us all. I spent the last few days absorbed in Maya’s wisdom, watching YouTube videos, reading articles, and reading her poetry. I was inspired to write a poem, an elegy. At first, I thought it would be created around her words, so I copied 13 quotes from USA Today. But when I started writing, the poem became my first sestina. Whoa, Maya, I didn’t think I had this in me. You are indeed an inspiration!

The Lessons of Maya
Nothing can dim the light which shines from within.

Her words touched many hearts,
this phenomenal woman
with volumes of work,
a head full of rhyming curls,
she made us feel
with her deep toned voice

speaking, “I will raise my voice!”
finger pointing to heaven’s heart,
she strived to thrive, feel
compassion of a passionate woman.
Her hand to my hand curls
around my calloused work

enveloped in her precious work.
She knew who heard her voice
above all others; her curls
were born to adorn our hearts.
Now with Him eternally, this woman
will always make us feel

that we have every right to feel
worthy in our daily work
living as a phenomenal woman
lifting this one and only voice
to touch as many hearts
as hairs on her head curl,

Like the contrail in the sky curls,
we are called to feel
no barriers in our hearts.
Our deep and strong voices
can make forces work
driven by this one woman.

Believe in your woman-
the specialness of your curls.
Believe you have a voice.
Don’t fear to feel.
Find your glorious work
and what feeds your soul and heart.

Find the voice of your heart.
Yes, God made woman his best work.
Make the time to feel

–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

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  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

“May what I do flow from me like a river, no forcing and no holding back.” (Rainer Maria Rilke)

For the last two years, I have made an altered book using poems I have written beside my students. An altered book is a hardback book that has outlived its time, been discarded from the library, or left behind at Goodwill. I usually try to find ones with fairly large pages that are sewn, not glued, to the binding. I take out some of the pages and glue a few together to thicken each page and create space. Then I use Gesso and paint to cover the pages. My students have the option to make an altered book for their poetry project.

Here are a few of my favorite pages from my book this year. Vannisa found the sign, “Keep Calm and Write Poetry” that became my front cover. The marbleized paper was made using a technique with chalk and water. I covered some of my pages with gelli-printed papers. When I work on my altered book, I enter Flow, a term Csikszentmihalyi used to describe that zone of creativity one enters when something is at the right level of challenge. Flow is energizing and motivating.

Altered book cover

Altered book cover

Page one begins with A for anaphora

Page one begins with A for anaphora

Making a collage of printed paper makes an interesting background.

Making a collage of printed paper makes an interesting background.

Images fuel my writing.

Images fuel my writing.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Pay attention! This is our endless and proper work. ~Mary Oliver


School is out, and the last thing my brain wants to do right now is think about digital literacy. When I opened the door to let Charlie out this morning, this snail was working its way slowly and deliberately along a leaf. So I took a picture. My one little word for 2014 is Open, but I think I’ll translate that word to mean “Pay Attention” as a summer goal. Be alert. Don’t let your brain fall asleep.

On the web this morning, I paid attention to two articles. The first was posted by Tara Smith at Two Writing Teachers. Tara writes about her students’ confidence in writing workshop and her release of control. They are using technology in ways she would not have predicted. She is able to take a back seat and watch. Sometimes I feel teachers are too focused on themselves and what they will do in front of the students. Tara’s expertise is in knowing that her best teaching comes from the back seat where she can support her student writers and allow them to discover on their own. Read her article here.

The second article that drew my attention was one a friend posted on Facebook about summer reading, Ready, Set, Read! In this article, research is cited that says reading fiction creates better human beings. We learn to be empathetic by reading. I knew that students needed to keep reading over the summer in order to maintain and grow their reading levels, but I never thought about how that reading makes them better people.

What are you paying attention to today? Please add your Digital Literacy link to Mr. Linky.

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Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us to celebrate each week. I have the opportunity to not only share my joys with you, but to reflect on them for myself, a good exercise in itself.

1. Easter Lilies are blooming in abundance this year. Perhaps they liked the extra cold winter and are letting us know all is new.

Easter Lilies

2. Summer Reading #Bookaday: Donalyn Miller challenges us to read a book a day in the summer. I am a slow reader, so I am hoping to read a book a week. Here is only part of the stack I brought home from my classroom to read.

summer reading

3. My husband had cataract surgery this week. He gave me his ring to hold because he couldn’t wear any jewelry. I only had to wear it for an hour. The surgery was a success. His eye bruised, so in his best Cajun accent, he likes to say, “It looks baad, but it sees good.”

two rings

4. Our students presented a big check for $3,711.00 to the West End Park Revitalization Project at the City Council meeting this week. We are so proud of their dedication.

kids and council

5. My friend and yoga instructor, Rachel, led a yoga class at our local plantation home, The Shadows. It was invigorating to stretch outside on the sculptured lawn, looking up into the oaks. If only there were no ants.

yoga at the Shadows

6. I forgot to take pictures of this, but three of my gifted students spent their last day with me. I pulled out a box of science kids, and they made hover crafts with balloons and CDs, and a catapult out of a staple remover and plastic spoon. They were focused, cooperative, and had fun.

It was a wonderful week and now on to the BIG WEEKEND! Happy Summer, y’all!

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Join the Poetry Friday round-up at Violet's place.

Join the Poetry Friday round-up at Violet’s place.

For Mother’s Day, I spent the weekend in New Orleans with my daughters. Katherine and I went to church on Sunday morning on the campus of Tulane, The Chapel of the Holy Spirit, where the Reverend Minka Sprague, close friend of my parents, was preaching. I am a word collector, and in her sermon, Minka used the term anastasis to refer to the resurrection. I recorded a Soundcloud of the portion where she spoke of its Greek meaning.

Minka’s words, the beautiful day, and the resurrection feeling I get when I visit New Orleans came together in this poem.



The storm cloud moves,
a hole of blue,
lined in shining white,
this is sky.

When you feel fear,
say your name.
To say your name,
this is air.

On a Sunday in May,
flooded New Orleans streets,
blooming jasmine
this is resurrection.

Hear the full sermon here.

Poetry news: Amy VanderWater has adopted a manatee over at The Poem Farm in honor of my students who wrote manatee poems. You can read them at our ongoing kidblog site. Today is our final day of school (report card hand-out), but I hope some of my students will continue to write and post over the summer.

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  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.


Magnolia, magnolia
My one little word
finds me;
open your eyes
to your own heart;
to what she loves.

I painted a magnolia
in cadmium blue and crimson red.
Do you see the red and blue?
To make good art,
first you must see.

I saw the perfect magnolia
hanging in my neighbor’s tree,
the one ravaged by a hurricane,
yet today,this tree sings
its magnolia hymn to heaven.

Now I see, magnolia to magnolia,
critical eye turned off,
yes, beauty, art.
Make this art.
Who cares about appreciation,
glorification, success (whatever that means),
just create.

I see magnolia to magnolia–happiness.
This is all I need.

–Margaret Simon, written at Acadiana Wordlab May 17, 2014

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Sometimes I teach a lesson in writing workshop, and the students apply it right away. Sometimes they don’t. A few weeks ago, a blogging friend (if it was you, let me know in the comments) wrote about using hyperlinks in blog posts. She was doing a research unit with her students. I thought how cool would it be to write a poem and put in a hyperlink. I made the suggestion that my students go on to Wonderopolis (which they love) and read about a favorite topic and write a poem about it including a hyperlink. One of my students even commented, “Why haven’t you taught us this before?” But none of them did it.

Choice is important to me in writing, so I didn’t freak out. On Friday, Amy Ludwig Vanderwater offered a challenge on The Poem Farm for students to write a poem about a manatee. And Friday was my last official day with my students. I thought there would be no way we could fit that in with writing a letter to me and having a popcorn and apple party. Not to mention they were leaving an hour early to go out for Character Day activities. But two students took the challenge. They read Amy’s poem, watched the video, and wrote a poem using a hyperlink.

Later in the day, I had a few other students at school #2 also take the challenge. I tweeted Amy, and she tweeted back that in honor of my students, she would adopt a manatee. How cool is that!


You are sometimes known as sea cows.
Shallow, slow areas are where you choose to browse.
You are actually related to elephants,
and you’re big, graceful, and elegant.
The great Manatee is who you are
And truly you are the ocean’s star.

Image from Wikimedia commons

Image from Wikimedia commons

Manatee, my Friend (a Fib poem)



what have

you done to

deserve this treatment

you will be safe soon my dear friend.

Since I will be out of school, I’m not sure if I should continue this round-up. What do you think? Should we keep it up over the summer or take a break and come back with full force in August? Let me know in the comments.

Link up your post with Mr. Linky. Come back and read other posts. Don’t forget to comment. That’s what makes the blogosphere go around.

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Discover. Play. Build.

This was my last week with my students for this school year. I always get reflective at this time of year, wondering if I’ve done enough for my students. So yesterday, our last day together, I asked them to write me a letter. I asked 1. What do you remember about our school year? 2. What was your favorite activity? and 3. What was your greatest lesson? For the most part, I was touched by their letters. I just want to share a few quotes and celebrate them.

This year we got to meet Caroline Starr Rose and Greg Pincus! We went to Mississippi! We saw a haunted house! But most of all, we bonded like a family. That was my favorite activity. My greatest lesson is that you don’t have to be famous, or super smart, or handsome, or even popular to be loved. Matthew

My greatest lesson I’ve learned from being here is to not be afraid to make mistakes as a writer and in life. Mistakes will help you to become a better person. No one is perfect and sometimes all of us forget that. Brooklyn

My students finished their poetry projects. They made altered books out of discarded books. They illustrated and glued in their own poems and some favorite poems by other authors. Vannisa put in a collection of some her favorites from the school year, a bookmark from Margarita Engle, A bookmark from Amy Ludwig Vanderwater, an Eleanor Roosevelt quote, and “Keep Calm and Write Poetry.”

Vannisa's poetry book

Brooklyn's poetry book cover.  Gotta Love Poetry!

Brooklyn’s poetry book cover. Gotta Love Poetry!

Today, I am also celebrating magnolias. They are in full bloom, our state flower, and I went to a watercolor workshop this morning and painted one. I am posting a picture of a real one from my neighbor’s yard and the one I painted. Wish I could also post the scent.

Watercolor magnolia by Margaret Simon.

Watercolor magnolia by Margaret Simon.

Magnolia, the Louisiana state flower.

Magnolia, the Louisiana state flower.

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Poetry Friday Round-up is with Elizabeth Steinglass.

Poetry Friday Round-up is with Elizabeth Steinglass.

State testing is done, so I took the opportunity to shift focus in my small math group. In this group, I teach one 4th grader, two 3rd graders, and one 2nd grader. The resource I used was Betsy Franco’s Math Poetry. In this book, there are mentor texts from Betsy as well as student models. Each type of poetry is explained in simple instructions with a form for copying.

My students wrote a draft on the form and posted their poems on our kidblog site. For a final product, they made accordion books. I am not usually a fan of using fill in the blank forms for writing, but these leave space for creativity as well as the safety of a formula to follow. It was successful for my young students. They enjoyed writing and especially loved posting on the class blog. (If you click on the blog link, you will also see that a group of boys had a good time challenging each other with Riddle-ku poems after Laura Purdie Salas.)

If I were 10 Centimeters Tall

If I were only 10 centimeters tall,
I’d use a sponge as my bed and the softest cotton ball as my pillow,
A remote control car would be my ride
An Iphone would be a plasma screen T.V.
I’d watch out for rats which would be a horrible beast.
But it would be seriously fun if I could be 10 centimeters tall,
I’d be the world champion in swimming in your kitchen sink.
by Emily, 3rd grade

Emily's accordion book

Emily’s accordion book

160 Beautiful Bows (an addition poem)

160 beautiful bows
On a cheerleaders head.
80 of them shimmer in the light,
The other 80 speak to you.

‘You can do it’
They make a perfect couple
Which is a cheerleaders dream.

They can have shimmering
Speaking baby bows.
Oh how I, Kielan,
Would love
To have some bows like that!

–Kielan, 4th grade

Fractions of Me

1/6 of me is a poet like Shakespeare
I come up with lovely, sweet, and cute poems.

1/6 of me is a artist.
I can get inspired by any little thing.

1/6 of me is a nature lover.
I hate when they cut down trees.

1/6 of me is a singer.
I will sing about anything.

1/6 of me is a dancer.
I can dance as grateful as a swan.

1/6 of me has a wild imagination.
I see dogs dancing and unicorns kissing.
–Erin, 2nd grade

Erin's Fractions of Me accordion book

Erin’s Fractions of Me accordion book

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