Archive for May, 2014

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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  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.


This past Saturday was the culmination of a year long student project. We began working with the group of 6th grade gifted students in August. Each month we met together as a group, 6 teachers and 23 students. In the beginning we immersed the students in the theme we had selected for this year, bridges. We brought in speakers including the chief engineer for a bridge being rebuilt in New Iberia. The bridge had been out for more than two years, and some of our students were well aware of the inconvenience this caused. Barbara Ostuno, chief engineer, piqued their interest in the construction of a real bridge. As discussions over a service project were held, the students brought up the bridge and how we could celebrate its completion. Thus we began to plan a bridge opening ceremony.

In January, Mayor Hilda Curry came to visit our group. She spoke to them about the ins and outs of planning a community event. She explained how the original bridge was built by her grandfather when he was mayor. The new bridge will also be named for him, Joe Daigre. She then invited them to meet with the department heads to talk about their ideas. We planned a field trip for February.

On this trip, we started the day bridging the generation gap by meeting elderly in an assisted living facility. The students played games with them and interviewed them for a later writing project. They wrote essays about their grandfriend and submitted them to the Legacy Project contest.

In the afternoon, we met with the Chamber of Commerce about a ribbon cutting for the bridge opening and with the city department heads. This was incredibly empowering to our students. They gained confidence in knowing their voices were being heard and were important to others. They were having real world experience being community organizers.

Raising Cane's manager and employees joined the celebration.

Raising Cane’s manager and employees joined the celebration.

As a group, the students decided to raise funds for playground equipment for a local park. They went out looking for sponsors for the t-shirts. They gathered 30 donations of $50-$250 each.

The students presented their plan to the City Council at a regular meeting in March. We even brought some council members to tears as they were touched by the students’ poise and enthusiasm. A few students and teachers represented our project to the school board and received a donation from the superintendent.

All of this work culminated in our event on Saturday. Wearing our student-designed t-shirts, we met at City Hall to walk down Main Street to the new bridge. The bridge is named for our mayor’s grandfather, so it was fitting that she cut the ribbon.

students at the bridge

Students spoke and led the ceremony. At last count, the donations and t-shirt profits were close to exceeding $3000. I feel pretty confident that this real world experience will stay with these students for a long time. They will drive over the Joe Daigre Bridge as parents and tell their children about the grand opening celebration that they helped to organize.

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Discover. Play. Build.

It’s Celebration time! What are you celebrating? Head over to Ruth Ayres’ site to read about other celebrations.

I. A huge thank you to Greg Pincus, author of 14 Fibs of Gregory K, for Skyping with my class…twice. Two groups of my gifted students talked with Greg and learned about the life of an author and how to write Fib poems.

Quotes from their thank you notes:

“Math and poetry are two of my favorite things, so combining them makes my life 10x more enjoyable.” Brooklyn

“You taught us some interesting things about the book like that some things in reality accidentally snuck themselves into your book.” Ian

“I really thought it was nice of you to talk to us, it being 7:00 at your home.” Matthew

“P.S. I would eat 12 donuts before I ate pie (but I still eat it.)” Nigel

“I like how you said humor is the sixth sense because you made a joke out of every question we asked, especially the pie question.” Gage

II. My principal asked my students to write chalk poems on the sidewalk for our Mother’s Day celebration, “Muffins with Moms.” So we had another Chalk-a-bration, and following our Skype with Greg Pincus, we had to make them Fib poems!

Vannisa chalking
Moms Brooklyn

mothers chalk poetry

III. This week was our annual Gifted by Nature Day when all the gifted students in the parish gather for a day of playing strategic games and making art and poetry with nature. This year a group of middle school students led the art/writing activity. This was a great relief to us teachers. The activity was great, too. The students drew an object from nature, then retraced it on foam board. This pattern was used for a monoprint on colored construction paper. The students really focused on the details in their drawings.

Erin draws

After they made the prints, they wrote 6 adjectives and a metaphor or simile about their print. I told the students these were poems. I thoroughly enjoyed this day watching my students interact with kids from other schools and have so much fun playing and creating. The weather was great, too, so we enjoyed picnicking in the park.

I wanted to take pictures of all of their prints. Here are a few to celebrate!

Andrew drawing

Dancing flower

Andrew's leaf

Reed's poem

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Poetry Friday Round-up is with Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup

Poetry Friday Round-up is with Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup

Amidst the season of post tests and field trips, I am still trying to squeeze poetry in to the school day. For the letter G, I decided to teach poems of apology using This is Just to Say: Poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman. This is a delightful book of poems written by Mrs. Merz’s sixth grade class. Joyce begins this book with the classic apology poem by William Carlos Williams. Can you recite it?


This is Just to Say
I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

Find the full poem here.

The first character, Thomas, uses this form to write the poem “This is Just to Say/ I have stolen/ the jelly doughnuts/ that were in/ the teacher’s lounge…” to Mrs. Garcia in the office. Mrs. Garcia responds with her own poem ending with “Of course I forgive you./ But I still have to call your mother.”

When my students and I were writing poems of apology, some used the WCW title as first line. I love how this small poem from Kendall expresses a common problem among 6th graders, hurt feelings.

This is just to say
I am sorry for this day
that I have treated you this way
you don’t have to accept my apology but hey
I didn’t mean to offend,
it sort of just slipped out along with shame
I hope you did not take it the wrong way

I gave my poem to my principal to apologize for being late. She said I set the bar for apology notes. The funny thing is many of these things listed actually do happen and do make me late.

Mrs. Heumann , Mrs. Heumann,
I just want to say
I’m sorry for being late today.

The alarm didn’t shout;
the dog got out;

My coffee over-flowed,
while I watched oatmeal explode.

There was a 50 car-train,
a truck hauling sugarcane.

The bridge was open, cars were slowed.
A trash can blew into the road.

The sun in my eyes, oh the glare.
Then a cow, would he dare?

Enough, you say. OK?
Just sorry,
I was late today.
–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

And Kaylie stopped by the kidblog and saw all the Apolo-G poetry and added her own to her pencil.

I’m sorry, pencil, for dulling your head
Your sharp-tipped graphite point
I’m sorry for gnawing on your side,
My teeth-prints etched in your cedar

I’m sorry, pencil, for tapping your eraser on the desk,
For rubbing on the soft pink curls of your hair
And sweeping them away

I’m sorry for losing you and dropping you and trading you.
I’m sorry for putting your end in the pencil sharpener,
For tossing you away when you got too small.

Pencil, I’m sorry for hurting you all these years.
Will you ever be able to forgive me?

In writing this post, I found Joyce Sidman’s website and a great resource guide for using This is Just to Say in the classroom.

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  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.



Acadiana Wordlab keeps me in touch with my creative side. This weekend Clare Martin led us in a mysterious exercise. Well, she touted it as a mysterious exercise. In truth, she led us in open-ended prompts.

For our first round of writing, she had us each choose a page of the newspaper. I grabbed an article about Hydrilla, a plant that is invading local marshes. I was fascinated by the article and learned about this intrusive species as well as about the mythical creature for which it is named. My poem is more of a found poem, reworking words from the article. I can see this activity working in the classroom, finding poetry in the news.



Hydra, that nine-headed creature,
kept growing heads—two
for every one cut off.

This monster invaded the lake years ago
choking waterways, native plants,
and your boat’s propeller.

Beware! it grows over
and under the swamp, a nuisance,
a bother, a downright sore oppressor.

There is a plan from the parish president
to lower the level of water
dry out the hellacious suckers.

“Time to nurture kindness
to our natural ecosystem, to restore
the old cycle of flood to dry-bed.”

Don’t let your heart bleed
for this monstrous water weed.
Just allow the soft earth to learn

from her mistakes,
To chop off its head and wait
with a hatchet in hand to catch
the two growing back.

–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

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