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Archive for November, 2014

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Last week there were posts in response to a well-known and respected educator, Nanci Atwell, about the question of using technology in the lower grades. I have long admired Nanci Atwell as the author of In the Middle. Her theories and ideas have guided my teaching for many years. The comment that garnered so much attention was this:

I do think classrooms in grades four or five and up should have computers, so kids can experience and experiment with word processing, but I have concerns about them in the younger grades. In fact, I think the trend of iPads in the primary classroom is a mistake. –Nancie Atwell

I understand her thinking. When children are young, their brains are still growing and developing. I tell my students often that video games are OK in moderation, but hours can harm their brains. I offer them choices in the classroom for writing and composing. Personally, I do not want to take time from actual writing to teach handwriting, so I would rather their final drafts be typed. I think this is real world application. My students have balance. The right balance is important in many aspects of life, eating, exercise, and technology use.

Cutting a papaya, fruit from Vietnam.

Cutting a papaya, fruit from Vietnam.

This week, my mother-in-law visited my classes to teach about Vietnam. She recently went on a trip there and brought back many pictures and ideas for teaching my young students. She was worried about what they would and would not understand. I put together an Emaze presentation with some of her pictures. She did not think it included enough. I told her the Emaze was background to her presence. The kids would pay more attention to her. And I was right about that! She brought in fruits and vegetables from the Asian market. She bought them all bamboo hats. They each had a taste of peanut candy. And they touched an actual silk worm cocoon. There is nothing better than the real thing.

Technology, however, allowed some of my students to process her visit even further as they wrote a Slice of Life story. You can read Tyler’s, Vannisa’s , and Kielan’s. As she wrote, I watched Kielan refer back to the Emaze presentation. It helped her remember everything that she saw.

I believe this process is the best for teaching. I will continually advocate for hands on experience through guest speakers and field trips. The technology serves as a means for processing and communicating that is here to stay and is a necessary part of the balance in education.

Children are fascinated by money from other countries.

Children are fascinated by money from other countries.

**Note: Due to NCTE and Thanksgiving holiday, there will be a two week break from DigiLit Sunday posts.

Link up your Digital Literacy posts.

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Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us the celebrate each week. Click over to her site Discover. Play. Build. to read more celebrations.

celebrate small moments
There has been a tragedy this week, a severe car accident that has sent my good friend Ellen’s daughter and her friend into ICU. They are both stable but have a long road ahead. Please pray for Glenae and Chris, for the wisdom of their doctors, and for their renewal to health.

Amidst tragedy, it is sometimes hard to celebrate. But Ruth asks us to dig deep each Saturday and try to find those little moments (or big ones) to celebrate.

This morning I am sipping coffee in my big red bathrobe. Three things I love: a quiet Saturday morning, my big red bathrobe (the polar blast made it down south), and coffee.

My stack of children's poetry books for judging.

My stack of children’s poetry books for judging.

Cybils judging: I am a round one judge for the Cybils award in children’s poetry. Cybils is the Children’s and Young Adult Bloggers’ Literary Award. What a privilege to be a judge. I love all things poetry. I have been receiving books at my doorstep every day. What fun!

Spanish Festival: Last night I volunteered at the gala for this year’s Spanish Festival. New Iberia was founded by Spain, unlike most of the towns around Acadiana that were settled by Acadians. We began celebrating this origin only a few years ago. Last night, I watched some amazing flamenco dancers. My husband is off to run in the “Running of the Bulls,” a fundraising race. He is dressed in all white with red scarf and tie. We fashioned a handle-bar mustache with a black face crayon. Last year he came home with a medal and a trophy.

2013 Running of the Bulls, Spanish Festival.

2013 Running of the Bulls, Spanish Festival.

Prayer Shawl Ministry: I am enjoying crocheting again. We started a small group of women at our church. This week we sat together and prayed for Glenae and Chris and others who are suffering. Because of the intention of our ministry, I find this group easy to be with and to talk to about my spiritual life. I did not expect this. And I celebrate this ministry. However small, it means a lot.

Brenda shows Jayne some crochet stitches.

Brenda shows Jayne some crochet stitches.

What are you celebrating this week? Join the Saturday tradition of celebrating even the small moments.

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Find more Poetry Friday at Keri Recommends.

Find more Poetry Friday at Keri Recommends.

A few weeks into fall Carol Varsalona put out a call for submissions to her Finding Fall Gallery. I wanted my students to try some fall poetry writing. I pulled up an image gallery from NBC news. I think images make for richer, image-filled poetry. Many of the images were striking, and we had a hard time choosing just one to write to. So I allowed some students to keep their favorite frozen on the Promethean while others found the gallery on other computers. Kielan captured a list poem from different images and made a poem movie on Animoto. Emily remains the Zeno master with her Fall Zeno.

Sergei Grits / AP

Sergei Grits / AP

yellow,orange,peach,red,and brown

leaves are falling

this fall

bound

rainy weather

scares the

ground

because it melts

in fear

drowned
–Emily

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Click here to read more #spiritualjourney posts.  Thanks Holly for hosting this roundup!

Click here to read more #spiritualjourney posts. Thanks Holly for hosting this roundup!

do it anyway

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?
–Mary Oliver

Can we really make a difference? Can one person plant a seed?
Will it grow? How will we know?

I got a phone call today from a former student. She felt brave enough to enter a writing contest, the Scholastic Mockingjay Change the World Contest. She called to tell me she placed in the top ten and will receive prizes. I was thrilled! Her essay speaks of world hunger as the biggest problem we face today. Her experience volunteering at Solomon House with me and some of her classmates influenced her greatly.

An excerpt from her essay:

Though super powers are the quickest way to saving the hungry, there are still things you and I can do to help. During the Hunger Games, gracious sponsors donate food to dying tributes. This often saves them. Think of Katniss! She wouldn’t be alive if not for the kind-hearted people that gave her a chance. We should be the sponsors of this world…the ones that say, “I made a difference.” We can be those people. Today.
–Kaylie B. Read the entire essay here.

I do what I do in order to make a difference, to mean something to someone. But the tree does not bear fruit quickly, usually after years of growth. Even so, I should do the best I can with each precious life I hold. This is my responsibility. This is my vocation. Congratulations to Kaylie! I am so proud to be a part of her life as a writer and as a person who makes a difference.

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  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

A few weeks ago I wrote about making a prayer blanket for a friend whose baby was born prematurely. It was the first prayer blanket I ever made, and frankly, I had high hopes for its prayer power. I wrote a sweet note with the gift thinking that one day finding it tucked into her baby book, the child would read it as an adult.

Enough of my selfish plans. The victory was not mine to decide. I had no part in this.

Vivian died. Her too tiny body fought valiantly for 6 weeks. Two days before her death, I had given her dad my prayer blanket gift. This is not the way it was supposed to go.

I met Vivian today for the first time. She was wrapped tightly in the smallest casket I have ever seen. She looked like a china doll. Her mother hugged me long and hard. She said, “The last time I held her, I wrapped her in the blanket. It’s the only picture I have of me holding her. I didn’t have a chance to post the pictures before…” We hugged and cried some more. And I realized my connection was not just to the baby, my connection was to her mother.

I arrived late at school and Kat met me at the door. She stopped and said, “You are late today.” I responded that I had been by the funeral home. Kat knows loss. She lost her ten year old daughter last year to a battle with a brain tumor. She listened to my selfish lament over the prayer blanket.

“You do not realize how important the material things are. People tell me Kamryn is always with me, and I know this. But I still have to touch.” Kat touched an angel pin on her shoulder and a flower bracelet on her wrist. She explained that my blanket will be that comfort to the mother. We cried together, and I felt blessed. God works mysteriously. Sending Kat in my pathway today led me to a deeper understanding.

I wrote this poem the day after I heard of Vivian’s death. I was still angry, but even then I knew that there was more.

What else can we do
but pray to the moon
high in the morning sky?
I bow my head to her,
cry out
“What were you thinking?”

Bombs went off in Syria.
A bomb exploded.
Vivian’s too tiny body
could not stand the blast.

The variegated pink clouds
float like the blanket
I crocheted, hooking stitch by stitch
repeating her name,
asking for victory.

You forgot to tell me
the victory would be yours.
The morning moon mocks
me with an illusion of a smile.

The sun in the east
continues to rise
always rise,
even though
Vivian’s eyes are closed.
The sun will still rise.
–Margaret Simon

Lucy, the therapy dog, was at the funeral home comforting grievers.

Lucy, the therapy dog, was at the funeral home comforting grievers.

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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

This week my students continued to work on their PowToon presentations. Each one selected a topic from something they had learned on a field trip to Sci-Port a few weeks ago. I taught my students how to put a YouTube video into their Kidblog post. This way they are able to share their work with other students at other schools.

One thing I am struggling with is the varied amount of time each student takes to create their presentation. I have some stragglers who are working but aren’t finished. This keeps them glued to a computer, and I am not able to move on with the other students. I want everyone to feel successful and have the time he or she needs to complete their work, but it is also frustrating. Do any of you experience this problem? What works or helps?

I asked my students to write about their experience in creating the presentation in addition to sharing the video on Kidblogs. Tyler is making his presentation about lemurs into a fundraiser. Vannisa enjoyed sharing the video with her other teachers and their classes.

I am not big on giving a lot of instructions on creative projects. I like to see where my students will go with it. I watched as they researched their topics. They would get excited when they learned something new. Vannisa interviewed me and her classmates about what questions we had about gravity that she could research. Erin wants to learn about Newton’s laws of motion and is taking notes. Like a true scientist, she is the only one who could decipher her notes. Emily was fascinated by the many species of lemurs and wanted to show what each one looked like. Her video is very visual. Using a basic rubric, I was able to allow for freedom of expression. I am pleased that PowToon motivated my students. They were proud of their videos.

Link up your digital literacy posts:

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Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us the celebrate each week. Click over to her site Discover. Play. Build. to read more celebrations.

In our household, if you make it into our local paper, you are famous. I made it into a local free magazine, Acadiana Lifestyle. The writer Anne Minvielle called me about 6 weeks ago asking me about my hero. She was doing a feature on local heroes’ heroes. I didn’t have to think long. My hero is my mother-in-law, Anne Simon. I’ve written about her a few times on this blog.

When I married at the young age of 21, I moved with my husband to his home town, away from my family in Mississippi. So his parents became very important to me. Following his father’s death (ten years ago on Nov. 14th), his mother Anne and I got closer and closer. We affectionately call her Minga. That’s the grandma name my oldest daughter gave her. It was a baby’s version of grandma. We loved it and kept it. What a coincidence that the greeting in Burma is “Minga La Bal.” Yes, a few years ago, Minga traveled to Burma and came to my classes dressed in traditional Burmese clothes, bowing her head and saying, “Minga La Bal.” I wrote about it here.

Acadiana Lifestyle, November 2014

Acadiana Lifestyle, November 2014

From the article: “Margaret speaks of her mother-in-law as if she were truly a hero. ‘She is like a mother to me, but more than that, she is a best friend, a writing partner, and a confidante. I can talk to her about anything and trust that she will love me no matter what,’ she says. What a blessing!”

While I write this celebration post, my wonderful husband is making a roux for a gumbo. That is the smell of cool weather and of home. However, the scent gets into all your clothes and your pores. We will carry that southern home smell with us all day.

Teaching Authors posted a challenge yesterday on Poetry Friday. Three Weeks of Gratitude. Writing thanksgiving haikus, otherwise known as Thankus. I did this activity with my students a few years ago and here is one from a student. I keep it pinned to the bulletin board in my kitchen.

The seed of a rose
You sprout your knowledge like roots
We share our petals.
by Kylon

Keep your hand moving: Roux in the pot.

Keep your hand moving: Roux in the pot.

Thanku to Roux

Heat tempered with love
Strong scent of flour and oil
Come home for gumbo.
–Margaret Simon

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