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Archive for January, 2015

Discover. Play. Build.

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

Join the Chalk-a-bration at Betsy Hubbard's site Teaching Young Writers.

Join the Chalk-a-bration at Betsy Hubbard’s site Teaching Young Writers.

My students love Chalkabration, the genius child of Betsy Hubbard of The Two Writing Teachers. She invites us to celebrate poetry at the end of the month by chalking poems. Because of Thanksgiving and Christmas break, we have not chalked poems for 3 months. The excitement got us in a little trouble.

I used a poetry lesson I had made a few years ago that I happened upon in my Dropbox folder. The poems were quite sophisticated for my little ones, but my instructions were to find words of light and words of dark. I don’t want Chalkabration to turn into fluffy writing. With this work reading high-level poems, their poems were more thoughtful. I especially like that Erin, a third grader, decided to use the haiku form. Our springlike weather allowed us to go outside and chalk up the sidewalk.

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By Reed, 6th grade

By Reed, 6th grade

A haiku by Erin, 3rd grade

A haiku by Erin, 3rd grade

By Margaret Simon

By Margaret Simon


It doesn't snow here, but even so, my students drew snowflakes to symbolize winter.

It doesn’t snow here, but even so, my students drew snowflakes to symbolize winter.

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Join the roundup over at These 4 Corners with Paul.

Join the roundup over at These 4 Corners with Paul.

Cat Talk

Have you ever wondered why a cat lands on all fours or why its tongue is rough or if he really has nine lives? These are some Wonders you can explore on Wonderopolis.
I am a cat owner. I’ve had many cats in my life from my first cat Tommy to the meanest cat ever, Mimi. Years ago I picked up this beautiful poetry collection by Patricia MacLachlan and her daughter, Emily. The illustrations were done by one of my favorite artists, Barry Moser. I could spend time petting his cats. I love the poems because they do not rhyme. I am not a rhyming poet, and more and more, I embrace this fact of my poet-life. These poems captured the personalities of each cat from Tough Tom who climbs through the window to Peony who under all her fur is little.

I asked my students to notice the literary elements. We talked about many: personification, onomatopoeia, metaphor, simile, imagery, and alliteration. When writing our own poems, let’s try to use at least one of these elements.

Reed wrote while I read the poems. He was thinking about what Shakespeare said about the nine lives of a cat, “For three he plays, for three he strays and for the last three he stays.” – See more at: Wonderopolis

Bad Kitty

For three, he plays and plays with me.
Why, is it a sight to see.
The way he’ll twirl and whirl looking like a squirrel,
I start to wonder is he a boy or a girl.

Next three he stays in the allies on the streets.
Many people who look may think he’s sweet.
Trust me he’s not. I’m not sure he loves me.

The last he will stay and curl up with me
as I know I must let him free
onto heaven with a cat trinity.
–Reed

Tyler has experience with cats, too. His poem reflects found lines from Maclachlan’s poems.

A Cat’s Needs

The black shadows of the night,
Stalking their prey so silently,
Quietly licking your ankles,
and lying on your face
not wanting to move.
They have many things that
they like to do.
–Tyler

Emily illustrated her poem and took a picture of me and Jack (the lemur) holding it up.

Emily illustrated her poem and took a picture of me and Jack (the lemur) holding it up.

Mimi has no interest in poetry or Henry.

Mimi has no interest in poetry or Henry.

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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!

This week the spiritual journey theme is Leigh Anne’s OLW Turn. And the song in my head has been “To every thing, turn, turn, turn. There is a season, turn, turn, turn. And a time for every purpose…under heaven…”

Turn is not always easy. It takes patience. Patience. Patience.

Parenting adult children is different from the school-age years. In many ways, it is easier. My girls are all successful in their chosen professions and happy with their lives. Four and a half years ago, my oldest daughter became a lawyer and got a job in a nearby town. For a while she lived at home part-time, but the last year, she has lived with us full time. We have been happy with this arrangement. She is a joy to have around. She is very independent. She helps around the house. She even chooses to spend time with us, but she does not keep us for doing what we want to do. I knew the day would come, though, when she would turn away. Or is she turning toward? She has decided to move to her own apartment.

I know this turn is good. I know our relationship will stay strong. I know this because when she graduated from high school, I walked a labyrinth in Grace Cathedral on our family vacation to San Francisco. During that walk, a voice (I believe God) said to me, “She is not leaving YOU.” She will always be my daughter. She will always be a part of me.

Turns are hard. Some come without warning. Some come after much planning and hoping. Some break your heart and let you know that turns happen.

There are only two lasting bequests we copy

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  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

da vinci

This weekend I heard a presentation from an independent school principal. She told us that every first Friday the faculty and staff wear t-shirts that display the Italian words, “Ancora Imparo” which translates, “I am still learning.” They use this quote attributed to Michelangelo to show the students and parents that all are learners at their school. At first I felt a little envious. Wouldn’t I like to be a part of a school with this motto? But then I realized that I am a part of that motto.

Last week one of my students, a second grader, was reading about the chicken and the egg. You know, that age old question, which came first? But in the process, we read together that scientists believe that the chicken is a relative of the Tyrannosaurus Rex. “Mind Blown!” That’s what my kids say when we learn something unbelievable. When the older students arrived, Andrew made an announcement. There was a dramatic reaction. Fun! Learning! And I am right there with them.

When my students write, I write. I let them know my struggles, my worries. They all know I struggle with rhyming. They help me. We are all learners. “Ancora Imparo” “I am still learning.” I never pretend to know all the answers. We discover them together. We share in the learning.

Some days I worry that I don’t teach enough. I coach. I lead. I keep discipline…somewhat. But standing in front writing something on a white board that students copy or read and subsequently learn, that is not my style. I do not need to pine over another school’s philosophy. I just need to embrace my own. Maybe I’ll design my own t-shirt.

Faith bigger than fear

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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

When my students were working on their One Little Words, I discovered how much fun thesaurus.com can be. I was curious if there was a form for thesaurus poetry. A Google search turned up a funny metaphorical poem by Billy Collins. You have to love a sarcastic poem that ends with a love story between two words.

I would rather see words out on their own, away
from their families and the warehouse of Roget,
wandering the world where they sometimes fall
in love with a completely different word.
Surely, you have seen pairs of them standing forever
next to each other on the same line inside a poem,
a small chapel where weddings like these,
between perfect strangers, can take place.
See complete poem here.

The assignment: Choose a word. Write it in capital letters. Find 4 synonyms. Write those in a second line. (Pick the easiest word to rhyme for your last word.) Then write a phrase that ends with a rhyming word. As a class, we wrote this poem.

MAGICAL
Imaginary, mythical, enchanting, spellbinding
Potions of my mind unwinding.
–Mrs. Simon’s Caneview class

I let the students go. When one or two were getting frustrated by line placement on Kidblogs, I suggested Canva. We have talked about design before. More than ever, I watched them wrestle over design. One student got frustrated that every background cost a dollar, so she said, “I just made my own background.” She used the plain color background and added free icons. She also changed the coloring on the icons. I marveled at her quick turn around.

Digital Literacy should be more about the literacy than it is about the digital. Technology enhanced my students’ poems with design and allowed them to share their work globally. However, the most value was in the play and problem-solving with words and language.

Erin created her own Extraordinary design for her OLW thesaurus poem.

Erin created her own Extraordinary design for her OLW thesaurus poem.

Kielan's mother is getting married in June.  What a sweet gift.

Kielan’s mother is getting married in June. What a sweet gift.

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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.

The winter can be such a dreary time. I am celebrating today how blooming continues even when the days are gloomy. An amaryllis bulb, a Christmas gift from a friend, is blooming in my kitchen. I have documented it with images and put them into a quick video. Enjoy blooming!

This week the Chamber of Commerce held its annual banquet honoring the Citizen of the Year. Our own boss queen of the Berry Queens, Jerre Borland, was selected. In typical Berry Queen fashion, many of us wore our ball gowns and enhanced hair along with tiaras and glitter to honor Jerre. Her speech touched us all. I wanted to celebrate and share a snippet with you today. I am sure you will be inspired by her words as well.

Several years ago, a little saying popped up that became popular—YOLO: You only live once—a kind of distant blacksheep cousin to Carpe Diem—not just Seize the day: Live like it is your last, but above all and everyone else—live for yourself. Somehow I can’t get behind this sentiment, though we in Berry Queens can Carpe the heck out of the Diem—no problem. Life may be short–but I do not believe it is meant to be spent selfishly doing whatever you want, whenever you want. The richest moments of our lives are spent with others, doing for others—moments of selflessness in which we exhibit the give and take of loving others. You see—Love does. If you love something, someone: your community, your mother, your son, your husband, your friend—you do for them. In this act comes the feeling and the intent of what it means to really love. Love is a verb. It is constant. Love shows up—Love acts—Love does for others before self. That is what it truly means to love.
–Jerre Borland, Her Royal Highness Head Boss Queen of the Berry.

The 2015 Chamber of Commerce Banquet with Cathy M and Farrah T

The 2015 Chamber of Commerce Banquet with Cathy M and Farrah T

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My favorite writing teacher, Tara is rounding up today at A Teaching Life.

My favorite writing teacher, Tara is rounding up today at A Teaching Life.

Last Saturday I celebrated that my Teachers Write reflection was published in Kate Messner’s new book for writers, 59 Reasons to Write. On Tuesday, I showed the book with my name in the index to my students. Matthew exclaimed, “Mrs. Simon, you are in the index of a book that is written about your passion! I can only dream about being in the index of a book about magic.”

After I glowed in their attention and admiration, we thumbed through to find an activity to do. We tried Kate’s Three-Column Brainstorming activity. I was amazed that all of us, myself included, got good ideas for new fiction stories.

So here it is the eve of Poetry Friday, and I need an idea to write about. Kate to the rescue once again. She suggests using a poem she wrote, Sometimes on a Mountain in April, as a mentor text. So here is my attempt.

Sometimes on the bayou in January,
rain falls all day
soaking the dry leaves,
softening the hard earth
while softly whispering promises
of resurrection.

Sometimes on the bayou in January,
temperatures drop twenty degrees
reminding the cats’ coat to thicken,
the cardinals to find nests,
and mothers to pull on fleece.

Sometimes on the bayou in January,
bare cypress trees scarcely sway
reminding me to slow down,
take shelter,
drink warm tea.

Sometimes on the bayou in January
light hides behind grey,
the owl hoots before sunset,
shadows disappear
and I watch
for a poem hiding there.

–Margaret Simon

Through the screen door

Through the screen door

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