Archive for February, 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.

The last day of the month is Chalkabration time, a time to celebrate poetry and chalk and creativity. My students love Chalkabration, the brain-child of Betsy Hubbard. Yesterday was a bit chilly for chalking outside, so we did an inside art/poetry project with torn paper.

On Thursday, Paw Pride, a leadership group at my school, went to a local low income housing for the elderly to deliver socks we had collected. The apartments are housed in an old school. Outside where we gathered, there is a draping old oak tree with palm trees underneath. When Jacob arrived with his sister, he looked at the tree and said, “Mrs. Simon, can we write a poem about this tree?” Gotta love him!

“Yes, Jacob, tomorrow is Chalkabration!”

School Days tree

A Palm Looking Tree At the end of February in southern Louisiana,you'll most likely find a palm looking tree. by Vannisa

A Palm Looking Tree
At the end of February in southern Louisiana,you’ll most likely find a palm looking tree.
by Vannisa

Ancient Chickens hiding among trees spreading wisdom running from tree to tree in secret. These are Ancient Chickens. by Tyler

Ancient Chickens
hiding among trees
spreading wisdom
running from tree to tree
in secret.
These are Ancient Chickens.
by Tyler

Paradise by Matthew

Paradise by Matthew

Coconut Tree The top of peeled off coconuts. With green roots coming out. Sun shines on the coconut peels. I want to be inside of it. by Jacob

Coconut Tree
The top of peeled off coconuts.
With green roots coming out.
Sun shines on the coconut peels.
I want to be inside of it.
by Jacob

Palm tree haiku by Margaret Simon

Palm tree haiku
by Margaret Simon

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Join the roundup with Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

Join the roundup with Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe

I have discovered from being surrounded by gifted kids and showering them in poetry that they get adventurous and brave. They try new things in poems. And they invent new poetry forms.

This week I used a picture prompt as I often do. This week’s Robin Update from Journey North was a close-up image of a robin with a berry in its mouth. I introduced Laura Purdie Salas’ latest poetry project, Why-Ku. I haven’t read Mary Lee Hahn’s activities yet, but I doubt one of them is to create your own poem form.

I have a few boys who seem to find every excuse to get distracted from the task at hand, but this time I waited and allowed their distraction to see where this would go.

“Let’s write a Psy-ku?”

“Great! A Sci-Ku with scientific facts.”

“No, Mrs. Simon, not Science haiku, Psy-ku, like crazy.”

While the rest of us worked on poems about the robin, the boys were scheming and making up a new form.

They created a syllable count: 5,4,5,5,5,6,5,7,5,8

Then the poets three headed to our Kidblogs site to try to create the next poetry phenomenon.

Reed wrote, “A new thing that me REED and Nigel have created is called a psyku. This is an out -of-the-world dumb type of writing. You just make up a topic and have it carzyfied! It can be something about a dumb person or a wacky topic.”

I would skate Monday,
With unicorns.
I would skate Tuesday,
With Spongebob Squarepants.
I would skate Wednesday,
With the Greek Roman gods.
I would skate Thursday,
With Godzilla and Bigfoot.
I would skate Friday,
With another bottle of gin.
Nigel, 6th grade

I know the bottle of gin is probably not classroom appropriate, but I had to laugh. They didn’t really know what it was. Who knows? This psy-ku form may become a thing. If you are so inclined to give it a shot, write one in the comments or comment on our Kidblog. Go for it!

Here is a link to our Kidblog site: http://kidblog.org/class/SliceofLifeChallenge/posts

Announcement! I have been selected to be one of the 64 authletes in the 2015 March Madness for Kids’ Poetry. The competition begins on March 10th. I am totally intimidated by the competition, but I am Reaching this year, and what better way to reach than to do something scary. Here is the tournament poster. You can find me in the Passion category. Check Ed’s site for updates.

MMPoetry bracket Round One

MMPoetry bracket Round One

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Click here to read more inspirational posts.

Click here to read more inspirational posts.

I am participating in the Spiritual Thursday Round up over at Holly Mueller’s blog. We are writing from each other’s one little word. Today, we reflect on Ramona’s word, Stretch. Stretch is a synonym for my OLW, Reach. But I couldn’t help but think about yoga class and how Evelyn tells us to pay attention to our bodies so that we will be better equipped to function for others.

Yoga Class

I am tired at the end of the day.
My socks hug my feet.
I stretch and release the tension
resting in my shoulders.

Stretch out on a lavender yoga mat,
listen to the gentle chime
calling me to do a body scan.
What part needs your attention tonight?

The block of energy, the stopping place,
my right shoulder, not pain but tight,
holding in, holding on.
Let go. Stretch again.

Folded into child’s pose,
I am inward like a chrysalis
waiting for the gift of life
waiting for the stretching of my wings.

Help me open up and fly to you, Lord.
Help me to know the limits of my reach
so that I may be the strength
for someone’s grief, the embrace
for someone’s pain.

I am your instrument only
when I am fully present.
Listening to the rhythm of my breath,
I hear yours join in.
I know you are here.

–Margaret Simon

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  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

I have been blogging since January, 2011. One discovery that has kept me going (teaching, writing, blogging) is the annual Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge in the month of March. This will be my 4th year taking the challenge along with my students. I am a believer in blogging. I have drunk the Kool-Aid.

I now have the best Professional Learning Community ever. These people are supportive of everything from surviving a bad day to winning awards. My cheering section is large. I want to spread the love.

Carolyn and I met about 5 years ago when we were both newbies in a school. Being a newbie can be uncomfortable, but Carolyn and I found each other and connected easily. Like minds, similar philosophies, everything to make for a lasting friendship.

Now Carolyn and I teach at different schools, but we try to have coffee every few weeks or so. Recently she was sitting in my kitchen looking at The New Yorker on the counter. She said, “You should submit a poem to this magazine.”

I said, “Yeah, right. In a million years.”

She said, “I challenge you!”

So I said, “I challenge you to start blogging and do the Slice of Life Challenge.”

She brought her laptop over on Monday, so I could show her a few pointers. “What should I write about?”

I said, “I don’t even know what I’m going to write about yet.”

Then we both cheered, because great minds think alike. We will write about each other!

Please welcome my friend Carolyn, the Bayou Warrior, to this amazing community. I know she will like it here.

I am truly humbled by her first post. Click here.

The blogging Bayou Warrior!

The blogging Bayou Warrior!

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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

I hope my title was not misleading. You will only find G-rated media here. My cyber-colleague, Kim Douillard, puts out a photo challenge every week. This week her challenge was shades of grey. An appropriate color for February. I took a walk with my favorite grey pooch, Charlie.

Grey Charlie

The sky was grey with a little blue trying to peek through. The wind was blowing, but the temperature was mild.

grey clouds

The Japanese magnolia is in full bloom. The blossoms are fragrant and vibrant pink. The trunk and branches are all grey, no green leaves. The grey backdrop makes these flowers pop and please.

Japanese Magnolia 2

Grey moss hangs from the live oaks year round. Watching the moss sway in the strong wind, I came to the conclusion that grey is beautiful.

grey moss

  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

This format of themed images with descriptions could work well for a Slice of Life post. If you are not familiar with Slice of Life, it is a monthlong writing challenge created by Stacey Shubitz of the Two Wiring Teachers. I believe, like Stacey, that a teacher of writing must be a writer. We must practice what we preach. The SOL challenge gears up in March. Today is the day to make your commitment. Be sure to go over to the site and sign up. I testify that slicing has changed my life. The daily practice of meeting a blank page and knowing I have a kind, like-minded audience waiting has made me a better teacher and a better writer.

Along with SOL month, it’s time to make plans for Digital Learning Day on March 13, 2015. Join me in a super-duper comment challenge. My students will be in their second week of the Slice Of Life Story Challenge. (Go to Two Writing Teachers for more information.) They asked me if we would be doing a comment challenge this year. So I want to declare Digital Learning Day, March 13th as Crazy Comment Challenge Day. My students slice on Kidblogs. We can only access other Kidblog sites. So if you have your students blogging, send me the link. On March 13th, we will try to visit as many sites as possible within our class time frame. Let me know if you want to take the plunge.
Tara Smith wrote a great post about preparing your students for the Slice of Life Challenge. This is a wonderful opportunity to connect with other classrooms across the globe and to get your students writing daily in an authentic way. I am one of the classroom concierges for the challenge. Do not hesitate to contact me with questions.

Digital Learning Day 15

Add your DigiLit Sunday post to the round-up below.

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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.

This week started with a celebration. My daughter, Maggie, is turning 30 this month. She created her own party to celebrate on Monday, Lundi Gras, in New Orleans. Friends and family came and enjoyed meeting each other. The greatest gift for me was having all three of my daughters together and happy.

HBday Maggie

Mardi Gras has a reputation for being quite the wild party. I hung out with my sister and her family. (See Slice of Life post from Tuesday.) We found a spot on St. Charles where families gathered. Everyone around was considerate while cheering for a happy celebration. My daughter’s boyfriend saw a prized LED mask fall at his feet. He knew my nephew would love it, but when he picked it up, he saw this girl atop her father’s shoulders. He handed her the mask. She put it on and wore it for the rest of the night. Practice random acts of kindness.

light up mask

Nephew Jack sports a celebration mohawk and dangles beads in his father's face.  All part of the fun.

Nephew Jack sports a celebration mohawk and dangles beads in his father’s face. All part of the fun.

Lent has now begun. I had the traditional ash cross smudged on my head. I am preparing to celebrate a holy Lent, 40 days of reflection and meditation. A quiet celebration.

meditation candle

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Join the roundup with Linda at Teacher Dance.

Join the roundup with Linda at Teacher Dance.

I like to keep my poetry in practice, so I often enlist my students in my pet projects.  I love Laura Purdie Salas and her blog site.  Every Thursday she posts a picture and asks writers to post a poem comment using 15 words or less.  Not every Thursday, but many of them, I show her image to my first bunch in the morning.  We talk about the image, someone rings the sacred writing bell, and we write.

Yesterday, Laura posted an old tree.  I listened to my first grader, the youngest of the bunch, explain to a fifth grader what he needed to do.  “Look at the picture.  Then use your imagination.”  We read Laura’s poem and Jacob said, “I’m stealing the word squirrels.”  I swear this kid could lead a writing workshop already!

LPSalas old tree

Old Tree by Laura Purdie Salas



I posted this poem early in the morning.  The tree image reminded me of the old live oak in our backyard.

 Grandmother Oak

With footholds to climb
Eyes that see time
Stories in my rings
Come swing.

–Margaret Simon

grandmother oak sunset

Grandmother oak in the sunset



Then I wrote again with my students.

Stories told
from a wisdom of scars
wrinkled into skin
like crevices on this old tree.

–Margaret Simon


If you would like to play, go to Laura’s site on Thursday mornings.  It’s a fun place to be.

Old People

Two old men
bickering every day
scaring nature away.
These old hags
should calm down.
–Tyler, 6th grade


Another poetry practice project I am doing is on another Laura’s site, Laura Shovan of Author Amok.  I am joining some fabulous poets writing to sound prompts.  Check it out!

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Spiritual Journey framedHolly Mueller is the hostess of this beautiful blog journey.  Be sure to visit her site to read more inspirational posts.

We have been exploring different words chosen by our blogging community.  Greg’s one little word is Dive.

I am a wimp.  I don’t take risks easily.  Diving off the high diving board when I was a swimmer was the ultimate test of bravery, and I didn’t pass.   I think I have gotten braver, but I am still one who tests the waters with her big toe and slips in gradually.  Diving is very scary to me.

Blogging is entering into the publishing waters gradually.  I feel safe here in this space with only a few people reading my musings.  I guess you could say I dove in with Blessen, my first middle grade novel.  But it took me three years to write.  The diving came about when I decided to go the route of self-publishing.  Now I am about to finish the sequel (another 3 years in the making), and I want to dive in to the traditional publishing world.  This is so scary.

First I renewed my membership in SCBWI.  That was easy enough.  Then I registered for the Houston conference in April.  While registering, I signed up for a manuscript critique with an editor.  Hold on, what did you say?  I looked at the requirements for the submission.  I froze at the cover letter.  That’s when I opened up my safe Reflections on the Teche tab and started writing about the word Dive.  Am I ready to dive in?  What’s the worst that can happen, really?  I need to hold my nose and jump in.  I’m not sure what will be waiting in the water.  Was it Eleanor Roosevelt who said, “Do one thing that scares you every day?”

That is why I need God.  I know that I am always loved, no matter what.  There is no failure in God’s eyes.  There is only courage and hope wrapped up in love.

I enter the church on Ash Wednesday, and I walk to the alter for ashes.  I hear the words, “Remember that you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”  The smudge of dust is placed on my forehead.  I return to my work with a renewed heart, ready to dive, ready to pursue a dream, ready to be made new.


A Valentine's Day gift from a student.

A Valentine’s Day gift from a student.


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  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.


Many people decorate fences and trees with beads.

Many people decorate fences and trees with beads.

Photo Challenge for this week from Kim at Thinking Through my Lens: Spirited.  There is nothing more spirited at this time of year in South Louisiana than Mardi Gras.  I came to New Orleans to spend time with family (my sister and hers from Texas, and my daughter home from Chicago).  Of course, while I am here, we ventured out to a day of parades on St. Charles.

With my sister’s family, I wrote a list poem of the variety of throws.

Mardi Gras Throws, a List poem

Krewe of Tucks
Animal house rules
toilet plunger, toilet paper,
toilet glasses, too.

Krewe of Thoth
purple fedora
super-duper stuffed banana,
beads, doubloons, and cups.

Big Bacchus
Bacchasaurus, Bacchagator,
Bacchawoppa whale,
Laser lights, beads fly,
masks of flashing colors,
where the wild things are.


Toilet paper hangs like ornaments lit up by Bacchus lights.

Toilet paper hangs like tinsel lit up by Bacchus lights.  Confetti looks like snow.

Bacchagator catches throw backs.

Bacchagator catches throw backs.



Hands up, beads flying

Hands up, beads flying

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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 writing a blog post, links can be used to enrich the text.  When I taught my students some time ago about linking, I was considering how they could use links in nonfiction to show further research.  But bloggers find many ways to use links in a blog post.   Here are a few:

  1. To send a reader to a similar post: Yesterday when I was reading Julianne’s blog, I noticed that she linked three different blogs she had read and enjoyed. This made it easy for me to bounce on over to these sites, too.
  2. To connect your reader to an image or text that you do not have permission to post: For a poetry writing exercise, I led my students to write about a National Geographic image.  On Poetry Friday, I didn’t post the image with the poems.  I posted a link to it.
  3. To connect your reader to similar posts:  My student, Vannisa, has two young sisters.  She writes about her sisters often.  So on her Slice of Life post this week, she wrote this clever sentence complete with links to her other posts.  “My sister is a little monster now. She is a Youtube Genius. Obviously different from my other sisters. And her day all begins with her morning with her baby sister.”
  4. To refer your reader to another website: On Saturday, I wrote about a magician who visited my class.  I linked to his website.
  5. To direct your readers to a shopping site:  When I do book reviews, I link the thumbnail of the book to a bookseller.

On my WordPress site, I am able to create the link to open in a new window, so my reader does not lose our connection.  I am also able to easily link to my previous blog posts.

What are some ways you use links in your blog posts? Which ones are most important for student bloggers?  Don’t forget to link back to this round up.  You can use the image above as a link button.

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