Archive for March, 2015

SOL #24

SOL #24

Pay attention to your fantasies, daydreams, and self-talk. What are they reinforcing? What purpose do they serve? Do you believe that some feelings are more “you” than others are? (The Wisdom of the Enneagram, 189)

Self-talk. Is that my enemy? I do this all the time.

We finished phase one of testing, and I read this post from one of my students.
The writing part is hard for me because I never learned how to start it or conclude it the way my class did.

I teach gifted pull-out, so she didn’t get the formula for writing.
Am I wrong not to teach the formula?

In the fall of 2014, not six months ago, I received the prestigious Donald Graves Award for the teaching of writing, and yet, I still question my methods. That is the curse of my personality type, self-talk. But I have to question, what is the real issue here?

I realize that the formulas offer comfort and confidence. While my student knew the answer to the prompt, she froze when faced with a blank page. How do you begin?

Even though I know that the best writing for my students is writing they choose, I realize that I need to provide the safety net. The additional practice in formulaic writing.

Today when I came home from school, a new magazine was waiting. The Spring edition of Cultural Vistas, a publication for the Louisiana Endowment of the Arts. My long time mentor Ann Dobie was featured in an interview by my friend and writing group colleague, Dianne Dempsey-Legnon. When I went through the Summer Institute for the National Writing Project of Acadiana in 1995, Ann was the director. This is what she said about her time as director.

It was a magical time… I have seen changes from teacher-centered to student-centered classrooms. Another monumental change is from feeding information to students to allowing them to discover it on their own which is far more dynamic and lasting. –Ann Brewster Dobie, Ph.D.

I will not give up the belief that students need to discover through writing rather than spitting back information within a set format. But I will look for ways to make my beliefs and the new reign of testing co-exist. I owe this to my students who count on me.

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SOL #23

SOL #23

Join the IMWAYR meme.

Join the IMWAYR meme.

Saving Gee's Bend

Irene Latham

Irene Latham

I first met the beautiful and talented Irene Latham through Poetry Friday. Her poetry blog is Live your Poem. Then I met her face to face briefly at NCTE, but that brief moment was enough for her to offer encouraging words that made me love her.

When I went to our school’s book fair a few weeks ago, I saw the book Leaving Gee’s Bend. I didn’t know about this book. I bought it immediately and tweeted to Irene. She didn’t know that it was in Scholastic Book Fairs. How cool is that! This past week was testing, so I had some quiet time to read. I wanted to say, “Where have you been hiding?” How had I not read this book before? I can’t recommend it highly enough.

I love historical fiction, and I am a product of the South, so I related to Ludelphia. Don’t you just love her name? Ludelphia loves to quilt, and while the story arc is centered around this love of stitching and quilt making, the compelling part for me was her wild adventure to travel on foot and through water to get medicine for her mother. I pulled for her all along the way and was happy to find some other white characters who did the same. In the process of trying to save her mama, she triumphantly saves the whole town.

Irene is traveling, so she could not respond to my invitation for an interview for this post. I will use a quote from the Author’s Note. This is what fascinates me as a writer, how an idea forms and changes and becomes the book.

There are many fascinating events in the history of Gee’s bend, but it was the photographs Arthur Rothstein took for the Resettlement Administration in 1937 that most captivated me. Then when I read firsthand accounts of the 1932 raid on Gee’s Bend and later learned of the Red Cross rescue, I knew this was the experience I most wanted to write about. The people who lived through this terrible time possess a strength and faith I admire and want only to honor.

Not only has Irene Latham honored the people of Gee’s Bend, she has made them come alive and live on in us, her readers. I hope this book falls into your hands at a book fair near you.

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SOL #22

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Digital Literacy Sunday is here. If you have written a DigiLit post, leave the link in the Inlinkz button. (I think it is working this week.) Use #k6diglit on Twitter and tag me @MargaretGSimon.

Cathy Mere and Julie Johnson have started a Google+ Community set around the design of the Digital Maker Playground Workshop. Every two weeks they are meeting face to face with educators who are interested in playing with digital literacies. Some of us are joining the community virtually.

Digital Maker Playground is a unique opportunity open to everyone near and far. All educators are invited to play with us as we explore new tools, create and compose projects around the themes listed, as well as share and collaborate with other educators around the world. Our work will be housed in our Google+ Community, which will allow us to connect with each other easily. Use #P2Lmooc when sharing your work on Twitter for another way to connect with others.

  • Our makes: February 17: One Little Word
  • March 5: What’s Your Maker Space?
  • March 19: Lift a Line from Literature
  • April 2: Make a Statement
  • April 16: Rock My World
  • April 30: Connected

I am behind on the last two makes, so I took some time yesterday to do them. I showed my maker space using Nutshell which is an iPhone app that others were using. It uses a great deal of space on the phone, so my first problem with it was I didn’t have enough space. I had to delete. I did not know that your phone stored every single text message ever sent. That was a lot of space. Then I took my pictures. I did not know that it continued to record even after you snapped the picture, so you will see some weird door opening and hear Charlie’s tag tinkle as I come back inside. You also see me hide a dragon sculpture before taking a picture of my talisman collection. I feel like this was a way for the silly dragon to exact his revenge about not being chosen for the photo. I am not really sold on this app.

I went back to an old favorite, Animoto, to make a poem movie. I used a quote from St. Teresa of Avila. You may have seen the original poem in my Spiritual Thursday post. I used nature images that I had taken. (The hawk was borrowed from my friend Chere Coen.) I like the way this one came out.

My student Kielan experimented with Animoto this week to write one of her slices. She is a fifth grader, and I love her comfort level with using technology to express herself. I am pretty sure her images are copyrighted, though. We have a blocker on our network that keeps us from getting free Flickr or Creative Commons images.

Would you like to join the Digital Maker Playground? It is a fun place to play. Go here to join the Google+ community. Lots of creativity happening here.

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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.

SOL #21

SOL #21

Today is Saturday! Charlie knows this, somehow. He greets Saturday with enthusiasm and anticipation. “Maybe we will take a walk?” he asks. I celebrate this bundle of joy.

Charlie Saturday

This was testing week. While I was proctoring, I was able to finish this prayer shawl. It will go to a friend with breast cancer. I celebrate the gift of time and prayer.

prayer shawl Becky A

I celebrate my blogging community. I read many blogs daily and gain insight and inspiration, make connections, and feel loved and appreciated. Your posts inspire me. Your comments sustain me. On Tuesday, I felt my writing was dried up, so I went on a hunt for lines and wrote this found poem. Your words came together into beautiful poetry. I celebrate words.

I celebrate poetry. My students have been reading and voting in the March Madness Poetry (MMPoetry) at ThinkKidThink. Yesterday, while we were reading and voting, my 3rd grader Lani wrote this post.

Today in class we voted on thinkkidthink.com. We had to listen to Mrs.Simon read A LOT of poems. Some of them were good poems, but some poems were VERY confusing. Like this one that Reed is reading, ”How To Be A Big Bad Wolf.” I did not understand it but, I still voted on it. Some poems, you think will be non-understandable based on the title but, the poem turns out to be understandable.

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SOL #20

SOL #20

Join the roundup with Catherine at Reading to the Core.

Join the roundup with Catherine at Reading to the Core.

This week we talked about form and being innovative and creative with form in Slices of Life and in poetry. We looked at Tara Smith’s call for Classroom Slices in which she shared the poem That was Summer by Marci Ridlon. I had not seen this poem before. I trusted Tara that it would inspire writing.

Have you ever smelled summer?

Sure you have.

Remember that time

when you were tired of running

or doing nothing much

and you were hot

and you flopped right down on the ground?

That was summer. From That was Summer by Marci Ridlon

Today I would like to introduce you to my student, Erin. I wish I could post a picture of her because she is quite adorable. She has long dark hair that accentuates her tan skin (her mother is Filipino.) There is a dimple that appears with every smile, and she smiles a lot. She is small for her age, nine, which only adds to her charm. Erin experimented with two forms this week, the “Remember that time” form and a two voice poem with Spring arguing with Winter.

Spring flowers, Lytes Cary, Somerset  Copyright nick macneill and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Spring flowers, Lytes Cary, Somerset
Copyright nick macneill and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

Can you feel spring?                                                               Remember the breeze blowing and you feel you’re flying.
That was Spring.

Remember the time you played catch with your dog,
and he knocked you down in the soft spiky grass?
That was spring.

Remember the wonderful warmth
of the sun on your skin
after the harsh winter.
That was spring.

I’m spring here to kick you out.
No one likes you with your cold heart and all.
While i am loved by millions all around the world.

Ha you wish.
You bring mosquitoes and bees stinging all about.
I kill and make them pout.
I rule all seasons. While  you are a slave.

Please, you wish.
You give people hatred and make them cry.
While I give them hope and sunshine.

Oh, really?
You make them happy.
I think that all that sunshine
is going to your head.
Now, be a good girl
and go to bed!

Can you hear Erin giggle after that last line? She had a boy in class play the part of Spring. He was a good sport about it. In fact, I think anyone in our class would do anything for Erin. You can click on her name under either poem to leave comments just for her.

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SOL #19

SOL #19

Join the Spiritual Thursday round up at Reading, Teaching, Learning.

Join the Spiritual Thursday round up at Reading, Teaching, Learning.

To have courage for whatever comes in life – everything lies in that.






A title and a quote
saved in draft
waiting for me
to be brave
to come to this page again,
to be present, and write.

Every day, courage is tested.

What ever comes, Teresa,
am I really ready for it?
Everything lies
in wait for my response.

The wilderness is dark,
lonely, scary, and fierce.
The path is grown over with weeds.
The branches hang low blinding me
from the way through.

Then there comes a light
rising up from the East
creating a rainbow in the clouds
showing me
I am not alone.

The sparkle in your eye,
the gentle song in your voice
call to me
to be
and true
to shine the light
in me
that comes only from
my God.


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SOL #18

SOL #18

I have been brainstorming all day.  I am chasing an elusive topic.  I know what my fingers want to write about, but I am avoiding it.  There are just so many things that are easier to write about, like spring happening outside my door or my cat chasing a baby lizard.  But these subjects are fluffy, romantic, stupid.

It’s moments like these that I wish I were Donalyn Miller or Nanci Atwell, and I could just come right out and say it.  I’d say it so eloquently that someone would get it and do something about it.  I’m not a famous educator.  I have not published any books on teaching.  But I am there in the trenches, as they say, doing the job.

This is the week, the dreaded week, of testing.  Actually, this is only the first of three weeks of testing.  We have another one in April and a third in May.  What is this world coming to?  Who in the real world takes tests for three weeks?  My daughter took the Bar Exam and it was only one week.  And at the end of that test, she became a lawyer.  At the end of this testing, where will our students be?  Gladly out for the summer!

Prior to this testing week were weeks of “test prep.”  Why?  Because we fear that our teaching isn’t good enough, that the test is too hard, that they are not ready.

I am one of the lucky ones.  My students are gifted. They are telling me the test is not as hard as they thought it would be.  I think this is a good sign.  But even so, the test is not what we have been doing in my class.  In my class, my students read the books they want to read and write about what they want to write about.  Horrors!  Will they be ready?

I’m wondering what happened to putting students first.  What happened to good old Piaget’s theory of child development?  (Note: Theoretical, abstract logic do not happen until 11+ years.)



Today I listened to beautiful and eloquent Nancie Atwell on CNN.  Her students do authentic writing and reading, so they know what writing and reading are good for.  She would not encourage any creative thinker to go into the field of public education as it is right now.  “It (CCSS) has turned teachers into technicians, not reflective practitioners.”   Wow!  That is heavy.  If Common Core and the tests have done this to teachers, then heaven forbid what they are doing to our students.

Where is the love of learning?  Who will teach our students that reading is pleasurable?  What about creativity?  I shudder to think what kind of adults this testing environment will produce. Creative problem solvers? Effective communicators? I think not.


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