Archive for September, 2015

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

I will not be winning this year’s prize for the best Mother-of-the-Bride. I forgot to buy the book, and all of a sudden, I have a daughter getting married. I know that a mother with three daughters should be some sort of expert. I think I have a brain block or some other force at work keeping me from doing the right thing.

On Thursday, daughter number one, number two, and I rented a Ford Explorer in New Orleans and over two days drove to Chicago to pack up daughter number three and haul her back to South Louisiana. In early August, Katherine (daughter two) and Wayne became engaged. She pinned a designer dress and thought why not go try on wedding dresses while we are in Chicago. She made the appointment for 4:30 PM on Friday. So we had to leave Memphis in the early morning to make it.

What I didn’t know was we first had to check in at the hotel. We made it through crazy traffic (I was not driving, thank God.) The girls had to freshen up and change for the occasion. Maggie (daughter one) said, “Are you wearing THAT?” I was in my cropped jeans and a t-shirt. Proper traveling clothes, but apparently not proper shopping-for-a-wedding-dress clothes.

“What’s wrong? I didn’t know I was supposed to dress up.”

“Where have you been, Mom? They may serve us champagne!”

“Well, all I have are these hospital pants.” I call them my hospital pants because they are so comfortable that I wore them overnight in the hospital.

“That’s better than jeans.”

“How was I supposed to know this was a dress-up occasion?”

“Don’t you watch TV? Bridesmaids, duh!”

We head over in an Uber to the appointment and make it only 5 minutes late.

Another thing I forgot to read in The Idiot’s Guide to being the Mother of the Bride was how to properly respond to your daughter in a wedding gown. Apparently you are supposed to know which one is The One, and you are supposed to cry when you see it. I didn’t cry. In fact, I made a comment about lace. This first comment cannot be taken back. Over and over I have said, “If this is the one you want, you should get it.” But it doesn’t help. She cannot erase my first response.

For the record, I did tear up when she put on the veil. I properly held my hand over my mouth and exclaimed, “Oh my!”

In the end, we all had a good time. No champagne, but the other daughters got in on the fun and tried on dresses they loved. I texted a picture to my husband, and he responded, “Scary.” Scary, and crazy, and fun.

Martha and Maggie try on wedding gowns that they loved. (The actual bride to be is not pictured. That's a no no. I'm learning.)

Martha and Maggie try on wedding gowns that they loved. (The actual bride to be is not pictured. That’s a no no. I’m learning.)

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

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

Each day is a little life; every waking and rising a little birth; every fresh morning a little youth; every going to rest and sleep a little death.


When Holly tweeted out the theme for this week, patience, I was finishing my second art lesson. I have been trying to be an artist my whole life. My father is an artist, and I want to grow up to be like him. Art takes patience. And I am not sure I have what it takes.

During this second lesson, our instructor asked us to draw an image from a photograph. He wanted us to use shading to show form. He said the word form over and over again. I think he became frustrated with me, but you would never know it. He has a calm demeanor. Patience is so important to any kind of teaching.

I wasn’t quite sure how to start or how to proceed. I was stuck with what I knew before of contour drawing. I was not familiar with his method. So he took my tablet and drew, hatching and shading. The drawing that looked like a cartoon to me began to take shape and form. I was watching a miracle. I still have no idea how to make that happen when the pencil is in my own hand.

I have no patience with myself.
I want to be good now, but I avoid the practice that it takes.

In our limited human minds, we see bits and pieces of the whole. We see small miracles every day. God can see the whole. God knows the big picture. God is our artist.

In my impatience, I want to know now. I want to be good and right and perfect. Ah, me. That is not possible. The only real perfection is with God. In the meantime, I will continue to strive for the best, trying to remember that the Great Artist isn’t finished with me yet.

“Don’t look at your feet to see if you are doing it right. Just dance.”
― Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Not my bird

Not my bird

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

making memory string
The Memory String

I was in the library looking for another Eve Bunting book and came across this one. I sat right down on the floor and read it. Then I had an idea. I wasn’t sure it would work, but I thought of all the buttons I had collected in a box in my closet. What did I need them all for?

One of my goals for my teaching this year is to bring in more picture books. I am reading one each week. In The Memory String, the character Laura has a string full of buttons. Her mother died three years before, and her stepmother is trying to win Laura’s heart. Laura’s memory string is her way of holding on to the memory of her mother.

I brought my cigar box of buttons into class and after reading the story, the students each selected 3-5 buttons. I told them they would be writing a memory for each button. We sewed the buttons on a string, and the students began writing. This was a great form to prompt writing.

Here are some student samples:

The fourth button is a blueish greenish color. It reminds me of the first time I swam in the ocean. It was 2011 and I was 7 years old. I was still living in Minnesota, and I had never even gone near the ocean. We were going on a road trip to Florida. The first time I swam in the ocean was in the Atlantic Ocean. It was a pretty beach with water that looked clear and bright. I loved it, but I never got to swim at a beach like that again. (Vannisa)

This is the story of the button that is gold and black. This button reminds me of my brother. This button reminds me of him because when we all brought him home from the hospital, it was cold and he was wearing a jacket that had a button that looked like this button. This button also reminds me of myself because that was the same jacket that I wore when I was brought home from the hospital. That was the story of the button that is gold and black. (Lani)

One button is absolutely clear, and its very small. It reminds me of how I feel when my dad is gone, and when he is usually gone for months. One time, he didn’t come back for half a year. I missed him very much, but when he came back, I was happy to see him.(Tobie)

Any one of these button memories could be a longer personal narrative (or Slice of Life) story. I hear the lament often, “I don’t know what to write about.” A picture book story and a box of buttons can open up a string of memories.

memory string emily

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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

more love Erin

If you came by here in the last few days, you’ve seen that we celebrated Dot Day this week with younger students. We created a collaborative poem about our dots, and I made an Animoto video. The post is here.

In my Voxer conversation about Writing about Reading, someone (I think it was Phyllis Sutton, but I’m not sure) suggested trying out Sway as a presentation platform. Sway is new to me. I wanted to give it a try before telling my students (and you) about it.

The platform is similar to PowerPoint in that you add slides. The slide can contain a graphic and text. I saved my Dot Day pictures in Dropbox. It was easy to navigate back and forth using tabs. The end product looks like a board similar to Padlet. To navigate to each slide, you scroll.

I plan to introduce my students to this new app and add it to our ever-growing list of presentation apps.

Click on the picture to go to the Sway. Because of the private images, I set it so that only those with a link can view it. That’s yet another cool feature of Sway. Try it out. Let me know what you think.

Click here to see our Dot Day Sway.

Click here to see our Dot Day Sway.


Next week, there will be no Digital Literacy Sunday because I will be traveling.

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Poetry Friday round-up with Michelle at Today's Little Ditty.

Poetry Friday round-up with Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty.

Discover. Play. Build.

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

This is a dual posting for Poetry Friday and Celebration Saturday because this week we celebrated Dot Day. What a great week we had!

On Tuesday, Sept. 15th, my students have come to expect Dot Day. It’s a tradition in my gifted classroom. And every year gets better. A friend of mine made me a Dot Day skirt, a felt poodle skirt full of dots.

I received a text from a former student with the greeting, “Happy International Dot Day!” Thanks to Peter Reynolds for writing The Dot and for establishing Dot Day, a day to celebrate creativity, resilience, and empathy. Did you know there’s a Dot Day song?

We shared our enthusiasm on Wednesday with Mrs. Rogers’ first grade class. Two students shared the reading of the book and everyone danced to the song. Then the first graders decorated coffee filters with markers. I brought a spray bottle, so each gifted student sprayed their group’s dots. We had so much fun. Their teacher, Mrs. Rogers, invited us back on Friday. Her kids had made thank you drawings and wanted to perform the song for us. They had been practicing. The smile never left my face.

My kids want to do another activity with them. One suggested Chalk-a-bration. More to come!

Back in our classroom, I started a document with this line, “A blank canvas stares at me.” I invited the students to add a line to our class Dot poem. Then I put it all together in this Animoto video. I think it will make you smile!

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My Church

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

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

Church of the Epiphany, New Iberia, Louisiana

Church of the Epiphany, New Iberia, Louisiana

Have you ever driven someplace on auto-pilot, getting there and not remembering how you got there? On Sunday morning I turn on auto-pilot. The only decision I have to make is what to wear, because attending church is automatic for me. I just do it.

I grew up going to church every Sunday. When I went to college, I chose LSU because of the Episcopal student center. I joined the music group. We sang folk songs to guitar and piano. For the Eucharist on Sunday night, we would gather around the altar in a circle and pass the bread and wine to each other. This service was intimate and sincere.

I also love a high church service complete with smells and bells, a full four-part choir with men and women processing in robes, banners waving.

The church I attend weekly is a historical Episcopal church dating back to 1857. The sanctuary was used as a hospital in the Civil War. We still have two of the pews that were used as horse troughs. You can see the holes that were bored for drainage. I sing in the choir loft that was once a loft for slaves. If the walls and windows and pews could speak…

Why church? Not because I’ve always gone. Not because of the building or the traditions.

Church is home. Church is community.
Church is a place where God is always present.
I go to church because I would feel incomplete without it.

The words inspire me.
The people love me.
The Eucharist nourishes me.

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for Tuesdays Slice of Life Challenge.

When Writing The Story Of Your Life truedailyquotes.blogspot.com

“I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn. –Anne Frank”

I have been writing a Slice of Life post every Tuesday (most Tuesdays) for years. Four years, I think. And in March, I write everyday for the Slice of Life Challenge, thanks to the Two Writing Teachers.

I want to pass on a love of writing to my students. The Slice of Life habit works many writing muscles; and yet, I can package it to my students as a way for us to share little tidbits of our lives. I can make it sound like fun, not a chore-like writing assignment.

On Monday, I ask the question, “How was you weekend?” As the stories start materializing through talk, I respond, “That would make a good Slice of Life story.”

Yesterday, Kielan came to my desk wanting to share all about her weekend. I asked her if she wanted to share it with the whole class, and she responded, “No. They can read about it in my Slice.”

I love how after only a few weeks of school, my students are immersed in blogging. I was checking the blog this morning and found a post from Tobie about Sept. 11th. I hadn’t brought up the date. They had an art enrichment activity that morning, so we didn’t have time to properly cover it. Actually that was my excuse because it’s always more difficult for me to talk about than it is for the students.

But Tobie hadn’t let it go by. His posts are usually rather silly, but here he shows another side, the strong sensitive side. He never said anything out loud about the date. Blogging gave him a way to express his thoughts.

Today is one of the worst days in American history. We are marking the day of the nightmare of the terrorists of September 11, 2001. Today marks the day that terrorists have crashed our own planes, gotten by hijack, into the World Wide Trading Center. Thousands injured or killed, kids without parents. We must remember the men and women lost, and the ones who fought for them. Only few were pulled from the chaos of fire and barrier, plane parts and glass. All of this at the hands of terrorists, who do this for fun or money. They don’t care for the lives of many innocent Americans. Let us have a second of silence, for the men and women, and even children lost, injured, or no family to take them in.

America has suffered much from this day, and we must not forget this day, 14 years ago. Our parents have been alive during this tragedy, in school or out of it. The Towers have been rebuilt, or are being rebuilt. We will never want another 9/11.
–Tobie, 5th grade

On Mondays, I am posting a quote for response, “Mrs. Simon’s Snippet of the Sea.” This week, I posted a video of Anne Frank quotes and asked the students to select one to write about. Lani expresses well her feelings about writing in her response.

The quote that I chose was, and I quote ”I can shake off everything as I write; my sorrows disappear, my courage is reborn.” I think this quote means that when you write you can get everything that is bothering you off of your chest. For example, Anne Frank must’ve had courage before she went into hiding, so she is saying that now she has sorrow, but when she writes her sorrow is gone and she then has courage. I personally think that this quote has the same meaning today just like in the past because when I write my courage comes back if I am writing about a time when I had sorrow.

Slicing and blogging with my students gives them the platform and audience for making meaning with their writing. If you are not blogging with students yet, I suggest you try it. And if you are and you want to connect on kidblogs, let me know.

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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 year I am trying out a new weekly assignment, Wonder Wednesdays. My students are required to choose their own wonder from Wonderopolis, read the information, and write a paragraph or two about their topic. I thought this would give them practice in nonfiction reading along with practice in writing informational paragraphs. I also wanted the element of choice involved. The students have been getting so excited about what they are learning that they can’t help but want to share. So I told them they could do a Wonder Presentation once each grading period.

Emily was the first to present this week. She became interested in electric eels. This proves how important choice is. I would never have thought she would be interested in eels, of all things, but her family went to the Aquarium this summer, and she saw a live one. When she discovered from Wonderopolis that electric eels are not actually eels, she wanted to “trick” the class. Not only that, she created a quiz and kept up with points making the whole presentation totally engaging.

electric eels

https://app.emaze.com/@AIRTFIRQ/are-electric-eelsPowered by emaze

Andrew, 3rd grade, researched optical illusions. I had no idea there were different types. I encouraged him to try Emaze as a format for presenting his topic. Andrew is a gamer who is no stranger to technology. He created this presentation with ease. I love that this is a format that even my youngest students can use. Click on the image to see his presentation.

optical illusion

I am pleased that Wonder research has materialized into a student-led classroom. I value learning that is student-driven, when I can stand on the sidelines coaching, troubleshooting, and cheering them on.

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.

Photo Credit: Linda Jordan on Flickr

Photo Credit: Linda Jordan on Flickr

Is there ever a time when you read too much? I teach at two schools. I insist on silent reading, so I have a book going at each school. At one school, I am reading Upside Down in the Middle of Nowhere by Julie T. Lamana. Along with Armani and her family, I am suffering through Hurricane Katrina with a family trapped in their attic watching the water rise. Cynthia Rylant’s The Islander is our second read aloud this year. This book takes us to an island in Northwest Canada. There’s a hurricane and the boy searches for injured animals to rescue. This is a beautiful read aloud book because the chapters are short and keep the students wanting to know more. There is a bit of magic and strong symbolism. (You can get it for a penny on Amazon.)

At my other school, I am reading the new chapters for Wonder, Auggie and Me. Currently I am reading Shingaling, the Charlotte chapter, and getting angry about the mean girls of middle school.

Sunny Side Up came in the mail yesterday, and I finished it in one sitting. Can you imagine that such a difficult issue like drug abuse is dealt with in a graphic novel? Lots of talk around this book in the kidlitosphere. Read this wonderful post by Caroline Starr Rose on Nerdy Book Club.

Everything, everything

By my bed is Everything, Everything, a heartbreaking young adult love story about a girl who cannot leave her home due to illness, the modern “girl in a bubble.”

And with the commemoration of 9/11, I have been reading post after post about the bravery, the tragedy, the sadness. This post from Bernadette broke my heart again with the bravery of one woman who did what she had to do to save lives.

Reading can take you to many different places. I celebrate reading, but I think I may take a break. I don’t think my heart can take anymore.

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Poetry Friday round-up with Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge

Poetry Friday round-up with Robyn at Life on the Deckle Edge

You be the book, I’ll be the binding
You be the words, I’ll be the rhyming
~That’s What’s Up, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros

Last week on Poetry Friday, Tabatha posted a music video and a paired writing prompt. I thought her idea might work well with my students. We have a class blog on Kidblog.org. Each week I post what I’m calling a “Snippet of the Sea” for students to respond to. Two weeks ago the quote was from Nelson Mandella. They watched a video from the History Channel and answered hard questions about privilege and education and the word weapon. While this was a worthwhile exercise, this week I borrowed Tabatha’s idea and lightened things up a bit.

Here’s the video from Lennon and Maisy and my students’ responses. While they did not have to think very deeply, they did have to rhyme and think about how things go together. But mostly, it was just plain poetic fun.

You be the front, I’ll be the back
You be the ball, and I’ll be the bat. (Lani)

You be the pencil I’ll be the lead.
You be the blanket I’ll be the bed.
You be the butter I’ll be the bread
You be the blue I’ll be the red. (Tobie)

You be the biscuit, I’ll be the jam
You be bread, I’ll be the ham
You be the green eggs and ham, I’ll be Sam I Am.
You be the beans, I’ll be the spam
You be Mary, I’ll be the little lamb (Kielan)

You be the socks, I’ll be the shoes
You be the trumpet, I’ll be the blues (Emily)

You be the sky, I’ll be the horn fly.
You be the sun, I’ll be the fun.(Andrew)

You be the sun, I’ll be the shine.
You be the tree, I’ll be the pine. (Kaiden)

You be the dog, I’ll be the cat.
I’ll be the hair you be the hat. (Jacob)

You be the needle, I’ll be the thread.
You be the say, I’ll be the said. (Vannisa)

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