Archive for October, 2015

Poetry Friday round-up with Mary Lee at A Year of Reading

Poetry Friday round-up with Mary Lee at A Year of Reading

Do you know about the famous Fibonacci Sequence? The ages old sequence that creates a spiral, a shape found in nature? The mathematical sequence is 0, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8…Do you see the pattern? More information (including algebraic equations) can be found at Math is Fun.

I had forgotten about using the sequence in poetry until a colleague introduced it to our 6th grade enrichment group. We are working on Unsung Hero projects. Our previous meeting had been a field trip to see and hear about heroes in our own town. She asked the students to recall the field trip by writing a Fib poem. I wrote about the Buddhist Temple in our local Laotian community.

Wat Thammarattanaram, New Iberia, LA

Wat Thammarattanaram, New Iberia, LA

Buddhist monks
humbly giving self,
Temple of golden ornaments,
Temple of sacrifice,
meditate on lasting love.
–Margaret Simon

A Fib poem follows the syllable count as in the mathematical sequence, 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8. And if you are feeling wordy, you can tack on a line of 13 and 21.

A few years ago I had used this form with my students when we were sharing The 14 Fibs of Gregory K by Greg Pincus.

I tried out the form on my other students. I asked them to write about our field trip to New Orleans, the Aquarium and Insectarium, last week. The exercise was quite a challenge. I, too, struggled. But that’s what writing is all about, right? We made a padlet.

erin's mermaid

Each afternoon, I read aloud another chapter of Fish in a Tree. We usually write notices and wonders to add to the Voxer chat with other classes, but yesterday, I asked Jacob to write a Fib poem with me about Ally, the main character. We started over 3 times. Jacob was being very patient. Each time he’d write the syllable count down the margin of his journal page. Finally we liked what was coming, but we couldn’t quite get that last line. Then Jacob just blurted it out. Some days my young students blow my mind. We recorded it on the Voxer chat.

thinks she’s dumb,
so afraid to tell,
hates being locked up in her brain.

Using strict forms can be frustrating, but when it works, when we discover a winning line, we can say “Boom, Gotcha” to that Fib!

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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 student Vannisa wanted to write a fall poem, she looked to the skies. She wrote this poem including the science of meteor showers that occur in fall.

As We Fall

As we fall into winter,
the weather chills
and the leaves come down.
They fill the ground with
a fiery red
and blazing orange.

As we fall into winter,
we can no longer watch fireworks
like 4th of July,
but we can watch
the shooting stars of
Orionids and Leonids
and watch the days get shorter
until Spring comes back again.

She had a blog comment on her poem asking her more about the Orionids. When she was looking for something to research for her Wonder of the Week, I suggested the meteor shower. Each week I have my students use Wonderopolis to read nonfiction and respond by writing about what they learned. They then have the option to create a class presentation using technology.

Vannisa had to expand her research beyond Wonderopolis and this was my intent all along, that some little spark would send my students into real, authentic research.

Click the image to view the Emaze.

Click the image to view the Emaze.

Know: Orionids is a meteor shower that occurs in late October. A shooting star is a meteor and not an actual star. The name for the shower is Orionids because most of the comets will be toward the constellation Orion.

Wonder: What Causes a Shooting Star?, Where Is the Big Dipper?, How Many Stars Are In The Sky?

Learned: A meteor is formed from rock that burns up in Earth’s atmosphere, causing it to look like a streak of light in the sky. A piece of a meteor is called a meteorite. The Big Dipper is mostly referred to as a constellation, but it’s actually an asterism. Our galaxy has about 200 billion to 400 billion star. Scientist predict that there are 100 billion to 200 billion galaxies in the universe. Based on the latest estimates, astronomers guess that there are 300 sextillion stars in the universe which is 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. That is 1 billion times 1 billion times 3!

Burning Question: How did they find out how many stars there are?

Days when learning and creativity come together I realize the true joy of discovery. I strive to give my students the open door that will lead them on their own journey of learning, not down a path I have designed, but one they have chosen. It doesn’t happen every day. But with Vannisa and her spark of interest in meteor showers, these two paths converged and made meaningful learning. Through blogging, she was able to share it with others. Win. Win.

Add your own Digital Literacy posts 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.

The Aquarium of the Americas, New Orleans, Louisiana

The Aquarium of the Americas, New Orleans, Louisiana

My students started a count down 6 weeks ago when they first heard we were going on a field trip. The day finally arrived. We boarded a charter bus at 7 AM and headed toward New Orleans.

Aquarium wave

First stop, the aquarium. They wandered among sharks and jellyfish and even touched a stingray. We watched the feeding of the penguins. We decided to buy a new class pet, a penguin named Ernie after the oldest penguin at the Aquarium.


While we were having lunch, the best daughter in the world walked from her office and brought me an iced latte. A double treat, a chance to give her a kiss and the caffeine that is much needed to sustain a day long field trip.

It’s right about here that one of my students decided to run through the water fountain. I really did not think ahead on this one. I didn’t think I needed to explain to gifted students that water makes you wet. He had to sit in his wet clothes in the Imax theater. A colleague,who was trying her best to calm my anger, told me this would be a logical consequence. (I am now able to see the humor of it all.)

The Imax movie told us the story of Hurricane Katrina. I did end up with one student clinging to me. It was intense. We must tune in the loss of wetlands in our state. This movie was visual proof.

Our last stop was the Insectarium. Here we enjoyed eating bugs. Yes! They were full of protein and covered in flavors.

insects to eat

The butterfly garden was magical. Two butterflies landed on Emily. Now Emily’s usual mode of transportation is running, hopping, skipping, but here in the warm garden, she slowed down and held out her arm. One of these friendly butterflies stayed on her hand for a while. A little miracle.

This morning I am celebrating a full day of adventure, fun, and learning. On the bus trip home, I announced a quiz bowl competition. The Audubon Nature Institute provided resources for educators. We printed out a scavenger hunt for the kids. On the bus, we awarded points for answers. My team didn’t win, but I plan to reward them anyway. All in all it was a great day!

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Poetry on a Postcard

Poetry Friday round-up with Jama at Jama's Alphabet Soup.

Poetry Friday round-up with Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.


Have you ever dipped your toes
into the ocean,
only to feel the sting of the

Some memory–some history–
Some love or loss that
floats beneath the surface.

And while we marvel at its beauty,
we wince in the pain
of that which had once been


Sometimes a postcard comes
in the mailbox, the rusty squeaky
hinge of it wakes you up.

This card holds a gift
and a piece of your heart
you didn’t even know was there.

You cry. Then smile,
marveling at the power of
words to totally change
your mood.


Kevin’s post about this postcard project is here.

Jellyfish postcard

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

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

Today is Spiritual Journey Thursday. Each week Holly Mueller invites us to reflect on our journey. This week the theme is doubt. I have no doubt of the existence of God because 30 years ago I was witness to it.

On July 3, 1985 I dropped off my four month old baby girl at day care. It was summer, and I wasn’t teaching, but I needed to run some errands, and she needed to get accustomed to the day care. However at noon while I ate lunch with my husband, I had an uneasy feeling. I needed to go check on my baby.

I dropped by and took Maggie in my arms to nurse her. Something wasn’t right. Her breathing was quick, almost like a dog’s panting. After she nursed, she spit up. Not unusual, but the liquid was tinted with reddish brown. That sent me into panic mode. I asked the day care worker to call the doctor. They told her to have me come in immediately.

Usually at the pediatrician’s office, you sit in the waiting room for hours waiting to see the doctor. Not this time. They whisked me to the back. The doctor came in quickly and listened to Maggie’s heart. He had a grave expression on his face. Her heart rate was too fast. She needed to go to the hospital.

This was pre-cell phone era, so I used the doctor’s office phone to call my husband. His secretary sent me to hold, and I was cut off. I called back and cried into the phone. “This is an emergency!”

The hospital was near the doctor’s office. Again, there was no waiting. No long form filling. The nurses grabbed my baby and within minutes had an IV in her tiny little head pumping in medicine. The diagnosis was tachycardia, an abnormal fast heart rate.

Hours passed, and Maggie’s heart rate did not slow down. It was racing at 200+ beats per minute. Our priest came by and prayed with us. He, too, was grave and sad. Was I going to lose my first child?

Around midnight, the doctors decided to send us to Ochsner in New Orleans by helicopter. I would fly with Maggie and Jeff would drive with friends.

I was laid on the stretcher first. Then they handed me the baby. We lay together chest to chest. Heartbeat to heartbeat.


Helicopters are loud. There was no talking to anyone. As we lifted off, we ascended straight up into the sky. No build up to take off as in an airplane. One minute on the ground, the next in the air.

While we flew, I prayed fiercely. I don’t remember the words, but they were like those of Jesus on the cross. “Take this cup away from me.” I didn’t pray for healing. I prayed for presence.

In the sky high above, I felt the physical presence of God, a warmth of hands wrapped around my shoulders. I felt calm, peaceful. I knew everything would be okay. Maggie’s heart slowed to the rhythm of my own.

The equipment at Ochsner was more sophisticated, so the doctors could tell that her fast heart rate was a sinus rhythm. It was not tachycardia. There was an infection somewhere in her system that caused the fast rate.

After many pricks and prods, Maggie was diagnosed with pneumonia. Remember the blood in her spittle? All was well, and we returned home by July 5th with a hoarse and tired baby girl.

When faced with tragedy, I am completely confident in God’s presence. Whether or not God physically healed Maggie doesn’t matter. I know that a strong and holy spirit was with me. We were both healed.

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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.

I largely believe that my blog audience is fellow teachers, but sometimes I meet readers on Main Street, and sometimes they call me on the phone. Both happened to me this weekend. I saw Mac at a local art gallery for Art Walk on Saturday evening. He started up a conversation about reading aloud and how he was happy I was doing that with my students. He told me about how his family read aloud, and he passed it on to his kids and grandchildren, and now even great grandchildren.

I got a phone call from a friend who wanted to tell me that she appreciated the work I was doing with kids to connect reading to their own lives. She shared that she is going through something very difficult, and my posts help her. What? Really? I was moved to tears.

Receiving praise for writing reaches farther and deeper than any other kind of praise because writing is so personal. I want to bring this type of understanding to my students along with the joy and pride of knowing their writing touched someone else. I work to build connections for them. On our kidblog site, we have connected to other classes. I encourage them to find a student from another class to connect with.

We teachers talk with our readers about making text to self connections. Usually these connections seem false. When we make those connections together around a shared text and then share them globally, this writing holds more meaning. The stakes are higher. The voice is authentic.

On Padlet, I posted this question for students to write about in connection to the Global Read Aloud, Fish in a Tree: “In Fish in a Tree, Ally doesn’t tell anyone about her trouble with reading. She has an opportunity in Mrs. Silver’s office and even with her mom, but she resists out of fear. Have you ever had something so troublesome that you just didn’t know how to or were afraid to tell the truth?”

To get them started, I posted my own story.

When I was very young, maybe around 6, I was playing with matches outside with the neighbors. Before we really knew what was happening, the yard was in flames. The blanket for our “campout”, my favorite doll, the pillows from my brother’s bed…in flames. Fear sent me inside. I climbed in my mother’s lap and cried and cried. She got very angry because she was on the telephone. Finally I squeezed out the word “Fire!” and she went running. I don’t remember much after that moment, but to this day I feel very guilty about that accident.

When my students read it, they immediately gasped, “Matches? You played with matches?” My mother now knows the whole story, but I still cannot shake the guilt and trauma of burning the front yard. That spot in the grass seemed to stay black forever.

I sent out a Voxer message to colleagues in California, Ohio, and Illinois. They responded by writing their own stories. So my students had 4 adult models to read Monday morning before writing their own. Thanks Julianne, Julie, and Phyllis.

Click on the image to see the Padlet.

padlet FIAT

I am excited our writing is becoming richer and holding more meaning. Making connections with text, then having someone else connect to our own writing is a powerful way to communicate and spread kindness and understanding.

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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 I joined a Voxer book club organized by Kathleen Sokowolski from the Two Writing Teachers around Lise Eickholdt’s book Learning from Classmates. The conversation is inspiring and thoughtful. I am getting many ideas about supporting the writing in my classroom. I am also able to share in a safe place about my own triumphs and failures.

(We’re only one chapter in, so if you want to join, contact Kathleen.)

In the book, Lisa encourages us to use student work to notice, name, and note a craft move within a student’s writing. Her book features real images of real writing done by kids with all the flaws and the filled in bubble exclamation points. Most of the writing my students do is on their blogs, so this is typed. I actually love this because when I am looking for text to use to mentor a writing move or to teach a grammar skill, it’s there at my finger tips. When I want to feature student writing here on my own blog, I can copy and paste it straight on over.

My students write a Slice of Life story each week. I am trying to push them to elaborate more and one of my students just point blank asked me for a lesson on how to do that. I have not been a huge fan of Prezi as a tool for presentations in the past. The other day I opened it up just to give it another shot. I chose a pre-formatted background, so the rest was easy.

Feel free to share and use this presentation. You may even be able to edit and add in your own student mentor text.

Click on this image to go to the Prezi.

Click on this image to go to the Prezi.

If you want to join this week’s round up of Digital Literacy posts, please leave a link.

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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.

“Give yourself the kind of care you would insist on for someone you love.” My Enneathought of the Day. I needed to hear this. I have taken a few naps this week and feeling guilty about it, my body insisted on it. With this advice from the masters, I feel better knowing that I listened and obeyed my body’s needs.

I am celebrating Global Read Aloud! I celebrate the power of reading aloud in the classroom. It does so much to build a community of readers. We are reading Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s Fish in a Tree. My students are gifted. Many of them read early and quickly advanced to a higher reading level. Ally, the main character, is dyslexic. She cannot read. My students have a hard time understanding this. All the more reason we should be reading about it as a community.

Jacob, 2nd grade, said, “If she can talk, why can’t she read?” Ah! He is slowly understanding that his ability is a gift.

We are joining a larger community of readers on Voxer. We are listening to responses from classes in Illinois, California, and Ohio. How fun is that!

And because my students want the chance to Vox, they are being better listeners and writing their notices and wonders. If they write and share, then they get to record their message for others to hear. Powerful learning going on!

Emily sketched her idea of Ally's head.

Emily sketched her idea of Ally’s head.

My students are also sharing on Padlet. This week they read embarrassing moments and shared their own. Click here to see the padlet.

I am loving these connections and look forward to our reading together over the next weeks. Send me a message if you would like to join in.

My satsuma tree

My satsuma tree

Celebrate fall: The satsumas are ripe, juicy, and yummy. I love free fruit!

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Poetry Friday round-up with my dear friend, Amy, at The Poem Farm.

Poetry Friday round-up with my dear friend, Amy, at The Poem Farm.

writing secrets

Mrs. Simon, I don’t know what to write.
Oh, no! I don’t have anything to write about!
I have writer’s block today, Mrs. Simon.

These words echo in my classroom regularly. Why? Because we are all writers. And we all know that writing is hard.

I asked my students to write long about a book we are reading. (Global Read Aloud: Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly HUnt.) You could hear the sighs. For some reason, that bad word…long…sent them into total fear. So I saddled up to the computer connected to the board. After stumbling over the necessary technology to get them to see what I was writing, I set about modeling a long writing.

I actually surprised myself that I could do this on-demand-in-front-of-everybody writing from nothing. But I realized that it all comes from practice. I just started typing and the words came. My students laughed at my typos as I was trying to type quickly. They noticed that my long writing was only 140 words. The assignment became less intimidating.

Yet, one of my best writers sat in front of her computer not typing. And it seemed the longer she stared at the blank page, the harder it got for her to start. I didn’t have a very good answer for her. It happens. We’re writers. We are going to have those days when nothing comes to mind. So I let her leave class with this instruction, “Think about what you may want to write about and we’ll start again tomorrow.” Some writers need time to think.

I know this is Poetry Friday, and you are asking yourself, “Where’s the poem?” Sometimes with writing, you need to write about what you need to write about.

Kielan is a writer. She is in 6th grade, and I’ve taught her since she was in second grade. She’s had her share of writer’s block, but she is connecting with Ally in Fish in a Tree. This is her long writing about how she was bullied like Ally.

In Lynda Mullaly Hunt’s book Fish In A Tree, Ally’s at the restaurant where her mother works. Her mother is a waitress there. While Ally is at the restaurant suddenly her “friends” walk in. Shay and Jessica walk in the restaurant and start talking to Ally.

Ally tries to resist them, but her mother thinks she should talk with them. Her mother doesn’t know what Shay and Jessica do to Ally. They talk to her about the sympathy card Ally gave to their teacher. Something similar like this happened to me too.

I was in 4th grade when it happened. A girl named Emily was in my class. Every time a teacher was near she was nice to me, but when there was no teacher near she was mean to me. When she was nice to me I would reject her and then I would get in trouble.

She sat right in front of me in class and we were kind of enemies. I had to read aloud in class and answer the question. I read the passage right, but I got the answer wrong. Then she got called on and she got the question right. She looked at me, gave me a mean look, and then rolled her eyes. After school she saw me in Mcdonald’s at Walmart. She called me smart, her friend, pretty, and nice, only because my mother was around, but then the next day at school, she called me dumb, mean, her enemy, and ugly. She made me think I was dumb. Just like Ally felt in the story.

I made my own quote. “Trust no one” and “Never trust a phony with anything”.–Kielan

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

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

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