Archive for January, 2016

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts




Yesterday I tweeted a call for topic ideas.  Julianne suggested balance.  And now I’m stuck.  I liked that this was a topic that would make people think, but I wasn’t prepared for being stuck.

Balance is so open to interpretation.  Are we thinking about the balance of reading to writing, technology to paper, challenging to easy?  There are so many ways we can look at balance.  In my own life, I need to balance work with play, eating healthy foods, using my time wisely, and on and on.

I look at each one of my students as a small balancing act.  I need to give them enough but not too much.  This week we were behind.  Most of my students had spent their class time on creating digital Wonder presentations, so they hadn’t completed their writing assignments (Slice of Life and Reader response).  A few of them were actually in a panic over getting it all done.  The title of the day was “Finish it Friday.”

When I announced that I wanted to do a poetry activity, I heard groans.  I insisted that we all stop and take 5 minutes to write together.  This turned out to be a good decision.  Creative juices flowed.  My kids turned back to technology not as a chore but as a choice.  I posted some of the results on Poetry Friday.

Teaching gifted students is always a balancing act.  I want to challenge them to think deeper and work harder, and yet, I cannot forget that they are children.  They need creative play as well.  The best lessons are ones that balance the two.  The funny thing about my kids is even if the assignment is not all that creative, they find a way to interject their own voices.  They will be heard.

Kaiden’s presentation on how books are made included his own sense of humor as well as information on how paper became books.

Do you have "Da Knawledge?"

Do you have “Da Knawledge?”


Please add the link to your digital literacy blog post.

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Poetry Friday round-up with Catherine at Reading to the Core

Poetry Friday round-up with Catherine at Reading to the Core



Discover. Play. Build.

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

Over at Today’s Little Ditty, Michelle has posted the wrap-up of nothing poems from this month’s ditty challenge posted by Douglas Florian. I have a poem in the collection.

I challenged my students by sharing Diane Mayr’s nothing poem. She used anaphora, a repeated line, “Nothing, but…” This prompt generated a lot of thought. I was excited by the results.

Today, I have a dual post: I celebrate the nothing poems my students created and add them to the Poetry Friday Ditty collection. The digital images were created on Canva.

Love this nature nothing poem from Andrew, 3rd grade.

Love this nature nothing poem from Andrew, 3rd grade.

Lynzee loves the songs of nightingales, 1st grade.

Lynzee loves the songs of nightingales, 1st grade.

Nothing by Kaiden

Nothing poem by Kaiden, 5th grade

Nothing poem by Kaiden, 5th grade

Kielan’s poem is about a classmate, Erin.

Nothing but rainbow narwhals

Nothing but rainbow butterfly unicorn kittens

Nothing but unicorns

Nothing but love

Nothing but a helpful heart

Nothing but imagination

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

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

For Spiritual Thursday, some of us blogging-writer friends are reflecting on each other’s OLW. This week we are writing about “Selah,” Michelle’s word.

Of course I googled it. What else do we do these days when we don’t know a word? (Funny aside: I told a student today I was exasperated, and she googled it and read aloud, “intense anger.” I might have exaggerated.)

On the internet I found a praise group that I had never heard before. I liked the song and will post the YouTube video. I also learned that the word is used 70-something times in the Psalms. As an alto in the choir, I was pleased to see there was a musical reference to a pause. I imagine the // in the notation on a chant.

On the baby name site, Selah is a girl’s name which means “Stop and listen.”

One thing that makes you take stop, pause, and pay attention is a diagnosis of cancer. Our church community has been rocked by the diagnosis of one of our dearest friends, Amy. Amy and her husband Kelly have four children between the ages of 10 and 16. Their kids are often on the altar as acolytes.

Amy has taken on this unfair disease with courage, faith, and hope. She posted recently on her Caring Bridge site that she has a new perspective. “All of the things I spent so much time worrying about mean nothing anymore. When faced with your own mortality, the only thing that really matters are the people that you love and the experiences you share with them.” She sees so much good, in the people cooking meals for her family, in the daily life of our community (specifically Mardi Gras balls), and in the attitudes of her children.

When I crochet prayer shawls, I practice selah. I often chant the person’s name in my mind as I stitch. The selah is a gift to me as well as a gift for the person I make the shawl for. I finished Amy’s shawl last week and gave it to her on Sunday. Kelly is pictured with her holding the prayer blanket that my friend and co-stitcher, Brenda, made.

Amy and Kelly with prayer shawl and lap blanket.

Amy and Kelly with prayer shawl and lap blanket.

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer. Psalm 19:14

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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.


On the Sunday evening before Martin Luther King, Jr. Monday, Jeff and I were going dancing. Our favorite band was playing, and the next day was a holiday. You know what that means, no early bedtime. We talked about a conversation he had with a friend who was complaining about having to drive his young children here and there. Jeff told him, “One day you will miss these days.”

I responded, “That’s what I think about dancing. One day, we will miss this.”

Then this happened:

The next day without school I had time to go to an exercise class. Not 5 minutes into the class, I had an accident. The exercise ball flew out from under me, and I fell hard on my tailbone. I know I just heard all of you gasp, “Ouch!”

So it’s cracked or bruised. Either way, my doctor said it would take 3 weeks to heal. The pain was unbelievable, but in my mind I thought I would only have to take one day off. Yeah, right.

I did try to teach half a day on Wednesday and another half day on Thursday, but by Thursday afternoon, I was consigned to the sofa with a heating pad.

On Monday, I tried again and made it through until noon. Did you know that when you try really hard to endure pain, the pain doesn’t give in? In fact, it turns into a nasty monster making concentration and even eating difficult.

I am having a hard time curbing my anger about this. Friends comfort me with words of encouragement.
“What can I do?”
“Give it time.”
“Accidents happen.”

Even Thich Nhat Hanh has good advice. It will get better. I know this.

But sometimes I am impatient. I want to dance. I want to go for a walk with my dog. I want to drive, goddammit.

I told a writing partner that I wouldn’t be writing about this because I didn’t want to be whiney. She sent me this message, “That’s what Slice of Life is about. What your experience is right now. It takes courage to write when things are not going well. Others will learn from you.”

So here I am, ugly and bruised, sitting on my heating pad, in all honesty, mad at the world. But at the same time, I am finding time to read, to listen to my favorite Pandora station, to watch the light change on the bayou, and to write. Write true. Write from the heart. Be present. I’m here.

#quiet #present  Bayou evening, Margaret Simon

#quiet #present
Bayou evening, Margaret Simon

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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

As an educator and as a writer, I am always on the look-out for inspiration. It can come in the form of a blog post, a quote, a video, or an image.

This school year I decided to start a new posting on my kidblog site. I called it Snippet of the Sea to go along with my blog title, Mrs. Simon’s Sea. Each week I post something and ask the students to respond. I started out using quotes. I’ve used videos. And since the new year began, I’ve posted poems.

At first my goal was to promote kindness. The quotes had to do with kindness. But now I see that my purpose is more about inspiring real thinking. I want to expose my students to good, strong words and inspire them to be good stewards of their own words.

To view last week’s poem post by Irene Latham and my students’ thoughtful responses, click here.

I was this close to choosing Inspire as my one little word. I still feel attached to it. The meaning connecting breath and creativity appeals to the core of who I want to be. However, the root meaning spirit tells me that this word belongs to the Creator.

in·spire inˈspī(ə)r/ verb
1. fill (someone) with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative.
“his passion for romantic literature inspired him to begin writing”
synonyms: stimulate, motivate, encourage, influence, rouse, move, stir, energize, galvanize, incite
2. breathe in (air); inhale.

Kim Douillard of Thinking through my Lens inspires me. This week her photo challenge is Quiet. Works well with the quiet, restful week I’ve had. Living on the bayou, I am witness to the quiet calm of nature. On Saturday morning, a blue heron was perched on the water in the rising sunlight. He was there again this morning in the fog. I captured these images.

Bayou heron, Margaret Simon.

Bayou heron, Margaret Simon.

Blue heron wings, Margaret Simon

Blue heron wings, Margaret Simon

What inspires you? Inspires your students? Share your digital literacy posts 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.

I live with a household of pets. I would have it no other way. There’s my constant companion and love of my life, Charlie, part poodle, part schnauzer, perfect mix of the sweetest dog ever.

But today I am celebrating cats. We have three, one diva Mimi who lives inside, and two outside coulee cats Buzz and Bill.

In the fall, my Facebook/blogging friend, Pamela Hodges posted that she was creating an adult coloring book of cats. She wanted cat rescue stories and pictures. Of course, I was in with my diva cat Mimi. She was found in a tree. Her mother had rescued her litter from a flood and taken them all up a tree. When she came to us, she was tiny and the most perfect picture of a tuxedo cat. She even has a perfect bow-tie mustache.

In the process of living with us (or despite us), she has turned into quite the queen. She is actually mean to strangers. She will hiss, bite, scratch if anyone tries to pet her. But she loves me. She will sleep right on top of me. I think she likes that I accept her for exactly who she is.

Pamela had read my posts about the upcoming wedding of my middle daughter, so for her coloring book, she drew Mimi in a wedding gown. Mimi was not at all flattered. Even when we explained to her that she is now famous.

Color the Cats is available on Amazon.

Color the Cats is available on Amazon.

Mimi as a bride

Mimi as a bride

I brought Color the Cats to school and allowed each of my students to pick a favorite. I copied them and for a Friday treat, they could color them. (No one chose Mimi, but I haven’t told her yet.)

Coloring by Emily. "Color the Cats" by Pamela Hodges

Coloring by Emily. “Color the Cats” by Pamela Hodges

Bill and Buzz are famous, too. They are the subject of a bumper sticker we had custom-made at Vistaprint.

Our two outside cats are brothers. They were rescued from a neighbor’s home. Their mother had them under my friend’s house, then she was hit by a car. These little orphans have total opposite personalities. Bill is effeminate with a high-pitched whiney cry that is like fingernails on a chalkboard. He cries all the time. He will go to every window begging to be let in. While Buzz is chill-man. He is big and round and content. He looks at Bill with disdain.

This is Buzz.  Be Buzz.

This is Buzz. Be Buzz.

My husband created a family slogan, “Be Buzz. Not Bill.” He loves family things that no one can really quite get. (We used to place a large Santa frog sign in our yard at Christmas.)

Appropriate that you can see cat paw prints on the bumper along with the family bumper sticker.

Appropriate that you can see cat paw prints on the bumper along with the family bumper sticker.

Celebrate cats. Be Buzz.

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Poetry Friday round-up  with Tara at A Teaching Life.

Poetry Friday round-up with Tara at A Teaching Life.

Over at Holly Mueller’s blog, Reading, Teaching, Learning, a group of us are writing about the spiritual aspects of our OLWs. Last week, we wrote about the word Believe. Irene Latham’s creed poem inspired me. I posted it on my kidblog site and asked my students to reflect on the meaning and to respond with their own beliefs. Today I am sharing Irene’s poem and my students’ responses.

I Could Say I Believe in the Ocean

But what I mean is,
I believe in water:
leagues wide
and miles deep,
still-cool-cold on one shore,
warm-salty on the other.

I believe in clownfish
and anemone,
riotous coral reef
and cruising grouper,

octopuses origami-ing
themselves into
castaway bottles
and now-you-see-em-
now-you-don’t krill
diving into
the mouths of whales.

I believe in turquoise
and teal, cobalt
and blacker-than-black.
In shipwrecks
and tsunamis
and deep-sea

I believe in a world
with enough anything
for everyone
where I am a boat
floating quiet
as a moon jellyfish,

weaving between sharks
and icebergs,
allowing the current
to carry me
wherever it will.
– Irene Latham

Student response poems:

I believe in life,

A world where nature blooms beautifully on the ground,

Where the sun is the light bulb of Earth,

Where animals are in love,

And a world where people are all treated equally no matter how different. –Kielan (6th grade)

I believe in unicorns,

dancing through the skies,

I believe in magic,

right before my eyes,

I believe in mermaids,

swimming through the seas. — Lynzee (1st grade)

And this response from Vannisa prompted me to look up the word sonder. I found an interesting YouTube video.

“I believe that you can’t judge a person when you first meet them, or barely know them. Every person you interact with or even just pass by, has a story and memories of their life that you know nothing about. I think it’s an interesting concept to think about. The word for this, which I think isn’t an actual word, is sonder. Some people live by quotes, but I think that sonder is a great word to live by. –Vannisa (6th grade)”

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Spirit Tree

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

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

Holly invites us to write about each other’s one little word. This week we are writing about my word, Present. Click on the icon above to go to other blogs to see what they are saying about Presence.

On Sunday, one of the readings was from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. He writes about spiritual gifts. Thinking of the word presents as a synonym for gifts, I decided to re-write the verse into a more modern version.

A rewriting of Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians 12:1-11

Now concerning spiritual gifts, there are many.
The Spirit is generous when you agree to it.
Manifested for peace and goodness,
our hearts must play along.

You may have the gift of speaking
with confidence and knowledge.
Like our friend, Martin, with his dream,
you should speak up.

You may be the one we can all count on,
you show up and bring food. You give us hugs
and tell us how pretty we look today.

You may be the one who comforts, you know
about essential oils and whole foods. Your touch
on our chakras can produce heat and healing.

You may understand fully the phases of the moon.
You know the best time to plant trees. You feed the birds.
You have an herb garden.
And free range chickens. One is named Harvey.

You may be a collector of words,
Uplifting our days on Facebook
with a quote of the day.
Always clever, ever kind.

Whatever your gift of the Spirit is,
use it. Flaunt it. Show it off.
You never know who’s watching,
learning, growing, needing
the very thing you have to give.

Don’t question the Spirit. It knows
what it knows and chooses whom it chooses.
Embrace His Presence. Let it shine.
Let it shine.
Let it shine!

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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

Being present is easy when the light shines on resurrection fern making shadows  to fascinate me.  --Margaret G Simon, OLW

Being present is easy
when the light shines
on resurrection fern
making shadows to
fascinate me.
–Margaret G Simon, OLW

For this new year of blogging about digital literacy, I decided to use prompts to get us thinking and reflecting. If you have any topic ideas, please share them with me. This week we are discussing digital versus nondigital.

In my classroom we have stopped having conversations about digital vs. nondigital writing. Writing is writing, whether you are typing on a blog site or writing in a notebook. We utilize each as a tool for writing. The choice is theirs. Some choose to brainstorm in a notebook. Some will go straight to the blog and open a draft. Some will type in a word document first, then copy and paste to the blog. Some print out each draft. The choices are as varied as there are students in the room.

The computer should be a tool that is available as a choice. In my classroom, we make use of every space: the desk for writing, the corner for reading, the computer tables for blogging.

This week my students wrote Harris Burdick stories. The Mysteries of Harris Burdick was originally a collection of black and white illustrations by Chris Van Allsburg including a title and a caption. The story was left to your imagination. In 2011, The Chronicles of Harris Burdick was published. This book includes short stories written by well-known middle-grade authors, such as Jon Scieszka, Kate DiCamillo, and Walter Dean Myers.

I shared The Chronicles of Harris Burdick with my students. We read a few of the stories aloud. Then they each picked an illustration to write about. I was amazed how well this worked for even my youngest writers. Madison wrote the most words she’s ever written in her life. (She’s a second grader.) Jacob incorporated a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk. Kielan would not be distracted. She sat at the computer for three days typing furiously.


One night a girl named Ruby, who was 10 years old, went to the library to get a book because she loved books. The librarian named Mr. Klein warned her not to get the ancient book because it killed a boy named Jack. She didn’t hear him because she was playing music on her headphones. She took her book home and read it. As she was reading it, the vine pulled her right into the book. As she was dreaming about candy canes and gumdrops, it all changed into a story. The only way she could get out of the book was beating the fairy tale in the book. The first fairy tale was Jack and the bean stalk. (Jacob, 2nd grade)

Madison and Emily wrote their first drafts in their notebooks. Tobie just opened up a draft post on the blog and dove right in. Kielan typed directly into a word document. I observed my students go through the writing process in their own way. Some of them needed talk time. When Lynzee was stuck, she chatted with Emily about where her story could go.

Eventually, though, every story will be typed into our Kidblog site. Because this is how we share our writing. We have Kidblog connections out in the world. I’ve encouraged my students to “hack” into other blogs and write comments. They are getting a glimpse into the marvel of “meeting” people online. These connections have not caught on like I had hoped, so I have put a new blog connection on the board each week and required my students to connect to at least 3 other students. They give me a sticky note with the three names on them (accountability).

Would an old-fashioned pen pal letter be more meaningful? I’m not sure. When I was teaching back in the 90’s, we did pen pal letters. The students would wait weeks and weeks for their letters. Then they would write the minimal in a response. I never quite got them gung-ho about this project either.

Today, the world is digital. Nondigital is not going away. I still have about 5 journals floating around. I have stacks of books to read. I even managed to hand-make and handwrite thank you notes for Christmas gifts. Whether digital or not, literacies are about reading, writing, connecting, expressing, and being present.

Please add your blog link. Thanks for stopping by.

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Join the Poetry Friday round-up with Keri at Keri Recommends

Join the Poetry Friday round-up with Keri at Keri Recommends

Last week Michelle Barnes interviewed Douglas Florian who challenged poets to write a poem about nothing.  On Saturday, I had a bunch of nothing much going on and I read a poem by Barbara Crooker that was about nothing and the joy of a day when nothing goes wrong.  I stole a line and off I went.

with a borrowed line from Barbara Crooker, “Ordinary Life” in The Woman in this Poem selected by Georgia Heard.

This was a day when nothing happened.

I swept the floor.
Leaves piled with swirly
dust–not many left on trees

this winter day, but the sun
shone through a break in the clouds
making my gathering glisten.

I stopped to switch laundry
pulled long sleeves from the dryer.
Soft warmth brushed my cheek.

View from my kitchen window, by Margaret Simon

View from my kitchen window, by Margaret Simon

The dryer hummed a rhythm.
Time enough for another cup of coffee,
another deep breath of nothing happening.

I promised God to be present.
He said, “It’s all in the way you look at things.”
So I swept

words into a small pile
on a page
where nothing much was happening.

–Margaret Simon



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