Archive for September, 2016


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

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

There is no better time for me to revisit my One Little Word than this week, the week my daughter Katherine is getting married.  It’s here!  We’ve worked for months to be ready for this day, cleaning, painting, planting… And here it is.

I want to be present for this event.  I want to lose the list that has been running my life, and just BE!

My Enneagram Thought for the Day for Sunday was this: “How can you fully experience your Presence here and now? Allow yourself to be touched by impressions of life around you.”

Photography helps me experience Presence.  I stop and pay attention.

A heron happened by.

Bayou Teche blue heron, photo by Margaret Simon

Bayou Teche blue heron, photo by Margaret Simon

Light made shadows on the side of our house.


And fresh acorns match the color of Bill’s eyes.



A close friend advised me that when the wedding day comes, the details are done, and all that’s left is joy.  I am ready to be Present for the Joy.

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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


Eva (not her real name) walked into my room quietly.  Her usual smile and enthusiasm wasn’t there, so I called her over to me.  “What’s going on?  You look sad.”

“No one in our class is brave enough to ask if we to get the poster for our teacher.”

Eva’s math teacher had been sick all week, and she had worked with some other girls to make a poster for her. They were hiding it in another classroom.

“Why don’t you try asking her ‘When would be a good time?'” She liked this suggestion, but then tears welled up in her eyes.

“And my dog was stolen.  I know they took her to fight.”

“What? How do you know this?”

After our discussion, I found out Eva’s dog is a pit bull.  She went on about how pit bulls are not bred to fight.  They are trained. And it’s cruel.

It was Wonder Day, so I suggested she use dog fighting as her topic.  She spent a little time reading about pit bulls and dog fighting.

wonderopolis logo

Then she checked Wonderopolis.  There she found another topic of interest, “Why do parents get divorced?”  Eva’s parents have been struggling for a while.  I’ve taught her since she was in first grade.  She’s now in fifth.  As she wrote on a recent card to me, “We’ve been through thick and thin.”

I teach my students year after year, from the time they are identified as gifted to their end of elementary school.  This can be up to 6 years.  You really get to know a child after this amount of time.  With this knowledge, I am able to give my students agency.  I know them well.  I can direct them to channel their concerns about themselves and the world into their research and writing.

Dabrowsky identified overexcitabilities in gifted students.  I see these qualities every day.  Eva is a prime example of a student with emotional overexcitabilities. She has a heightened sensitivity to right and wrong.  She is timid, but has a deep understanding of her emotions and why she feels what she feels.

In the end, after much bouncing around from topic to topic, Eva asked, “Can I design a web site of my own?”

She had discovered the Wonderopolis topic, “How do You Create a Website?”

I thought she would want to create a website about dog fighting or helping kids get through divorce, but she had moved on. Eva wanted to build a website called “Share your Story” where kids can submit their own stories and teachers can use it to showcase student writing. Where did this come from? I embraced Eva’s idea and got her started on Edublogs. We’ll see. I hope she will stick with this idea, but I really never know with my students. Especially, the emotional ones like Eva.

I follow my students’ lead because I know that it will take me down a new and exciting path. I honor their choices and work to give them a space where their voices are heard.

Link up your posts about Agency (or anything DigiLit) below. Next weekend, my daughter is getting married. Julieanne Harmatz will host the link up at her blog, To Read To Write To Be.

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Poetry Friday is with Catherine at Reading to the Core.

Poetry Friday is with Catherine at Reading to the Core.


I am a big fan of poet Laura Purdie Salas.  Every Thursday she posts an image and invites her readers to write a poem in 15 words or less.  I love this challenge.  Her post yesterday reminded me of sparklers.  I left the computer, made coffee, and these words came into my head.  Then last night’s Good2Great chat (#G2Great) was about Dreaming Big.  This is what my Big Dream is all about: lighting that fire of passion in my students.


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

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


If you follow my blog, you know I am a little obsessed with poetry. In the world of words, syllables, and sounds, I find puzzles in making them all fit together into something meaningful. Jane Yolen was recently featured on Michelle Barnes’ Today’s Little Ditty with a challenge to write septercets. This is a form Jane Yolen created with the pattern of seven syllables in three line stanzas.

I challenged my students to write septercets. And I played along.

I Spy

Looking for spinning spiders
hiding between limbs of trees
miraculous thread designs

Studying patterns of light
refraction reflecting bows
miraculous sky designs

Skipping stones from uncle’s pier
a ripple breaks the surface
miraculous water designs

–Margaret Simon

Can you write a septercet about the harvest moon above? Share in the comments and on Ditty of the Month padlet.

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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

Lani watches a video about solar storms on Wonderopolis.

Lani watches a video about solar storms on Wonderopolis.


Yesterday I made the biggest mistake of my life. I went outside in a big, fat LIGHTNING STORM! I almost got struck by lightning too! (Kids, just don’t make my life choices.) It all started in Breaux Bridge…

I went to Dixie RV ”Super Store” to shop for a vacation RV. Out of the crystal blue sky fell a raindrop. It started drizzling. (I don’t know How it was possible, when all the clouds were pearly white.)

In a matter of SECONDS it started raining in like the flood was back. The ditches were filling up in 0.2 seconds. Then, the lightning started acting like stupid Angry Birds and I was the little Piggie with a phone as an egg. To make matters worse, Dixie RV has to be rich and have golf carts to ride around in the windy rain. While the rain was blowing in my face I noticed a tragedy. My phone was getting wet! I screamed in my mind so loud that I am sure everyone heard me.

I got out of the golf cart and a lighting strike was about 2 inches from meeting my face! I screamed to the gods and cried of scaredness. Hey! You would cry too! Guarantee!!! That experience has taught me a very important lesson: NEVER GO OUT IN A LIGHTNING STORM! BAD IDEA!!!!

Slice of Life by Lani (5th grade)

Every week my students write a Slice of Life on our class kidblog site, Mrs. Simon’s Sea.   With digital tools such as grammarly, edit, copy, paste, etc., they can successfully post a small piece of their lives.  Some of my students, like Lani, write these with ease.  Lani sees the drama in everyday life.

I used the above slice as a mentor text this week.  I wanted my students to notice how a small moment can be big. I wanted them to identify craft moves to emulate.  So I asked them, “What do you notice?”  We made a list.

  • All caps used to show emphasis.
  • exaggeration (hyperbole) that creates interest.
  • paragraph structure
  • ellipses…
  • parenthetical statement (adds voice)
  • imagery “crystal blue sky” and “pearly white clouds”
  • simile (metaphor)

Madison tried it out.

Two NIGHTS ago there was a LITERAL LIGHTNING STORM!!!! It all started on my way to Olive Garden…..

We were just on the highway out of my cousins trailer park and when I was looking out of the window and then there was huge flash of lightning and another and they scared me, but, atleast they stayed in the clouds!

After a few minutes, when I was looking out of the front window, there was a HUGE flash of lightning and I practically jumped out of my seat, and since the sky was so black that you couldn’t see the clouds, I was really scared!(It was scary since you couldn’t see where the lightning was going to come from.)

Slice of Life by Madison (3rd grade)

Drafting and revising a weekly slice gives my students practice in writing long about a small moment, a chance to try out craft moves, and a platform for their own voice.  For me, when my students compose digitally, I am able to easily grab mentor texts for lessons.  I can hold up my students as examples.  I can shine a light on good writing.

Join the conversation by leaving your link.


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Find more celebration posts at Ruth's blog.

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.


The Queen of Dot Day!

The Queen of Dot Day!


Thursday, September 15th was Dot Day.  My students love Dot Day.  Since I teach them year after year, they look forward to it from the first day of school.  International Dot Day was inspired by teacher Terry Shay in 2009.  The day is designed around The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.  In The Dot, Vashti doesn’t feel like she can do art in art class.  She turns away from her paper.  But through the gentle guidance of her teacher, she discovers within herself a budding dot artist.  In the end, she passes on this confidence to another child who says he can’t draw a straight line with a ruler.  The Dot shows students in a very accessible way that they can be creative.

This summer I was privileged to join a Google Hangout with Trevor Bryan.  Trevor is writing a book around the Art of Comprehension.  He uses The Dot to show how students can access text and images through different lenses.  My students responded well to the Art of Comprehension, sharing eagerly about what they saw and read about Vashti’s changing mood.  One of my students, a 2nd grader, said Vashti had an aura.  She was referring to the changing color of the dot that surrounds Vashti on each page.

After we read and discussed the book, I invited my students to make a dot using this plan I found in Scholastic Teacher Magazine.  The art teacher let us use her oil pastels.  First we decorated the plate.  Then we made 19 evenly spaced slits around the rim of the plate. (I used the bumps on the edges to help the kids know where to make the cuts, every third bump.) Then we threaded yarn around the plate to create a base for weaving.  Most of my students had never weaved yarn before.  They loved this new activity.


Weaving is a new activity for my students.

Weaving is a new activity for my students.

I wore my Dot Day skirt made especially for me by my friend Cathy and the official Dot Day t-shirt.  One student dubbed me the Queen of Dot Day.  And another said, “Mrs. Simon, thank you for giving us Dot Day!”

A joyful celebration of creativity, reading, and just being you!




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

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

Last week, Michelle welcomed Laura Shovan to her blog with a workshop idea around Fractured Fairy Tales.

I have ordered the two books she suggested, Sleeping Ugly by Jane Yolen and Mirror, Mirror by Marilyn Singer.

Ava reading at A&E Gallery, November, 2013

Ava reading at A&E Gallery, November, 2013

In the meantime, I was reminded of a book of poetry I have by Ava Leavell Haymon, former poet laureate of Louisiana, Why the House is Made of Gingerbread. This book is really for adult readers, but a few years ago Lemony Snicket published a collection of poems for adults that children would like, available here on the Poetry Foundation. He selected Ava’s The Witch has Told You a Story for this collection.

You are food.
You are here for me
to eat. Fatten up,
and I will like you better.

Your brother will be first,
you must wait your turn.
Feed him yourself, you will
learn to do it. You will take him

eggs with yellow sauce, muffins
torn apart and leaking butter, fried meats
late in the morning, and always sweets
in a sticky parade from the kitchen.

His vigilance, an ice pick of   hunger
pricking his insides, will melt
in the unctuous cream fillings.
He will forget. He will thank you

for it. His little finger stuck every day
through cracks in the bars
will grow sleek and round,
his hollow face swell

like the moon. He will stop dreaming
about fear in the woods without food.
He will lean toward the maw
of   the oven as it opens

every afternoon, sighing
better and better smells.
Ava Leavell Haymon

My lesson plan around fractured fairy tale poems will include this poem about Hansel and Gretel.

Jane Yolen challenges us this month to write a septercet, a form she invented.  Each line of the 3 lined stanza has 7 syllables. I will ask my students to write a septercet about a favorite fairy tale, fractured or not.  So I’m giving it a try myself.

Fairy White

When she wanders in the woods,
soft white reflecting diamonds,
her fair skin glows like snowflakes.

Apple laced in evil spells
tastes of beauty golden red
slips her slowly into sleep.

Finally she rests from all
her troubles. Let her be free.
Love will find a peaceful soul.

–Margaret Simon



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