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Archive for July, 2017

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Do the thing that scares you.”  Armed with years of experience and a strong conviction that writing teachers should write, I did the thing that most scares me…teaching teachers.

I led a weeklong teachers writing institute.  In March I set up a meeting with the curriculum coordinator for elementary schools in our district.  I pitched my idea.  While she was enthusiastic, I never heard back from her.  So I got the guts to send an email inquiry.  Yes, she was still interested, but I needed to meet with the middle school coordinator.  Nearing the end of the school year, I had approval and sent out the flyer.  Surprising to me, the workshop filled quickly.

Since today is about celebrating, I will not go into my disappointments.  I just want to capture the shining stars and bask a bit in their glow.

  • A new teacher, second career, only man in the class said his 17 year old daughter waited each day to read what he wrote.  His father told him to submit his essay to Reader’s Digest.  He is entering his first year of teaching confident that he is a writer.
  • A colleague from the gifted program told me I was a natural.  She said, “You seem so relaxed.  You make us feel comfortable.”  She could not see or feel the nerves churning inside.
  • Following Katherine Bomer’s book, The Journey is Everything, became a guidebook to writing a final essay.  Most teachers wrote an essay they were proud of.  We read and celebrated the writers we had found together.
  • Catherine Flynn joined us by Skype to teach us about visual literacy. (The idea to connect with her came from this post.)  Teachers took notes and talked about ways they could use art with their students.  Thanks, Catherine.
  • On the last day, tears were shed as we got into the deep trenches that writing can take us.  Sharing your own words is an act of faith.  We had become a community of writers.

Writing and sharing on our writing marathon in downtown New Iberia.

I gathered words and phrases from our writing marathon into a collaborative poem.

 

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Tabatha is gathering a stew of Mac & Cheese poems today for Poetry Friday.

Tabatha sent out a call for a poetic celebration of Mac&Cheese for today, National Mac&Cheese Day. I stopped making Mac&Cheese long ago when my girls began to understand and worry about nutrition.  Mac&Cheese is packaged processed food, Mom.  Don’t you know it contains chemicals?

Now my cooking skills are not of the caliber to make Mac&Cheese from scratch.  My son-in-law made it for Thanksgiving a few years ago.  It was delicious, but he made it in vats, so we had to give some away. I have to admit it was better than anything ever made from a box.

For my Mac&Cheese poem, I decided to use a form.  Form helps me when I don’t know what to write.  I chose the Zeno form created by J. Patrick Lewis that follows a syllable count of 8, 4, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1.  I think it’s quite corny, but if anything calls for a side of corn, it’s Mac&Cheese.

 

Tabatha also coordinates the Summer Poetry Swap.  This week I received a most precious set of salt & pepper shakers for my bayou home from Irene Latham.  She also sent a wonderful Nikki Grimes’ style word exploration poem in honor of my recent work-in-progress, Bayou Song.  Thanks, Irene for brightening up a rainy summer day on the bayou.

 

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

 

CyberPD got well underway this week.  All over the globe teachers are reading and discussing Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by Vicki Vinton.  I began reading this book back in June and wrote about my first impressions here. 

I understand Vicki’s frustration with the way reading is being taught.  In order to meet the Common Core Content Standards, we have whittled down the process of reading to extracted strategies.  These strategies help teachers deal with gaps that tend to follow children through their learning career; however, they deny the full process of reading, the experience as a whole.

I am also reading Disrupting Thinking: Why How We Read Matters by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst.  I find the theories in both of these books parallel.  The two books profess that we have taken out not only the whole meaning making process from reading instruction, we have also removed the joy.

Joy of reading is the only thing that will create lifelong readers.  By moving students through the act of reading without addressing how the text makes them feel, we rob them of the experience of seeing themselves in a book or becoming empathetic with someone who is different.

Vicki Vinton professes that we should shift the focus of reading instruction away from text dependent questions to the actual thinking that the reader does.

If our ultimate goal is truly independence, we need students to do much more thinking that highly scaffolded approaches ask of them…students build their identity and sense of agency as readers when they’re the ones doing the work. (p. 23)

At the end of chapter 2, I have highlighted an entire bulleted list of things to remember when planning for more complex reading and thinking.  I paraphrase the list here.

  • Reading is an education of the heart.
  • Meaning is the purpose of reading.
  • Consider how much the author hasn’t said explicitly, problem solve.
  • Help students build their identities as readers.
  • Every student is more than a level. Consider social-emotional needs as well when recommending books.
  • Nothing replaces your own personal judgement about what students need.

As a teacher of gifted students, I find the strict strategy based curriculum does not meet the needs of my students.  My students need more from their reading experiences.  They do not need to be confined by levels or forced to read material that doesn’t interest them.  They rebel against these strict practices.  Vicki’s ideas reflect my own philosophy of teaching.  I know as I continue to read, I will find more connections and ways to enrich the experiences of reading for my students.

If you have a digital literacy post, please leave a link below.

 

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Poetry Friday is Carol at Beyond Literacy Link

 

While I was vacationing for the 4th of July in Santa Fe, NM, my Voxer Good2Great friend, Jen Hayhurst tagged me in a post about her #ProjectPoetry.  I wrote about the project on my Slice of Life post on Tuesday. 

I have this self-assigned goal of writing a poem a day.  That gets tough when you have a husband who wants to walk all over New Mexico.  My writing muscles had to give way to my walking muscles.  Nevertheless, I took some pictures that planted some ideas in my brain.  Once home I had time to sit.  Sit with the images and process a poem.  Jen’s goals for writing poems are to synthesize experience and ignite curiosity.  This is what poetry should be, in our lives as well as in our classrooms.

Last night I watched Kylene Beers and Bob Probst do a Facebook live video about their book, Disrupting Thinking. When someone asked if poetry should be the first unit taught in the school year, Kylene answered, “Poetry is not a unit. Poetry is something we breath in.  We should breathe in poetry every day.”

Take a deep breath and look at the amazing sky.  I was astounded and mesmerized by the huge sky of New Mexico.  It seemed somehow bigger and brighter and mightier there.  Maybe because I was paying attention.  Maybe because there was something to be learned.  Maybe just to be captured in a poem.

The Magic Sky
Sculpts grey clouds
into bursts
of sparkling rain.

Then a rainbow,
a puffy horse
riding beside.

I stand above
this Rio Grande Gorge,
feel like a speck
of dust in the wind
to the magician
of the sky.

–Margaret Simon

Next Friday is National Mac and Cheese Day.  Who knew there was such a thing?  So Poetry Friday folks are planning to write about Mac-n-Cheese.  Join in the yummy fun.

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Find other posts at Writer on a Horse

Pat is gathering our monthly Spiritual Thursday posts around the theme of stepping out of your comfort zone.  For years I have taught young writers’ camps in the summer. But this year I was inspired by Katherine Bomer’s presentation at NCTE last November to try teaching teachers. Katherine’s teacher/students presented about how personal writing led them to be better teachers of writing. I’ve long held this belief for myself, but decided to get out of my comfort zone and share my understanding with other teachers in my own district.

The Teachers Writing Institute begins on Monday. I’m squirming in my seat. What have I gotten myself into? At first I thought no one would sign up, but on the first day the email went out, eleven teachers signed up. We increased the number of participants from 15 to 20.  Now I have a full class of 20 teachers who want to experience their own writing and learn new strategies for teaching.  So, on Monday, I will face 20 expectant teachers. My palms are sweaty. My heart is racing. Can I really do this? Can I make these teachers feel like writers? Can I give them the confidence they need to go back into the classroom and offer freedom and choice in writing to their students?

With Katherine’s book The Journey is Everything and her generous spirit in email exchanges, along with Voxer friends’ advice, a long list of writing prompts, and a stack of mentors, I am as ready as I’ll ever be. I want to hold onto these thoughts:

  • We are all teachers.  We are in this together.
  • Writing is a brave act.  Sharing writing is even braver.
  • You have everything you need.
  • There is a higher source of power (Yahweh God, Holy Spirit) open to me.
  • Nothing and no one is perfect.
  • Let the work of writing together be the focus.

And it won’t hurt if I know you are praying for me.  Thanks!

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

An invitation to #ProjectPoem

Jenn Hayhurst tagged me in a post on Facebook asking me to join in a project she is playing with this summer: #ProjectPoem. The premise is that teachers of writing should write, a mantra of mine adapted from the work of Donald Graves. She is asking teachers to synthesize experience into poetic form in 140 characters.

I joined in with the image below. I am on vacation in Santa Fe, NM and staying at a lovely casita. The patio is private, quiet, and inviting. The picture is a side garden of Aspen trees.

My writing friend, Linda Mitchell, recently visited Seattle. There she collected words and made collage poems from them. I took inspiration from her to capture the feeling in Santa Fe. There was a procession to return an old statue of Mary to the Cathedral of Saint Frances. The people here are serious about their worship of Mary.

Consider joining in the summer writing fun by tweeting your poem to #ProjectPoem and tagging me @MargaretGSimon and Jenn @hayhurst3.  I made the first image using the app WordSwag, the second in Canva.

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