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Archive for August, 2017

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

 

Grace takes a breath.

Grace assumes positive intent. Grace gives us permission to fail or forget or forge ahead. Grace helps us to try again, to keep going, to work the tasks, one manageable piece at a time.

Lee Ann Spillane

For my one little word in 2017, I chose Cherish.  There was purpose in this as I knew the special moments with my children would be fewer.  I wanted to be sure to cherish every family event.  And I did.  We had a beautiful wedding in March, and I cherished visiting time with family this summer.

 

Things change.  Fast forward to August, 2017 when the thing I need most is grace.  The kind of grace that Lee Ann Spillane is asking for.  The grace that lets me be imperfect and unorganized, stressed out and overwhelmed.

This grace comes in the questions from my yoga instructor on Saturday:

How will you enter into this day?
Will you try to fit through the needle?
What is the shape of a cloud?

Metaphorical me wants to have grace like a cloud, not the stormy ones that have threatened the Gulf coast this week, but those white fluffy ones.  The ones that cover the sun allowing crepuscular rays to escape.  I find hope in those clouds. I can be any shape I want to be.

I received grace in the storm.

Hurricane Harvey has devastated Houston. For that, I am deeply saddened and continually praying.  Around here in South Louisiana, we’ve had rain, rain, rain.  School was cancelled due to street flooding, but so far no home damage.

My grace came in the shape of a storm.  Time to resettle myself.  Time to regroup, reorganize, and get a grip.  Time to cherish my good fortune and blessings.

Help Houston:

Kate Messner has set up an auction KitLit Cares.  Please consider a bid to benefit yourself and your students and ultimately help our friends in Houston.

This storm just won’t quit.  My friend, author Caroline Sibbald Leech, posted this link for places to donate and ways to help.

 

Be sure to set aside time on Labor Day evening to join the #TeachWrite Twitter chat as we discuss finding time to write.

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Poetry Friday posts are with Jone at Check it Out.

Image from Nola.com

What do you do when there’s a hurricane in the Gulf? Write a poem about it, of course. Here in South Louisiana, we are no strangers to the dangers of hurricanes. Hurricane Harvey is threatening, but all models show the brunt of the storm heading into west Texas, miles away from us. We will have rain, days and days of rain, which could lead to some flooding. That remains to be seen.

I asked my students to list all the words they could think of about hurricanes. Their lists included words like danger, wind, storm, and bigger words like magnificent and treacherous. We talked about the poetry form called a cinquain. We counted syllables in the words we had listed. Doom and gloom poems emerged.

The weather channel is on.  We are watching the progress.  These weather events are scary yet intriguing.  We can channel our thoughts and worries and fascination into words.

Tracking
hurricane’s path
swirling charged red center
unwanted catastrophic storm
Gulf beast

–Margaret Simon

Massive
Dangerous floods
Treacherous destruction
Magnificent monstrous mammoth
Scary
–Noah, 6th grade

Jacob chose to write a free verse poem. I like to introduce forms, but also choice. There should always be choice.

Hurricane Harvey

A spinning circle of destruction
On a treacherous journey through ruined parts of Earth
Walking through this dark thick rain, trying to find home
I see the eye of this magnificent beast
I stare as the tornadoes and rain fly away in the sky
I see the Sun, I know that this monster of wind and rain is over.

–Jacob, 4th grade

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

 

There’s no denying that this has been a difficult start to a new year of teaching. I’ve been faced with a number of new directives, new policies and new students. I have felt like I would never quite get my feet on the ground.

I started this week with teaching the Book, Head, Heart framework from Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst. (Christina Noseck was interviewed by Scholastic and quoted in this article about the framework.) While I was discussing the Heart part of reviewing a book, I made a mental connection. Here I’ve been overwhelmed and quite ranty if you’ve been within earshot lately, but what is the heart of my call to teaching?…the kids.

I looked at my group of students all attentive and ready to learn and realized that none of that other stuff matters all that much. Not as much as this: The heart of my teaching is connecting to the heart of a child. This is going to be a great year all because of the hearts I have the privilege of spending time nurturing.

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I believe there is a time for everything, like the song, “To every thing, turn…” Even for the best of ideas, the time for its purpose runs out.  I have been struggling with this idea about DigiLitSunday for a while.  It’s hard to let it go, but I feel it’s time to move on.

This school year has new challenges for me.  But the greatest challenge is time.  Some things have to go.  I’ve decided to let this blog link-up go.  I will continue to try to post on Tuesdays for Slice of Life and Fridays for Poetry Friday and the occasional Saturday Celebrate. I love my blog space and my blogging community.

Recently I joined the team for a new Twitter chat, #TeachWrite.  Join us for our September chat on Monday evening, Sept. 4th at 7:30 EST.  Ironically, our September topic is “Finding Time for Writing.”

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Poetry Friday posts are with Kay at A Journey through the Pages.

Monday, August 21st is the day. Here in South Louisiana we will get about 72% of the total eclipse. On this site, you can put in your zip code to see what time is best for viewing and how much you will see.

Kelly Gallagher sent out this article of the week for students to read closely.

NASA is full of interesting information.  I even found a lesson for my students here that I adapted for younger kids.

On Facebook for Laura Shovan’s 10 words project, Jone MacCulloch posted this:

My students enjoy writing poems about science.  This 10-word prompt worked well for those kids who don’t know what to write when given a more open topic.  By doing this activity, we discussed words we didn’t know and then used them in a poem.  What better way to incorporate science topics, vocabulary, and reading comprehension?  Poetry does it all!

Solar Eclipse

As the sky turns obscure

the shadow will reveal the corona.

The eclipse will collect luminosity

as if it is understanding

that it is interconnected

with the universe.

By now the Solar eclipse should be charged

since the last random appearance.

–Faith, 6th grade

I drafted a poem alongside my students.  Mine is not about the solar eclipse, but an eclipse of another kind.

Cicadas Sing to the Sun

Charged with luminosity,
cicada songs rise in a corona of sound.

My shadow follows their lead,
not to understanding, but
to hope.

When hearts are eclipsed
by misunderstanding,
we forget
our interconnected stories–
yours, mine, ours,
theirs, too.

Obscurity reveals our vulnerability.

When we are too close to the edge
of possibility, one step forward
can change everything.

Be careful where you step.

–Margaret Simon

 

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

I, like many of you, have been sad, mad, and disgusted by the recent happenings right here in our own country. In our own nation where freedom has been a song sung for generations, white supremacists have stained the honor of that freedom with hypocrisy, hatred, and violence. And, like many of you, I don’t know what to do with my feelings.

On Sunday evening, I answered a Facebook call to a vigil, a simple gathering of diverse people who held candles, sang songs, read poems, quoted speeches, and together held each other up in prayer. We celebrated our freedom to do this on public ground without fear.

I don’t believe that attending a vigil will change much, but it was someplace to go and be with my community in support of the community of Charlottesville. Charlottesville never asked for their town to be the marketplace for hatred. They never wanted angry men carrying tikki torches to make a spectacle of their freedom. How did this happen? I have no answers.

On Monday morning, I spotted this brief rainbow. To me, this is always a sign of God’s promise. We all need to let go of discrimination, prejudice, and intolerance. We are better than this.

My friend Nettie attended Sunday’s vigil. She read aloud the poem, Stonewall Nation. She read it with conviction and passion.

I hope these dark days will pass, and all of us will join together in being a better people and a better nation.

Come on brothers, march along.
We’re all gonna sing our song.
Right now, right now.
Sisters Take me by the hand,
We’re gonna build our promise land,
Right now, right now.

And the Stonewall Nation’s,
Gonna have its liberation.
Wait and see, just wait and see.
You can take your tolerance and stow it,
We’re gonna be ourselves and show it.
The Stonewall Nation is gonna be free.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

 

I know “pantser” isn’t a real word.  It’s derived from the phrase, “flying by the seat of your pants.”  I’ve seen this term used in reference to writing style, “Do you plot or pants?”

This tweet from Ralph Fletcher during the Two Writing Teachers Twitter chat jump-started my thinking about this idea.

I started thinking about my first week of teaching and how often I veered off the plan. Pantsing it is where I find my creative teacher self. It’s when my students tend to respond more authentically.

I understand the purpose of planning, and I am certainly capable of falling into a planning zone when I’m writing my lesson plans for the week. I research to find the resources I may need to use. I write out an outline of this, this, then this. But once the day starts and there are real live children sitting in front of me, I begin to fly by the seat of my pants.

Actually I like the phrase, “Go with the Flow” better. As a teacher, my calling is to respond to the needs of my students, or to the creative flow they direct.

This is a silly example: I bought a chair at Goodwill that had an exercise ball in it. I spray painted the black plastic part orange. I brought it to my classroom. When we had writing workshop and were ready to share, the students brought out the ball chair to sit on. I said, “This is our new author’s chair” like that was my plan all along. The kids called it a snail. I said, “Author’s snail” which became “Arthur the author’s snail.”

I wanted to have a soft start to the day this year. This is the kind of thing that if you don’t start on day one and continue, it won’t happen. The planner in me put on some quiet music (I had carefully selected and downloaded it to my phone), and we all read silently for 20 minutes. I read, too, which felt like a joyful rest from the rush of getting to school.

Then my pantser self kicked in, but only because I had read Dynamic Teaching by Vicki Vinton this summer. Following the quiet reading session, I asked my students to take some time to write about what they knew so far and what they were wondering about. Then to turn and talk to their neighbor about the book they were reading. This started meaningful conversations about books that have continued all week.

Being a pantser comes with experience. I have lots of strategies in my tool bag just waiting for the right time to be used. I think it’s time for me to stop feeling guilty when I run off the lesson plan. Actually, I want to embrace my pantser self and bring her out more often. That’s when the real teaching happens.

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