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Archive for September, 2017

Poetry Friday posts with Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World for Kids

 

While summer seems far away as I end my eighth week in school, my poetry swap gifts continue to come.  Jone and Iphigene both contacted me by email to say their poetry gifts were late.  I was late, too, so I didn’t mind.  In fact, I love receiving a surprise in the mail…anytime.  Iphigene’s gift included this beautiful painting of the bayou.  She lives in the Philippines, so she had to use images from my blog to imagine this scene.  She definitely captured the peacefulness.

Bayou Teche by Iphigene Daradar. Acrylic on paper.

This is what Iphigene said in her note to me about composing the poem:

“When I was conceptualizing the poem, I thought I’d write about the Teche, but as I read your recent blog posts, the idea of impossible, possible, and overcoming kept surfacing.  In the end, I wrote a poem with those words in mind. The tone of the poem, too, is not my usual.  It was influenced by the biopic of Emily Dickinson called A Quiet Passion.”

The Extent of Our Souls

By Iphigene (For Margaret)

There is an extent by which our soul stretches
One that is measured by words
Short phrases echoed through
In the silence of our minds

In the loose utterance of
‘stupid’ and ‘can’t’
Mingled in laughter, our skin
Think as nothing

Our souls call as truth
Like a seed planted
In perfect day, bears root
Bears bloom, each day

And so, our soul, fits itself
In the limits of our bodies
Brittle for the measure—
Impossible.

However,
As those who know words
Who play with the scales of phrases
Our measures change with space
And rightly placed punctuation

I’m possible.
Feel the impossible stretch
And the soul re-tells its truth
Stretching to ‘greatness’
And knowing it can.

Bearing roots that bloom
Perennial in the hearts
Of those who try to stretch
Their souls to possibility
and its truth.

This week I was blessed by a gift from Jone MacCulloch.  She takes beautiful photographs.  She sent an amazing close-up of a dahlia and her poem printed on a plaque that stands.  In addition to the photo-plaque, she sent a copy of her book  Solace in Nature which is a collection of her photos and poems.

photo and poem by Jone MacCulloch

 

Here is a photo and poem from her book, Solace in Nature.

winged fighter pilots
dive bomb daily
over sweet nectar
by Jone MacCulloch

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Poetry Friday posts are over at The Poem Farm with Amy.

Thursday, Sept. 21st was International Peace Day.  I don’t think I would have known this without the intentional movement by Amy Ludwig VanDerwater.  Her efforts to promote Peace Day resulted in this padlet of wonderful resources.

I wish I could’ve taught Peace Day all week, but I reserved it for Thursday.  My students explored peace poems, made peace heart maps, and wrote poems of their own.  We had a wonderful celebration of peace.

Peace Heart Map by Jacob

Peace and Harmony
by Jacob

I am a seed
spreading across the world
filling the world
with peace and harmony.
Leaves shaped of hearts
making everyone
feel happiness.  

Peace Heart Map by Madison

On the Wings of a Butterfly
By Madison

Peace to come
on the wings
of a butterfly.

Peace to come
to silent wars
with melodies of peace.

Peace to come
in the purr
of a cat.

Peace to come
in your heart.
Let it spread.

Over at Today’s Little Ditty, Carole Boston Weatherford created a challenge to write an abecedarian poem.  I wrote one for peace and added it to Michelle’s padlet here.

Abecedarian Peace Poem

A peaceful world can
Be–
Caring will make it so.

Dance with
Each other
Face to face; Don’t
Give in to
Hate

Inch by inch we
Join our
Kindred hearts with
Love
Made
Noticeable
Only when
Peace is our
Quest

Resist a hateful
Stance
Tap-tap
Unified
Variations
With
X-steps–
Your own
Zydeco two-step of Peace!

–Margaret Simon, 2017, all rights reserved.

 

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

 

Madison came into my gifted class when she was in second grade.  On day one, she wrote 3 blog posts and was hooked on writing.  Now in 4th grade, she came up with an idea for a story writing club.  This was a result of problem solving.  She loves writing stories, particularly fan fiction to Warrior Cats, but she didn’t think many people were reading her blog posts.  She thought if we had a blog that was specific to writing stories, maybe those kids who are interested in writing as well as reading stories could join.

 

With a new subscription to Kidblog from my district’s gifted program, we teachers are able to have multiple sites with the same students.  Story Writing Club was born. The day after I set up the blog was a Saturday, but Madison checked in and wrote this post.

Hello. This was originally my idea, so.. I guess I’ll make the Welcome – To – This – Blog – Post. 

This is a blog where you make your stories- nonfiction, fiction, or any genre. Chapter by chapter, or just a normal picture book.

Word, by word, by word, we are changing ourselves into authors. Word. By word. By. Word.

Think of your ideas as silk or cotton. Weave them together- make cloth. Now it’s time to put the cloth together to make a wonderful story.

I hope you enjoy making wonderful stories out of many ideas.

Buh-bye!

I introduced the idea to all my classes (I teach 3 groups of gifted students at 3 different schools).  To date, eleven kids have signed on.  And they can’t wait to write.  This is an highly motivating free time activity.  Madison created a story about cats, of course.  She is also very talented at digital art.  This is an image of one of her story characters.

When students writing stories they want to write, they learn the stuff of writers that I could never teach them.  Jacob was writing his second chapter today, and he exclaimed, “You know the berries from chapter one? Well, turns out he needed them in chapter two.  I didn’t know that would happen.”

Jacob wrote, “He took out the berries that Triton saved in his booksack. The creature seemed to love them. Triton tossed the creature a berry, in a second it gobbled up the berry.”

Sometimes writers follow the story and find their way.

I love that my students are experiencing the joy of writing with little direction from me.  We often talk about student-driven learning but rarely do we really have the opportunity to make it happen.  I applaud Madison’s resourcefulness in building a community that would support her passion.  These are lessons that don’t make it into the standards but will support my students in being the best they can be.

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#DWhabit The habit of writing daily with Jennifer Laffin. Click to connect to her site.

Today’s daily writing word is Unite.  For me, this word connects some dots in the world.  The first dot was the sermon at my church today.  Our priest talked about Quantum Entanglement and how it works with prayer; the idea that the life and death of each of us has influence over the other.  When we hold another person in our hearts, as in prayer, we are connected.

The second dot is the International Peace Day, which is this Thursday, Sept. 21st.  Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is collecting resources on this padlet.  I want to work with my students on peace poems.  My plan is to pass out a variety of poems about peace and have groups of students discuss them, then turn to their own writing.

The third dot is an acrostic poem I wrote this morning in response to the word Unite.

 

Another dot in this united maze is a story I heard from a friend about Constitution Day at a local university.  She said a Muslim woman was naturalized at the ceremony; however, when asked if she would pose with her family for a photograph, she said she was afraid.  My friend cried telling this story.  How can we offer freedom and citizenship along with fear?  I hope the energy of kindness and support surrounding this special day planted a seed of peace. May we all be seeds of peace.

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Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

Recently I have connected with Jennifer Laffin of Teach Write.  She invited me to be a part of a team encouraging teachers to write.  Our monthly Twitter chats occur on the first Monday at 7:30 PM EST with the hashtag #TeachWrite. (Our next chat is Oct. 2, 2017.) I subscribed to her personal blog as well as her professional one at Sweet Writing Life.  She wanted to commit herself to a more disciplined daily writing routine, so she started a daily word prompt.  She tweets the word at #DWHabit.  This was today’s tweet:

 

I am not sure I will have the time to respond every day, but today, I took the word explain for a walk.  My students teach me over and over again that sometimes I need to stop, take a breath, and backtrack before moving on.  Sometimes more words just muddy the waters. This is a first draft poem.

Explanation

I don’t want to explain again
and again.  Words hit the air,
make waves that dissipate,
fall
before your ears
catch them.

I’d rather you look
into my eyes
to understand,
feel in your heart
a knowing.

My breath is tired
of moving
so fast, so I stop.
Pause.
Fingers to my lips
forbid me to move on.

When I hit the reset button,
I can hear your confusion.
I am the one
who needs to retrace my steps,
start over,

and listen.

Thanks for this prompt, Jennifer.

If you choose to join Jennifer and me practicing our daily writing muscles, tune in to #DWHabit or follow Jennifer on Facebook.

 

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Poetry Friday posts are with Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty.

 

dots

One of my favorite days of the school year is Dot Day.  My students love it, too.  Today we will be making creative dots in class.  I’ll post them next week.

In preparation for our Friday celebration, I shared Laura Purdie Salas’s Dot poem.

 

Laura Purdie Salas

As a class, we brainstormed a list of things that were dots.  I asked my students to write a rhyming couplet with one or two of the ideas we listed.

Writing a rhyming couplet seems easy, at first.  I quickly discovered that rhyming doesn’t go together with making sense in kids’ writing.  We had lots of a lots rhyming with dots.  We even had cots and bots.  We also had internal rhyme rather than end rhyme, slant rhyme, and some just plain nonsense.

One student said, “This is hard.”

I responded, “Yes, but isn’t it fun when it works?”

We persevered and created a poem everyone was happy with. I am sharing two poems from each of my ELA groups.

 

A Pixel on the Page

A pixel on the page is just the start
for what may become a famous work of art.

Everything is made up of matter,
even the mad hatter.

Dots are everywhere
as well as over there.

A dot is the sun. A dot is the moon
disappearing around noon.

The earth is a dot
in not just one spot.

Want to make a rhyme,
running out of time?
Who you gonna call?
The majestic, dotty, narwhal.

One dot, two dots,
three dots, four,
five dots, six dots,
seven dots,
let’s add some more.

A dot is a dot
and there are quite a lot.

All you need is a spot
to make a dot.

I’m a dot, you’re a dot, everything’s a dot.
A dot can be super hot
spilled on the floor
dots,
        dots,
                 dots
                           galore.

 

 

Dot to Dot

Put an egg in a pot to boil
water bubbles, bump and coil.

My fingerprint marks a dot
leaving my dirt in a swirling spot.

A period on the end of a line
On a piece of paper ready to sign.

Potatoes, tomatoes, grapes on the vine
A salad combined for us to dine.

A seed that will grow into a tree
pollinated by a tiny little bee.

A dot…
a dot is a lens on the tip of your eye
looking for clouds high in the sky.

A dot is spot we can see
like that chocolate chip in my cookie.

 

 

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

 

New York, NY, September 13, 2001 — Urban Search and Rescue specialists continue to search for survivors amongst the wreckage at the World Trade Center.
Photo by Andrea Booher/ FEMA News Photo

I never know if it’s the right thing to do.  I didn’t write it into my lesson plans.  I hesitate every year about teaching 9/11 to my gifted students.  But there’s a part of me that thinks they need to know the truth.  The need to have some seed of understanding about the meaning of that tragic day.

In my email on Monday morning, I read “Teach this Poem” from the Academy of American Poets. I forgot that I had signed up for this email, but I was glad it came.  The lesson gave me strong footing for talking about the unspeakable tragedy of 16 years ago.

First we looked at a photo of the destruction, writing down things we saw.

Some words collected from the image

dust
ash
destruction
devastation
war
dark
despair
collapsed
ruined lives

Then we read Lucille Clifton’s poem Tuesday, 9/11/01.  We noticed in the structure of the poem spaces, no capital letters.  This structure, someone said, expressed how raw and true her response was.  One student read it aloud.  The others hummed at the end, that hum when words hit you right in the gut.

I looked at their faces, the faces of my students who were innocent of terror and fear, but they heard it, they saw it, they got it.  And this understanding made me so extremely sad.

At the end of class, Faith came to me and said, “I need a hug.”

She knew it was me who needed the hug.

How do we best teach this history that is still so new and raw?  Pictures, poems, words, talk, tears.  That’s how.

My students wrote their poetic responses. Some wrote the facts they learned.  Some wrote their own feelings.  Some wrote through the eyes of the helpers.

I wish I didn’t have to teach this day.  I wish this day never happened.  I hope my students walked away with not only the details of the tragedy, but also a heart of kindness, hopefulness, and (please God) peace!

 

Madison’s journal page

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