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Archive for January, 2018

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

 

Last week my students and I read together a Scope magazine article titled, “Escape from Alcatraz.”  The title alone was enough to interest my students as well as the images of three fugitives believed to have escaped the highest security prison that ever existed.

Armed with the article and a video from MythBusters, I asked my students to make up their own minds about whether or not the fugitives escaped.  Students worked on rough drafts and by Wednesday were poised at the computers to type up their essays.

Alcatraz_Island_photo_D_Ramey_Logan

Photo from Wikipedia by D. Ramey Logan.

They were still bothered, however, because they didn’t know the truth.  Did the three men escape or not?  Searching for images to put into their blog posts, a student came upon a recent news report, recent as in “3 hours ago.”  We all eagerly gathered around the computer, reading over his shoulders.

A letter allegedly written by one of the escapees recently came to light. CBS San Francisco exclusively obtained it from a source.

“My name is John Anglin. I escape from Alcatraz in June 1962 with my brother Clarence and Frank Morris. I’m 83 years old and in bad shape. I have cancer. Yes we all made it that night but barely!”   

CBS News Jan. 24, 2018

 

What happens to an essay that has been written and worked on in conferences when new evidence emerges?

Different students responded in different ways.  One student placed the link to the article into his post.  Another changed his whole essay and threw away the rough draft.  Others adjusted and added to what they had already written. And some were not convinced by the evidence.  They kept their original theory.

In a recent blog post by Kate Roberts on The Educator Collaborative, Kate asks these questions: “Is it ever worthwhile to read as a community, to read a text someone else chooses for you, one that you would never read on your own? ”

Like Kate Roberts and many reading workshop gurus, I believe strongly in choice.  But when it comes to nonfiction, experiencing the text as a whole class is engaging and exciting.  Nonfiction encourages more research.  Students push each other, ask questions, and engage in a deeper way when reading nonfiction together.

This week we are reading aloud Poison by Sarah Albee to prepare for a Skype visit with her on Thursday, World Read Aloud Day.  I look forward to discovering where this will lead us.  Keeping kids engaged, wondering, and curious is what teaching is all about.

 

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Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

 

Early morning on Friday, I read Poetry Friday blog posts.  I read Irene Latham’s post here.  Her prompt suggestion came from a book that I have on my shelf, PoemCrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, Chapter 31 “bring me magic.”

Inspired, I grabbed some packs of microwave popcorn and headed to school for Popcorn Poetry Friday!

Even a juice spill couldn’t dampen our poetry spirits.  The prompt calls for a walk outside, but we passed around the object inspiration box I had in the closet.  Each student picked an object to write about.

The instructions: 1. Choose an object; give it a name. 2. What does it look like? 3. Ask the object for a quality or deeper wisdom.

I believe this was the first prompt I’ve used this year that was successful for each student.  I typed each poem into a Google doc and on a whim, sent it to Irene.  Within our two hour class time, she responded.   She wrote a comment of encouragement on each student’s poem.  What a gift! They were thrilled.  Their teacher was thrilled.  Thanks, Irene, for your generosity and kindness.

Austin

Colorful butterfly
inspires the caterpillar
to rise up and fly.
Bring me your inspirational, stress-free life.

Lynzee

Black crayola paintbrush
dark as velvet,
give me your way of bringing color
to any situation
no matter how grey.

Mason

Bald eagle
white and burgundy,
bring me the ability
to soar faster than anyone
even if I mess up.

Andrew

Colorful feather
like the paintings of an artist,
give me a creative mind
like Pablo Picasso.

Trace

A turtle
that swims through the water
as wind does through the air,
bring me hope and peace
in ways as the water flows
through the currents of life.

Dawson

Dear little angel,
give me hope in time of anger and war.
Dear little angel,
enlighten me
with your sparkles and light
that shine so bright
every day and night.

Faith

Discarded flower necklace
connected by the same chain,
bring me your connection.

Like my family
all connected,
bring me gratitude.

Deep inside
a core of happiness,
bring me
your joyfulness.

Erin

Sandy hope
washed up on the shore
of value,
bring me confidence.

Erin extended the writing project and wrote a poem for each of us in the class.  Another amazing gift!  Poetry builds community.

 

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Carol at Beyond Literacy Link.

 

I love to celebrate birthdays in my classroom.  Last week I asked Dawson what he wanted for his birthday celebration, expecting an answer like cupcakes, and he said, “Chalkabration!”  Dawson’s only experienced one chalkabration, but he loved it.

In order to have a chalkabration, we have to write small poems.  I put 5 different form choices on the board: haiku, 15 words or less, zeno, cinquain, diamante, and acrostic. The topic, of course, was ice and snow since we returned this week from a week hiatus due to an ice storm. More than ever before, my students had the experience needed to write about this topic.

Sometimes, my kids blow me away with their poetry.  Austin was not willing to share in the classroom, but he did chalk his poem.  Austin’s been reading books by Jason Reynolds.  I feel like he channeled Jason in his poem.

In every person, their wounds may be bad.
Cold and solid, you can
Either sit and freeze or wake up and melt.

Austin, 6th grade

 

 

 

Cold winter nights Old melting ice Long icicles hanging from rooftops Dangling from trees are the frozen leaves. by Faith

 

This is my zeno poem. Zeno is a form invented by J Patrick Lewis with a syllable count of 8,4,2,1,4,2,1,4,2,1. Each one syllable rhymes.

Conditions in the clouds above
temperatures of
cold air
low
condensed to form
flutter
flow
tiny icy
crystals
snow

–Margaret Simon

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Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

 

Not much happened this week.
A layer of ice.
Schools closed.

I stoked the fire.
Carefully added a log or two.
Then let it go out.

Crochet needle looped and looped
a neck warmer for a friend,
prayers for an injured boy.

Ukulele picking.
Hallelujah
From G to E-minor
cramped and challenged
this weak left hand.

Read a book
about Love,
And the face staring back
in the bathroom mirror–
this, too, is love.*

A book about a Fall,
I didn’t look up
I didn’t look down
I just kept on climbing
one step at a time.*

Cooked and cared for
my mother-in-law
recovering from surgery.
“I’m fine,” she insisted.
She’s fine, I know.

Wrote a poem
with only a few words,
lifted it up like a paper airplane,
and sent it out into the world.

* Matt de la Peña Love

* Dan Santat After the Fall

 

 

 

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Kay at A Journey Through the Pages.

 

I’ve had a lot of time lately to look out the window.  A hard freeze blew through the deep south, and gifted me with time alone at home on the bayou.  The winter bitter winds do not scare away the water wading birds.  They must be covered in some powerful down.  I’ve watched a particular blue heron, an occasional great white egret, and this morning, a family of wood ducks.

Watching the bayou inspires me to write poetry.  If you come by my blog often, you know this is my ongoing topic.  My blog title, Reflections on the Teche, is informed by the Bayou Teche (pronounced “Tesh”)

Taking a picture of a blue heron is nearly impossible.  They respond to any human activity with flight.  I painted a portrait of one a few years ago after a photo by Ralph Fletcher.  This painting now hangs in my parents’ dining room.

Blue heron painting by Margaret Simon

 

Heron Watching

I stand still
at the window
watching.

Take in slow breath.
No need to pray
when seeing this heron.

He perches,
head down,
beak pointed to

water’s surface
where the sun glimmers
like waves in old glass.

Is it a minnow,
mosquito, moth?
I focus on the horizon,

wonder
what his patience
invites me to see?

Margaret Simon, 2018

My One Little Word for my writing life is Present.  I want to show up to the page every day.  I wrote a post for TeachWrite Chat Blog here. I made a Canva image of my goals for being present thinking of the heron in my backyard and his lessons of patience.

 

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

I am a co-moderator with the #TeachWrite chat on Twitter. (Note the graphic on the side bar.) One of my colleagues in this endeavor is Michelle Haseltine.  Michelle put a photo on Facebook of a journal page from one of her students.  The page was filled with the outline of a jar and words and sketches were drawn inside the jar.

I took this idea and presented it to my students with a Brene’ Brown twist from Braving the Wilderness. 

We all have times when we feel lonely.  Have you ever felt alone in a crowd?  Like you just don’t fit in? There’s no one around who sees you or that you connect with.

We all have these times.  But when we do, we can take with us a jar of things that make us feel joy, make us feel safe.  What would be in your jar?

One student jumped up from her seat to draw a jar on the board.  She labelled it “Our Happy Place Jar.”  Her instructions were for everyone to draw one thing from their jar onto our shared jar.  (I love it when kids respond to the lesson with such leadership and participation.)

My students drew a variety of jars.  Some were filled with specific things from our class, Slice of Life, read aloud, computer (blogging), friends.  Others find joy in nature or family or funny memes.  Whatever their choices, they engaged with the idea and filled their jars.

Near the end of the week, Chloe announced, “Even if I have to throw away this journal, I will tear out this page and save it forever!”  That’s what I call Joy!

Mrs. Simon’s Sea

We are fish,
fish swimming through a treacherous sea,

a book,
open and full,

a nest,
a place of warmth,

a pencil and paper
for expression,

and a poem.

by Lynzee, 3rd grade

Austin’s Double E Jar

Andrew’s Rainbow Jar

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Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

This week as we returned from our break and began 2018, I wanted my students to choose a One Little Word for their year.  To lead them in this, I created a Google slide show.  

My students were very thoughtful about their word choices.  With three choices to creatively represent their words, students rotated from magazine collage to Canva and Animoto. For their writing element, I asked them to write the journey to their chosen word.

This exercise confirmed a belief I have about students and literacy.  A child’s story should be told, honored, and respected.  Then you can reach, teach, and move them forward.

My students worked through their struggles, their heartaches, their goals, and their dreams.

Erin’s word is Value.

Erin wrote: “I chose value because it’s unique like me. To most people it’s the worth of money. But to me, it’s the worth of myself. I could have chosen other words like confidence, determination, etc. But I couldn’t live by those words. I couldn’t try to be confident for the whole year. The first week I would fail. But I can value myself. I can live by this word, whether it’s me trying to have more value in myself, or me knowing that other people value me.”

Austin chose the word Strive.

Austin wrote: “I got my one little word from basketball. Since the beginning of Christmas break, I have been playing the game a lot. I still have been going outside, but not as much as I usually do. So when it was time to get on the court, I was not ready. I was not ready to run a lot. I was not ready to dribble the ball. I was not ready to put the ball in the basket. We lost both of our games. My mom and my dad told me that if I was not on my game the whole time, I would have been ready for this moment. That is when I decided that I needed to strive to be what I want to be (basketball player). I couldn’t just sit back and do nothing and wait until it was time to do something. I decided to limit my ps4 time. I would work more, hustle more., and especially strive more. I decided to go to the time, not wait till the time came to me.”

Faith’s One Little Word is Gratitude.

Faith wrote: “My journey to get to my one little word all starts when the hurricanes and fires and floods all started. When hurricane Harvey hit Texas, the devastation was horrible. Watching the news and all the houses and building destroyed, it made me feel thankful and grateful for everything I have.”

Trace made an Animoto video about helping.  In his post, he wrote, “My One Little Word is Helpful. The way this train of thought all started was when my Mom had told me  ‘Maw-maw has a problem where she is starting to forget so we will need to help her more often. Also she is starting to forget to eat so she really needs our help.’ So now I go there almost everyday to help. ”

 

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