Archive for February, 2018

Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge

March is coming soon.  And you know what that means, a month of slices every day.  The Two Writing Teachers has been hosting the yearly Slice of Life Challenge for 10 years. 2018 will be the 11th Annual Slice of Life Challenge. This is my 7th year to participate.  About 4 years ago I got my students involved in this challenge.  When I bring it up, many of my students who have been in my class for more than a year groan, then smile.  They say, “It’s terrible. It’s horrible.  I’ll never do it again.”  and then “But this year I’m going to try to get all 31 slices done.  Just watch me!”

One thing I can count on is their competitive spirit.  I do offer a prize of a free book if they write all 31 days.  I only require (for a grade) 3 slices a week.  So this week we are getting ready.  Noah already has 3 slices drafted.  He is in the warm up position, revving his engine.

We started a padlet for writing ideas and will add to it as the month goes on.  You can view our idea padlet here. We talked about a class hashtag and decided on #GTSOLC18. I set up a category in our kidblog site just for the challenge.  I will be putting up sticker charts and a space for badges.  A few years ago, Kathleen Sokolowski made badges and shared them in this Google Doc.

Kathleen set up a padlet this year for the classroom challenge.  If you click here, you can see all the classes participating.

I am looking forward to joining my students on a monthlong writing journey.  It will take us to places we are not expecting.  Would you like to come along?  You can view my students’ writing at Mrs. Simon’s Sea.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Elizabeth Steinglass

Welcome to the first post in the Meet my Family Blog Tour.  Laura Purdie Salas’s book gives an overview of 22 animal families with engaging illustrations by Stephanie Fizer Coleman.



My students were immediately engaged in questioning and learning about animals, from the tundra swan to the chinstrap penguin.  Each entry is written in the voice of the baby animal telling about his family.

My two daddies feed me fish.
One is always next to me, strong
and sturdy and warm. Both of
them protect me and play with
me. I am double-daddy lucky.

From the chinstrap penguin chick, LPSalas


Whenever we encounter a new text, I invite my students to write.  For this book response, we wrote persona poems.  Each student chose their favorite animal and wrote in the point of view of that animal.  Research was optional.  I shared a colorful National Geographic Kids Ocean Animals book.  Some students chose to write about ocean animals.  Some searched in Google about other animals of interest.  And some had stored up research in their minds to tap into. All of my students enjoyed creating poems.  For more persona poems, go to Mrs. Simon’s Sea Kidblog site. 

Hi I’m Peanut, Peanut the Orangutan!
My mom’s name is Walnut.
I don’t have a dad but I’m still livin’ the life.

My mom made me a new nest which is my room.
We always have fruit for dinner
but on special occasions we get juicy, delicious, BUGS!!

Well, I am happy to say that
I can be as lazy as I want,
because I’m 3 years old and my mom gets my food for me.

Right now I’m in my nest
watching the birds tell jokes trying to make others laugh.
I didn’t get the jokes but I laughed anyway.

Can I tell you that I like and don’t like those weird humans.
Some of them like to shoot us
some like to capture us.
The nice humans like to protect us and help us,
but they’re still weird.

Well that’s my story
I got to go we’re having bugs for dinner tonight YES!!!!!!

–Dawson, 4th grade

The Great White Shark

I am sleek and silent.
I never chew my meals.
My favorite snack are seals.
I’m an undeniable top dog.
I am the king of the sea.

–Jacob, 4th grade

Erik the Eagle

My name is Erik
I was just born
I was fed raw meat,
it was a delicious treat.

My name is Erik.
I learned to fly.
I love leaving home
and soaring the sky.

My name is Erik.
I am fully grown.
I have my own wife,
and my own little throne.

–Andrew, 5th grade


Next stop on March 2nd, Kirby Larson’s blog.

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A Slice of my Art Journal

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

For 2018, I chose the word Explore.  I’m not sure if this means I need to get out of my comfort zone, but I have somewhat interpreted it this way.  I long to be an artist.  I’ve tried many kinds of art, but this year I am trying art journaling.

In the fall I took a class about making your own books by sewing pages together.  Using a discarded falling apart book, I took out the pages and sewed my own pages into it.  I decided that this would be my art journal for 2018.  I glued in a postcard from a postcard exchange that started me on a path of using color to define each month.  The postcard was blue, so January was my blue month.

February became my red month. I am working in collage. Each month I will collage a heart map reflective of the month.  My art journal is only for me.  It only needs to please me.  And it does.

On Saturday, there was a free open workshop at a local gallery.  I decided to take my journal and work on some of the pages.  This is a work in progress, but I am happy to be Exploring possibilities and expressing myself with creativity.






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Poetry Friday round-up is with Jone at Check it Out.

A week off to enjoy family, friends, and food.  I’m sharing my week in verse.

Throw me somethin’ Mister!

Sunday, Feb. 10, 2018

Mardi Gras after the rain
Parades roll, beads fly,
Hands waving high.

Open doors,
chicken fingers,
Chili Fritos,

Costumes, blue hair,
and happy laughs,

Marching bands,
King cake,
Vodka and La Croix.

Come on in,
stay right here,
Bacchus is rolling soon.

Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2018

Houston in the rain
heavy trucks spray
hold on tight.

Find a friend.
Sit a while
comfort in just being.

Glasses of wine,
flat bread pizza,
gather around the table.

Ukulele playing,
out of tune singing,
cuddles with the dog.

There is love here,
not over the rainbow yet,
but healing will come.

My friend Sarah is fighting the battle for her life.

Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018

Ashes to ashes,
we are but dust,
miserable wormness,

Yet now is the time
to reach out
to reach in.

Be alone with God
to realize you are
never alone.

Spread the fruit
of your solitude.
Translate cynicism to Joy!

I am but dust.
Life is a gift.
Existence is grace.

Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018

Japanese magnolia blooms
along my walking route,
sending pink fragrance into fog.

My mind wanders as I walk,
thoughts of children
whose lives were shot short.

My voice speaks to neighbors.
Can I trust my words
to be kind?

We are all wandering
on this lonely path
questioning God’s grace.

Find meaning in a moment,
Joy in a conversation,
Light in a dew drop.





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

What is a change maker and who are the change makers in our own community? I asked my students. I made a list on the board of people I know from our area who are making a difference.  Each student chose one to interview based on his/her own interest.

I called Vicky Branton, a feature writer for The Daily Iberian, our local newspaper.  She agreed to come visit with my students about interviewing for and writing a feature article.  She had good advice:

  1. Begin with the 5 W’s: Who, what, when, where, why?
  2. During the interview, listen.
  3. Record the interview in order to be completely present and to go back for direct quotes.
  4. Elaborate: Find the interesting thing.

For the first three days of last week, I scheduled interviews.  In all, we had 5 interviews.  Students then began writing.  We had to juggle the computer around for them to listen to their recorded interviews.  Eventually, they had a draft of a feature article.

This was a motivating project for my students.  They were elevated by their interviewer status.  They learned a great deal about the good things happening in our city.  They learned how to take a quote and turn it into narrative.  They learned about themselves in the process, too, and have renewed aspirations for what they may want to do to be a change maker.

Faith is interested in an anti-bullying program that is in the early stages in our community:

Mrs. Dawn and Mrs. Sharon say they really feel like Chez Hope is impacting the community. Russo expressing,”…What we do is not easy, it’s not easy work at all, it’s hard.” Over time they are helping the community. These crises are a big problem in our community. And many people are afraid that they aren’t going away any time soon. To add on to that, I would like to say that I feel like Chez Hope has impacted our school. When Mrs. Sharon and Mrs. Dawn came to our school, they left an impact on me and others as well. Once I walked out of that room, I knew I had to do something to help stop bullying. I also took away that I should never bully anyone. Also, if some one bullies me, then I need to tell an adult. I don’t need to be put down and be bullied. So stand up for yourself and tell an adult. (Faith, 6th grade)

Bully Free Kids T-shirt from Chez Hope


Jennie Lallande, Acadiana Lifestyles “Women Making a Difference 2016”

Andrew wanted to know more about how Jennie Lallande became involved in the community garden and school garden programs.

Jennie Lallande is a massive change maker. She helps in the community garden, but the garden is made in a place where people don’t have much access to fresh food like lettuce or carrots. She was recruited because she has a experience in sustainable agriculture.

Erin is doing a fundraiser to make care packages for foster children, so she wanted to know more about the system from someone who had adopted a foster child.

When I interviewed her I got a lot of information about her and the foster system, which will help me with my research because I want to learn more about the foster system. A lot of new information was revealed to me.  I thought the social workers were supposed to help the parents. But according to Mrs. Schlicher they don’t really help.  She said they provided her with false information so that she would take children in.

From interests to interviews to writing, my students are discovering who is making a difference as well as planting seeds for their own future as change makers. 


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Poetry Friday round-up is with Sally Murphy.

I have five friends currently battling breast cancer.  This daily battle is heart-wrenching and hard. They are sharing their journey with me and others. It seems all I can do for them is pray or cry or write a poem.

On Monday, Kim wrote this: “As you know, chemo wreaks havoc on the immune system.  It lowers red and white blood counts and one specific type of white blood cell–the neutrophil–is especially critical because it plays an important role in fighting infection. If a chemo patient develops a fever, it sounds the alarm that the neutrophil concentration has likely fallen below 1000 and spurs doctors to take immediate action. If not treated with a strong course of antibiotics, the patient could develop a potentially life threatening infection. So, chemo comes with a strong warning: take fevers very seriously.”

On Tuesday, Sarah wrote this: “Exposed, hurting, lying on what seems like a narrow mortician’s table in a cavernous room, alone, encapsulated by an enormous machine shooting me with targeted radiation all in the name of cancer — I am a science experiment.”

On Wednesday, Amy wrote this: “What do you wear to hear the results of your pet/ct scan? A crown of course. Well I got good news and not so go news. The not so good news is the cancer is growing and has shown up in two new places. We’ll be looking at new treatment options at MD Anderson. The good news is my doctor said I can ride roller coasters at Disney next week. Bring it!! Thanks to all who have shown their concern and who have prayed for me. Please continue – the road just got bumpy.”

In Laura Shovan’s Daily February Writing Challenge, the image of a beautiful ocean scene came up, but all I could see was the dirty sand and the crashing waves.  I released my growing worry and concern in a poem.

Low Tide by Andrea Lavoie


Low Tide

That sand is frozen brown grass
flowing like the folds of a blanket,
fluffed and tucked over
the patient’s bed.

Does it comfort or scratch?
Cover or annoy?

Skin is sensitive with fever.
Chemo burns through her veins,
poison that saves
even as the waves
of a raging ocean
recede with the tide.

It’s the pull of the moon
holding her in a glowing stare.
Where is the silver lining?

–Margaret Simon, (c) 2018 for Kim, Sarah, Amy, Kelley, and Sandy



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

Once again this year I have joined Laura Shovan’s February writing challenge.  Her birthday is this month, and she celebrates by inspiring others to write a poem every day.  I thought this was maybe my third year of doing this challenge, but the other day one of those Facebook memories came up and reminded me that I’ve done this for 5 years.  That’s a lot of poems!

This year’s challenge is writing ekphrasis which is poetry about art.  Every day a participant posts a work of art for us to respond to.  I’ve managed to write each day since the warm-ups started.

I’ve set up rules for myself.  When I see the image on Facebook, I save it and place it in a Google doc.  Then I do not allow myself to read other people’s poems until I’ve written mine. (I cheat on this one.) I write and revise quickly, no overthinking the process, and copy and paste my poem into the Facebook post as a comment.  I comment on at least 3 other poets.  The group has grown to over 100 people, so it’s just not feasible to comment on them all.

Ekphrasis is a good way to inspire poetry because there is no form attached.  You can write in any way you choose, form or free verse, short or long.  You can write a mask poem from the painting/sculpture’s point of view.  You can be on the outside looking in or on the inside looking out.

The flexibility of form appeals to me.  Some days the poems come easily and others I have to let sit a while.  Sometimes I research the artist.  When a sculpture by Rodin came up, I researched and found a quote to work from.  Sometimes I research the topic. I collect words and then write.

Writing a poem a day is a challenge.  But when you are participating in a group of kind responders, the writing is worthwhile and rewarding.  We need each other.  We need to feel a part of something bigger. We need affirmation and acceptance.

One of the most profound for me was Laura’s son Jay’s self-portrait.  Here is the portrait by Jay Shovan and my poem.

Unfinished portrait by Jay Shovan


Deep brown eyes
stare at me,
look through me,
hold me still.

Slashed and dripped
with strokes of green,
baby blue, white
on flesh, each brush
from the palate played

like a piper in a parade
leading me to you,
but all I see now
are your eyes

drawing me into a window
of my own soul. These
are my eyes.

–Margaret Simon, (c) draft 2018

On the more whimsical side was this funny spoon sculpture by Raul Zuniga circa 1971.

Owls three
Smiley, Cranky, and Boastful
perched on a branch of a safety pin.
Bring me your wise ole thoughts
Find me a place to perch
Help me be the Who
I am meant to be.

–Margaret Simon, (c) draft 2018

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Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

Thursday, Feb. 1st was World Read Aloud Day.  Back in November, Kate Messner posted a long list of authors willing to do free Skype visits.  I selected and contacted Sarah Albee, author of Bugged, Poop Happened, and Poison, amazing and engaging nonfiction books.

Each of my students in my morning class composed a question and were promised a chance to personally ask their question.

Argh!  Tech problems!

A quick call to the tech director, and he took over the computer and was able to solve the problem just in the nick of time.  My students were able to ask their questions, and Sarah expertly answered each one.

Even Erin’s question, “Do you know what a narwhal is?” did not stump this nonfiction research expert.  Sarah pointed Erin to a page in Poison in which she refers to the practice of using narwhal horns to simulate unicorn horns.

My students marveled in the length of time it takes to research, write, and publish a book.  Dawson, who is reading Bugged, asked what her favorite insect is.  Would you be surprised to know it’s an ant?!

Dawson later announced that it was the first time he had ever met anyone famous.  In a more perfect world where technology was flawless, I would Skype more often with “famous” people.  Authors are my heroes, and they are becoming my students’ heroes as well.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Donna at Mainely Write


This week there was a big moon event: the second full moon in January called the blue moon as well as a lunar eclipse that caused the moon to appear reddish and the fact that the moon was closer to the Earth than usual making it a super moon, thus blue blood super moon.

What better reason do we need for writing poems?

Prompted by NASA images and Laura Purdie Salas’s book If You Were the Moon, my students and I wrote moon metaphor poems.


Lynzee watched and wrote as slides of moon photos rolled across the screen.

Super Blue Blood Moon

Two birds, side by side,
front row seat
for what happened
in the early hours of the morning.

Birds flying in front of the moon
like sparkles on a disco ball,
they see, too, what happened.

Plane flying, too,
over the skies of Britain
like the moon’s huge moving tattoo.

Lynzee, 3rd grade

Chloe is new to writing poetry.  She’s a second grader.  She seems to be grasping the idea of metaphor in her poem.  She was so proud of her poem, she typed it in all caps.




Chloe, 2nd grade

Madison is becoming quite a poet.  Her poem is one I used in other classes to model the use of metaphor.

Peppermint Moon

Red Splashing Shadow
Take a White Pearl
In The Sky

Peppermint Swirling
Flaming From
To White and Red Tongues,
Licking the Dark Coals
Of the Night

 A Flame
Red and White
Sends Embers Scattering Across
The Deep Black, Overhead
But A Golden Flame Rises,
A Bonfire To Cast
Shadow Around
The Gem.

A White Diamond Revealed,
A Golden Bonfire Raging
It Is Time For The Moon
To Rest,
Forever The White Diamond
Of the Night Sky.

Madison, 4th grade

Eclipsed moon hides in the trees.

And here is a draft of a poem I wrote alongside my students.  I wrote two poems and combined them to make draft #3.

We all see the same moon.
All over the world,
Prague, Athens, Rome,
yellow, red, blue
sphere in the night sky.

I walked early this morning
watching the eclipse
of the full supermoon.
Minute by minute,
pieces fell from sight
like a giant hand
turning off the light.

In the shadow of a church steeple,
over desert hills,
setting behind our Lady Liberty,
a super moon eclipsed by our own
planet Earth.

As the moon set below the trees,
I thought of you
far away
seeing the same moon
in the same sky.

Margaret Simon, (draft) 2018

Yesterday I posted “Moon Wisdom” for Spiritual Journey (first) Thursday which included a poem by me around a painting by Michelle Kogan.

My post for #TeachWrite Chat this month is about sustaining a writing life by joining Poetry Friday.  See the post here. 

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For more Spiritual Thursday posts, click over to Donna’s blog, Mainly Write.

The moon and the stars to rule by night: for his mercy endures forever.
Psalm 136:9

I went out on a walk Wednesday morning in search of the moon.  I chased it through the neighborhood trying to capture the eclipse on my phone.  The pictures, of course, do not do it justice.


Partial eclipse

Eclipsed moon hides in the trees.

I thought about how this phenomenon fascinates us as Earthlings.  We travel through each day without realizing that the planet is moving and turning and changing, constantly.  We are reminded of our minuteness when a super moon appears in the sky, when that moon is eclipsed by the place we walk upon.

But smallness means nothing to God.  God cares for every particle, every sparrow, every hair upon your head.  Like an eclipse, this goodness and love is hard to imagine, difficult to believe.  So we keep testing it.  Who am I to eat the crumbs under your table, Lord?

The rose on my kitchen table does not wait for me to notice before it blooms. With all my faults, my worries, my stupid pettiness, I am loved and revered as the rose.  God’s love is unconditional and waiting.  All we need to do is say, Yes, Thanks, Wow!*



  • Help, Thanks, Wow is the title of a book by Anne Lamott.

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