Archive for the ‘clmooc’ Category

Poetry Friday round-up is with Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect

It’s Poetry Friday, and I don’t have a post prepared.

I followed links to CLMOOC, a summer gathering of writing project folks to stretch their thinking. Kevin Hodgson writes:

Here in CLMOOC, we’ve always actively pushed back on the “massive”. While MOOCs often were built to scale large, CLMOOC has often comfortably settled into the small. So, this July and August, we invite you to look closer at the world, to find balance with the small scale of things around you.

Kevin Hodgson

Kevin introduced a new term to me, feldgang. A feldgang is slowing down to notice something in a new or different way. This idea fascinates me. Poetry lends itself to feldganging (not sure if that is a real word.)

This morning I am combining feldgang with greenbelt writing, that writing that is wild and unpredictable and possibly of no real worth at all. A first draft of a poem while looking out my kitchen window:

The chickadees come to the feeder
They flitter their tiny bodies
in the trees, and try to stay unnoticed,
like butterflies to a bright flower.

I notice them
and think of this simple act
of feeding the birds,
a small plastic feeder,
some seed from a plastic bag.

I invite these small visitors
to my kitchen window.
I laugh at their tiny tweets.
Begin my day with a lighter step.

Margaret Simon, draft, 2019

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I know, it’s summer and who wants to think about problems during summer?  I didn’t expect to, but I do enjoy having more time to read.  I’ve been reading Dynamic Teaching for Dynamic Reading by Vicki Vinton.  This book was chosen for the CyberPD book for July. To follow the discussions around this book, tune in to #cyberpd and Michelle Nero’s blog Literacy Learning Zone. 

In Dynamic Teaching, Vicki sets us up to think more about the complexity of and the authentic purpose for reading. She leads us into the problem solving process for students when reading.


It’s one thing to read theory in a professional book, but quite another to see the theory play out in your own life.  I started reading Orphan Island by Laurel Snyder.  This book is intended for middle grade students, the students I teach. Immediately in the first chapter, I have to enter into the process of solving a problem.

Jinny heard the bell.  She threw down her book, rose from the stale comfort of the old brown sofa, and scrambled to the door.  When she burst from the cabin into the evening air, Jinny ran.

I can assume from the title of the book that Jinny is an orphan.  This first paragraph makes me think she is at camp.  A bell rings, and she runs from the cabin.  As I continue to read, though, I find clues that she is not at any camp I’ve ever known.

My purpose for reading is heightened.  I have to figure out why Jinny is at this camp.  Who else is there?  What happened to her parents?  Reading only this first chapter, I am full of questions.

It is time to honor this process of problem finding and problem solving with our students.  How could I set my students up to do this?

  • What do you think is happening?
  •  What are your questions?
  • Why do you want to keep reading?

My summer reading has taken on a different dimension.  I’m not only reading for understanding, but I am reading to find the problem.  Where can I apply this problem to my teaching?  How do my students find problems?  How do I present problems that will interest them enough to solve?

I have found a problem that interests me.  In fact, it came in the mail.  I think it’s from someone in the CLMOOC postcard exchange, but that in itself is a mystery. I received a postcard with a snippet of text glued to the back.  The instructions are to create a poem out of the text, black-out style.

As you may be able to see, I’ve started underlining words in pencil.  I haven’t committed to any of them yet.  The fact that I have to black-out and send the postcard back with some sort of meaningful text selected has heightened this problem from one of mere play to a serious thoughtful process.   How can I take this experience and apply it in my classroom?  I want my students to both play with language and see the serious potential of making meaning with words.  Wouldn’t it be interesting to send a postcard to each of my students with these same instructions?

Problem seeking leads to problem finding to problem solving.  This is the way of language in reading and in writing.  I invite you to contemplate problems in your own literacy learning and teaching and link up your blog post below.


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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

When my student Vannisa wanted to write a fall poem, she looked to the skies. She wrote this poem including the science of meteor showers that occur in fall.

As We Fall

As we fall into winter,
the weather chills
and the leaves come down.
They fill the ground with
a fiery red
and blazing orange.

As we fall into winter,
we can no longer watch fireworks
like 4th of July,
but we can watch
the shooting stars of
Orionids and Leonids
and watch the days get shorter
until Spring comes back again.

She had a blog comment on her poem asking her more about the Orionids. When she was looking for something to research for her Wonder of the Week, I suggested the meteor shower. Each week I have my students use Wonderopolis to read nonfiction and respond by writing about what they learned. They then have the option to create a class presentation using technology.

Vannisa had to expand her research beyond Wonderopolis and this was my intent all along, that some little spark would send my students into real, authentic research.

Click the image to view the Emaze.

Click the image to view the Emaze.

Know: Orionids is a meteor shower that occurs in late October. A shooting star is a meteor and not an actual star. The name for the shower is Orionids because most of the comets will be toward the constellation Orion.

Wonder: What Causes a Shooting Star?, Where Is the Big Dipper?, How Many Stars Are In The Sky?

Learned: A meteor is formed from rock that burns up in Earth’s atmosphere, causing it to look like a streak of light in the sky. A piece of a meteor is called a meteorite. The Big Dipper is mostly referred to as a constellation, but it’s actually an asterism. Our galaxy has about 200 billion to 400 billion star. Scientist predict that there are 100 billion to 200 billion galaxies in the universe. Based on the latest estimates, astronomers guess that there are 300 sextillion stars in the universe which is 300,000,000,000,000,000,000,000. That is 1 billion times 1 billion times 3!

Burning Question: How did they find out how many stars there are?

Days when learning and creativity come together I realize the true joy of discovery. I strive to give my students the open door that will lead them on their own journey of learning, not down a path I have designed, but one they have chosen. It doesn’t happen every day. But with Vannisa and her spark of interest in meteor showers, these two paths converged and made meaningful learning. Through blogging, she was able to share it with others. Win. Win.

Add your own Digital Literacy posts here:

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Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us the celebrate each week. Click over to her site Discover. Play. Build. to read more celebrations.

Swinging for Addyson

Swinging for Addyson

1. When I heard the news that one of our students had been diagnosed with a brain tumor, I pulled out my crochet needle and created a prayer blanket for her. Saturday I gave her the blanket at a ragball fundraising event for her medical bills. Her smile says it all. Keep Addy and her family in your prayers as they continue to fight this battle.

Make yourself a park ranger.

Make yourself a park ranger.

2. Celebrating #clmooc and collaborative learning: This week marked the sixth and final make cycle of #clmooc. NWP joined the National Parks Service to encourage getting outside and exploring your national, state, and heritage parks. Kevin Hodgson invited me to join in the Google hang out on Tuesday evening. I love collaborating and learning from others. The archive of the hang out is here.

I had every intention of visiting a state park but the heat and the fact that my daughter was home kept me from participating further in this project.

Cheers to my daughter Martha.

Cheers to my daughter Martha.

3. Martha is home! My youngest flew in from Chicago for my last week of summer break. I’ve enjoyed spending time with her and just knowing she’s home.


4. My classrooms (I teach at two schools) are clean, organized, and decorated, ready for students to arrive all too soon.

photo by Jan Risher

photo by Jan Risher

5. Jan Risher, a writer for The Advertiser, the Lafayette regional newspaper, put out a call on Facebook for people to make paper cranes to honor the two victims of last week’s Grand 16 shooting. She gathered enough cranes to make two senbazuru. I made a few cranes and just doing this small gesture comforted me and helped me to feel a part of this community. I am very proud of the way the Acadiana community has responded with an outpouring of support and love. To me, it’s the only way to respond to violence…complete and utter kindness.

Jillian Johnson quote

6. Speaking of responding with kindness and love, I celebrate James Taylor. In 1979 after our home had been totally flooded, the first album we purchased was James Taylor’s Flag. I listened to Up on the Roof so many times I memorized all the words. His music is still lifting up spirits and sharing love. Here is a recent performance in which the Charleston Low Country Voices joined him on stage. JT makes everything all right.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

computer lab

This week I coached a writing camp. Usually space is important to me. The space we met in and wrote in was an art space, open and inviting, with pieces of folk art all around. The space felt comfortable and inspiring, not the case with the computer lab.

The computer lab was like a cave, long and dark. The AC didn’t work well, so it was warm. However, none of this mattered because once the kids got online and logged into our kidblog site, the space became as quiet as a bee hive, everyone buzzing and busy writing and commenting. When I asked the students about their favorite part of camp, the blog was high on the list. Online space is important, too.

I have not focused this week on the Clmooc make #4. The instructions were: “For this make cycle, we invite you to document, analyze and reflect on the variety of systems that influence your life personally and/or professionally. Use your creativity to document an existing system, access your ingenuity to improve an existing system or use your imagination to develop a unique new system and design a novel way to explain it.”

I decided to go back to my inquiry question, “How can I create an environment for student writing that encourages individual expression while covering necessary benchmarks?” I realized that the very act of content standards and testing is a system. So I am essentially asking about how I can hack the system. But I have to begin with research. Look at this Piktochart created by Christy Ball.

passion projects

I am only on step three, doing the research. There is no rush here. Inquiry is like that. By its nature it’s slow and should be. If I rush into it, I risk losing focus and not valuing the question.

I started a padlet. Not much there yet. So far I am focusing on creativity. That is what I feel is most missing from standards and from testing. We are creating little boxes for students to fit in to. In reality, creativity is the thing that will lead to innovation and problem solving. How can I create a creative environment for my students? How can I value creativity and project-based learning while adhering to standards? Please inquire with me. You can add comments, write your own blog post, and/or add to the padlet.

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Poetry Friday round up is at The Logonauts.

Poetry Friday round up is at The Logonauts.


Have you ever played Apples to Apples?  It’s a game my gifted students enjoy, especially the highly verbal ones.  There are two sets of cards, green and red.  The green cards are adjectives.  The red ones, nouns.  The players each hold 5 red cards.  The judge for the round (rotates from player to player) places a green card in the middle.  Everyone plays a red card.  The judge chooses the best noun that fits with the adjective.  Simple, right?

I like simple.  I have been reading posts by the intelligent group of teachers participating in the CLMOOC, a collaborative learning community sponsored by the National Writing Project.  I have associated with NWP for 20 years now, and I am constantly challenged to think beyond the borders.  But with this make cycle, game design, much of the process and thinking has traveled well above my head.  I’m hanging in, though.  I decided to take what I know and just remake it to something I love.

I know Apples to Apples and I love poetry.  There you go…a new game.  I chose 3 sets of cards to play around with myself and then took pictures of 3 more sets for others to play with.  I have added a few sets and invite you to play a little bit today.  Follow the link to Google slides.  Have fun!




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

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

The creative process is nothing if not elusive. As soon as I’ve figured out what direction I want to go in, my other self takes over, and we go somewhere else entirely.

The Clmooc community welcomes this kind of wayward creative thinking. In fact, it depends on it. If you are not participating, you should at least lurk. Twitter is #clmooc. Facebook page here. Google plus here.

This week’s make assignment comes from the University of Illinois Writing Project. They posted a video, and they all look so young. No worries. That was me, once.

The make instructions can be a bit confusing. They ask us to remediate. But the word isn’t what we typically think about in education as remediation. The word comes from re- and media, meaning taking something and changing the media, creativity at its best.

I thought about this while I perused Facebook, a typical avoidance behavior for me. But this time, I was looking for what I thought would make a found poem. On Sunday, I posted a picture of a baby baptized in our church. This post got an amazing number of likes and comments. I decided to remediate the picture using the app WordFoto. The words came from the comments on the picture.

remediated baby

I wasn’t satisfied. So I kept looking. I saw a post that read, “Same sky. Same moon.” That did it. I wrote a poem using these lines as the kick off. I went to Animoto to build a video. Last week was a monumental week in the life of our country. We all know this. I was riveted by our president’s singing of Amazing Grace during his eulogy for Reverend Clementa Pinckney.
Amazing Grace has taken on new meaning for me. Always a favorite, I now see it as a song that gathers people together, all of us together under the same sky, the same moon, the same grace.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Six Words

The National Writing Projects’ summer collaborative learning began this week.  So much is going on, it’s hard to believe we are just one week into the CLMOOC.  Read the reflections here. 

If you are here for the first time, I want to invite you to join the DigiLit Sunday community.  Each week we post about digital literacy.  The link up will be at the end of this post.  Leave your link so we can learn together and support each other in this wild digital world.

Clmooc has taught me that there is too much out there.  I get stimulation overload.  I don’t know how the camp counselors can keep up.  They seem to be incredible multi-taskers.

To manage my own participation, I’ve selected only a few games to play.  The theme this week was introducing yourself by not introducing yourself.  Not exactly.  It was more a call to remix the typical introduction.  We also explored what un-introduction really means and says about a person.

Above I’ve posted a slide I created in a Google slide share by Sheri Edwards.

What six concepts shape you as you shape them? Challenge: Consider your beliefs. Using six words, arrange them as phrases read horizontally and vertically to express an essence of your identity.

This week I’ve been attracted to activities that revolved around words.  I posted an unintro poem for Poetry Friday.

I played with images, too.  Here’s a remix of a free graphic of Saturn.

Image made on LunaPic with free graphic of Saturn.

Image made on LunaPic with free graphic of Saturn.

Kim Douillard offers a photo challenge each week.  This week the challenge was #sky.  Where I live the sky is often covered by the magnificent spread of live oaks.  The oaks guard the sky and protect us.  The hot sun is shaded and tamed.  My image is not altered because this is what it is.  Mother oak.

sky with tree

There have been questions about invitations and how we welcome others into the community.  I have not struggled with feeling welcome.  This is a large group.  We are all individuals playing around with technology and creativity.  We express ourselves in unique and fun ways.  I am looking forward to the weeks to come.  I’ll play and stretch and find new friends, but I’ll also tuck away new ideas for my teaching.

How can unintroductions work with my students?  If anything they will add an element of fun and creativity.  But at best, my students, like me, will discover a little more about who they are and how they best interact in this cyber-world.

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Poetry Friday round up is hosted by Carol.

Poetry Friday round up is hosted by Carol.

I have joined the summer PD of CLMooc. Feeling my way through, I have found that poetry inspires many. Poetry is a way we can express our identity. The first make cycle prompted us to “unintroduce” ourselves. Some have taken the prompt to unidentify yourself and made poetry. One participant made a black out poem of the initial email. Another instigated a poem in response to Charleston.  This community is responsive, reflective, and real.

Michelle Stein posted this prompt:
“Please follow this link and add your verse if you feel so inclined. My unmake follows these steps. Please do the same when adding your verse.
1. Randomly choose a word for each letter in your name.
2. Add a verse to this narrative poem, using each word you have chosen as the focus of a sentence.
3. Revel in the awesomesauce that is CLMOOC.”

Being one who is attracted to poetic prompts, I gave this one a try. I made a private deal with myself that I would use the first word that came to mind. This created a random word list.


Appetite (I must be hungry, as usual.)

In the mystical distance,
an appetite for goodness makes
the reservoir of kindness grow.
Give your heart to life.

Astrology tells us that stars are wise.
Those rings of Saturn resonate light.
Even the universe proclaims pure joy.
No matter the trial, I show up. Ready.

Image made on LunaPic with pixabay free graphic of Saturn.

Image made on LunaPic with free graphic of Saturn.

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CLMOOC Week One: UnIntro

Sign up for CLMOOC running June 28- August 2, 2015.

Sign up for CLMOOC running June 28- August 2, 2015.

I’ve joined the learning community of the National Writing Project and Educator Innovator Connected Learning MOOC. Week one began with a plethora of emails from the Google+ Community. I couldn’t possibly keep up. Rather than quit, like my introverted self was telling me to do, I selected a few to read and found a new app for making word clouds, Tagul. My first attempt was not worth saving, but I tried again. For this word cloud I copied my bio for all things poetry. I was attracted to the arrow shapes, as though the words point to who I am somewhat indirectly. I think this is the point of the UnIntroduction assignment for this week.

UnIntro copy

Michael Weller, one of the camp counselors support team members, offered this activity: Make an Inquiry. He wrote, “I want to formalize my inquiry process. As a result, part of my goal for the summer is to formulate questions, read what others have to say about those questions, write about the questions, and – I hope – create a research plan for the fall semester.”

I asked myself, “Can I make this a jump start for my own inquiry?” And of course, in typical CLMOOC fashion, here is the answer, “You can do the same, or similar, or you can go in whatever direction your questions and context take you. My hope is that we can support each other in our efforts to use an inquiry approach to improve our practice.”

My inquiry question: How can I create an environment for student writing that encourages individual expression while covering necessary benchmarks?

Michael’s process begins with the question and then goes into a review of the literature. I have ordered The Unstoppable Writing Teacher. Do you know of any other resources I should use? I welcome conversation about this topic here or on Twitter. You can find me @MargaretGSimon. Use #clmooc.

A fun UnIntro activity I tried was a Mad Lib created by Stephanie West-Puckett, another counselor coach in CLMOOC. The result was mad and funny. (Author’s note: I have more than 3 poems.)

Yay! My name is Margaret. I’m the lovely yarn and I joyfully walk with soft shawl. I have 3 poems and am looking forward to speaking with all of you in #clmooc!

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