Archive for the ‘Creativity’ Category

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Last week I collaborated with artist Marla Kristicevich on a workshop for teachers designed around poetry and art collage.  The workshop was part of the Arts in Education professional development series held at the Acadiana Center for the Arts.

After I presented about finding elements of poetry in my poem “I am a Beckoning Brown Bayou,” Marla shared how she had taken words from 3 different poems from my book Bayou Song, and circled words that represented an element of art.  She then created a magazine collage to reflect those words and images.  While Marla’s complete presentation was in a PowerPoint slide show, the part that touched me were the amazing and beautiful collages she had created from my words.

Marla’s collage from interpreting the poem There is Always.

We had 12 dedicated teachers attend, and they enjoyed the time to sit and create with materials from magazines, painted paper, and other scraps.  The collages were varied and lent new meaning to the poems we worked with.

Then I led the teachers in writing their own poem by gathering new words from their own collages and selecting a form to use.  My hope is these teachers will take what they learned, their joy of playing with words and art, and bring it into their classrooms, but more than that, my poet’s heart was touched by the way my poems from Bayou Song led to more poems.

Collage from “There is Always” by Cissy Whipp.


Cissy’s Poem

Dance/Nature Triptych


My dance is in the way
the leaves calmly curl and crinkle
under my feet.


My dance is in the water
rippling, rising, rushing
around my ankles.


My dance is in the place
between land and water –
the muddy, mysterious marsh.


Finding the poem inside.


Kay chose the I Am form to use when her collage revealed things about herself.

Kay’s collage from the poem There is Always.

Hands Up High

Kay Couvillon

I am fiery red in summer beach walks,
I become lavender peaceful
with restorative yoga.

I hold my
hands up high
to the lights of
love, trust, dance, and
cold beer.

I am an
E. Broussard eagle
in awe of the
bald eagle’s nest.

I sway in the
wind of the leaves after
hibernating when I feel like
torn cardboard.

I love red, pink, and scented
geraniums in clay pots from
Mother Earth.



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Poetry Friday round-up is with Erin at The Water’s Edge.


I am in the process of planning a workshop for teachers for the Acadiana Center for the Arts to be held on October 11th. When I met with my teaching partner, artist Marla Kristicevich, we discussed creative ways a teacher/writer/student could respond to my poems in Bayou Song.  I loved her idea of creating magazine collage.  I wanted to give it a try myself and with my own students.  The collages are as diverse as the students themselves.  

From the collages, we then wrote an I am poem.  For this, I offered sentence stems to get the ideas flowing.  Today, I am posting one of my collages and poem along with Madison’s.  Madison wanted to use a unique word, so we looked through what I call “the big whopping dictionary,” a two book set my daughter bought me at an antique store.  Madison found the word reliquary, and we had a discussion about the metaphorical use of a river as a reliquary.  I love what she did with her poem.


I am a silver-tongued storyteller.

I wonder where my path leads.
I echo laughter, tears, and songs.
I watch the sun, moon, and stars.
I call your name.

I am a silver-tongued storyteller.
I remember tales of old.
I nurture time and treasures.
I say the heart is true.
I hope you’ll hear my call.

Margaret Simon, (c) 2018


I am a Rambling River Reliquary

I wonder if I can ever turn back.
I echo the past.
I watch the present.
I call for the future.
I wind a wide bend.
I touch every memory.
I nurture your thoughts.
I want to never stop.
I remember the crashing thunder.
I say ” Swshhh, rrww! ”
I tell the wind my tales.
I hope I can find more.

Madison, 5th grade

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Rebecca at Sloth Reads.

As school winds down, I keep teaching.  I haven’t pulled out a movie yet.  I haven’t started packing (not significantly, anyway).  I want to savor every moment with my kiddos and want them to enjoy every moment left with me.

On Wednesday, we held our annual Gifted by Nature Day when all the gifted kids in the parish elementary schools gather in City Park for a day of nature, learning, and play.  This year our theme focused on fractals.  Do you know what a fractal is? Here’s a collage of fractals in nature:

Fractals in Nature


To follow up on the learning from our day in the park, I reviewed fractals and provided art supplies for students to paint a chosen fractal from nature.  Did you know that the Fibonacci series is a fractal?  Of course, we had to write fib poems.  I used this post by Catherine Flynn as a model text.  I wrote a model fib poem based on a fractal in nature.  Then sent them out to create.  Here’s a gallery of art and poems.



by Jasmine, 6th grade

The sound
Lightning makes
Spreading through the sky
Sharing its color with the world
Fascinating us with its beauty, but deadliness

Peacock Feather by Lynzee

Beautifully swirls
Fractal stares from a peacock’s wing

by Lynzee, 3rd grade


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Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge


Continuing the celebration of Dr. Seuss’s birthday, I pulled an idea out of my hat!  Let’s write about Dr. Seuss quotes.  A search for quotes was easy.  They are everywhere. Not just here. Not just there. But everywhere!

Choosing a quote that spoke to you was easy. Or it was hard. Some students decided to take on rhyming.  But with that decision, you have to consider rhythm too, so I found myself next to Trace beating out Ta-da-ta-da-dum on the table.

Some students went for prose.  Some for poems.  Some wrote their own quotes.

Once again, my students blew me away with their creativity, their depth of thought, and their imagination.

“I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living.”
― Dr. Seuss

Life is a cake,
You can make a pretty, delicious cake,
Or a boring, plain cake.

Fantasy is the icing on the cake,
Nonsense is the silly sprinkles.

Knowledge is the candle on the cake,
And smiles, smiles are the light, the flame.

It’s a wonderful, tasty cake!

–Lynzee, 3rd grade

(Click on her name to leave comments.)

“All alone! Whether you like it or not, alone is something you’ll be quite a lot!”
― Dr. SeussOh, the Places You’ll Go! and The Lorax

not fun at all.
You look at the monstrous jungle,
while your comfort is lost in the sea.
The light in you is unfound.
Creeping around waiting for you to bite,
Like brim in a pond.
Then you actually get it on your hook,
you fight your emotions,
like the fish’s strength.
Then you reel it in,
and are filled with light.

–Austin, 6th grade  (Click his name to leave comments on his post.)

What is your favorite Dr. Seuss quote?  I love so many of them, but this is the one that spoke to me about this weird and crazy Slice of Life Challenge.  We fall in mutual weirdness and call it Slice of Life!

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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.


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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Slice of Life Challenge

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


Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

In my teaching, reflection is important to me.  Not on purpose, really, but as part of my nature. I mull over things.  I wonder out loud and silently.  I talk with colleagues.  I also participate in a Good2Great Voxer chat.

Good2Great teachers are continuously reflecting.  We are always engaging in conversations about our teaching practice. One evening last week, Trevor Bryan and I got into a conversation about the writing process.  He made me think when he said, “The writing process is a creative process, and in the creative process, artists and writers are always making bad work.  Something that doesn’t work is part of the creative process.”

My burning question was born from this conversation.  “How do we honor the process of writing?”

Blogging is a huge part of the writing process in my classroom.  I’ve contended that by writing every day on a blog, my students’ writing grows and improves.  I still believe that, but I’m not sure I honor the mulling, the brainstorming, the idea gathering.  I have stressed to my students that they are writing for an audience.

Jacob decided to write about the movie Moana for his Slice.  When I read his post, he was telling the story of the movie…the whole movie.  He said, “This is only one third of the movie.  I can make more posts.”

Of course he could, but would anyone want to read multiple long posts retelling the Moana story?  I posed that question to him and immediately felt a pang in my gut.  I wasn’t honoring the process.  I was thinking only of the product.  I realized that maybe by writing this whole story, Jacob would learn about writing dialogue.  He would learn about a story arc.  And he wasn’t writing from a book he read.  He was writing from a movie he watched.  He would have to create the actions with his words.

How often do we stifle our young writers?  I know they need to practice.  They need to write often.  But who am I to tell them they must produce a worthy product every time?  As a writer, do I?  Not at all.

Sometimes students do not need to write for an audience.  I will continue to reflect on this question and watch myself more carefully.  Honoring the process is as important, if not more important, that celebrating the product.


If you are joining the DigiLit conversation today, please link up.

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

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Some weeks a word will pop into my head for a DigiLit topic. Then I’ll mull over it and wonder why.  This is how it’s been with Innovation. Like Blended Learning last week, I am wondering if innovation is happening in my classroom.

I think of my young students who are writing for the Slice of Life Classroom Challenge every day.  Last year I put together a treasure box of writing prompts.  I decorated it and filled it with little odds and ends I found around my house.  One of these was a wishing rock.  Andrew put his hand into the box and came out with this rock.  I immediately thought of this Harris Burdick image.

“Maybe you could write a story to go with this image?”

“I’ve never written a story before.”

Andrew proceeded to type furiously into his Kidblog post.  The next day when he came in, he said “I can’t stop thinking about my wishing rock story.”

This is creativity working hand in hand with innovation.  You can read Andrew’s story here (part 1) and here (part 2).

My student, Noah, created a list post of “Things I Trust.”  Two of the curators of the Two Writing Teachers blog read his post.  They wanted to publish it to give other students ideas for writing.

Creativity and innovation happen in a classroom that is open to new ideas.  The let-me-try-this-out attitude.  I believe in my students.  They are more capable than I am when it comes to creativity.  Just look at Lynzee’s word cloud she created using the root word color.  She went on to write her post and change each word into a different font color.


Sometimes I feel like I just stand by and watch the brilliance of my students shine.  They are gifted kids, but more than that, they are open to the ideas floating around in the universe.  This openness will lead them on to produce wonderful innovations in the future, but for now, they are my little wonders.

To link up your own DigiLit post today, use this button.



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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

On Thursday, NCTE hosted a Twitter frenzy on #WhyIWrite to celebrate National Day on Writing. I gave myself an assignment spurred on by the many posts I read about Why I Write. I collected quotes and added them to images. I posted a few here. I also tweeted them out throughout the day on Thursday.

I asked my students to write on this topic and tweeted out their responses using Word Swag, an iPhone app.

Jacob's #WhyIWrite quote on Word Swag

Jacob’s #WhyIWrite quote on Word Swag

Any time you use a new application, you have to commit yourself to patience, practice, and persistence. Even my mother is learning about the three Ps as she switches my dad to Mac from PC.

Kids are so much more adept at this than we are as adults. They know right off that anything new will take patience. Two of my 6th grade boys have decided to do a project that uses animation. I was amazed at the concentrated time they spent to get a stick figure to move his arm up and down.

Digital literacies motivate us to put in the practice it takes to learn something new. We all know this, so we seem to have more patience when it comes to learning a new app. Don’t you hate it when your phone updates and something you have become accustomed to changes? I still swipe when I want to access my iPhone, but some genius thought it would be easier to hit the Home button. Persistence. I keep missing it, and by the time it becomes a habit, something else will change.

Face it, we are stuck with a constantly evolving universe of technology. But thanks to Word Swag, my iPhone, and a beautiful sunrise on the bayou today, I can create this quote from Mary Oliver.


Link your digital literacy posts below. Click to read more posts.

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Find more celebration posts at Ruth's blog.

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.


The Queen of Dot Day!

The Queen of Dot Day!


Thursday, September 15th was Dot Day.  My students love Dot Day.  Since I teach them year after year, they look forward to it from the first day of school.  International Dot Day was inspired by teacher Terry Shay in 2009.  The day is designed around The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds.  In The Dot, Vashti doesn’t feel like she can do art in art class.  She turns away from her paper.  But through the gentle guidance of her teacher, she discovers within herself a budding dot artist.  In the end, she passes on this confidence to another child who says he can’t draw a straight line with a ruler.  The Dot shows students in a very accessible way that they can be creative.

This summer I was privileged to join a Google Hangout with Trevor Bryan.  Trevor is writing a book around the Art of Comprehension.  He uses The Dot to show how students can access text and images through different lenses.  My students responded well to the Art of Comprehension, sharing eagerly about what they saw and read about Vashti’s changing mood.  One of my students, a 2nd grader, said Vashti had an aura.  She was referring to the changing color of the dot that surrounds Vashti on each page.

After we read and discussed the book, I invited my students to make a dot using this plan I found in Scholastic Teacher Magazine.  The art teacher let us use her oil pastels.  First we decorated the plate.  Then we made 19 evenly spaced slits around the rim of the plate. (I used the bumps on the edges to help the kids know where to make the cuts, every third bump.) Then we threaded yarn around the plate to create a base for weaving.  Most of my students had never weaved yarn before.  They loved this new activity.


Weaving is a new activity for my students.

Weaving is a new activity for my students.

I wore my Dot Day skirt made especially for me by my friend Cathy and the official Dot Day t-shirt.  One student dubbed me the Queen of Dot Day.  And another said, “Mrs. Simon, thank you for giving us Dot Day!”

A joyful celebration of creativity, reading, and just being you!




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Poetry Friday round-up is with Dori at Dori Reads

Poetry Friday round-up is with Dori at Dori Reads


With the threat of flooding gone and a need to connect with others, I attended a writing workshop led by my friend Sandra Sarr.

Sandy moved to Louisiana two years ago and quickly embedded herself in the arts community.  From her travels here to research her novel, she met interesting people like Dennis Paul Williams.  She once took me on a visit to his studio.  In 2013, University of Louisiana at Lafayette Press published a large coffee table book of Dennis’s artwork.  I bought the book, but hate to admit that it just sat on the coffee table.

But Sandy’s ekphrastic exercise brought me closer to the images housed in Soul Exchange.  She made color copies and handed them out.  This is the one I picked.

DPWilliams painting


Before Sandy instructed us to write, I started writing.

Secrets shared
like a kiss
softly touching
a cheek.
Even while
she’s sleeping,
she hears
the sound
of singing,
a lullaby.

Sun glows
through the window.
She traces the line
of her face
in the mirror
only touching
the outline–
That space
where skin
meets sky.

She’s never lonely
covers of lace
because she knows
the secrets,
the ones whispered
on the wings
of a prayer.

Even her hair
glows like
rainbow light.

–Margaret Simon

This was just the free write, but I was happy with it.  Then Sandy asked us to circle words from our free write that had some power for us.  She handed out notecards for us to write our words on, tear them apart and put them back together into a new poem.


Words taken from my free writing.

Words taken from my free writing.


This was the resulting poem.

Enter dark space
a line draws her face

Her protector
in covers of lace.

Angels kiss
her prayer.

the path to grace.

–Margaret Simon

What I love about this activity is the abstract way it gets to the soul where you write with authenticity and abandon all at the same time.  I want to try this with my students.  I wonder how they will handle the randomness of it.  Will they get frustrated or enjoy the freedom?  Some days, and especially hard days full of sadness, I find solace in poetry, in the act of creating.  It gets me out of my thinking brain for a minute and allows me to relax into flow. Thanks, Sandy, for sharing Dennis’s art and leading me on a path of discovery.



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