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Archive for the ‘Gifted Education’ Category

Poetry Friday round-up is with Bridget at wee words for wee ones
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Bridget Magee, our Poetry Friday hostess, just released an anthology around the number 10. I ordered it from Amazon and received it yesterday. I jumped right in and read poems from many of my Poetry Friday friends. Here is what Bridget wrote about her motivation for curating and publishing this anthology:

As the TENTH child born into a family of TEN children in the TENTH month, I am fascinated by the number ten. Add TENACITY to that fascination and the idea to create this anthology was conceived.

Bridget Magee, introduction to 10 x 10 Poetry Anthology

Every week I post a photo that begs to be a poem here on Reflections on the Teche as well as on my classroom Fanschool space. This week I was particularly struck by how the photo of a close-up of dragonfly wings inspired metaphors. Stained glass, mosaic art, prehistoric maps are a few that appeared in the small poems in the comments.

I was able to grab the student’s own writing to teach and reinforce the concept. Children can use figurative language long before they have a name for it.

dragonfly wings by Amanda Potts

Avalyn wrote “like a chandelier” in her notebook, and I took the opportunity to teach her about what she had just done. She had created a “simile.” I told her she could use the colored markers to underline it in her notebook and write the word simile in the margins. Her next line was “a clear shower curtain and the outline of your window.” I directed her to choose another color to mark the metaphor. Then I read her my poem and allowed her to mark my poem with the same colors. I was almost giddy with delight to be able to notice and note a gem in my second grade student’s writing.

This experience makes me wonder about photography and writing. Did the writing change if I told the children the photo was dragonfly wings? I told Jaden what the image was before he wrote, so he decided to google “dragonflies” and included a science fact in his poem.

Wings
like glass designs
shedding light
zipping through the sky
30 wing beats every second
bzz-bzz the dragon fly
slips by.

by Jaden, 6th grade

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about retirement. I envy my poet-teacher-friend Mary Lee Hahn who has a poem about retirement today. But moments like these in my classroom writing alongside such gifted and talented writers inspires me and makes me a better person. I think I’ll stick with it a little longer.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

#WriteOut sponsored by the National Writing Project in partnership with the National Parks began yesterday with a wonderful video and prompt from Golden Gate National Recreation Area. My students and I had a productive day of writing in response.

As a teacher of writing, I am interested in prompts that lead to creative and imaginative writing. This first prompt did the job. Because there was a way into the story (a character enters a portal), students created a variety of different responses. Each one carried their character through the portal in interesting ways. Avalyn, second grade, chose herself as the character who finds the portal on the monkey bars and travels to the desert, then the rainforest, and back home where she lives happily ever after. Her story is here.

Katie and Jaden, 6th graders, chose to be animals in their stories. I think their chosen animals say a little about who they are. You can read their stories on Fanschool here and here.

Chloe’s story reminds me of a book I read this summer on Netgalley, Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt. It’s a book to grab up if you teach middle grades. It’s a lovely story of a camel who saves tiny twin kestrels from a dust storm. I loved all the characters in this book and love that it weaves in a history of camels in Texas. Chloe hasn’t read this book yet, but the creative magic wand waved over her with these words:

Once in a desert, a camel walked into a purple glowing light. He knew it was a portal. He shifted and swayed until he stopped, opened his eyes and saw a horse running around a castle that had the words “Mississippi Land” on it.

Read the whole story here
Join Write Out!

I wrote alongside my students and may work on my story for a regional Louisiana picture book idea. There, I put it in writing. I know it needs a lot of work, but what do you think about a mosquito and banana spider that take a ride through the swamp on a brown pelican?

The Write Out prompts and resources will be remain available on NWP’s website, so even if you don’t have time to work them into your lessons now, tuck them into a back pocket. They are gems!

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Every class we begin with notebook time. My students know to open their notebooks as soon as they walk in. I’ve started teaching some little ones, second graders, and it’s not so well established yet with them, but we’re trying. One thing that Brayden knows already is that on Mondays we write a Slice of Life. But first, we played Mad Lib Poetry, created by Taylor Mali, that I read about on this Poetry Friday post from Denise Krebs.

Brayden answered the prompt, “Name an object that represents your mother” with “butterflies.” This stayed with him, and he wrote his Slice of Life about his mother. “My mother is a butterfly. She is beautiful.”

With my different groups of students, I wrote the Mad Lib Poem 3 times. Here is one of my versions:

I was born in the year of Donny Osmond albums.

My mother was a grand piano
and my father, a pointillist drawing.

Is it any wonder that I grew up to be an amazing cross
between Alice in Wonderland and a great blue heron?

Take a worried look at me. I am weary and feeling old.

Is it any wonder that I still have nightmares
about teaching a whole class
of second grade boys?

Margaret Simon, Mad Lib Slam Poem form by Taylor Mali

Denise shared that Taylor’s Metaphor Dice are on sale for teachers at 60% off. Grab them while you can.

On Friday with my 6th grade writers, we played three rounds of metaphor dice. This is a great game for this grade level. They grapple with the strange combinations and amaze themselves and me by what they write in 2 minutes. I think this is a great activity for critical and creative thinking.

I liked how this next poem came out as a little love poem.

My heart is a burning kiss,
burning like the fire inside
that makes bread rise,
the heat that helps babies grow,
the warmth that feeds the seed
which is to say
your tender kiss
melts my heart
into pure gold
that withstands
the test of time.

Margaret Simon, draft

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.
Chloe and her proud teacher, Margaret Simon

She did it! My student, Chloe, won the Lowell Milken Center’s Discovery Award for the Most Outstanding Elementary Unsung Hero Project. This prize comes with $1000 for Chloe. I am beyond proud.

I teach Chloe for her ELA block for gifted education. This means that I have taught her since she was in 1st grade. In 4th grade she told me her great grandfather knew Martin Luther King, Jr.. Then last year, in 5th grade, I came across an article from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH) about the Baton Rouge bus boycott of 1953. I asked Chloe if her great grandfather’s name was T. J. Jemison. She wasn’t sure, so I texted her mother and confirmed it. That’s when I started looking into the Lowell Milken’s Discovery Award. The prize for 2021 opened February 15th, so I sent an email asking if T. J. Jemison would qualify as an unsung hero. Norm Conard responded immediately and told me to move forward with the project.

There were three types of projects Chloe could do: a documentary, a website, or a play. We agreed on a documentary and started researching. By March, we had set up a Google Meet with her grandfather Ted Jemison who lives in Houston. Chloe wrote the questions and led the interview. I recorded and saved it. Chloe then listened and scripted the interview. Every step of this process seemed daunting and required patience, motivation, and persistence.

By the end of the school year, Chloe had written the documentary script, gathered photos, recorded her voice into a We Video, clipped primary source video generously given by WBRZ (a Baton Rouge news station that had done a feature interview with T. J. Jemison), and written a 500 word process paper. Whew!

The hardest part of this project was keeping a 10-year-old child focused and motivated those last few days of school while her regular class was watching movies and playing outside. We both nearly gave up. A few weeks after school ended, Chloe was still editing her documentary video. I was able to get it entered before the July 1st deadline. Then we waited.

Two weeks ago I received an email from Lowell Milken to call them to set up a Zoom interview with Chloe. They would not tell me if she had won, but they said that I should invite the principal and her parents. I also invited our superintendent and the Sped supervisor. Finally on Sept. 22, ten minutes before the interview was going to start, I told Chloe about it. We had enough time to brainstorm some questions that they may have for her. I set her up in front of my computer, signed in to Zoom, and opened the door to let our guests in. She held up beautifully under pressure.

Chloe in her Zoom interview with Lowell Milken Center

Parts of her interview and a preview to her project were recorded by the Lowell Milken Center. This whole process is why I do what I do, inspiring a young girl to be the best she can be and to make a difference. I am grateful to her parents for their amazing support and to Lowell Milken Center for providing such an amazing opportunity.

To watch Chloe’s documentary (about 12 minutes) click here.

Chloe with her parents and grandmothers

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

We are in our second full week of school, so it’s time to start slicing. I am pleased with the daily routine I’ve started this year with my students. Today, they came in and found their notebooks, opened them up to a clean page, dated it, and waited. Ah, yes. Routine of writing every day is taking hold.

This morning after our quick write, Jaden pointed to Katie’s filled page and said, “She told me she didn’t want to write this morning.” The magic of Linda Rief’s The Quick Write Handbook. Together we have done the first two quick writes in the book, Rambling Autobiography and On Being Asked to Select the Most Memorable Day in My Life. These were great set ups for writing a Slice of Life post on our class blog. (Kidblog has morphed into Fan School and we are not happy.)

I write alongside my students. For the rambling autobiography, Linda Rief suggests using three phrases on their blank page, at the top, middle, and bottom, and write to them. (I was born…, I lied to…, and A friend once told me…)

Rambling Autobiography

I was born under the Perseids meteor showers in a Mississippi torn by racial riots. When I was six, “camping out” in our front yard, we set it on fire, an accident that left me with a fear of fire and deep shame. Our house had the largest oak tree on the whole block. I’ve always imagined my grandmother as my guardian angel. I carry her name with me every day. I lied to my mother about the fire. A friend once told me to trust my gut. I could create a timeline of my life with parentheses of hurricanes.  I secretly like to listen to choral music and sing along the alto part. I once danced with Marilyn Singer’s husband. I’ve won an award for teaching writing but not for writing. 

Margaret Simon, notebook quick write 8/19/21

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I have been playing with collage in my notebook. One day Chloe saw one of my pages and said, “I want to try that.” So I loaded her up with some magazines to take home. She came back the next day not only with a beautiful collage but a poem inspired by it. I interviewed her about the process and recorded it. The Soundcloud recording below is our conversation.

I love what Chloe said about how an image that she put in her collage became surprising images in her poem. The process of cutting is meditative. It can work both ways, too. Creating a collage after a poem can help you process and make connections in a visual way.

I’ve been working through the book The Artist’s Way. Julia Cameron encourages self-discovery and self-nurturing through creativity. She offers affirmations to write and rewrite and say to yourself, questions that move you to letting go and letting spiritual blessings of creativity in. In the margin of a page, I wrote “How is my creativity a blessing to others?” I think I found my answer.

Masterpiece 

The silhouette of spinning
monkeys swinging on 
peacock feathers,

Turtles following dogs on
beaches waving at the waves

As the pig and bird guard their 
treasure found at sea,

and the mother and
daughter watch the
world they live on
on the beach shore.

Chloe, 5th grade
Magazine collage by Chloe

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Michelle Kogan.

One of my favorite things about teaching Reading and Writing to elementary gifted students is our weekly poetry reading and writing. We’d gather around the center table and read a poem together, talk about it, annotate, and write “like” the author. While it looks different this year, I have not given up teaching poetry. This week we worked with Teach this Poem and Joy Harjo’s poem Perhaps the World Ends Here. I love this poem, the universality of it, the simple profound language, and its accessibility to young students.

When Jaden suggested we steal a line, I knew exactly which one I wanted to steal: “This table has been a house in the rain, an umbrella in the sun.” After a few false starts, I am pleased with my poem. I am also posting Jaden’s because it shares wisdom beyond his 10 years.

The Writing Table

At this table,
dreams are written
in decorated notebooks.

There’s a pocket for poems
and clean blue lines open
to ideas.

At this table, there are
scraps of paper,
colored pens in a coffee can,
a tube of glitter-glue.

Today, this table is empty.
A screen glows
while children type 
& breathe through cloth.

Words still float onto an empty page.
Poems still light a spark.

This table is a house in the rain,
An umbrella in the sun,
a dawn in the darkness.
Come taste the sweetness.

Margaret Simon, 2020

Why all
the gifts of earth are brought and prepared, set on the table. 
So has it been since creation, and it will go on.

The gifts have been laid out through history
traveling through our mind.
The table of gifts has been the energy of life in our heart.
The gifts of the table have been tampered with.
The gifts in our heart have been bruised.
The table is the immune system 
shielding the gifts of the earth.

Jaden, 5th grade

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I introduced the concept of a golden shovel poem to my students as we discussed On Friendship by Kahlil Gibran.

Because friendship is such a universal topic, most young students have experience with it, so the tough puzzle of a golden shovel was eased somewhat. I’m sharing a few results today.

To write a Golden Shovel, borrow a line or phrase by someone else, and use each of their words as the final word of each line in your new poem. You must keep the original order of the words intact, and you must credit the author of the original line or phrase. Peter Kahn

Friendship

When you need help, and when 

you are in trouble, he 

will be the one who is 

going to help you. And when you are silent,

he will know that your

mind and heart 

are in trouble. He ceases not 

to understand your emotions. He loves to listen

to what you have to 

say. His 

love for you is as big as your heart.

by Daniel, 6th grade

Friends are there for
you in
sprinkles and the
storm.  They are the dew
that softens hardness of
the darkness, like a little
sunshine when things
get tough. The
best friends know your heart.
The true friend finds
a way to reach you even when its
a dark time, offering morning
to your night, and 
assuring you all is
refreshed.

Margaret Simon, draft

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

Teaching through a screen is hard. I can’t tell what my students are doing. Their mikes are muted; their personal icon doesn’t move. Trying to have a book discussion was like talking to a mirror. The only good thing about that was I could see my face getting more and more exasperated. Why weren’t they answering me? The questions weren’t that hard.

The book we were discussing was Finding Langston by Lesa Cline-Ransome.

To relate to the main character’s discovery of Langston Hughes’ poetry, we watched a video of Langston Hughes reading Weary Blues.

I read aloud Hughes’ “Homesick Blues.” And tried to talk about what makes someone feel homesick. I was talking to myself, or so it seemed. After I gave up, I set the timer for a 5 minute writing time. In the chat, I wrote 5 different lines from Langston Hughes’ blues poems. I admit I didn’t have high expectations.

As always I asked for volunteers to read. Lashawn’s mike turned green and his soft voice said, “I’ll read.”

The silver lining, the golden thread, my poet heart pattered with emotion and joy. Lashawn gave me permission to share his poem.

 My Body’s Feeling Wrong

I feel as I need to do better
do better just do better. that’s all I need to do.
But why can’t I do it? is something distracting me?
Am I filled with bad luck?
I get blamed but it’s not me. no explaining can help me. 
I tell the truth not a fib at all. but a liar is what I get called.

I feel like they are talking about me.
It’s just no use for me. 
Change my look to let everyone know.
Just a smile is what everyone else needs. not me though.
I get asked if I’m fine and alright.
No I’m not fine. Because if I was, my body would have looked right.

I feel a bit empty just a friend all I need.
I lay down at nighttime. I was bullied by online Meanies.
I watch some anime but nothing can heal me.
At least I didn’t lose my life to sadness. I’ll still be here even If i’m sad.
But hey as I shed a tear. I just made some people laugh.
As more tears come down I smile it out.   

My body may look wrong but I make other people feel bright.                                                      Thanks to my friends for being by my side.
I’m happy I made all of you smile.

Lashawn, 5th Grade

I smiled, with tears, into the mirror.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

I know school looks different for most teachers this year. For me, I spend my whole day in one building. For the last 12 years, I’ve been an itinerate teacher, traveling to 3 schools each day. Now I travel through a screen to different students. I’m providing virtual gifted services for students who’ve chosen the virtual option. I’m learning very quickly what kinds of writing activities work well and which ones do not in this virtual setting.

Last week I presented a question for quick writing. Yesterday I used a different approach. I presented a poem and asked students to take a line and write from that line. It seemed to go well; however, the kids were not throwing their hands up (or turning their mikes on) to read what they wrote. This is the part I can’t quite figure out. Do they just need more time or is this how it’s going to be?

I still believe in writing alongside my students, so I wrote a poem with them. The poem we were reading together came from Teach this Poem from Poets.org, Cento Between the Ending and the End. The lines I took frame the poem. Before sharing my poem, I explained that when we write together in quick writes, we often write about whatever is on our mind at that moment. My youngest daughter is getting married in our backyard in 3 weeks. As plans begin to finalize, I am getting excited about the family (immediate family only) that with gather with us.

Unopened Gift

Everyone we love
is gathered
around the bride and groom.
Side by side,
their eyes glow.

We understand
this kind of love,
tender and new,
like a gift
waiting to be discovered.

We hold their hearts
in our hands,
bless them
with all that we have.
Send them to the blue sky
brimming
with golden light.

Margaret Simon
Photo by Secret Garden from Pexels

With my 6th grader, Daniel, we wrote back and forth (in a shared document), adding lines to create a Cento* poem. When the first stanza turned out to rhyme, it was a challenge to keep it going. We were both pleased with the results.

I soar to the sun
Look down at the sea
Bloom how you must, wild
Until we are free.

I wish I could share
All that’s in my heart.
It’s like the world
That keeps us apart.

Everyone we love
Gathered at the lakeside
Marble-glow the fire
A new one inside

I wish I could live
The body whole bright-
Of the day beautiful,
Honeyed light.

Cento from I Wish I Knew by Nina Simone and Cento Between the Ending and the End by Cameron Awkward-Rich

*From the Latin word for “patchwork,” the cento (or collage poem) is a poetic form composed entirely of lines from poems by other poets.

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