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

Before leaving my students for the year, I offered an assignment from Scholastic Magazines, the My History Project. We spent a Google Meet session looking at Animoto for creating interesting videos.

I knew this project would be a difficult endeavor without me overseeing and coaching the process. I honestly didn’t think any of them would take the time to pursue it.

You are a part of history.
You are living through an important and unique time in history—the COVID-19 pandemic. Years from now, historians will learn from the experiences of people who went through it—people like you and your family.

Lauren Tarshis, Scholastic

The projects were due to Scholastic by July 1st. I was pleasantly surprised when I got an email from Chloe’s mom with a link to her completed video. I’m excited to share it with you. I love how Chloe used equations “Laura Purdie Salas-style” to communicate a lot with few words. Please share comments to Chloe here, and I will pass them on to her.

My History by Chloe, 2020

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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.
Poetry Friday round-up is Michelle Kogan.
Click over to join the round up and to read poems from The Best of Today’s Little Ditty, including one of mine.

Ethical ELA posts a 5 day Poetry Challenge each month. (Next month, there will be a prompt every day for National Poetry Month.) This month I participated in only two days, but I shared one of the activities with my students this week on our Kidblog site.

Click here to see the full prompt from Jennifer Goyer-Jowett.

Her prompt included finding a Japanese character to write a haiku from. I chose river. (There isn’t one for bayou.)

Kawa

In the process of finding this character, I discovered the Japanese word Kawaakari which means the gleam of last light on a river’s surface at dusk.

Last light of first day
glows like any other, yet
gleam lingers longer.

Margaret Simon, draft

Knowing my student Madison would jump on this prompt (she loves all things Japanese), I posted the prompt to my class Kidblog site. I’m sharing their wonderful responses.

Ember’s graceful flight,

Sparks fly, blizzards and tornadoes

of dire fire.

Madison, 6th grade
Image result for water japanese
Mizu means water

Maddox, 5th grade, wrote “The Japanese character I chose is mizu which stands for water. It represents the fluid flowing and the formless things in the world.”

fluid flowing streams

flowing in the wild forest

complete harmony

Maddox, 5th grade
Image result for japanese word character for tree
A.J., 6th grade, chose tree.
image

Standing tall and firm,

Strong arms supporting small twigs,

Uneven Fractal.

A. J., 6th grade

Breighlynn, 4th grade wrote, “My Japanese character is Kaze. Kaze is for wind. It represents Freedom of movement.”

Freedom of Movement

Going here and going there

I love to travel

Breighlynn, 4th grade

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

Over the weekend news traveled quickly of Kobe Bryant’s untimely death and the heart-wrenching revelation that his 13 year old daughter died with him. I’m not a huge basketball fan, but I knew my students would come Monday talking about this tragedy. So when I saw Sara Ahmed’s tweet, I took notice.

I copied Kobe’s poem Dear Basketball. We talked about Kobe, about the accident, and read aloud the poem. Later in the day, I saw a Facebook post of this video, so my last class watched the video as well.

As a writing prompt, I told my students they could write a letter to something they love or write a letter to Kobe from his basketball. This prompt worked especially well with my boys. I want to share three of my students’ poems.

Dear Kobe

From the first time  you made me
from a ball of socks
and threw me into a hoop,

I knew that you would become
one of the greatest.
I knew that you dreamt of being one of the greatest,
by how you put your heart and soul
into me,
day and night,
never resting.
You put your blood, sweat,
and tears into me.

You worked day and night,
making shot after shot
after shot after shot,
until you were finally able
to put on that Lakers jersey 
with me in your hand,
doing the thing you love the most.

I am grateful for all the
years we spent together,
but as you grow older,
your body isn’t into
running up and down the
court,
throwing the ball into the
hoop,
but I know your heart
will always be with me
forever and ever.

From Basketball

Shaelon, 6th grade

To leave comments for Shaelon, click here.

Dear Kobe,

While you pretended
to make game-winning shots,
I knew one thing:

I was meant for you.

Loving me,
giving me your hardest.

You saw me as a kid,
and you came running to me,
never turning back.

I asked for a little,
you gave me a lot.

While I called to you,
and you practiced for me,
coming my way.

The way of a legend.

But dreams
can’t last forever.

Not all at least.

You stayed with me,
and I stayed with you.

I stayed in your heart,
as you threw me in the trash,
and I knew,
you would come,
and get me out.

The trash,
was just your basket,
and our way of staying
together.

Always.

Love you,

Basketball

A.J., 6th grade

To leave comments for A.J., click here.

Dear green pen,

From the moment
I took you out of the bag
and started writing poems in a notebook
that is full of blue loose leaf,

I fell in fondness of you

I used you with my wrist to my fingers

A 12 year old boy
deeply in fondness of you
I never saw the end of the sentence
I only saw words


and so I wrote
I wrote up and down every page
after every sentence
you asked for my poems
I gave you my essays
because they are bigger.


I wrote through every cramp
not because I wanted to
but because my teacher made me

you gave this 12 year old boy a writing dream
and I am fond of you for that
but I can’t write for much longer

my teacher has to leave 
school is almost over

I’m  ready to put you back in the bag

and no matter what I write
I will always be that kid
with the pen in hand
notebook on the table
5 seconds left on the timer

5 …4 …3 …2 …1…0 and then the timer goes off 
and the pen starts going back in the bag.
Fond of you always,

-Landon

Landon, 6th grade

To leave comments for Landon, click here.

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

I saw the tweets, Facebook posts, and blog posts from Michelle Haseltine, and I said, “No!” I don’t need another group to join, another challenge to conquer, anything else to do! Just. Say. No.

That “no” lasted a few days, but the more posts I saw, the more I realized that this was the perfect thing to rejuvenate writing in my life and in my classroom.

Last year at NCTE 2018, I attended a notebooking workshop (wrote about it here) with Michelle and others. I came home inspired to make a commitment to notebooking in my classroom. At the end of the year on a field trip bus, I overheard one of my students talk to another one from a different school. She said, “I love notebook writing. Do you?”

Somehow things got in the way this school year. So the #100daysofnotebooking was just the thing I needed to bring out the notebooks again. We wrote every day last week.

I printed out this page, so we could keep a count of the days.

The notebook writing takes about 20 minutes in each of my three classes. I begin with some sort of prompt. We write to the Insight Timer set to 7 minutes. Then we share. Some of my students post their writing on our class blog, but this is not required.

Watching the Facebook page is inspiring (or daunting, depending on your point of view as some posts are very creative), but there is room for every type of notebooker. I’m enjoying trying out collage, writing to poetry, and word collecting.

As we continue, I’ll know more about how my students are growing their writing skills. Right now the routine of it is working. They look forward to the time to write, the time to draw, and the time to be themselves on the page.

Here’s a gallery walk of some of our pages:

Jaden was inspired by a poem by Nikki Grimes, Journey from Ordinary Hazards.
Notebook time leads to Flow, the concept that time disappears while we are immersed in a creative activity.

Karson’s One Little Word notebook page.
Breighlynn’s poem in response to Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s poem The Pie of Kindness.

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

On Wednesday in freezing temperatures (an unusual 28 degrees in the morning), I traveled with gifted colleagues and 4th-6th graders from our district to the Renaissance Festival in Hammond, LA. As the day wore on, the temperatures rose to a comfortable 50 degrees. With a number of parents attending, I ended up spending the day with just one student, Madison.

Madison loves all things Renaissance. We watched glassblowing and juggling and had a quick recorder lesson. I loved watching her absorb it all. When we ran into classmates, she pulled out the wooden dagger she had bought and challenged them to a dual.

Renaissance merchant with a wooden toy.

My students wrote about their experience and here are a few quotes:

 So at the renaissance fair we started at the Queen stage and watched a play which I didn’t watch all of. The next play we went to was Romeo and Juliet which was quite funny. Shakespeare himself directed Romeo and Juliet and the first thing he said was  dumb which we replied with no and which he replied well your watching a play directed by someone who calls himself Shakespeare. There was two families and the I was in was the Montagues the other people were Capulets. We will not talk about the rest and no I was not Romeo.

Jaden, 4th grade

 We saw this ride where you sit on a wooden horse and you in a way, joust. I think it was called “Sliding Joust.” Daniel told me he went on it. It looked daring to me.

        I learned that most of the swords weighed about two pounds. She even let me hold one of them. You would think that is not a lot, little do you know it really is. 

        We went to a shop and we asked why did they train with wooden swords. The man told us that they trained with wooden swords because if they did not train with wooden swords the real sword would hurt the other person.

Karson, 5th grade
Karson lifts a sword.

When it comes to field trips, this was a good one. The distance was not too far, 2 hour drive, and the experience was all in one safe, enclosed space. There are so many factors that can overshadow the educational experience of a field trip, weather, food, the bus and who you sit next to, etc. For a few hours, my students and I were transformed back in time. This experience will live on in their memory.

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With my gifted kids, I’ve been using Linda Rief’s Quickwrite Handbook. She offers mentor texts and prompts for writing. These mentor text quickwrite prompts give a jumpstart to a blog post. I write with my students. Today I want to share a few responses to “When I was Young in the Mountains” by Cynthia Rylant. Linda Rief wrote “When I was Young at the Ocean” and included many sensory images. We were able to see how using senses in our writing creates strong imagery for the reader to understand. Karson took us to his eye doctor appointment.

When I was young at the eye doctor, I was very nervous. I did not know what I would look like with glasses on. I did not know if I would even end up with glasses! We went to the eye doctor at Lens Crafters in the mall. They called me,” Karson, we are ready for you.”
        When I was young at the eye doctor they had to check my eyes. The room was really small.  The light was dim.  I sat in a rolling chair like my teacher’s. They made me look at a farmhouse while they took pictures. Then they made me look at a green light. That scanned my eyes. 
         When I was young, I cried and cried because I did not want to do the thingy where it blows air. The doctor was a woman, and she was so nice, she let me skip it. 
When I was young at the eye doctor, I thought I had to dilate my eyes but I also cried and cried and I had tears dripping with sweat because I was scared. But because I was crying, I did not have to do that either. 
          When I was young at the eye doctor, I eventually got glasses.  I was okay with it because I look so cool.  My glasses are my friends.  They still are. 
         

Karson, 5th grade

This summer I had to say good-bye to my parents’ house on the lake. The memories are bringing me back, and writing helps me process them.


When I was a Daughter at the Lake

When I was a daughter at the lake, I swung on the porch swing pushing off from a little plastic stool and listening to the squeak of the chains. Sometimes my father sat near me with his newspaper and a bowl of cereal. He’d look up to tell me a bit of news.  “Listen to this!” he’d exclaim, and I’d laugh internally at his total exasperation at the world.

When I was a daughter at the lake, I’d sleep late with no alarm set, waking to the scent of coffee and pancakes, maple syrup, melting butter.  Mom in her robe stood near the griddle and greeted me with a smile. “Good morning, sleepy-head.” 

When I was their daughter at the lake, worries melted away like the sunset on the horizon. We’d talk and talk.  Sometimes we’d sit silently watching the heron fishing. Their presence was enough. It still is. 

Margaret Simon, draft, 2019

Shaelon remembered his vacation to Florida this summer. Using the form helped him describe many details of the trip. This is just one of his four paragraphs. The repeated line is helpful in creating a framework for writing.

When I was nine at the beach, we got to the beach.I ran and felt the nice soft sand on my toes.I ran to the water and touched it.It felt warm and soothing.I ran in until it was to my waist.Now it felt cold.I hurried back to the shore and look for my mom.My sister and I sat down on the sand next to my mom and attempted to try and make a sand castle.We had made good progress until the tide came in and washed it away.I gave up and walked along the shore, picking up shells and looking at their beauty.I tried to see if I can hear the water lapping in the shell because my sister had told me I can.I ran back and showed my mom all the shells I had collected.

Shaelon, 6th grade

I will continue to find inspiring writing prompts in Linda Rief’s book. When we study other authors, we discover our own way to writing.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Dani at Doing the Work the Matters.

This is my last week of school and a perfect time for reading picture books and writing about dreams. I read aloud Happy Dreamer by Peter Reynolds.

Peter Reynolds wields his word-magic wand in this book. Near the end, there is a double flap that opens up to reveal multiple dreamers and ways to be happy.

What kind of dreamer are you?

Here’s a list poem of some of them:

Celebration Happy
Stage Dreamer
Family Happy
Fierce Dreamer
Ocean Happy
Dreamy Dreamer

Make a Difference Happy
Civic Dreamer
Foot Stomping Happy
Crazy Dreamer
Kindness Happy
Sunny Dreamer

I tried a simple writing prompt “What kind of dreamer are you?” Breighlynn used a repeated line and showed me the way to a form.

I am a wild dreamer
seeing things
others cannot
playing with invisible lions
petting the prettiest jaguars
What will I see next?

I am a wild dreamer
playing with hippos
when taking a bath
riding on alligators
when floating in the pool.

I am a fierce dreamer
fighting dragons one day
protecting the king, the next.

I am a fierce dreamer
standing guard at the castle.
If I die,
oh well,
it’s just a dream.

Breighlynn, 3rd grade

Madison used a free form and found her way to her love of art.

I am a thinking dreamer–
Worlds and tales threaded through my daydreams,
a tapestry or another world
where the limit is my own self.
These worlds of mine are
drawn,
put to paper,
and solidified within
my own
mind.

Madison, 5th grade

What kind of dreamer are you?

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Poetry Friday round-up is here! Scroll to the end of this post to find the InLinz linky.

Wednesday was our annual Gifted by Nature field trip to City Park. All the elementary gifted kids in the parish (district) gather for a day of games and art and nature. I’m usually the one to lead a poetry writing activity. This year we designed our learning fun day around the concept of pi, so of course, we wrote Pi-ku!

Pi-ku follows the syllable count of pi, 3.14. Some students challenged themselves to more digits, 3.14159…

Girls writing nature pi-ku.

A beautiful spring day on the shore of Bayou Teche with lily pads and duck families, draping oaks and cypress trees became the perfect setting for inspiring pi-ku.

Lilypads

Lilypads
are
in the water.
They’re
absorbing sunlight
providing habitat for wildlife
such as
Louisiana bullfrogs
and other creatures.
The shadow
drops the temperature
providing a cool habitat
Nature has many examples–Pi!

Josie
Photo by Richard Fletcher from Pexels

Beautiful
blooms
rest peacefully
watch
as the calm wind blows.
The flowers dance to the soft music.
They stop
moving from side to side
surrounded by leaves
friends of vines
saying Hello to
multi-colored dragon flies and bees.

Jayden

Outside I
see
a tree with a
hole.
Could I make it a
home? A place warm, quiet, safe and dark.
–Izabella

You are invited to the Inlinkz link party! Click here to enter


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