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Archive for the ‘Poetry’ Category

Graphic design by Carol Varsalona. She is also hosting today at Beyond Literacy Link.

Living on the bayou gives me a daily view of seasonal changes. We have a huge cypress tree that drops its needles all over the back deck when the days grow shorter. They burst out in bright neon green as the days grow long.

While cypress respond to daylight, other plants respond to temperature changes. On my morning walk, I’ve been watching a Japanese magnolia bursting into bloom. Maybe it’s just me, but I think it blooms earlier and earlier each year. The beauty is striking. I used the tree as a subject for my Poetry Friday offering for tomorrow.

One way I pay attention to seasonal changes is to write poems. I am writing every day with #100daysofnotebooking and with Laura Shovan’s February poetry challenge. When I commit to a social media group, I have accountability, so I get it done.

On Saturday, I wrote a quick notebook draft responding to the quote by Robert Louis Stevenson “There is no music like a river’s”

Listen to the cry
of mother wood duck,
clicks of red-headed woodpecker
on the old oak.
Hear the train whistle
in the distance, and the peaceful
ringing of wind chimes.

The bayou wakes up slowly
on this winter Saturday
playing its music
for the clouds
welcoming first sun,
first light,
new day.

Margaret Simon, draft 2020
Photo by Nandhu Kimar, from Pexels.com

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Jone.

Did you know that Wednesday, Jan. 29th was National Curmudgeons Day in honor of W.C. Fields’ birthday? I didn’t either until I got an email from Jen Laffin’s blog Teach Write. Jen listed some great writing prompts to use with your students.

My students loved this. I loved giving them a word they didn’t already know, which is a challenge when teaching gifted kids. In their notebooks, they wrote poems and character sketches as well as drew pictures of Grumpy Cat, Oscar the Grouch, and the two old men from the Muppets.

I reminded them of the poem form, definito, which was created by my friend and fellow poetry swagger, Heidi Mordhorst. A definito is a poem of 8-12 lines that defines a word and ends with the defined word.

I worked on this poem playing with a rhyme scheme. Writing this poem cheered me up, out of curmudgeonliness.

National Curmudgeons Day Definito

When your day starts out in slush and mud,
When nothing seems quite right,
When your cat scratches drawing blood,
When you’ve already lost the fight,
When all you want to do is rest
or hide, just slam the door,
You can’t suppress your grumpiness;
Your mom says you’re a boar.
Your face turns green and grouchy,
shoulders glum and slouchy.
It may be better to stay in
as you are a curmudgeon.

Margaret Simon, 2020
My notebook page for National Curmudgeons Day.

Angry Growler,
loudest shouter.

A faultfinder,
spirit grinder.

Always shut in,
a curmudgeon.

A.J., 6th grade
Breighlynn’s notebook page.

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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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Poetry Friday round-up is with Kathryn down under at her website.

When I started #100DaysofNotebooking with my students, I couldn’t imagine that we would be reading and writing poetry every day. But poetry is where my radar goes, and a good poetry prompt for me is also good for my kiddos.

Thanks to Ethical ELA, I had many ways to lead my students into writing this week. The prompts are still up on the website, and I highly recommend them. Writing together day by day helps me and my students to be vulnerable together. From this prompt, we wrote poems about loved ones who have passed away. My students touched me with their honesty. They had to bear with me choking up when I shared this poem about my dear friend Amy:

Amy Who
inspired by Abuelito Who by Sandra Cisneros

Amy who looked like Sandra Bullock
but better, whose smile glowed a mile away,
who wore a crown with grace
when she threw beads to the crowd,
whom you may call a social butterfly,
but her conversations were real; she didn’t stray
from the tough stuff, and laughed aloud
at funny happenstance,
who held my grandbaby the last time I saw her,
tears in her eyes
as she said, “I will never have this.”
Who faced cancer with wisdom,
never giving up
while knowing all the while
her body was,
who left us all missing her,
whose joy lives on,
and her smile.

Margaret Simon, draft 2020
This photo of Amy from the first Berry Queen Ball in 2008 stays on my my refrigerator.

A prompt from Teach this Poem led me to a video of “Imagine” by John Lennon. Sadly, most of my students didn’t even know who he was, much less the song. But this freshness caused them to be open and creative in their writing.

The world
breaking into countries
some people can only imagine
while others can do something.
We would want our world
to be like clouds in the sky
staying together
to make a huge crowd
shouting and singing.
They contain heaven
where everyone lives in peace
not separating their clouds.
We don’t want our world to
turn into nothing

Jaden, 4th grade
Photo from PIxabay

No reason,
to kill or
die for.
Imagine,
I might be called a dreamer,
but there are others
who think the same.
I hope some day…
you’ll join us,
a brotherhood of man…
No need
for greed or
hunger.
Imagine us
all living and loving,

                      -together

Daniel, 5th grade

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

Warning: This is another shameless Grandmother post. I received a wonderful gift from a friend, “Letters to My Grandchild”. It’s a little book with envelopes to tuck letters into. I love this idea because those books that you write in intimidate me. What if I mess up? This little book is just envelopes, so I can do multiple drafts before I place them into the book. Thanks, Dani!

I’ve been reading Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes. This book will tug at your heartstrings as Nikki overcame a terrible childhood bouncing around in foster homes and facing her mother’s alcoholism and schizophrenia. The memoir is constructed with poems and notebook entries. Each poem is a poem in and of itself. Because of this, I can share poems from the book with my students without having to read the whole book to them. The content can be too tough for my young students.

On Thursday last week, I shared the poem “The Mystery of Memory #3”.

Think food,
and nourishment
comes to mind,
but we all know
it’s so much more.
One bite of pineapple,
and my tongue sticks
to the roof of memory,
gluing me to the last moment
I savored a slice of
pineapple upside-down cake
at my grandmother’s kitchen table.

To read the complete poem, read Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes.

One of my poems came out as another grandmother joy poem.

Think baby,
and crying comes to mind,
that piercing sound
first heard as life.
But we all know
it’s so much more.
So many firsts–
first bath
first smile
first step
first word.

When you send me a picture
or video text, my heart
swells with joy.
Something new,
something yours,
now mine.
A tiny finger
wraps around my finger
tingling with love.

Margaret Simon, after Nikki Grimes
A gummy Thomas smile to warm your heart.

My second grader Rylee is not yet worried about line breaks, but she heard the rhythm and sentiment of Nikki’s poem and wrote this (hands off from me) in her notebook.

by Rylee, 2nd grade

With line breaks by me:

Think
of you
buying a cake saver
for your mom,
and she’s going to open it,
then she knows what it is.
She likes it,
then she is so happy
that she bakes
a cake.

Rylee, 2nd grade

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Poetry Friday: Crossing

Poetry Friday round-up is with my friend and critique partner, Catherine Flynn.

In my school email inbox, I get a weekly poetry lesson from Poets.org. called Teach this Poem. I don’t do these every week because the intended audience is middle and high school, and my students are elementary. But this week the author’s bio drew my attention. Jericho Brown is from Shreveport, Louisiana, a native to our state.

In the lesson, students were to identify a picture from the Library of Congress of the March on Washington. Enough of my students know about MLK, Jr. that they understood what they were seeing. Relating the poem to the march was a stretch for them, however.

Nevertheless, we wrote after Jericho Brown.

The water is one thing, and one thing for miles.
The water is one thing, making this bridge
Built over the water another. Walk it
Early, walk it back when the day goes dim, everyone
Rising just to find a way toward rest again.

Read the rest here.

Jericho Brown, Poets.org

My poem became one of address to Jericho Brown.

We have crossed the line,
that imaginary space between
you and me, a wall covered in vines.
Tearing at the weeds, I find a flower–
morning glory. Help us, Jericho, to see
the flower in the weeds, the flame
inside a rainbow, crossing over
barriers to a place
where we can all leap together.

Margaret Simon, draft 2020

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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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