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Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category

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

When we returned from winter break, I started a new daily writing activity in my classroom: 100 Days of Notebooking. In truth we don’t have 100 days of school left, but no matter. The point is to write and draw and be creative every day in some way or another. My students have embraced this idea.

We start each entry with the date and a quote. I have a copy of 360 Days of Wonder which is full of quotes. I also allow students to look up quotes by famous people they admire. One student is choosing a sports quote each day.

Notebook page, January 6, 2022

The papers I used for the collage above were images in a National Geographic magazine of a polluted lake in Romania. I told Chloe about it and she wrote a poem about it. I asked her if I could have a copy for my notebook page.

For Christmas, one of my students gave me a gift card to Target, so I used it to get more notebooking supplies, washi tape, felt-tip pens, and decorative paper.

new notebook supplies

Michelle Haseltine started a Facebook group and an Instagram hashtag. It’s fun to be a part of a larger group. Everyone has their own unique style of notebooking. I enjoy drawing inspiration from others.

Notebook page, January 10, 2022

Avalyn picked out the quote above, and we discussed the figurative meaning of it. On her notebook page, she wrote a loving poem. You can see how she worked on the line breaks. She posted it on our Fanschool page. You can leave a comment for her here.

Avalyn, 2nd grade

Do you have a notebook? What creativity can you bring to the blank page?

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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.
Fire pit in the Blue Ridge Mountains

Let the magic find you.

I picked up that line from fellow slicer Fran Haley’s post this morning. I want to adopt it as my 2022 mantra.

Instead of piles of presents, our family took a trip to the mountains of North Carolina. We rented a home near Burnsville outside of Asheville. The house was just right with three floors, five bedrooms, and a fire pit. The only treacherous part was the drive up. As luck would have it, we arrived before dark to drive the mile long switchback trail up, up, and up. Thank heavens for confident sons-in-law drivers and 4-wheel drive. The trail became part of the adventure to the mountain house. We did make sure we were home each day before dark. And one morning the guys walked down with a wheelbarrow and patched some squishy places with branches and rocks.

Magic found us in the mountain house.

Three toddlers making fun.
Men making meals.
Scary barns.
Fields of cows.
Nightly fires
under a blanket of stars.
Magical Christmas!

Toddler wrestling…Cousination!


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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.

He sat on the bench near the door eyeing the white hard hats on the other side of the bench. The next thing I knew, he announced, proudly wearing the hat with the strap over his forehead that he was a “fighter fighter”.

“Who are you?”

“A fighter fighter!”

“A firefighter?”

“I a fighter, fighter.”

“I a fighter fighter” Leo (3)

This weekend I accompanied my daughter and her husband as we drove with Leo (3) to the Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans for his special birthday weekend. We met up with my younger two daughters, son-in-law, and cousin Thomas (2). The Children’s Museum is full of pretend play areas, water, music, grocery shopping, etc. I climbed into a huge bubble-making contraption with both boys. Leo was interested in the pulleys that hoist the bubble up while Thomas whispered, “Bubble.” Then we all squealed when it popped.

“Cold” Thomas (2)

Pretend play with toddler boys is fun. I could watch and listen all day. As they bounce from one thing to another, a cup becomes a gas can, a handle becomes a sword, and a puzzle becomes building blocks. At the end of the day, Mamère becomes a storyteller and lullaby singer, and that’s the best job in the whole world.

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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.

The shopping season is here, and to be honest, shopping’s not my favorite thing to do. Or at least that’s what I usually say, but Sunday was different. I started out by picking up our Christmas cards at Walgreens. They were so easy to do. I used my phone and the Walgreens app; there was a 60% off sale, so they were also not that expensive. I left Walgreens with a spring in my step that helped motivate me for the next stop.

After buying a gift card for the name I chose on the angel tree, I found a new-to-me-boutique, right in my home town. All about You. I hit the jackpot on gifts for my Secret Santa gift exchange at school as well as a Christmas t-shirt for me and do-dads for the grands. Having saved some money at Walgreens, I splurged at this shop.

With all this shopping success (not to mention a good phone chat with my sister in the parking lot), I decided to treat myself to a pumpkin cream cold brew at Starbucks. New Iberia is barely large enough to sustain a Starbucks, but this day there was a long drive-through line. No matter. I took the time to check email and Instagram and such. When I got to the overly cheerful man at the window, he announced, “The car ahead of you paid for your drink!”

“Oh no!” I exclaimed. “Pay it forward. Now I have to do it for someone else.”

“The order for the car behind you is only $…”

I flashed my phone and in the blink of an eye, I had passed on the holiday giving cheer.

Sometimes shopping is a burden, but this day turned a chore into a gift.

Pay it Forward

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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.
Fredericksburg, Texas

For my 60th birthday back in August, my daughters bought me a vacation with them to Fredericksburg, Texas. A sisters trip. We invited my sister-in-law who lives in Dallas to come along. This was to our advantage because she drove and picked us up at the Austin airport to drive to Fredericksburg. Not to mention she was fun to have along.

Fredericksburg is a town in the hill country, settled by Germans, and home to 59 wineries. Just imagine all girls at a winery table on the banks of Baron’s Creek toasting and sharing stories. Nothing better, right? We laughed, we cried, we laughed.

One evening we found ourselves closing down a winery. We had stayed beyond our welcome, and it was dark. Two of my daughters worked on getting us an Uber (We were being responsible), but on a Sunday evening in a small town, they were few and far between. We were also being a bit picky and didn’t want the old cowboy with the car full of trash (and a foul smell). We walked to the entrance and someone told us the gates were closed. We’d have to walk to the back gate which was apparently quite a distance down a dark dirt road.

To the rescue appeared Enrique. He told us to wait right there while he got his truck. His truck was like brand new and big enough to hold 4 of us in the back seat comfortably. When he got us to the back gate, Katherine said, “The Uber is 15 minutes away.”

Our angel Enrique said, “Ya’ll going back to town? I’ll take you.” And he flashed his million-dollar-twenty-something-Mexican smile our way.

We made it safely back to town while I embarrassed my girls by calling our angel “Enriquo.” But I was sober enough to find $40 to leave on the seat. He saved us and wanted no payment for it.

My Inkling friend Linda Mitchell is the host at Ethical ELA today with a prompt for writing a Tricube poem. Here is mine in deep gratitude for my daughters.

My three girls
now women
look at me

What they see
in my eyes–
mother’s joy

What they hear
from my lips–
words of love

Margaret Simon, draft
Cheers!

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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.

Through blogging communities like this one (Slice of Life) and Poetry Friday, I’ve met many mentors for writing. Amy Ludwig VanDerwater is one of those special teacher-poets who generously gives of herself. During the pandemic shut down, she recorded videos in Betsy, her writing camper, every day. These can be found on her YouTube channel. Last year she went back to teaching, so she didn’t blog as much. Boy, did we miss her voice in cyberspace!

But she’s back and each week on Friday, she posts a mentor poem on The Poem Farm with student-friendly (and adult-friendly) instructions for writing your own poem. This past Friday, her poem came up on my Instagram and was just right for our writing time.

Crocheted wool hat by Margaret Simon

One of our kindergarten teachers is having a baby, so I crocheted a little hat for her new child. This was on my mind when I wrote alongside my students. I gifted the poem to Miss Heidi along with the hat.

The Wool Hat

after Amy Ludwig VanDerwater “Circles”

When sheep’s wool
becomes yarn
becomes crochet
becomes hat,
a newborn baby’s head
holds a sheep,
yarn,
hands,
needle,
warmth,
and I wonder
how prayers
offered for a stranger
growing inside a friend
becomes a child
wearing a hat
passed on
from sheep to hand
to heart
to warmth
to love.

Margaret Simon

Jaden, 6th grade, has started a new trend when he writes his gratitude poem. If he makes a mistake, he turns it into a picture. I noticed his little designs and complimented him. He said, “Oh, I made those dots and stars because I messed up.” That sounds like a poem to me. And so he turned his mistakes into stars into a poem.

Recycle Poem

Old mistakes
become rainbows
and new designs
old mistakes 
become new inspirations 
when I look at the designs
will I remember the old mistakes? 
will I think of new ideas?
shapes like stars and squares?
or something new?
what will the new mistakes become?

Jaden, 6th grade

One of the fourth grade teachers is raising monarchs. Katie was inspired by this and wrote her circle poem about the life cycle of a butterfly.

Life Cycle Poem

Out of a small egg
comes a small, slimy, bean.
A bean that squirms
and grows and grows.
Grows into a small
chrysalis where it stays for a while
until it’s ready to fly.
Fly into the real world
with beautiful, colored, wings
and to reproduce
another small egg.

Katie, 6th grade
Monarch hatchling by Margaret Simon

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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.

On Saturday as part of the Festival of Words, I had the privilege to attend a small workshop with Aimee Nezhukumatathil. She led us through a number of writing exercises and ended with a discussion of the haibun.

From Poets.org: “Haibun combines a prose poem with a haiku. The haiku usually ends the poem as a sort of whispery and insightful postscript to the prose of the beginning of the poem. Another way of looking at the form is thinking of haibun as highly focused testimony or recollection of a journey composed of a prose poem and ending with a meaningful murmur of sorts: a haiku.”

Aimee added to this definition with two concepts: Aware, a Japanese concept similar to natsukashisa, a type of nostalgia with a fondness for what is gone but also slight optimism for what’s ahead and a sense of calm because this is the natural course of things. She also Nezhukumatathiled the form with the addition of scent. She spoke about scent as a way to activate the reader’s mind to a memory.

On Monday, I went to a former school to screen a student for gifted. They put me in my old room to do the testing and while the child took her test, I wrote this poem.

I enter the spacious classroom, and you are not here. So many hard days in masks and social distance
defined our relationship then. Your desk is gone. The smell of pencil shavings is sharp
mixed with musty-mold of an old school. Today I am testing a girl like you,
bright and edgy with a little swagger to her walk. But she isn’t you. No one can be you but you.
This chair, the small blue square that lost its cushion years ago, holds me again.
I trip over its wobbly wheels wishing you were here to laugh at me. Where are you now?
In another classroom, another school, same masked face, same suspicious eyes.
I want to know if you are OK. I only ever wanted you to be OK.

Students come in
Twist my heart into a knot
And leave it longing

Margaret Simon, draft
Photo by Ivan Samkov on Pexels.com

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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 have rubber boots for both boys. Here, Leo helps Tuffy put on his boots for our walk. Charlie looks on.

On Sunday morning, I was in charge of my two grandsons, both 2 years-old, 9 months apart. We started out with a goal of walking to CeCe’s house. CeCe lives on the next block about half a mile from my house. For the first little while, the walk was adventurous. The boys walked together, but then Tuffy (Thomas, T-monster, T-bird) trailed off into a field of tall grass. I had to fetch him out and in so doing, realized he had left a prize in his diaper. We had to go back home and change him.

Back on the road, each boy carried a skeleton hand. I got these plastic skeleton salad tongs at the dollar store last year. They each had one tong, so no arguments or need for “sharing.” Every once in a while Tuffy would want Leo’s, and they would trade. When Leo discovered that banging on the gutter caused a loud percussion, the boys pounded out a rhythmic tune that echoed across the quiet stillness of Sunday morning.

Moving on, Leo saw another gutter, “Look, another one!”, but I said, “Let’s keep moving. It’s a long way to CeCe’s house.” I called CeCe, and she told me she would be going to church at 10:30. This was 9:30, so I told her we would just stop for 5 minutes. I estimated we’d get there by 10. Well, not so much.

I put Thomas in the stroller which he cried about, but once I started singing, he was OK. I was making up songs right on the spot. It went something like this, “We are marching, marching, marching to the Frankenstein.” I promised we would get to see the humongous Frankenstein statue on the next block.

I texted CeCe when we hadn’t made it to her street by 10:00. “We’ll have to see you later.” Then I ran into some friends out for a morning run. We stopped to talk. It’s funny how my toddlers were very talkative until someone asked them a question.

We finally made it to Frankenstein. I called Katherine who was just out of the shower after her run with Papère. She came with her car and picked us up or I may still be out there coaxing these boys along with a drum and a song.

Frankenstein with Leo, left, Thomas, right.

Walking with a Toddler

I open my eyes to your wonder
as you discover everything new–
a fallen limb, a world over and under.
I open my eyes to your wonder,
reach for your hand at the sound of thunder,
follow your gaze, engage your view.
I open my eyes to your wonder
as you discover everything new.

Margaret Simon, draft triolet

I am joining a daily writing of gratitude poems for the month of November. Three lines a day.

Blue
–your eyes
Saying “Love Mamère.”

#gratiku #haynaku

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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.

The last two weeks have offered a wealth of writing inspiration as we participated in #write0ut, a National Writing Project and National Park Service collaboration. Teaching gifted kids challenges me to find quality writing activities that will inspire, motivate, and engage my young students. #Writeout 2021 did not disappoint. And the resources will remain available on the website here.

My students have created storyboards with Storyboard That about geological changes over time.

Chloe’s storyboard about Louisiana’s loss of wetlands.

They wrote poetry. Things to do if you’re a puppy by Avalyn:

Pound on a window when you want
to go on a walk, purr when you want pets.
Go outside and dig when you’re bored.
Lastly 
only bark when you’re in danger.

Avalyn, 2nd grade

On Friday, we ventured outside to the playground. At one school, there is a large live oak. My students sat underneath the tree for writing inspiration and gathered natural materials to create an art piece.

Katie gathers leaves for her notebook.
Avalyn observes a live oak tree.
Jaden’s are collage and poem

Golden petaled flowers
spring up from the ground

Leaves slowly drift
from each branch

Clouds painted
on the sky’s canvas

Tall great trees
with green leaves

Spider webs
glisten in the sunlight

Squawking birds
angrily yell

Fellow rodent squirrels
sprint across branches

For nature
For habitats
For life

Jaden, 6th grade (form inspired by Irene Latham)

Another #writeout prompt asked students to make a poster. We used Canva and Adalyn create this one. On Canva it’s animated. You can view the animated version here.

Created by Adalyn, 3rd grade using Canva

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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 recently won a book giveaway (Don’t you just love free books?) from Kidlit 411 of a new book My Monsterpiece by Amalia Hoffman. The illustrations for this book are done with mixed media and photography. The artist-kid wants to create a scary monster but becomes frustrated as each person he shows his art to isn’t frightened at all. They eventually come to understand that monsters don’t have to be scary (and neither are kids). I was excited to read it to my almost 3 year old grandson Leo when he came to visit this weekend.

Sunday morning came early as Leo woke up well before the sun. “Mamére, it’s dark outside.” So while I had my much-needed cup of coffee, Leo located the art supplies and set to work on his own Masterpiece/ Monsterpiece.

by Leo, 2.8

On the Ethical ELA Open Write, the prompt from Anna was to write a 20/20 vision poem, a 20 word poem that sees something more clearly.

Making a masterpiece

comes slowly with

creative attention

to bursts of color.

You look up and say,

“A birthday cake!”

Margaret Simon, draft

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