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Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category

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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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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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My second grandson was born in September, nine months after my first. The year of 2019 has been a big change for me as I step into this new role. Juggling two daughters requests for babysitting got a bit tricky around the holidays. Luckily it worked out that Maggie wanted New Year’s Eve and Katherine the Saturday after.

On Friday I traveled to New Orleans after an all day rain storm. The drive into the city is beautiful as the highway is bordered by swampland. I can often see herons or egrets soaring above. This time, however, I noticed the multi-color clouds on the horizon. As the sun set, a bright red rainbow appeared. I aimed my phone camera and took this picture.

Red rainbow over Nola

Julieanne Harmatz, fellow blogger from L. A., was vacationing with her husband, so we met up for a lovely dinner. On Saturday, we met at the City Park sculpture garden where there is a new Cafe Du Monde. (Beignets are a must-have on any trip to New Orleans.) By this time, I was in total charge of grandson Thomas. He was the perfect host, smiling and cooing right on cue. Julieanne took this picture of us in the Sculpture Garden.

I’m learning once again (it’s been 29 years since I had a baby) how to juggle a diaper bag, bottles, stroller and carseat, and all that goes along with caring for a baby. Even with the monitor right next to my bed, I wasn’t able to sleep Saturday night. Thomas slept just fine. I wouldn’t exchange that loving smile for anything. Being a grandma is pure joy!

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I am not much of a cook or a baker, for that matter, but I recently had results from a blood test that my cholesterol is high, so I turned to my mother-in-law.

“I seem to remember you made Papa muffins to help Jerry reduce his cholesterol,” I said.

“Yes, he’s the only person I know who reduced his cholesterol through diet,” she replied.

“Can I have the recipe?” Minga (that’s her grandma name) sent me a text with a picture of her recipe card.

Papa died in 2004, so it’d been a while since she had made his muffins, but my daughters all remember them fondly as a treat when they stayed at Minga and Papa’s house.

My first attempt was severely lacking. Once I found the Oat Bran cereal, I wasn’t sure what package meant. Was it like oatmeal that can be bought in individual packets? Thank goodness, Minga is only a text away for consultation.

“No, package means the whole box.”

The liquid to dry parts seemed uneven to me, but I followed the recipe. The muffins were dry and crumbly and difficult to eat.

Around the holiday season, I love pumpkin flavor, so I wondered how they would taste with pumpkin rather than bananas. Moister? I hoped.

A batch around Thanksgiving was good with the added pumpkin, but it wasn’t until Christmas Eve that I perfected the recipe. I only added 1 cup of flour, rather than 2 cups.

Today, New Year’s Eve, the batch is even better. I cut down on cooking time and added vanilla to the wet part. Yum! Yum!

Papa muffins will be a traditional holiday treat!

Recipe for Perfect Papa Pumpkin Muffins

1 box oat bran cereal
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 T baking powder
1 T baking soda
1 t cinnamon
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used organic cane sugar)
pinch of salt

Mix together

4 eggs
2 cups skim milk
1/3 cup oil
4 heavy squirts of honey
2 ripe bananas or 1 can pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix wet parts and add to dry. Stir. Do not beat.
Line and spray muffin tins.
Bake at 400 degrees for 16 minutes or until brown.

Makes 24-28 muffins.

Anne Simon and Margaret Simon

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Last week our gifted students in grades 4-6 went on a field trip that incorporated three activities. Each teacher’s group rotated through practicing for the Shadows Christmas play, visiting the Bayou Teche Museum, and going on a Poetry Walk.

Pelicans, a sculpture at Paul Allain’s Architecture office

The Poetry Walk took students through a sculpture garden, bayou side boardwalk, and a pocket park called Church Alley. I wanted the students to experience each space in a unique way. For the sculpture garden, we wrote a simple free verse poem of 15 words or less, along the boardwalk, a haiku form that reflected the theme of nature, and in the alley, a mask poem written in the voice of someone from the past.

At the museum, we learned interesting facts about the Bayou Teche and the founding of New Iberia. Frederick Duperier, a founding father, wanted a pathway from his home to the church, and later, the alley was used by nuns who lived in Mount Carmel, the Duperier’s former home.

Here’s a sampling of poems from my students.

Bayou Teche, a snake
slithering its way past us.
The Teche silent still.

Breighlynn, Bayou Teche haiku

Walking through an alley
a very dark, dark alley
to be lit up by
a beautiful church.
The dark dirt
of the alley
much darker than I thought
but a bit brighter
from my very own steps.

Breighlynn, Church Alley
Church Alley pocket park in downtown New Iberia.

The nuns, somber and solemn,
pass silently by my form.
They are hope, in a dark world.

Madison, Church Alley septercet

eyes big 
nose as big as an elephant
peeper sees everything
no matter mouse or bug

Landon, Sculpture poem

On the Bayou Teche
pelican in the distance
lily pads floating

Maddox, Bayou haiku

We celebrated these small poems with sharing time after each writing time. The students cheered for each other and enjoyed being poets paying attention to common places. Each poem was unique. The whole walk took about an hour with 20 minutes in each site. I recommend creating a poetry walk for your next field trip.

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I’m back home after a whirlwind trip to Baltimore for NCTE19. NCTE is one of the most anticipated and yet the fastest events ever! So much preparation and so little time. It went by in a flash.

A flash of friends from far away!

Selfie with roommate Joanne Duncan from Washington.

A flash of powerful, profound speeches!

“Our society needs teachers who stand up for truth.” Lorena German

A flash of authors and ARCs!

With authors Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Lauren Wolk getting signed ARCs.

A flash of authentic action!

Not just tolerance– Normalize, Nurture, Embrace

Travis Crowder, Access, Equity, Inquiry, and Reflection

A flash of the best educators!

Lester Laminack caught this shot of me chatting with one of my favorite educators, Fran McVeigh.

A flash of poets!

Charles Waters and Irene Latham talk about their new book Dictionary for a Better World.

A flash of inspiration!

Uncover your obsessions.
Keep your eyes and heart open.
Be surprise-able.
Get in touch with wonder.

Ralph Fletcher, Seeing the World through Poet’s Eyes

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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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