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Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category

See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

I spent some time with grandsons this weekend. We had Leo, 11 months, Saturday through Sunday afternoon. Taking care of him is a physical endeavor. He’s at least 20 pounds of activity. I love talking to him and watching his responses. His facial expressions are funny–the O-face, his inquisitive eyebrows, and his endearing smile. Yet, as they say, he is a handful. And rightly so, learning how to move is serious and dangerous business. You always have to be on guard. I saved his life a few times over the weekend.

Cousins Thomas and Leo

Thomas at 2 months is less active and a light 11 lbs. 9 oz. of soft and cuddly. He has started responding with coos and smiles. But I don’t worry as much about his safety. He’s usually being calmly held, or he stays in one place on a floor mat.

As I was looking at my students today, I tried to imagine them as babies and toddlers. I said to them, “It’s hard for me to imagine that at one time if I had put you down in this room, you would’ve pulled all the books off the shelf, stuck your fingers in the socket, or tried to climb on the desks.” They all started talking at once with their stories of what dangerous things they had done as toddlers.

“Look! I still have a scar on my elbow!”

“I jammed my fingers in the door.”

I told them I think we need to save this as a writing prompt. They called me out on “peanut butter” which is what we call things that are off topic.

I admit I’m as bad as any of them at getting off the topic. But I got a good writing prompt out of it.

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

I have been following the Two Writing Teachers blog for at least 6 years. At NCTE in 2014, I sat next to Melanie Meehan at the Slicer dinner. Melanie was not yet a member of the TWT team. We talked about writing, and she asked me to join her online critique group. At the time, she and I were both writing middle grade fiction.

Fast forward a few years and now Melanie has published a professional book. I won her book Every Child Can Write from a TWT blog giveaway. I’ve been reading and marking it up ever since it arrived. I am so impressed with the attention to detail and practical advice for our most challenged writers. Melanie calls them striving writers. In my opinion, all writers are striving writers.

I teach gifted kids, but that doesn’t mean they are all efficient writers. They struggle with many of the things Melanie covers in her book, idea generating, making transitions, adding details.

When reading a professional book or attending professional development, we look through the lens of our own experience. My students write a Slice of Life each week. I have been grading these posts using a rubric. Melanie made me look deeper at what I was asking my students to do. Were they authentically involved in the process?

Melanie asks her readers to consider designing writing checklists with kids. “Just as we need to understand the concepts, so do our students. Additionally, using their own language is powerful because students are then intrinsically involved in the self-assessment process…Student involvement in creating checklists leads to understanding on their part, and when they understand, the are better able to move along the ladder of mastery.”

I decided today to ask my students what they would include on a checklist for their SOLs. This is the list they compiled:

  • Details: Details help the reader imagine the scene
  • Your story: First person POV
  • Voice: Unique, humorous, new, emotional, have personality
  • Defining unknown words for others
  • Stay on topic
  • Imagery: Use the senses
  • Grammar
  • Paragraphs: Change with new topic or new speaker
  • Spelling

I found a few of their ideas interesting. They have really internalized the importance of using paragraph structure. They also see the value of using their own point of view as well as writing in their own voice. I appreciated that they added “stay on topic.” So often students will not know what to write about so their posts ramble. They do know that keeping to the topic is important to their readers. And their readers are each other.

This conversation inspired by Melanie helped me show my students they are writers and value their input into the whole process. And I’m only on Chapter Four!

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

This fall has been slow in coming. The leaves are changing, the days are shorter, but the temperatures are not cooling off much. It makes it hard to get into the mood of autumn. I got a little help from Georgia Heard. She has a sweet poem from Falling Down the Page called Recipe for Writing an Autumn Poem.

Recipe for Writing An Autumn Poem

by Georgia Heard
One teaspoon wild geese.
One tablespoon red kite.
One pint trembling leaves.
One quart darkening sky.
One gallon north wind.

This is a wonderful prompt to use with kids.

I decided to combine this poetry prompt with the National Writing Project and NCTE’s Day on Writing prompt #WhyIWrite.

Recipe for Why I Write

One teaspoon clean paper
One tablespoon colored ink
One cup imagination
One pint relationship
One quart dedication
One gallon liberation

An empty page invites color, lines, words, sentences
which become an expression of emotion
looking for connection. This relationship
is rocky, requiring dedication. But one thing is certain:
The freedom to write
belongs to everyone!

Margaret Simon, (c) 2019

Jaden responded with a beautiful recipe for writing.

A Recipe for Writing a Poem

by Jaden, 4th grade

One teaspoon of creative minds
One tablespoon of repeating and rhyming words
One cup of a magic image
One pint of dazzled emotion
One quart of comparing things with like and as
And one gallon of my heart

(free image from Pexels)

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In early September, my middle daughter gave birth to precious Thomas. She asked me, and I quickly agreed to travel with her to Monroe in North Louisiana for a leadership program meeting with the Louisiana Tourism Association. She is still on maternity leave, but she didn’t want to miss this meeting. What’s more important than being grandma? So I took a few days off to go with her.

I thought I would be stuck in a hotel room, that I may get some reading, writing, and lesson planning done. I was pleasantly surprised by a park connected to the parking lot of the hotel. With the baby in the stroller, we headed out to the trail.

The beauty of this fall day greeted me with a cool breeze and sunlight through the trees.

Red spider lilies dotted the path.

Baby Thomas slept through the outdoor adventure, the first of many to come.

A lone egret looked at its reflection in the lily-covered swamp.

I read the kiosk to learn about this beautiful, wild park. For 50 years, the area had been a sand and gravel pit. Later, many residents used it as a dumping ground. What do you do with such an eyesore? The city of West Monroe excavated the trash and created a wild space, restoring the area to wetlands that accomplish a number of goals, controlling flooding as well as providing the community with a beautiful place of nature to enjoy. Not to mention, a place of peace for a grandma and baby grandson.

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Nature and beauty
is pretty.
The trees, the wind,
and everything you know.
Beauty in the diamonds
and when I look inside,
I see the face
I love.

Annie, 4 years old

I was asked to teach a writing workshop for kids at the Hilliard Museum’s Play Day. “You have to be flexible because we’re never really sure who will show up.”

Annie came in with her father. I’ve met Annie a few times because our paths have crossed. I’m friends with her grandmother, and her mother is a journalist who has connected me with writing opportunities. So when she walked in, I greeted her, “Hi Annie. We are writing poems today. Would you like to write a poem?”

She began… “Yes. Nature and beauty is nice because…” and she continued.
“Wait,” I said pulling out a clean piece of paper and a pen. “I wasn’t ready. Now slow down, and I’ll write what you say.”

Me with “Princess” Annie posing for a picture to send to Nanna B.

She is already a poet. I didn’t read one of my poems. I didn’t talk to her about forms. I didn’t give her any suggestions. She already knows how to write a poem.

Then we made a zine, a small foldable from a single sheet of paper. “Now,” I explained. “I could write the words for you, and you can draw the pictures.”

“No, I can write the words.” And she could! She copied the words she had dictated to me into the book. This took her at least 30 minutes. I was amazed at her focus and her determination. I was also amazed at her father’s patience. He sat comfortably while she meticulously copied each word.

The gifted teacher in me noted signs of perfectionism. When she messed up a letter, she got upset and rubbed it as if to erase it. I said, “Don’t worry. You can just make that a picture.”

Her letter a with the too long tail became what looked to me like a bug. I asked her, “Is this a butterfly?”

“No, it’s Diamond. Daddy, does it look like Diamond?”

“Yes, it does,” Daddy promptly said.

I looked at him and whispered, “Who’s Diamond?”

“Her imaginary friend” His whispered reply.

Annie continued writing word for word. An i placed in the wrong place became a tree.

When she finished, I said, “You need to sign it ‘by Annie’.”

She asked, “On the back?”

I showed her my book, Bayou Song. “On my book, my name is on the front. It says ‘Poetry by Margaret Simon.'”

Of course, Annie wrote on the front “Poetry by Annie.”

She is the youngest poet I’ve ever met, yet I have no doubts she is a writer. Just like her mom.

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Kelo is gone. I can’t wrap my head around that fact.  With her long weaves, gentle hazel eyes, and golden front teeth, Kelo danced with a mop and sang while she worked.  She would greet you in the hallway with a genuine kindness that made you want to stop and talk.  

“How’s that grand baby?” she’d ask me often because she knew I had a new grandson.  

Kelo was so much more than a custodian at our school.  Last year when I first started coming to the school to teach gifted, she knew my name well before I knew hers.  She was pregnant with her 4th son, and my daughter was having her first, so we always had things to talk about. She’d encourage me with, “Girl, that baby’s coming soon!” We’d share photos and anecdotes. She was a friend.

I don’t understand how one day you’re here and the next, you’re gone.  So much can change in an instant. Taken too soon by an innocent ATV accident, Kelo’s death has left a hollowness in the halls. My heart is heavy.  

Kelo makes me want to be better about caring for others, to show genuine kindness as she did, and to sing like no one is listening, except Kelo from above.   

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Slice of Life: Fancy

See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

She appeared like a tiny white handkerchief waving in the breeze, barely noticeable on the windowsill of my husband’s office, mewing with every strength she had.

Over the course of a week at the end of August, one of the hottest weeks ever, my husband fed her, getting closer and closer, but she always darted back to safety under the steps at the house next door.

Jeff enlisted my help. “Do you want to try to catch her?”

When I was able to get close enough to take a picture, I could see how beautiful she was, with bright blue eyes and a white coat. Three colors hinted that she may be a female kitten. I called her, “Sweet Kitty! Come here, sweet kitty!” She’d respond with a mew, but she wouldn’t venture out far enough for me to grab her. And I was soaked in sweat and covered in mosquito bites. I tried for three evenings.

Peeking out from her home under the steps, no older than 4 weeks.

Finally, we bought a little can of Fancy Feast. She couldn’t resist it, and I was able to grab her. We brought her home and set her up in the “Cat Camp” on our back porch. Named her Fancy, of course.

At her first visit to our trusted vet, Dr. Eric, she was too young for shots. We treated her for worms and fleas and were to take her back in a week for shots.

Unfortunately on her visit the next week, she had a hypoglycemic episode. They revived her with fluids, and gave us instructions to feed her every four hours. Things began to go wrong after that.

At home for another two days, she was eating, but she developed a terrible case of diarrhea. Back to Dr. Eric. He was cautiously optimistic and diagnosed her with colitis. They kept her for two nights treating her with antibiotics, feeding, and fluids. Dr. Eric rejoiced when she went from one pound to 1.4 lbs. He took a special interest in our pretty kitty.

This weekend we enjoyed a new kitty, one who jumped and played and ate and ate. She is getting better. Hallelujah!

Who can resist that face?

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