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Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category

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One of our favorite days of the year is Dot Day. Created to celebrate the publication of The Dot by Peter Reynolds, Dot Day encourages creativity and playful art.

My students and I drew dots and wrote Zeno poems. The Zeno form was invented by J. Patrick Lewis. The form uses a syllable count of 8, 4, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1, 4, 2, 1 with each 1 syllable line rhyming. This is a playful form. We folded paper into a zine. To see how to make a zine, go to this post from last year.

Imagining the brightest knot

see the colors

of the dot

colors of the

rainbow

spot

Brightest of the

ones I’ve

got

Breighlynn, 4th grade

It is true that you have talent
you are so high
in the
sky
you should always
attempt
try
you are in clouds
try to
fly
 

Chloe, 4th grade

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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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new baby blanket waiting

My middle daughter, Katherine, is waiting. We are all waiting for her baby to be born. His due date is Sept. 5th, so he will be here soon.

Last summer in August, Katherine had a miscarriage. It was tragic, yet her doctor told her then that she expected she would be holding a baby within a year. The day after the procedure, I took Katherine to a little yarn shop to pick out yarn for a blanket. I have been crocheting prayer shawls and blankets for the last few years. She said, “I’ll pick out the colors, but I don’t want you to make a baby blanket.” That was her sorrow talking. The blanket above is complete and waiting.

One method I often use for finding my way into a poem is to observe outside, then go inside, and back outside. Driving home a few weekends ago following the Mississippi Book Festival, I looked outside and inside and outside for this poem.

So We Must Daily Keep Things Wound
(title from a Madeleine L’Engle quote)

I love how the raindrops
glisten on glass
dotting the landscape
green and awake.

I keep the cell phone charged 
ready for her call
when cramps turn to contractions.
I wait, want, worry.

I read somewhere that the egg
for this child was planted
in her womb from my womb–
this curious circle of life.

I keep my eyes on the clouds
fluffed up and pregnant
with rain, more rain.
It keeps on coming. 

(draft) Margaret Simon

NCTE Note: I’ve registered for NCTE 2019 to be held in Baltimore Nov. 21st-24th. I am looking for a roommate. Let me know by email if you are interested.

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Last week I read my teacher-blogger-writer-friend Molly Hogan’s Slice of Life post. It touched the poet in me. Molly wakes early and goes on photography quests. When we’re lucky, she takes us along on her Facebook posts or blog. Last week she wrote this post entitled A Generous Morning.

Inspired, I copied her words into a found poem. Her generous morning became my generous morning. That’s how it works with creativity; it’s all big magic.


A Generous Morning

Lightening sky in the east
as surely as
the birds were migrating south,
I missed the swallows.


The sky seemed lonely.
Then a couple of swallows
dart and dive through the air currents,
and a bird approaching in the distance-

a heron

Sun rose higher, lit the mist.
Cedar waxwings flittered.
I watched it all, 
the generosity of morning.

a found poem by Margaret Simon using Molly Hogan’s words.
Heron on branch by Molly Hogan.

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Image result for mary anne radmacher quotes

We started our first Monday together with this quote. I introduced notebook writing. Begin with a quote, talk a bit about it, then write for 10 minutes. Writing alongside my students gives me great joy. I’ve missed this over the summer and happy to have it back.

Here’s a little peek into my notebook musings:

There’s a book by Parker Palmer with the title “The Courage to Teach.” I read it years ago, and I can’t remember much about it, but the title still resonates. I’m entering my 32nd year of teaching. I would be what they call a “veteran” teacher. You could say I’ve earned my grey hair, but I rarely feel like an expert. Everyday teaching requires courage. You must put aside the headache from lack of sleep (or lack of caffeine, or both), and be ready to listen and see each student as a child who needs you to love them, to know them, and to understand them.

Currently I am listening to Cornelius Minor’s book We Got This. I highly recommend it even though I’m just a few chapters in. Cornelius speaks of the courage to teach as well as the necessity that we be intentional with our every step. We need to teach in a way that meets the needs of our students. And we get to know these needs by listening.

I’m encouraged that what I do for my students (notebook writing, independent reading, etc.) are courageous steps toward being a compassionate teacher. I need to trust the years of experience to guide me and comfort me in the knowledge that I Got This. Courage doesn’t always roar. It’s a daily walk, a listening ear, and a loving heart.

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Thoughts and Prayers by Kelli Broussard Kaufman

When we don’t know what to say, art can speak for us. This painting was done by Kelli Broussard Kaufman. She’s a Lafayette artist I follow on Facebook. (Her parents are good friends and neighbors.) I asked her permission to post the image here, and she also told me about her process. Her playlist while painting included Simon and Garfunkel’s The Sound of Silence. Her art, the song, and her process notes inspired this poem.

In the sound of silence,
we think no one cares.
The words have all been said.
Prayers are empty now.

Silence like a cancer grows.
The wax burns, drips, soils
the flag we want to save us.
How many more?

In the naked light I saw
a flicker of candles in the wind
drawing strength from one another
burning bright and singing out–

This is not who we are.
This is not our story.
We are one people.
We are better than this.

(draft) Margaret Simon

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Earlier this summer I traveled back and forth three times to help clean out my parents’ lakeside home in Mississippi. I wrote about the sadness over leaving the home that has been a summer sanctuary for me in a slice a few weeks ago.

What I haven’t written about are the treasures we found. My parents had no recollection that my godmother’s estate had come to them. It was all buried in a brown envelope in a desk drawer in their bedroom. I had resolved to look at everything in the house and decide if it was to keep, to trash, or to sell. When I opened the envelope with the simple label “Hollingsworth,” I didn’t know what I would find.

It’s been years since my godmother died. I barely remember a visit to her when I was a teenager. I was afraid of her because of her age and her suffering. I never knew her as a healthy person, but I dearly loved her son. Bill was my father’s best friend and lived as a monk in Covington, Louisiana. He was small in stature but big in personality. He died in December, 2015. I miss visits with him.

My parents gave me a sculpture my godmother Jane had made and some sketches of her that her husband, William Hollingsworth, had drawn. But I knew nothing of the jewelry she left behind.

The most charming item of jewelry was a pearl ring. And it fit me perfectly. Pearls are one of my signature jewels because the name Margaret means “pearl.” Seems meant to be.

Another treasure I brought home with me was the portrait of my maternal grandmother. Again someone I didn’t know. She was Margaret Shields Liles, and she died three months before I was born. As I was named for her, the portrait passed to me. It was painted in 1943 when my mother was 7 years old. My mother remembers traveling to Memphis to have it done. I grew up with this image hanging first in my grandfather’s house, then in ours. The angel in a white dress cradling her violin became my guardian angel. Now, she hangs beautifully in my dining room.

Portrait of Margaret Shields Liles, 1943.

There is a feeling of loss with these treasures. The wonderful women I never knew feel like a part of me in some small way. The passing of a legacy, a history. Treasures lost; treasures found.

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