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Archive for the ‘Slice of Life’ Category

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Yesterday I read aloud the book Santa Clauses to my students.  Written by Bob Raczka and illustrated by Chuck Groenink, Santa Clauses is a book of haiku for every day in December up to Christmas Day.

I read the opening author’s note: “Santa is a man of many talents.  He’s a toymaker, a reindeer trainer, a sleigh pilot, and a world traveler.  But did you know he is a poet?”

Chloe, 3rd grade, said Santa must’ve written the haiku and sent them to Bob Raczka to publish.  I agreed that seemed like a reasonable idea.  (I love having believers in my classroom.)

Of course, in response, we had to write our own Santa clauses.  Here are a few:

So warm at nighttime
I love eating my cookies
with tasty milk cups.

by Breighlynn, 3rd grade

Paper, ribbons, bows
wrapping love in a package
Open carefully.

Margaret Simon

Rudolf is happy
that history is alive
He will tell Santa.

by Chloe, 3rd grade

I am participating in #haikuforhope along with others on Twitter. My poem today was made in Word Swag from an Instagram photo from my friend Jen Gray.

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On Friday morning at 5 AM, I received a text from my daughter Maggie.  At first glance, I thought it was a screen shot of the weather app.  I started my morning routine, fed the dog, turned on the coffee.  After my first sip of coffee, I opened the text again.  It wasn’t the weather app.  It was an app for timing contractions.  And the intervals were 3 minutes apart. My response, “Seem pretty close together.  Are they getting stronger?”

“Yes.”

“Wake someone up.  I’m coming.”

I met Maggie and her husband Grant at the hospital at 6:30 AM.  My first grandson, Leo, was born at 11:22 AM.  And he is absolutely perfect in every way.

I had heard from others that I would love being a grandmother.  The feelings are taking a while to really sink in.  The best feeling of all is being satisfied with being me.  I’m not sure that makes sense, but I am just so plain happy.

All our lives we seem to be in search of elusive happiness and a sense of contentment.  We are always seeking something, longing for something, wanting something.  Being the mother of a mother makes me completely whole.  I have done my work.

This feeling may pass, especially as Christmas approaches with all its obligations.  Even so, I want to soak it all in.  I want to look at Baby Leo and Be with my happiness.

Circle of soft thread
wraps this perfect gift of love
All is well, is well

(c) Margaret Simon
#haikuforhope

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I am participating in writing a haiku-a-day in the month of December.  Follow the hashtag #haikuforhope on Twitter to read and join in.

I had news of a tragic death by suicide this weekend.  A former student. A creative soul. An enthusiastic friend who loved without condition. Why? No one knows.  Not even the ones who were closest to him.

I wish there were some way I could remain a person in my students’ lives, someone they could call whenever they needed someone to talk to without judgement.  They enter my heart when they are so young, 8, 9, 10 year-olds who know so very little about what lies ahead, but they are full of curiosity and longing. I love them when I have them, then I have to let them go.  They continue to grow and change and become grown-ups.  I may find them again on social media, but there are no guarantees.  I have to trust that the world will be kind.

I don’t think the world was kind to Walt.  He never fit in, conforming was not a part of who he was or who he could be.  He wanted so much more than the world could give him.  I really don’t know what could have gone through his head to make him choose death instead of life.  I need to let go again.  I have to trust that he is where he needs to be now, in the arms of an angel in heaven who can love him forever.

 

 

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At NCTE 2018, I was excited to attend a session, Why Notebooks?, that some of my favorite people were leading: Jen Cherry, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Michelle Haseltine, and Linda Urban.  I’ve been a notebooker for some time now, and I always have my students decorate a marbleized journal at the beginning of the year, so I was drawn to finding more ways to use notebooks in my classroom.

As someone who loves little notebooks, I was delighted that there were handmade notebooks for us to keep (folded unlined paper with a colored cardstock cover).  They passed around puffy stickers for us to choose from.  I felt the thrill of creating something new.

Jen Cherry gave us reasons behind using notebooks with your students:

  1. Personalizes learning by providing choice.
  2. Encourages mindfulness.
  3. Builds stamina.
  4. Encourages risk.
  5. Students live like writers.

Michelle Haseltine prompted us to write an invitation to our notebooks.  On the first clean white page of the little green notebook, I wrote this poem.

 

I made a commitment to myself to be more intentional about notebook writing with my students.  On our first day back after Thanksgiving break, I asked my students to get out their notebooks.  In order to provide a structure that honors choice, I thought back to a workshop I attended with our Louisiana Poet Laureate Jack Bedell who told us about William Staffords’ daily writing discipline.

  1. date
  2. description of something that happened recently
  3. aphorism (cliche’)
  4. meditation (a poem-like thing)

After a few days of using this structure, I was hooked.  It was working for me, so why not share it with my students?  This is what I wrote on the board:

  1. Date
  2. Something that happened…
  3. Quote of the day
  4. Poem-ish writing

I set the timer for ten minutes and we wrote.  Some shared.  And some found their next blog post.  “I’m going to use this for my Slice of Life.”  We were doing the work of real writers.

We’ve been using the 365 Days of Wonder for quotes of the day, but I wasn’t doing anything more with it than having a student choose one and write it on a frame of glass.  They were enjoying the process of choosing and would often naturally start a conversation around the chosen quote.  Adding it to our daily notebook page gives more attention to the quote as well as possibly inspiring more writing.

This was our quote yesterday: “Happiness is a perfume you can not pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself.”  My poem-like meditation:

Happiness is the scent of flowers
in a bouquet
you give
just because
you’re happy.
Then the drops of perfume
fill your senses
and transfer
to whomever you hug.
Spread some happiness today!

As we get more and more adept at writing in our notebooks every day, my students and I will reap the benefits of sharing in a writing community.  Why Notebooks? So many reasons.  Pull them out of the desks, booksacks, or cubbies and just do it! You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

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NCTE 2018 has come and gone as a quick wind beneath my wings.  The presentations, the authors, the people, the atmosphere lifts me up and says, “You are doing the good work.”

In his keynote with his twin brother Paul, Peter Reynolds said, “Your brain is beautiful.”  Everywhere I went, everyone I met helped me to believe this is true.

My husband calls the NCTE conference “hobnobbing with your fellow wizards.” My fellow wizards include poets from Poetry Friday, teacher-writers from Two Writing Teachers and TeachWrite, and dedicated educators from Good to Great.  These people are my tribe.

I was so privileged to be able to present with Ralph Fletcher, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Chris Crutcher on the theme of Voices in the Air.  These three authors are inspirational and powerful speakers.  Their message was one of hope, that when we write and put our voices out in the world, someone will be touched by it.

On a panel with my Poetry Friday peeps, Heidi Mordhorst, Laura Purdie Salas, Mary Lee Hahn, and Irene Latham, we inspired teachers to take their students outside of the classroom to write in the wild.  We talked about exploring the world through other perspectives and looking more closely.

In a session with Michelle Haseltine, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Linda Urban, and Jen Cherry, I felt renewed interest in writer’s notebooks, in providing a place for students to be themselves, to encourage mindfulness, build stamina, and encourage risk.  I felt braver writing in my own notebook, realizing that there is no perfect way to keep a notebook, my notebook is mine, and I should give my students more opportunities for free writing.

In a panel with Jan Burkins, Kim Yaris, Dani Burtsfield, Christina Nosek, and Kari Yeatts, I learned new ways to be responsive to my students as readers.  I learned to look at four characteristics of a reader: book choice, healthy habits, strategic process, and authentic response.  They said, “Learn about your student first; the teaching will come.”  I also noted this quote, “The awesome in us sees the awesome in you.” Back to that beautiful brain. These teacher-leaders did not say they had all the answers; they said, “We are with you.”

Sitting beside my students, I will have these people with me.  I am full! I am rich! I am renewed!

NCTE is…

presenting with author rock stars…

connecting with poets…

meeting your favorite author…

spending time with friends…

and more!

 

 

 

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Bayou Song is on the wall of books!

The rains had ended, the cool front came through, adding an element of celebration (like Christmas) to the Louisiana Book Festival.  This year was the 15th annual book festival and the 15th awards ceremony for LA Writes, our state youth writing contest.  I have been involved since the first contest and the first book festival.  I always marvel at the young authors as they arrive dressed up with their whole extended families with them. It is an event for celebrating good writing and for families celebrating their authors.

My student Chloe reads her winning poem, Cool Words.

Following the wonderful awards ceremony, I offered a student writing workshop.  You never really know what kind of audience to expect.  I was delighted to have 3 writers join me.  One was a 6-year-old who wrote and drew, then buzzed around. Her mother said, “She’s doing a lap.”  Then she was back to writing and drawing.  The other two girls were a sister pair.  The older sister is a student at LSU.  I am not accustomed to teaching college kids, but I was pleasantly surprised at how she responded to my prompts.  She wrote an I am poem about the river. (Baton Rouge is located on the Mississippi River.) When I taught them about the zeno poem, she transformed her I am poem into a zeno.  This was an unexpected transfer that worked well for her poem.  She gave me permission to publish it here.

I am a rusted red river.
My mouth echoes
rising
flood.
I touch cities
with their
blood.
Reminder they
come from
mud.

–Jami Kleinpeter

Thanks, Jami, for enriching our lives with your poem and for showing me how a simple (meant for elementary kids) prompt can be transformed into a sophisticated and profound poem.

 

 

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Six more weeks until I become a grandmother!  Last week I shared a Billy Collins poem with my students, On Turning 10.  After reading and discussing the poem, I invited my students to write.  What would I write about? “I don’t want to write about turning 57,” I said.

Chloe said, “Then write about being a grandmother.”

Aha!  Thanks!

On Becoming a Grandmother
          (after Billy Collins’ “On Turning 10”)

The whole idea of it makes me feel
like a little girl at Halloween
dressed up in a new costume
that itches at the seams
and yet sends her off in a thrill of confidence.

How a costume can transform you
into a different version of yourself– a witch,
Wonder Woman, or Cinderella–invincible
and transformative!

When I think of that little boy calling me
something grand or made-up– Mimi,
Gran Gran, Nanny–I feel wonder and joy.

I want to memorize the names of constellations
so I can tell him. I need to find that just right
picture book he’ll want to read again and again.
I will learn a lullaby he’ll sing in his mind
whenever he is lonely or sad.

Wasn’t it just yesterday
I was the new mom?
Worries over enough milk
and enough love. I know now
there’s always enough love.

–Margaret Simon, (c) 2018

 

 

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