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Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

Today’s posts will be gathered at Karen’s Blog.

I’ve been raising monarchs. See this post. I am also planning for hybrid teaching, some in person, some virtual. Finding my direction through these tasks has challenged me in new ways.

Male monarch by Judy Rizzo

The word alchemy came across my radar. I found this definition: “a seemingly magical process of transformation, creation, or combination.” The process of metamorphosis is alchemy and in many ways, so is the way we have to teach this year. I decided to mine alchemist for words using Wordmaker. Following a poetic process created by April Halprin Wayland, I wrote a poem that probably doesn’t make sense to anybody but me. Let’s just say, finding my direction through this unique school year has taken some proactive effort. (The words from Wordmaker are in bold.)

Finding Direction

Connect line by line, etch
a trail through calm
worry, eyes that smile
despite each
new hurdle to scale.
Raise the latch
and release butterfly-mail
to the gods of ethics
Teach.

Margaret Simon, draft
Monarch in olive tree by Judy Rizzo

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Carol at Beyond Literacy Link.

The Sunday Night Swaggers are back to monthly challenges. This month Catherine Flynn has challenged us to write an In One Word poem created by April Halprin Wayland. See her introductory post here.

I know I am not alone in having a rough beginning to this school year. Foremost on my mind is what is best for kids. Unfortunately, there are many meetings and required gobbledygook to get to the fun part of teaching. Every year, my goal is to inspire explorers, writers, and scholars. Following April’s prompt, I went to Wordmaker to gather words that can be made with the letters in inspiration. Each line ends with a word I chose. Thinking about this exercise was just what I needed to block out the messiness.

Virtual Teacher

I didn’t warm-up for this sprint.
Breathless; my hand anoints
each name, a nonart
list that rips
into a class of sorts,
a prison
on screen, trap
of pixels, brain strain.
Who’s bringing the aspirin?

In the spirit
of language, I rant.
Yet, I don’t rant
about you. You are the rain
to my pain,
showing me we can soar.

Margaret Simon, draft
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

Other Swagger Posts In One Word…
Catherine Flynn
Linda Mitchell
Heidi Mordhorst
Molly Hogan

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Irene at Live your Poem! She is gathering a celebration of poet Nikki Grimes.

If memory serves me correctly, I first learned of Nikki Grimes’ work when I bought this book, Words with Wings, at the recommendation of a colleague who knew of my passion for poetry and novels in verse. I brought it home with me this summer for inspiration for writing my own novel-in-verse. Who knows if that will come to fruition, but when I opened the book, this is what I saw:

“May your dreams take flight,” Nikki Grimes.

How’s that for messages from the universe?

Today, Poetry Friday is celebrating Nikki Grimes. I’ve had the privilege to see her at NCTE a few times. Last year, I sat at her table for the Children’s Literature Luncheon where each one of us received a singed copy of Ordinary Hazards, her memoir in verse. I’ve read and listened to this book and have used it as inspiration for my students, too.

I use Nikki’s poetry time and time again to inspire writing with my students. In Words with Wings, there are a number of poems that begin with “Say”. One of them is Butterfly.

from Words with Wings by Nikki Grimes, 2013 Wordsong

Last month I was creating instructional videos for an open channel station that was airing teacher-made videos for students learning at home. I created one around this poem. In doing so, I created a draft of a poem of my own as a model for writing “after Nikki Grimes.”

Margaret Simon, draft

Poets like Nikki give children courage to be writers. Her gentle way of writing the truth echoes in the hearts of young people. If you are looking for a model poem for young writers, turn to Nikki Grimes. Her next book release is exciting to me. Legacy: golden shovel poems inspired by words of Harlem Renaissance Women Poets. It releases in January, 2021. I hope by then I’ll see Nikki again and add another signed book to my collection.

Instructional video on Say Butterfly by Nikki Grimes.

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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.
Looking up into the old cypress tree in my backyard.

Dear Readers,
I know this Covid Quarantine is dragging on, and things look bleak if you watch the news for any length of time. So why not turn it off and come to the bayou. There is always water flowing, a breeze blowing, birds singing. Nature is something we can find solace in, and something we can count on when the world is weird.

I’ve enjoyed creating videos for my students. I can’t believe how easy it is. I bought a bendable stand for my phone that looks like an android dog. I can video straight from my phone and upload it to YouTube in no time. Voila! An instructional poetry writing video.

Share these if you want or just watch for yourself to enjoy some time outside on the Bayou Teche. If you choose to write to the prompt, please share it with me in the comments. During this time of no-direct contact, I like feeling a connection to you through your words.

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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.

With an open schedule on Monday, I decided to try to make my own instructional video from my book Bayou Song. I recorded it on my back deck with the Bayou Teche in the background. It wasn’t terrible, so I posted it. (I need to figure out where to look.)

My students are set up on Kidblogs, so I posted the video there and had a few poetic responses. With so many students out of school, I hope more will join in and write poems. Feel free to share.

Fun-loving,
Game-playing,
Glasses-wearing,
Youtube-watching,
Me.

by A.J.

I see

I see
kind-loving
warm-snuggling
happy-smiling
PERSON

by Karson

Best-soccer-defending,
Award-winning,
Newspaper-mentioning,
me-being.
Not-caring,
free-going,
not-quite-all-knowing,
random-fact-blurting.
Book-writing,
comic-drawing,
manga-reading,
creativity-and-craft-showing.
This is me,
even if you dislike it,
 then that’s you-
and I’ll tell you what.
That’s that.

by Madison

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Over the weekend news traveled quickly of Kobe Bryant’s untimely death and the heart-wrenching revelation that his 13 year old daughter died with him. I’m not a huge basketball fan, but I knew my students would come Monday talking about this tragedy. So when I saw Sara Ahmed’s tweet, I took notice.

I copied Kobe’s poem Dear Basketball. We talked about Kobe, about the accident, and read aloud the poem. Later in the day, I saw a Facebook post of this video, so my last class watched the video as well.

As a writing prompt, I told my students they could write a letter to something they love or write a letter to Kobe from his basketball. This prompt worked especially well with my boys. I want to share three of my students’ poems.

Dear Kobe

From the first time  you made me
from a ball of socks
and threw me into a hoop,

I knew that you would become
one of the greatest.
I knew that you dreamt of being one of the greatest,
by how you put your heart and soul
into me,
day and night,
never resting.
You put your blood, sweat,
and tears into me.

You worked day and night,
making shot after shot
after shot after shot,
until you were finally able
to put on that Lakers jersey 
with me in your hand,
doing the thing you love the most.

I am grateful for all the
years we spent together,
but as you grow older,
your body isn’t into
running up and down the
court,
throwing the ball into the
hoop,
but I know your heart
will always be with me
forever and ever.

From Basketball

Shaelon, 6th grade

To leave comments for Shaelon, click here.

Dear Kobe,

While you pretended
to make game-winning shots,
I knew one thing:

I was meant for you.

Loving me,
giving me your hardest.

You saw me as a kid,
and you came running to me,
never turning back.

I asked for a little,
you gave me a lot.

While I called to you,
and you practiced for me,
coming my way.

The way of a legend.

But dreams
can’t last forever.

Not all at least.

You stayed with me,
and I stayed with you.

I stayed in your heart,
as you threw me in the trash,
and I knew,
you would come,
and get me out.

The trash,
was just your basket,
and our way of staying
together.

Always.

Love you,

Basketball

A.J., 6th grade

To leave comments for A.J., click here.

Dear green pen,

From the moment
I took you out of the bag
and started writing poems in a notebook
that is full of blue loose leaf,

I fell in fondness of you

I used you with my wrist to my fingers

A 12 year old boy
deeply in fondness of you
I never saw the end of the sentence
I only saw words


and so I wrote
I wrote up and down every page
after every sentence
you asked for my poems
I gave you my essays
because they are bigger.


I wrote through every cramp
not because I wanted to
but because my teacher made me

you gave this 12 year old boy a writing dream
and I am fond of you for that
but I can’t write for much longer

my teacher has to leave 
school is almost over

I’m  ready to put you back in the bag

and no matter what I write
I will always be that kid
with the pen in hand
notebook on the table
5 seconds left on the timer

5 …4 …3 …2 …1…0 and then the timer goes off 
and the pen starts going back in the bag.
Fond of you always,

-Landon

Landon, 6th grade

To leave comments for Landon, click here.

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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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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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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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Michelle Heidenrich Barnes hosts today with an announcement of the third collection of Today’s Little Ditty.
I have a little ditty in the book as do many of my PF friends.

A few weeks ago I grabbed a poetry writing idea from Kim Douillard.  She had her students make heart maps about a place they love and write a poem after Lee Bennett Hopkins’ City I Love.

I did this with my students. We cut simple heart shapes from plain paper and drew and wrote on them. Then glued them into our notebooks.  Here’s a photo of one of mine.

On the Bayou I Live Near

after Lee Bennett Hopkins

On the bayou I live near–
bayou I love–
morning sun streams
in wide golden beams
gleaming a new day.

On the bayou I live near–
bayou I love–
afternoons bloom
while speedboats vroom
through sweet olive perfume.

On the bayou I live near–
bayou I love–
sunsets glisten,
a lone heron listens
as the hoot owl
who, who, whos
me
to
sleep.


Margaret Simon, draft 2019

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