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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.

The last two weeks have offered a wealth of writing inspiration as we participated in #write0ut, a National Writing Project and National Park Service collaboration. Teaching gifted kids challenges me to find quality writing activities that will inspire, motivate, and engage my young students. #Writeout 2021 did not disappoint. And the resources will remain available on the website here.

My students have created storyboards with Storyboard That about geological changes over time.

Chloe’s storyboard about Louisiana’s loss of wetlands.

They wrote poetry. Things to do if you’re a puppy by Avalyn:

Pound on a window when you want
to go on a walk, purr when you want pets.
Go outside and dig when you’re bored.
Lastly 
only bark when you’re in danger.

Avalyn, 2nd grade

On Friday, we ventured outside to the playground. At one school, there is a large live oak. My students sat underneath the tree for writing inspiration and gathered natural materials to create an art piece.

Katie gathers leaves for her notebook.
Avalyn observes a live oak tree.
Jaden’s are collage and poem

Golden petaled flowers
spring up from the ground

Leaves slowly drift
from each branch

Clouds painted
on the sky’s canvas

Tall great trees
with green leaves

Spider webs
glisten in the sunlight

Squawking birds
angrily yell

Fellow rodent squirrels
sprint across branches

For nature
For habitats
For life

Jaden, 6th grade (form inspired by Irene Latham)

Another #writeout prompt asked students to make a poster. We used Canva and Adalyn create this one. On Canva it’s animated. You can view the animated version here.

Created by Adalyn, 3rd grade using Canva

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.
Reading has begun for Cybils Round One. I am judging once again in the poetry category. This is such a treat, to read new poetry books and select my favorites. Stay tuned…

This week we had a special visitor in my 6th grade gifted classroom. One of those serendipitous things about blogging and connecting with authors is exposing my students to real authors doing the work. Taylor Mali joined us on Tuesday. Prior to the visit, he sent a package of create-your-own metaphor dice. Here’s a link to order some. We struggled with deciding which words to put on our own set of dice. We made lists in our notebooks of concepts, adjectives, and objects. I’m glad we had a little struggle because we could ask questions of the master.

Jaden asked, “What is the difference between a concept and an object? Isn’t “father” an object?” Taylor was quick with the answer. He explained that many people like to write about their fathers and mothers in a metaphorical way, more like a concept than an object. He went on to tell the story of a student of his who wrote about their father as shattered glass. “I can still see myself in the shattered pieces.”

We shared our own metaphor poems and he offered feedback. One of the things he noticed in my students’ poems was the absence of their own lives. He talked about how poetry should be beautiful language, yes, but also should be the truth. He suggested ways that they could put more of their own life experience into the poems they wrote.

I tried this idea myself with a roll of my own homemade metaphor dice. The roll I got was “The past is a soft wind.” I was pleased that Taylor’s advice to my kids resonated with me, and I tapped into a true story from my childhood.

The Past is a Soft Wind

blowing wind chimes
in the old cypress tree,
ringing like a distant train
that left the station years ago.

The year we drove to Morton, Mississippi
for Thanksgiving and gathered pecans
with great grandfather. We thought
he was 100 years old. He knew things–

How to crack pecans in the palm of his hand
and how many minutes from the engine
to the caboose. We stood together watching,
counting, waving to the conductor
who, as that red house rounded the curve,
always waved back.

Margaret Simon, draft
Photo by Lawrence Schaefer on Pexels.com

I think metaphor dice will sustain us in poetry writing for the rest of this school year. Thanks, Taylor, for a wonderful, engaging writers workshop.

Taylor hosts an Instagram Live event every Monday night.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Bridget at wee words for wee ones
.

Bridget Magee, our Poetry Friday hostess, just released an anthology around the number 10. I ordered it from Amazon and received it yesterday. I jumped right in and read poems from many of my Poetry Friday friends. Here is what Bridget wrote about her motivation for curating and publishing this anthology:

As the TENTH child born into a family of TEN children in the TENTH month, I am fascinated by the number ten. Add TENACITY to that fascination and the idea to create this anthology was conceived.

Bridget Magee, introduction to 10 x 10 Poetry Anthology

Every week I post a photo that begs to be a poem here on Reflections on the Teche as well as on my classroom Fanschool space. This week I was particularly struck by how the photo of a close-up of dragonfly wings inspired metaphors. Stained glass, mosaic art, prehistoric maps are a few that appeared in the small poems in the comments.

I was able to grab the student’s own writing to teach and reinforce the concept. Children can use figurative language long before they have a name for it.

dragonfly wings by Amanda Potts

Avalyn wrote “like a chandelier” in her notebook, and I took the opportunity to teach her about what she had just done. She had created a “simile.” I told her she could use the colored markers to underline it in her notebook and write the word simile in the margins. Her next line was “a clear shower curtain and the outline of your window.” I directed her to choose another color to mark the metaphor. Then I read her my poem and allowed her to mark my poem with the same colors. I was almost giddy with delight to be able to notice and note a gem in my second grade student’s writing.

This experience makes me wonder about photography and writing. Did the writing change if I told the children the photo was dragonfly wings? I told Jaden what the image was before he wrote, so he decided to google “dragonflies” and included a science fact in his poem.

Wings
like glass designs
shedding light
zipping through the sky
30 wing beats every second
bzz-bzz the dragon fly
slips by.

by Jaden, 6th grade

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about retirement. I envy my poet-teacher-friend Mary Lee Hahn who has a poem about retirement today. But moments like these in my classroom writing alongside such gifted and talented writers inspires me and makes me a better person. I think I’ll stick with it a little longer.

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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.

#WriteOut sponsored by the National Writing Project in partnership with the National Parks began yesterday with a wonderful video and prompt from Golden Gate National Recreation Area. My students and I had a productive day of writing in response.

As a teacher of writing, I am interested in prompts that lead to creative and imaginative writing. This first prompt did the job. Because there was a way into the story (a character enters a portal), students created a variety of different responses. Each one carried their character through the portal in interesting ways. Avalyn, second grade, chose herself as the character who finds the portal on the monkey bars and travels to the desert, then the rainforest, and back home where she lives happily ever after. Her story is here.

Katie and Jaden, 6th graders, chose to be animals in their stories. I think their chosen animals say a little about who they are. You can read their stories on Fanschool here and here.

Chloe’s story reminds me of a book I read this summer on Netgalley, Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt. It’s a book to grab up if you teach middle grades. It’s a lovely story of a camel who saves tiny twin kestrels from a dust storm. I loved all the characters in this book and love that it weaves in a history of camels in Texas. Chloe hasn’t read this book yet, but the creative magic wand waved over her with these words:

Once in a desert, a camel walked into a purple glowing light. He knew it was a portal. He shifted and swayed until he stopped, opened his eyes and saw a horse running around a castle that had the words “Mississippi Land” on it.

Read the whole story here
Join Write Out!

I wrote alongside my students and may work on my story for a regional Louisiana picture book idea. There, I put it in writing. I know it needs a lot of work, but what do you think about a mosquito and banana spider that take a ride through the swamp on a brown pelican?

The Write Out prompts and resources will be remain available on NWP’s website, so even if you don’t have time to work them into your lessons now, tuck them into a back pocket. They are gems!

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Catherine at Reading to the Core.

This month, Inkling Mary Lee Hahn challenged the group to write a poem to define or exemplify a poetic device or form. She was inspired by two books, The Craft of Poetry by Lucy Newlyn and Inside Out by Marjorie Maddox. I remembered a set of poems I wrote using the definito form to define a poetic device.

Another Inkling partner Heidi Mordhorst created the definito form which is a poem written for children in 8-12 lines that defines a word. The word appears as the last word of the poem. Today’s poems define alliteration, imagery, personification, and meter.

Photo by Kaboompics .com on Pexels.com

Poetic Devices Definitos

Letters, linked
and lively,
Lindy-hopping-
Notice how
some sounds repeat
Tongue twister
Word sister…alliteration.

Make a movie
in your mind
Imagine all
that tastes, feels, sounds–
hands gripping,
feet slipping,
Writers show me
how to see
with imagery.

If the wind waves
If flowers wink
If hummingbirds tell a tale.
A thing you know
A thing you love
becomes a person
real and alive
walking across the page
personification.

Can you tap out a beat?
ta da, ta dum, ta dee!
Count the upbeats?
one, two, three
A poem may rhyme
but the rhythm is clear
Iambic, 
dactylic,
pentameter
words for the beat
Tap, tap…meter.

Margaret Simon, 2021

Other poems for this challenge:

Heidi @ My Juicy Little Universe
Linda @ A Word Edgewise
Catherine @ Reading to the Core
Mary Lee @ A(nother) Year of Reading
Molly @ Nix the Comfort Zone

https://writeout.nwp.org/

Write Out 2021 (#writeout) is getting ready to launch this October 10th and will run through the 24th. This year’s theme—Palettes, Storyboards, and Cadences—is meant to support you as you explore the natural world and public spaces around you, while engaging as writers and creators who share in a connected virtual community.

This summer I worked with the National Writing Project on creating prompts for writing with Write Out. This two-week event encourages you to get outdoors and write. A number of National Parks have created videos for students to inspire writing. You can sign up at the NWP website to receive updates.

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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.
Chloe and her proud teacher, Margaret Simon

She did it! My student, Chloe, won the Lowell Milken Center’s Discovery Award for the Most Outstanding Elementary Unsung Hero Project. This prize comes with $1000 for Chloe. I am beyond proud.

I teach Chloe for her ELA block for gifted education. This means that I have taught her since she was in 1st grade. In 4th grade she told me her great grandfather knew Martin Luther King, Jr.. Then last year, in 5th grade, I came across an article from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities (LEH) about the Baton Rouge bus boycott of 1953. I asked Chloe if her great grandfather’s name was T. J. Jemison. She wasn’t sure, so I texted her mother and confirmed it. That’s when I started looking into the Lowell Milken’s Discovery Award. The prize for 2021 opened February 15th, so I sent an email asking if T. J. Jemison would qualify as an unsung hero. Norm Conard responded immediately and told me to move forward with the project.

There were three types of projects Chloe could do: a documentary, a website, or a play. We agreed on a documentary and started researching. By March, we had set up a Google Meet with her grandfather Ted Jemison who lives in Houston. Chloe wrote the questions and led the interview. I recorded and saved it. Chloe then listened and scripted the interview. Every step of this process seemed daunting and required patience, motivation, and persistence.

By the end of the school year, Chloe had written the documentary script, gathered photos, recorded her voice into a We Video, clipped primary source video generously given by WBRZ (a Baton Rouge news station that had done a feature interview with T. J. Jemison), and written a 500 word process paper. Whew!

The hardest part of this project was keeping a 10-year-old child focused and motivated those last few days of school while her regular class was watching movies and playing outside. We both nearly gave up. A few weeks after school ended, Chloe was still editing her documentary video. I was able to get it entered before the July 1st deadline. Then we waited.

Two weeks ago I received an email from Lowell Milken to call them to set up a Zoom interview with Chloe. They would not tell me if she had won, but they said that I should invite the principal and her parents. I also invited our superintendent and the Sped supervisor. Finally on Sept. 22, ten minutes before the interview was going to start, I told Chloe about it. We had enough time to brainstorm some questions that they may have for her. I set her up in front of my computer, signed in to Zoom, and opened the door to let our guests in. She held up beautifully under pressure.

Chloe in her Zoom interview with Lowell Milken Center

Parts of her interview and a preview to her project were recorded by the Lowell Milken Center. This whole process is why I do what I do, inspiring a young girl to be the best she can be and to make a difference. I am grateful to her parents for their amazing support and to Lowell Milken Center for providing such an amazing opportunity.

To watch Chloe’s documentary (about 12 minutes) click here.

Chloe with her parents and grandmothers

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Tricia at The Miss Rumphius Effect.

Laura Purdie Salas has been a writing mentor in my classroom for years now. Her books and poetry speak to children ( and to this adult). A few weeks ago she posted this poem on her blog. I used it with my students for a beginning-of-the-school-year writing prompt. I did not require the precise rhyme and rhythm pattern; they got the gist of making a list of favorite things.

I, however, took on the challenge of getting into the right meter and rhyme-scheme. I don’t think I’ve nailed it (I’m missing a verse and one of the rhymes is too slanted) but each revision gets closer to it. Rodgers and Hammerstein were musical geniuses. I played a video of this favorite scene from The Sound of Music, a classic that many children are unfamiliar with. They know this version better–the Lays commercial with Anna Kendrick. It’s fun to watch, too.

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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.

We are in our second full week of school, so it’s time to start slicing. I am pleased with the daily routine I’ve started this year with my students. Today, they came in and found their notebooks, opened them up to a clean page, dated it, and waited. Ah, yes. Routine of writing every day is taking hold.

This morning after our quick write, Jaden pointed to Katie’s filled page and said, “She told me she didn’t want to write this morning.” The magic of Linda Rief’s The Quick Write Handbook. Together we have done the first two quick writes in the book, Rambling Autobiography and On Being Asked to Select the Most Memorable Day in My Life. These were great set ups for writing a Slice of Life post on our class blog. (Kidblog has morphed into Fan School and we are not happy.)

I write alongside my students. For the rambling autobiography, Linda Rief suggests using three phrases on their blank page, at the top, middle, and bottom, and write to them. (I was born…, I lied to…, and A friend once told me…)

Rambling Autobiography

I was born under the Perseids meteor showers in a Mississippi torn by racial riots. When I was six, “camping out” in our front yard, we set it on fire, an accident that left me with a fear of fire and deep shame. Our house had the largest oak tree on the whole block. I’ve always imagined my grandmother as my guardian angel. I carry her name with me every day. I lied to my mother about the fire. A friend once told me to trust my gut. I could create a timeline of my life with parentheses of hurricanes.  I secretly like to listen to choral music and sing along the alto part. I once danced with Marilyn Singer’s husband. I’ve won an award for teaching writing but not for writing. 

Margaret Simon, notebook quick write 8/19/21

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Legacy by Nikki Grimes (on Amazon)

I was the lucky winner of a free copy of Legacy by Nikki Grimes. I would have, should have a copy of this book, but hadn’t bought it yet. I recently subscribed to Chris Barton’s newsletter, and low and behold, was the winner of this book on my first month. You can be lucky, too. Subscribe here. His newsletters are full of stuff, author interviews on “This Book is Dedicated to”, promotional materials, and links to more.

In Legacy, Nikki Grimes uses the golden shovel form to celebrate women poets of the Harlem Renaissance. Each Renaissance poem is accompanied by a golden shovel and an illustration by a Black woman artist. It’s beautifully pulled together into 3 sections: Heritage, Earth Mother, and Taking Notice.

The poems I am featuring today are about poetry, the writing of poems. The fancy term is ars poetica.

Notice the tactile in this poem, kneel, wriggling, and my favorite “water which satisfies, soothes, tickles–what wet word/ pours itself into the vessel that/you call thought?” Nikki Grimes calls us to notice it all and make poetry.

And this one I will print out for my brown girl writers this year.

I love the instruction to “Write chocolate poems!” Can’t you taste it? I’ll bring in Dove chocolates, the kind with a message on the wrapper and hand them this poem. Yes! I’m excited to start a new year of teaching with this book in my hands. Thanks, Chris Barton and Nikki Grimes!

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When something comes across my radar multiple times, I pay attention. This is the first year I’ve heard of the Sealy Challenge. It is a challenge to read a poetry book each day in the month of August. I read poetry books for more than one purpose.

  1. To enjoy lyrical language
  2. To inform my own writing practice
  3. To get ideas for teaching

The first book I read was Jacqueline Woodson’s Before the Ever After which accomplishes all three goals.

I picked up the book at a new local independent bookstore, and it was signed! Ha! What a find!

Before the Ever After is a middle grade novel-in-verse. To read a review, click here.

For my take on the Sealy Challenge, I’d like feature one poem and respond to it.

This poem captures a few themes of the verse novel. ZJ’s father is suffering from chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and his friends help him through the struggle. Football is a major topic, but ZJ is a musician and has troubled feelings about football due to his father’s illness. The repetition of “Used to” effectively communicates ZJ’s continued struggle about how things used to be before his father was ill.

Craft moves I love in this poem are the repetition (anaphora) of “Used to be” as well as that ending. “Just feels like that.” becomes “Just. Feels. Like. That.” This craft move is something I can try in my own writing and I can show kids how to use it with effectiveness.

Jacqueline Woodson, while being a master of craft, does not overuse any literary element. It just feels natural. It’s. Just. Natural.

Pin on winkies

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