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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

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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Poetry Friday round-up is with Carol at Beyond Literacy Link.
Waiting for the Harvest, by Mickey Delcambre.
First place in the Sugarcane Festival Photography Contest

Ralph Fletcher’s new book, Focus Lessons, is coming out, so I took advantage of Heinemann’s offer to read a sample.

There are strong links between photography and writing. This is true in substance and process, as well as language. The world of photography provides a visual, concrete language (angle, focus, point of view, close-up, panorama) that is enormously helpful in teaching writing.

Ralph Fletcher, Focus Lessons

When I saw Mickey Delcambre’s photo on my Facebook page, I was compelled to write a haiku.

Equinox harvest–
Slow down days, long resting nights
Autumn changes time.

Margaret Simon, draft, 2019

On Monday, I talked with my students about the Fall Equinox. I was surprised how well they know the solstices, but they were less familiar with the meaning of equinox.

In New Iberia this weekend, there is the annual Sugarcane Festival, celebrated on the last weekend of September as harvesting begins. We only have to look out of the window to see the tall cane waving in the fields.

One of the Craft Lessons included in the book sample focuses on Mood. Ralph explains how mood can be expressed in a photograph as well as in writing. I look forward to finding more crossovers between photography and writing Ralph says, “Photography is writing with light.”

I put Mickey’s photograph up and ask my students to do a quick write about it. Our quickwrites are typically 5 minutes. Then we share. Sometimes (it’s always a choice), a quickwrite will become a poem.

Seeing the Days Change

I see the days
changing around me,
going from
day to night
and
night to day
the marks of tires
only
from the day before
seeing the sun go down
getting ready
for the night,
goodnight sun.

Breighlynn, 4th grade

Sugar

Sugar in the fields,
still as a cane.
Growing, oh so tall,
ready for the harvest.
Burning leaves
make the sweet smelling
smoke.

Can you smell
the sugar?
Smelling, oh so
sweet.
Have you ever
eaten the cane?
As pure as sugar
comes.

A.J., 6th grade

This morning on my morning walk I smelled the sweet air that A. J. wrote about. One of the gifts of fall.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Linda at Teacher Dance

My students this year look forward to Poetry Friday when we read a poem and talk about what we notice, then try the form on. A few weeks ago we read Jane Yolen’s poem, “A Word is Not a Poem” that I had saved from her daily email poems. Having the form of her poem in hand, my students created interesting poem responses.


A Laugh is Not a Smile
 
A laugh is not a smile 
but it is a feeling inside you.
You can laugh once
but it’s best to laugh twice.
         laugh laugh
 
A smile is not a frown
but it is a feeling inside you.
used in several ways,
to express love, and happiness.
            smile smile

Jamison, 4th grade


A Book is not a Word
 
A book is not a word ,
but a forest in a tree .
Used in many ways ,
it can even be funny .
 
A book is not a poem
You can only read it once ,
but best to read it twice .
Book , Book .
 
A book is not a song ,
the words you cannot spin .
Won’t know it going in
you will though coming out .
Tone , Note .

A.J., 6th grade

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

One of my favorite books in my rather large collection of poetry books is What the Heart Knows by Joyce Sidman. This week I shared the poem Happiness, a chant invoking happiness.  We talked about writing from the perspective of direct address to an emotion.  I directed my students to choose an emotion and to try using imagery to make the emotion personified.  I played along with my kiddos and took out the magnetic poetry cookie sheets.  Finding the word poems mused me to write a direct address to poems.  Karson and I both used the imagery of a monarch butterfly drawing on our experience of hatching and releasing monarchs this week.

Poems,

You hide in shadows
of oak trees.
You whisper words
in the breeze.
You shudder my heart.

Poems,
When we meet eye to eye,
I am amazed
by your strength,
unexpected yet welcome.

Poems,
Your delicate wings
unfold before our eyes
surprising us
with your ease of flight.

–Margaret Simon, draft, 2019

 

Free image from Pixabay.

 

Excitement,

too much thrill can bring confusion
and confusion leads to mystery.
You are like the breeze on the top of a mountain.
When I see the brightness of the moon, I feel you.
You are the feeling when a monarch flies into the distance.

Karson, 4th grade

 

Curiosity,

You are full of forest mazes
that my mind gets stuck in.
My eyes show the way.
You bring me thoughts,
you make me think,
Curiosity

Jaden, 3rd grade

 

 

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Playing with poetry has led to a playful poetry attitude in my class.  My first class is reading poems aloud on the intercom for morning announcements from Great Morning: Poems for School Leaders to Read Aloud by Pomelo Books.  Each day they pass it to the next-up.  He or she chooses a poem they want to read and go through a quick practice to make sure they know how to pronounce all the words (especially the author’s name).  I am pretty much hands off.  They remember whose turn it is, come by the room to get the book, and just do it.  Their read aloud skills are improving as well as their confidence.  They are also learning that poetry can be fun to read aloud.

In the spirit of playing with poetry, I pulled out the individual white boards and proposed a game of collaborative poetry.  They quickly changed the title to “Friends Poems.”  Each friend wrote a line in the poem as we passed the boards around.  The originator of the first line got the poem back and could add to it if they felt it needed more.  This was fun and playful and built a sense of a writing community.

This one was written by Karson, Daniel, Breighlynn, and Jaden

I love the color of the midnight sky
shining stars
dawn and dusk compete
to meet eye to eye
the night is complete

 

I played along with my second group.  We’ve watching monarch caterpillars in the garden.  One day we counted 11 caterpillars.  I’ve brought some home for spring break, but I’ll share more about this later.  Here’s my collaborative poem with Kaia, Landon, and Jayden.

In the spring-sprinkled garden,
Listen as the bird tweets.
Watch the water run and flowers sway.
Look closely at monarch caterpillars.
Praise this amazing day!

 

 

 

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The shoe showed up in the school parking lot sometime in September.  Someone graciously placed it on the curb, like an offering.  “Here I am.  If I am yours, take me home.”

But no one claimed the shoe.

Every day I park in the same vicinity of the shoe. It became like a parking spot marker.  “Oh, you.  Back again.  I’m still stepping in your path.”

Winter months came.  Lots of rain.  The shoe remained.

One day I asked the secretary when I stopped to sign the ledger, “Have you seen that shoe in the parking lot?”

“Huh?” She looked up from counting money.  The secretary always seems to be counting money.  “No, I don’t think so.”

I tried to ignore the shoe.  Maybe I could pass in peace and not notice.

Well, the shoe heard me all right and decided to do something to show me.  Here we are, almost to April with 7 weeks left of school, and that darned shoe stuck herself right in my path.  I opened my car door about to step out and Yikes!  There it was!

By this time, I felt the shoe was stalking me.  I took no sympathy and kicked the thing underneath another car.

You didn’t think I was going to pick it up, did you?  I didn’t see it today.  Perhaps it’s gone to another parking lot.  One can only wish.

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