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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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I spent some time with grandsons this weekend. We had Leo, 11 months, Saturday through Sunday afternoon. Taking care of him is a physical endeavor. He’s at least 20 pounds of activity. I love talking to him and watching his responses. His facial expressions are funny–the O-face, his inquisitive eyebrows, and his endearing smile. Yet, as they say, he is a handful. And rightly so, learning how to move is serious and dangerous business. You always have to be on guard. I saved his life a few times over the weekend.

Cousins Thomas and Leo

Thomas at 2 months is less active and a light 11 lbs. 9 oz. of soft and cuddly. He has started responding with coos and smiles. But I don’t worry as much about his safety. He’s usually being calmly held, or he stays in one place on a floor mat.

As I was looking at my students today, I tried to imagine them as babies and toddlers. I said to them, “It’s hard for me to imagine that at one time if I had put you down in this room, you would’ve pulled all the books off the shelf, stuck your fingers in the socket, or tried to climb on the desks.” They all started talking at once with their stories of what dangerous things they had done as toddlers.

“Look! I still have a scar on my elbow!”

“I jammed my fingers in the door.”

I told them I think we need to save this as a writing prompt. They called me out on “peanut butter” which is what we call things that are off topic.

I admit I’m as bad as any of them at getting off the topic. But I got a good writing prompt out of it.

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This fall has been slow in coming. The leaves are changing, the days are shorter, but the temperatures are not cooling off much. It makes it hard to get into the mood of autumn. I got a little help from Georgia Heard. She has a sweet poem from Falling Down the Page called Recipe for Writing an Autumn Poem.

Recipe for Writing An Autumn Poem

by Georgia Heard
One teaspoon wild geese.
One tablespoon red kite.
One pint trembling leaves.
One quart darkening sky.
One gallon north wind.

This is a wonderful prompt to use with kids.

I decided to combine this poetry prompt with the National Writing Project and NCTE’s Day on Writing prompt #WhyIWrite.

Recipe for Why I Write

One teaspoon clean paper
One tablespoon colored ink
One cup imagination
One pint relationship
One quart dedication
One gallon liberation

An empty page invites color, lines, words, sentences
which become an expression of emotion
looking for connection. This relationship
is rocky, requiring dedication. But one thing is certain:
The freedom to write
belongs to everyone!

Margaret Simon, (c) 2019

Jaden responded with a beautiful recipe for writing.

A Recipe for Writing a Poem

by Jaden, 4th grade

One teaspoon of creative minds
One tablespoon of repeating and rhyming words
One cup of a magic image
One pint of dazzled emotion
One quart of comparing things with like and as
And one gallon of my heart

(free image from Pexels)

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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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