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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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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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