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Archive for the ‘Teaching’ Category

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

April is National Poetry Month, and even though I believe poetry has a place in the classroom every day, I love this month of focus and attention to the craft of writing. After writing every day for the March Slice of Life Challenge, my students breathe a sigh of relief when I say they only have to post three poems each week. Poetry doesn’t come with the 250 word count minimum. Poetry isn’t about word count. Poetry celebrates voice, choice, and word play.

In my class we’ve been following Amy VanDerwater’s adventures with Orion. She’s writing a poem every day using the topic of Orion. We all have such admiration for her. Sticking to one topic and one that is rather obscure, like a constellation, is pretty amazing. My students are noticing how Amy likes to rhyme, so they are trying it, too. They are noticing more than the structure-of-the-day. Amy is a co-teacher this month, and in a world in which we teachers feel isolated, that is a comfort.

I write alongside my students. Some prompts work for me and some don’t. They watch me and know that they will not catch a good poem every day, but the point is to keep throwing the line back in.

One of the prompts this week was a poem of address. I wrote a poem to my students.

Dear Students,

You’ve written poems every day.
You’ve tried out words in every way.

Metaphor
Simile
Onomatopoeia

Compound words
Imagination
I’m so proud to see ya’

Active as a writer
discovering your voice.

Filling pages begin to end
with topics of your choice.

Keep the faith
as you go forth
to be who you will be;

Writing is a place
that’s safe
to reach for your best me.

–Margaret Simon © 2018

In my ELA classes, my students have been reading books about the Holocaust and creating book talks around them. Jacob, as most of my students, has been affected by the emotion of the devastation and tragedy. He was stuck for a topic for his poem of address, so I suggested writing a letter to Hitler. That was all the nudge he needed.

Poem of Address to Hitler

Did anyone tell you
that you are horrible?
Have you any clue?
You used to be unstoppable.

We’ve all hated you
for many years to come.
You’ve killed us, gave us the flu.
What have you become?

What made you become evil?
Why did you blame the Jews?
Everything you did was illegal.
I’ll give you 1 star in my reviews.

by Jacob, 4th grade

Austin is a 6th grader who is reading Jason Reynolds and Kwame Alexander, and he loves basketball. I think in this poem, he has voice.  I also love that poetry gives him a way to express who he is.  His poem of address is to Stephen Curry.  I had to Google him.  He’s a basketball player, of course.

Dear Curry,

Your shot is flawless
your handles are tight
and your hops are all right.

You’re a 6’4 shooting machine.
I’m a 5’0 spectator.
I watch you cook
and the way you look.
You been hurt for a little minute
so you might have a limit.

You hardly ever pout
but Anthony Davis says he is going
to dunk on you
without a doubt.

Austin, 6th grade

 

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

 

Social Studies is not my area of expertise, so last week I found a way to let poetry come in the door.  I pull a group of gifted students for their Social Studies class. I needed to teach these kids about the Civil Rights Movement.  Equipped with website links, videos, and articles, we explored three major events: Woolworth’s lunch counter sit-in, March on Washington, and the Montgomery bus boycott. As a way to synthesize the information, we wrote poems together.  Our discussion about these events included what important information to include and how to make it into a poem.

In the Woolworth’s store,
four brave students,
as brave as can be
sat at the lunch counter
and would not leave.

Several more the next day
sat with those brave boys
they took Mr. Woolworth’s
breath away.

News spread, far and wide.
Three hundred more stood by their side.

To get their minds straight
and stop segregation,
they worked hard, stood strong.
It’s not time to have fun.
There is still work to be done.

–Mrs. Simon’s class


Dear Rosa Parks,

You are a hero for all of America.
I really appreciate
that everyone can ride together.
You refused to give up your seat.
You inspire us to fight
for what we believe in.

Because of you,
segregation on buses ended.
You befriended yourself in my eyes
through your bravery in the Montgomery Bus Boycott
sewing together minds for integration.

Sincerely,
Mrs. Simon’s Sea 

Another group of my kiddos was featured on Today’s Little Ditty with their dinosaur poems.

If you would like to participate in a round up of poetry about photos, join the photo/poem exchange on my blog, More than Meets the Eye. 

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National Poetry Month 2018

 

See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

 

My students and I have been writing to Amy Ludwig VanDerwater’s daily prompts at The Poem Farm.  I usually write alongside my students, so some days I have three poems done because I teach 3 different groups of kids.  On Monday, when we were writing using word play, I started writing at school number one about bees.

Dawson, 4th grade, helped me think about rhymes.  He told me that bees carry pollen in their mouths and spit it back and forth with other bees until it becomes honey, thus “honey primers.”

I turned to bee research and RhymeZone.

At school number two, Chloe, 2nd grade, told me that a bee’s dance is called a waggle.  Google confirmed it.

Last month, I had a bee incident in my classroom at school number 2 that caused a curse word to come out of my mouth, thus “cursing singer.” This incident happened in March, so I sliced about it here.

My students responded with pleasure at my completed poem.  They exclaimed “Boomchakalaka.”  Great word play for the ending!

 

Bees
hullabaloo
on flowering trees
humming,
drumming,
buzz-strumming.

Bees
hokey-pokey
through pollen fields
persnickety climbers,
expert mimers
honey primers.

Bees
waggle-dance
in the hive
insect communication
tapping out dictation
pointing to a destination.

Bee–one bashful bee
squirming
in my hair
angry stinger
hand slinger
cursing singer.

Boomchakalaka!

I am writing ekphrastic poetry this month for National Poetry Month.  Michelle Kogan is an poet-illustrator I’ve met through Poetry Friday.  Usually I start with the image to inform the poem.  This poem came before the illustration, but I knew Michelle would have one that fit just right. Thanks, Michelle.

Towering Tulip by Michelle Kogan. Click image to see Michelle’s website.

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Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge

Poetry Friday round-up is with Laura at Writing the World for Kids.

This month’s Ditty Challenge on Michelle Barnes’ site is from Nikki Grimes.  Nikki Grimes has made the golden shovel an infamous poetry form.  I shared her book, One Last Word, with my students.  Michelle worked with boys in a juvenile detention center. She posted Lil Fijjii’s poem blurred lines.   This poem spoke to my students.  They could relate to the strong emotion.  To write golden shovel poems, each student chose a line to respond to.  At first Faith placed her head in her hands.  “This is too hard. I can’t do it.”  I set the timer and said, “Just give it a shot.”

My students were pleased with the results.  I’ve posted them on Michelle’s padlet.  Scroll for Students from Mrs. Simon’s Class.  

Made with Padlet

 

Spring is in the air here in South Louisiana and no one wants to stay inside, so I took my kids out for a chalkabration.  View their poems in this slide show.

 

 

chalkabration

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Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge

 

 

Inspired by Violet Nesdoly’s blog post Welcome Spring, my students and I wrote a collaborative poem about spring.

At first, I talked about the spring equinox and how it’s related to the rotation of the earth (to get in a little science content).   Then I opened a blank document on the screen.  Jayden said, “I hope we are going to write a poem.  I love when we write poems.”  My heart swelled.

We read it aloud to hear the beat.  We rearranged stanzas.  Landon suggested that we end the poem at night with fireflies.

First Day of Spring

by Jasmine, Kaia, Landon, Jayden

(edited by Mrs. Simon)

Happiness everywhere.
Let’s go to the Spring fair.

Easter is near.
Wind tickles my ear.

Green grass growing.
Dad lawn mowing.

Mom is cleaning.
I am dreaming.

Cherry blossoms blooming.
Sun’s light booming.

Bees buzz.
Dandelion fuzz.

When daylight ends,
fireflies descend.

 

On Sunday, our choir held an Evensong service.  My fellow choir member and friend, Brenda, recorded the service.  There were only 9 of us, but we made a joyful noise.  Here, she put one of our hymns on YouTube.  Enjoy Benedictus, one of my favorites. I sing alto.  Listen for me.

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Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge

On Sunday I posted about using jeweler’s loupes with my students in science and writing poems.  I felt a little guilty writing poems in science class, like that was somehow not allowed.  But my friend and slicer Dani Burtsfield posted a link to a podcast in her comment.  The podcast from Heinemann featured Amy Ludwig VanDerwater talking with authors Valerie Bang-Jensen and Mark Lubkowitz about science and poetry.

Amy asks, “Is a poem a system?”

She continues, “”Do you feel if a poem is a system … is the reader’s intent and background, when a reader comes to a poem, is that energy that flows through that system?”

Later, Amy brings up genre study. “one of the things I see that happens with writing is that … sometimes writing is divided up into these little genres, and we do this for a few weeks, we do this for a few weeks, and we do this for a few weeks. But what gets lost, and what can get lost, is the bigger idea of how to notice these patterns. How to see how interlocking pieces of words work together in a text beyond genre, like transcending, flying over genre.”

Amy’s ideas led me to my lesson today with my science kids.  I wanted to use the patterns of poetry to notice the patterns in science, to fly over genre.

We were using jeweler’s loupes to look at plants, but today we were looking closely at mold.  Last week we set up mold terrariums using ziplock bags and a slice of bread and apple.  Following the weekend, guess what grew?  Yucky mold!

Mold on an apple

“What does the mold remind you of?”

“An old man’s beard.”

“Whipped cream!”

“Let’s write a poem about it.”

Moldy Poem

Mold is growing on our food.
We know it’s made of spores.
Now it looks like
an old man’s beard,
white and green like sour cream.

Mold is creeping like a fox
preying on a squirrel.
Decomposing apples and bread
like bacteria in my mouth.
A marshmallow made of spores.

Writing this poem helped solidify some science concepts through discussion and creativity, observation and discovery. I think we’ll write poems in science more often. Thanks, Amy, Valerie, and Mark for permission.

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Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life March Challenge

 

In the middle of the night, an Amber Alert alarms on my cell phone.  I put on my glasses, checked the phone, and saw something about a 1979 white Cadillac… I went back to sleep.

At morning recess shouts and screams enter the hallways.  I close my door.

The bell rings, my students enter, visibly stressed, breathing differently, heavier.

We talk about it.  One says, “I’m so tired of all this bullying.  I just want people to get along.” Her eyes tear up.  I offer a hug.

Another student says, “Let’s meditate!  I need it this morning.” Blankets and pillows come out.  Breathing slows as we imagine the stress leaving our bodies.

We breathe slowly in silence for 4 minutes.

We begin the work of the day, reading and writing.

I don’t have any answers for the fears, the cries, the bullying, but I can offer a safe place of mindfulness.  It’s something.  Some days it’s everything.

stones-1372677_960_720

Note: My student Faith wrote about the fight in this Slice of Life post. 

For meditation, I use Mindful Kids, a box of kid-friendly meditation cards by Whitney Stewart.  Available on Amazon.

Mindful Kids

 

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