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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

At NCTE 2018, I was excited to attend a session, Why Notebooks?, that some of my favorite people were leading: Jen Cherry, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Michelle Haseltine, and Linda Urban.  I’ve been a notebooker for some time now, and I always have my students decorate a marbleized journal at the beginning of the year, so I was drawn to finding more ways to use notebooks in my classroom.

As someone who loves little notebooks, I was delighted that there were handmade notebooks for us to keep (folded unlined paper with a colored cardstock cover).  They passed around puffy stickers for us to choose from.  I felt the thrill of creating something new.

Jen Cherry gave us reasons behind using notebooks with your students:

  1. Personalizes learning by providing choice.
  2. Encourages mindfulness.
  3. Builds stamina.
  4. Encourages risk.
  5. Students live like writers.

Michelle Haseltine prompted us to write an invitation to our notebooks.  On the first clean white page of the little green notebook, I wrote this poem.

 

I made a commitment to myself to be more intentional about notebook writing with my students.  On our first day back after Thanksgiving break, I asked my students to get out their notebooks.  In order to provide a structure that honors choice, I thought back to a workshop I attended with our Louisiana Poet Laureate Jack Bedell who told us about William Staffords’ daily writing discipline.

  1. date
  2. description of something that happened recently
  3. aphorism (cliche’)
  4. meditation (a poem-like thing)

After a few days of using this structure, I was hooked.  It was working for me, so why not share it with my students?  This is what I wrote on the board:

  1. Date
  2. Something that happened…
  3. Quote of the day
  4. Poem-ish writing

I set the timer for ten minutes and we wrote.  Some shared.  And some found their next blog post.  “I’m going to use this for my Slice of Life.”  We were doing the work of real writers.

We’ve been using the 365 Days of Wonder for quotes of the day, but I wasn’t doing anything more with it than having a student choose one and write it on a frame of glass.  They were enjoying the process of choosing and would often naturally start a conversation around the chosen quote.  Adding it to our daily notebook page gives more attention to the quote as well as possibly inspiring more writing.

This was our quote yesterday: “Happiness is a perfume you can not pour on others without getting a few drops on yourself.”  My poem-like meditation:

Happiness is the scent of flowers
in a bouquet
you give
just because
you’re happy.
Then the drops of perfume
fill your senses
and transfer
to whomever you hug.
Spread some happiness today!

As we get more and more adept at writing in our notebooks every day, my students and I will reap the benefits of sharing in a writing community.  Why Notebooks? So many reasons.  Pull them out of the desks, booksacks, or cubbies and just do it! You’ll be glad you did.

 

 

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NCTE 2018 has come and gone as a quick wind beneath my wings.  The presentations, the authors, the people, the atmosphere lifts me up and says, “You are doing the good work.”

In his keynote with his twin brother Paul, Peter Reynolds said, “Your brain is beautiful.”  Everywhere I went, everyone I met helped me to believe this is true.

My husband calls the NCTE conference “hobnobbing with your fellow wizards.” My fellow wizards include poets from Poetry Friday, teacher-writers from Two Writing Teachers and TeachWrite, and dedicated educators from Good to Great.  These people are my tribe.

I was so privileged to be able to present with Ralph Fletcher, Naomi Shihab Nye, and Chris Crutcher on the theme of Voices in the Air.  These three authors are inspirational and powerful speakers.  Their message was one of hope, that when we write and put our voices out in the world, someone will be touched by it.

On a panel with my Poetry Friday peeps, Heidi Mordhorst, Laura Purdie Salas, Mary Lee Hahn, and Irene Latham, we inspired teachers to take their students outside of the classroom to write in the wild.  We talked about exploring the world through other perspectives and looking more closely.

In a session with Michelle Haseltine, Amy Ludwig VanDerwater, Linda Urban, and Jen Cherry, I felt renewed interest in writer’s notebooks, in providing a place for students to be themselves, to encourage mindfulness, build stamina, and encourage risk.  I felt braver writing in my own notebook, realizing that there is no perfect way to keep a notebook, my notebook is mine, and I should give my students more opportunities for free writing.

In a panel with Jan Burkins, Kim Yaris, Dani Burtsfield, Christina Nosek, and Kari Yeatts, I learned new ways to be responsive to my students as readers.  I learned to look at four characteristics of a reader: book choice, healthy habits, strategic process, and authentic response.  They said, “Learn about your student first; the teaching will come.”  I also noted this quote, “The awesome in us sees the awesome in you.” Back to that beautiful brain. These teacher-leaders did not say they had all the answers; they said, “We are with you.”

Sitting beside my students, I will have these people with me.  I am full! I am rich! I am renewed!

NCTE is…

presenting with author rock stars…

connecting with poets…

meeting your favorite author…

spending time with friends…

and more!

 

 

 

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

 

Bayou Song is on the wall of books!

The rains had ended, the cool front came through, adding an element of celebration (like Christmas) to the Louisiana Book Festival.  This year was the 15th annual book festival and the 15th awards ceremony for LA Writes, our state youth writing contest.  I have been involved since the first contest and the first book festival.  I always marvel at the young authors as they arrive dressed up with their whole extended families with them. It is an event for celebrating good writing and for families celebrating their authors.

My student Chloe reads her winning poem, Cool Words.

Following the wonderful awards ceremony, I offered a student writing workshop.  You never really know what kind of audience to expect.  I was delighted to have 3 writers join me.  One was a 6-year-old who wrote and drew, then buzzed around. Her mother said, “She’s doing a lap.”  Then she was back to writing and drawing.  The other two girls were a sister pair.  The older sister is a student at LSU.  I am not accustomed to teaching college kids, but I was pleasantly surprised at how she responded to my prompts.  She wrote an I am poem about the river. (Baton Rouge is located on the Mississippi River.) When I taught them about the zeno poem, she transformed her I am poem into a zeno.  This was an unexpected transfer that worked well for her poem.  She gave me permission to publish it here.

I am a rusted red river.
My mouth echoes
rising
flood.
I touch cities
with their
blood.
Reminder they
come from
mud.

–Jami Kleinpeter

Thanks, Jami, for enriching our lives with your poem and for showing me how a simple (meant for elementary kids) prompt can be transformed into a sophisticated and profound poem.

 

 

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Michelle at Today’s Little Ditty..

I’ve been reading aloud Kwame Alexander’s Newbery Award winning book in verse, The Crossover. This is a great book to read aloud, but it’s also visually appealing.  I don’t think there is a name for this form of writing when the written words express the feeling of the word.  But my kids got it!  Such a fun way to write about sports.  Of course, I wrote about dancing.  Have some fun with the way the words look on the page, Kwame style!

Karate by Breighlynn, 3rd grade

 

 

I kick the ball

and watch it

f

a

l

l

GOAL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

we yell

cause that’s where it

f

e

l

l

I take a glance at my team

And realize we look like we’re from a meme

It’s up to me to save the Day

Cause if we don’t win

This is where our

G

r

a

v

e

s

will lay

I Kick

b           u             c               s

It          o            n              e

And I scream, NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!!!!!

Will my team really loose?

Will they think we’re fools?

NO, NOT IN THIS LIFE NOR THE NEXT!!!!!!!

Jayden, 5th grade

 

by Margaret Simon, 2018

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This was my first time to attend the T.E.C.H.E. Project’s Shake Your Trail Feather Festival in Breaux Bridge, LA on the shores of Bayou Teche, the same bayou that runs behind my home in New Iberia.  When researching for Bayou Song, I found their website and began to take more interest in learning about their mission.  I even discovered that some of our friends are involved.  When I got an email from the tourist commission about this event, I wrote to the organizers and asked if I could sell books and give proceeds to the project.  I didn’t know how much fun I would have!

I set up my book table inside a gazebo with the children’s activities.  The women here welcomed me, and I enjoyed chatting with them all throughout the day.  One of the kids’ activities was a bird scavenger hunt. The children were given a booklet of common bayou birds.  The children decorated “binoculars” made with paper towel tubes and Mardi Gras beads.  Then they searched for pictures with facts placed around the event area.  The kids were charged with writing one fact about each bird and returning for a prize.  The prizes included a bookmark, a sticker, and a turtle puzzle.

Ava came back from her scavenger hunt excited to turn her facts into a poem.  But how?  I showed her the poem “Barred Owl” written with two to three word lines in rhyming couplets, such as “soulful eyes/From hollow spies.”  I talked with Ava about how her facts could become a poem.

“Which bird is your favorite?”

“The belted kingfisher.”

“What did you learn about the kingfisher?”

Ava reads, “He hovers…”

“What rhymes with hovers?”

Ava shouts, “covers!”

“What covers the kingfisher?”

“Feathers!”

I scribed each line as we discussed her ideas.

At one point, Ava turned and ran. I realized she was going back to the fact sheet to find more facts to use.  When we finished writing, she excitedly shared her poem with whomever would listen.  She felt like a poet!

Her grandfather bought her a book, so she copied her poem into her book.  Later when an art teacher happened by, I asked her to help Ava draw a picture of a kingfisher to go with her poem.  Then she not only felt like a poet, she was an artist too.

Ava, 3rd grade, copied her poem into her Bayou Song book.

Me with Ava and her little sister celebrating writing poetry and art at the Shake Your Trail Feather Festival.

Huge kingfisher sculptures adorn a party barge that led the canoe paddle on Bayou Teche.

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Brenda Davis Harsham is hosting Poetry Friday today.

We talked about descriptive poetry, writing so that your reader can visualize your topic.  I have the privilege of working with small groups of students, so I am able to collaborate with an individual student on a poem.  Chloe wanted to write about a swan.  I shared a poem from my book Bayou Song that was about the white ibis.  The poem was in a triptych form.  Chloe and I wrote a poem using the same form writing description from a photograph of a swan.  In the process, she learned the word cygnet, and we both learned that a swan tucks her cygnets under her wings.

Swan Triptych

1.
It’s the way
white wings swim
in the crawfish pond.

2.
It’s the way
mother swan protects
her cygnets
tucked into her wings
softly.

3.
It’s the way
the beautiful swan
is reflected on the water.

by Mrs. Simon and Chloe

With Landon, we used metaphor dice.  The dice turned up “My soul is a silent trophy.”  I suggested changing trophy to garden.  He loved the idea and guess what? The line was eight syllables long, perfect for the first line of a zeno. (See more about zenos here.) I asked him, “What did you see in the garden?” He remembered a praying mantis hiding in a bush.  As we continued to discuss the word choices for this poem, we decided to break the rule about the one syllable words rhyming.  Sometimes when you try to rhyme, you lose meaning.

Garden Zeno

My soul is a silent garden
Praying Mantis
Stealthy
Stands
camouflaging
into
leaves
The small garden
is their
home.

by Landon and Mrs. Simon

Collaborating with students on poems or even having students work together can result in rich conversations around word choice and produce a poem that all are pleased with.

 

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