Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Poetry Friday round-up is with Christie at Wondering and Wandering


Last week I discovered a challenge from today’s hostess, Christie Wyman, to write a bird themed poem.  Just so happened I had attended a poetry reading of Bird Forgiveness by Melinda Palacio of New Orleans. Then I was reading Diane Mayr’s blogpost about a Library of Congress photography show in Los Angeles.  She wrote a note to me to check out the featured photograph for “Not an Ostrich.”  Diane had seen a Facebook video I had posted of my friend’s goose, who absolutely must be a floradora goose like the one pictured.  Diane also challenged us poets to write about a chosen LOC photo.  So I am combining all of these things, Bird Forgiveness, bird themed poetry, and poetry about Library of Congress photos, to bring you this poem.


floradora goose loc

Not an Ostrich: ‘Floradora goose.’ Actress Isla Bevan holds a goose at the 41st annual Poultry Show, Madison Square Garden, 1930. Unknown photographer.


Precious Things

All things precious, except for this bird, end up buried in a box.
Melinda Palacio from Bird Forgiveness

What things are precious?

When a photograph is precious, it is saved
                           under glass, preserved in a museum,
                                         admired for ages.

When an egg is precious, it is removed
                          by expert hands, gently taken to a lab,
                                          buried with sacred ceremony.

Except for this bird.

This bird is named, released
                        to roam the farm, adorned in fancy feathers,
                                          posed as if fine lace

from a precious box. 

–Margaret Simon, (c) 2018








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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

I saw my students for the first time on Monday.  The first day of my gifted class is traditionally the day to decorate your journal. (Some people call them notebooks, but I have always called them journals.) I bring in decorative paper, magazines, stamps, stickers, and this year, washi tape. The students have full freedom of choice about how they decorate their journals.

I love this as the first day activity for a few reasons.  One is it allows us the time to sit around the table and talk casually. I decorate as well, so we are working together.  I also love how this simple activity tells me so much about my students, how they work on a project, what interests them, and how they handle creativity.  Perfection can be an issue with gifted kids, so this project helps me see these types of characteristics. And also it’s just fun, so kids are excited to come to gifted class every day.

My journal for 2018-2019. I incorporated cards and stickers from friends to make my space personal.

When a sea turtle is too large for your cover, use it on the back and turn it sideways.

Sticky note leaf shapes become a palm tree for this Queen Writer.

Daniel was not discouraged when a magazine cut out didn’t work. He found this cat that he liked much better. There are no mistakes.

Rainbows and washi tape!

If this first day is any indication, this is going to be a good year!


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Poetry Friday round-up is with Molly at Nix the Comfort Zone.

School has started here in the midst of hot, humid August. I’m setting up three classrooms at three schools (quite the challenge!), so lists have become important to me. What do I need at this school that I know I have at that school: tape, markers, glue sticks, etc. The lists go on and on.

But lists can also become poems. And in the midst of this stress, a list poem relaxes me. They release stress much like to-do lists do.

One way I can relax is to peruse Facebook. Tuesday I saw a post from Margarita Engle about sand poetry. I also thought about my promise for writing during the school year and opened to a clean notebook page. And this comment from Cathy Mere made it into the poem as well, “Loved this, Margaret. Your advice to just open our notebooks and put the date on the page to see what happens is among my favorites. I’ve been thinking about this in terms of “margin.” In the summer, we all managed to get a little margin – a little white space – in our lives. How do we maintain that as the busyness of the school year approaches? Figuring out how to maintain space for doing the things we love is something I’ll be thinking more about as the school year begins.”

In the Margins, write a poem

For more list poems, try Georgia Heard’s collection Falling Down the Page or this page on The Poem Farm.

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

School starts this week. Monday and Tuesday are inservice/orientation days and the kids come on Wednesday. 2018-2019, here we go!

“How will you keep up your writing?” my writing critique partner, Catherine Flynn, asked me at our online meeting.

I hadn’t really thought about it.

#TeachWrite chat on Monday night asked the same question. “What is your plan to continue writing when life gets crazy as the new school year begins?”

Oh, no. A plan?

So here’s my plan for all the world to see:

1. Keep calm. Keep writing.

2. Open my notebook at least once a day. Write the date at the top of the page. See what comes…

3. Write alongside my students. (I have done this as long as I’ve been teaching writing. It’s one of my guiding principles for teaching.)

4. Don’t feel guilty if a day goes by, and I didn’t write. Some days are like that. Realize that there may be other days when the writing is easy. Let go of ridiculous expectations.

5. Set realistic goals. A poem a day may be too hard, but a poem a week is doable.

6. Be an advocate for my writing life. Make time for it because in the long run, I’m happier when I am writing.

There. That’s wasn’t so hard. It’s not so much a plan as a promise to my writer-self. What will you do to keep writing when life gets crazy-busy?

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .

Without young kids or grandkids of my own, I’ve been known to borrow them.  Last week I was planning to hold a workshop around Bayou Song, but no one registered (end of summer syndrome perhaps), but no worries.  My neighbor sent over her almost 8 year old, Jack.  We worked together on an I am poem.  Rather typical boy in the summer, when I asked Jack what he wanted to write about, he said, “Well I really like soccer.”  So soccer it is.  We are going to write a poem from the point of view of the soccer ball using I statements.  Jack caught on pretty quickly and started spouting lines.

When Jack got to the part where he wanted to write words like cool and awesome, I directed him to more specific language.

How do I know you’re a soccer ball? 

I’m a sphere!  And I am patterned with black and white!

Write that down!

I am a super stylish soccer ball.
I spin as fast as a jaguar.
I fly like an eagle.
I get kicked around.
I want you to stop kicking me!

I am a super stylish soccer ball.
I am a sphere.
I am patterned with black and white
like a panda.
I roll to the goal.
I like to win.

by Jack

Then we watched a video of Jen Vincent’s son making a zine with a single sheet of paper.

Jack with Bayou Song and his own zine.

I made a zine with a snake “I am” poem alongside Jack.  He helped me with some of the facts, like snakes sleep with their eyes open.  We Googled what a ribbon snake eats to find an s-word.  I made a video of my zine.

Thanks to Jack for being my guinea pig for this activity.  I look forward to sharing it with more students.  Working one on one, though, is a great way to try out a workshop.

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life .


Jen loves to have visitors at her B&B farm property in Breaux Bridge, Bonne Terre.  Bonne Terre in French means good soil.  While I’m sure this is good earth, I can see that Jen dedicates lots of her time to making it good.  There are signs of her everywhere, in the mown lawns, the growing vegetables, and the attractive, rustic sculptures.  Even in the bathroom, she has selected special aromatic soaps and adorable decorations.  I have to admit I’ve had trouble settling down to write.  I’ve moved positions at least five times.

I asked Jen how many chickens she has.  She had to do the math because she has a variety of breeds, but she came up with 71 (or was it 79?).  Nevertheless, chickens are everywhere.  They are a humorous, noisy lot that make me feel like I am out in the country at grandmother’s house.

I’ve been meaning to treat myself to a full day of writing all summer long.  With only a few weeks left before school starts, I finally did it.  I worry that I will fill this day with things other than writing.  Jen told me, “It doesn’t matter if you write or not.  The point is you gave yourself this space to be present.”

I’ll likely spend the next few hours reading blogs, walking the grounds, and having coffee with Jen, but whatever I do is bon travail on this bonne terre, good work on this good earth.  And look at me!  For what it’s worth, I got a blog post written.

I think this dragonfly wants to be in a poem!

Please hop over to Amanda’s post on Persistence and Pedagogy.  She’s a stop on the Bayou Song blog tour, and I love what she did with her kiddos.

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Poetry Friday round-up is with Heidi at My Juicy Little Universe.

Maybe if you’d written over a hundred books for children, you could take a break, but not Marilyn Singer. I first met Marilyn at NCTE a few years ago when she was reading from and presenting about her books of reverso poems. Reverso is a brilliant form that I fail at miserably, but Marilyn has at least three books full of them.

This summer at ALA I was able to grab a new copy of Every Month is a New year. Marilyn signed it, “Happy New Years!” Who knew that every month, someone somewhere in the world is celebrating a new year? The extent of Marilyn’s research alone for this book is impressive. There are 77 sources listed in the back matter of the book!

Illustrator Susan L. Roth uses mixed media for the illustrations. You can imagine touching each piece and feeling the soft paper and fabric collaged together.

The experience of this book is different from other picture books because it opens horizontally like a calendar. Actually, I would love to have it as a calendar I could display in my classroom.

I thought I would share July’s poem since it’s July, but I love, love, love September’s poem and illustration. Ethiopia’s new year is celebrated on September 11th with gifts of daisies. I want to start a movement for us to adopt this practice for our commemoration of the tragedy of Sept. 11th. Random gifts of daisies. From the back matter:

Enkutatash, Ethiopian New Year, on the Ethiopic calendar corresponds to September 11 on the Gregorian calendar. Enkutatash is believed to be the day the Queen of Sheba returned to her homeland after her visit to King Solomon in Jerusalem in 980 BCE. She was welcomed with enku, jewels. Enkutatash, which means “gift of jewels,” has another ancient meaning that commemorates the receding of the great flood during the time of Noah. The day also marks the end of the rainy season and the beginning of sunny days.
Today, on Enkutatash, children in new, white, hand-woven cotton clothes offer yellow Meskel daisies, along with pictures they have painted, as gifts to friends and neighbors.

I think I have found a new tradition to start with my students!

illustration by Susan L. Roth for Every Month is a New Year

By Marilyn Singer, Every Month is a New Year

In her poem about the June New Year, We Tripantu in Chile, Marilyn leads me in with simple sentence structure, “The night is cold./ My family is warm.” I love when the simplest of language can tell so much. She continues this pattern with “The air is quiet. / My family is loud.” As a writing prompt, I want to try using the pattern of opposites for my own poem. It could be about a season or a celebration. Would you like to try one, too? Share in the comments.

My own New Year celebration happens on my birthday, August 11th. The peak of the Perseid meteor showers occur around this day every year. This year I should make a point of going outside to dance.

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