Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Poetry Friday round-up is with Jone at Check it Out.

A week off to enjoy family, friends, and food.  I’m sharing my week in verse.

Throw me somethin’ Mister!

Sunday, Feb. 10, 2018

Mardi Gras after the rain
Parades roll, beads fly,
Hands waving high.

Open doors,
chicken fingers,
Chili Fritos,

Costumes, blue hair,
and happy laughs,

Marching bands,
King cake,
Vodka and La Croix.

Come on in,
stay right here,
Bacchus is rolling soon.

Tuesday, Feb. 12, 2018

Houston in the rain
heavy trucks spray
hold on tight.

Find a friend.
Sit a while
comfort in just being.

Glasses of wine,
flat bread pizza,
gather around the table.

Ukulele playing,
out of tune singing,
cuddles with the dog.

There is love here,
not over the rainbow yet,
but healing will come.

My friend Sarah is fighting the battle for her life.

Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2018

Ashes to ashes,
we are but dust,
miserable wormness,

Yet now is the time
to reach out
to reach in.

Be alone with God
to realize you are
never alone.

Spread the fruit
of your solitude.
Translate cynicism to Joy!

I am but dust.
Life is a gift.
Existence is grace.

Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018

Japanese magnolia blooms
along my walking route,
sending pink fragrance into fog.

My mind wanders as I walk,
thoughts of children
whose lives were shot short.

My voice speaks to neighbors.
Can I trust my words
to be kind?

We are all wandering
on this lonely path
questioning God’s grace.

Find meaning in a moment,
Joy in a conversation,
Light in a dew drop.





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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

What is a change maker and who are the change makers in our own community? I asked my students. I made a list on the board of people I know from our area who are making a difference.  Each student chose one to interview based on his/her own interest.

I called Vicky Branton, a feature writer for The Daily Iberian, our local newspaper.  She agreed to come visit with my students about interviewing for and writing a feature article.  She had good advice:

  1. Begin with the 5 W’s: Who, what, when, where, why?
  2. During the interview, listen.
  3. Record the interview in order to be completely present and to go back for direct quotes.
  4. Elaborate: Find the interesting thing.

For the first three days of last week, I scheduled interviews.  In all, we had 5 interviews.  Students then began writing.  We had to juggle the computer around for them to listen to their recorded interviews.  Eventually, they had a draft of a feature article.

This was a motivating project for my students.  They were elevated by their interviewer status.  They learned a great deal about the good things happening in our city.  They learned how to take a quote and turn it into narrative.  They learned about themselves in the process, too, and have renewed aspirations for what they may want to do to be a change maker.

Faith is interested in an anti-bullying program that is in the early stages in our community:

Mrs. Dawn and Mrs. Sharon say they really feel like Chez Hope is impacting the community. Russo expressing,”…What we do is not easy, it’s not easy work at all, it’s hard.” Over time they are helping the community. These crises are a big problem in our community. And many people are afraid that they aren’t going away any time soon. To add on to that, I would like to say that I feel like Chez Hope has impacted our school. When Mrs. Sharon and Mrs. Dawn came to our school, they left an impact on me and others as well. Once I walked out of that room, I knew I had to do something to help stop bullying. I also took away that I should never bully anyone. Also, if some one bullies me, then I need to tell an adult. I don’t need to be put down and be bullied. So stand up for yourself and tell an adult. (Faith, 6th grade)

Bully Free Kids T-shirt from Chez Hope


Jennie Lallande, Acadiana Lifestyles “Women Making a Difference 2016”

Andrew wanted to know more about how Jennie Lallande became involved in the community garden and school garden programs.

Jennie Lallande is a massive change maker. She helps in the community garden, but the garden is made in a place where people don’t have much access to fresh food like lettuce or carrots. She was recruited because she has a experience in sustainable agriculture.

Erin is doing a fundraiser to make care packages for foster children, so she wanted to know more about the system from someone who had adopted a foster child.

When I interviewed her I got a lot of information about her and the foster system, which will help me with my research because I want to learn more about the foster system. A lot of new information was revealed to me.  I thought the social workers were supposed to help the parents. But according to Mrs. Schlicher they don’t really help.  She said they provided her with false information so that she would take children in.

From interests to interviews to writing, my students are discovering who is making a difference as well as planting seeds for their own future as change makers. 


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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.

Once again this year I have joined Laura Shovan’s February writing challenge.  Her birthday is this month, and she celebrates by inspiring others to write a poem every day.  I thought this was maybe my third year of doing this challenge, but the other day one of those Facebook memories came up and reminded me that I’ve done this for 5 years.  That’s a lot of poems!

This year’s challenge is writing ekphrasis which is poetry about art.  Every day a participant posts a work of art for us to respond to.  I’ve managed to write each day since the warm-ups started.

I’ve set up rules for myself.  When I see the image on Facebook, I save it and place it in a Google doc.  Then I do not allow myself to read other people’s poems until I’ve written mine. (I cheat on this one.) I write and revise quickly, no overthinking the process, and copy and paste my poem into the Facebook post as a comment.  I comment on at least 3 other poets.  The group has grown to over 100 people, so it’s just not feasible to comment on them all.

Ekphrasis is a good way to inspire poetry because there is no form attached.  You can write in any way you choose, form or free verse, short or long.  You can write a mask poem from the painting/sculpture’s point of view.  You can be on the outside looking in or on the inside looking out.

The flexibility of form appeals to me.  Some days the poems come easily and others I have to let sit a while.  Sometimes I research the artist.  When a sculpture by Rodin came up, I researched and found a quote to work from.  Sometimes I research the topic. I collect words and then write.

Writing a poem a day is a challenge.  But when you are participating in a group of kind responders, the writing is worthwhile and rewarding.  We need each other.  We need to feel a part of something bigger. We need affirmation and acceptance.

One of the most profound for me was Laura’s son Jay’s self-portrait.  Here is the portrait by Jay Shovan and my poem.

Unfinished portrait by Jay Shovan


Deep brown eyes
stare at me,
look through me,
hold me still.

Slashed and dripped
with strokes of green,
baby blue, white
on flesh, each brush
from the palate played

like a piper in a parade
leading me to you,
but all I see now
are your eyes

drawing me into a window
of my own soul. These
are my eyes.

–Margaret Simon, (c) draft 2018

On the more whimsical side was this funny spoon sculpture by Raul Zuniga circa 1971.

Owls three
Smiley, Cranky, and Boastful
perched on a branch of a safety pin.
Bring me your wise ole thoughts
Find me a place to perch
Help me be the Who
I am meant to be.

–Margaret Simon, (c) draft 2018

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Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

Thursday, Feb. 1st was World Read Aloud Day.  Back in November, Kate Messner posted a long list of authors willing to do free Skype visits.  I selected and contacted Sarah Albee, author of Bugged, Poop Happened, and Poison, amazing and engaging nonfiction books.

Each of my students in my morning class composed a question and were promised a chance to personally ask their question.

Argh!  Tech problems!

A quick call to the tech director, and he took over the computer and was able to solve the problem just in the nick of time.  My students were able to ask their questions, and Sarah expertly answered each one.

Even Erin’s question, “Do you know what a narwhal is?” did not stump this nonfiction research expert.  Sarah pointed Erin to a page in Poison in which she refers to the practice of using narwhal horns to simulate unicorn horns.

My students marveled in the length of time it takes to research, write, and publish a book.  Dawson, who is reading Bugged, asked what her favorite insect is.  Would you be surprised to know it’s an ant?!

Dawson later announced that it was the first time he had ever met anyone famous.  In a more perfect world where technology was flawless, I would Skype more often with “famous” people.  Authors are my heroes, and they are becoming my students’ heroes as well.

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Join the Two Writing Teachers blog for the Slice of Life Challenge.


Last week my students and I read together a Scope magazine article titled, “Escape from Alcatraz.”  The title alone was enough to interest my students as well as the images of three fugitives believed to have escaped the highest security prison that ever existed.

Armed with the article and a video from MythBusters, I asked my students to make up their own minds about whether or not the fugitives escaped.  Students worked on rough drafts and by Wednesday were poised at the computers to type up their essays.


Photo from Wikipedia by D. Ramey Logan.

They were still bothered, however, because they didn’t know the truth.  Did the three men escape or not?  Searching for images to put into their blog posts, a student came upon a recent news report, recent as in “3 hours ago.”  We all eagerly gathered around the computer, reading over his shoulders.

A letter allegedly written by one of the escapees recently came to light. CBS San Francisco exclusively obtained it from a source.

“My name is John Anglin. I escape from Alcatraz in June 1962 with my brother Clarence and Frank Morris. I’m 83 years old and in bad shape. I have cancer. Yes we all made it that night but barely!”   

CBS News Jan. 24, 2018


What happens to an essay that has been written and worked on in conferences when new evidence emerges?

Different students responded in different ways.  One student placed the link to the article into his post.  Another changed his whole essay and threw away the rough draft.  Others adjusted and added to what they had already written. And some were not convinced by the evidence.  They kept their original theory.

In a recent blog post by Kate Roberts on The Educator Collaborative, Kate asks these questions: “Is it ever worthwhile to read as a community, to read a text someone else chooses for you, one that you would never read on your own? ”

Like Kate Roberts and many reading workshop gurus, I believe strongly in choice.  But when it comes to nonfiction, experiencing the text as a whole class is engaging and exciting.  Nonfiction encourages more research.  Students push each other, ask questions, and engage in a deeper way when reading nonfiction together.

This week we are reading aloud Poison by Sarah Albee to prepare for a Skype visit with her on Thursday, World Read Aloud Day.  I look forward to discovering where this will lead us.  Keeping kids engaged, wondering, and curious is what teaching is all about.


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Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.


Early morning on Friday, I read Poetry Friday blog posts.  I read Irene Latham’s post here.  Her prompt suggestion came from a book that I have on my shelf, PoemCrazy by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge, Chapter 31 “bring me magic.”

Inspired, I grabbed some packs of microwave popcorn and headed to school for Popcorn Poetry Friday!

Even a juice spill couldn’t dampen our poetry spirits.  The prompt calls for a walk outside, but we passed around the object inspiration box I had in the closet.  Each student picked an object to write about.

The instructions: 1. Choose an object; give it a name. 2. What does it look like? 3. Ask the object for a quality or deeper wisdom.

I believe this was the first prompt I’ve used this year that was successful for each student.  I typed each poem into a Google doc and on a whim, sent it to Irene.  Within our two hour class time, she responded.   She wrote a comment of encouragement on each student’s poem.  What a gift! They were thrilled.  Their teacher was thrilled.  Thanks, Irene, for your generosity and kindness.


Colorful butterfly
inspires the caterpillar
to rise up and fly.
Bring me your inspirational, stress-free life.


Black crayola paintbrush
dark as velvet,
give me your way of bringing color
to any situation
no matter how grey.


Bald eagle
white and burgundy,
bring me the ability
to soar faster than anyone
even if I mess up.


Colorful feather
like the paintings of an artist,
give me a creative mind
like Pablo Picasso.


A turtle
that swims through the water
as wind does through the air,
bring me hope and peace
in ways as the water flows
through the currents of life.


Dear little angel,
give me hope in time of anger and war.
Dear little angel,
enlighten me
with your sparkles and light
that shine so bright
every day and night.


Discarded flower necklace
connected by the same chain,
bring me your connection.

Like my family
all connected,
bring me gratitude.

Deep inside
a core of happiness,
bring me
your joyfulness.


Sandy hope
washed up on the shore
of value,
bring me confidence.

Erin extended the writing project and wrote a poem for each of us in the class.  Another amazing gift!  Poetry builds community.


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Poetry Friday round-up is with Kay at A Journey Through the Pages.


I’ve had a lot of time lately to look out the window.  A hard freeze blew through the deep south, and gifted me with time alone at home on the bayou.  The winter bitter winds do not scare away the water wading birds.  They must be covered in some powerful down.  I’ve watched a particular blue heron, an occasional great white egret, and this morning, a family of wood ducks.

Watching the bayou inspires me to write poetry.  If you come by my blog often, you know this is my ongoing topic.  My blog title, Reflections on the Teche, is informed by the Bayou Teche (pronounced “Tesh”)

Taking a picture of a blue heron is nearly impossible.  They respond to any human activity with flight.  I painted a portrait of one a few years ago after a photo by Ralph Fletcher.  This painting now hangs in my parents’ dining room.

Blue heron painting by Margaret Simon


Heron Watching

I stand still
at the window

Take in slow breath.
No need to pray
when seeing this heron.

He perches,
head down,
beak pointed to

water’s surface
where the sun glimmers
like waves in old glass.

Is it a minnow,
mosquito, moth?
I focus on the horizon,

what his patience
invites me to see?

Margaret Simon, 2018

My One Little Word for my writing life is Present.  I want to show up to the page every day.  I wrote a post for TeachWrite Chat Blog here. I made a Canva image of my goals for being present thinking of the heron in my backyard and his lessons of patience.


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