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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

Last week our gifted students in grades 4-6 went on a field trip that incorporated three activities. Each teacher’s group rotated through practicing for the Shadows Christmas play, visiting the Bayou Teche Museum, and going on a Poetry Walk.

Pelicans, a sculpture at Paul Allain’s Architecture office

The Poetry Walk took students through a sculpture garden, bayou side boardwalk, and a pocket park called Church Alley. I wanted the students to experience each space in a unique way. For the sculpture garden, we wrote a simple free verse poem of 15 words or less, along the boardwalk, a haiku form that reflected the theme of nature, and in the alley, a mask poem written in the voice of someone from the past.

At the museum, we learned interesting facts about the Bayou Teche and the founding of New Iberia. Frederick Duperier, a founding father, wanted a pathway from his home to the church, and later, the alley was used by nuns who lived in Mount Carmel, the Duperier’s former home.

Here’s a sampling of poems from my students.

Bayou Teche, a snake
slithering its way past us.
The Teche silent still.

Breighlynn, Bayou Teche haiku

Walking through an alley
a very dark, dark alley
to be lit up by
a beautiful church.
The dark dirt
of the alley
much darker than I thought
but a bit brighter
from my very own steps.

Breighlynn, Church Alley
Church Alley pocket park in downtown New Iberia.

The nuns, somber and solemn,
pass silently by my form.
They are hope, in a dark world.

Madison, Church Alley septercet

eyes big 
nose as big as an elephant
peeper sees everything
no matter mouse or bug

Landon, Sculpture poem

On the Bayou Teche
pelican in the distance
lily pads floating

Maddox, Bayou haiku

We celebrated these small poems with sharing time after each writing time. The students cheered for each other and enjoyed being poets paying attention to common places. Each poem was unique. The whole walk took about an hour with 20 minutes in each site. I recommend creating a poetry walk for your next field trip.

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The poetry Friday Round up is hosted this week by Tanita at fiction, instead of lies.

Our Sunday night Poetry Swaggers group is posting today with a challenge from Molly Hogan. “This month, I invite you to reinvent the world around you (or one aspect of it) by shifting your lens to see the beauty in what at first seems to be ugly or unnoteworthy.”

Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so.

Naomi Shihab Nye, A Valentine for Ernest Mann

Molly quoted Naomi Shihab Nye who says,
“Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us,
we find poems.” All we need to do is shift our focus a bit to find beauty in the everyday, otherwise passed-over things.

I pass this dilapidated house often, yet after Molly’s prompt, I noticed the beauty of the plants justing up through the floor boards.

There are signs
on the door
fingerprints,
peeling paint.
We’ve been here,
so have they-
gone now
the way of time.

Margaret Simon, draft 2019
Steps to a house in New Orleans. I was struck by the pattern of color in the peeling paint.

The Smell of Morning

Sagging fog, thick on the morning,
captures the scent of my walk.

Someone is running the dryer
blowing Downy air.

Every morning, he smokes a cigar
on his front porch, white rocker, 
booted feet propped on the railing.
He waves and with it comes
a pungent smell of burning wood–a home scent.

Beneath my feet, pine needles crunch
releasing a breath of Christmas.
My mother would gather them
to mulch the flower beds for winter.

As I walk, I practice my deep
yoga breath, in, hold, out, hold,
pausing to savor the ordinary,
extraordinary scents of the day.

Margaret Simon, draft 2019

Be sure to visit the other Swaggers today to enjoy more beauty in the ugly.

Catherine Flynn: Reading to the Core

Heidi Mordhorst: My Juicy Little Universe

Linda Mitchell: A Word Edgewise

Molly Hogan: Nix the Comfort Zone

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Poetry Friday posts are all gathered by Bridget at wee words for wee ones.

Last weekend at NCTE I had a conversation with Laura Shovan and Chris Barton about novels-in-verse. We discussed briefly how novels-in-verse should be poetry rather than prose written to look like poetry. 

On my long travel day to NCTE, I read Margarita Engle’s novel-in-verse Soaring Earth. Margarita is a poet. Her novel reads like poems with the backdrop of her life experiences from late teen years to adulthood. In each verse, she was processing who she was and who she wanted to be. She rejects then embraces the culture of her life. She has to leave herself to find herself, and it’s all written in beautiful language of poetry. 

Margarita Engle, Soaring Earth


Currently I am reading White Rose by Kip Wilson. Once again, I put on the lens of a poet finding the elements of poetry as well as compelling story. Kip Wilson has successfully drawn me into the story of Sophie, a young adult resistor to Hitler’s Germany. The story takes me to the horrors of the early 40’s. I place myself into the shoes of a girl who knows it’s wrong to kill for any reason. She is keenly aware of what is happening in her country. She finds small joys, so we are not bombarded with terror. I am more than halfway through. I know what eventually happens, yet I keep reading. The lyrical rhythm of verse makes this incredible story a beautiful one.

February 20, 1943
A Golden Bridge

I have nothing
more to say,
Herr Mohr has nothing
more to ask,
and yet the next
time he summons
me, he throws
me a lifeline.

You can still save
yourself, Fraulein
Scholl.

Boom-boom,
boom-boom
.
A sliver of light enters
the room, and I’m certain
the entire world can hear
the pounding in my chest.

Tell me you were only
following your older
brother,

and I’ll recommend
setting you free.

My heart, beating
so confidently moments ago,
whimpers, withers, dies
but my voice gathers
courage:
Nein.

Kip Wilson, White Rose

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

I’m back home after a whirlwind trip to Baltimore for NCTE19. NCTE is one of the most anticipated and yet the fastest events ever! So much preparation and so little time. It went by in a flash.

A flash of friends from far away!

Selfie with roommate Joanne Duncan from Washington.

A flash of powerful, profound speeches!

“Our society needs teachers who stand up for truth.” Lorena German

A flash of authors and ARCs!

With authors Kimberly Brubaker Bradley and Lauren Wolk getting signed ARCs.

A flash of authentic action!

Not just tolerance– Normalize, Nurture, Embrace

Travis Crowder, Access, Equity, Inquiry, and Reflection

A flash of the best educators!

Lester Laminack caught this shot of me chatting with one of my favorite educators, Fran McVeigh.

A flash of poets!

Charles Waters and Irene Latham talk about their new book Dictionary for a Better World.

A flash of inspiration!

Uncover your obsessions.
Keep your eyes and heart open.
Be surprise-able.
Get in touch with wonder.

Ralph Fletcher, Seeing the World through Poet’s Eyes

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This week’s round up is hosted by Rebecca at Sloth Reads.

Each week I receive an email with writing prompts from Poets & Writers The Time is Now. A few weeks ago this was the prompt for poetry.

Several years ago, New York Public Library staff discovered a box filled with file cards of written questions submitted to librarians from the 1940s to 1980s, many of which have been collected in the book Peculiar Questions and Practical Answers: A Little Book of Whimsy and Wisdom From the Files of the New York Public Library (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2019). Questions include: “What does it mean when you’re being chased by an elephant?” and “Can you give me the name of a book that dramatizes bedbugs?” and “What time does a bluebird sing?” Write a poem inspired by one of these curiously strange questions. Does your poem provide a practical answer, or avoid one altogether leading instead to more imaginative questions?

The Time is Now, Oct. 29, 2019

I used the question “What time does a bluebird sing?” to inspire a poem.

Photo by Henry Cancienne

What Time Does a Bluebird Sing?

Morning is filled with birdsong.
If it’s not yet sunrise, I hear the owl whoot.
If the sun’s up and there’s an electric pole nearby, 
it’s the woodpecker—drumming, not singing,
but musical all the same. 

Echoing through the breeze
sings Papa cardinal
and soon the mockingbird joins in
with a trill up the scales.

Where is the bluebird? 
Hiding in a grove of trees near the swamp,
shyly tweeting,
a flash of blue
the color of sky,
song of morning.

Margaret Simon, draft 2019

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See more posts at Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life

On Wednesday in freezing temperatures (an unusual 28 degrees in the morning), I traveled with gifted colleagues and 4th-6th graders from our district to the Renaissance Festival in Hammond, LA. As the day wore on, the temperatures rose to a comfortable 50 degrees. With a number of parents attending, I ended up spending the day with just one student, Madison.

Madison loves all things Renaissance. We watched glassblowing and juggling and had a quick recorder lesson. I loved watching her absorb it all. When we ran into classmates, she pulled out the wooden dagger she had bought and challenged them to a dual.

Renaissance merchant with a wooden toy.

My students wrote about their experience and here are a few quotes:

 So at the renaissance fair we started at the Queen stage and watched a play which I didn’t watch all of. The next play we went to was Romeo and Juliet which was quite funny. Shakespeare himself directed Romeo and Juliet and the first thing he said was  dumb which we replied with no and which he replied well your watching a play directed by someone who calls himself Shakespeare. There was two families and the I was in was the Montagues the other people were Capulets. We will not talk about the rest and no I was not Romeo.

Jaden, 4th grade

 We saw this ride where you sit on a wooden horse and you in a way, joust. I think it was called “Sliding Joust.” Daniel told me he went on it. It looked daring to me.

        I learned that most of the swords weighed about two pounds. She even let me hold one of them. You would think that is not a lot, little do you know it really is. 

        We went to a shop and we asked why did they train with wooden swords. The man told us that they trained with wooden swords because if they did not train with wooden swords the real sword would hurt the other person.

Karson, 5th grade
Karson lifts a sword.

When it comes to field trips, this was a good one. The distance was not too far, 2 hour drive, and the experience was all in one safe, enclosed space. There are so many factors that can overshadow the educational experience of a field trip, weather, food, the bus and who you sit next to, etc. For a few hours, my students and I were transformed back in time. This experience will live on in their memory.

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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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