Posts Tagged ‘National Writing Project’

Poetry Friday gathering is with Bridget at wee words for wee ones.

Every year around the date of October 20th, the National Writing Project announces the Day on Writing along with the prompt, “Why I Write.” I avoid this question, mostly because it intimidates me. Who am I to say I am a writer? If I make that claim, will I be magically transported to the land of authors? Do I belong? Will I meet the standard? I’d rather stay in the closet. It’s easier to claim to be a teacher, a profession that has degrees behind it, credibility, and many years of service.

The problem is I want to write. I want to share my words with you. I want to connect with you through writing. The value in that connection is gold.

In my email inbox, I receive endless blogs and poems to read. I hesitate to delete them, so they build up, and the whole thing becomes unmanageable. However, I never know what may inspire me to write. One reliable set of prompts for me are Ethical ELA’s monthly Open Write. Each month we write together for 5 days. The prompts are written by people like me who juggle teaching and writing every day.

This last week Carolina Lopez drew inspiration from Richard Blanco’s poem “Since Unfinished,” asking us to steal his first line and write. “I’ve been writing this since…”

When we get right down to it, writing makes us ultimately vulnerable. If we are true to ourselves, we put our feelings all out there. This poem structure led me to more memories of my father.

Since You’ve Been Gone

I’ve been writing this since
I learned to walk
holding onto your pointer finger
since driving the circular block
hearing you warn “turn signal”
“stop sign”
“slow down.”

I’ve been writing this since “slow down”
meant thinking, means remembering,
meant crying when I reach for the phone
to call you with the news.

I’ve been writing this since
you pointed to the clock
(after your stroke) to remind us
to get Mom back for lunch.

I’ve been writing this since
I held your dying hand
your pointer finger blue and bruised
no longer pointing me
in the right direction.

Margaret Simon, draft

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Poetry Friday is hosted today by Matt at Radio, Rhythm & Rhyme 

My students and I have been participating in the annual Write Out sponsored by the National Writing Project and the National Parks Service. Each day this week we’ve watched a video from a park ranger and followed a writing prompt. We made special #WriteOut notebooks following Sheri Edwards’ model found here.

We’ve gone outside to observe the trees and written a script of two trees talking to each other.

We’ve drawn from observing architecture and written about the significance of the building.

We’ve imagined the day in the life of a bird as it interacts with human environments.

Each day there is a new surprise. I hope I can find a way to continue this enthusiasm for writing after the two weeks of Write Out are over.

The Write Out prompt I chose on Thursday included a Rita Dove poem. We discussed the poem and collected words to use later in a poem of our own. Today I am sharing two student poems written after Rita Dove.

A stranger in a cool breeze,

the moonlight,

animals with odd habits

this is what nature is.

A singing wren 

while almost sun-rise,

become a statuary figure roaming

in the night. 


and you’ll see

how happy you can be. 

by Avalyn, 3rd grade
Adelyn’s Write Out notebook

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for creating an amazing community of writers and a safe, welcoming space to write and share.

#WriteOut sponsored by the National Writing Project in partnership with the National Parks began yesterday with a wonderful video and prompt from Golden Gate National Recreation Area. My students and I had a productive day of writing in response.

As a teacher of writing, I am interested in prompts that lead to creative and imaginative writing. This first prompt did the job. Because there was a way into the story (a character enters a portal), students created a variety of different responses. Each one carried their character through the portal in interesting ways. Avalyn, second grade, chose herself as the character who finds the portal on the monkey bars and travels to the desert, then the rainforest, and back home where she lives happily ever after. Her story is here.

Katie and Jaden, 6th graders, chose to be animals in their stories. I think their chosen animals say a little about who they are. You can read their stories on Fanschool here and here.

Chloe’s story reminds me of a book I read this summer on Netgalley, Once Upon a Camel by Kathi Appelt. It’s a book to grab up if you teach middle grades. It’s a lovely story of a camel who saves tiny twin kestrels from a dust storm. I loved all the characters in this book and love that it weaves in a history of camels in Texas. Chloe hasn’t read this book yet, but the creative magic wand waved over her with these words:

Once in a desert, a camel walked into a purple glowing light. He knew it was a portal. He shifted and swayed until he stopped, opened his eyes and saw a horse running around a castle that had the words “Mississippi Land” on it.

Read the whole story here
Join Write Out!

I wrote alongside my students and may work on my story for a regional Louisiana picture book idea. There, I put it in writing. I know it needs a lot of work, but what do you think about a mosquito and banana spider that take a ride through the swamp on a brown pelican?

The Write Out prompts and resources will be remain available on NWP’s website, so even if you don’t have time to work them into your lessons now, tuck them into a back pocket. They are gems!

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

On Tuesday I treated myself to a virtual writing marathon sponsored by the National Writing Project. #WriteAcrossAmerica. I showed up for the last stop on a journey across the country. I’m sorry I missed out on all the other stops. This last one was in New Orleans where the writing marathon originated.

Years ago I would spend some time each summer at the New Orleans Writing Marathon organized by the Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project. Three to four days of walking the French Quarter and writing led to lifelong friendships and a few memorable writing pieces.

Unfortunately, the virtual marathon happened in my own house through a screen, but because of the miracle of technology, I was able to connect with new friends and see some old ones. We had three writing sessions and shared in small break out rooms.

The third writing session led me to this poem, still quite drafty. I was just getting my writing muscle to work and the whole thing was over, not a marathon at all, but a quick 75 minute sprint.


Muses have a lost sense of time.
They live in the back of Napoleon’s Bar
drinking Pim’s Cups.

I’ve asked them to visit me
here on the bayou steeped
in cafe au lait brown
buzzing with cicada song.

They come in the long shadows
of a summer afternoon.
or in the fractal face
of a sunflower in bloom.

Muses mock me
with their silver linings,
here then there,
then nowhere,
hiding in plain sight.

Sometimes, I step on them
by mistake.

Give me that mess
again. My pen is waiting.

Margaret Simon, draft
Backyard Shadows by Margaret Simon

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

In September I received an invitation from Paul Allison of the New York Writing Project to participate in a discussion about a new website for publishing student work.  In 2010, we worked together to create a platform around the Gulf oil spill called “Voices on the Gulf.”  From this experience, Paul created Youth Voices.  My students participated for a little while, but eventually the content became inappropriate for my young students.  I moved away from using this site because it did not meet the needs of my students as younger voices.

When Paul contacted me that he was ready to open a new site for elementary students, I was thrilled.  An authentic audience is extremely valuable in teaching writing.  Many of my students are isolated as one of few gifted students in their class.  When they write, they want people to read it.  They crave a wider audience.

Kidvoices.live is now live! Some of my students have begun posting their creative poetry there.  The platform is similar to blogging at Kidblogs, but different enough to serve a slightly more sophisticated purpose.

Kidvoices.live is open to other elementary classrooms as well.  If you want to join and get your students involved, you can.  You have to provide a unique email for each student.  You can use a gmail + account or a parent’s email address.  Once they sign up, each student will have a user name and password for future log-ins.  I recommend sending home a parent permission letter.  Paul plans to post it on the site, but you can also contact me for a copy.

Last week we read a story from Scholastic’s Scope magazine that was very close to us. The Great Flood of 2016 occurred in our area as well as in the setting of the article, Baton Rouge.  We then read from Here We Go about helpers and volunteering. (PowerPack #8 on page 65)   My students wrote response poems about the flood, and the larger topics of fear and hope.

When students have the opportunity to share writing online, they grow as writers, as digital citizens, and as people navigating this world.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Six Words

The National Writing Projects’ summer collaborative learning began this week.  So much is going on, it’s hard to believe we are just one week into the CLMOOC.  Read the reflections here. 

If you are here for the first time, I want to invite you to join the DigiLit Sunday community.  Each week we post about digital literacy.  The link up will be at the end of this post.  Leave your link so we can learn together and support each other in this wild digital world.

Clmooc has taught me that there is too much out there.  I get stimulation overload.  I don’t know how the camp counselors can keep up.  They seem to be incredible multi-taskers.

To manage my own participation, I’ve selected only a few games to play.  The theme this week was introducing yourself by not introducing yourself.  Not exactly.  It was more a call to remix the typical introduction.  We also explored what un-introduction really means and says about a person.

Above I’ve posted a slide I created in a Google slide share by Sheri Edwards.

What six concepts shape you as you shape them? Challenge: Consider your beliefs. Using six words, arrange them as phrases read horizontally and vertically to express an essence of your identity.

This week I’ve been attracted to activities that revolved around words.  I posted an unintro poem for Poetry Friday.

I played with images, too.  Here’s a remix of a free graphic of Saturn.

Image made on LunaPic with free graphic of Saturn.

Image made on LunaPic with free graphic of Saturn.

Kim Douillard offers a photo challenge each week.  This week the challenge was #sky.  Where I live the sky is often covered by the magnificent spread of live oaks.  The oaks guard the sky and protect us.  The hot sun is shaded and tamed.  My image is not altered because this is what it is.  Mother oak.

sky with tree

There have been questions about invitations and how we welcome others into the community.  I have not struggled with feeling welcome.  This is a large group.  We are all individuals playing around with technology and creativity.  We express ourselves in unique and fun ways.  I am looking forward to the weeks to come.  I’ll play and stretch and find new friends, but I’ll also tuck away new ideas for my teaching.

How can unintroductions work with my students?  If anything they will add an element of fun and creativity.  But at best, my students, like me, will discover a little more about who they are and how they best interact in this cyber-world.

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please join in this meme designed to share our digital learning and challenges. Just as a teacher of writing needs to be a writer, a teacher of digital literacy needs to be a digital learner. Use this button on your blog post and leave a link with Mr. Linky. Please read and comment on other posts. That’s how connectedness and collaboration begin.

Reflection is another means to apply the Connected Learning principles of being Interest-Powered and Production Centered by considering what you’re making and interests are now, and what your orientation is for the immediate future. –Chris Butts, CLMOOC team


I have jumped right in to the waters of two digital challenges: The Thinglink Teacher Challenge and National Writing Project’s Making Learning Connected, a.k.a. #clmooc.


Yesterday’s email from the CLMOOC team asked us to make a list of three things and to reflect on two questions.

1. What I’ve made so far…

How to pick blueberries: Thinglink
Self avatar: Bitstrip

Digital Self: Thinglink

How to be water: Animoto/YouTube

2. What I’m working on:

Poster about writing in Canva: This is a higher learning curve than other apps I tried this week. I struggled and gave up. But I am determined to try again and conquer this!

3. What I want to work on:

Prezi is a presentation site that I am daunted by. I have seen others do great things with it, and I’m sure my students would love it.


What did you learn from what you’ve already made? I learned to be more confident in my digital self. The Thinglink challenge for this week was to make a digital self. I thought I had to draw something. I started working on my ipad with a new stylus and became quickly annoyed. Then I googled avatar and low and behold, there’s an app for that! I was surprised how easy it was. So many online apps can make you feel stupid, but some, like Bitstrips, made me feel smart.

What do you see as the purpose of making this week? The purpose for me always goes back to my teaching and being able to support my students in their digital learning. However, I also discovered that making was fun, and I was compelled to share (and show off). I want to invite you to take the plunge. Jump in the deep end because there are lots of supportive floatie people out there.

I wanted to make a blog icon for the Connected Learning values, so after writing this post, I tried Canva again. It worked better for this purpose. You should try it.

Connected Learning

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See more Poetry Friday with Katya at Write. Sketch. Repeat.

See more Poetry Friday with Katya at Write. Sketch. Repeat.

How do you write a poem? Where do you begin? I learned long ago from working with children writers that they are full of ideas. I wrote an article for the National Writing Project journal The Quarterly in 2005 when it was still in print titled “Writing with William.” (I was pleased to find it on a Google search.) In the article, I described a tutoring experience that led me to understand young writers need tools, not ideas, structures, not prompts. When I was talking with Ava Haymon, our state poet laureate, last weekend about writing ideas for students, she said a technique that she likes to use is repetition.

Using Ava’s poems as models, I introduced this structure to 6th graders at our monthly enrichment day we call WOW (Way out Wednesday.) “The Child Born” begins each line with the same three words, “The child who.” I asked the students to listen for the details. Following the reading, we did a memory test. “What did you remember?” While they didn’t quite understand the poem, they did remember almost every line, especially “The child who bites cuticles instead of fingernails,” and “The child who sucks her hair at night.” Details are memorable. Another model I used was Betsy Franco’s “Fourths of Me” from The Poetry Friday Anthology for Middle School.

Then I gave them the assignment: Write about whatever you want to, but begin each line or each stanza in the same way. Examples: Before, Everybody, As long as, The child who, Anyone, Who, Why, I am. The students also added beginnings to the list.

This was a successful lesson because everyone wrote a poem. Even the kid who said he hates writing poems. Even the one who said she has never written a poem before. After writing, we shared and did a memory test for each other’s poems. They realized the importance of using specificity and original ideas to draw a reader’s attention.

What Do You See?

When you see the stars, you see the sky
But when I see the stars, I see the days passing by.
When you see the beach, you see grains of sand.
But when I see the beach, I see a place untouched of man.
When you see the ocean, you see fish and pearls.
But when I see the ocean, I see an underwater world.
When you see a child, you see a small man.
But when I see a child, I see a gift from God’s hands.


Before and After

After the sun sets at night,
After the bud blooms,
After the plane takes off in flight,
I’ll go home to my room.

Before the sun rises at dawn,
Before dew forms on the flower,
Before the bird lands in its nest,
The king will give up his power.

This time I will not stay silent,
This time I will speak.
This time I will not be shy,
This time I’ll be bold.


My Dream

I am the frail one.
I am the fragile one.
I am the annoying one.
I am the one in the back of the classroom.
I am the new student.
I am the one no one wants around.
I am the dumb one.
I am the one nobody talks to.
I am the runt of the litter.
I am the timid one
Only in my dreams.


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