Posts Tagged ‘Slice of Life’

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Lani watches a video about solar storms on Wonderopolis.

Lani watches a video about solar storms on Wonderopolis.


Yesterday I made the biggest mistake of my life. I went outside in a big, fat LIGHTNING STORM! I almost got struck by lightning too! (Kids, just don’t make my life choices.) It all started in Breaux Bridge…

I went to Dixie RV ”Super Store” to shop for a vacation RV. Out of the crystal blue sky fell a raindrop. It started drizzling. (I don’t know How it was possible, when all the clouds were pearly white.)

In a matter of SECONDS it started raining in like the flood was back. The ditches were filling up in 0.2 seconds. Then, the lightning started acting like stupid Angry Birds and I was the little Piggie with a phone as an egg. To make matters worse, Dixie RV has to be rich and have golf carts to ride around in the windy rain. While the rain was blowing in my face I noticed a tragedy. My phone was getting wet! I screamed in my mind so loud that I am sure everyone heard me.

I got out of the golf cart and a lighting strike was about 2 inches from meeting my face! I screamed to the gods and cried of scaredness. Hey! You would cry too! Guarantee!!! That experience has taught me a very important lesson: NEVER GO OUT IN A LIGHTNING STORM! BAD IDEA!!!!

Slice of Life by Lani (5th grade)

Every week my students write a Slice of Life on our class kidblog site, Mrs. Simon’s Sea.   With digital tools such as grammarly, edit, copy, paste, etc., they can successfully post a small piece of their lives.  Some of my students, like Lani, write these with ease.  Lani sees the drama in everyday life.

I used the above slice as a mentor text this week.  I wanted my students to notice how a small moment can be big. I wanted them to identify craft moves to emulate.  So I asked them, “What do you notice?”  We made a list.

  • All caps used to show emphasis.
  • exaggeration (hyperbole) that creates interest.
  • paragraph structure
  • ellipses…
  • parenthetical statement (adds voice)
  • imagery “crystal blue sky” and “pearly white clouds”
  • simile (metaphor)

Madison tried it out.

Two NIGHTS ago there was a LITERAL LIGHTNING STORM!!!! It all started on my way to Olive Garden…..

We were just on the highway out of my cousins trailer park and when I was looking out of the window and then there was huge flash of lightning and another and they scared me, but, atleast they stayed in the clouds!

After a few minutes, when I was looking out of the front window, there was a HUGE flash of lightning and I practically jumped out of my seat, and since the sky was so black that you couldn’t see the clouds, I was really scared!(It was scary since you couldn’t see where the lightning was going to come from.)

Slice of Life by Madison (3rd grade)

Drafting and revising a weekly slice gives my students practice in writing long about a small moment, a chance to try out craft moves, and a platform for their own voice.  For me, when my students compose digitally, I am able to easily grab mentor texts for lessons.  I can hold up my students as examples.  I can shine a light on good writing.

Join the conversation by leaving your link.


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

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

I don’t know how I have come to be so blessed.  If you’ve been keeping up with my blog or Facebook posts, you know I spent two weeks in Tanzania, Africa, a gift from my amazing mother-in-law.  And today, I am in upstate New York at Tara Smith’s farm.  Like Tanzania, the nights and mornings are cool, and that alone is reason to leave South Louisiana in the mid-summer.  Unlike Tanzania, this place is lush and hilly and green.

On the farm, I can breathe slowly.  I feel an energy for just being present.  Tara is a perfect hostess.  She ran down the hill from her writing spot five minutes ago because I asked for a lap blanket.  Our dinner was fresh and delicious beginning with Caprese salad and ending with sliced watermelon.  This morning, blueberry pancakes, my favorite.

I was trying to remember how I got here.  Not in a geographical sense, but when did I meet and become so attached to these friends?  I am here with Tara, Julianne, and Kimberley.  (They are each writing a post today about our time together.) The fact is I can trace each friend back to this very space, my blog.  We met through a commitment to writing and sharing our lives with each other.  Connections happen here that I do not plan or predict or that I even realize are happening until a day like today.


Julianne traveled from L.A. and I traveled from LA. to be together on a hill in Washington County, NY.

This is Tara’s house on the farm.  It is as lovely and charming on the inside as you can see from the outside.  I am back in time to a place of stillness and grace.

This is Sophie.  Every farm needs a dog like Sophie, keeping watch and providing comfort.



The four of us are taking a break from talking to write our separate slices.  Sharing our slices of life is what brought us all here to be present with each other, to make space for writing, and to enjoy the abundance of life.  I am so grateful for Tara’s generosity, for this community of writers, and for this amazing gift of nature.  I can believe the world is good.  I can feel hope.  I can be me.

Morning walk in the woods.

gentle moon

rising over the hills

abiding grace

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  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Here we go…first day of March. Time to begin a daily writing practice. The Slice of Life Challenge begins today!

This is my fourth year to join the challenge. When I first started, there were only two writing teachers at Two Writing Teachers, Stacey Shubitz and Ruth Ayres. Now there are six, Stacey, Beth, Betsy, Tara, Dana, and Anna. They make a pretty awesome team. At NCTE in November, I had the pleasure of meeting most of them. They are real people! That is the beauty of this blogging community. Everyone is real. We all support one another. We challenge each other. We engage each other.

If this is your first time, I understand totally how you feel. I still wake up at night wondering if what I wrote was junk, and nobody will like it. I still carry my phone with me all day checking my alerts for comments. That never gets old.

I volunteered to be a concierge for the classroom SOLC along with Linda Baie. (Linda is one of those blog commenters who keeps us all connected. I don’t know how she does it, but she’s been my top commenter for years. One day we will meet face to face.) Together we are here to help answer any questions you have about blogging with your class.

In my own classroom, I have set up a Kidblog site. I like this format, much like WordPress, and it allows my students to all post in a common area. I do not have to do any linking to an outside site. Anything that cuts out a step helps when posting daily. I have stored the SOL logo in my photo file, so I can attach it to every SOL slice.

With my students, I made two anchor charts: What is a Slice? and How to make a slice tasty. We will continue to add to these charts. They help my students verbalize their practice. I have set up incentives for different levels of accomplishment. For 15-20 slices, the student gets a pencil. For 21-26, a journal. And the grand prize is a book for 31 slices. I have only 12 students, so I am able to afford the prizes. Some teachers set up a celebration with food at the end of the month.

On Friday, March 13th, the Alliance for Excellence in Education sponsors a Digital Learning Day. On this day, consider joining me in a comment challenge. My students will be reading blogs like crazy and competing for a Crazy Commenter prize.

Here are a few things I have learned over the years about the Slice of Life Challenge:

  1. Write a day or two ahead.  Have some drafts ready just in case.  I preach this better than I do it.
  2. Add photos whenever possible.  I try not to post anything without a visual. Something more than just the SOL logo.  This appeals to the reader and gives you an anchor if you post to Facebook.
  3. Don’t quit.  Even if you miss a day or two, jump back in.  The prizes are nice, but in the long run, the value is in the daily practice of writing.
  4. Comment.  This takes time, so you may want to set up a method.  I usually click on the person above and below my name in the list.  I also try to return comments to those who comment on my post.
  5. Use your comments to connect to the writer.  We make friends by making connections.  I changed my tune this year with my students.  I once told them to make a criticycle (a critique sandwiched with positive feedback.) Now I feel the connection is the most important thing.

I started this round-up for Digital Literacy.  Here every Sunday, you can link their digital literacy posts.  We learn from each other.  Join in anytime.  On Twitter, @MargaretGSimon, #k6digilit.  Please leave your link in the comments and I will add to the post.

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts


Cathy Mere writes about the growth of community through digital connections.  http://reflectandrefine.blogspot.com/2015/03/digilit-sunday-growing-communities-in.html 

Julianne slices about using podcasts to fuel writing.  https://jarhartz.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/sol15-day-1-listening-love/

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  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Now that school is in full swing, I am writing my Slice of Life story with the purpose of modeling for my students. We talked about what a Slice of Life story is by analyzing my post last week about the snake. The board was full of things they noticed, such as having a climax and resolution (Whoa, high five!) A few of you wrote great comments that I could use to teach about making connections in your comments.

Yesterday I read a comment on my Poetry Friday post from Bridget Magee, “Margaret, this poem and the animation are both amazing! I love the lines:’an ornament hanging on a tree,
a bronze clasp pen for my lapel.’ It reminds me of when my oldest daughter was about 5 or 6 (she’s 17 now) and she used to love to walk the neighborhood collecting cicada exoskeletons until one day she pulled one of the tree and the fella was still in there! SHE just about jumped out of her own skin!” This comment models specific feedback and also making a personal connection. I explained to my students that writers like to know people are connecting to what they write. Thank you all for helping me teach valuable lessons about writing and blogging.

You can read some of my students’ SOL stories on our kidblog site. Feel free to leave comments.

This week’s Slice of Life:

My hair has become a problem. This summer (I can’t even remember exactly why) I grew out my bangs. For years I have had short bangs. As they grew out some, I was drying them off to the side, and my husband said to me, “I like your hair. It makes you look younger.” Exactly what any woman loves to hear, right?

On my next scheduled haircut, I told my stylist, “Jeff likes it, so we need to keep growing it out.”

Then the next visit (I schedule my haircuts six weeks apart), I had had enough of the headbands, so I told her to cut it. Keep the bangs long. In fact, I texted a friend to send a picture of her hair, cut in a cute short pixie style. “That’s what I want.”

“Your hair is not going to be straight unless you use a straight iron,” said Gale. Other than using a blow dryer, I do not own or use any other tools on my hair. Gale cut and styled it with the straight iron, knowing full well I would not do this.

My husband goes to the same hair salon. He walked in the next week and announced that he loved my hair. That was a first for Gale, so she was thrilled.

This weekend my husband and I went out dancing which is one of our favorite things to do together. In August the heat is such that no AC can keep up with it, much less when there are warm bodies dancing. The dance hall had placed huge fans around the dance floor. Every time we danced past one of these fans, Woosh! my hair blew across my face. My husband could tell I was getting really annoyed by this.

When we were riding home, he said, “I like your hair even when it’s flying in your face.” I guess I’m stuck with these annoying bangs for a little while longer.

Selfies: old hair style on the left, new on the right.

Selfies: old hair style on the left, new on the right.

For this Slice, I am modeling how you can write a story about anything. Some of my students have a hard time thinking of something to write about. Using my own writing to model, I can share stories of my life and teach them that anything, even your hair style, can become a Slice of Life story.

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  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Creative Commons

Creative Commons

I’ve always thought a little romantically about having chickens in my yard. They are so cute, pecking around. My neighbors had a few, so I went by one day and got the tour. I even interviewed them for research on the sequel to Blessen. (She has a pet chicken in both books.) And what is better than farm fresh eggs?

When my daughter was house sitting last week, I went by for a visit. I posted about the horse on Saturday, celebrating his affection. The owners left a long list of chores. They included feeding the dogs, the cats, the ducks, the horses, the bird, and the chickens. The chickens were to be fed at 9:30 PM. I believe this was a tactic for getting them into the coop for the night.

After dinner before I left, Maggie wanted to show me this chicken feeding routine, so we fed them a little early. She showed me the back hatch for collecting the eggs. When she opened the hatch, we were excited to see about 7 eggs. I would be taking some home for breakfast. I reached in to pick up two eggs. As I moved my hand out, I looked to the right and noticed a long black rope. Only, the rope moved.

I have a pathological fear of snakes. I cannot even touch a page in a book with a snake on it. This fear has no basis in logic. When Maggie was 3 years old, my mother and I took her to the zoo. I refused to go into the snake house. Maggie went along with my mother. When they returned, Maggie announced, “Mom, it’s OK. They’re all in cages!”

This moving black rope was in a chicken coop. The very one I had just stuck my hands into. I am proud that I did not drop the eggs or scream and run. I just walked away briskly saying, “That was a snake!” I have decided that I will leave the raising of chickens to friends and neighbors.

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Discover. Play. Build.
Slice of Life Day 8.  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Slice of Life Day 8. Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Celebration Saturday is hosted each week by Ruth Ayres at Discover. Play. Build. I love this idea of taking time each Saturday morning to reflect on the week. Today I celebrate family, health, dancing, Poetry Friday and my students.

I have been writing a post every day for the Two Writing Teachers (really 6 writing teachers) Slice of Life Challenge. I have challenged my students to do the same. We were out of school for the first 5 days of March, so I was pleasantly surprised when some of my students posted every day. And one of my former students has joined us as well! See their blog Slice of Life Challenge.

Yesterday, I gave my students a comment challenge. At first, I told them they should give as many comments as they get. Then I grabbed a bag of Starburst candy and said, “How many comments can you do in an hour?” One student put a tally chart on the board, and they were off. Two of my girls went to the library for more computer access and quiet. The average was 10 comments per student. By the end of the day, my eight ELA students had written more than 120 comments! And I checked them. Most of them were making a thoughtful connection. It remains to be seen whether they will keep up the pace next week without the candy incentive.

I want to celebrate health. I was down for two days this week with a nasty cold. Luckily, we had a break from school. I was able to pamper myself with lots of tea and rest, so on Thursday morning when I had to go back to school, I was well. Energy returned on Friday. My husband and I went Zydeco dancing Friday night to Chubby Carrier and the Bayou Swamp Band.

If you didn’t stop by for the Poetry Friday round up yesterday, please take a look. So much richness in this Kidlit blog-a-sphere. I celebrate all of the wonderful teachers and poets who linked up and left comments. I feel the love!

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Slice of Life Day 2.  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Slice of Life Day 2. Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

My students worked hard all week and finished the week’s assignments, so on Friday we had some free time. We usually celebrate with Game Day. And some students did play games, but I worked with Vannisa on a different project.

For Chalk-a-bration Day, Vannisa wrote a poem using a series of color words. When you look at the poem, it really just looks like a list of words, but when I talked to Vannisa about it, she said, “Close your eyes and imagine each color as it changes to the next one.”

Vannisa's colors

Her comment made me think. What about using Paint on the Promethian board and creating a video of a single flower changing color? Vannisa liked the idea and set to work.

digital vannisa

This whole process took an hour for her to do. Most teachers don’t have this kind of time to allow a student to “play.” I have the luxury of working with small groups of gifted students. Putting the images into a Moviemaker movie was fairly quick. One thing, for sure, Vannisa had a good time putting it all together. My question is this: Was this experience just fun or was there learning involved? And what learning may lead to further learning? Will my other students want to illustrate a poem and make a movie? Is this a valuable use of class time?

If you have written a blog post about Digital Literacy, please post a link. And consider following the Digital Literacy group on Facebook.

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Technology Rocks!

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life!

Some people say technology gets in the way of real relationships. Put down that device and talk to me, will you? However, this Thanksgiving holiday I was grateful for new technology: Facetime and Texting especially. Only one of my 3 daughters was able to make the trip to my parents’ home in Mississippi this year. Traditionally, this is where we spend Thanksgiving, but as they have grown and have lives of their own, it has become more and more difficult for all of us to be together.

Daughter #1, Maggie, was attending an Indian wedding in North Carolina with her boyfriend. Using group text, she was sending updates with pictures of all of the events- henna tattoos, painting the groom, the ceremony, the reception. Vicariously, we all experienced the wedding with her.

I love this picture of my daughter, Maggie, dressed in traditional Indian clothing with her boyfriend, Louis.

I love this picture of my daughter, Maggie, dressed in traditional Indian clothing with her boyfriend, Louis.

On Thanksgiving night, we did Facetime with daughter #3, Martha, who was celebrating the holiday with her boyfriend’s family in Wisconsin. She’s in school in Chicago, so this was a treat to see them both from so far away. We even met Bailey, the boyfriend’s beautiful collie. The next best thing to being there is Facetime, an amazing invention in my book!

The last night I was with my parents, we went out to eat dinner at a restaurant where my brother was entertaining. As he was singing along with his 2 daughters, ages 11 and 14, I was missing my girls. But then came a new group text:

Maggie: We had mint choc chip dippin dots during the ceremony.
Kat: Write that down for your wedding!
Kat: We just put the Santa gnome on Wayne’s tree.
Martha: Home alone making banana bread and listening to Love Actually soundtrack.
Maggie: Ha ha perfect!

Even without them physically present with me, I was in a circle of love.

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Liza Minnelli

Liza Minnelli is our new kitten.  She was an impulsive acquisition.  Actually, she was forced upon me by some colleagues.  On the last day of school, I went by the Special Ed office to drop off a requisition form, and, in that weakened-end-of-the-year-I-have-time-to-raise-a-kitten state, I was given a tiny kitten.  “Here, she’s yours.  Her name is Liza Minnelli.”  Two theater teachers named her.  She’s a tuxedo kitten, black with a white nose, collar, and paws.  Five weeks old and feisty, Liza is afraid of nothing.

Liza fits perfectly in the palm of your hand, like a teacup.

Every good rescue has a story.  I took off so quickly ( If I had hung around, maybe I would’ve changed my mind.) that I failed to get the whole story.  That night I messaged one of the teachers for the story.  This is what she wrote:

 A stray momma cat had a litter of four kittens near her apartment. The area is very prone to flooding and a few weeks ago, very shortly after the kittens were born, they got several days of heavy rain and thunderstorms. The mom was mostly set up at the base of a tree with the kittens, but as the flood waters started to rise, the mom took the kittens in her mouth one by one and carried them up into the tree and spent several days nested around the kittens like a bird to protect them from the thunderstorm. The kittens spent most of their early life in the tree until they began to crawl, and every once and a while a kitten would fall out of the tree. The mom would jump down, get the kitten in her mouth and climb a fence post (the kind of post you see on a barbed wire fence) then she would make a daring 4-foot leap with kitten in her mouth, into the tree. The mom continued to do this until the storms had passed. I just thought it was so crazy that the momma cat had the instinct to protect her babies, and would surround them like a momma bird would, all the while clinging to a tree for protection. “

What a great rescue story!  Now, Liza is in the loving arms of one of my daughters.  She has taken a trip to New Orleans and been introduced to dogs and children.  So far, she is a sweetheart, doing all her business in the litter box and sleeping through the night in a kitty carrier.   I haven’t regretted the impulse yet. Save a life; Make a friend.

Dixie, my daughters’ roommate’s dog, is gentle with Liza.

Liza is tolerant of child transports.

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This weekend our family gathered for the graduation of my youngest daughter from college.  What a whirlwind of events and emotions!  One of the treats for me was spending time with my nephew, Jack, who, at the end of his first grade year, is beginning to learn about the power of his words.  To my delight, his teacher uses writers’ workshop.  Prominently posted on the family refrigerator is Jack’s latest composition, a three-paged story about his two dogs.  He used words like “mischievous” and distinguished the two dogs as one is a “licker” and the other a “sniffer.”

Jack has his mother’s old iPhone.  Even with a cracked face, he enjoys using it to email.  So we started an email exchange.  He started with a typo that led to a little poem.  Being a poetry fan as well as a teacher, I prompted him on to create another poem.  I have transposed our exchange here.  Jack’s words are italicized.

I’m so gladys…

I’m so gladys, too, but mostly I love my Jacky.

I’m so gladys, too, but mostly I love you.

When we’re together,

We like to

Read, talk, and tell stories.

We tell our stories at night

When all is calm and quiet.

What is your favorite story?

Magic treehouse deep sea ocean.

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