Posts Tagged ‘Tara Smith’

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

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

A few weeks ago, Mary Lee Hahn posted her poem Gratitude List as an exercise after Laura Foley’s Gratitude List. I immediately saved it to do with my students. This was the week of Gratitude, eating popcorn (Popcorn & Poetry), and writing our own Gratitude List. My students responded well to Laura Foley’s as well as Mary Lee’s poems. See this post to read these mentor texts.

As always, I write alongside my kids, so with a handful of popcorn and pictures from my trip to Tara’s farm, I fashioned my own version.



Praise be the morning mist,
the dewy grass, the crisp air,
and that moonrise last night
we raised a glass to.


Praise be a gathering of friends,
travels across miles, and the dog
that greeted each of us with a wagging tail.


Praise be the morning coffee, pancakes
covered in blueberries and maple syrup,
sweet, cool watermelon.
Praise be the wildflowers
in a canning jar.

–Margaret Simon (For Tara Smith)

I want to share a few lines from my students, too.

Praise be this afternoon
for gifted, the relaxing writing,
the fun of talking to friends,
reading a book.

Praise be Frootloop breakfast,
the hard floor under our feet
and a roof above our heads
and sunshine
after the flood.

–Madison, 3rd grade

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View from the porch at Old Bedlam Farm


My summer is quickly coming to an end.  School starts in a few short weeks.  It’s time for me to focus, get into the classroom, and make plans for the year.

But first, I want to celebrate the summer life, that laid-back time when the day is completely empty.  When you can take time to explore a used bookstore in the woods of upstate New York.

When you can take time to peruse an antique store down the road in Salem.  Don’t forget to open the tiny drawers to find the smallest treasures, like a mustard seed pendant.

Leaning on my friends Julianne Harmatz and Kimberley Moran.


When you can take a lawn chair up the hill, find the shade of a tree, and write in the quiet of the morning.

Tara writes on the hillside. Sophie explores nearby.

When you can “Live like Heaven is on Earth.”

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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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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

My students are wild with wonder. They don’t really know it, but when I see their eyes light up and their attention focus, I know it’s there. Inspired by Tara Smith of Two Writing Teachers, this year I instituted a new tradition, Wonder Wednesdays. The process is really very simple.

  1. What do you wonder about?  Create a question.
  2. What do you already know about this question?
  3. Research your question.  (Use Wonderopolis.)
  4. Write a paragraph including at least 5 new facts and 2-3 wonder words.
  5. Burning question: What more do you want to know?

I give my students the option to turn a Wonder into a Wonder Presentation.  For me, this option works well because I don’t end up with every student in the class having to do a presentation.  Since we blog, presentations can be posted for others to see as well.  This week I had 3 students choose this option, so we had a presentation day.  Presentation requirements vary somewhat from the Wonder response.

  1. Main idea: Thesis statement
  2. Support with evidence.
  3. Graphics support the topic.
  4. Your opinion is included.

Emily was inspired by a popular song to research Mt. Vesuvius and Pompeii. 

Emily emaze Vesuvius

Having Wonder Wednesday as a regular occurrence each week inspires my students to question and wonder all the time.  On Two Writing Teachers today, Tara writes, “I am a true Wonderopolis believer, and I know that our Wednesdays lead my kids to think deeply about science, geography, and the way things work.” Encouraging students to wonder every week makes inquiry a natural ingredient in the ELA classroom.

One of my new students jumped right in to wondering and blogging.  He wondered about cells in the human body.  As Noah (4th grade) and Vannisa (6th grade) walked back to class on Wednesday, they discussed cells.  Really?  The wonder spills out of the classroom all the way down the hall.

Wonder kidblog post

If you are wondering and writing about Digital Literacy, please link up.

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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

Pay attention! This is our endless and proper work. ~Mary Oliver


School is out, and the last thing my brain wants to do right now is think about digital literacy. When I opened the door to let Charlie out this morning, this snail was working its way slowly and deliberately along a leaf. So I took a picture. My one little word for 2014 is Open, but I think I’ll translate that word to mean “Pay Attention” as a summer goal. Be alert. Don’t let your brain fall asleep.

On the web this morning, I paid attention to two articles. The first was posted by Tara Smith at Two Writing Teachers. Tara writes about her students’ confidence in writing workshop and her release of control. They are using technology in ways she would not have predicted. She is able to take a back seat and watch. Sometimes I feel teachers are too focused on themselves and what they will do in front of the students. Tara’s expertise is in knowing that her best teaching comes from the back seat where she can support her student writers and allow them to discover on their own. Read her article here.

The second article that drew my attention was one a friend posted on Facebook about summer reading, Ready, Set, Read! In this article, research is cited that says reading fiction creates better human beings. We learn to be empathetic by reading. I knew that students needed to keep reading over the summer in order to maintain and grow their reading levels, but I never thought about how that reading makes them better people.

What are you paying attention to today? Please add your Digital Literacy link to Mr. Linky.

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