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SOL #29

SOL #29

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Try the Nutshell app.

Try the Nutshell app.

I’ve been playing around with Nutshell now that I deleted all my texts and made room on my phone. One video was inspired by the place I live. It is spring in the deep south. In my yard, the satsuma tree is blooming, along with the wisteria bush. Flowers blooming, spring warmth inspire writing. Can you write a poem to go with this video?

This week we took our 6th grade students to an old oak tree to write. On Friday I posted this poem by Darian inspired by this field trip. Nature is a wonderful place to find inspiration for writing.

What is inspiring your writing these days? Please consider joining the Digital Literacy link up today.

Last night I got a Tweet from @teachr4, Leigh Anne Eck about plans for National Poetry Month. “Are you doing any type of April poetry challenge this year on your blog?” The consensus seems to be that many of us want to continue writing daily. The subject will be poetry, ideas, student activities, and our own writing. I invite you to join a new hashtag for NPM, #DigiPoetry. That way we can all keep up with each other, connect, and support. This is not a challenge. It is an invitation.

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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

Today for DigiLit Sunday I have something on my mind about this internet PD community. I have tapped into so many teacher challenges this summer I run the risk of being overwhelmed. But instead I am fascinated and wonder what this may mean for my students and for the future of how we educate.

By participating in multiple online learning groups such as the Thinglink Teacher Challenge and Connected Learning (CLMOOC), I connect to other bloggers and find things that pique my interest. For example, Kim Douillard posted a weekly photo challenge in the CLMOOC Facebook group this week. Her blog site is Thinking through my Lens. I have a feeling Kim does not just use her phone for taking pictures, but that’s what I use. This week’s theme was #light. Just after I read her blog post, I took a walk outside to this amazing display of light.

Bayou morning photo by Margaret Simon

Bayou morning photo by Margaret Simon

Did you say “Ah!”? Yeah, me too. That’s my world and sometimes I forget to appreciate it. So I uploaded my amazing bayou scene to Twitter and got this response from Carol Varsalona.

Twitter with Carol

I will probably do this because I enjoy a challenge and especially one that makes me write. (Did I mention I am also doing Teachers Write camp with Kate Messner?)

So my Digital Learning question is this: How do we tap into student interests and create online learning environments for them to connect to and learn from? I teach gifted children. They have strong interest areas (obsessions, really). They are much more adept at computer skills than I am. Can we do this for them? Or is this being done and I don’t know about it? I did involve my students in the March Slice of Life Challenge put out by the Two (Six) Writing Teachers. They loved it. And for some, it was a deep learning experience.

Enter this conversation by leaving a comment. Should we have a Twitter chat or Google Hang out? I’ve never led one of those myself, but I’m willing to try.

Leave a link to your digilit post here.

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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 6.  Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Slice of Life Day 6. Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Click here to view the roundup at One Grateful Teacher.

Click here to view the roundup at One Grateful Teacher.

It is day 6 of the Slice of Life Challenge and Day 38 of Nerdlution. Time to reflect a bit. I am sitting on what we call “the boyfriend bed” in the study writing while my dog, Charlie, and cat, Mimi, nap nearby. This is how I spent most of the last two days, taking it easy on a break from school and nursing my cold.

writing with Charlie and Mimi

My nerdlution to exercise did not happen. I used my cold inside and the cold outside as my excuse.

However, my nerdlution to write happened in the form of Slice of Life blog posts and poems for Laura Shovan’s Pantone poetry project. Take a moment to read the wonderful poems about Jewel Blue and Peacock Green. We all did research before writing. I used the ghazal form for my poem. This project has kept me focused and creative.

The last nerdlution goal was to be more responsive to my One Little Word Open.

open tulips

I reflected on my week to see how I was Open. Then I remembered my Saturday walk (before the cold front came in.) I walked with a friend who lives a few blocks away. I took a chance that she would be home. Not only was she home, but her husband had gone hunting, so she was free to take a walk with our dogs. We had a great time sharing experiences of grown daughters. I took pictures of blooming flowers and blooming trees thinking spring was on its way. I Open myself to creativity, spirituality, and also to friendship.

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30 Days of Thanks: Day 4: I am thankful for friends who support my writing, even when they are not writers themselves.

My friend Cathy is not a writer. Cathy is not even much of a reader. But she loves me and supports my writing life in sweet ways. When I had my first book signing, she showed up with gifts from the Piggly Wiggly in St. Martinville, a t-shirt, spicy salt, and white bread. Recently, she gave me a bag of books. She said, “I found some books on writing you might like.”

I kept the bag in the trunk of my car for about a week. When I did take the books out, I had a negative reaction. They were old discarded books from the library. I brought one of the books inside with thoughts of turning it into an altered book. See this post.

I subscribe to a weekly e-newsletter from Poets and Writers, The Time is Now writing prompts. Last week, the poetry writing exercise was about erasure poetry, taking a piece of text and selecting words while blacking out the rest. This sounded like a good thing to try with my new old book about writing.

The first chapter, “Simplicity” garnered this poem:

Who can understand
your vicious language
everyday–
Strip
every
sentence-
Simplify, simplify.

I love to be alone,
a man thinking
clearly, clearly,
not lost
no fuzz
logic

naturally takes self- discipline, self-
knowledge.
Writing
is
hard work.

So this book was speaking to me. Helping me think about writing. Maybe it was not such an outdated book. I tried this exercise again with Chapter 2: “Clutter.” This was becoming a fun obsession.

I decided to remove the paper cover. As I was hanging by the trashcan to throw it away, I read the bio of the author. Typically nerdy picture, old-fashioned dark-rimmed glasses. He stared at me from a time long ago saying he knew what he is doing. “Probably dead,” I thought. What did I do? Googled him. Then I got stuck, drawn in to this world of knowledge and an endless list of articles from The American Scholar.

I had discovered William Zinsser. He’s not dead, either. He’s 90 years old and apparently still writing. And who is he writing for? Why, me, of course!

Here is William Zinsser’s Wisdom for Women Writers: “Women Writers! You must give yourself permission, by a daily act of will, to believe in your remembered truth. Do not remain nameless to yourself. Only you can turn the switch; nobody is going to do it for you.”

Thanks, Wise William, and Thanks, Cathy. I am grateful for your support.

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Daisy, the Spider

Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

The first few weeks of school we had a visitor at our window, a huge garden spider. One day, my students decided that we needed to write about the spider. I teach gifted students, so I am always looking for ways to exercise and inspire their naturally curious minds. One of my students, a sixth grader Kaylie, decided to do some research about the spider. We all thought that our spider needed a name, so we gathered at the table and brainstormed names. We agreed on the name Daisy.

I have started using kidblog in my classroom. I love how this forum is making my students want to write. I encouraged Kaylie to share her research in a blog post. I will copy it here. Teachers, if you use this post as a model for writing, please leave a comment that I can share with Kaylie.

On the first day of Gifted and Talented in Mrs. Simon’s classroom, we were all amazed to look out the window. A black and yellow spider had spun a web outside our window. We watched it through the morning, spinning its web. That was the first day.

On the second day, when I walked into the room, Matthew burst with joy and guided me to the window. The web was covered (and I mean COVERED ) in flies and gnats. And there, sitting in the middle of the beautifully spun web, yours truly, our spider was chomping on a grasshopper. It was so interesting, because none of us had ever seen something like it before. We got a good view of the spider, because it was facing the window, and we could see it from our desks. We marveled over the ‘banana spider’. I wasn’t so sure about its species, so I went on the internet to do some research.

It turns out that the spider was no banana spider at all, but a garden spider. Our little buddy perfectly matched the picture on the internet. Garden spiders have large abdomens that have intricate patterns of yellow and black. Its long legs are nearly two inches long. The eight legs are black with yellow tips. Its head, what you would expect to be yellow is actually a dusty gray. The spider created a 5×4 silk web, completely flawless. That was the end of day 2.

This morning, I wanted to post a poem about our spider on this blog. We needed a picture of it so you can get a clear image of our amazement. Matthew, Mrs. Simon and I took a little ‘field trip’ to the playground, where our window was. She snapped a picture, but after, we noticed something unusual. A plump brown sac, about two inches in diameter, was hanging in the corner of the window, where we couldn’t see from indoors. I threw out the suggestion that it was an egg sac. For further reference, I went back to the computer and searched ‘garden spider egg sacs’. Sure enough, a picture came up looking very similar to the one we saw out side.

I read on. The paragraph said that garden spiders lay their egg sacs at the beginning of fall, and that they hatch in the spring. Sadly, it also said that the grown garden spiders die shortly after they spin their egg sacs, so the spider might die soon. With that in mind, we looked toward our spider who was hanging solemnly from its web. I couldn’t stand that it had been our pet for so long without a name. After a classroom vote and a lot of bad names, we finaly came up with Daisy. I think she seemed to like that name.That was the end of day three.

On Friday, we didn’t have G.T., so we could not check on Daisy and see if she was still hanging in the window. On Monday, we came back. We saw an egg sac hanging in the window. The other empty sacs weren’t Daisy’s. They were of other spiders.

Our spider was starting to wilt. Her abdomen was shriveled up. I didn’t think she would last any longer.

Yet again, our spider has surprised us. Another egg sac was added to the window, so now there are two egg sacs from our Daisy spider.

Sadly, four days after hurricane Isaac, Daisy disappeared. Her memory will live on in her hundreds of beautiful babies that will hatch in the spring. We will look forward to watching many little garden spiders crawl away. Thank you, Daisy.

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Join the Tuesday Slice of Life

Dancing with Leon at Cafe des Amis.

Beginning with Zydeco Breakfast at Cafe des Amis, dancing and eating, to Bonne Terre Cottage in the afternoon, my birthday celebration was all about me.

My new friend (We only just connected this summer even though she’s been a friend of my husband since he was a child.) invited me to enjoy a writing retreat at her cottage inn in the country. I accepted her offer and invited some of my writing buddies to come along. For one reason or another, only one of them was able to come out to the cottage.

I had never been to my friend’s cottage before. When I walked up to the door, I immediately felt peace. Next to the steps was a huge sugar kettle goldfish pond. A large metal sign with a Louisiana scene held fast to the cottage wall. Once inside, I was greeted by a salvaged silver tray made into a chalkboard and saw “Happy Birthday Margaret!” My own book Blessen sat on the top of a stack of books on the coffee table. In a corner of the living room stood an easel with a stool, a perfect spot for my computer with a view of the yard outside. The backyard was scattered with various bird feeders and houses. Hummingbirds flew to the red liquid while cardinals perched at the bird feeder. Bluebirds are nesting in houses and sat on the fencing. Beyond in the pond surrounded by elephant ears and cattails, a great white egret flew in to a landing. What a gift this place was!

Blessen waits for me on the coffee table.

Solid cypress walls smelled like a summer camp cabin. Beautiful art intrigued and inspired me. Along with her writing journal, Kay brought some chilled Pinot Noir, and we snacked on goat cheese and crackers. We talked about the new school year, writing, and the cottage. Kay said, “I can’t believe the art here. I love it. Jen’s love of horses comes through.”

We could look out the window and see Jen’s two horses in the paddock. And inside a colorful painting of carousel horses. I told Jen her cottage was a poem, full of personal details that could be universally enjoyed. I could have stayed all day. And I did!

Kay wrote this poem about Bonne Terre Cottage:

With God’s Prayers

I see beauty
I see cypress crafted
with glass peeking out
to the porch with a red
hummingbird feeder
and a thirsty bird three feet from me.

I see Clementine Hunter dishes,
lime green fused glass,
a black rectangular record player,
a writing desk looking out to a backyard
barn of horses housed on the Bayou Teche.

I see beauty woven from life experiences.
I feel rebuilding, strength, the ground reassuring me
all will be well– I see a little boy
with curls
on a tricycle.
I feel beauty woven out of history.

Wisdom interlaced with authentic metal,
reworked stainless staircase,
and a vintage yellow telephone.

I am reminded to be
all of me, to embrace
what is
to be me.

View from the writing desk

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