Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

Join the Two Writing Teachers Slice of Life Challenge.

I continue to try my hand at creative endeavors. #CLMOOC Challenge for this week is fairly easy, a 5 image story. I got the Tapestry app on my phone (free), so it was easy to upload 5 silly shots of my cat hiding in a grocery bag. It was as though she thought she was invisible. We are a little nutty about our animals. I took some shots of this cat trick and made a 5 image Tapestry story. Unfortunately, wordpress does not embed Tapestry. Click on the link. I promise it’ll only take a second. Can you add the words?


Mimi in a bag

Last week I got my brain fried in pre-AP training. I finally had some time to process and work with a frame that my colleague Beth and I came up with. We want to use the theme of Wonder for our year. I tried Wonderopolis with my students a few times last year and they loved it. In my thinking/planning journal we brainstormed what each letter could stand for and began planning to use this format for our daily language lesson. I’m thinking it can guide my whole week.

Wonder frame

I am such a teacher-geek passionate teacher that I spent hours planning out Wonder frames for the school year.

First I selected an interesting Wonder from Wonderopolis, such as Fireflies. Each Wonder includes a video, a nonfiction text passage, vocabulary, links, and interactive quizes. A teacher’s dream website! I mean who doesn’t get excited about learning about bioluminescence?

On Monday, students will read and paraphrase a quote: “All that I know about us is that beautiful things never last, that’s why fireflies flash.”

On Tuesday, they will analyze a Robert Frost poem about fireflies: (Underline the word(s) that fireflies are compared to in the poem and explain how they are similar to fireflies.)
“Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can’t sustain the part.” Robert Frost

On Wednesday, they will define bioluminescence and use it in a short paragraph.

On Thursday, they will edit this sentence, “Fireflies may be none for there glow power but their knot alone. “
On Friday, they will read another passage from Mental Floss and make an inference.

I can only imagine how my classroom will be buzzing about fireflies. In the meantime, my students will be able to read their own choices (I am determined to channel Donalyn Miller this year) and will be writing their own pieces during writing workshop. I’m excited to find a way to feel like I am incorporating valuable lessons without sacrificing student choice. Here is a pdf file of the Wonder template for ELA (2).

Brain Flood

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

high water

It’s been raining for days. You can hear the grass growing. Everything is lush and green, but at some point the ground gets saturated and overflows. When the rain comes too fast, the water floods the streets. On Friday, businesses closed early so people could make their slow flooded way home.

Sometimes we do this to our students. This week I attended the Rice University AP Institute. My brain went into flood mode. Too much information in, not enough draining out. I learned a valuable lesson about being a student. Finally on Friday, we were given the time to design our own lessons. The room was buzzing. My colleagues and I designed a frame for our teaching this year. We were able to sit and talk and process the water of information. We must give our students this time.

Digital learning can be about gaining knowledge, but mostly it is about processing knowledge. This summer I’ve been flooded with new ways for my students to process information. I’ll need to hand this learning over to them and give them time to find the right application for them. Will it be Prezi, Thinglink, or Haiku Deck? Maybe blogging, Animoto, or Tapestry? The important thing is to control the flood waters, try not to overwhelm them, and give then the time to process and apply.

Let’s continue the conversation about online learning communities for our students. Sheri Edwards has set up an edublog called Connect 2 Learn. Check it out and add your ideas.

The Educator Collaborative is Live! Join the group. Besty Hubbard has a group for Young Writers.

Link up your DigiLit Sunday post:

Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us the celebrate each week. Click over to her site Discover. Play. Build. to read more celebrations.

Miller Outdoor Theatre in Houston's Herman Park

Miller Outdoor Theatre in Houston’s Herman Park

Did you miss me? I spent the week at Rice University in Houston attending a Pre-AP training. While I gained a great deal of information on teaching pre-AP, this post is about the wonderful free stuff we experienced in Houston.

On Wednesday night, my colleagues and I joined my friends at the Miller Outdoor Theatre for a free musical performance of “The Best Little W*#rehouse in Texas.” What a great performance! And Reese entertained us with stories about this true history of Texas and how his great uncle frequented the place. Picnic blankets, big dogs, wine, and musical entertainment, it doesn’t get much better than that!


Matise from the Museum of Fine Art, Houston

Matise from the Museum of Fine Art, Houston

On Thursday evening, we visited the Museum of FIne Art for free. Every Thursday the museum is free all day and open until 9 PM. While we were eating in the cafe, my friend Sarah joined us. Sarah is an artist and gave us a wonderful tour of the museum. While we were visiting, I brought up the puppy that Sarah rescued. She and Reese found a stray puppy along the highway from Galveston. The dog was in rough shape. They cared for her for 2 weeks and decided it was all too much to handle with their older (and perfectly mannered) dog Tilly. Sarah brought her to the poodle rescue. But her heart would not let go. So on Thursday, Marigold (so named because she was beautiful yet stinky) came back home to Sarah. We all turned and looked at Candice who had just been telling us about the loss of her dog in December. Right there in the art museum, a match was made. Before returning to our hotel, Sarah took us to meet Marigold. If I’ve ever seen love at first sight, this was it. Candice has two young daughters. What a surprise for them! We traveled home yesterday with 5 women and all our stuff plus one dog. Marigold was the perfect passenger. Now she has found the perfect home. As my husband likes to say about our rescue animals, “She has found a soft place to land.”

Marigold curls up with her new mom on the long ride home.

Marigold curls up with her new mom on the long ride home.

Happy Family:  Marigold is now being called Coco for her fur that looks like coconut.

Happy Family: Marigold is now being called Coco for her fur that looks like coconut.

Link up with Teach Mentor Texts

Link up with Teach Mentor Texts

Join It’s Monday: What are you Reading? at Teach Mentor Texts and Book Journey.

touch bluerules

After reading Cynthia Lord’s latest book Half a Chance, I decided it was time to catch up on Cynthia Lord books. I’ve found a new favorite author. Each one draws me in with a teen girl struggling to understand life and to fit into it in her own unique way. I heard much buzz about Rules. Rules was a Newbery Honor Book and a winner of the Schneider Family Book Award, which I learned this week goes to books that treat the theme of disability with respect and empathy. Within the framework of rules that Catherine has for her autistic brother, Cynthia Lord creates a touching story about a normal girl who builds a friendship with a disabled boy while waiting for her brother at speech therapy. I found myself gaining strength of confidence along with Catherine. So how does she face her normal friends and admit that her “date” to the dance cannot talk or walk? This story is empowering and real. I will add it to my book bin along with Wonder and Out of my Mind.

I’m not quite finished with Touch Blue, but I am again drawn in by Cynthia Lord’s ability to build a realistic teen character who is learning about the world. Touch Blue is framed with superstitions such as “Touch blue and your wish will come true.” Tess and her family live on an island off the coast of Maine. An older foster boy, Aaron, comes to live with them. I haven’t come to like Aaron too much; although, I understand that he has a tough exterior due to his rough life experiences. But Tess is trying so hard to build him up. She even finagles a way for him to play his trumpet at the Fourth of July picnic. In both of Cynthia Lord’s books, there is a bully. This is realistic to the times. There are bullies everywhere and our students have to deal with them. Maybe she’ll write one soon from the bully’s point of view.

In addition to reading middle grade novels this summer, I am reading poetry (always). My friend Diane Moore has come out with another collection. Departures is a departure from her usual poetry. This book is deeply personal. The kind that becomes universal. We all have those quirky relatives like Aunt Sarah Nell who always wore her stocking seams straight. We have all experienced the loss of a loved one. Diane has experienced many losses in her lifetime. Her poems express a deep longing to keep her heritage alive through her writing. I asked Diane permission to post one of her poems here. I have selected her poem Inspiration because it is a tribute to a teacher. Diane blogs at A Word’s Worth.

Being brought up to fear authority
I was not surprised
when my fingers
trembled on the keys,
fell between them,
ten thumbs wide
in one finger space
when M. L. Shaw stood
behind my desk
watching me,
the mistress of un-coordination.

Each smudged carbon copy
was the belt on my back,
my left hand never knew
what the right hand was doing,
I was be-handed by an ancient Royal.
How could I ever become a writer
with such uncertain script?

I never cut class.
She never rebuked me.

She held no ruler to my knuckles
but her raven-colored hair
with the precise side part,
matching sweater and skirt outfits,
the way she applied lipstick
with the little finger of her left hand
to make that prim cromson mouth,
placed limits on my ambition.

She breathed exactness.

And then came exaltation
the day I read that
the titans of modern lit
typed with one finger,
committed strikeovers,
and never made carbon copies
of their work.

She sent me into the world
keyed into an uncertain vocation,
but before she died,
inscribed a fat collection
of Shakespeare’s plays
in her flowing, exacting hand:
“I hope you’ll always think kindly of me.”
And my skills gained a pace,
my hands reached a standard,
the classroom was eclipsed.

I clocked out
at 80 words per minute.
–Diane Moore, all rights reserved

Light on the Bayou

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.

Celebrating Courage

    Discover. Play. Build.

Ruth Ayres invites us the celebrate each week. Click over to her site Discover. Play. Build. to read more celebrations.

Mustering up a lion’s share of courage, I volunteered to sing a solo in church this Sunday. I selected “I Shall not Want” by Audrey Assad. Well, the problem is I am not Audrey Assad or Stevie Nicks or Allison Krauss. No, I’m just little ole me.

When I ran into my friend Anne, I told her about taking a leap of faith to sing this song in church. She offered to give me some voice lessons. I want to celebrate what I have learned from her this week.

  • Breathe deeply, all the way to your diaphragm.
  • Reach beyond.
  • Open your mouth.
  • Smile!
  • Think of yourself as a gift.
  • The audience (congregation) is rooting for you.
  • You are who you are today.  Yes, you will be better tomorrow, but today you are the best you can be.
  • Accept your mistakes as part of a growth process.
  • Putting your work out there is important to the universe.

These lessons are good lessons for any kind of artistic endeavor, painting, writing, singing, dancing.  They all require courage and confidence.  I want to thank Anne for not only the awesome voice lessons, but for the helpful life lessons.

And now that I’ve told the world, I will envision all you supporting me tomorrow up in the loft with the heavenly choir.

Eleanor Roosevelt quote

Out of the Kiln

Poetry Friday Round-up: Join Linda at Write Time to read more PF posts.

Poetry Friday Round-up: Join Linda at Write Time to read more PF posts.


I met Wendi Romero at a poetry workshop last fall with Naomi Shihab Nye. Since then we have been Facebook friends. I have been enjoying the poetry she posts and decided to share her work with you today. Her collection of poems is called Out of the Kiln: Vessels of Hope. Her poems speak of transformation from the emptiness of loss to the light of hope. Wendi writes, “Sometimes, it’s moments of profound beauty and other times, the excruciating pain of deep loss, that brings us to a threshold.” Wendi pairs her poems with images that inspire and help us to see the beauty of our world. Out of the Kiln is available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Xlibris, and Author House.

Photo by Wendi Romero, all rights reserved.

Photo by Wendi Romero, all rights reserved.


The stone has turned
and the trees have
come alive again.
The long arms of oak
in the acorn laid
asleep in the cold.
Now they branch
and reach for a taste
of endless sky.
The fall of dormant brown
has given way to
resurrection of green.
The buds hang like bells,
ringing in the rejoicing
of abundance,
beauty, and grace.
From the shadows
of the cave,
look into the light—
see what it brings.
Embrace the metanoia …
once more turning
and coming full,
circling toward
a new life of spring.

© Wendi Romero
from Out of the Kiln: Vessels of Hope, Poetry of Transformation

Photo by Wendi Romero, all rights reserved.

Photo by Wendi Romero, all rights reserved.

Don’t Look Back

What once was
will always be.
New temples are built
over remains of old ones.
What lived in yesteryears
are now the long-term
memories we may
or may not hold dear.
New stories will
be told as our lives
are written over.
Go down and see
how the ashes settle
into place.
Take the flame
and light the way.
Now is enveloped
only by today.
About tomorrow
we don’t yet know.
Just stay in this moment,
stay with this day.

© Wendi Romero
from Pilgrimage to Self: Leaving, Walking, Returning


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