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

Poetry Friday is with Catherine at Reading to the Core

Happy Birthday, Billy Collins!  His 76th birthday was on March 22nd.  

I introduced my students to the poetry of Billy Collins with this poem, The Trouble with Poetry.  The poem gives good advice about writing poems.

“The trouble with poetry is…
it encourages the writing of more poetry…
the longing to steal,
to break into the poems of others
with a flashlight and a ski mask.”

I asked my students to steal a line and write their own poem.

The trouble with reading poetry is
that it’s so fun to read you can’t stop.

The trouble with poetry is
that you are to sit in the dark room
and wait for a flame of idea to pop up.

The trouble with poetry is
that Mrs. Simon makes us look for
what the poem means which is super hard.

The trouble with poetry is
thinking about ideas which is like hitting
yourself in the head with a rock.

The trouble with poetry is
that sometimes people steal ideas
and don’t give credit.

The trouble with poetry is
that you think your idea is bad
when it is really good.

The  trouble with poetry is
that you can have a writer’s block.

The trouble with poetry is
that you have to read it out loud to find mistakes.

by Andrew, 4th grade

 

Poetry Fills Me With Joy
Making me Float Above The Clouds
Like A Hot Air Balloon Soaring Above
After Being Filled With Hot Air
Like A Plane Being Filled With Fuel
And Taking Off
Like The First Letter Of Each Of These Words
Trying To Soar Off of The Screen

poetry fills me with sorrow
making me sink below the ground
like a balloon being popped
and crashing in the sea
like a plane crashing and burning
like the letters of this poem
trying to sink off the screen

By Kaiden, 6th grade

Billy Collins sarcastically expresses the feeling I get when I read poetry, and the reason I read poetry with my students.  Poetry breeds more poetry.  And I can’t think of anything better that a poem might do.  Thanks, Billy Collins, for encouraging my students to steal a line and try their own hands at writing poems.  

“ And how will it ever end?
unless the day finally arrives
when we have compared everything in the world
to everything else in the world,

and there is nothing left to do
but quietly close our notebooks
and sit with our hands folded on our desks.”

 

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At the SCBWI conference in New Orleans, I met Whitney Stewart.  She is a nonfiction writer.  I bought her book, Meditation is an Open Sky: Mindfulness for Kids.  Whitney has practiced meditation throughout her life, but only recently turned this love into a picture book and mindfulness teaching. 

 

Earlier this week I used her book as our read aloud.  I found meditation music online, turned out the lights, gathered pillows, and asked my students to settle down for meditation.  This was easier for some more than others.  One student opted to sit in his desk and put his head down.  Another opted to continue writing a slice. But a few sat cross-legged on pillows, closed their eyes, and listened to the meditation prompt from the book.

 

There was movement.  There were giggles.  Meditation was a new idea, an awkward idea.  This may take a while to get the hang of.

 

I read two of the meditation exercises.  The second one, Protection Circle, asked the students to imagine a glowing ball of white light between their eyebrows.  “Breathe out and send the light out of your forehead to surround your body.” Then we moved on to a red light in your throat and a blue light inside your heart.  Each ball of light was breathed out to encircle you with light.

 

Following the meditation, Kaiden said to me, “I imagined the three balls of color were fear, anger, and sadness.  But when they left my body, they looked like balls of fire.”

This morning, two of my students came into my room before school asking if they could meditate.  Again they sat on pillows on the floor with lights out.  I read another meditation from Whitney’s book.  They said they felt calmer and more prepared to start their day.  

Whitney’s meditation book is illustrated with child-like images of an elephant and a monkey. While reading aloud, the illustrations don’t matter.  What matters is the space to clear the mind.

I don’t know if I’ll keep this up, but I wanted to try it.  My students are especially stressed because they just completed 10 days of practice testing, and the actual state testing starts in two weeks.  Meditation works for me.  I’m glad to have a resource for passing it on to my students.

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Another prompt from Rip the Page by Karen Benke, p. 123. My students are using this book, too, to find writing ideas.  See their posts here.

Click here to read my students’ posts on Kidblog.

 

 

 

Before I opened the document to write this, I checked Kidblog to read more student stories.  Some of them have turned away from writing about themselves to write fiction stories. I imagined future authors in the making.

 

Every owl else was asleep and Aryn studied the breeze through the hole in the roof of the hollow. A strong headwind that was wet and warm with ocean spray, and the ancient Weather Ryb of the tree landed at her hollow roof, and she pulled herself up to stand on the roof as well. –Madison, Fan Fiction for Guardians of Ga’Hoole

 

“I have to find a way to get Thomas back to his normal self. I also have to make sure mom doesn’t find out about this or I am in big trouble.” Lynn says looking at Thomas. –Andrew, Wishing Rock, part 3

 

Before that, I listened to a message from a friend.  She’s finding her writing voice and feeling positive today.

“Writers have ebbs and flows. I have pent up energy because I haven’t been able to write in a while.”

 

Before that, I spoke to clients at Solomon House, “How’re you today? Have a good day.” I watch the people who have come to mean something to me.  Paul sings his hello like a bird, cheerful and welcoming to the morning. Janet is always serious and tells me her name like I’ve never seen her before. Then, “How’s your daughter doing?”

 

Clients wait for Brown Bag give out at Solomon House.

 

Before that, I rubbed Neosporin on Charlie’s stitches, kissed his forehead, and whispered, “I love you, sweetie pie.” Before that, I kissed my husband’s cheek with the same message.

 

Before that, I made coffee and threw Kind bars into my lunch bag.  One of these days I will not be in a rush in the morning.

 

Before that, I posted my Slice of Life, read three blog posts, left comments, and wished I had time to read more.  Just one more.  Look at the time.  Just one more.  That’s it.  To the shower.

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Catherine Flynn, who blogs at Reading to the Core, recommended a book for writers, Rip the Page: Adventures in Creative Writing by Karen Benke.  I bought the book.  On page 31, one of my favorite poets, Naomi Shihab Nye, wrote a note to the writer.  She writes, “Nothing is too small to notice.” So I take notice.

 

 

I notice the light,
how today
the first day of spring,
the light is brighter

reflecting off the shiny Grumman canoe
propped against the satsuma tree,
reddening the shasta daisies
that just opened today
in time to say “Welcome spring.”

This light
intensifies the green,
illuminates Spanish moss
that hangs like abandoned spider webs.

This light ripples the bayou
in gentle wrinkles.
No rain in days,
so I water.

The spray from the hose
rainbows–

I remember…
how she loves rainbows.

That’s how this light is:
full of itself, showing off,
making love with life.

–Margaret Simon, all rights reserved

 

 

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My husband and I are very different readers. He stays up late and reads mystery novels. I, on the other hand, go to bed early with middle grade realistic fiction. He reads news on his tablet while I read blogs.  He reads The New Yorker, and I read Oprah magazine.

But yesterday, he handed me The American Scholar. (He’s the Phi Beta Kappa.) The Editor’s Note was about the writings of Brian Doyle. One essay mentioned was “Joyas Voladoras.” I was able to say, “I’ve read that!” It’s the first essay that Katherine Bomer analyzes in her book, “The Journey is Everything.”

Then Jeff said, “Have your read ‘Leap’? You have to read it.” He handed me his tablet. I finished with tears in my eyes.

Then I read “How Did You Become a Writer.”  This is just what I needed to read. For all of you in this Slice of Life Challenge, we are on day 20. The writing is getting harder. We are feeling like everything we put on the page is garbage. So this is for you and for me, Top Ten Things a Writer Must Do as taken from Brian Doyle’s essay.

  1. Be honest with yourself.
  2. Expect no money for your writing.
  3. Listen.
  4. Energize your verb choice.
  5. When in doubt, cut it out.
  6. Make writing a regular part of your day.
  7. Delete mere catharsis.
  8. Find the right title.
  9. Be a witness to the world.
  10. Submit.

 

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

Some weeks a word will pop into my head for a DigiLit topic. Then I’ll mull over it and wonder why.  This is how it’s been with Innovation. Like Blended Learning last week, I am wondering if innovation is happening in my classroom.

I think of my young students who are writing for the Slice of Life Classroom Challenge every day.  Last year I put together a treasure box of writing prompts.  I decorated it and filled it with little odds and ends I found around my house.  One of these was a wishing rock.  Andrew put his hand into the box and came out with this rock.  I immediately thought of this Harris Burdick image.

“Maybe you could write a story to go with this image?”

“I’ve never written a story before.”

Andrew proceeded to type furiously into his Kidblog post.  The next day when he came in, he said “I can’t stop thinking about my wishing rock story.”

This is creativity working hand in hand with innovation.  You can read Andrew’s story here (part 1) and here (part 2).

My student, Noah, created a list post of “Things I Trust.”  Two of the curators of the Two Writing Teachers blog read his post.  They wanted to publish it to give other students ideas for writing.

Creativity and innovation happen in a classroom that is open to new ideas.  The let-me-try-this-out attitude.  I believe in my students.  They are more capable than I am when it comes to creativity.  Just look at Lynzee’s word cloud she created using the root word color.  She went on to write her post and change each word into a different font color.

 

Sometimes I feel like I just stand by and watch the brilliance of my students shine.  They are gifted kids, but more than that, they are open to the ideas floating around in the universe.  This openness will lead them on to produce wonderful innovations in the future, but for now, they are my little wonders.

To link up your own DigiLit post today, use this button.

 

 

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Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

Today is a busy day.  I am preparing for a dinner party tonight as well as a backyard wedding in one week.

Currently:

Baking lemon squares: I don’t bake very regularly.  The new mixer I bought at Christmas was still in the box.  Also, I don’t follow directions well.  I expressed my frustration at having to re-read the directions, and my husband said, “You just don’t like anyone telling you what to do.  Even when it’s a recipe.” He’s right, I guess.  Nevertheless, said lemon squares are currently making my kitchen smell fresh and lemony.

Arranging flowers: I love buying cheap flowers at the grocery store.  I feel like I am rescuing them from a terminal life in the garbage bin.  Yellow-orange tulips and white carnations are currently brightening up the kitchen and dining tables.

Cleaning cat litter: I will spare you the details.

Reading blog posts: The Slice of Life Challenge is well on its way, and I am finding so many great posts to read.  I secretly wish I could sit here all day and read and comment.  But the floor needs sweeping and the bathrooms need a once over before guests arrive.

Cuddling Charlie: Charlie is a cuddle-dog, a nine-year-old schnauzer/ poodle mix, a schnoodle.  Currently, he has an infected mole on his face that needs to be surgically removed on Monday, so I am giving him lots of hugs and kisses.

Opening the doors: The spring air is fresh and warm.  The sun is shining.  The trees are reaching out for green, green, green.  We’ve added more plants to the deck in preparation for the wedding.  They make me happy.  A shasta daisy that I thought died in the freeze is pushing out red blossoms.

Writing and thinking about writing:  This SOL challenge has my mind always thinking about writing. Ideas float around like butterflies.  Every day I look forward to opening the blank blog page and writing.  After 6 years of this practice, I am finally feeling like I can do this.  (Tomorrow may be a different story.)

Celebrating: Each week I join Ruth Ayres blog round up of celebrations.  Having a practice of looking for celebration nurtures a positive, grateful outlook.  Here are some pictures from my week.

Time change means dark morning walks with the moon lighting my path.

The “big whopping dictionary” an antique two-volume dictionary that we used to find root words for fractal poems.

 

Found this watching minion rock at a local restaurant.

My neighbor fed a group of visiting students from Arcadia University. She invited friends to help teach them how to peel crawfish. They quickly got the hang of it and dug right in.

I decided to go all out for St. Patrick’s Day, all the way to green eyelashes.