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

We have been friends with our next door neighbors for years, even before we moved into this house 12 years ago.  We had kids the same ages going to the same schools.  We’ve shared our lives with a cup of coffee or over a glass of wine.  When their son got married a few years ago, we housed the photographer and his son.  When their daughter was married last fall, we offered our driveway to parking.  My husband made a sign “Guest Parking.”

My neighbors knew they would be out of town for Maggie’s wedding, so they offered their house for my family to stay in.  My sister and her family slept there, but many of us parked our cars there.

When my friend returned home Saturday night, a day early, she texted me.  I told her it wasn’t a problem for my sister’s family to move back to our house.  But we left the cars in the driveway. At 9:30, I got this text:

“Do not love the cars.”

I started fuming.  I decided to be cool and responded, “We’ll move them.”  And sent my brother-in-law over to start moving cars back to our driveway.  I had many not-so-nice thoughts run through my head.  Luckily I didn’t text any of them.

Shortly after, she called and left me a frantic message, “I didn’t mean love!  I meant move!  Do not move the cars!”

I returned her call, and we laughed about it.

My brother-in-law’s wisdom was “Trust the relationship. Not the auto-correct.”

Lesson learned.  In this day of quick fingers and auto-correct, we must remember that friends are friends.  “I get by with a little help from my friends!”

 

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So Much Joy

A backyard wedding
After the storm
Sun awakens new spring green
Vases of red roses and eucalyptus
Balloons float on air
Bride in fur
Groom in linen
Family together
Grandmother judge officiates
Quote from Dr. Seuss:
Fall in mutual weirdness.
Call it love.

Balcony witnesses from three coasts
Champagne popped at I do
Red boiled crawfish spice the tongue
Poboys, Zapp’s chips, Heath bar cookies
Beer in a pirogue
Spin me around one more time
So much Joy!

–Margaret Simon

Through the window, a look of love.

Balloon aftermath; pineapples are ripe.

 

Slice of Life Challenge

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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

In my teaching, reflection is important to me.  Not on purpose, really, but as part of my nature. I mull over things.  I wonder out loud and silently.  I talk with colleagues.  I also participate in a Good2Great Voxer chat.

Good2Great teachers are continuously reflecting.  We are always engaging in conversations about our teaching practice. One evening last week, Trevor Bryan and I got into a conversation about the writing process.  He made me think when he said, “The writing process is a creative process, and in the creative process, artists and writers are always making bad work.  Something that doesn’t work is part of the creative process.”

My burning question was born from this conversation.  “How do we honor the process of writing?”

Blogging is a huge part of the writing process in my classroom.  I’ve contended that by writing every day on a blog, my students’ writing grows and improves.  I still believe that, but I’m not sure I honor the mulling, the brainstorming, the idea gathering.  I have stressed to my students that they are writing for an audience.

Jacob decided to write about the movie Moana for his Slice.  When I read his post, he was telling the story of the movie…the whole movie.  He said, “This is only one third of the movie.  I can make more posts.”

Of course he could, but would anyone want to read multiple long posts retelling the Moana story?  I posed that question to him and immediately felt a pang in my gut.  I wasn’t honoring the process.  I was thinking only of the product.  I realized that maybe by writing this whole story, Jacob would learn about writing dialogue.  He would learn about a story arc.  And he wasn’t writing from a book he read.  He was writing from a movie he watched.  He would have to create the actions with his words.

How often do we stifle our young writers?  I know they need to practice.  They need to write often.  But who am I to tell them they must produce a worthy product every time?  As a writer, do I?  Not at all.

Sometimes students do not need to write for an audience.  I will continue to reflect on this question and watch myself more carefully.  Honoring the process is as important, if not more important, that celebrating the product.

 

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Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

Thursday was an adventurous morning, so I created a Slice of Life model post for my students.

When I got to school this morning, I saw a crowd of teachers looking at a wall of the school.  In fact, they had their phones out and were taking pictures.  I finally saw what they were looking at.  A rat!  

Ms. Katie wasn’t taking a picture.  She was making an emergency phone call to the maintenance department.

I was on car line duty, so I could watch the whole adventure take place.  Mr. Rat stayed in place in the crook of the corner for a while.  Then there was Mr. Leonard with a black trash can.

The rat scurried around the corner and the chase was on!

Not long after Mr. Leonard and Ms. Katie disappeared around the side of the school, the cafeteria side which was smelling strongly of syrup, the maintenance department trucks (there were 2) showed up.  I didn’t see the action, but I assumed the ratty rat was caught and disposed of.

As we walked back into school, Mrs. Delahoussaye reminded me, “We are taking over their environment, the canefields.  They have every right to be here.”

I’m not sure I agree.  

One of my students started drawing a picture a day on the whiteboard.  Here’s a collage of her drawings:

 

Speaking of art, the mural is complete.  Here’s a picture of the completed gator mural by Mary Lacy.

 

Today is my oldest daughter’s wedding.  Talk about a celebration.  She wants me to read a Margaret Atwood poem at her ceremony.  It’s not sentimental (not Maggie’s nor Margaret Atwood’s style), but I still hope I can get through it without choking up.

Habitation
by Margaret Atwood

Marriage is not
a house or even a tent

it is before that, and colder:

the edge of the forest, the edge
of the desert
the unpainted stairs
at the back where we squat
outside, eating popcorn

the edge of the receding glacier

where painfully and with wonder
at having survived even
this far

we are learning to make fire

 

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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.