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Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

The end of the school year came too quickly this year. The Two Writing teachers blog series, however, helped prepare me for the inevitable- summer writing slide. Kidblog.org published this blog post of mine around summer writing.

The gifted program in my district has always recognized the need for summer reading.  We carefully choose a list of books and send home a required reading packet.  Last year we tweaked the requirements and the kids actually responded that they enjoyed doing the work.  The packet was designed around choice and activities that were interesting and motivating.

What about summer writing slide?  My students actively write every day of their time with me.  Will they keep writing over the summer?  Not likely.  So I took it upon myself to encourage summer writing.

I found a stack of summer postcards in my endless supplies of teacher stuff.  On each card, I placed a label with our kidblog site address, my home address, and my email address, three different ways my students could keep in touch over the summer.

Friday was our last official day together as these last two weeks are full of end of the year activities.  I brought out marbleized journals.  We start the school year decorating a journal for the year, so why not close the year with decorating a summer writing journal?

Have you started thinking about summer slide?  What are your plans?  Share your blog posts in the link below.

 

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

 

Since I first read Donalyn Miller’s book The Book Whisperer, I have implemented the 40 book challenge.  I teach 1st-6th grade gifted kids.  These kids are usually readers when they walk into my classroom.  My bulletin board houses sticker charts all year long.  Students add a sticker for every book they read.  Every nine weeks grading period I remind them to update their charts, but other than this, I leave them alone.

I do not believe in gimmicks to get kids to read.  What I do believe in is finding space to read every day and knowing a student well enough to place a just-right book into their hands.  My students have not all met the challenge, but this year a majority of them did.  This week we colored bubble numbers celebrating their achievements.

This Animoto video is a showy one. I didn’t get a posed picture will all of my kids, but here are a few proud readers. Enjoy!

Poetry Friday is with Tara at A Teaching Life.

 

Gifted by Nature Day was coming up, and I had forgotten that it was my job to do a poetry activity.  Yikes!  What would I do?  Some middle school students would be doing a play based on The Jungle Book.  Their teacher explained in an email to me that the theme would be Be Yourself. 

I typed into Google search “Bio-poems.”  I didn’t want to use the same ole bio-poem form.  Up pops one of my favorite performance poets, Allan Wolf.  On his website, he had this mentor I Am poem.

I created a document that outlined each line.  As each student completed their art activity, they came over to my poetry table.  My first question was “Do you know what alliteration is?”  Most of the kids didn’t recall this term, but that’s OK.  I taught them very quickly, and they said, “Oh, yeah!”

Writing that first line proved the most difficult.  The students I was working with are gifted, and there’s nothing better than watching a gifted kid feel a challenge. Encouragement came from other kids who had found a first line.

Wyatt was happy to share his first line. “I am an All Star Athlete.”

Noah, who loves to hunt, created, “I am a hard-headed hunter.”

A young Laotian girl named Patra sat next to me and said with complete honesty, “I am a little, lovely lark.”  I encouraged her to use that metaphor throughout her poem. Her teacher texted me a copy to feature here.

I am a little, lovely lark.
I wonder what it’s like to fly.
I hear people talking.
I see the puffy, fluffy clouds.
I want to fly.

I am a little, lovely lark.
I pretend to fly.
I touch feathers.
I worry when I’m late.
I cry when–I don’t cry much.

I am a little, lovely lark.
I understand Laotian language.
I say, “Ha! Ha! Ha!” (me laughing)
I dream about flying.
I try to do my best in school.
I hope to grow wings!

I am a little, lovely lark.

Patra, 3rd grade

Jacob missed Gifted by Nature Day, so I presented the activity to him back at school.  He decided to take his poem in a different direction and become a planet, specifically Mercury.  You can read his poem here. 

This form worked for multiple elementary grade levels from 2nd graders to 6th graders.  If you chose to use this activity in your classroom, I’d love to hear from you.

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

Kim Douillard is a fine photographer. I follow her blog, Thinking Through my Lens. Each week she posts a photo challenge. This week’s challenge is perfect for me, Nature’s Art. Kim lives on the West Coast in California. She takes pictures of the beach. By contrast, I live in South Louisiana. While our state is located on the Gulf Coast, there are no beaches, just marshland and canals.

Last week I posted pictures from a swamp tour on Lake Martin in St. Martin parish. I think my husband was a little jealous of our trip, so when Saturday was an absolute perfect day with temperatures in the 60’s and 70’s, he packed up the canoe, and we headed back to Lake Martin. This time I took my nice camera with the telephoto lens.

Wood duck couple

One of my students has quite an advanced vocabulary for a 2nd grader. She was explaining to me about how she was getting a rabbit for a pet.

“Mrs. Simon,” Lynzee explained, “I am going to be busy in the mornings because rabbits are crepuscular.”

“What does crepuscular mean?” I asked her after praising her for her high level vocabulary.

She explained that she had learned the word from Wikipedia when she and her mom were researching about her new bunny. It means active at dawn and twilight.

I told this story to my husband, so when the alligators kept popping their menacing heads out of the water, he began calling them crepuscular muscular submarines. I admit it’s more frightening to see them in a canoe than in a big metal flatboat. My nerves were quite jumpy throughout our adventure.

Alligator hiding in duckweed.

Aside from the muscular gators, there were plenty of crepuscular birds. Wetlands birds are majestic in their size and graceful flight.

Great white egret, Lake Martin

Sunset at the lake created interesting color changes. I’m not much of a pro at taking photographs, but sometimes I just got lucky. The light, the art of nature, and my camera clicked at the just right time.

Grey heron, largest of the heron family

From vocabulary.com “The adjective crepuscular describes anything that’s related to twilight, like the crepuscular glow of the dimming light on a lake as darkness falls.”

 

crepuscular glow of the sunset

Please use this button on your site for DigiLit Sunday posts

On Monday evening, I participated in #Wonderchat on Twitter.  The topic was led by Dr. Mary Howard: Instilling a Sense of Professional Wonder. If you are here reading this post, you are likely a person who wonders, reads, researches, and is always learning.

We are nearing the end of the school year and yet, I am still filled with professional wonderings. Three new books have arrived in the last few weeks, Dynamic Teaching for Deeper Reading by Vicki Vinton, Disrupting Thinking by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst, and Joy Write by Ralph Fletcher.

If anyone is interested in a summer book study of one of the books above, let me know in the comments. Wouldn’t it be more fun to read if you have someone to discuss it with? Google docs work well for housing a book study.

Why do I keep buying professional books? You’d think I would know what I was doing after 30 years of teaching. But I am still learning. I want to continue to question what I do and why I do it. I think that is the definition of a professional. When I stop wondering about teaching, I should stop teaching.

During the #Wonderchat, Sarah Eaton posted a padlet for teacher wonders. I remade the padlet wall to house our posts today. (A test run for using padlet for the round up.) Double click inside the padlet to add to it. In addition to voicing our professional wonders here, perhaps we can also post ideas and links to further research. Be sure to put your name and a link to your post, so we can continue the conversation.

 

Made with Padlet

Find more celebration posts at Ruth’s blog.

 

 

My students were quietly working on their Slice of Life posts on Tuesday.  Erin announced she didn’t know what to write about.  I ignored her.  Tucked behind a laptop computer on a counter in the classroom was The Writer’s Toolbox.  I don’t remember buying this.  I think it was at Barnes and Noble one summer when I was teaching a writing camp.  Since then I’ve used it occasionally but not very often.

Frankly, I don’t really like The Writer’s Toolbox.  It is a box of gimmicks.  There are sticks for a first sentence, a non sequitur sentence, and a last scene.   There are spinners for characters.  The toolbox was designed for adults.  There were sticks I had to remove for their adult content.  When I used the kit to inspire writing, I found that the writing that resulted was not very good.  So there the box sat on the counter until Erin found it.

Erin asked, “How do you play this game?”

I responded, “I don’t remember.  Why don’t you read the directions?”

Soon Erin was writing crazy stories.  Lani joined her.  It seemed like so much fun.  Then Emily and Kaiden, and before I knew it, there sat an enthusiastic group of writers.  They used the 3 minute timer and wrote in 3 minute segments.  They shared their writing, and soon each other’s characters were showing up in other stories.  This game went on for 2 days.

Emily and Erin both wrote about this activity on their Slice of Life posts for the week.  They asked each other to proof their posts to make sure they were accurate.

So I discovered this amazing game called The Writer’s Toolbox. It lets you make up your own stories. It can be serious or funny. But it’s really hard to not make it funny because the prompts are so weird. One of them is “I was dressed in a completely inappropriate shade of pink.” That was one of mine.

All this got started with Juan when she just wanted some McNuggets and a case of Kool-Aid. But she and Helen became best friends cause they both loved to dance. Then Jimmy told them that they should become exotic dancers. Then Bob came along singing lalala with his dad behind him. Then Hillary popped out of nowhere with a toilet paper covered Sheila and Principal Barbara.  Also Melissa and Larry who were eating cat sandwiches. Can’t forget about Fred who just came back from Russia. Finally Mr.Margaret who drove them all insane.

Erin, 5th grade

I could not have planned this activity.  It would not have worked if I had.  The student-driven wild writing that took place delighted this writing teacher’s heart, but I didn’t say that to my students.  I don’t want to ruin whatever ferocity that drove this activity by putting the teacher approval stamp on it.

Erin’s feral writing, pages and pages of writing.

 

Poetry Friday is at Jama at Jama’s Alphabet Soup.

 

Last week, I attended the memorial celebration for Linda’s dad. I was surprised to find out he loved poetry. So his daughters used poetry to voice their thoughts and memories of him.  Linda wrote a limerick and her sister Sallie wrote a series of 12 haiku.

After the service, I spoke with Linda’s sister Sallie. Sallie told me a story. Her father loved ice cream. He’d eat ice cream every night and served it to his multiple cats. Even on the night before he died, he had ice cream. She said a day later when all the family had gathered and were enjoying being together telling stories about his life, they heard the chiming of an ice cream truck. They live down a country road. The ice cream truck rarely comes, but it came that day. Serendipity or a message from her father, I felt compelled to share my favorite line of poetry.

This line is in Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem Ringing in her book A Maze Me.

Ringing
by Naomi Shihab Nye

A baby, I stood in my crib to hear
the dingy-ding of a vegetable truck approaching.

When I was bigger, my mom took me out
to the street
to meet the man who rang the bell and
he tossed me
a tangerine…the first thing I ever caught.
I thought he was
a magic man.

My mom said there used to be milk trucks too.
She said, Look hard, he’ll be gone soon.
And she was right. He disappeared.

Now, when I hear an ice-cream truck chiming
its bells, I fly.
Even if I’m not hungry–just to watch it pass.

Mailmen with their chime of dogs barking
up and down the street are magic too.

They are all bringers.
I want to be a bringer.

I want to drive a truck full of eggplants
down the smallest street.
I want to be someone making music
with my coming.

My friend Dani heard this story and made a graphic for me. To celebrate Naomi’s beautiful line, I decided to write a Golden Shovel. The poem emerged as a tribute to my mother and all mothers who sing to their children.

Lullaby

A baby, I
heard lullabies soft and low. I want
to hear her sing again, to
be that child hungry for the world, to be
laughing, listening, someone
who finds joy in making
songs of nonsense, music
only a mother loves with
an unexpectant heart. I hold my
ears close to the rain on the window. A song is coming.

–Margaret Simon, after Naomi Shihab Nye