Picture this

He whines.
I look up.
Bothered by the disruption
my annoyance is met with a look.
He continues to stare. Probably thinking unkind thoughts.

Rousted from my comfort, I check
the bowls. Full.
The answer must be outside.

I open the door
out he prances,
paws in pursuit.

Done. I presume
returning to where I left off
I sense I’m being watched.
My unslakable explorer awaits.

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Poetry Friday: Lifting the Veil

After reading Jan Burkins’ post about her One Little Word, Open, I happened on to a poem by  Mary Oliver that seemed to fit perfectly. I sent a picture via tweet. Her reply has me on a hunt for my “OLP” for 2017. One that might keep my eyes lifted towards my OLW and the world.
A quick google search of “lift and poetry” found this quote and the original source, Shelley’s essay A Defense of Poetry. I was not an English major, so this manifesto written in 1821 is new to me. The twenty-plus pages are worthy of study. There are many lines to be lifted.

For today, this line lifts me. And reminds me of the haiku a day challenge Mary Lee Hahn started in December.

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Poetry does this and more. Looking closely and attempting to articulate what I see, lifts the veil; helping me find words and new ideas each day.

Sun streaks down the chair
infiltrating the bedroom
Wayward clouds linger

Thank you, Linda, for hosting Poetry Friday. Read more poetry thoughts, here, at Teacher Dance.poetry-friday-1-1


Celebrate: Traveling Mercies Haiku

This week, I celebrate haiku style.
I celebrate the time and effort it takes to be with loved ones.
Happy Holidays.


Traveling home clouds
dancing backlit characters
passing performers.

Dragons and bunnies
fight for daylight remnants
adapting vapors.

Distant sun rays point toward
sheltered harbor — a respite
for the next journey.

“…most of the time, all you have is the moment, and the imperfect love of the people around you.”  — Anne Lamott, Traveling Mercies

Thank you, Ruth Ayers, for encouraging celebrations each week at Discover, Play, Build.


Celebrate: Read Aloud in their Midst

Elevation matters.

Even the slightest height inequity sets a tone.

I pulled kids to the carpet for Read Aloud. (Notice the emphasis?)

This time of the year, students become a little resistant. They are comfortable with me and more self-conscious about their 10 to 11-year old bodies. Add in a bit of fatigue and sunshiny day and there is a recipe for even the most willing to start to lingering at their desks when called to the carpet. I can see this thought on their faces: Am I a little too old for carpet sitting? 

I saw an open space on the carpet; just big enough for me. I grabbed A Writing Kind of Day by Ralph Fletcher and sat down in that spot. I leaned back against the corner of the bookshelf.  We were knee to knee, eye to eye. K laughed and said, “This is so weird!”

I opened to Poetry Recipe and started to read, til we got to the end …

I picked up my best friend’s pen
that I’ve kept in my drawer
ever since he moved away.

I took a deep breath,
opened my notebook,
and started to write.

They sat listening. Mouths open.

Just like Ralph,
I said,
let’s remember
a someone or something
you know, miss, or care about.
Open your notebook.
Put yourself there.
Look, smell, feel, hear.
In you mind,
look to the left,
write what you see.
Now to the right,
write what you smell.
Reach out in your mind’s eye,
write what you feel.
Close your eyes
and listen.
Write what you hear.

They sat and wrote
on the carpet.

This week I celebrate Read Aloud’s superpower: flexibility.

Read aloud allows us to adjust our stance with students and text. Sometimes were are in the thick of it.  Sometimes we listen in, observe; coach; direct. Sometimes we take our pens and study text. Letting the words move our pens, as thinkers, as readers, as writers. And sometimes we let words wash over us.

Writing beside them is nothing new. Sitting, in a place where a student usually sits, changes stance. Everything looks different, from my perspective and theirs. Read aloud lets me be with students. This week I celebrate being in their midst.

Thank you, Ruth, for Celebrate this Week. Read other celebrations here.



Poetry: An Added Essential

I woke up too early, too cold, too dark to get up. Not able to push the covers off, not able to go to sleep. Silence in the house but a roar in my mind. Still body. Mind tossing.

I thought of getting up, to write a post, but the covers were too soft. My hand wandered over to my bookshelf and reached out to find a slim volume ensuring poetry. Luck of the draw, Billy Collins, The Trouble with Poetry.

Under the covers it took me, each poem touching a cord, a place, a friend, a student, a writer. Early morning communion.

I added the volume to my bag. Alongside my computer, my writer’s notebook, my wallet, keys, a zippered bag of favorite pens, a bookmarked novel.  An added essential. At the ready.

This morning I get up to write and there it is, next to my writer’s notebook. A perfect fit.

This morning, this poem.


There is the sudden silence of the crowd
above a motionless player on the field,
and the silence of the orchid.

The silence of the falling vase
before it strikes the floor,
the silence of the belt when it is not striking the child.

The stillness of the cup and the water in it,
the silence of the moon
and the quiet of the day far from the roar of the sun.

The silence when I hold you to my chest,
the silence of the window above us,
and the silence when you rise and turn away.

And there is the silence of this morning
which I have broken with my pen,
a silence that had piled up all night

like snow falling in the darkness of the house-
the silence before I wrote a word
and the poorer silence now.

–Billy Collins

Please be sure to visit Michelle Barnes at her blog, Today’s Little Ditty, for the Poetry Friday Roundup.



SOL16: When They’re Ready, Writers Bloom

I didn’t see it. I drove by daily and hadn’t noticed. But Sunday, there it was. A single plant amongst the weeds: tall purple spires of the Pride of Madiera. They blossom this time of year. And it always surprises me. I forget they’re there. Waiting for the right time and just enough water. Every year they come out to claim the hillsides, and a sad looking field of weeds transforms.  Color. 

It happens in the classroom this time of year. Amongst the weeds of fifth-grade drama, some writers show up. Stories and poems filled with voice.

Last week, we started working on a classroom poetry anthology. We dabbled in a bit of narrative writing too. The notebooks house their poems. Google docs hold their stories.

Lunch time rolled around yesterday, and kids come to talk, to eat and talk, to eat and talk and write. Usually, their writing is digital. But today they noticed the poems I’d put on the wall.

“Someday I’m going to do this,” T said, and she pointed at a concrete poem.

I thought she meant the form.
But that wasn’t it.
She wanted to put a poem on the wall.

I told her, go ahead. Claim a space.

Next thing I know, color.

Just yesterday, there was nothing there.
Now poems decorate the door.

It happens this time of year. Every year it surprises me. I forget they’re there. Waiting. When they’re ready, writers bloom.

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Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. Read more slices here.

Poetry Friday: Floaties

If I let it, all it takes is a phrase, a word to spur me on to write poetry.

This line, swimming in an ocean of unknowns, from Elisabeth Ellington’s poem spoke to me.  Leigh Anne’s poem about her little corner of the world inspired Elisabeth to write.

My students and I are similar this way. We hold on to the poets around us. They support us.  We use a word, structure, an idea to give us confidence. Then we can let go of the edge and swim in the deep end.


Swimming in an ocean of unknowns
as if I know what will happen
I’m holding on.

Moving in the turbulence,
exuberance spills
and bounces voices around the room.

Words jump, and we grab
and let thoughts grow between
as they settle on the page.

Thank you, Laura Purdie Salas, for the Poetry Friday Round Up on  Writing the World for Kids.

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Slice of Life: Poetry Teaching Points

It’s April, and I’m writing a poem a day.  Poems are hiding in my writing notebook. Tucked away. For me. It’s about volume. Not perfection.

Like me, the classroom writing turns towards poetry. The openness of poetry allows for lots of possible. And with that kids can feel uncertain. It’s scary. Not always pretty. Shaky ground.

I know what I want. I want to them to find meaning and soak up poems.  To wordplay. To make color happen on the page and find white space. To not be afraid.

To do that, I start with a plan that grew out of TCRWP’s poetry unit of study and a bit of Ralph Fletcher. It will be an adventure!

Poetry Teaching Points
Poets notice
Poets walk, look, and realize.

Poets collect
that hide in notebooks
turn jots into drafts
Poets circle, a line, a paragraph, and mold it.

Poets reflect
I’m writing about this because . . .  
This is important because . . .
I used to think . . .
But I learned . . .
So now I think . . .
I want my reader to feel or think . . .
One thing that may be missing here is . . . .

Poets find
an image
the setting
an object.
Poets choose words, a surprising detail
add emotion, create mood and evoke a reaction.

Poets say
Poets close their eyes and picture.


Thank you, Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. Love to all that slice and those who venture into poetry. Read more slice here.




Celebrate Found Poetry at Catalina

For me, teaching as a very close cousin to researching. It’s a natural next step to ask students what they think after or before or during any teaching experience. I do this for the same reasons anyone does research: to understand, to validate, to improve our world.

Friday, we came home from a three day, two night trip to Catalina Island. On the boat ride home, I asked each student two questions: What did you learn and what did you love about Catalina.

Some response were factual; others shared big ideas. Realizations about themselves and the world. Sometimes the answers to loved and learned were indistinguishable. Filled with facts, ideas, and emotions, each child told what they valued most. Where they are right now.  The poem below is my analysis of the data.

Found at Catalina

a lot in a little pinch.
Shape affects how they move
hydrostatic skeletons made from the water.

depend on algae
our food, the water.

Fifty percent of the shark species is smaller than an adult human.
Sharks die every day because of human actions.
Sharks aren’t that dangerous.

The bottom of the ocean is dark, lonely, and cold
big eyes or not at all they
use senses to find their way

stars at night
glow in the dark.
There is nothing to be scared of.
I can float.


Poetry Friday: Reading Reclaimed

I found my reading self in a book, and I’m grateful.

The book that took me there was Stoner by John Williams. First published in 1965, it sold only 2,000 copies. It’s an Everyman story written to perfection.

Much like the protagonist in the book, Williams was a teacher, a professor of literature.

In a 1985 interview, Williams criticized the direction of the teaching of literature and the growing attitude toward text “as if a novel or poem is something to be studied and understood rather than experienced.” And in response to the question, “And, literature is written to be entertaining?” he said,

 “Absolutely. My God, to read without joy is stupid.”

Reading Reclaimed

To find joy in the journey, to shed a tear or laugh out loud.

But also,

joy in words.

How they line up

on the page

and sing

all by themselves.

When I can’t help but say,

oh, my.

I’ve missed it.

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Thank you to Tabatha Yeatrs at the Opposite of Indifference for hosting Poetry Friday.