Tag Archives: challenge

Reflections on Writing: SOLC #31

On this 31st day of consecutive writing and posting, like so many others, I’m taking a moment to pause and reflect. I have to begin this post with thanks to the team at Two Writing Teachers for creating a challenge that is also an amazing community of thoughtful and welcoming writers and responders. Writing everyday is possible when there is a responsive community that makes the task feel both worthwhile and enjoyable–and keeps me accountable, if only because of my own sense of commitment.

This daily writing reminds me:

  • Writing begets writing: I always find myself most challenged in the first days of writing when it feels so hard to come up with anything to write about. I’m guilty of setting impossible standards for myself, paralyzing my writing brain. But I find that when I know I will write each day, I start to mine the ordinary for writing topics. This is such an important reminder for my teaching too. When my students expect to write each day, they begin to figure out what they want to write about. It’s important to establish a predictable practice.
  • Reading other writers is a treasure trove: I noticed tricks and structures that others used in their writing. I’m wishing I kept better notes about all the different approaches that I want to try on for myself and the ones that I want to offer to my students. And after reading some of theirs, I found myself inventing my own structures like Saturday Satisfactions.
  • Responses to my writing encourage more writing: I find more internal motivation to write when I know that someone else is reading it. It’s such fun to find another blogger returning to comment. And I often head off to that person’s blog to see what they are writing about…and how they are writing too.
  • Photography and writing (for me) are interrelated: When I find myself stuck, with nothing to say, I head out with my camera. And when photographic inspiration is not immediately evident, I have to figure out how to look in new ways. That search for an image also unlocks my blocked thinking about writing. I’ve found myself pondering a collection of photos to find a way into the day’s writing.
  • Writing for a public audience pushes me to find a positive slant: I don’t want to complain on my blog. I want to write my way into a more positive view of my world, my work, and the children I work with. Knowing someone else might be reading my writing pushes me to examine negative thoughts and look for potential solutions. I sometimes write myself into action.

I leave this post on the 31st worrying. Without this challenge will I write tomorrow? Luckily the Slice of Life Challenge is followed by National Poetry Month and I have already challenged my students to write a poem a day during the month of April. I know myself well enough to know that I will do it ONLY if I post the poem here, on my blog. So beginning tomorrow I will post a poem each day, continuing my writing practice for another 30 days!

SOLC: Headlong into the Storm

I’m not sure why I need an “official” challenge to keep up the daily writing, but whatever the reason…here is day one of my entry in the Slice of Life Challenge.  Thanks to those at Two Writing Teachers for offering this annual event.

After a week of above average temperatures, the weather suddenly turned yesterday afternoon.  The wind picked up, the clouds gathered, and meteorologists are predicting winter storms.  That actually means we have a chance of rain here by the coast and there are forecasts for snow in our local mountains!  And as much as I love the summer-like mild temps and the fact that I have been venturing into open-toed shoes in the last week, we really need the rain and snow!  Drought is unfortunately too common here–and drought means the likelihood of a fierce fire season.  And that is terrifying!

I’ve been trying to walk everyday, for both my physical and mental health.  My camera is my motivation…and the beach is my favorite location.  I wasn’t sure I would squeeze my walk in today–my husband isn’t too keen in walking in the wind–and I had resigned myself to a lazy Sunday catching up on some work that got neglected during an overly busy work week last week.  I didn’t even pick up my camera today.  But as we headed out to run a couple of errands and to grab a quick lunch, conversation turned to the possibility of a walk–and I wasn’t saying no!  My camera was at home–but my phone was in my pocket.

I love the moods of the beach.  The sky and surf, the birds and wind, the sand and rocks create an ever-changing kaleidoscope of views and conditions.  I pulled my hood up against the wind and set off down the beach.  The seagulls were swirling and squawking above me as the salty wind rushed against my face and sunglasses.  The waves chased me…teasing as the tide moved the shoreline away from the cliffs with an occasional push higher, threatening to drench my shoes.  The sun played hide-and-seek, dancing with the clouds, swinging out now and then to brighten the day.  I couldn’t resist a little game of chase with the ever-present seagulls…grabbing my phone to capture a photo or two of them in motion.

Can I maintain both a daily walk and a daily slice of writing through the entire month of March?  I’m going to try!

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Temporary: NPM 2019 Day 30

30 poems in 30 days…poof, April is done.

Today’s poem was inspired by the art I saw carved in the sand on my walk today and the power of fleeting experiences.

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Temporary

 

Swoops and swirls

scratched in the sand

transform the expanses of low tide

into a canvas

 

The view from above

reveals a seascape

nautilus shells and giant kelp

dwarfing people who mill around

brushstrokes along the shoreline

 

Like voices spoken into the wind,

laughter shared between friends,

the magic is elusive

rising tides erase each mark

washing the canvas

into the sea

 

Though seemingly temporary

art experienced,

laughter shared,

words spoken

leave trails in our brains

and on our hearts

 

A canvas wiped clean

makes space

for reimagined creations

interactions with

space, time

sand and sea

 

Temporary

is time enough

to make a mark

 

©Douillard

Searching for Blue: NPM 2019 Day 29

A weekend with a horrific shooting at a local synagogue and today’s unexpected downpour created a feeling of gray that seemed to seep through the bones into the soul.

On the second to the last day of National Poetry Month, here is my poem for the day.

Searching for Blue

 

Some days feel like

crawling through a tunnel of gray

sides pushing in

narrowing vision

muffling sound

restricting each breath

 

breathe in, breathe out

 

I search for a crack

a break in the tunnel

a space where light

threads through

brightening the sky

where streaks of blue open paths

to hope and possibility

 

©Douillard

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Wavy Turban Snail: NPM 2019 Day 28

Wavy Turban Snail

Wearing an elaborate castle

the wavy turban snail

pushes out its foot and sticks it to a rock

while salty waves splash

and then recede

exposing

the spiral  staircase

that reaches to the sky

embracing spring sunshine at low tide

wearing a feathery cap

or just bringing red algae

along as a friend

the snail pulls in

preserving the wet

and keeping the drying sun out

in its castle

on the rock

©Douillard

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Texture: NPM 2019 Day 27

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Impressions

My eyes trace the curves

filigree curlicues

etched

into what was once a smooth sheet

Blue peeks through

adding a pillow of soft

to the sculpted edges

Shadows cast on concrete

echo as sunlight

passes through

cooling the midday rays

Texture tap dances

on my heart

rhythms as reminders

that life takes place

in the spaces between

touch the raised surfaces

the dips and cutouts

the places we feel

leaving impressions

imprints

of life lived

©Douillard

 

Lifeguard Towers: NPM 2019 Day 25

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Lifeguard Towers

 

They rest on their haunches

waiting out winter

tucked away

in suspended animation

until the warmth

of summer’s sun

(along with the the assist of a tractor or forklift)

entices them to water’s edge

 

Spring teases

with bright skies

swimmers tiptoe

into chilly seas

but the towers know better

and will wait

for the border of

May gray and June gloom

to make their way

to their perch

along the shore

©Douillard

Feasting on Yellow: NPM 2019 Day 24

Still leaning on paint chips, I realized I had left mine in the classroom.  After my walk, with yellow on my mind, I stopped by the home improvement store nearby and picked up a few paint chips.

Our local beaches are not known for their floral beauty, but I was struck by the abundance of native flowers at a beach a bit north of where I usually walk.

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Feasting on Yellow

I feast my eyes on

lemon meringue

garbanzo paste

English custard

plantain chips

sprinkled with turmeric

So many yellows

shards of sunshine

sprinkled across fields

taking root

dancing on my taste buds

I sip on spring’s energy

fragrant blossoms

bubbling, fizzing

unfolding

in my belly

I leave craving summer

©Douillard

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Between practicing for our state tests, our minimum day, and too many other demands, we didn’t have time for any sustained poetry writing in class today.  Here’s a couple of student poems from earlier in the week.

Rose Colored Glasses

I have my rose colored glasses on,

the grass is always greener.

I am going to the foggy harbor,

it’s a long drive so I need to take a taxi.

I still have my rose colored glasses on,

I will never take them off.

–Leah F.

 

Word Rocket

Poetry is like a rocket

blasting you off to a new world

of poems

and new vocabulary

plus new techniques

The fun thing is

your rocket never runs out of fuel

just keep exploring

in the galaxy of words

–Aspen

 

More Poetry Play: NPM 2019 Day 23

Today we went for it…paint chip poetry, metaphor dice, and Haikubes!  Students picked what they wanted, rolled dice, and wrote.  Poetry is flowing–some silly, some serious, and some simply beautiful.

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There’s something precious about the misconceptions students have about some of the paint chip colors.  Wax seals frolic in waves, pearly gates are beautifully adorned entryways, wisdom teeth make you smart, and blizzards create the icebergs that sank the Titanic.  But I also love the way they make these words work for them, weaving them into their 8 and 9 year old views of the world.

Here’s a smattering of poems that emerged today.

This is Just to Say

This is just to say

I was eating grapefruit

on the way to the pearly gates

I saw so many sunflowers

across the way

This is just to say

that everything that I saw

inspired me today!

McKay

 

Outside

the dappled sunlight

is shining so bright

on the dandelions

in the grassland

Leah P.

 

As you stare at a chalkboard

you move slow

as you see a wax seal

you go closer

it is so detailed

as you start to hear a whale song

you love the slow, loud musical whale song

you keep hearing it

then you see a seal jumping in the waves

it looks like a wax seal.

Brooks

Last night I invited students to write Poetry Is poems.  Here is the one Alice wrote:

Poetry

Poetry is like

weaving

threading words

together

to create something

beautiful

When I listen

to poetry

sounds jumps out

sounds as loud as

a bear’s roar

or as soft as the

fluttering

of

a butterfly’s

wings,

all waiting be heard

Poetry can feel

as smooth

as silk

or as gravelly

as loose

cement

Poetry can taste

like sunshine

on a platter of gold

or like

melted stone

in a bowl

of rubber

Poetry can change

Alice

And my own, inspired by a few paint chips (and a cube I forgot to use!):

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Poetry is

the sweet pop

of purple joy

pulled from the blackberry bramble

key lime so tart

it puckers your mouth

and makes your saliva run

warm sticky honey

that reminds you

of summer days of youth

the blues

played low and slow

lamenting opportunities lost

hinting at possibilities

yet to come

©Douillard

 

Paint Chips and #USvsHate: NPM 2019 Day 22

I finally got the chance to break out the Paint Chip Poetry with my students–and they loved it! I shared a few of my attempts, explaining how the poems don’t have to be about color…they could use the paint chip words with whatever topic they wanted.

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And because there is an #USvsHate deadline for student anti-hate messaging on Friday, I encouraged students to write anti-hate poetry.

I wish I had taken a photo of the paint chips upside down on the back table where students were invited to choose 3 or 4 at random.  Some cheated a bit–giving back chips that they didn’t understand or didn’t like.  And some “borrowed” paint chip words that they saw and liked…from one of my poems or something they saw as I showed the huge variety they would have to choose from.

Some of the poems were simple…but oh, so interesting.  Aspen pulled “Sahara” as one of the paint chips and wrote this:

As I moonwalk

in the Sahara desert

I look up and see

the magical blue moon

and then look ahead at the

endless dunes

Luca (who broke his arm over the weekend and had to write wrong-handed today) wrote about the Earth on Earth Day.

Earth

It’s the neighbor

to the red planet

but unlike Mars

with its radical red

our world has a verdant green

and heavenly blue

with white clouds

like a blank canvas.

And Hudson, often reluctant to commit words to a page, wrote this piece in about 2 minutes! Clearly paint chips inspired him!

As I cross

those pearly gates

and cross the antique brass

I boarded that old ship

and expected smooth sailing

But soon a blizzard

created an iceberg

and before you know it

a big chunk of ice

sank that old ship that they called

the Titanic

And a couple anti-hate poems.  It was fun to see both the paint chip influence AND the influence of some of our class read-alouds.  We recently finished reading Save Me a Seat about a 5th grader who had recently immigrated from India to a school in New Jersey.  He found himself the victim of a charismatic, mean bully–making fun of him and treating him badly–to the point that he wanted to quit school.  The characters learn a lot about themselves…including the power of reflecting on their own actions.  I see evidence of this book in Elli’s poem:

Her name is Sunset

people think its weird

but I don’t get it

As she watches the bird making a nest

someone out of nowhere said

I hate you and hate the birds

As your wisdom tooth is growing

and the fire is blowing

hate shouldn’t be a thing

but kindness should always be a part of our life

the kindness of our joy

will bring us love

bad names like curryhead or bom bom butt

say who cares because that’s junk

things that do matter

are happily happy things

hate or no hate?

And Henry is thinking about how to make a difference through his poem.

US vs Hate

In a garden bed

with four leaf clovers

A boy makes good luck

turn into real life.

His wish was for everyone

to feel like they’re special.

A tiny change

makes a big change

A tiny change

makes everyone change.

For my poem I pulled four chips: wonderful wisteria, smoke signal, black tie, and lily of the valley.

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Sending Signals

Watch out for words

thoughts’ smoke signals

have fire to burn

causing damage beneath the skin

Don’t let a disguise

of suit and black tie

mask the danger,

excuse the vitriol

Listen carefully to your own words too

smell them

consider how they will affect others

Are you spreading wonderful wisteria,

lily of the valley

or the stink of malice

and stereotype?

©Douillard