In with the New



I came across this website of free vintage stock photos taken from public archives. They scream for a story or poem to be written about them! Who is up for the challenge?

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A Specular

The following piece is a ‘Specular’ poem. This form was created by Julia Copus – a British poet, children’s novelist, and radio dramatist. It is named after the Latin word for a ‘mirror’ “because the second half of the poem uses the same lines as the first, but in reverse order, as if the whole thing is looking back at itself in a mirror.”

My poem is from the point of view of Sadie Wynn, the main character in Marian Hale’s novel, The Truth About Sparrows. In this piece, the ‘mirror’ is a sea wall. It is written as if Sadie is looking at the wall, thinking about the promise she made to stay best friends with Wilma, her friend from her old home in Missouri.


I have a promise to keep.

Nobody seems to care.

Taking care of our family comes first,

yes, I get that, but can’t I be selfish when I know it is the right thing for


This beacon of hope is lighting a path for

a brighter future than the one we are stuck with now.

I wish we had something more

than these others, living in tar paper shacks –

we are better,

I am determined to find a way out

of this scorched existence.

I will use my stubborn ways and escape

the sweltering shadow of the sea wall.The Truth About Sparrows Cover


The sweltering shadow of the sea wall.

I will use my stubborn ways and escape

of this scorched existence.

I am determined to find a way out,

we are better

than these others, living in tar paper shacks –

I wish we had something more.

A brighter future than the one we are stuck with now.

This beacon of hope is lighting a path for


yes, I get that, but can’t I be selfish when I know it is the right thing, for

Taking care of our family comes first,

Nobody seems to care.

I have a promise to keep.



For My Students:

FINAL PRESENTATION for your own specular poem:

After you have written and edited your poem, you may then type it on your blog. When putting it on your blog, you must do the following:

  1. Put the ORIGINAL title of your poem in the title section for your blog post
  2. Copy,word for word, my introductory paragraph and put it as the beginning of your post. (Just change the part that talks about what the mirror is to fit your poem). You MUST link Julia Copus’ name to a website about her. To find her site, google: Julia Copus Specular poem, and the first website to show is a good one.
  3. Type your poem
  4. Add a picture to your post (link your picture)
  5. Publish your post
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Slice of Life – Anxious Ambiguity

I recently had a conversation with a coworker who heard a doctor speak about the most difficult part of dealing with loss: ambiguity. The people who have family members on the missing Malaysian Airlines flight are living through one of the most horrific losses. They do not know whether or not their loved ones are still alive, out in the world somewhere, in need of help – or, if they have died. Captain Tom Bunn, an airline pilot who dedicates his life to finding ways to treat flight phobia, wrote on Psychology Today:

“Suddenly I realized that what is bothering so many people is that there is nothing, no explanation, no clues, no radio transmission, no sign of the plane’s crash site, nothing. There is just a complete void of connection. Even an explanation would be a sort of connection with the people who are lost. Since there is no scenario of how they met their end, it is as if they stopped existing in a more non-existent way than if we knew how it happened.”

This unknown is why so many people are so anxious about this strange tragedy. I am thinking about the passengers and their families and constantly wishing for a miraculous outcome – one that is less likely, but holding onto hope is the only thing we have right now.

Anxious Ambiguity

Tickling the tummy with tenacious ferocity.

You thrive on the unknown,

the fears of those in your possession.

You are a common thief,

slowly stealing hope,

replacing the void with doubt.

You are a wicked one.

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Slice of Life – Momma Bear

I had trouble sleeping the other night.  It was so bad that I didn’t actually fall asleep until 3am, only to be woken up by my nerve-frying alarm at 6am.  Now, this isn’t a post to complain about my lack of sleep, but rather to get my dream out, onto the screen, so that maybe – just maybe I can forget about it!

The only thing I can actually remember about my dream is the one part that keeps haunting me. I was in some nondescript outdoor space with my two-year old son, Brady. Suddenly, a giant brown bear came for us, and it was up to me to protect my child.  The weight of fear pushes down on my stomach and anxiety pulls up through my throat each time I even think about the dream.  I just keep picturing myself on my hands and knees with Brady tucked under my body of protection – begging him not to cry so the beast wouldn’t think he was hurt and helpless pray. The bear kept pushing it’s head under me, trying to get at Brady. Just as the bear forced it’s wet nose and searing breath onto Brady’s head – I woke up.

I’m nearly shaking just typing this. Terrifying.

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Malingering Mondays/Slice of Life


Why is it that Monday mornings seem to be the most difficult day of the week to get going?  Well, I’ll tell you; it’s because the sweet taste of weekend freedom is still teasing the tongue like lazy dripping honey.  It’s slipping away slowly.  Taunting one to reach for more.

That’s how I felt this morning.  After spending a great weekend playing  outside with my two sons, it is hard to let go of that and return to work. I’ve definitely “got a case of the Mondays.”

Monday is marked by melancholy music

not drifting, silky, or sliding,

not perky or bounding in intoxicating tones,

but jerking, tugging, pulling me.

Teasing of the weekend gone and taunting about the week to come. 

Mondays call for malingering


According the the Merriam-Webster online dictionary, a slice of life is “of, relating to, or marked by the accurate transcription (as into drama) of a segment of actual life experience,” in other words “showing what ordinary life is like.” This, students, is going to be the topic for your posts every Tuesday during the month of March.

On the Two Writing Teachers blog you will see how Stacey Shubitz came up with the ‘Slice of Life’ writing challenge.  She found that one of her students had written a Slice of Life story in his journal which sparked the idea to use this format to get people writing more. 

Please look at the form I’ve created, using resources from Two Writing Teachers, along with my own additions to help you understand how we are going to do this challenge.  

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‘Inner Beauty’ by Elizabeth Chapman

My recent revelation was that I have been reading books with themes centered on appearances. Beginning with the non-fiction story An Invisible Thread by Laura Schroff and Alex Tresniowski, followed by Belle Prater’s Boy by Ruth White, and most recently Wonder by RJ Palacio.  These stories have a main character (or real-life person) that is wrongly judged by how he/she looks.

This is not only a topic that is resoundingly relevant for young adults, but one that even adults need to be reminded of.  Especially in today’s society, where women, and often men are portrayed as over ‘Photoshopped’, idealized sexual objects – reading about the good that is inside of someone, no matter how he/she looks is fundamental to our humanity.  (Check out this recent music video from Hungarian singer-songwriter, Boggie).

I have unfortunately witnessed students making a ‘game’ out of getting near a classmate who has physical limitations.  I have to remind myself that it is probably from deep-seeded fear of the unknown, fear of someone who looks ‘different’, that these students find solace in making fun of someone instead of just getting to know that person.  Let’s be honest, there are just mean people out there, but more often than not, kids just haven’t been taught how to be kind in all respects.  They don’t see that what they are doing can be incredibly hurtful to the person who is at the center of their cruelty. They are holding onto fear and letting that get in the way of being humane, thoughtful, and tolerant of others.  This is one reason why I love being able to teach with books.  Stories are the best way to teach a lesson without sounding preachy.  As said by Jessica Wise in her TED-Ed lesson: How Fiction Can Change Reality,

Researchers in psychology, neuroscience, child development, and biology 
are finally starting to gain quantifiable scientific evidence 
showing what writers and readers have always known: 
That stories have a unique ability to change a person’s point of view.

That is something that can’t just be taught by lecture or small group discussions.  People need an emotional connection to gain a deeper understanding.  It is that ‘below the surface’ lesson that can hold the biggest impact on a person.

Each of the novels I read has a multitude of themes beyond appearances, but it is this theme – along with the snow we’ve been getting lately – that was the spark for another tiny story.  I took an opposite approach than Auggie’s issues in Wonder (having a facial deformity, but being a magnificently beautiful boy on the inside).  Mine focuses on one who owns a disfigured soul that is masked by outer beauty.

Like the snowiest of days, you are beautiful to look at but treacherous to navigate.

I can only hope that throughout my years as a teacher, I help bring out the inner beauty in my students and ward off any inclinations towards treacherous attitudes.

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Tiny Stories


The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories: Volume 3

Beginning in 2010, actor/artist Joseph Gordon-Levitt began asking writers to send in their tiny stories to his collaborative website hitRECord. One of the website’s contributors, Wirrow, came up with the idea of writing stories that are no more than a few lines long. These stories are then illustrated and sometimes animated by the collaborators of the site.

Artists from around the world sent in their stories and many have been published into three volumes of The Tiny Book of Tiny Stories. You can see selections of tiny stories from Volume 3 on the Brain Pickings blog.

As for the actual length of a tiny story, according to Wirrow,

“It’s as long as a piece of string. A really tiny piece of string that can stretch out from your pillow to [a] forest, weaving through mountains on the way and birds perch on it and sing.”

So, here it is.  My tiny story:smoke monster

The long black tendrils of its ferocious fingers followed their familiar path – beginning the ritualistic suffocation. But something had changed. There was nothing to grip, for she had set the words free. Fear no longer had a hold on her.

Now for my students, you are going to create your own tiny story about yourself.  Use this form to get you started.

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