I’m From

Tuesday is for Teachers

Friday and Monday’s posts were about my roots and family legacies. Today’s post for teachers shows how you can use those memories to teach poetry writing. I used this idea for several years with 8th graders, but you could easily modify it to use with younger or older students. George Ella Lyon’s poem “I Am From” is the anchor for the lesson. I’ve posted her poem in Powerpoint slides under Free Teacher Resources page along with a rubric and an organizer for student-created poems. After reading her poem aloud, we looked at the categories in her poem to do some brainstorming. I presented my poem on Powerpoint but also showed the decorated model to give them ideas for their own poem.

I’m From

by Martell Souder, 2004

My roots go deep into Kentucky soil with annual summer visits to Tompkinsville

I’m from the place where Mama grew up-

Grandy’s white house in a little town

with a courthouse in the center.

I’m from farms in the country where

lots of kinfolk lived – cousins, aunts,

uncles, great aunts, and for awhile –

a great-grandmother, Mama Stephens.

I’m from sleeping upstairs at Grandy’s

in an iron bed

beside a half door that opened

into the dark, scary attic.

I’m from listening to rain fall

on the tin roof,

trying to hold “it” so I didn’t

have to use

the slop jar in the middle

of the night.

I’m from soft, mossy grass

under huge shade trees

beside the strawberry patch,

with a rope swing

hung from a high branch.

I’m from the small outhouse

near the chickenyard

and a garage with a coalpile

in the back.

The mysterious garage! The smell

of the packed dirt floor,

broom-handle horses waiting

in dark corners.

I’m from galloping across the yard

and down the gravel driveway,

holding the horse tightly in check

with shoestring reins.

I’m from summers with

no TV or airconditioning,

just hours outdoors

creating our own games,

arguing with each other,

and once in awhile answering

the call from the screen door

“Come throw these dinner scraps

across the fence to the chickens.”

I’m from white Adirondack chairs

arranged to create a playhouse

with Grandma’s quilts

as the ceiling and floor –

a cool, quiet retreat in a house

just for girls – me and Sue

to read, share secrets, and

make up story-lives for our dolls.

I’m from the front porch stage –

the scene of musicals and TV shows,

pretending to be Roy Rogers & Dale Evans

singing “Happy Trails to You”

(cowboys were big back then).

Performing songs and stories

from the Mickey Mouse Club.

I’m from the front porch church

where the boys led singing,

Preached, and prayed,

and the girls shushed our babies.

I’m from falling off the end of the porch

into the rose bush full of thorns,

and standing in front of a fan

to ease the stinging

while Mama dabbed me with

stinky-bright-orange Mercurochrome.

I’m from sweet tea with fresh mint,

fried squash, and cornbread,

sweet corn, limas and green beans

seasoned with fatback.

I’m from special treats at the end

of long summer days:

Coca Cola floats, homemade ice cream,

or watermelon

Making a mess but no one cared

since we were outside.

I’m from catching lightening bugs,

saving them in a canning jar,

And wading in the icy cold creek

at the farm.

I’m from learning to ride Broady,

a real horse, out at the farm

Slowly plodding down the gravel driveway

And me hoping she wouldn’t stop for grass.

I’m from learning to pick blackberries,

gathering fresh eggs,

Learning how hard it is to milk a cow,

Call the hogs (soooooo—weeeee),

And clean up the milk buckets.

I’m from learning a million things about

living in the country,

living with cousins,

living with grandparents

 just plain living.

My decorated version

Counting the joys of childhood memories and country living.

JoyMartell

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