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.
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,
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
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
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,
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,
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.
Counting the joys of childhood memories and country living.