Poetry as a Meaningful Reflection on Life Experiences (4-6)


Introduction:  In my reading class of 4-6th graders, reading at a fifth grade level, I am reading aloud a book called Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan.  It is set in the past in India.  The main character, Koly, marries at a very young age, as many young Indians girls do.  In the book, quilting and embroidering are important themes of the story.  Memories of your earlier life as a child are often embroidered in quilts that prepare them for marriage and continue throughout one’s life.  We took this idea and related it in our own lives.  What kinds of memories make up our quilts?  We had a great discussion, and it sparked an idea to do some poetry with these images.  This discussion made me realize that it would work perfectly with the “I remember” lesson mentioned on p. 78-82 in the required text, Poetry Everywhere. 

Goals/Objectives:  Students will write a poem that is a meaningful reflection or memory of their lives.

Materials:  Homeless Bird by Gloria Whelan, paper, pencils, art materials (crayons, markers, colored pencils, etc…).

Procedures:  First, I read the first few chapters from the read aloud, Homeless Bird.  Daily discussions on the main character and her embroidered memories will be important to set the tone.  Take a good amount of time to allow students to discuss with each other what memories they would embroider if they were to create a personal quilt of their own.  What objects/shapes/pictures would be included?  Then share as a class.

          Next, students will write as many memories to complete the statement, “I remember…” Tell them it doesn’t have to be important, but can be just a memory that sticks out in their minds.  It can be anything from the day they were born to this very moment.  Allow students as much time as they need or you see fit to write as many “I remember” memories (see page 78 in the text, Poetry Everywhere).

          Next, have students, who wish to share, read some aloud.

          The next lesson involved discussing what good writing is.  I had them give me as many ideas to what makes good writing.  Keep going until you get something that relates to “details,” or “mind-movies.”   Focus on details, creating mind-movies, and appealing to the senses. 

          Next, have them choose one memory.  Have them focus on detail, creating a vivid picture, vivid colors, and sensory details that bring the memory to life, as if they were reliving the moment.  Students will find a thesaurus very helpful.

          I also met with students on an individual level to discuss their poem, focusing on word choice and form.  I gave suggestions to revisions and form of the poem. I also was able to do this while continuing my other curriculum in reading. 

          Ideally, I wanted students to be able to publish their work before this weekend, but was unable to complete that task. Instead, I had them write them neatly and draw a picture that represented that memory, keeping in mind that it was to relate to being embroidered on their memory quilt.


Evaluation:  If my students feel that they have accomplished something and feel proud that they are actual poets, I feel I have been successful.  Students were excitedly running up to me asking if we were going to work on “I remember…” poems.  Various students have been asking if we can share them.  Many, through gestures and their tone of voice, were very touched and proud of their poems that they created.  These poems are so personal and therefore, make them meaningful and special for everyone.

Follow-up:  I would like to see students share these, as long as they feel comfortable in doing so.  My reading class is very much a family, (I have them for the longest period of time in a block) and would like time to reflect and hear other poems that their peers have written.  An additional art activity would to by white fabric and have them trace their picture that represents the memory of the poem.  They can use fabric paints to decorate or crayons.  Crayon fabric would then be ironed and sewed together.  This can be displayed in the classroom or somewhere in the school for everyone to see.

Reflection:  I really think that next time, I would spend more time on students writing more detail, vivid descriptions, and using colorful words in their writing before doing this lesson.  They struggled in word choice and being able to add detail to bring the memory to life.    However, as I’m reading these poems, I am simply amazed.  Most of these poems were awesome and fun to read.  To see students proud to be writing poetry and to hear students talking enthusiastically about writing poetry makes me feel content and successful as a teacher.  I also feel that I know more about my students, and see more of their abilities and talents in this genre.  I couldn’t be happier with the outcome.


Collom, C. &  Noethe,  S. (2000).  Poetry Everywhere. New York: Teachers and Writers




Making an effort to increase student learning by integrating  poetry will help children gain meaningful context to their lives.