Sunday, January 9, 2011

Using a Timeline to Collect the Seeds for "I Come From" Poetry

By Sangita Burke, Grade 5

I come from a place where you never had a single scoop of ice cream
Until the day your American parents carried you away from that orphanage 
In the mountains of Nepal to a new life,
And that chocolate ice cream made you feel so sick 
Because it was foreign to your taste buds, 
That you ask your new mother to throw it out,
And from that day you have never liked the taste of chocolate ice cream.

The following lessons/activities were used as part of a unit in
Donna Dufresne's 5th grade The Hundred Penny Box (Picture Puffin Books)classroom in Pomfret, Connecticut.

We read The Hundred Penny Box, by Sharon Bell Mathis, emphasizing that biography and autobiography can be told in many ways, including timelines, photographs, quilts, songs, and, in this case, pennies. In the story, Aunt Dew keeps a hundred pennies in a box, each representing a year of her life. She has a memory attached to each penny.

We loved the idea that pennies could become a theme for a timeline. As a class literature response project, we created our own  Pocket Accordian Foldable® timelines. Make this Foldable® by creating an Accordian Foldable® out of Pocket Foldables®. Directions for the Pocket  Foldable® and the Accordian Foldable® can be found in most of Dinah Zike's books. We made ours out of colored 81/2" X 11" paper.

The timelines began with the collecting of pennies. The children had to find pennies with dates that corresponded with the years of their lives. For instance, if the child was 10 years old in 2010, they needed to collect pennies with the dates 2000-2010. The pennies were glued to the outside of each pocket of the Pocket Accordian Foldable® timeline. The years of the student's lives were also written on each pocket and a line was drawn to depict the timeline. Family photographs and other artifacts were placed in the pockets aligned with the year during which they occurred.

Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge (Public Television Storytime Books)Then, we talked about different kinds of memories and read the book, Wilfred Gordon McDonald Partridge, by Mem Fox, which defines memories as being “something warm, something from long ago, something that makes you cry, something that makes you laugh, and something as precious as gold.” Students recorded personal memories based on those definitions onto "five different kinds of memories" forms.

This gave us the framework for recording the five personal memories onto their timelines. After learning how to write short anecdotes that reflected different kinds of memories, we then turned the memories into “Where I Come From” poems.

How to Write "Where I Come From" Poems

By Shea Goudreau, Grade 5

I come from a place where the exchange of gifts happens 
More frequently than the changing of weather, 
And a gift from the heart is regarded as something more precious than gold, 
Because the air is filled with warmth and love, 
And when you give of your time, that is when you really give a beautiful thing.

The "Where I Come From" format is ideal for spoken word. It lends itself well to “Slam Poetry” because it can be turned into a very powerful performance, drawing upon light and dark experiences. Because it is meant to be spoken and performed, it relies upon an unconventional cadence and tempo, using commas to indicate pauses and breaths. This style of poetry reads like long, run-on sentences. If rhyme were used, it would sound like “rap music”.

In our class poems, we strung thoughts and images together using the conjunction “and” in the place of a new sentence or new line. During the final revisions, we worked on using author’s craft (figurative language – simile, metaphor) to paint vivid pictures. We discovered that some poems were all picture and no organized thought, while others were too much like a shopping list with no figurative language. Each poem was worked and re-worked by the whole class in revising sessions. We worked right from the computer, using the LCD projector.

The final poems were published into a Bound Book Foldable®. Each child glued a copy of everyone's poems into their Bound Book Foldable®, entitling it We Come From.

ByWill Boudreau, Grade 4

I come from a place where hot cocoa isn’t the only warm thing,
And a cold shiver will walk up your back when you rush in from the cold,
And you know when you wrap up in your mom’s arms you will eventually fall asleep,
And that warmth is like you are on a layer of the sun,
And you just know that you are O.K. 
The Hospital is Helpful
I come from a place where the hospital is helpful,
And it feels like the pain is worth it,
And everything will be all right,
Because the doctors are bees and you are the flower,
And you wish that you felt like this every time you go.
Seeing the Past

I come from a place where you really want to meet someone who is gone,
And it feels like you are the only one who cares about those old photographs,
And you know it is hopeless to shed tears that fall like seed memories onto your page,
And you just wish that he were next to you telling his stories one seed at a time.

I come from a place where birthdays make you laugh,
And it feels like it will never end,
While your hands act like shredders tearing the paper apart,
And you open your last present knowing you are DONE.


I come from a place where your teachers are like your best friends,
And it feels like you could be with them forever,
Where equations and formulas are like playing with your friends,
And you know those teachers will help you with anything,
And you wish school would never end. 

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