This begins a series of stories about how the Arts help students. Today’s story is about how a poetry lesson helped a special student remember her mom:
Sarah came to me as a fifth grader. She lived with her grandmother and older sister since her mother died of cancer in the spring of her second grade. I asked the class to write “Where I’m From” poems* and Sarah’s first draft was rambling.
Conferencing with her, I suggested she make her mom the theme of her poem. Sarah liked the idea but reluctantly admitted she didn’t remember that much about her mom. Lately she’d even been having trouble remembering what Mom looked like. That made the idea even more worthwhile so I gave her a couple questions to prompt discussions at home.
For Sarah this project went on for several weeks. We got her extra computer time to revise her Mom poem several times. It became a way for Sarah to talk to her grandmother and sister while they reminisced. Specific events, not general thoughts, began populating Sarah’s poem. The family found a button made at the Puyallup Fair with Mom’s picture on it.
Sarah felt proud of her efforts – this was a project with deep meaning for her.
[Standards based: she went through the entire writing process.]
Sarah shared her poem with the class and received an ovation but that wasn’t the end of the story. I sent her poem to the News Tribune which published it on their student page. Sarah shared her reawakened memories of her mom with the readers of the City of Tacoma. Accompanying the poem was the smiling face of her mom from the Puyallup Fair button.
* [“Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon from Reading, Writing, and Rising Up: Teaching About Social Justice and the Power of the Written Word.]