Friday, March 11, 2016

Old Jottings + Old Photos + Old Jewelry = New Poem

Edythe Toebe, My Great Aunt
Photo by ?

Students - This poem is about my wonderful Great Aunt Tom.  Her real name was Edythe, but she went by the name Tom.  With sparkly blue eyes and a thousand artistic hobbies, she was a blast, and I miss her.  Many years ago, I even wrote an essay about her for our local npr station.  You can read it HERE if you wish.

Life gets busy, and I had not thought about my Aunt Tom in a while.  But then, it came time to write, and once again I didn't know what to write about, I opened a few old notebooks and began to paw through them, looking for a spark.  And happily, I found this, a notebook entry with some picture book ideas, an entry from 1999 (older than many of you!)

1999 Notebook Entry Sparks New Poem
Photo by Amy LV

Just as the book IF YOU GIVE A MOUSE A COOKIE by Laura Numeroff, one thing led to another, and reading this entry made me want to find Aunt Tom's old costume jewelry box.  I remember our oldest daughter playing with these sparkles shortly after Aunt Tom died.  When you open the box today, almost twenty years after Aunt Tom's death, you can still smell her perfume.

Aunt Tom's Pretty Jewelry
Photo by Amy LV

When I opened the box and smelled my Aunt's perfume again, writing the words did not feel difficult.  It was as if my aunt was right there with me.

What do you notice about the rhyme and meter in this poem?  

Many of you know that I love keeping notebooks, recommend that everyone keep a notebook, and even blog about notebooks at Sharing Our Notebooks, a site I've dedicated to just that.  Keeping a notebook, as the wise Shelley Harwayne once said, is like giving a present to your future self.  If I had not jotted in my notebook seventeen years ago, I would not have thought about my dear Aunt Tom this week.  One never knows when old jottings will come in handy...keep a notebook.

Today I am very happy to welcome fifth grade teacher Tracy Minton and her poets from the Douglas J. Regan Intermediate School in the Starpoint Central School District in Lockport, NY.  They have very generously offered to share some of their poems with us, and I've put them on a Padlet below teacher Tracy Minton's words.

Before really beginning our unit on poetry, I gave the students various books and poems to explore. They often read in pairs or small groups. We also read some poems whole group, talking about meaning and various techniques authors used. We learned some types of figurative language that might be found in poetry, and when reading various poems, we identified the figurative language used and discussed the meaning. Students explored writing poems using similes, metaphors, personification, onomatopoeia and hyperbole.

I also taught the students some elements of poetry such as: verse, stanza, meter, rhyme and rhythm. We read poems and highlighted the elements used. We also explored writing free verse poems. In mini-lessons we learned how to gather ideas, make lists, use emotions and put our hearts and souls into our poems. Many of my conferences involved helping the kids with line breaks and focusing on the real meaning that they wanted to give their audiences. 

For the easiest view of these students' poems, click to the Padlet HERE
(Read the instructions atop the page to see how to open each poem individually)

I am so pleased with the poems that my students wrote. They worked so hard for weeks, stretching their ideas and really pushing themselves to go out of their comfort zones.  They have truly amazed me as authors and poets!

Thank you very much to Tracy and her students for joining us today...I feel thankful to have the opportunity to share young poets' work in this space.

Over at Sharing Our Notebooks, you can see the winner of our latest giveaway and anticipate next week's new post.  Yay for notebooking!

This Poetry Friday, find the roundup celebrating a beautiful new picture book over at Irene's place, Live Your Poem.  While you're there, be sure to wish Irene a happy birthday week for FRESH DELICIOUS, her newest book of poems.  I'll have her visiting this space with more on that book next Monday.

Please share a comment below if you wish.


  1. Lovely.....I've been trying to write poetry of someone(s) I've lost. It's so hard to do and this is perfectly trim yet deep. Nice.

  2. Were your ears ringing today? We talked about you. I showed my students the interview on Today's little Ditty and we wrote poems about little things. They remember so fondly our Skype visit and the first view of Every Day Birds.

  3. Amy, your poem to your Aunt is a real tribute. I think death touches children hard so this poem of yours provides a lovely remembrance and recognizes that we can still be with our loved ones who passed away through memories or objects that we cherish. Children need to know that death is not meant to scare them. Your prose piece on your aunt is filled with voice and the beauty of small moments. Thanks for sharing the children's poems as well. They did a super job of learning about poetry and releasing their voices.

  4. I had an aunt like this...and I felt so deeply the verse about her sweater and its memory scent.

  5. What a sweet poem. Your Aunt Tom sounds like a real treasure. And what a treat for a little girl to have that jewelry box to play dress up with!

  6. Thanks for sharing your memories of a special aunt. I imagine your relationship with her influenced your poetry in many ways.

  7. I daresay that you have a full share of Aunt Tom in you!

  8. What a lovely sentiment to your Aunt, Amy. And hooray for Mrs. Minton's class for writing such awesome poems!