Exploring Poetry in Upper Elementary



Students read Walt Whitman’s “I Hear America Singing,” and we analyzed the poem together in class. We spoke about how this poem, originally appearing in the Leaves of Grass (1860), is one of the foundational texts defining a uniquely American voice in poetry.

We then spoke of how poets can reference one another, across time, responding to one another in the thread of literature, even if the poets were not contemporaries. About a century later, the preeminent African American poet, Langston Hughes, responded to Whitman with his poem “I, too.” We also discussed Hughes’ poem, and the message that it was sending, calling for inclusivity.

Then, inspired by the techniques of both poets, students wrote their own poems, which I am so proud to share with you here.

-Diana Norma

I Hear America Singing

            -Walt Whitman

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,

Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe

     and strong,

The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,

The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off


The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the

     deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,

The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing

     as he stands,

The wood-cutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the

     morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,

The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at

     work, or of the girl sewing or washing,

Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,

The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young

     fellows, robust, friendly,

Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

I, too

-Langston Hughes

 I, too, sing America.

I am the darker brother.

They send me to eat in the kitchen

When company comes,

But I laugh,

And eat well,

And grow strong.


I’ll be at the table

When company comes.

Nobody’ll dare

Say to me,

“Eat in the kitchen,”



They’ll see how beautiful I am

And be ashamed—

I, too, am America.


“I Hear Dreams” by Colin 

I hear the dreams, come coming true, some not.

     I hear the birds chirping, in the morning and in the evening.

          I hear squirrels fighting, for fun and for food.

                I hear fish splashing, few learn to fly.

                     I hear mothers calling their children for dinner.

                         I hear babies crying, for their dreams to come true


“I Hear the Cries” by Berla

I hear the young girl scream

And the grown man dream

The brothers yearn for freedom

And the sisters learn independence

The friends love peace

They wrap it around like a fleece

The wicked ones hate

And the humble ones 

Decide their true fate

Their fate is to let peace soar throughout the earth

And they shout words of peace

Most people have chosen their fate to bail out and to

Give up

But it is up to you to choose

If you will root for peace or for hate

“I Hear the Beach”

   -by Jed 

I hear the wind blowing

I hear the swans moaning

I hear the whale smashing

I hear the crab crawling

I hear the gull calling

I hear the fish splashing

And I see myself stare

At The Things Everywhere

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