Exploring Poetry in Upper Elementary
UE 1 POETRY
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.
I Hear America Singing
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe
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, 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.
Say to me,
“Eat in the kitchen,”
They’ll see how beautiful I am
And be ashamed—
I, too, am America.
SAMPLES OF STUDENT POEMS
“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
But it is up to you to choose
If you will root for peace or for hate
“I Hear the Beach”
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