Saturday, April 18, 2009


POETRY BREAK: SERIOUS--- A serious poem about a difficult or sensitive subject in children’s or teens’ lives

Livingston, Myra Cohn. 1982. “Poor.” Knock at a star: A child’s introduction to poetry. X. J. and Dorothy M. Kennedy, eds. Karen Ann Weinhaus, illus. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. 23.

In the deep cold of winter nights, when I go to bed, I think about all the homeless people who do not have a warm place to sleep, especially the children. Or I think about families who are living in their cars. Where do they bathe? How do they brush their teeth? I was told during education courses not to eat in front of students in the classroom because you never know if a child has eaten or not. Sometimes, as teachers, we don’t realize the serious situations our students are experiencing. The following poem, “Poor,” written by Myra Cohn Livingston is possibly told from the perspective of a child who is poor. Some children do not know any other way of life, but when a child from a financially poor family becomes a teen, he becomes aware of what others around him have and begins to feel outcast. Teens should be aware of the poor conditions in and outside of their communities. This poem could be an introduction to a current event study in social studies or health.

by Myra Cohn Livingston

I heard of poor.
It means hungry, no food,
No shoes, no place to live.
Nothing good.

It means winter nights
And being cold.
It is lonely, alone,
Feeling old.

Poor is a tired face.
Poor is thin.
Poor is standing outside
Looking in.

Poetry Break: Before reading the poem, pass out a graphic map that contains the title, “Poverty,” and the last line of each stanza of the poem. Pair the students and ask them to associate the phrases nothing good, feeling old, and looking in with the word "poverty," and to write their responses. Ask for volunteers to share their responses. Then introduce the poetry book, the author, and the poem. As usual, give students time to respond. See if any of them thought of the things mentioned in the poem. Ask for a volunteer to read the poem a second time as the idea of poverty soaks in.

Extension Activity: Have the students plan a library day to locate books about poverty to read more about the problem. (Be sure to scope these out in advance). Back in the classroom, create boxes of items to give to the poor. Find a local community organization that distributes goods to the poor. For example, in our community, VISTO provides a program called Backpack Buddies. The members fill up backpacks with nutritious snacks for children to take home over the weekend. Have the children bring one snack item and one item such as a bar of soap to class. Either create a food box, or fill a backpack (obtained in advance from the organization or donated by the teacher).

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