Poetry Friday: “Fifth Grade Autobiography”


Over the past few weeks I’ve been working with 8th graders on poems inspired by memories. After brainstorming possible topics, they began drafting. I was in awe of the depth and range of emotions and tones in their writing, from witty to heartbreakingly serious.

As we began revising, it was clear that they needed some mentor poems to help them think about line breaks. After spending some time on The Poetry Foundation’s archive of poems for children, I found this beauty by Rita Dove.

“Fifth Grade Autobiography”
by Rita Dove

I was four in this photograph fishing
with my grandparents at a lake in Michigan.
My brother squats in poison ivy.
His Davy Crockett cap
sits squared on his head so the raccoon tail
flounces down the back of his sailor suit.

My grandfather sits to the far right
in a folding chair,
and I know his left hand is on
the tobacco in his pants pocket
because I used to wrap it for him
every Christmas.

Read the rest of the poem here.

Please be sure to visit the lovely Laura Purdie Salas at Writing the World For Kids for the Poetry Friday Roundup.

10 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: “Fifth Grade Autobiography”

  1. This is indeed beautiful. It’s one of those earthy, gritty sweaty poems, almost. A real life vignette, as opposed to a sugar glossed image. I’m reminded of Mary Lee’s poetry project during poetry month. I am sure there will be many rewarding moments with the students as you continue your unit.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Catherine, this poem is a great find. I love it! Thank you for sharing. I plan on using it during PD with teachers and am always happy to share the power of connected edus to point me in the right direction for additional resources on social media.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is a lovely memory poem, Catherine, just right to show the details in our memories. I love that part about the sun through the trees making shadows on grandmother’s dress. I hope you share some of the poems that your students write.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What a good choice of a mentor poem. When I used to write a regular poetry column, I wrote an article on line breaks (I chose topics about which I wanted to learn more). I think it’s a sometimes ignored aspect of writing free verse.

    Liked by 1 person

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