My class reads the poem "My Father's Tie Rack" by Joan Larkin twice -- once aloud and the second time silently -- to enhance understanding. I share the poem on the screen up front without the title. Students write down a guess for what the title may be in their writer's notebook. They identify one or two lines from the poem that they have used as clues for the title they have written down.
My students gather in their base groups to share their ideas and then vote on the one they agree is worth sharing out to the whole class. After each base group shares out their title and rationale with the whole class, I reveal the actual title.
Further discussion can ensue with students identifying lines/words from the poem that clearly point to the actual title. Discussion may reveal that this poem appears to be someone going through the remnants of a recently deceased father’s closet and imagining the memories attached to the variety of ties he owned.
Other details that can be explored if time allows include the following:
- Examining the use of fragments and word economy to create powerful images and suggestions. This is something that we often connect back to our style notes for narrative and other types of writing in our writer’s notebook. Students can create their own fragments in similar style for clothes that they are fond of wearing from these mentor text examples.
- Analyzing how the author personifies the ties as memories.
- Dealing with specific phrases like “the hole,” which implies the burial of the father or “Vishnu’s skin,” which is a reference to a Hindu god, often depicted with sky-blue skin, which symbolizes his formless and infinite power.
Drew Sterner is a Middle School ELA teacher in Central Bucks School District.