I first used the song "A Long and Happy Life" by the band Delta Rae with my class to spark a Writer's Notebook piece about my students' roots. "I was born to..." or "I was raised by... " make excellent starters for students to explore their heritage in words, perhaps even using quick images and figurative language as the songwriters do in the song.
Some of my students this year wrote lines like "I was raised by a strict Jewish mother and a free-spirited Catholic father" and "We were born to improve the world" and "I raised with brothers who tackled each other for fun" and "I was born to be everything my dad could not be." These lines are windows into my students' lives and afforded me views I might otherwise overlook.
This song is my Poem of the Day about a week prior to starting our personal narrative writing project, and it is the perfect way to start thinking about the stories that make my students the people they are today and the adults they are becoming. Try sharing this song or maybe one of your personal favorite. Find lines in the lyrics that empower new writing ideas for your students and help them to explore their roots. In my classroom, we even begin to write as the song is playing.
I should also add here that Delta Rae often offers a free ticket giveaway for teachers on their summer tour, a drawing I won (thanks to some generous student nominations) for their Philly 2018 concert. This band puts on one of the most phenomenal live music shows I've seen, and they have a genuine appreciation for the work of teachers. I can't wait to see them in concert again in May! Much love to Delta Rae :)
Brett Vogelsinger is a ninth-grade English teacher at Holicong Middle School in Bucks County, PA. He has been starting class with a poem each day for the past six years and is the creator of the Go Poems blog to share poetry reading and writing ideas with teachers around the world. Find him on Twitter @theVogelman.