Field Note Friday: “A Hymn to Childhood”

Welcome to my new meme: Field Note Friday!  Each week I will attempt document some small lesson or activity that I have done in my classroom, usually just one small snippet of the entire lesson cycle.

This week, my students and I read “A Hymn to Childhood” by Li-Young Lee.  I wanted to introduce them to Lee’s work and get them ready to analyze his poem “A Story,” which appeared on the AP Literature exam in 2011.

This was a more difficult poem than the few we read previously in class, but I was curious to see what they could do with it.  Part of working with my students on poetry is simply building their confidence.

After examining the literary techniques in small groups, I asked each student to write a one sentence response to the following question: “What is one thing Li-Young Lee is saying about childhood in this poem?”  Notice that I don’t ask “What is this poem about?”  I am simply asking them to identify one insight the poem is offering. 

I thought they did pretty well. Here are pictures of their responses: 



  1. Oh man, Li-Young Lee is so great. He gave a reading at UC a couple years ago while I was in grad school, so we read “Behind My Eyes” before he came. His reading style is so interesting: not slow motion, but there’s so much space in it to listen, to reflect. His poems are often reflective in a way Merton would have liked, I think. They invite you to reflect by thinking about his words, but also to reflect by answering with memories of your own. What in childhood were you afraid of? What photographs were emblems of your childhood home? What events do you remember that impacted those around you more than they impacted you? Good, good, good.


    1. Oh, I would have loved to have seen him. I’m glad you mentioned that because I played the recording for my students, and we noticed the pace of his reading was different from what we were expecting. I would like to think about how to help high school students think about reflective reading more. If I had them deliberately practice it, they might see better the effect his reading style can have.


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