He was a big man, says the size of his shoes on a pile of broken dishes by the house; a tall man too, says the length of the bed in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man, says the Bible with a broken back on the floor below the window, dusty with sun; but not a man for farming, say the fields cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn. A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall papered with lilacs and the kitchen shelves covered with oilcloth, and they had a child, says the sandbox made from a tractor tire. Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves and canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole. And the winters cold, say the rags in the window frames.
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She also spent several years as a teacher consultant for the Illinois State Writing Project. You can reach her at annkellycox gmail. The poem works well for a couple of reasons: It dispels two myths that my students often believe—that poetry is difficult to understand, and that poetry must rhyme. It is deceptively simple. Students find the poem easy to comprehend, but as they discuss the piece in more detail, they can discover elements such as personification, figurative language, diction, and repetition.
I like to begin this lesson by projecting the photo below. Ask students to examine the objects in the room, then make inferences about what type of person resides here. Give students a minute or two to write, then open up a brief discussion about who might sleep in a room like this.
Encourage students to point out details from the photo that help support their inferences. We listen to the poem twice—the first time just to appreciate the poem, the second time to examine the poem more closely. I frequently start poetry discussions with general questions, such as: What jumps out at you? What do you notice? Sometimes these questions are enough to spark a great conversation, but if the discussion stalls, you might also consider asking the following questions: Who is the speaker in this poem?
What poetic device is being used here? What do we learn about the former inhabitants of this house? Why did the people abandon this farmhouse? Which ones did you notice? What effect do they have on the poem? Depending on the level of your students, you may have to be more specific in your questioning. Ask them to find examples of repetition or figurative language, for example. My students, regardless of age or ability level, often struggle to identify the tone of a poem.
Then ask students to do the following: Circle diction that indicates the tone. Draw a picture that illustrates the tone word you selected. There are several extensions to this lesson I have found to be successful: Use this poem as an introduction to a unit on Of Mice and Men. Speculating on why the people abandoned their farm can lead into a lesson on the factors that caused the rise of migrant workers in California.
You could even have students do some research on the U. The slam poet Taylor Mali has a great ready-made handout you can use. This poem naturally lends itself to wondering about the former inhabitants of the house. Invite students to create the dialogue between the husband and wife that led to their departure.
This would also be a great way to review how to correctly punctuate dialogue. Invite students to wonder what happened after the family abandoned the farmhouse.
In my research for this post, I discovered that Ted Kooser had been U. Poet Laureate from I wondered how much or how little our students know about this prestigious position and the poets who have held the title. Together these musings sparked the idea for a new series here at Teach Living Poets. The Poet Laureate Project will feature a different U. Poet Laureate each month during the school year. I plan to spotlight one or two of their poems, suggest activities to use these pieces in the classroom, and touch upon their contributions to the promotion of poetry in America.
I hope you found my Ted Kooser suggestions helpful. Join me again next month, when the featured Poet Laureate will be Rita Dove. Thank you, Ann, for sharing this lesson with us!
I am looking forward to learning more about US Poet Laureates with you throughout the year! Thank you for reading! Do you have a story, lesson, activity, or something else to share with TeachLivingPoets.
Be a guest author! Email me at msmith lncharter. You can follow me on Twitter at MelAlterSmith and please tweet all the awesome things you are doing in your class with the TeachLivingPoets hashtag! Like this:.
Analysis of Poem "Abandoned Farmhouse" by Ted Kooser
Ted Kooser is the first U. Poet Laureate choosen from the Great Plains and "a major poetic voice for rural and small town America," according to James Billington, Librarian of Congress. Kooser was appointed laureate in after a year career as a poet. Ted lives on a farmstead outside rural Garland, Nebraska, and teaches at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln where he is the recipient of the first U of N Presidential Professorship. Now, this poem "Abandoned Farmhouse" has been used in dozens of school anthologies. And I gather from talking to teachers, that the reason is because it provides a model for showing children that you can draw life from details.
Themes Some prominent themes in this poem are failure, abandonment and different ways of seeing. Kooser writes that the man was "not a man for farming. Kooser also writes that "money was scarce" for the family. Kooser also makes reference to "the weed-choked yard. A person can be physically present while still exhibiting signs of abandonment. For example, despite having given up and stopped trying to grow and improve, you can still absently continue to show up for class every day; this, too, is a form of abandonment.
Poetry Out Loud
Email this page Courtesy of Blue Flower Arts Ted Kooser is known for his poetry and essays that celebrate the quotidian and capture a vanishing way of life. The aim of the program is to raise the visibility of poetry. In short, I want to show people how interesting the ordinary world can be if you pay attention. His style is accomplished but extremely simple—his diction drawn from common speech, his syntax conversational.
Exploring Ted Kooser’s “Abandoned Farmhouse”
He was a big man, says the size of his shoes on a pile of broken dishes by the house; a tall man too, says the length of the bed in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man, says the Bible with a broken back on the floor below the window, dusty with sun; but not a man for farming, say the fields cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn. A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall papered with lilacs and the kitchen shelves covered with oilcloth, and they had a child, says the sandbox made from a tractor tire. Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves and canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole. And the winters cold, say the rags in the window frames. It was lonely here, says the narrow country road. Something went wrong, says the empty house in the weed-choked yard.
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