Memories: A Love Song for Philadelphia

Apr 28, 2013
Posted by: Sam
City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection

My students at the Beeber Middle School in Philadelphia are collaborating with a 4th grade teacher and her students at Independence Charter School to create montage to our city entitled, Brotherly Love. Brotherly Love is a musical response to the continued high levels of violence in Philadelphia.  Brotherly Love hopes to respond to this violence by doing an inquiry on what does brotherly love mean. I used poetry from The Best Teen Writing of 2012 as muse and mentor text to explore memory and the theme of love.

There is certain magic in memory. I used the poem “Take Me to Hullabaloo” by Lauren Feiner from the Bronx High School of Science to discover the pleasure nostalgia. I wanted my students to be able to juxtapose the positive expression of love to combat the daily occurrences of violence in the city. To envision a different world with less crime and human tragedy, I wanted my students to honor their past and see the beauty of love.

Ethelbert Miller in his memoir “Fathering Words” says it so eloquently “The absence of art is poverty… A true poet is a person of the heart. Somewhere it’s that thing called love that inspires one to sing. Out of the pain, joy, and sorrow a man or woman can discover their wings."  For my students to see past the horrors of poverty and crime, I needed models of poetry that demonstrated the art of imagery, repetition and the pleasure of sounds.

“Take Me to Hullabaloo”, is a titillating poem that evokes the power of memory.  Through a mini-lesson I provided my students an opportunity to talk about, respond, and read out loud stanzas of this poem to appreciate its pleasures and understand the nuances found in this work art. I asked my students what was the magic in the poem? I asked them what words are used to conjure up past memories. They immediately notice in the first 3 stanza, the repetition of the phrase “ Take Me.”

In previous lessons I modeled how to use the refrain “ I love” in draft of poem I composed, “The City of Brotherly Love.” I used my LiveScribe Digital pen to flip my classroom and allow students to see my messy writing process in real time. Students noticed how I used the refrain “I love” but they also saw where I got stuck.

Modeling my writing process and using mentor text like “Take Me to Hullabaloo” demystified using poetry to write about memories and also allowed students to use mentor text as seed ideas for their contributions for the lyrics for our "Philadelphia Love Song."

The excerpts that follow represent samples from both 7th and 8th grade students.

Sierra Scott
I love
The way you care, you protect
Me and also share… Your love
With other people, even the ones
Who did you wrong. You always
Stand strong.

I love
The way you love me, and love
How I dress and how I treat…
You and also other people. You
Love how I sometimes put people first.

Wayne Stackhouse
Take me back
To when love
Finds you and
Holds you close

Take me back
To when love
Depended on
You for comfort

Collinster Kannah
Love smiles
It grins with dimples
And shimmers with sparkling white teeth

Love speaks
It tells you everything is okay
But it also lies.

Love prays
It gets on its knees and praised
As it speaks in tongues.



Submitted by Abdel on Sun, 2013-04-28 13:29.

These student examples are well-crafted and give us an insight into what the kids responded to from Best Teen Poetry. This project captures so many of the best features of NWP: empowering student writers, being a writing presence in your own classroom, and writing what matters. 


Submitted by Sam on Sun, 2013-04-28 14:07.


I think it is so important to that we honor our students' voice. I tell my students all the time, words matter...

Hi Sam! Unpacking "brotherly

Submitted by Lorraine on Sun, 2013-04-28 13:34.

Hi Sam!

Unpacking "brotherly love." Love it! Perhaps this site could help your students share their memories, to, as you said "honor their past and see the beauty of love" visible to those who care to find surviving examples of it in our city. 


See you around!


Philly Love Notes

Submitted by Lorraine on Sun, 2013-04-28 13:37.

Hi Sam,

Unpacking "brotherly love." Love it. Here is a site that might help your students share their memories, to, as you said "honor their past and see the beauty of love" visible enough to those who still care to find surviving examples of it in our city: http://www.phillylovenotes.com/

See you around,