The holiday season can be a frenetic time. One 3rd grader summed up the hurried energy in their Ode to Christmas:

Visiting relatives is as busy
as a herd of cows
everyone is excited and
rushing home
like termites
getting food.

Around this time, I have students reflect on the gifts they have received that are the most dear to them. Usually these are not the most expensive gifts. They are the gifts that are given with intention, the ones where the giver thought hard about what the receiver would like to receive. These are gifts we use everyday or gifts we keep in a special place that only we know.

This lesson is inspired by a poem by Salish poet Jennifer Greene titled “What I Keep”. She begins:

You brought me a turtle,
small, old and green
because he was beautiful
and alive.

I ask students to think about why a gift they received was special. What did they love doing with it? How did they play with it? I challenge them to think of gifts that might not have been bought, gifts that could have been found or could be alive. Or the gift of an experience, a special time with a loved one. Then I ask them to describe the gift using 3 different adjectives or phrases that focus on  different parts of the gift. With “small, old and green,” Jennifer Greene describes the size, age, and color and provides a well-rounded mental picture of the gift.

Recently, at Potomac School, I taught this poem to Kindergarten/1st Grade classroom. I asked each student about their gift and they provided delightful answers. I loved how they focused on some of the small, seemingly inconsequential details of the gift that delighted them such as the “real steam” of the toy train, the “friendliness” of the spider man, or the “vegetables” in the toy kitchen. The full poem of this K/1 class is below. I hope you can read it and be inspired to write your own “What I Keep” or “Gifts you Gave Me” poem for the holidays. The poem itself could be a gift to someone special, thanking them for all you have received from them.

Happy Holidays!
Nick Littman
MWC Writer and Programs Director

You gave me a snake
with a triangle shape on his back
I let him out and he
slithered all over my bedroom

You gave me a toy kitchen
it is grey and black with vegetables
I like to play with it for a half hour

You gave me a toy cow named Moo-Moo
cute, black and white, bigger than a hand
I snuggle her in bed
she keeps nightmares away

You gave me an electric train
It makes real steam
I make it go through an underwater tunnel
I use it every summer

You gave me a gold coin
with a horse on it
I keep it in my plastic treasure chest

You gave me a flying unicorn
Rainbow colored that could fit in my boot
I imagine that I am riding it for real

You gave me a uni-cat
a cat with a horn
It is fuzzy and real
I like to sleep with it

You gave me a giant Miles Morales
A spiderman that can camouflage
He is friends with the other spiderman

You gave me a dog
red, big as a calf
I like to take him for walks in the forest

You gave me a baby sister
Her name is Autumn
cute, small, cuddly
I like to feed her

You gave me a racing car
that can drive deep under water
It is remote controlled and
I drive it into the forest

-by the “Beautiful Cats” K/1 class in Potomac