When I prepare to present a common text to my sixth graders, I always look for that one little thread that if pulled gently might unravel just enough so I can wrap it around the kids and then tug them in closer, closer, until they are making all sorts of personal connections to the writing we're looking at.
Today we read the poem Where I'm From by George Ella Lyon, which is an annual event, but what I've finally realized is that there is one image in that poem that unlocks the students' lives more than any other:
I am... From the finger my grandfather lost/ to the auger
We begin our analysis of the poem with words that are unfamiliar to them, and someone in every class always brings up "auger". As they start to understand what a gruesome event she is describing, the kids often physically cringe, but when I explain that this is an example of one of those stories of misfortune that every family has, suddenly we are all wrapped in a web of mishap and almost everyone wants a chance to share their tales of injury and near miss. At the end of the discussion, not only do they like the poem, but we all feel much closer, too.