My Mother Pieced Quilts Essay Definition

Meaning Of Teresa Palomo Acosta's "My Mother Pieced Quilts"

Various threads are needed to form one unique quilt. Similarly, a mother quilts together the best and diverse threads of life to form one unique identity in which a child lives with forever. In the poem "My Mother Pieced Quilts" by Teresa Palomo Acosta, the mother chooses the different aspects of the quilt, forms those aspects to make one quilt, and releases that one quilt on which it lives. In the beginning, the mother must choose the best treads to form the quilt.

The mother chooses how to make her offspring through choosing what she will fit best. Just in the beginning of the poem, the mother must decide which piece fits best in her quilt. The mother "[. . .] shaped patterns square and oblong and round / positioned / balanced" (13-15) and each shape is a different piece and each piece is quilted together to form one quilt. This relates to human life in that the mother the act of choosing the best shapes relates to choosing the best characteristics to put into the final product of a child's identity. The mother not only has to choose shapes, but also has to decide on the colors of the pieces. She has to consider "whether to put the lilac purple of easter against the red plaid of winter-going- / into-spring / whether to mix a yellow with blue and white [. . .]" (31-33). The different choices of colors symbolize the various types of personalities in which a child is form with. The mother must choose the different shapes and colors or the different characteristics and personalities in order to form one quilt or one identity that...

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Focus Question: How does language create sensory images?

Say, “Most of us have an object at home that has special meaning for us and perhaps our family. Think of a special object in your home—perhaps a picture, a piece of furniture, a watch or a ring, or a piece of sporting equipment. Why is it special? What memories does it bring to mind?” Explain that inanimate objects can have powerful emotions attached to them.

Say, “These objects have a history, and the history gives them meaning.” Explain that an article doesn’t have to have monetary value to be valuable. If possible, show students a personal item to model appropriate ideas. [IS.14 - All Students]

Introduce imagery by using the following example: “The wisps of fog trailed from the tree like grey ribbons, the edges singed by the glow of the dawning sun.” Write the sentence on the board/interactive whiteboard. [IS.15 - All Students] Ask students what they see if they close their eyes and picture the image.

Part 1

Refer to the image written on the board/interactive whiteboard. Ask, “Which senses came into play as you created your mental picture?” Explain that this is an example of imagery, or the use of language that appeals to the five senses. Ask what students can conclude about the setting and what feeling is evoked by the image. Ask, “What is suggested by the words ‘wisps’ and ‘trailed’? Why does the author compare the fog to ‘grey ribbons’? What is happening in the phrase ‘the edges singed by the glow of the dawning sun’?” (There is likely to be variety among the responses.) Say, “Not everyone sees exactly the same thing. The important thing is to focus on the senses and the emotions you feel.” [IS.16 - ELL Students] Explain that imagery can be one word, a group of words, or a paragraph.

Have students read “My Mother Pieced Quilts.” [IS.17 - Struggling Learners]  [IS.18 - All Students] You may wish to show an image of a quilt, using the suggested resources in Materials. Ask, “What is your first response to the poem? What do you most remember? What feelings come across through the poem?”

Distribute the Imagery Inventory worksheet (L-L-7-3_ Imagery Inventory_student.doc). Tell students to reread the poem and complete the worksheet. [IS.19 - All Students] Point out that the worksheet has a box for each sense. Say, “As you reread the poem, look for images that correspond to the different senses. When you find an image that appeals to the sense of sight, for example, note that image in the appropriate box. Don’t worry if some boxes are fuller than others or that a box may be empty.Just record the images that jump out at you.” After students have completed their inventories, ask them to discuss their results in small groups and then to underline two or three of the most important images. [IS.20 - All Students] Note that suggested answers are provided on the teacher copy of the Imagery Inventory (L-L-7-3_ Imagery Inventory_teacher.doc).

Part 2

Project on a computer screen a copy of the Imagery and Meaning student worksheet (L-L-7-3_ Imagery and Meaning_student.doc). Note that suggested answers are provided on the teacher copy (L-L-7-3_ Imagery and Meaning_teacher.doc). Say, “Now let’s see how the images work together to create meaning.” Ask one group for an image that was underlined and write this on the worksheet. Then ask students what they think of when they see the image. Explain that these are the associations. Write these in the column “Associations.”

After writing a few images and associations, ask if students can see any patterns emerging. For example, say, “The ‘October ripened canvases’ and the ‘faded curtain pieces’ contribute to the idea that the quilts seem worn and well used. Look at these images: the quilts are ‘cemented,’ the mother is a ‘river current/ carrying the roaring notes,’ she is a ‘caravan master’ with ‘needle artillery.’ What is the speaker saying about the mother and the quilts?” [IS.21 - All Students]Guide students to understand that the meaning of the poem is an accumulation of the meanings of these images. You may need to spend time studying the images and gathering students’ responses. Reiterate that associations have no wrong answers.

Read aloud the last four lines of the poem. [IS.22 - All Students] Say, “These lines state the poem’s strongest theme. Look at our list of images and associations. What images from this list most strongly support this theme?” Allow students time to discuss the theme in relation to imagery. See if students can “follow the thread” of a mother’s strength and love throughout the poem as expressed in her sewing of the quilts. Say, “The theme is the sum of the poem’s parts. In this case, a series of images clearly lead to the poem’s theme.”

Discuss how a study of images can enhance an understanding of any literary text. [IS.23 - All Students] Say, “A work may have a series of vivid images, such as this poem, or it may have a single dominant image.” Tell students that authors choose images carefully. Say, “Authors understand the power of imagery. Sometimes a single image is truly worth a thousand words.”


  • If students need additional practice grasping the abstract concept of imagery, refer to a popular commercial, such as one for an athletic product or a fast-food restaurant. Ask them to identify the company’s logo. Then ask what qualities or emotions are associated with that logo. (Examples: speed, satisfying taste, durability) Explain that an image from a poem or story works in the same way as the logo does.

  • Note any students who need help choosing images for the Imagery Inventory worksheet, and ask them to state the most important object they remember from the poem. Help them identify the sense most associated with that object.

  • Review theme, if necessary, to help students relate images to theme. Visually oriented students may benefit from viewing the poem projected on the board/interactive whiteboard. Use a pointer to direct students to images as they appear in the poem. Stop after each one to discuss its emotional significance.

  • Encourage students to apply their knowledge of imagery to other media, such as film or art. Tell them to think about a dominant image in the work, brainstorm associations to the image, and think about how the image enhances their understanding of the work. Then give students opportunities to create their own images. Tell them to choose one of their favorite places and an object that best represents that place. Remind students to think about the thoughts and feelings they want to evoke in others when they choose their images.

  • Have students take a sentence with very few details and rewrite it by adding vivid words and details that appeal to the senses.

  • Ask students to draw an image from a description you read to them.

  • Give students a simple paragraph such as the following: S/he left home in the morning. S/he walked on the road. With him/her was a pet. The weather was not so good. S/he missed the vehicle for school. While walking further s/he and the pet got lost in the woods. The woods were scary. S/he saw a house. The house looked scary. S/he heard some sounds. S/he went inside the house. There s/he and the pet saw some scary things. They left the house. Scary things followed them. They went through the forest. They finally got home. Then they were safe. Or were they?

Read the story aloud. Explain that this is just the shell of a story and that it could be a much better story by including exact, specific, and sensory details. Have students rewrite the story, keeping every idea from every sentence, but expanding the framework by adding details. Point out that students’ details should be vivid and keep the reader interested.

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