Share these examples with students to help them create their poetic personal histories
Where I’m From poems are one of my favorite poetry assignments, and one of the best ways to get kids invested in writing their own is to show them some examples written by other students.
In case you’re unfamiliar with Where I’m From poems, check out this post I wrote a year ago.
In short, Where I’m From poems allow kids to use specific details from their lives, including their families, likes, and dislikes, to create a highly personal free verse poem.
After introducing kids to George Ella Lyon, the author, poet and creator of the original Where I’m From poem, we discuss and share the concrete details (clothespins, a, cottonball lamb, dirt that tastes like beets) from her poem that especially struck chords within us as we read and listened. Click here for a PDF from Scholastic of Lyon’s original poem.
I then show students four examples written by other middle school schoolers so they can get an idea of how to adapt the structure of Lyon’s poem to their own personal history. By the way, Lyon has written this memoir/how-to book about the Where I’m From poem that might spur some ideas for teaching this poem in your class. I haven’t read the book, but the information provided on Amazon about it pique my interest.
Here’s one of the student-written mentor texts:
Where I’m From
I am from a Hello Kitty toy box,
From a yellow-trimmed blanket with Winnie the Pooh.
I am from a hot driveway that burns your feet
And a red brick mailbox at the end of the driveway.
I am from horses and a green garden,
Where I look out onto a pasture.
I am from glittery lip gloss and fairy wings,
From Dunn and Matson.
I am from brown hair and eyes,
And from “Always be a lady,”
From tea parties with extra sugar.
I am from egg salad after church.
I am from Jim and Dee,
From Kraft mac and cheese and no-bake cookies,
From asking questions about the grandmother I never knew
And from spending nights with the one I did know.
I am from swinging on green willow trees with my brothers.
I am from those moments of sitting with everyone,
Contemplating what the future will be like.Melanie D., Grade 7
And here’s the link to the Google Doc:
To receive this poem plus three more written by sixth- and seventh-grade boys and girls, click here for a Google Doc to download.
These poems were a favorite activity for my middle school students in my previous teaching position. At my new high school position (where I teach juniors and seniors), students create these poems as freshmen.
It’s always interesting to read their poems in the hallway after the activity is over, but I do miss having students write them in my classes.