Monday, October 3, 2011

Where I'm From

This project is one of my all time favorites. I love writing "Where I'm From" poems in the first month or two of school because it is a great way to learn more about your students but also to challenge them in their writing. This project was inspired by Jen at A Teacher's Life but is originally based on the poem "Where I'm From" by George Ella Lyon. This is her poem.

I am from clothespins,
from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.
I am from the dirt under the back porch.
(Black, glistening,
it tasted like beets.)
I am from the forsythia bush
the Dutch elm
whose long-gone limbs I remember
as if they were my own.
I'm from fudge and eyeglasses,
          from Imogene and Alafair.
I'm from the know-it-alls
          and the pass-it-ons,
from Perk up! and Pipe down!
I'm from He restoreth my soul
          with a cottonball lamb
          and ten verses I can say myself.
I'm from Artemus and Billie's Branch,
fried corn and strong coffee.
From the finger my grandfather lost
          to the auger,
the eye my father shut to keep his sight.
Under my bed was a dress box
spilling old pictures,
a sift of lost faces
to drift beneath my dreams.
I am from those moments--
snapped before I budded --
leaf-fall from the family tree

First, I share the audio of the poem by George Ella Lyon that is on her website, as I display the written version with the document viewer. After the kids hear it and read it, I ask them questions about the poem, such as.. What is it about? Who are the people, places, and things, mentioned in the poem?  What is the theme of the poem? Can you make a self-to-text connection? We also discuss the language used and how it enhances the poem.

Then, I share poems that previous students wrote. This brings the poem back to their level since the original is a bit too much for most of my students. The poems lead to rich conversation about poetry, language, writing about personal experiences, and how those personal experiences shape who we are and what we write. Many of my students have such wonderful stories to tell, some heart-breaking and some that make your heart just burst with love. It is through this poem that I really learn the most about my students.

Next, the students brainstorm all of the most important people, places, and things to them in one of two formats. They can either create a list with sublists or they can make a web, using words and pictures. 

Then, I provide students with this template. I'm not where the original came from because I've found the same template floating around the web for a few years now. I go over the template with them, explaining the parts they have trouble understanding and providing examples.  The students then work on filling out the template, using their brainstorms to guide them.

Then, the students move their writing to a piece of paper, adding any additional details that support their writing and they self-edit using a thesaurus.

Finally, the students complete a final draft. We usually type our final drafts, but this year, my computers are still not working. Oh, well! Another opportunity for them to practice their handwriting.

This student is one of my rockstars. This type of writing comes naturally, as you can see from the last line in her poem, "I am from creativity". I encourage them to think of one word that sums up their poem or defines them as a person. I see wonderful endings... I am from love, hope, faith, their country or city of origin, fashion, friendship, an emotion, their favorite subject, and the list goes on.  Here is another example.

If you want to experience great writing, deep poetry, and rich discussion with your students, try this activity. While this activity is geared towards middle and high school students, it can certainly be modified for younger students. I can't wait to hang these up!

1 comment:

  1. LOVE these poems! I totally want to do something like this with my class.

    Runde's Room