Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Poetry Opens the Door to Creativity and Connected Kids

In her book , Reading, Writing, and Rising Up: Teaching About Social Justice and the Power of the Written Word , Linda Christensen describes a process for helping students create poems modeled after George Ella Lyon’s poem, “Where I'm From."

This idea, shared  by my student, Emma B., works at any time to help kids feel more connected, and get to know about one another. It is also a perfect way to move into the holiday season, because it offers kids (and adults too) a rich opportunity to express and share many aspects of their culture, describe how they celebrate holidays and special events in their families and community, and opens the door to an array of possibilities for creative thinking and expression. Emma  promises that this will process will achieve "remarkable results."
  • Have students read the poem "Where I Am From.” and discuss it.
  • Then, have them brainstorm their favorite foods, family sayings, celebrations, items found around their homes, people important to them, and places they like to visit.
    • Encourage them to use all their senses as they describe and recall.
The brainstorming sessions can lead to rich classroom conversations and sharing, and forms the basis for writing a very personal and descriptive poem.

For instructions, a template and examples of this activity, see: Where I Am From Poem.

More ideas:
• A sixth-grade teacher has students write “I Am From” poems in October and shares the results with family members at the fall parent-teacher conference. He says, “It took some time for parents to really feel comfortable with a new teacher with their kids. The poems made conversation with the parents really relaxed, because we were going over these funny things that the kids were interested in that surprised them. Sharing the poems made all the difference.”
• A high-school teacher uses the “Where I’m From” poems to get to know her students and their families.” It is such a safe way to experience poetry. and each kid's cultural background. Plus, it requires so much thought about what really matters in one’s life and what the things are that have truly shaped the students into the individuals they have become.”

A teacher seeking more ways to build art into day to day activities had students illustrate their poems. Another added photos and pictures collected by the kids. One wonderful after-school project resulted in the creation of a mural.

How would you use this poem? Share your ideas and results in the comment box below.