by Chris Kehan
Where are you from? What makes you who you are? George Ella Lyon’s poem "Where I’m From" helps us get to the heart of that question. You can pose these questions to your students prior to reading the poem or after. Model on chart paper your list. Have them jot in their Writer’s Notebooks the answers. For students who may need more support have them split the page into 4 quadrants and label each one: family, friends, hobbies/interests, childhood experiences.
Have your students listen to George Ella read the poem aloud herself from her website. It gives authenticity and voice to the poem for your students to hear. Talk about how she "shows" rather than "tells" about where she’s from. Have a discussion with your students about what they think about where she’s from based off the stanzas. Point out the use of repetition (I’m from) at the start of various lines.
Model writing a stanza from your list. Then allow your students time to write their own Where I’m From poems using her framework. Have them partner up to see if they showed where they’re from rather than telling. (Example: Not, I’m from basketball - Rather, I’m from sneakers screeching on the shiny court.)
Point out the metaphor ending she uses. Brainstorm other metaphors to which life can be compared (i.e. book, ocean, flower, etc.). Model writing one. Have students try writing different metaphorical endings in their Writer’s Notebooks.
This poem is great to use at any point in the school year as it gives you and your students an opportunity to get to know one another and work on the craft of showing and not telling to describe where they’re from.
Chris Kehan is a Library Media Specialist in the Central Bucks School District and a proud fellow of PAWLP (PA Writing & Literature Project) whose passion is teaching reading and writing to all grade levels and ages. Follow her on Twitter @CBckehan