The poem "Say My Name" by Idris Goodwin requires no real introduction, as the poem is so engaging, students will jump right in. It is a poem about the many stories behind a name, stories of both how that comes to be ours and what others try to do with it. I was pleased to find this on the #teachlivingpoets Black History Month list alongside many other phenomenal spoken word poems to build into our routine.
After sharing the video, I share a series of questions as my students open their Writer's Notebooks:
How did you get your name? Is there a story behind it you could tell poetically?
Do you know your "almost" name . . . the name your parents were thinking about but did not choose?
Do people mispronounce your name? If so, how?
Are there common mispronunciations that you hear people use in everyday speech that bug you?
Are there any words you intentionally mispronounce? Why do you make this choice?
We freewrite for about three minutes to one of these questions, then share in small groups whatever writers are willing to share from their work. Several of my students gave me permission to share their drafts with Idris Goodwin via Twitter, and were thrilled to see him respond.
This whole activity only takes about ten minutes at the beginning of class, but it plants seeds that we can return to later for personal narrative writing or a more polished poem. Moreover, students opened up an shared bits of their personal history after hearing Goodwin's poem; this activity built community among my writers.
A Related Post on Go Poems
Brett Vogelsinger is a ninth grade English teacher and NBCT at Holicong Middle School in Doylestown, PA. He is the founding editor of Go Poems, facilitates his school's literary magazine, Sevenatenine, and contributes monthly posts at Moving Writers. Follow him on Twitter @theVogelman.