Get to Know Your Students

Now that the benchmark writing assessment is out of the way, we can jump into writing. As it is still the beginning of the school year, it would be nice to have a fun way to get to know your students.   I would like to share an activity that I have used that requires students to write a free verse poem.  This activity is based on George Ella Lyon’s poem, Where I’m From and can be done by all the different skill levels in your classroom. Students will write poems that capture places, people, events, things, experiences, etc. that have helped to shape who they are.

I introduce this writing activity by first sharing my Where I’m From poem.

Where I’m From

I’m from rice and peas and chicken on Sundays,

I’m from fish and chips and sometimes gravy.

I’m from reggae music and everything’s gonna be alright,

I’m from pop music and the BBC.

I’m from concrete and gray,

I’m from green and lush.

I’m from English and Patois.

I’m from grandparents and parents with grit.

I’m from determination and perseverance,

I’m from hope and ambition.

I’m from handclapping and hallelujahs,

I’m from God, chosen and blessed.

I’m from coffee and coffee shops,

I’m from tea and biscuits.

I’m from here and I’m from there.

Next, I explain my thinking that went into deciding what to include in my writing, e.g., I wrote “I’m from fish and chips and sometimes gravy” because I grew up in London, England eating and loving fish and chips. When I went to study in Manchester in the north of England, I learned about eating chips with gravy. At first, I was not too keen to try it, but by the time my studies ended I was a happy convert!

I encourage you to write your own Where I’m From poem so that your students will get to know you! You will also become familiar with how students will craft their poems.

To help students get started with thinking about where they are from and to help structure their thinking, I give them a Where I’m From graphic organizer that I created. If you think your students do not need this, they can start brainstorming places, people, events, things, experiences, etc. and move into crafting their sentences for their poems. The graphic organizer can be glued into their writer’s notebooks.

For the graphic organizer, I decided on nine categories based on my writing. You can decide your own number of categories and headings based on your writing. In each category, students write two items related to the category heading. Once all the boxes are filled in, they can create their own sentences, or you can provide sentence frames.

Sample Sentence Frames

I’m from ________________________________ and ____________________________.


I am from ________________________________ and ____________________________.

After students have completed a neat version of their poems, have a poetry reading session where they can share their work.  In addition to the poetry reading, each student can be asked to contribute their favorite line from their poem to a class poem.  All of the poems can be displayed on a poetry wall.

Happy Writing!


P.S Download a free copy of the Where I’m From graphic organizer.

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