Create your own “I Am From. . .” poem to use as a model for the class. This lesson works best in a classroom where the students feel comfortable sharing their lives with others. Part I is intended to help students reflect on their lives, hobbies, interests, families, traditions, languages, and cultural backgrounds in order to prepare them for writing their poem. Part II allows students to focus on the lives of people represented in a film as a way to compare the students’ lives to those of the people in the film. For Part II, find a clip in a film that has rich audio and conveys a character’s emotion. The clip should be approximately 2 to 3 minutes in length.
Sample Guiding Question:
"How does reflecting on our own lives help us empathize with others?"
Procedure Part I: I appreciate my classmates who...
1. Have the students stand in a circle facing one another. Hand a piece of paper to each student and have him or her set it down on the floor directly behind them; this piece of paper represents their placeholder. (It may be useful to print “I appreciate my classmates who. . .” on the placeholders as a reminder to students.) Stand in the middle of the circle without a placeholder. As a variation, you can also do this activity with chairs in a circle (one less chair than the number of students).
2. Explain that the person in the middle does not have a placeholder. That person is going to think of a favorite food, hobby, or interest and say the following sentence out loud to the rest of the circle: “I appreciate my classmates who…” and then say something he or she likes to do. For example, if the teacher likes to play a musical instrument then the teacher standing in the middle of the circle would say, “I appreciate my classmates who like to play musical instruments.” If others in the circle like to play a musical instrument, too, they will need to move from their placeholder and find a new placeholder to stand in front of.
3. Explain that the object of the game is similar to musical chairs and that a person cannot move to the placeholders directly to their left or right or return to the same placeholder once they move. If there are not any placeholders left, that person is the new person in the middle of the circle. The new person standing in the middle should think of something to share and repeat, “I appreciate my classmates who…” and then try to find a placeholder to stand in front of.
4. Repeat this activity until each student has had a chance to stand in the middle and share something. Limit the number of times a person can be in the middle by asking them to choose someone who has not had a chance.
5. Gather students and ask them to share one new thing that they learned about someone else in the class. Emphasize the concept of empathy to tie back to the guiding question and prior learning.
I Appreciate My Neighbors
Procedure Part II: "I Am From..." Poem
1. Begin Part II by asking the students if the last game helped them to
think about themselves and others. Have a few students share with the
class to help spark the others’ memories.
2. Tell students that they will be writing a poem that focuses on themselves
as the main character. Explain that this poem follows a special pattern
with each of the lines starting with “I Am from.” The remainder of
each line is something that recalls a memory, a hobby, a phrase, or an
experience related to their life.
3. Provide the class with an example of an “I Am From. . .” Poem (one is
I am from a household of females caring, daring, and stubborn.
Three thickheaded women “don’t you steal my thunder.”
I am from sun tea, canned peas, macaroni and cheese,
Sunday morning pancakes; “pass the syrup please.”
I am from every other weekend away, packed my bags for an adventurous stay.
I always treasured my Dad’s-weekend-away.
I am from music, dancing, and Saturday cartoons.
From swimming, softball, soccer, and the occasional macaroon.
I am from homemade dresses and plenty of messes.
Sewing, singing, and windows made of stained glasses.
I am from Ukrainian foods, cheap shoes and pants already used.
A loving grandma who always kept me amused.
I am from female strength and words of wisdom, family foes and
“you better get an education.”
—Janelle Shafer ‘07
4. As a beginning step in creating their own poems ask the students to list items found in their homes, sayings they often hear from family members, names of foods or dishes, types of music and languages that they hear at home, names of relatives, and their favorite pastimes. Have a few students share their list with the class to help other students think of their own lives.
5. Once they are finished with their lists, explain that each student will write an “I Am From…” poem about himself or herself. Encourage them to be creative with their words. Musical students may create a song, using their poem as lyrics.
6. Once the students are finished, return to the circle and share the poems.
7. Tell students that they are now going to watch a film and focus on the story of a particular character in the film. Everyone has a story, just as they do.
8. Cue the film clip. Turn the television away from students so they are only able to hear the clip, but not see it. Ask them to listen to the words, sounds, and tone of voice, and to jot down everything they hear. After the clip, give students a few minutes to finish their notes and focus their thoughts. Ask students how their impression of the film and character(s) is based on what they heard. How do we connect to a film and character(s)? With our eyes, ears, other senses? You will most likely need to play the clip twice, as students are probably unfamiliar with this type of listening. Depending on the film, you could pre-assign characters.
9. Ask the students to watch the film in its entirety (both audio and video) and list things such as personal items belonging to the character, things he/she says to others, living and nonliving things in his/her natural environment, skills he/she possesses, types of music and languages that they hear, names of relatives and mentors, and his/her favorite pastimes.
10. Break students into pairs or groups of four (or retain groups from the viewing) and provide a sample “I Am From. . .” poem. Encourage them to be creative and put themselves in the place of the character(s) in the film. What would the character want to tell people? Who is this character? What is important to them? They may refer to their first impressions from the audio clip. Share the objective of this exercise, which is instilling the habit of empathy. Reinforce what empathy means.
11. After students are finished writing a draft of their poem, have a representative from each group read their poem to the class. Encourage the students to listen to each group’s poem and identify phrases or strategies which they used in their own personal poems.
12. Have students do a journal jump on the guiding question.
Extend the Learning...
Display each student’s poem in the classroom to celebrate their work and their lives! Integrate art by having students incorporate a 3-D poster, diorama, photography, or drawing with their poetry.
"I am From..." Poem Lesson PDF:
I Am From Poem Lesson.pdf
Time: Three to Five 50-70 minute periods
- Handout: Sample "I Am From..." poem, copies for students
- Placeholder paper
Encourage safety during the kinesthetic activity, reminding students not to push or run, and to stay inside the circle.
- Cooperative Learning
- Reflective Practices