Lesson Plan: “Where I’m From”

Last week, I had the privilege of introducing an origin/identity poem discussion and writing exercise to my fourth graders. In this lesson, students study and discuss George Ella Lyon’s “Where I’m From,” and they write their own poems inspired by Lyon’s work. Lyon is the poet laureate of Kentucky, currently working on a project to collect poems from every county in the state. My lesson plan for this study is posted below. If you do a similar activity with your students, please post your experiences in the comments!

Wherever you are in the world, you and your students can use her form to explore how memories shape identity. Encourage your students to use vivid sensory details from sights, smells, sounds, sensations, and tastes that resonate with them deeply. The stronger and more important each image is to you, the stronger and more meaningful it will be for the reader.

  1.  What are students supposed to be learning?  (Sometimes called objectives.)
  • Students will hear and read “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon.
  • Students will discuss aspects of poem and imagine how and why certain images and memories hold such significance to Lyon’s identity.
  • Students will identify key details from their own childhoods, homes, and families and write their own poem in the same style as Lyon’s.

 

  1. What Common Core standards connect to this lesson?
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.3.D: Use concrete words and phrases and sensory details to convey experiences and events precisely.
  • CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.4.5: With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing.

 

  1. How are students going to be engaged?  How are you asking students to think and what are you asking them to think about?  
    • Assemble in circle on rug with paper, pencils, and clipboards. If the group is reuniting after a weekend or even if it is the start of a new day or period, start out with an appropriate check-in/update. Then teacher introduce “I Am From” by George Ella Lyon, poet laureate of Kentucky 2015-16. You may read the poem out loud to students or (preferably) play the 90 second poem read aloud by Lyon at http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where.html (link at right-hand side of screen). 
    • Instruct students: First listen to poem with eyes closed. Just let the words wash over you.
    • Listen a second time and write down questions or quotes that make a particular impression on you. You might begin, “I wonder …” or “Why does …” Also jot down words and phrases that feel important.
    • Discuss as class. What were some of your wonderings? What were some key ideas you jotted down? Why did those seem important to you? What do you think they meant to Lyon? Why do you think the poet chose these exact words to describe her image/memory, instead of a more conventional way she could have described it?
    • Next, watch Sage Hennequin Kuhens (eight years old!)’s visual poem in the same style. Discuss.
    • Do a “Shake down” or another kind of energizer here. If you’ve been sitting for a long time, you might play a short theatre game like “Zip/Zap/Zop” to really re-energize and refocus the group.
    • Now, each student take the template and move to desks or other independent areas to write their own poems. Have students write for as long as the group is generally able to without getting uncomfortably fidgety/losing focus, or as much time as you have time for!
  • Instruct students: Stretch if you need to. Pause and share with seat partner what you have so far. You probably will not have all finished yet; that’s okay. It is very rare to complete a poem in one sitting! We will have time to write more later. Talk about why these sensory details are important enough to you to include in the poem. Give each other suggestions of where you might take your poem next.
  • Tomorrow/future lessons: Finish templates and then write a clean draft of poem on blank lined paper, using your templates as inspiration.
  • After the class has a chance to work through a few drafts of their poems, display the poems in a prominent location in the room so that everyone can read each other’s work (with their permission, of course). It is validating to each poet to see their work on display, and it allows students to grow and be inspired by their peers’ creativity.

 

 

  1. What is the role of dialogue, discourse, and collaboration – “good talk”?

Students should be encouraged to respond to each other’s ideas and observations thoughtfully and respectfully. Remind students that different interpretations of the same poem can coexist without either being “wrong.” Hearing different perspectives and interpretations actually gives us a wider and richer understanding of the poem than if we had just thought about it one way.

 

  1. What is the (expected) range of challenges for your learners and what

     supports are you building in for them?

  • This is an area each teacher will have to customize for your own students. For instance: challenge: attention span => support: movement and slightly new activity every ten minutes or so, challenge: shyness and/or need more time to gather thoughts => support: Give opportunities to think on paper before speaking in front of group. After a few people have shared, ask for new hands. challenge: Hearing loss => support: Offer simultaneous interpretation of the poem read aloud in sign language.
  • Many students will need more individualized supports.
  • It is impossible for one teacher to keep track of everything going on in the room at any given point, so I try to pick two students to pay extra close attention to during each lesson, and rotate through students throughout the month. This way you know that each of your students are getting focused attention on a regular basis.

 

  1.  What evidence of learning are you looking for (to guide your teaching)?
  • Engaged students will ask critical questions on paper and in large group and make hypotheses about poet’s experience and/or thoughts.
  • Engaged students will write original images and vivid sensory details as part of their identity poems.
  • Engaged students will be able to articulate what makes each detail/memory special to them.

 

  1. Materials needed/to prep:  
  • Speakers and projector to play Lyon reading the poem and show visual poem inspired by Lyon’s
  • “I Am From” template for each student (adapted from http://www.swva.net/fred1st/wif.htm, reworked for extra blank space and including all periods and parentheses, below)
  • copy of poem for each student (below)
  • lined paper, pencil, and clipboard for each student

 

 

The WHERE I’M FROM Template

I am from __________________________________ (specific ordinary item), from ___________________________ (product name) and ____________________________________________________.

 

I am from the _____________________________________________________ _________________________(home description… adjective, adjective, sensory detail).

 

I am from the ____________________________ (plant, flower, natural item), the ________________________________________ (plant, flower, natural detail).

 

I am from __________________________________________ (family tradition) and ______________ (family trait), from ___________________ (name of family member) and ________________________________ (another family name) and _______________________________ (family name).

 

I am from the ___________________________________ (description of family tendency) and ___________________________________________________ _________________________________________________ (another one).

 

From _________________________________________________ (something you were told as a child) and ____________________________________ (another).

 

I am from __________________________________________ (representation of religion, or lack of it). _______________________________________________ (Further description.)

 

I’m from ___________________________________________ (place of birth and family ancestry), _____________________________________________ (two food items representing your family).

 

From the ___________________________________ (specific family story about a specific person and detail), the _____________________ (another detail, and the _____________________________ (another detail about another family member).

 

I am from __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________ (location of family pictures, mementos, archives and several more lines indicating their worth).

 

Where I’m From

by George Ella Lyon
I am from clothespins,

from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.

I am from the dirt under the back porch.

(Black, glistening,

it tasted like beets.)

I am from the forsythia bush

the Dutch elm

whose long-gone limbs I remember

as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,

         from Imogene and Alafair.

I’m from the know-it-alls

         and the pass-it-ons,

from Perk up! and Pipe down!

I’m from He restoreth my soul

         with a cottonball lamb

         and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,

fried corn and strong coffee.

From the finger my grandfather lost

         to the auger,

the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box

spilling old pictures,

a sift of lost faces

to drift beneath my dreams.

I am from those moments–

snapped before I budded —

leaf-fall from the family tree.

Where I’m From

by George Ella Lyon
I am from clothespins,

from Clorox and carbon-tetrachloride.

I am from the dirt under the back porch.

(Black, glistening,

it tasted like beets.)

I am from the forsythia bush

the Dutch elm

whose long-gone limbs I remember

as if they were my own.

I’m from fudge and eyeglasses,

         from Imogene and Alafair.

I’m from the know-it-alls

         and the pass-it-ons,

from Perk up! and Pipe down!

I’m from He restoreth my soul

         with a cottonball lamb

         and ten verses I can say myself.

I’m from Artemus and Billie’s Branch,

fried corn and strong coffee.

From the finger my grandfather lost

         to the auger,

the eye my father shut to keep his sight.

Under my bed was a dress box

spilling old pictures,

a sift of lost faces

to drift beneath my dreams.

I am from those moments–

snapped before I budded —

leaf-fall from the family tree.

 

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s