This poem, Where I’m From written by George Ella Lyon, is a touching one that gives insight to the person who wrote it through the senses and visualization. From family sayings to the smells that bring her childhood to life, it is like a time capsule of memories: an opening to a her heart and an inside secret all in one. The Where I’m From poetry activity will sure open a door in getting to know your students and encourage creativity and expression.
Connections to SEAL: Social-Emotional Artistic Learning
Studying this poem and then creating a sort of copy-cat poem from it is a great activity for your students (and YOU) to do.
It encourages deep reflection as students practice self-awareness.
Through this activity, students will be able to identify important people and events in their family and connect them to emotions.
The poem study also give students a change to reflect on the supports they have around them and express gratitude for them!
Based on this poem, you can help your students create their own poetry to encapsulate this time in their lives. In the past I have used this poem and the creation of one as an activity around this time of year as part of National Poetry Month. And since it is a poem about the student, it is also a great project to complete as a gift for a family member. (A real tear-jerker!)
To get you started, here are three steps (plus an optional fourth) you can take to bring the poem into your classroom.
The Original Poem:
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.
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.
Step ONE – Read the Poem and Listen to the Audio:
Follow this link to hear George Ella Lyon, the poet, recite her poem
Play this multiple times for your students and ask them to give their reflections on the poem.
- What parts of the poem stand out to you?
- What creates a sense of flow and rhythm in the poem?
- What images come to mind as you listen to/read the poem?
- What conclusions can you draw about the poet from the things she has described?
Step Two – Have Student Brainstorm Ideas:
Get a copy of the worksheet for students to gather ideas for the poem by entering your name and email in the form below.
Step Three – Study the Patterns in the Poem:
Following a brainstorm and before giving students time to write theirs, invite students to study the poem, noticing where Lyon writes “I’m from…”, “from…” and uses lines to further describe some aspect of her childhood.
Step Four (optional) – Look at Other Examples:
Here are some student examples (grade 4) of their own “I’m From” poems:
“Where I’m From…”
I am from sweet smells,
New books and paper.
Reusable shopping bags,
And sprinkle coated ice-cream that taste so good on hot days. From Germany and England,
My bed, chair, and couch.
I am from my family,
My mom, dad, sister, and Grandma That comfort me when I’m sad.
I am from “I can hear you up there!” To, “Go for it!”
From the old story of ‘Princess Kate’
I am from the sugary taste of mint chocolate chip ice-cream, And salty, orange Play Dough
From chicken frying on the grill,
And candy apples waiting on a napkin.
I am from the beautiful pictures of my family,
Coming from my mind,
my pink, glistening camera, and my quilted scrap-book It is these memories I will never forget.
And here’s another student example:
“Where I’m From…”
I am from rivers, from beaches and lobster pots. I am from salty oceans
which make me shiver in the cold.
I am from the Mouth of the Merrimack River the roughest place on the East Coast
Which I go through every summer day I know it by heart.
I’m from Cranmore and skiing from Dexter and Peyton
I’m from the bankers,
and the doctors
from “Go Fast or Go Home”
I’m from stories about my brother
and lullabies my dad made up for us as babies.
I’m from Andrea and Brady Barbecue and chicken fingers from the hysterical songs about my brother
all making me lucky.
In a room, I have baseball trophies that I will cherish
all my life
I am from those times
that whizzed by so fast
that all belong to my home.
I hope you try this in your classrooms. Please let me know how it goes by adding to the comments! (Be sure to see the comment by the poet herSELF!)
I’m so glad to know you and your students have found this exercise helpful.
Please tell them Happy National Poetry Month from me!
For all our voices,
George Ella Lyon
Wow! Thank you for the your comment!
I went through this process of creating my own poem in the style and feel of yours. It was a wonderful experience! I put it together and ended up giving it to my parents. It’s very special to me.
I know when my students created their own, it made a few parents shed a few tears, or in other words, truly moved them. AH! The power and wonder of poetry!
I will be sure to send your well wishes to them all.
I did this poetry project again this year (2014) and my students wrote some of the most wonderful, sentimental poetry for some special women in their life this past Mother’s Day. This is really such a wonderful thing to do for family members (or just for your own enjoyment!)
Reinforce Alliteration, discuss poetry and create a beautiful work of art! Great cross-curricular lesson plan from Creative Curriculum.