Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Where I'm From


Shelby Blackwood | Published: May 31st, 2022 by K20 Center


In this lesson, students explore themes of community and identity by analyzing a poem and creating their own poem inspired by the themes. Through these activities, students reflect deeply on their lives and learn to apply a variety of literary devices that allow them to express their creativity and share their voices. This lesson is written with 9th graders in mind; however, it could be used for many grade levels. This is a multimodality lesson, which means it includes face-to-face, online, and hybrid versions of the lesson. The attachments also include a downloadable Common Cartridge file, which can be imported into a Learning Management System (LMS) such as Canvas or eKadence. The cartridge includes interactive student activities and teacher's notes.

Essential Question(s)

How can poetry help people understand one another? What is the value in knowing your family history?



Students watch a spoken word poem video and respond using the First Turn/Last Turn strategy.


Using their five senses, students brainstorm memories and experiences from their lives.


Using Categorical Highlighting, students read George Ella Lyon’s poem, Where I’m From, and analyze it for literary devices and figurative language.


Students compose their own Where I’m From poem.


Students reflect on their writing process.

Instructional Formats

The term "Multimodality" refers to the ability of a lesson to be offered in more than one modality (i.e. face-to-face, online, blended). This lesson has been designed to be offered in multiple formats, while still meeting the same standards and learning objectives. Though fundamentally the same lesson, you will notice that the different modalities may require the lesson to be approached differently. Select the modality that you are interested in to be taken to the section of the course designed for that form of instruction.



  • Brainstorming Graphic Organizer (attached; one per student)

  • Flipgrid Presentation Rubric (attached; one per student)

  • I Am From Poem (Template) (attached; one per student)

  • I Am From Poem (Example) (attached; optional)

  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Poem Rubric (attached; one per student)

  • Talk Moves (attached; one per student)

  • Where I’m From Poem (Original) (attached; one per student)

  • Highlighters (multiple colors)

  • Pencils or pens

  • Writing Paper



30 Minute(s)

Use the attached Lesson Slides to follow along with this lesson.

Display slide 3. Read aloud the essential questions. How can poetry help people understand one another? What is the value in knowing your family history? Ask students to consider these questions and volunteer their responses.

Display slide 4 and read aloud the lesson objectives. Explain to students that they will analyze poetry and determine how literary devices support one’s interpretation of poetry. They will also compose an original poem of their own.

Display slide 5 and play the spoken word poetry video "Hands" by Sarah Kay.

After the class has listened to Sarah Kay’s poem, sort students into groups of 3-5. Pass out a copy of "Hands" by Sarah Kay to each student.

Introduce the poem by telling students: In this poem, Sarah recites her memories of her own hands and what hands mean to us as humans. Read through the words of the poem and highlight a few lines that "speak to you." Take a few minutes to write about what you chose and why you chose it in the margins of the poem.

Display slide 6.

Tell students: You will use the First Turn/Last Turn strategy in this activity. First, one person will share one of the passages they chose from the poem with the group. Do not explain why you chose this passage. Share only the words from the poem. Each person in the group will then respond and explain why they believe you chose that passage or any other comment they would like to make about the passage. When every group member has responded to the passage you shared, it is your turn to explain why you chose that passage. The next person in the group now takes a turn and continues as before until everybody has had a chance to share a passage from the poem.



30 Minute(s)

Display slide 7. Pass out copies of Brainstorming Graphic Organizer to each student.

Tell students: Sarah Kay shared her memories of growing up in her poem "Hands." Think about the memories you have of growing up. They can be good or bad, but a mix of both would be ideal. When you recall your memories, try to think about the small things rather than the large moments. For instance, Sarah talked about holding her father’s hand. That is what some might say is a small thing that made a large impact on her life and created lifelong memories for her. Create a list by brainstorming memories from your life. Use all five senses while brainstorming ideas. Be descriptive. Don’t just say "a large slice of pizza", say "a pizza slice the size of my chest. Here are some ideas to get you started:"

  • Familiar foods: a scene at the table, helping cook

  • Family gatherings

  • Familiar sayings while growing up

  • Family members

  • Ancestors, family names

  • Parents’ work: Did you get to help them? Were you in the way?

  • Memorable experiences (small or large)

  • Family traditions

  • Vacations

  • Description of where you grew up: the geography, house, town

  • Familiar music, movies, books, games



40 Minute(s)

Display slide 8. Explain to students they will listen to George Ella Lyon read her poem "Where I’m From." Ask students to close their eyes and just listen to the words. Play the audio recording on slide 8.

Pass out a copy of the attached Where I’m From Poem (Original) to each student.

Ask students to read George Ella Lyon’s "Where I’m From." Tell them, "As you read, think about how the poet creates a sense of flow in the poem. How does the poet use word choice to bring her poem alive?"

Display slide 9. Explain to students they will be using the Categorical Highlighting strategy to analyze the poem. The categories are listed below:

  • Pink - repetition

  • Yellow - specific, vivid verbs and adjectives

  • Green - imagery words (think five senses)

  • Blue- figurative language (metaphor, simile, personification, symbolism, alliteration)

Display slide 10. Ask students to answer the following questions when they finish highlighting the poem.

  • What parts of the poem stand out to you the most?

  • What images come to mind as you read/listen to the poem?

  • How does the author create a sense of flow and rhythm and movement?

  • What inferences can you make or conclusions can you draw about the poet after reading her words?

When they finish answering the reflection questions, instruct students to: "Go back to your brainstorm list and add more of your memories to it. Remember to focus on your word choice using specific verbs and vivid adjectives and adverbs. Think of ways to describe your memories using all five of your senses. What did it sound like? Taste like? Smell like? How did it feel? What exactly did it look like? Could you compare it to something using a simile or metaphor?"

Allow students time to complete the graphic organizer.



60 Minute(s)

When students have completed their brainstorming, pass out the attached I Am From Poem (Template). Then, ask students to go back to their brainstorming list and plug those memories into the template to create an original piece of writing. When students complete the template, ask them to write their poems on a blank sheet of paper.

Remind students to include literary devices such as similes, metaphors, and imagery in their poem (refer back to the linked infographic on figurative language, if needed). See the attached Poem Rubric for assessment, distributing copies to students if desired.

Instruct students: When you write, you want your reader to be swimming in your memories! They should be able to close their eyes and experience the memories with you. No one else sees the world as you do. You don't have to know where to begin. Just start and let the words flow.

Allow time for students to write and revise their poems.



30 Minute(s)

Display slide 11. Hand out the attached Flip Presentation Rubric to guide students’ reflections. Consider distributing a copy of the attached Talk Moves handout to help guide student discourse. Review the steps for the reflection activity.

  1. First, think about the steps you took in writing your poem.

    • Listened to a model poem;

    • Analyzed the model poem for literary devices;

    • Considered the literary devices used in the poem and how the use of the devices affected the rhythm and flow of the poem;

    • Brainstormed ideas for your poem;

    • Used the basic form of the model poem to write your own.

  1. Next, write your thoughts about the process down on paper. Think about how each step helped you write your poem.

  2. Submit your reflection.