Celebrating the Uniqueness of Students

I utilize poetry to help students identify the uniqueness they hold and to recognize their voices in this world.

Photo of Shasta Looper
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One of the first things I do with students each year is writing poetry.  We work together to create "Where I'm From" poems that help them to identify the qualities in themselves, their families,  and their culture that make them unique and diverse.  Throughout the year, these poems become a foundation to help us dive deeper into finding our voice to express challenges in our own lives and in our communities.  By celebrating where we all have come from, we are building empathy and being transparent about our own experiences.  This opens the door to talk about how experiences help to shape us - our thoughts and behaviors.  

[Optional] Synthesize a little! What's one take away or insight to leave people with?

I believe strongly that until you dig deep into yourself and reflect on how your life experiences have shaped you, you never fully understand how to use your voice. Your experiences lead you to your passions and help inform people of just how you tick as an individual.


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Photo of Brett Brownell

Hi Shasta, thanks for contributing! I love that you use poetry to encourage students to express themselves. I'd be curious to know more about what you've learned from reading students' work. What do they share and care about when writing about where they're from? Also, it'd be great to have a photo added to your post. Maybe a screenshot of one a student's work? It's definitely helpful to visualize! 

Photo of Shasta Looper

Thank you so much for the feedback.  I've done this with kids for about 10 years and depending on where they are with their transparency I get a variety of responses.  I did this with my 5th graders last as a classroom teacher and the two examples I just added show some of the transparency.  Some students share the details of their family dynamics, such as the section that says, "a loving mother and a dad married to someone else, a brother I haven't seen since I was 4," while others share what happens in their homes.  The work really gives me a starting point for a conversation with my students.  The older the students, the heavier and deeper the details become.  This year, I'm in a different role and I haven't had the opportunity just yet to create the work with my middle school students.  I'm using Rhythm and Resistance by Linda Christiensen and Dyan Watson to begin facilitating the implementation of student voice through poetry into our middle school classrooms.  Hopefully, I'll have more to share as the year progresses.

Photo of Brett Brownell

That's great! I'd be curious what students would share if the exercise were framed around their community or civic expression. Kind of like the Hacktivites we've added. If you have a chance, try one of those as well!