"I Am" Poetry
Sixth grade writers have been thinking about who they are, what they are passionate about, and how to communicate those ideas visually in their digital portfolios and through their writing with "I Am" poetry.
Students in Lara Gleason’s English class use digital portfolios to practice the concepts they are learning throughout the year and as a place to showcase their best work. The portfolio becomes a tangible expression of both their learning and growth. Lara asked her students to consider what they are passionate about and who they aspire to be and to find corresponding images, graphics, and text to decorate the cover of their digital portfolios. For some students, the challenge with this assignment is to dig a little deeper beyond a single favorite activity, while for others, the challenge is to pare a multitude of ideas down to the most meaningful ones.
Lara asked her students to take their finished portfolio covers and use them as inspiration for “I Am” poems. “The assignments are paired, and the poem becomes another opportunity and a different way for them to make a statement about their identity and what they value,” says Lara.
The “I Am” poems are nineteen lines, and each line begins with a prompt such as, “I am,” “I wonder,” “I understand,” or “I hope” for students to complete with the idea that feels authentic to them. Lara was impressed with how honest and vulnerable the students were willing to be. “We spend a lot of time discussing how we create an inclusive community within our classroom where we feel that we can take risks and that being vulnerable can be a sign of strength, too.” Students presented their portfolio cover pages and poems to the class, and it was a valuable way to kick off the writing process and build community within the classroom. “Afterwards, we talked about connections, and it was nice to see students noticing connections with each other that they didn’t realize they had.”
After sharing their poems in class, Lara offered her students the opportunity to share them with the whole Lower School at Morning Meeting. She had so many volunteers that they read their poems over the course of two meetings! This gave students practice with public speaking and built their confidence in getting up to share their voices and who they are with the community.