Teaching Poetry, Week 4: “I am” poems – Srijanalaya
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    It is important for students to be able to explore and express their identities with as few inhibitions in place as possible, so this week's lessons are centered around identity.

    Who am I?

    Although a simple question, this usually leads to complicated and unclear answers. What parts make up our identity? Is it our origin? Our family? Friends? Activities?

    In reality, of course, identity is a complicated web, and untangling individual strands is not easy to do. Exploring identity, is an important exercise for any student, and will help them gain confidence in the long run.

    That said, goals for this week include:

    • exploring identity

    • learning to write poems about oneself

    • gaining confidence

    • working with poetic elements such as repetition and rhythm

    Part 1: Writing an "I am" poem

    Warm-up: Lineup game (about 10 minutes)

    This is a popular ESL game that tests communication skills and explores elements that make up our identities.

    Begin by breaking the class up into 2 or 3 teams. This activity will be much more manageable if they are teams of about 10, rather than, say, the entire classroom of 30 kids.

    For each round, groups will have to line up according to a pre-determined category. The team to line up correctly first gains a point, and the team with the most points at the end wins!

    Categories can include lining up according to...

    • height

    • birth date (oldest to youngest)

    • birthday (chronological order, January 1st to September 31st)

    • number of siblings


    Discuss as a group what it was like to have to line up based on these qualities. Did they learn something about other students? About themselves? Are these qualifications important parts of who we are, or is there more to it?

    Next, read some examples of "I am" poems to your class. You can find some examples online (a simple google search will result in a number of examples by fellow teachers), and you should also create one about yourself to share with the classroom, following the structure below:

    This specific format allows the poet to fill in the rest of the line with elements important to him/her (though you don't have to follow all of the suggestions in the parentheses). To practice repetition (see our poetry terms worksheet here), keep the "I am..." line the same throughout as with the worksheet above, but again, this is not necessary.

    For example:  


    I am helpful and kind

    I wonder what the world will look like in 10 years

    I hear the voices of students in class

    I see the clouds ready to burst with rain

    I want to be a good influence to those around me

    I am helpful and kind



    Now students will write their own "I am..." poems following the structure provided (have it written on the board or hand out copies). Encourage them to think outside of the box and list things that aren't necessarily literal.

    Here is an example of one of our students at LMV:

    I am creative and peaceful

    I wonder how to make the world more peaceful

    I hear the noise of vehicles

    I see no creativity among us

    I want to stop global warming

    I am creative and peaceful


    I pretend to be a tree

    I feel the leaves

    I touch and care for them

    I worry about when there will be aforestation

    I cry for the plants to grow

    I am creative and peaceful


    I understand how the plants feel

    I say, "save trees"

    I dream to be a conservationist

    I try to plant more trees

    I hope one day the world will be safe

    I am creative and peaceful


    Part 2: Acrostic poetry

    Today's lesson is a follow-up to the "I am..." poems we wrote last time. We will continue to explore our identities, trying to go a little deeper this time. 


    To start the lesson, instruct students to close their eyes and take several deep breaths.

    Next, pose a series of leading questions to get the students thinking: 

    Where are you from? What do you look like? What do you like to do? Who is in your family? Who are your friends? 

    Make sure to pause between each question, to give students time to think!


    Follow-up 5 minute free write:

    Once students have opened their eyes again, give them about five minutes to write down as much as they can answering the question: WHO AM I?

    Remind them to write down the things they find most important about themselves.



    How did the exercise make you feel? Discuss what was interesting/difficult/weird/emotional.

    Now it's time to learn about acrostic poems:

    Acrostic: A poem in which the first letter, last letter, or some other letter of each line spells out a word, message or the alphabet.

    Example with the word CAT:

    First letter of each line:


    C rouches low

    A lways lands on four paws

    T alks by purring

    Last letter of each line:


          Sometimes franti C

    She can be a real div A

                     Loves to ea T

    Letters in the middle of each line:


    She likes to C uddle

           Dark bl A ck fur

                    In T elligent


    Read the examples, silently, and then aloud. Discuss how each version reveals something about the cat's identity.

    ***Depending on the students' level, you can also leave out the latter two variations, and focus on the typical acrostic, where the first letter of each line spells out a word.***

    Next, share an example using your own name. Each line should reveal something about your identity: likes/dislikes, descriptive adjectives, family/friends, etc. Basically, the things that the earlier brainstorm should have revealed. Students will follow this example:



    Write your name vertically in your copy. Start filling in lines in any order, describing something about yourself in each line.

    Try to use descriptive language! Try to have it reveal something important about your identity… what do you care about, etc.?

    It can be difficult to come up with ideas by focusing on just the letter, so encourage students to come up with their idea first (i.e. likes/dislikes, descriptors; basically things that they find important to their identities), and only then figure out how to make it fit within the constraints of the letters!


    These can be finished for homework if not done by the end of the session.