One of our initial writing projects in this unit were I Am From poems. These poems represent students’ preliminary foray into personal writing and poetry. They looked at several model I Am From poems (including one I wrote) to gain inspiration and to become acquainted with this structure. I Am From poems encourage students to explore their childhood memories and formative experiences. My students found the format accessible and also flexible enough to allow for their creativity to shine. Prior to writing these poems, students wrote about and discussed how place affects identity. We all wrote about the places we come from and how people and culture are interwoven with the idea of place. Students all read their poems out-loud to the class. Many students wrote about very personal issues and were proud to share their work with their peers.
Ivalease’s poem: I was impressed with the honest in Ivalease’s writing. Her poem is one simple, yet profound statement after another. She was able to use some ideas from this poem in one of her final memoirs, which I was happy about. I also really appreciated the way she ends her poem. She reveals so much desperation and negativity throughout the poem, which makes her final line all the more powerful.
Peggy’s poem: Peggy’s writing shows great attention to detail. She worked hard to make her poem very specific. She also has an awareness of building a connection with the reader. This relationship builds up to the final line when she tells us that she hopes we never have to see the things she had to.
Honors Gallery Walk 1
This video shows students engaging in their first every “gallery walk.” After students shared their I Am From poems with the class, they were given the opportunity to reflect more deeply on each other’s work. The I Am From poems are displayed on the desks with three index cards for students to make comments on. I was impressed with students’ focus during this activity and the genuine interest and admiration they expressed for each other’s personal writing.
Students made the following comments on each other’s I Am From poems during a gallery walk. Overall I was pleased with the positivity and openness of students’ comments for each other. However, in general, the comments are not as specific as they could be. After this gallery walk I learned to model commenting for students. Later I emphasized writing about specific lines and phrases in addition to commenting on the poem in a more general way.
I made the following comments on students’ first drafts of their memoirs. Most of these comments are made in reference to specific questions students asked me. They are individualized based on students’ writing skills and ELL level. I believe that honest, specific, and consistent feedback is one of the best tools teachers can use to help students improve their writing.
Below are excerpts from a Writing Workshop packet. Students participated in this workshop while in the midst of writing their first memoir. The packet is structured around questions that students frequently asked about how they could improve their writing. Their questions are written in bold. I give some initial examples from my writing and professional authors, but most of the excerpts in this packet come from my students.
Students also wrote 6-word memoirs.
At the end of our memoir unit students participated in another gallery walk, this time viewing their peers’ memoirs. I pushed students this time to make more specific comments on each other’s work. Many students appreciated Peggy’s humorous memoir written with a strong sense of voice.
This is the first draft of Bernabe’s memoir. At the top of his first page he lists a couple ways he wants to improve his writing. I respond directly to those in my comments to him.
Bernabe makes good use of my comments in his final draft. His transition from first to final drafts shows dedication to a deep and meaningful revision process.