In order to understand my students' backgrounds, and for students to understand, accept, and relate to each other, I start the academic year with students writing an autobiography. One of the performance tasks for this activity is that students write a poem about themselves in the form of an acrostic, using the letters of their names. This is also known as a "Name Poem". It is practical to include this form of poetry at this time because throughout their early elementary years, students have experimented with the acrostic form. Therefore, at first, I will only be activating their prior knowledge, then establish the criteria for a "Name Poem". Each student will be expected to compose a poem that truly reflects his/her cultural background and character traits. One criterion is that each line should reflect positive qualities or background. Students will be encouraged to use the dictionary or a thesaurus to help them find words beginning with the letters of their name. Students who have first name with fewer than four letters may use their middle name or a combination of both first and middle names. Students whose first name has more than nine letters may use an acceptable shortened form of their name. For example, Christopher may use the name Chris. I will use a think out loud approach to model how I compose my "name" poem. Mine may look somewhat like this:
ealous for high achievement
nly daughter of a Cuban native
ndustrious, intelligent, I am
oyal to my two brothers and many friends
dventurous traveler, born in Jamaica-.
At this point no attention will be paid to rhyming, so later students will not feel compelled to include rhyme in every poem. (Rhyming will be addressed later.) I will
solicit the involvement of parents/guardians by encouraging the students to have their caretakers check their poems for verity. These adults, without taking the ownership away from the children, should be able to suggest additions or omissions. These poems will be saved for sharing in small groups, then published with the students' permission.
Discussion within the groups should focus on diversity in order to help students get acquainted with each other, and to accept one another's differences. Some discussion questions may include:
- What kind of person is
- Where was
- How is
culture different from yours?
- What do you now know about
that you did not know before?
Once we have made our social
, we will be ready to make connections across the curriculum.