This exercise is very loosely based on the George Ella Lyon poem and exercises called Where I’m From. I put it together after trying to use Lyon’s poem in some classes with students who just couldn’t seem to wrap their brain around the poem. This exercise was a nice way to ease them into it. Depending on the students (or poets) you could leave this as a simple list poem or use the list brainstorm to create something else. I alter the items on my list depending on my mood, the mood of the students, and whether it’s raining outside. (Okay, the first two are true. The last one, not so much.)

The students seem to like it because at first it’s just like answering questions, if you were an animal, what would you be? And I just toss out various items (kept on one of my trusty index cards in my back pocket) for as long or as short feels right. By the time they have their “list” they are warmed up and ready to go. Plus this builds on the 5 senses warmup poem we do every session.

So first off, just answer the questions to build your list. If you were a — what would you be?

Article of clothing?
Room in your house?
Piece of furniture?

Now build your poem. For kids I have them frame the poem by starting with “I am” and finishing with “I am.” I tell them the finished poem can’t have just one word answers. We usually title these poems “What I Want the World to Know About Me.” We go through these fast so they are reacting quickly and I don’t give them time to ponder the initial list until we’re done.

Okay, here’s my quick answering of those questions:

fuzzy sweater
someone whistling
delta slough
rocking chair
storms of thunder and lighting
a child of 5 asking someone to look at her
to feel like I what I do matters

And here’s my quick draft of a poem.


I am green, the color of growth, the sign that I am new and untried, with so much still to learn.
I am a bird, pecking at what looks like nothing until I find a valuable seed.
I am your favorite fuzzy sweater that makes you sigh as soon as your arms slide in the sleeves.
I am the sound of my grandmother whistling as she hangs clothes on the line.
I am the library, the center of our home, the room that tugs you into it and wraps you in a hug.
I am the smell of the sloughs out on the delta, my fingers trailing over the edge of the Glasper boat, while Papa captained us to the beach.
I am the rocking chair that rocked my babies to sleep.
I am the gardener of my life, growing stories and poems and an Eden in my own back yard.
I am storms that crash with thunder and lighting, so quickly do my moods change.
I am still, at times, a child of five, asking someone to please, just look at her.
I am one who wants to know that at some time, in this life, what I did mattered.

Your turn.