How to Implement the Bio-poem: Connecting Identity and Poetry Teaching Strategy in Your Classroom
“Who am I?” is a question on the minds of many teenagers. This activity helps learners clarify essential elements of their identities by writing a poem about themselves or a historical or literary figure. Bio-poems help learners get beyond the aspects of personality that are often more obvious by asking them to focus on factors that shape identities, such as experiences, relationships, hopes, and interests. By providing a structure for learners to think more critically about an individual’s traits, skills, and character, bio-poems are a way for learners to demonstrate what they know about historical or literary figures. Having learners share their bio-poems is a great way to build peer relationships and foster a cohesive classroom community.
- Prepare: Select the focus of the bio-poem. Learners typically write bio-poems about themselves, but the poems can also be written about historical or literary figures. You can assign learners a specific individual to use as the focus of the bio-poem, or you can allow learners to select an individual applicable to the current unit of study. Select what you want to be included in the bio-poem.
- Learners Brainstorm: Before they begin writing, it is helpful to allow learners to brainstorm ideas they may include.
- Learners Write Their Poems: Explain the format of a bio-poem to your learners. You can also share a sample bio-poem.
- Learners Share Poems: There are many ways that learners can present their bio-poems. They could post them around the room as part of a gallery walk, for instance, or share them with a partner. Or you may want to try one of these sharing strategies:
- Learners can present their bio-poems to the whole class. Each reader is assigned a “responder.” After the bio-poem is read, the responder has to comment about something that they thought was interesting or surprising.
- Ask learners to pass their poems to their neighbors. Give time for a thorough reading. Have learners silently write comments or questions in the margin. Every three to five minutes, have learners pass the poems on to the next person. Repeat as time allows. At the end of the allotted time, learners must have a poem filled with comments and questions. Be sure to remind learners about expectations for appropriate feedback.