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Where I am From: 
Capturing our 
(her/his)stories 
through poetry 
Sherron Killingsworth Roberts, Professor 
Nancy Brasel,...
OBJECTIVES FOR TODAY 
To examine the ways in which explorations of poetry, 
in particular, George Ella Lyon’s Where I am F...
How it all started… 
George Ella Lyon, a great poet, wrote 
her poem: “Where I am From” 
Here’s a website to get started w...
Theoretical framework or 
perspectives 
Vygotsky’s (1978; 1986) sociocultural theory is 
invoked as a means of understandi...
We sought to explore the use of Where I 
am From poems in establishing a 
personal context for social studies 
learning, i...
Our methodological story… 
First, we introduced the actual 
poem and structure of George 
Ella Lyon’s Where I am From 
poe...
Next steps… 
Participants explored possible 
connections to exterior, public 
(his/her)stories, geographies, cultural 
ori...
In light of CCSS, guiding our 
participants through the steps of 
creating Where I am From poems 
provided for close readi...
Data sources 
For the purposes of this study, the data 
sources were the Where I am From poems 
and accompanying reflectio...
Taking a look 
These poems and reflections will then 
be analyzed using a constant 
comparative method (Glassner & 
Straus...
Preliminary themes 
“From” as a clarification of identity 
“From” as a basis for generativity— 
looking into the next gene...
“From” as a clarification of 
identity 
“I am from the big-hearted and 
unfaithful. From “I’m leaving” and “I’ll 
be back…...
“From” as a basis for 
generativity—looking into the 
next generation 
“I am from the attic, tucked away in 
boxes and pho...
“From” as a reiteration of 
touchstones of our lives 
“From the death of my mother at age 
12, the strength of my father, ...
“From” as a journey across our 
lives 
“I am from “daddy loves you” and 
“mommy cares”… From the 
introduction of my stepf...
“From” as a point of gratitude 
“ I am from mementoes displayed 
around my home that I cherish 
everyday. 
I am from those...
“From” as a statement of 
contradiction 
“I am from the big brick house, old and 
falling apart, shaking as sirens race 
d...
“From” as a place of growth 
“I’m from multiple rented houses in 
Montgomery, Mt. Airy, Clifton, and 
Westwood, from the e...
“I’m from being the difference and 
setting a good example, from newly-found 
optimism and hope for the future. 
I’m from ...
Educational implications 
and future research 
Poetry is a powerful medium for learning. 
Teachers can guide students to m...
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A rf where i am from poetry

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Presented at the American Reading Forum, Sanibel Island, 2014

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A rf where i am from poetry

  1. 1. Where I am From: Capturing our (her/his)stories through poetry Sherron Killingsworth Roberts, Professor Nancy Brasel, Associate Instructor University of Central Florida Patricia A. Crawford, Associate Professor University of Pittsburgh
  2. 2. OBJECTIVES FOR TODAY To examine the ways in which explorations of poetry, in particular, George Ella Lyon’s Where I am From poem, might enhance our personal and interior (her/his)stories. To explore the potential for including poetry writing as a part of social studies education, focusing on personal, interior histories, landscapes, and origins situated within the larger exteriors of history and geography. To share preliminary themes of preservice teachers’ perspectives on poetic autobiographical innovations of Where I am From poems.
  3. 3. How it all started… George Ella Lyon, a great poet, wrote her poem: “Where I am From” Here’s a website to get started with a video she made: http://www.georgeellalyon.com/where. html Poetry can be understood and utilized in many different ways. This particular study situates poetry at the intersection of two particular perspectives: sociocultural theory and arts-based inquiry approach.
  4. 4. Theoretical framework or perspectives Vygotsky’s (1978; 1986) sociocultural theory is invoked as a means of understanding the negotiated relationships between personal or interior spaces and larger public spaces of histories and geographies. Sociocultural theory also provides a means of exploring the ways in which participant understandings of social studies (histories and geographies) are mediated in the midst of researching and exploring personal (her/his)stories. An arts-based inquiry approach (Barone & Eisner, 1997) provides the foundation for exploring the possible roles that poetry writing might play when integrated into social studies education. Where I am From poems as conceived by George Ella Lyon (1999) certainly contain components that represent the lived experiences, both interior and exterior, in social understandings. More specifically, using George Ella Lyon’s Where I am From poem/pattern, as the research poem, provides an authentic lens through which these experiences can be probed more fully (Willis, 2002).
  5. 5. We sought to explore the use of Where I am From poems in establishing a personal context for social studies learning, in particular, the history, geography or landscapes, and the cultural origins of our preservice teachers. Researching and writing poetry in authentic contexts for preservice teachers can be supported within the Common Core State Standards (Burkins & Yaris, 2012; Calkins, Ehrenworth, & Lehman, 2012).
  6. 6. Our methodological story… First, we introduced the actual poem and structure of George Ella Lyon’s Where I am From poem. Then, teacher candidates brainstormed, researched, and wrote their own personal versions exploring their interior spaces of history and geography.
  7. 7. Next steps… Participants explored possible connections to exterior, public (his/her)stories, geographies, cultural origins, focusing on on a Where I am From poem highlighting a time period they studied. Participants reflected on the process, connections, learning, and possible benefits of this constructivist, art-based inquiry and of their perceptions of poetry writing within social studies learning in open-ended reflections
  8. 8. In light of CCSS, guiding our participants through the steps of creating Where I am From poems provided for close reading as well as researching personal artifacts and reading informational texts as part of the emphases put forth in the Common Core State Standards (NGA & CCSSO, 2010).
  9. 9. Data sources For the purposes of this study, the data sources were the Where I am From poems and accompanying reflections of approximately 80 elementary (K-6) teacher candidates currently enrolled in teacher education programs. Each teacher candidate provided at least one Where I am From poem (one personal/ interior and perhaps one exterior) representing the participants’ understandings and thoughts about histories, geographies, and origins. Reflections were collected from teacher
  10. 10. Taking a look These poems and reflections will then be analyzed using a constant comparative method (Glassner & Straus, 1967; Maykut & Morehouse, 1994), with the goal of identifying patterns, themes, or categories.
  11. 11. Preliminary themes “From” as a clarification of identity “From” as a basis for generativity— looking into the next generation “From” as a reiteration of touchstones of our lives “From” as a journey across our lives “From” as a point of gratitude “From” as a statement of contradiction “From” as a place of growth
  12. 12. “From” as a clarification of identity “I am from the big-hearted and unfaithful. From “I’m leaving” and “I’ll be back… I am from staged family photos beaming with the fake smiles and matching outfits that hung over our fireplace for years—reminding us of the family we could have been, better than the tears and anger that would’ve otherwise filled candids of my childhood.”
  13. 13. “From” as a basis for generativity—looking into the next generation “I am from the attic, tucked away in boxes and photo albums just waiting to be shared with future generations… I am from an enormous family tree that continues to bloom as the years roll forward.”
  14. 14. “From” as a reiteration of touchstones of our lives “From the death of my mother at age 12, the strength of my father, and the love of my gram.”
  15. 15. “From” as a journey across our lives “I am from “daddy loves you” and “mommy cares”… From the introduction of my stepfather to the wedding of my dad and step mother…A family separated, but grown together.” “I am from these moments of my childhood that have transformed me into who I am today.”
  16. 16. “From” as a point of gratitude “ I am from mementoes displayed around my home that I cherish everyday. I am from those memories of loved ones, whose who have passed, and those I have only met through research. I am from a strong African family tree, origin unknown, the respected members of it, are dear to me, and their blood strengthens me.”
  17. 17. “From” as a statement of contradiction “I am from the big brick house, old and falling apart, shaking as sirens race down to the park. . . I’m from Washington, DC with wine and brie…” “I’m from the strong-willed and the easy going…”
  18. 18. “From” as a place of growth “I’m from multiple rented houses in Montgomery, Mt. Airy, Clifton, and Westwood, from the eventual JOY(!) of achieving home ownership, Bighorn Ct., here we come! I’m from bankruptcy and from bologna with ketchup sandwiches in my lunch box every. single. day.”
  19. 19. “I’m from being the difference and setting a good example, from newly-found optimism and hope for the future. I’m from my past, from stories that shaped me. I’m from my present, from stories being lived. Here. Now. I’m from my future, stories I’m eager to create.”
  20. 20. Educational implications and future research Poetry is a powerful medium for learning. Teachers can guide students to meet CCSS through poetic writing within social studies; therefore, teacher educators must work to capture personal, organic (her/his)stories as an authentic means to understand larger contexts and the significance of social studies.

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