“Who am I?” is a question on the minds of many adolescents. This activity helps students clarify important elements of their identity. When biopoems are shared they can help build peer relationships and foster a cohesive classroom community. Biopoems get beyond aspects of identity that are often more obvious and familiar (such as ethnicity, gender and age), by focusing on other factors that shape our identities such as experiences, relationships, hopes and interests. Biopoems can also be a way for students to demonstrate what they know about historical or literary figures. It provides a structure for students to think more critically about an individual’s traits, experiences and character.
Step one: Preparation
1) Selecting the focus of the biopoem
Often students write biopoems about themselves. But, biopoems can also be written about historical or literary figures. You can assign students a specific individual to use as the focus of the biopoem or you can allow students to choose an individual relevant to the current unit of student.
2) Selecting what you want included in the biopoem
A biopoem typically includes the following information:
- Adjectives that you would use to describe yourself.
- Relationships in your life (e.g. friend, brother, daughter)
- Things you love.
- Important memories
- Hopes or wishes.
- Home (location)
You can adapt this format to include other items such as important moments, heroes, beliefs, special sayings or words.
Step two: Brainstorming
Before beginning to write a biopoem, it is helpful to give students an opportunity to brainstorm ideas they might include in their final poems. You can provide students with a worksheet to help structure their brainstorming.
Step three: Writing
(Line 1) First name
(Line 2) Three or four adjectives that describe the person
(Line 3) Important relationship
(Line 4) Two or three things, people, or ideas that this person loves
(Line 5) Three feelings this person has experienced
(Line 6) Three fears this person has
(Line 7) Accomplishments
(Line 8) Two or three things this person wants to see happen or wants to experience
(Line 9) The residence of the person
(Line 10) Last name
Friendly, silly, athletic, tall
Son of John and Brenda
Who loves chocolate chip ice cream, the Grizzlies, and Saturdays
Who feels happy, tired, and lucky
And who is scared of tests, thunderstorms, and failure
Who learned how to shoot a three-point shot and won a basketball trophy
Who hopes to see an NBA game and make his parents proud
Lives in Memphis, Tennessee
Step four: Sharing
There are many ways students can share their biopoems. They could read them as a gallery walk or share them with a partner. Or, you might want to try one of these sharing strategies:
- Students could read their poems to the whole class. Each reader could be assigned a “responder.” After the biopoem is read aloud, the responder has to comment about something he or she heard that was particularly interesting or surprising.
- Ask students to pass their poems to their neighbor. Give time for a thorough reading. Have students silently write comments or questions in the margin. Every 3-5 minutes have students pass the poems on to the next person. Repeat as time allows. At the end of the time, students should have a poem filled with comments and questions. Be sure to remind students about expectations for appropriate comments.
For an example of how biopoems have been used in a lesson plan, see lesson two of the Identity and Community unit.