I’m always trying to come up with new ways to teach new concepts and inspire my students. Sometimes, I can also create a space for them to be personal, creative, and honest.
One of my favorite lessons to do in creative writing classes (and could easily be pulled into an English class) is the Honest Poem.
The poem is written and performed by Spoken Word artist, Rudy Francisco. Rudy is a former Individual World Poetry Slam champion, and has a repertoire of poems that can give you a lot to work with as a teacher. I personally love this one because it’s a poem about himself, an honest poem.
1. You can introduce the purpose of sharing personal stories through discussion. I usually put a small poem up on the board and talk about it with the class. After we’ve discussed poetry, sharing our stories, and the importance of story, I start the video.
2. Students watch the 4 minute clip, taking in what Rudy is saying and trying to listen for his “honesty”.
3. Student receive two hand outs. One has the written lyrics for Rudy’s poem, so that students can look back at his word choices, metaphors, etc. The second hand out is a skeleton outline of Rudy’s poem, with a place for them to insert their own honest details.
You will definitely have some of your stronger students or more creative students complain about the structure, but for the most part my kids LOVE this. The students that really struggle with poetry find a certain peace in the offered structure and in the opportunity to be themselves. The results? 30 poems, 30 stories, 30 expressions of joy or sorrow or pain or triumph… I never force my students to share these, but I’ve never done it without having at least 7-10 students come up and read their poems. The two worksheets can be cut and pasted from below!
“My Honest Poem” by Rudy Francisco
I was born on July 27th
I hear that makes me a Leo
I have no idea what that actually means
I weigh 145 lbs
I donʼt know how to swim
And Iʼm a sucker for a girl with a nice smile and clean sneakers
Iʼm still learning how to whisper
Iʼm often loud in places where I should be quiet
Iʼm often quiet in places where I should be loud
I was born feet first and Iʼve been backwards ever since
I like ginger ale… a lot
Iʼve been told that I give really bad hugs
People say it feels like Iʼm trying to escape
Itʼs probably because I am
Secretly I get really nervous
Every time someone gets close enough to hear me breathe
I have an odd fascination with things like sand castles and ice sculptures
I assume itʼs because I usually find myself dedicating time to things that will only last a
I guess thatʼs why I fall in love with women who will never love me back
And I know that sounds crazy but itʼs easier than it seems
And to be honest I think itʼs safer that way
You see relationships often remind that Iʼm not afraid of heights or falling
But I am scared to death of everything thatʼs going to happen the very moment
That my body hits the ground
Yesterday I tripped over my self-esteem
Landed on my pride and it shattered like an iPhone with a broken face
Now I canʼt even tell whoʼs trying to give me a compliment
Iʼve never been in the military but I have this purple heart
I got it from beating myself up over things I canʼt fix
I know this sounds weird but I wonder what my bed sheets say about me when iʼm not
I wonder what the curtains would do if they found out about all the things iʼve done
behind their back
I have a hamper thatʼs over flowing with really really loud mistakes
And a grave yard in my closet
Iʼm afraid if I let you see my skeletons
Youʼd grind my bones into powder and get high off my fault lines.
Hi, my name is Rudy
I enjoy frozen yogurt, people watching, and laughing for absolutely no reason at all
But I donʼt allow myself to cry as often as I need to
I have solar power confidence
And a battery operated smile
My hobbies include:
Editing my life story
Hiding behind metaphors
And trying to convince my shadow
That Iʼm someone worth following
You see, I donʼt know much but I do know this:
I know that heaven is full of music
And I know that God,
He listens to my heartbeat on his iPod
It reminds him… that we still got work to do
Outline For Students
I was born ______________________
One line about the significance of that day or season:
One thing you don’t know how to do:
And I’m a sucker for a __________________ with ___________________ and _____________________.
I’m still learning how to _________________________.
Two lines commenting about what you’re learning (if possible, make it a compare and contrast):
I was born ____________________________ and I’ve been __________________________ ever since.
I like (food/beverage/game/movie) _______________________…. a lot.
I’ve been told…. (one thing you do really badly):
Two lines expanding on this thing you do badly:
Secretly I get really nervous every time…
I have an odd fascination with…. (two things, connected in some way)
I assume I like them because…. (what feature of these things is appealing to your personality?)
I guess that’s why … (something that is COMPLETELY separate from the two things above, but metaphorically connected):
You see _____________________ (thing above) remind me that I’m not afraid of _____________________ or ________________________
But I’m scared to death of everything that’s going to happen the very moment that I _______________________________________
Yesterday I tripped over my ____________________________, landed on my ____________________, and it shattered like _________________________________________.
I’ve never been in the ___________________________________ but I have this _______________________.
I know this sounds weird but I wonder what my __________________________________ say about me when I’m not around.
Expand on the above line:
Hi, my name is ______________________.
I enjoy __________________________, ____________________________________, and _____________________________________________ (three unrelated things)
But I don’t ________________________________ as often as I should.
I have solar power ____________________________.
And a battery operated _________________________.
My hobbies include:
Editing my ___________________________
Hiding behind _________________________
And trying to convince my ________________________ that I’m _____________________________.
You see I don’t know much, but I do know this:
I know that __________________________________________________________________________
And I know that