Writing Places
Teacher: Judy Bebelaar

Overview: This imagery-based poetry lesson works well independently or as a building block to an extended community-research project.  This assignment fuses creative writing, interviewing and researching skills for high school students.  Reading poems of place by students and published writers begins the brainstorming process that leads to developing questions, image lists, and poem drafts.  This preparatory work accompanies students when they interview members of the community about a meaningful place in their lives.  Once the interview is conducted, students will craft poems in the voice of their chosen community member. The blending of the classroom and local community is woven into final drafts of each student’s poetry of place. Click here for extended version of this lesson with student artifact and teacher reflection.


  • Poems of place models (students and published authors)

  • Lists of images

  • Lists of categories

  • PBS program The United States of Poetry ­ People and Places featuring George Ella Lyon reading her poem “Where I’m From”

  • List of interview questions

  • Permission or release forms

Time:  Ranging from several hours to a multiple-week unit.

Instructional Sequence:

  • Examine images from a range of model poems (e.g. “Africa and the Caribbean or “Chicago”).

  • Generate a list of images from these poems.

  • Categorize and associate the images with questions (e.g. clothespins—“What activity is associated with this image?”).

  • Brainstorm place-based questions for interview.

  • Draft pre-interview poems.

  • Read poems aloud.

  • Model peer feedback.

  • Develop possibilities for interviews: relatives, church members, long-time residents, community leader.

  • Arrange for interview.

  • Conduct interview with prepared questions about place-based memories.

  • Provide writing workshop time to draft, peer review, and rewrite poems.

  • Secure release form to submit poem for publication.

  • Evaluation:  This is one of the first assignments in a portfolio-based classroom.

    Click here for extended version of this lesson with student artifact and teacher reflection.

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