Lessons That Honor Identity: Acrostic Name Poems

During my poetry unit, I like to have my students write acrostic name poems. However, I find that they can be kind of artificial done in a standard way, so I don’t start with brainstorming based on letters. We begin by completing a personal inventory. I have a worksheet divided into six sections: likes/dislikes, dreams/plans, personality, physical characteristics, treasures, and friends and family life. I model for the students and then have them fill the boxes with as many things as they can think of. The next step is to highlight from their lists what they want to include in a poem that represents them.

I explain to students how an acrostic poem works (you write the letters of a word vertically and each line begins with that letter). I tell them, however, that we are going to bend the poem to our words rather than bending our words to the poem. That means that I don’t have to use “kind” for the K in Kimmie. Instead, I might write, “Known to be thoughtful, smart, and funny.” I encourage the use of phrases over single words.

Here is one of my favorite student samples:

             Dislikes frogs and worms

                A well-known lover of puppies

                Roller skater

                Be on my way to college

                Year of the rooster

When I shared this project with a writer friend, he suggested offering student the option of placing their name in the middle of the poem so it was more like a tree. Here is a student example of what that could look like:

                             I am eXcellent at being a prankster

My favorite song is “Ape Man”

                               I do Not like country music and coffee

                             I am Determined to go to Slovakia and be an aeronautical engineer

                      I am big Even though I am only nine and I am slow and hairy

                             I am Ready for any challenge like learning guitar

These make for a beautiful student-created book for your classroom library!