My Identity: Poetry Writing

Read poems by authors from different backgrounds, then invite students to write their own poetry!
Ages 11-18 / 45
min Activity
Perspective Taking
Social Studies


  • ‍Read a set of poems, and reflect on how the authors expressed aspects of their identity by utilizing different literary tools and techniques
  • ‍Write and share identity poems with classmates to learn more about each other’s background, experiences, and perspectives

Supporting Research

Research shows that multicultural poetry helps spark classroom discussions around cultural diversity and marginalized identity groups, and creates space for students to share about their own background and experiences. Educators should encourage students to practice self-awareness as they determine which characteristics to share about themselves, and perspective taking as they listen to their peers’ poetry and seek to understand each other’s identity.

To learn more about these skills, and how they promote students’ healthy growth and the development of empathy, please check out our Empathy Framework.


Activity Partners


  1. Invite students to read poetry that revolves around the theme of identity, and decide whether students will focus on the same set of poems as a class, or work in a small group to read and share reflections on different poems. You might even ask students to perform different poems for the class! A few poetry examples:
    I, Too by Langston Hughes
    Identity by Julio Noboa
    Jabari Unmasked by Nikki Grimes
    This is Not a Small Voice by Sonia Sanchez
    Ellis Island by Joseph Bruchac
    In This Place (An American Lyric) by Amanda Gorman
    My Mountains by Gabriela Mistral
    This Body by Renée Watson
    Knock Knock by Daniel Beaty
    I Ask My Mother to Sing by Li-Young Lee
    Amphibians by Joseph O. Legaspi
  2. After students read their poems, engage them in a discussion by asking the following questions: 
    • What did you learn about the author’s identity from their poem? What are some of their values, passions, joys, fears, sources of pride, or goals?
    • How does the author view themselves? How do they view the world?
    • What factors influence the author’s identity? (e.g., their family, friends, experiences, ethnicity, and culture)
    • What is something that you liked about the poem?
    • Did you notice any particular literary techniques, like the spacing of words or the poem’s rhythm or structure? What was the effect of this technique?
    • Did you see any elements of yourself or your identity in the poem(s) that you read?
    • What parts of your identity would you share in your own poem? What emotions do you want to express, or invoke in your reader?
  3. Provide space for students to write their own poems about their identities. Share a list of different aspects they might include, such as their:
    • Culture
    • Experiences
    • Personality
    • Appearance
    • Hobbies and interests
    • Family and friends
    • Beliefs
    • Values
    • Hopes
    • Race and ethnicity
    • Gender

    Encourage students to get creative, and use some of the literary techniques that they observed! For example, students might experiment with blackout poetry, use a haiku format, or create an acrostic poem!
  4. Hold an “Open Mic” event, and invite students to read their poems aloud. Consider leading a larger event with other classes, or an Empatico partner class, to help students gain an understanding and appreciation of their peers’ identities.

If students in both classes have individual devices (e.g., mobile phone, tablet, laptop, etc.)...

Use a platform such as Google Meet, Zoom, or Microsoft Teams which allows you to screen-share during a video call. 
One educator should set up the Kahoot! game and share the code with students in both classes by following this tutorial about using Kahoot! in a remote learning environment, and share their screen so everyone can follow along.

If students in either class don’t have individual devices...

Follow the same instructions above, with one educator starting the game and sharing their screen so both classes can follow along.  
Instead of students joining the game to answer the questions, they can hold up their fingers, call out their answer, or use a paper template to indicate their response.

If you prefer not using Kahoot!...

Use this document (Spanish version) to prompt students.