Archive for the 'Prompts' Category

Where I’m From Writing Prompt

Wednesday, July 15th, 2015

Using Willie Perdomo’s poem “Where I’m From” as a creative prompt, have students write poems that express where they come from and how they view the world: their neighborhoods, homes, and experiences.

A great example of this type of poem is “I Am From” by DM, a WritersCorps youth at juvenile hall, who took inspiration from Willie Perdomo’s poem.  Read or listen to both poems. Ask students what they like about each piece.

Before writing, have students make a list of sensory details of their neighborhood. Come up with various categories and have students write at least three to five things under each category. These can include: neighborhood sounds and textures,  people/things you see, backyard or kitchen smells, etc.

Writing Assignment:

1. Stanzas should have a time continuum (morning to night or sundown to sunup, etc.)

2. Students can repeat the phrase “Where I’m From” or ”I Am From” or make up their own.

3. Students should use the categories and sensory imagery to help them describe their surroundings.

4.  Be as specific as possible. Use similes or metaphors, if you can.

5. Have students write for 10-15 minutes and encourage them to fill the entire page. Share out.

“I Am From” (inspired by Willie Perdomo’s poem “Where I’m From”)
by DM

I am from the hood where growing up is hard
Where kids have fun by throwing rocks at cars
If you ain’t good in my hood, then I suggest you don’t come around
If you claim somewhere and don’t carry a gun
You labeled a clown

I am from basketball hoops with no nets
To foil in my bike rims and riding dirt bikes up and down steps
I am from the hood where we don’t play about our guapo
Fiends is washing cars and candy houses
Selling everything, including nachos

Wake up in the morning and ain’t nothing to eat
So I grab a pack of Top Ramen noodles, crunch ‘em up
And that’s a meal for me
I am from cars riding on 24’s and dubs blasting through 415’s
Girls walking around with knives, mace, hammers and getting pregnant by fifteen
Pop Warner was the thang, it’s either that or you gon’ slang
Birthdays was cool
No cakes or presents but we got bottles
Turn up, turn up—all gas, all throttle

I am from police sirens and gun shots every night
Selling drugs to feed our family, in our head we doing what’s right
I’m just chilling with my friends, having fun, going on about my day
Trying to do right, avoid getting shot, so every night I pray

We ain’t even doing nothing, but police harassing us, trying to label us a gang
I’m just trying to protect my family and live my life
But the system
Sees it another way.

–”I’m From” was published in the chapbook Free Me Fast: Voices From Inside San Francisco’s Juvenile Justice Center, Volumes i & II (2015), edited by teaching artist Maddy Clifford. Click here for more information about this three-part publication project.


“Where I’m From” by Willie Perdomo

Because she liked the “kind of music” that I listened to and she liked the way I walked as well as the way I talked, she always wanted to know where I was from.

If I said that I was from 110th Street and Lexington Avenue, right in the heart of a transported Puerto Rican town, where the hodedores live and night turns to day without sleep, do you think then she might know where I was from?

Where I’m from, Puerto Rico stays on our minds when the fresh breeze of café con leche y pan con mantequilla comes through our half-open windows and under our doors while the sun starts to rise.

Where I’m from, babies fall asleep to the bark of a German shepherd named Tarzan. We hear his wandering footsteps under a midnight sun. Tarzan has learned quickly to ignore the woman who begs her man to stop slapping her with his fist. “Please, baby! Por favor! I swear it wasn’t me. I swear to my mother! Mameeee!!” (Her dead mother told her that this would happen one day.)

Where I’m from, Independence Day is celebrated every day. The final gunshot from last night’s murder is followed by the officious knock of a warrant squad coming to take your bread, coffee and freedom away.

Where I’m from, the police come into your house without knocking. They throw us off rooftops and say we slipped. They shoot my father and say he was crazy. They put a bullet in my head and say they found me that way.

Where I’m from, you run to the hospital emergency room because some little boy spit a razor out of his mouth and carved a crescent into your face. But you have to understand, where I’m from even the dead have to wait until their number is called.

Where I’m from, you can listen to Big Daddy retelling stories on his corner. He passes a pint of light Bacardi, pouring the dead’s tributary swig unto the street. “I’m God when I put a gun to your head. I’m the judge and you in my courtroom.”

Where I’m from, it’s the late night scratch of rats’ feet that explains what my mother means when she says slowly, “Bueno, mijo, eso es la vida del pobre.” (Well, son, that is the life of the poor.)

Where I’m from, it’s sweet like my grandmother reciting a quick prayer over a pot of hot rice and beans. Where I’m from, it’s pretty like my niece stopping me in the middle of the street and telling me to notice all the stars in the sky.

Domino Writing Prompt

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

1. Think of an emotion you’d like to spend some time thinking and writing about. Write this emotion down.

2. Write down (at least) 5 times you felt this particular emotion in your life.

3. For the first line of this exercise, write an image for something you might observe occurring outside (in the streets, in a forest, etc.). It can be any random event, just try and use sensory details in describing it.

4. Next, write one image for EACH of the experiences you made note of above.

By WritersCorps teaching artist Annie Rovzar.

2015 dominos falling

The Word Deck

Friday, December 7th, 2012

1. Ask students to write down three words for each of the various categories that you create (for example: foreign places, textures, sounds, colors, and foods.)

2. Students choose their ten favorite words and write each word on a three-by-five-inch index card. Place the cards together in a word deck.

3. Pass out five cards to each student, and ask students to write a ten-line poem incorporating their five words.

From the WritersCorps publication “Jump Write In!”

If I Were an Animal

Friday, October 12th, 2012

1. Give students a handout you’ve prepared with these questions:

-What kind of animal are you?
-Where do you live?
-What do you dream about?
-What do you do?

2. Ask them to write a poem about this animal, using their answers to the handout questions.

From the WritersCorps publication “Jump Write In!”

Those Familiar Places

Monday, January 30th, 2012

1. Ask the students to call out any familiar places they feel strongly about (their bedroom, a favorite cafe, and so on).

2. Give each student an envelope that contains a portrait, photo, or drawing of a person.

3. Ask the students to write a short story that incorporates one of the settings they’ve called out with the person whose picture they’ve received.

This lesson is from the WritersCorps book “Jump Write In!”