As we think about how different instructional strategies work in our own teaching contexts, it can be helpful to spend some time paying closer attention to the contexts in which we teach. When we say “that won’t work at my school,” what do we mean? What is the disconnect between the strategy and the context? For this online class, I would like you to explore your teaching context by taking the time to observe and notice the sensory details of that place. This activity will serve as a first step towards the development of your sense of what it means to teach in your particular teaching context.
One project I have done with students that gets us to think about this is the following Poetry Mapping Project. Here’s a short piece I wrote about it a few years ago.
We began by reading the following chapter in Georgia Heard’s book Writing Toward Home. While this book isn’t exactly geared for students in the classroom, it is filled with prompts for writers and I have found it to be helpful when I’m trying to think of writing ideas for students.
Read: “Where Does Writing Hide”
Then, I gave the students the following example of my own poem. If you open the following document you will see how I presented the poetry-writing experience to my students. You might also want to use this as a guide for writing your own poem, as you will do today.
Read: Evolution of a Poem
The assignment I gave my students was to write a poem using sensory details (much like the one in my example, if they like) about a particular place.
When I worked in Queens, I used this Google map to publish my students’ poetry.
A few years later, when I taught on Long Island, technology had improved and we were able to include audio and visual elements to our Google map.
Teaching in Context: Writing about the neighborhoods where we teach
While the students in the examples above wrote about where they lived, you will write about where you work. You will need to explore the neighborhood you work in. Take a walk on your lunch break, or take mental notes as you interact with the area surrounding your school building on your walk to or from school. Your poem will require that you pay attention to sensory details, so remind yourself to pay close attention to your surroundings. You might also ask yourself, what does “literacy” mean in this context? Are you introducing literacy to your students, or are there context-specific ways in which they already are literate?
Here you will find directions for how to write your own poem about the neighborhood in which you teach: Directions for EDLIT755 online assignment Session 6
Once you write your poem, go to the map, click on the upside-down teardrop thing, drag it to the location you want, and plant it down. Then, you will see a little box pop up that allows you to post directly on the map. If you click on “rich text,” you will be able to add a picture to your poem or change the color of your font (cool!).
Please let me know if you have trouble! You can always send me an email with your poem and I will post it for you. Also, if you would like your poem to be anonymous, that’s fine – just send it to me so that I know and I’ll post it for you.
Click on the map:
Once you have posted your poem, watch this conversation with Edwidge Danticat (particularly from around minute 22 and on), who wrote Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work. In it, she speaks of feeling that her own success was an “accident of literacy.”
Once you are done with this writing project, I would like you to leave a comment below in which you explain what the process felt like for you, what it made you think about, what you might have noticed in the poetry of your classmates, and how you might use or adapt this idea in your own classrooms. Also, please leave links to other poets/writers/educators whose work you would like to share with us.
Summary of what you need to do:
- Use the following document to write a poem about the neighborhood in which you teach: Directions for EDLIT755 online assignment Session 6
- Click on the Google Map I created for this class and use the marker to add your poem. You should post it on the location you write about.
- Watch the Edwidge Danticat video. What does she mean when she uses the terms “accident of literacy” and “birthright”?
- Read the following conversation between Aurora Anaya-Cerda (owner of La Casa Azul Bookstore) and Cati de los Ríos: Click here.
- Leave a comment at the end of this post in which you reflect on this work, and pose 1-2 questions to the group.
DUE: Tuesday, June 9, midnight.