What happened at school today?
From the time we were very young, answering that question from a parent, grandparent, sibling, or neighbor was an invitation to tell a story. The power of storytelling is on our minds here at Teachers & Writers Collaborative as our writers head back to classrooms across New York City, where they will provide space for students to tell their own stories—not just about what happened at school today, but about anything they can imagine.
This issue of Teachers & Writers Magazine celebrates the power of stories in Matthew Burgess’ interview with award-winning playwright and performer James Lecesne, who discusses his belief in storytelling as a way to change lives and develop understanding. During the interview, Lecesne and Burgess discover a shared love of the E.E. Cummings’ poem “in Just-,” which is the starting point for Burgess’ lesson plan in this issue.
In her essay, T&W teaching artist Vanessa Mártir grapples with the challenge of getting high school students to tell their stories in personal essays. Olivia Birdsall provides a lesson plan she has used effectively when teaching personal essay at high schools. Barbara Feinberg tells tales from her Story Shop program, and shares work written by the eight middle school girls who participate in the “Tuesday group.” Lucas DuClos encourages us to use tagging—the process of adding descriptive keywords to social media posts and other online communication—as a way to encourage students to be more deliberate as they create and share their stories.
In two videos, Chicago poet and teaching artist Fatimah Asghar gives us an insight into spoken word as storytelling, as well as letting us hear some of her students’ work and one of her own poems. Alan Sitomer and Michael Cirelli show how spoken word and Hip-Hop can support learning in the English classroom in a lesson plan from their Hip-Hop Language Arts Curriculum. And, in our “Young Writers of the World” series, Ahrar and Savannah tell us why poetry has become part of the story of their lives.
All of us at T&W congratulate our friends and colleagues at two other literary arts education organizations that are celebrating important milestones. In this issue you’ll find “Secret Place,” Perie Longo’s lesson plan from Poetry Crossing: 50+ Lessons for 50 Years of California Poets in the Schools; and “How to Turn an Ordinary Floor into an Oceanside Beach with One Hand,” Matthew Olzmann’s essay from To Light a Fire: 20 Years with the InsideOut Literary Arts Project. (Be sure to take advantage of the 30 percent discount offer to Teachers & Writers Magazine readers who want to purchase To Light a Fire.)
And finally, we want to hear your stories. T&W is accepting submissions for the 2016 Bechtel Prize, which will honor exemplary essays that explore creative writing, arts education, and/or the imagination. The deadline is Monday, November 30. Click here for full submission guidelines, and good luck!
The Teachers & Writers Magazine Editorial Board
David Andrew Stoler