Pen to Paper: Anthology of Worlds and Stories


I feel immensely lucky to have spent this year working with the students at PS 122. These writers are diverse in the best of ways: their humor, personalities, backgrounds, and interests, and the ways in which they analyze and respond to texts, range magnificently. These students, however, are united by a desire to learn, an openness to share, and a drive to write.

Click image to read full anthology!

When I’m looking at the students, discussing a text, going over a literary device, or explaining how this all relates to real life, what I see reflected back is an intense curiosity. I don’t see passivity in these eyes, but a glint of understanding and questioning. What I admire most about these students and their writing is their ability to question and interpret writing assignments thoughtfully, vivaciously, intensely. Horror stories told through supermarket receipts, a coming of age saga told through a list of fleeting memories, a tale of love inspired by an 18th century poet or a rap about the addiction of video games… I am impressed no matter the text, and delighted to have spent my Fridays with such bright and creative 6th graders. I feel pride and admiration when I think about these students.

I have to thank Teachers & Writers for allowing us to be inventive with our lesson plan, Irene Pappas for being a supportive model teacher, India for being an inspiring co-teacher, and drum roll please : the beautiful students who worked so hard to push themselves and write something they feel proud of! I hope you continue to use your voice (and pen) to express your feelings and imagination!

-Olaya Barr


During this school year I have had the absolute pleasure of teaching, alongside Olaya, the intelligent and creative group of 6 th graders at PS 122. I so enjoyed getting to know the students individually, having them excitedly share their work with us after class, and making jokes with them. I especially loved seeing a handful of them overcome their fears of public speaking by sharing their work in the classroom.

Of all the classes, I most enjoyed leading the lesson plans on unconventional form, blues poetry, and working with Olaya to teach the poetics of rap to the students. I would consider the unconventional forms lesson a break through class. I went through a text analysis with the students on a short story written as a series of voicemails. The enthusiasm of the classes, as we parsed apart the effects of the author writing in this form, and how form and content can work together to create a real world on the page, showed me just how gifted they were. When it got down to writing their own short stories in any unconventional form of their choosing, I was blown away by how expertly they were able to include the necessary elements of any good story in forms such as grocery lists, checks, and more. Later on in the year we moved onto our poetry unit, and I taught them the history of blues music in America and how it is related to blues poetry; I wanted these four classes to better understand the relationship between music and poetry. To see the students grasp the element of call & response within blues poetry and to listen to their poems showed me that they fully understood the poem as a song! To build on this notion of the musicality within poetry, Olaya and I had the classes listen to rap from all around the world. I loved how open-minded they were, how they were willing to accept rap as an academic topic, and the manner in which they utilized the poetic tools we had discussed in prior weeks and applied it to their own raps.

All of the lessons we taught the students were aimed at giving them the literary tools necessary to express themselves fully. It was all about aiding them in unleashing their creativity and showing them the importance of self-expression. It is my sincere hope that this powerful group of 6 th graders feel they can walk away from our time spent with them knowing that their voices are important and cherished. I have grown attached to each individual in the classroom and will miss you all! I am excited for you all to flip through these pages and land on your work. I had the honor of editing classes 509 and 504, and I can say with confidence that what follows is work that is vivacious, captivating, clever, and full of personality. Never forget that you all have voices that need to be heard! I hope you all look back on this anthology years from now and realize the astonishing caliber of your writing and creativity, as I do now.

I would like to take this time to thank Teachers & Writers Collaborative for the opportunity to work with this lovely group of students, Irene Pappas for being a marvelous team player and top-notch teacher (I learned so much from watching you interact with the students!), Olaya for being a great co-teacher, Principal Aprea and the rest of the administration at PS 122, and lastly, the students for being so stellar!

Yours Truly, Miss India


Featured Writing


Ode To My Eraser
by Aunirbhan (6th grade)

You come in many colors.
You sacrifice yourself to
create a clean template.
Smell like plastic,
feel like rubber.
Without you,
my mistakes
would not go away.


Secret Life: Explained, a haiku
by Demir (6th grade)

A secret girl’s life
Nobody knows what she is
A secret agent


Rise UP, a rap
by Ella (6th grade)

Listen to us
Can’t you see
We will never be
A democracy
New voices
Young voices
Survivor voices
Our stories need to be told
Your stories need to be told
Before they get old
Yellin’, embellishin’ and crackin’, oh

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