The Poet Within: a Workshop Series
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The urban American language sea in which many, if not most, of New Haven Public Schools' students are immersed is not one of broad-ranging vocabulary, verbal eloquence, or even coherent Standard English. Consequently, I am planning to teach a writers' workshop series this coming academic year at the comprehensive high school where I teach Spanish as a Second Language. The workshop will be open to all students because, regardless of a particular student's linguistic or social background, each (even, or perhaps especially, those not enrolled in a language class) could benefit from more exposure to fun and non-threatening writing activities. I expect mainly to enroll ninth- and tenth-graders, as they tend to constitute the majority of students in similar programs and are the students most concerned with up-coming standardized language testing. They also form the bulk of my teaching load, and most students seem to prefer attending extra-curricular classes with familiar teachers, at least at first. For the year-long workshop series, I have two main goals-to increase the frequency and breadth of the students' reading activities and to engage them in both expository and creative writing pursuits. Meeting twice a week after school and on Saturday mornings for 50-minute sessions, we will spend the first half of the year working on reading and writing expository material, focusing on improvements in Standard English usage and developing the rhetorical conventions of composition. I also plan to use those first twenty weeks to develop a sense of camaraderie amongst the students and of trust in me as the instructor, which should make the more emotionally demanding tasks of creative writing easier to manage. In the second twenty weeks of the academic year, our focus will shift to creative works-specifically the reading and writing of poetry. As Mark Twain said, "A reader is not a person who can read, but one who does." Since good readers become good writers, I will strive to help the students become better at both, through the enjoyment of both prose and poetry. What follows is an outline for the second half of the workshop, in which I detail my objectives for the students and strategies for achieving those goals with poetry.