Students often cultivate skills outside of school that are not deemed academic or relevant to the school day experience. Leveraging such interests as poetry, hip-hop and other creative arts provides a way teachers can intentionally offer students ways to bring themselves fully into the classroom experience. Teachers can create events that students look forward to throughout the school year that are highly academic and wonderful relationship builders by dedicating a small portion of Friday each week to the performance of self-selected forms of expression, such as poetry or music. Students will anticipate the possibility of performing for their peers all week; this means that students will remain more engaged throughout the week in a class where they feel listened to and excited about getting to know their peers and teacher. Many students have hidden talents and skills that can be valued or celebrated in Friday "open mics".
Life Maps are a pre-writing tool that supports students to engage in self-reflection in order to discover the significance of moments in their life that provide potential writing topics. Using this strategy, student writers and their teachers create an illustrated road map of significant events in their life. While students can sketch a life map at any time in the school year, this strategy is ideal at the beginning of the year because it provides multiple potential writing topics and allows students to get to know each other on a more personal level. Throughout the school year, illustrated life maps can be looked back upon to provide sources of writing topics with relevance and meaning to students.
As citizens in a democracy, students need to be able to analyze news articles and commentaries on current events in their world. True analysis of the news requires understanding the larger social justice concerns embedded within news stories. It is also important for students to consider who presented the news and any bias and agenda that entity might have. Students should also consider their own biases and agenda in interpreting the news. This strategy guides students to analyze the news, to look at it with a critical pedagogical lens, and to develop a plan to address the situations presented in the news.
Observe, Appreciate, Question and Suggestion is a feedback protocol that follows a logical progression of thought that helps the student author feel safe, heard, respected and nurtured toward growth. It can be implemented as a whole class, in groups, and both orally and in writing. Students will learn to give and receive feedback in a scaffolded experience that will provide lasting guidance and security in the classroom community during public speeches, poems, or verbal sharing of writing and creative expression. Students can also use this protocol to ensure healthy and productive peer conferences take place.
Performing in front of peers is a popular and powerful way to engage members of the school and community. Performance opportunities beckons to many students who might not feel their talents or thoughts are worthy of contribution to the school environment. This strategy lays out the process for creating a well-attended and inspirational showcase of student voices.
Students often need practice summarizing and paraphrasing the ideas they read. This strategy will provide regular practice and exposure to reading passages that are deemed affirmative and positive to character and development. Often these small passages can be best summarized in a sentence or two, which truly showcases the power of paraphrasing as a tool for further writing and discussion while centering around topics about personal well being and positive thinking.
Students need to own the tasks we are asking them to complete with the true understanding of how and why it might apply to their lives and future development. Often learning targets are centered around individual goals, while students learn best from each other when they feel open to asking for help. This strategy will help students build collective goals called We Can statements as well as support each other in meeting these targets.