Word-slam was used with our high school urban students as instrument and method to elicit engagement with learning and develop agency through personal storytelling. The word-slam text (as it appears on YouTube and in hard-copy format as well) was chosen due to its being a personal story (of which we are all experts), an alternative, artistic and critical form of text that our students could relate to directly as the format and content were relevant to their lives and experiences. By using the text as a mentor text and studying the author’s craft together, students were able to write, rewrite and develop their own word-slam stories, carving out a space for themselves to be seen and heard.
Keywords: Word-Slam, Urban Youth, High School, Engaged Learning, Personal Stories, Agency
This paper describes the experiences and reflections of two scholars as they began an ethnographic research project attempting to rethink and re-imagine possibilities of learning/teaching with highly vulnerable students in an inner city high school. The work is rooted in critical theory and presents ongoing reflection and action regarding the students’ as well as the researchers’ mindsets, practices and interactions. Analysis of the data promoted the realization that voice in underrepresented groups resides in counter-narratives that must become part of the educational discourse in order for disenfranchised students to embrace school learning.
Reading to fly: Access to reading across diversity
Encounter: Education for Meaning and Social Justice, Vol. 23(1): 46-50, Spring 2010.
When we focus on responses to reading rather than to the act of reading, it doesn’t matter if the student has read every page or if she liked the book, if the she is rereading a book or what ‘level’ the book is on, whether only the action parts were read or only the dialogue. Independent reading is ultimately about some form of thoughtful engagement with a text and the personal treasures (learning) we pick up during reading. Responses to texts in any format are learning outcomes that reflect these treasures and can be viewed from an inclusive perspective using an abilities approach across the diversity of students: we can assess what each student was able to learn and/or take away from the text. Every student responding to the text achieves success, and when students associate reading with a positive, pleasant, interesting experience, reading comes closer to the heart.
Today I am proud of myself: Telling stories and revaluing lives
In D. Caracciolo & A. Mungai, (eds.) In the spirit of Ubuntu: Stories of teaching and research. Sense Publishers, 2009.
In a weekly literacy class at a home for recovering women we worked on critically reading texts that led to writing lives. Writing down experiences, becoming aware and thinking about events critically, allowed the participants to rethink their stories and revalue themselves , their families and their experiences.