Table of Contents

    Editorial
  • Free Our Climate Crisis Is an Education Crisis

    Edited By the editors of Rethinking Schools Why is there so little teaching or discussion of climate change in classrooms?
  • Cover Story
  • Free Got Coal?

    Teaching about the most dangerous rock in America

    Authored By Bill Bigelow Students play a game promoted by the coal industrythen dig beneath the surface to look at the realities of mountaintop removal mining.
  • Coal at the Movies

    Classroom DVDs on coal and mountaintop removal mining

    Authored By Compiled by Bill Bigelow Video resources for the classroom, plus links to activist websites.
  • Science for the People

    High school students investigate community air quality

    Authored By Tony Marks-Block Ninth graders develop science literacy as they become neighborhood environmental experts and activists.
  • Features
  • Who’s Bashing Teachers and Public Schools and What Can We Do About It?

    Authored By Stan Karp To build an effective movement against the top-down strategies that are ripping public education apart, we need to take a closer look at who wants reform and why.
  • Keepers of the Second Throat

    Authored By Patricia Smith When Chicago stole my mothers tongue, it also stole all her yesterdays. A poets lyric plea for teachers to nurture their students voices and stories.
  • Talking Back to the World

    Turning poetic lines into visual poetry

    Authored By Renee Watson Student poetry about what raised me is woven into graphic art.
  • Bad Signs

    Authored By Alfie Kohn What are the real messages in the inspirational slogans covering classroom walls? Plus some better alternatives.
  • Fuzzy Math

    A meditation on test scoring

    Authored By Meredith Jacks A middle school writing teacher reflects on a day spent scoring districtwide math tests.
  • Support That Can’t Support

    My induction program experience

    Authored By Elaine Engel Are peer mentoring programs bowing to the pressure to teach to the test?
  • Departments Free
  • Action News • Wisconsin Uprising

  • Good Stuff

    Authored By Herb Kohl
  • First and Second title both empty, Update me!

  • Scholastic Inc

    Authored By Bill Bigelow

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Talking Back to the World

Turning poetic lines into visual poetry
Talking Back to the World

I am not a visual artist. At best, I can draw a heart. But it stops there. Even my stick figures could use improvement. So when my middle school students asked me if they could do an art project, I quickly made an excuse. We dont have time. Its not a part of the unit.

It was partly true. I had planned out a four-week poetry unit on exploring identity. Besides teaching students the basicsWhat is a stanza? Why do poets break lines?I also had to find the best poems to spark my students interests and get them motivated to talk and write about who they are, where they are from.

At the start of our after-school program, the teachers decided our goals would include teaching students how to connect poetry to their living histories and how to use poetry as a means to talk back to the world. My 90-minute lesson plans were bursting with free writes, reading and critiquing poems, writing poems, revising poems, performing poemsthere was no room for art. Especially not the simplistic assignment I have done in times past: Choose an image from your poem and illustrate it. If students were going to make illustrations, I wanted these to have meaning and tie into our unit.

It wasnt until our fourth lesson that I thought of a way to incorporate art into our poetry class. Students had written poems about what raised them (see Raised by Women: Celebrating Our Homes, Christensen), and they had written a response to the free-write question If people could see the true me, what would they see? We spent two sessions writing about and discussing our roots. I learned that my Bronx students carried in them the turquoise blue water of Jamaica, the sweet mangos of the Dominican Republic, and the steaming hot caf con leche of Puerto Rico. They were raised by video games and praying grandmothers, by leftovers that taste better on the second day and empty pockets, with not even lint or change. In Ode to My Skin Tone, Richard wrote:

I am Sunset Beige, the color ofthe beach

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