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Centering Writing and Literacy in a Joyful Way

Philadelphia teacher Barrett Rosser shares her experience learning how to teach the Poetry Inside Out poetry and translation curriculum in virtual settings: our summer teacher workshop “was a powerful way for me to start my journey” with the program.

Barrett Rosser is a Philadelphia classroom teacher and Fellow at the Philadelphia Writing Project (PhilWP), a Poetry Inside Out (PIO) program partner. The Philadelphia Writing Project is part of the National Writing Project, the leading professional development organization for teachers of writing and language arts in the U.S. NWP offers professional development and support for teachers throughout the year and during its annual Summer Institute.

Barrett joined our August virtual teacher workshop to learn about the Poetry Inside Out curriculum and prepare to teach the world poetry and translation lessons in this era of distance learning. She shared her experience on the PhilWP blog and was generous enough to let us share an excerpt here. Her main takeaway was excitement about using the program to “give students the opportunity to engage in rigorous learning that centers writing and literacy in a very joyful way!”

Here’s her perspective on the workshop:

Each day of the workshop offered different strategies, ideas, practices, and even mindsets teachers should consider to successfully launch PIO in their classrooms. Each 90-minute daily session refreshed my memory on the importance of PIO as it centers writing and literacy, and it offers a practical way for teachers to design, plan and teach culturally responsive experiences for students. 

Day 1

It was awesome starting our virtual time together watching a video of children engaging in PIO. They were in, as Mark Hauber, the Program Director of The Center for the Art of Translation and our workshop facilitator, stated, a “productive struggle” as they translated poems line by line. The highlight of the video was the creative interpretations of the poem they had deciphered; some poems were even performed as songs with accompanying instruments. 

Next, it was our turn. In our Zoom chat, we were assigned breakout groups of 4 to translate our assigned poem titled “Bagan Pazar” by NÂZIM HİKMET. The poem was in Turkish, and it was my very first time encountering this language. So, we started, line by line, translating the poem, using the ‘Translator’s Glossary’ which provided the part of speech of the word, a definition, and synonyms for words and phrases in each line of the poem. We spent most of our time in this section, which with kids, we were advised, may take a few lessons, depending on the length of the poem. 

Next we were ready to “Make it Flow”. This section prompted us to consider the form, sound, and syntax of the poem. This part was so much fun! It was fun, I think, because of the dissonance that presented itself amongst the group when we started to provide rationale or justify our interpretations of word choice and sound. The discord we felt is what made it fun, in my opinion; however, I definitely think kids could struggle here without clear expectations for how to engage in conversation especially when there are disagreements. What are ways that teachers can ensure all students feel heard and they can contribute meaningfully to making the poem flow? 

Secondly, our choices raised further questions amongst our small group:

What do we owe to the poet? What does it mean for us to make sure the poem is still “poetic”? What is poetry, anyways? What biases and mindsets do we have that might manipulate the meaning of the poem?

Because we all hold different identities, we all bring a different set of lenses to the text that influence or shape our interpretations; grappling with these perspectives and differences were important for our group to highlight and for us to get to a more nuanced understanding of the text as we moved through the protocol. 

The remaining time together was spent sharing group interpretations of the poem and debriefing the experience. It was really interesting to hear the different variations of the poems and hear groups unpack their decision making. I left feeling really pumped up and inspired to learn and experience more on Day 2.

Read the full post here.

On Day 3, Rosser recounts that Lisa Yao, an experienced Poetry Inside Out Philadelphia, told the group that

PIO, whether virtual or in-person, empowers her students, as it gives them an opportunity to see themselves on the page. 

Rosser then writes, “I have to admit. I was a little jealous. I’ve never had the opportunity to do Poetry Inside Out in my own classroom. The possibilities for empowerment that Lisa mentioned seem evident. I am, though, excited to learn from other Teacher Consultants who will implement PIO in their classrooms this year. PIO will continue to give students the opportunity to engage in rigorous learning that centers writing and literacy in a very joyful way!

You can read the original post here.

If you’re interested in teaching Poetry Inside Out, register for our next virtual workshop.