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Poetry Inside Out
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Collaborative Language Arts

Poetry Inside Out is a collaborative, cross-cultural language arts curriculum that celebrates classroom diversity, builds literacy skills, improves critical thinking, and unlocks creativity by teaching students to translate great poetry from around the world. Poetry Inside Out embraces—and relies upon—the cultural and linguistic diversity found in today’s classrooms, schools, and communities. As a world literature program, it treats great poets as teachers and their work as models.

 

  • Why Translation? Why Poetry?

    Students who participate in the arts do better in school, are more engaged with teachers and fellow students, and are more confident and better able to express their ideas. Translation is the closest form of reading, and poetry is the most precise and expressive use of language. By practicing the art of translation, students become familiar with the building blocks of language and the full range of expression available to them as readers, writers, speakers, thinkers, and world citizens. The translation of poetry by its nature offers multiple possibilities: since there is no single “correct” rendering of a poem, students must defend their language choices, which inevitably require a deep immersion into a literary work.

  • Bridging cultures through language.

    As California’s—and the nation’s—population becomes more diverse, it’s vital that teaching materials reflect and honor that diversity. In San Francisco, where more than 112 languages are spoken, at least a quarter of students speak English as a second language. In Oakland, almost half of students speak a language other than English at home.

    Poetry Inside Out empowers students by drawing on the cultural and linguistic experiences they bring with them to school every day. By translating poems collaboratively, students build a natural appreciation for one another’s skills and backgrounds—and student translations reveal profound responses to language, society, and personal experiences.


    “Poetry Inside Out made me reflect on what I wanted my classroom to be: a place for students to learn and love language.”

    —Newcomer Program teacher, Oakland, California

    “I have been teaching Language Arts to sixth graders for six years in this community and have used many curricula to attempt to meet their many literacy needs. This program met them in so many different ways and the results were remarkable.”

    —6th grade Language Arts teacher, Oakland, California

How It Works

You don’t need to be a translator or a poet, nor do you need to possess mastery of another language to participate in a Poetry Inside Out. Interested teachers and administrators attend a workshop hosted by the Center of the Art of Translation or one of our program partners. Workshop participants learn program fundamentals—how to encourage students of all ages to translate poetry, talk, listen, and collaborate—and receive access to curriculum materials and other resources:

  • The 2016-17 Poetry Inside Out Teacher’s Guide;
  • A Teacher’s Toolbox that includes a portfolio of nearly 100 different Poem Pages, the program’s keystones, with poems in their original languages by writers such as Anna Akhmatova (Russian), Matsuo Bashō (Japanese), Aimé Césaire (French), David Huerta (Spanish), an anonymous Angel Island poet (Chinese), and Wisława Anna Szymborska (Polish), among many others;
  • A monthly newsletter that features helpful translation tips, exercises, and news;
  • Shared lesson plans from Poetry Inside Out practitioners across the country; and
  • Translation and English Language Learning-related articles and scholarship.

Contact us to learn more about bringing Poetry Inside Out to your school.

Program Partners

The Center for the Art of Translation is dedicated to creating a community of Poetry Inside Out practitioners. This work would not be possible without the contributions of teachers, administrators, and other representatives from the Oakland Unified School District; San Francisco Unified School District; Bay Area Writing Project in collaboration with the University of California Berkeley School of Education; Clark University and Worcester Public Schools (Worcester, MA); St. Louis Poetry Center (St. Louis, MO); and the Philadelphia Writing Project in collaboration with the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education.


“Words in a poem, unlike everyday language, have more than one meaning. You need to pay attention to the context in order to find the meaning of words and the meaning of the poem.”

– 6th Grade Poetry Inside Out Participant

“When I translate a poem I look for what the author is trying to tell us, but you have to figure it out. You need to look at all the words and what they mean. It’s like a riddle.”

– 4th Grade Poetry Inside Out Participant