The students of S.J. Preston Elementary School were treated to a unique forum from two visiting artists from Urban Word NYC. The organization specializes in youth literacy arts and offers workshops as well as traveling artists that work with students. This opportunity was made possible through an EEC Cultural Arts Grant.
“We wanted a way for the cultural arts to connect to our students as well as our curriculum,” said Lauren Benjamin, Instructional Specialist for S. J. Preston. “We had two poets lead a "Poetry Assembly." They developed an excitement around writing, more specifically poetry for our students.
During one of the workshops, the poets said relayed the following message to the students:
Tell your stories
Tell your truth
There are no rules
Whatever you do - make it compelling
Be the unique you that you are
And be boldly you
“They shared how at an early age they felt a need to express themselves. They themselves didn't have the guidance and support in helping them write, so they implored the students to take advantage of the support and feedback that they are being given to make them better writers,” said Benjamin. “They expressed, ‘There is no right way to do it, there is no wrong way to do it, you just have to be yourself and that will come through in your writing.’ They emphasized author's voice, purpose and using writing as a vehicle to express yourself, even if the writing is just for yourself.
During the assembly, they had a few students of all ages share/perform some of their poetry for the whole school.
In the classrooms, the writer's workshop varied from classroom to classroom. Based on the students and their interests, the artists varied the lessons. Some classes learned about the rhythm and rhyme of poetry and created raps about sports and future dreams. Some classes learned about the power of line or phrase repetition to help the reader get a sense of voice and importance. Some classes learned about the power of words - and how an author might write one thing, but readers might interpret it as something else - so be clear and descriptive.
One of Preston’s teachers wrote, " The assembly was fantastic! It really motivated my students to write more poetry. At recess, two students sat down to write a poem together!"