Daily VideoOctober 23, 2013
Writing program helps young Detroiters build community through poetry
Professional writers are visiting Detroit public schools in an effort to turn students into authors.
“I want to build confidence with a pencil in the hand more than anything else,” said teacher and poet Peter Markus.
Part of the “InsideOut” program is learning to write poetry, which many students struggle with.
“A lot of times, I can just tell that early on a child doesn’t like to write or feels, ‘I don’t know what a poem is,’” said Markus. “I want to sort of disable them from that kind of thinking and saying, sure you can. You just wrote a poem.”
For students in struggling neighborhoods where poverty and crime are part of everyday life, the school turns into a haven, and poetry becomes a point of pride.
James Hearn, principle of a school where InsideOut is implemented, says that the program is instilling a love of writing in his students.
“This poetry really gets them truly motivated and excited. And I’m talking about my football players, my athletes, my basketball players want poetry,” he said. “When I saw the kids produced a book at the end of this particular experience, and they could take it home, and the pride those kids have, that was outstanding. So, that really won me over.”
Natasha Trethewey, the U.S. poet laureate, recently visited one of these classes to talk with the students about their poetry.
“It was a sense of power that they have from being able to imagine, and to create, to name themselves, to speak for themselves,” Trethewey said of the students. “It did really remind me of being in my school and learning poets, the work of poets, African-American poets, that I have carried with me since then.”
“We’re trying to revive our city, not just in the cultural center, but neighborhood by neighborhood. And I think that every school needs a poet, because this poet can help the school, the children give voice to their lives,” said Terry Blackhawk, who founded InsideOut. “And you can also build connections in the community at large.”
Warm up questions
- Detroit residents face the challenges of poverty every day. How might this affect students growing up there?
- Why might a young child not like to write? Reflecting on your own experience with writing, what factors influence whether a student likes to write or not?
- Why is strong writing important?
- What opportunities might you miss out on if you don’t practice writing regularly?
- How did the student’s self-expression through writing poetry empower them?
- The principal of the school reported that all his students wanted poetry. Why do you think poetry appeals to such a wide range of students?
- One student explained that writing poetry isn’t hard, “you just let your imagination run free.” Do you think the ability to let your imagination run free changes as you get older? Explain your answer.
- How can poetry strengthen a community? Explain specific reasons why it might be a powerful tool for community building?
- Answer this question with your own words. Where does poetry live? Poetry lives…
- Think about your favorite activity such as playing video games, sports, hanging out with friends, etc. What would you like to write about if writing were as easy and fun as your favorite activity?
- What kinds of writing are your favorites? Texting to communicate, fiction, non-fiction, blogging, writing in a diary? Examine why certain ones are your favorites and write down the reasons. Also, explore why some are not your favorites and try to understand the reasons.
Tooltip of related stories
Tooltip of more video block
Submit Your Student Voice
The murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich in July 2016 has led to a conspiracy theory based on unfounded claims linking Rich to WikiLeaks. Continue readingArts & CultureEconomicsHealthScienceU.S.UncategorizedWorld
There is a growing movement among young conservatives, including evangelical Christians, who support environmental regulations. They say it’s important to act as faithful stewards of the earth. One group, the Young Evangelicals for Climate Action, has grown to 10,000 members in the past five years. Continue readingArts & CultureEconomicsHealthScienceU.S.UncategorizedWorld
School districts around the country are debating whether or not to require seat belts on school buses. Requiring seat belts comes at a high cost for school districts already struggling with tight budgets. Continue readingArts & CultureEconomicsHealthScienceU.S.UncategorizedWorld
Since the firing of FBI Director James Comey earlier this week, the White House has contradicted itself several times as to the reasoning behind President Donald Trump’s decision. Continue readingArts & CultureEconomicsHealthScienceU.S.UncategorizedWorld
In a surprising move, President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey on Tuesday after receiving recommendations from Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein and Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Continue readingArts & CultureEconomicsHealthScienceU.S.UncategorizedWorld