AUTHORS IN THE CLASSROOM: A TRANSFORMATIVE EDUCATION PROCESS
Alma Flor Ada & F. Isabel Campoy presented “Sharing Family Stories: Live Well, Laugh Well, and Love with All Your Heart” to a spellbound audience Wednesday, July 17, at WoodPark’s Wisdom Cafe Series. They were kind to send the following exercises from their book, “Authors in the Classroom,” to give residents and family members a jumpstart in writing their life stores.
A complete description of this methodology can be found in:
Transformative Education, as defined here, seeks the emancipation of the individual as an instrument for social liberation and the attainment of equity, inclusion, justice, and peace.
It promotes the development of all aspects of intelligence and strengthens critical and reflective abilities through practices that are interactive, creative and joyful.
Transformative pedagogy supports the creation of loving and caring relationships and environments, and recognizes diversity as essential to life. It fosters respect for all forms of diversity (gender, sexual preferences, culture, ethnicity and beliefs). It recognizes the prevalence of biases and prejudice as well as the need to unlearn racist practices and assumptions in order to achieve a just society. In the authors’ interpretation of Transformative Education, a number of fields provide ideas for a comprehensive understanding of its fundamental strengths:
- Constructivist Theory
Human beings are beings of knowledge. To construct new knowledge is to foster the human essence.
- Feminist/Womanist Theory
Human beings are beings of love and caring. All human beings have the right to attain their fullest potential regardless of gender or any other differences.
Human beings are intrinsically drawn to beauty and creativity.
- Critical Theory
Human beings are the sole constructors of social reality and as such are responsible for improving it.
The nature of Earth is diversity. Human beings are as diverse as the reality of this planet. They all deserve respect in their uniqueness.
- Anti-Bias Education
Prejudice and bias have been prevalent throughout human history. Most cultures are ethnocentric and promote seeing others as less than themselves and/or dangerous. The majority of people don’t see their own biases. Biases are destructive, and when they become institutionalized they bring about injustice and even crime against other human beings.
- Critical Pedagogy
Most forms of public education, anywhere in the world, promote the domestication and colonization of the human mind in order to maintain the status quo.
- Bilingual Education
Language is one of the strongest elements of self-definition as well as one of the most significant elements of a culture.
Benefits of Self-Published Books
The self-publication of books, in the classroom or school, brings about multiple benefits. Self-published books will:
- Build bridges between home and school by increasing mutual knowledge of each other through the process of sharing life experiences and personal reflections.
For everyone involved, self-published books will:
- Invite self-reflection.
- Lead to deeper understanding of everyday life.
- Bring out the artist, the creator hidden in each of us.
- Build self-esteem.
- Promote the validation of life experiences and our history.
- Facilitate understanding of others, bridging cultural differences.
- Empower us, as protagonists of our own books, to look at our lives from the perspective of a protagonist, not just a secondary character.
- Contribute to creating a print-rich environment in our schools, classrooms, and homes of our students.
- Provide an opportunity for children and their parents to engage in meaningful, lasting experiences.
- Become valued treasures to keep as reminders of important moments of our lives, and to preserve those memories throughout time.
- Make beautiful and valuable presents.
- Motivate us to:
Be authors, artists, creators
- Sponsor transformation in our lives, and the lives of others.
And, of course, these books will have a definite effect in enriching students’ vocabulary and improving students’ literacy and writing skills.
FIRST CREATIVE ACTIVITY: Book “I Am”
By Myself Uniqueness
F. Isabel Campoy
When I am by myself
I am a woman, creator of life.
and I close my eyes
I am Latina, passionate, familiar.
I’m a twin,
I am an emigrant,
I’m a dimple in a chin
conscious of my two horizons.
I’m a room full of toys
I am bilingual,
I’m a squeaky noise
capable of negotiating contradictions.
I’m a gospel song
I am the granddaughter of peasants.
I’m a gong
I am the daughter of tenacity and love. I’m a leaf turning red
I am mestiza of cultures, of races,
I’m a loaf of brown bread
of ways to see life.
I’m a whatever I want to be
I am a voice without fear.
And anything I care to be
I am here, building new roads
And when I open my eyes
to go forward,
What I want to be
true to myself.
1. Create your own “I Am” book
- Metaphoric “I Am” book
Present yourself in terms of: colors, fragrances, feelings, food, music, and song.
As a part of nature: ocean, mountains, desert, fields, trees,
or flowers, animals, birds, fish.
As a place or object in your house, an element of your life.
As a culture icon
As any image that represents you.
- Relationship “I Am” book
Present you as daughter/son; sister/brother; aunt/uncle, etc.
- Acrostic “I Am” book
Use each letter of your name to guide the structure of the book
- Combination or Original structure “I Am” book
Dare to be creative.
2. Create a collective “I Am” poem with the class
- Share your poem with the students and ask each one to give you one sentence.
3. Encourage students to create their own individual poems
4. Create a class book
- Include your poem, the students’ collective poem and their individual poems.
5. Share the class book with parents
6. Invite parents to create their own poems
7. Create a parents collective books for the classroom, school and public libraries.
Once you have mastered this process repeat with books of easy format, like the Acrostic.
You can create a classroom book with the names of all the students.
Students, in turn, create an acrostic book with the names of each of the persons in their family.
SECOND CREATIVE ACTIVITY: Where I Come From
Where I Come From
F. Isabel Campoy
I come from a street that leads to the desert.
and from a house with balconies facing the sea.
I come from clothes drying under the sun,
and the smell of soap, of Mondays, of work.
I come from María and Diego,
peasants and poets, laborers of love.
I come from jumping rope and playing marbles,
molding mud into cups and sauces, building castles in the sand.
I come from rice and fried chicken,
watermelon, tortillas y pan.
I come from poverty and hard work,
from honor and pride.
I come from a country that lost a war against itself
and suffered 36 years of crime, of silence, of shame.
I come from the certainty of giving voice to our hearts
so that together we create new days of peace.
Full of compassion,
full or pride and pain,
I say: This is where I come from
I. Create your own Where I Come from Book
To write your own Where I Come From poem you can follow these steps, but do not feel limited by them. Feel free to begin each sentence with the words: “I come from” or “Where I’m from”.
1. Imagine yourself at a specific age in childhood: 7, 8, 9, 12 years old
2. List some of the most memorable items you see in your childhood home.
3. Step outside. List what you see around you: in the front yard, the backyard, the street, the neighborhood.
4. State the names of relatives or caretakers, those who link you to your
5. Write down frequently heard words, sayings or expressions. Which
sentences that you heard over and over would distinguish your
family from others?
6. Name food and dishes from family gatherings, daily meals or special
7. Think of social, political, cultural or educational ideas that were
reinforced around you as you were growing up. How do they reflect
who you are today?
8. Name the place where your childhood memories are kept: physically
(photo album, diaries, boxes) and metaphorically (branches of a
tree, shady porch).
9. Think about the beginning and ending of your poem: where you are
from, who you are, where you are going.
II. Share your book with the students’ parents/caregivers and invite them to create theirs.
III. Guide your students in the process of creating their books.
IV. Do “Authors Visits” to other classrooms to read and share your books.
THIRD CREATIVE ACTIVITY: A Person in My Life
It will be easy to have our students write a poem to an important person in their lives by simply following this process.
1. First create your own poem following the process, in order that you can model it with conviction and authenticity.
2. Invite the group to be silent, to have paper and pencil ready, and to be prepared to write following your prompts.
3. Invite the reflection of how much we owe the people around us, who have allowed us to survive, who support us, to celebrate who we are. Then ask them to think about one of the many people in their lives who are important to them. Emphasize that it could be anyone, a grandparent, a parent, a sibling, a relative, a neighbor, a teacher, a friend.
4. Read each of the prompts slowly. Give your own response to the prompt. Pause to give them time to write. Then repeat successively with every prompt.
You will find here the prompts, as well as my own response to them.
Be aware that this process can bring about emotions, be ready to accept them, validate them, and be supportive of the person feeling the emotions, without interrupting the activity. Trust the process. It is very enriching.
A person in my life My grandmother
I hear… I hear her steps as she enters my room.
I smell… I smell her soft fragrance of talcum powder
I pretend… I pretend to be still sleeping so that she
will take me in her arms
I feel I feel safe being with her
I experience I experience her brisk steps as she takes me to the fields
I suffer I suffer knowing there are children who will never know this unconditional love.
I wish I wish her memory will continue to be
alive in my family.
I decide I decide I will try to share what I learned from her.
I hope I hope her dreams for justice, equality and peace will come true
I believe I believe in life and the power of love.
I am I am a grateful granddaughter.