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Loud Writers 2017-2018

Big Tree Arts

The Big Tree Arts Loud Writers program brings visiting writers from around the country to Boise to teach workshops in alternative high schools as well as in libraries. Spoken word teaches literacy and writing skills but does so through a means that allows young writers to use their own self-reflection as content. In turn, they are engaged with the writing and are encouraged to share it out loud amongst their peers and instructors.

We brought Harper Jude Russet, John Pinkham, Joy Young, Paulie Lipman, Stephen Meads, Julia Gaskill, Taylor Bereiter, Ryan J, Nate Mask, Tanesha Nicole, and Wheeler Light to perform and teach workshops this year.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

How does spoken word poetry affect students’ approach to writing?

Teenagers are faced with different situations in high schools today, and being able to freely express themselves has become essential in surviving these daily challenges. Writing allows for an outlet, as well as a way to feel empowered. Many students don’t think about college as an option, but realizing that they are talented at creative writing gives them encouragement to pursue a higher education degree.

We especially focus on students at alternative schools, who are often faced with more challenges in school and outside of school than regular students. Not only are students challenged to write and contemplate new ways of expressing themselves, but they are encouraged to read their work in front of the class. We have seen writing and performances from the “quiet” students, the “popular” students, the students who feel like they are different from everyone else, and the students who have never shown their vulnerabilities to their peers. They begin to realize their experiences are shared with those around them, but also that being able to respond to these experiences with language and metaphor is a powerful tool.

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

Students responded to the following statements and, out of 107 surveys, we found an overall positive response. The percentage of positive responses in included next to the statements.

I like poetry more than I did before the workshop(s) 73%
I feel that these workshops improved my writing skills 80%
I challenged myself as a writer 73%
I would like to do more of these workshops in my classes 97%

Students state that they don’t typically get to participate in special classes or workshops, and are encouraged to meet an outside instructor who comes to their school and is interested in their writing.

Though their teachers are inspiring, the students are often fascinated by the poets who have come from bigger cities, such as Boston or Portland, to teach them writing. There is a certain level of legitimacy that these writers bring, that is different from what their teachers can provide.

Impact

Around 170 students were impacted through multiple schools and workshops, and many continue to attend our monthly all ages slam events where they present their writing to the community. Students practiced writing, learned poetic form and how to perform in public.

One student stood out, as she really took to writing, and rather than believing her only option after high school was maintaining her restaurant job, she realized that she could study writing in college. She applied to Boise State University and will be studying writing there in the fall. Writing helps students feel empowered, and by giving them the agency to use their own voice, they begin to realize that writing doesn’t have to be intimidating.

Reflection

In years before we expressed interest in reaching schools beyond just alternative schools. Due to more connections to teachers this year, we were able to teach workshops in different schools, as well as in a night school at Frank Church HS. Some workshops were taught by local writers, which helped to build stronger relationships with the students, as the local writer could return multiple times. Students soon began to trust the local writer more than a writer they just met. This is mutually beneficial, as we were able to provide more workshops due to less travel cost and could pay local writers for their valuable time. This led to more students attending workshops and slams outside of their schools, and in the communities. Many students preformed during community slams and demonstrated their writing and public performance skills. Additionally, the more we build our image to poetry communities nationwide, the easier it is to attract nationally recognized poets to our own poetry community. Overall, I believe we had a successful year and look forward to continuing more workshops at more schools next year.

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