Archive for the 'Teaching Arts' Category

WritersCorps Teaching Artist in Residence grant

Thursday, March 31st, 2016

WC grant photo_DowntownHS_photo by Seng Chen


Dear WritersCorps Community,

WritersCorps changed from a direct service program to a teaching artist grant program. If you want to apply for the WritersCorps Teaching Artist in Residence (WCTAIR) grant, you will find grant application and guidelines on the San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) website.

About the WritersCorps Teaching Artist in Residence grant

The WritersCorps Teaching Artist in Residence (WCTAIR) grant is a three year grant, renewed annually, that provides support to individual teaching artists to offer free, long-term, in-depth literacy–focused arts workshops to youth at San Francisco community sites. Sites may include in-school or after-school classes and must include complementary programming with a neighborhood branch of the San Francisco Public Library (SFPL). The communities prioritized by the grant may include, but are not limited to, youth who are low-income, impacted by the justice system, pregnant or parenting teens, and/or English language learners.

The WritersCorps Teaching Artist in Residence (WCTAIR) grant will support teaching artists with a proven track record of working with the proposed youth population to deliver high quality programming. The San Francisco Arts Commission (SFAC) will provide a multiyear grant award to cultivate a deep collaboration between a literary teaching artist and a community-based organization or school. The SFAC will provide technical assistance and professional development for the teaching artist. These activities will include periodic meetings with the grantee cohort and occasional learning institutes for mutual support and shared learning. The grant prioritizes funding for teaching artists with experience to be effective in the community they propose to serve.

Click here to read more about the WCTAIR grant and download the FY2016-2017 WritersCorps Application & Guidelines.

Click here to read SFAC’s letter to the community about WritersCorps changing from a direct service program to a teaching artist grants program.

For specific questions about the WCTAIR grant, contact Community Investments Program Officer Liz Ozol at or 415-252-2231.

Classroom Ideas on Ferguson #FergusonSyllabus

Friday, December 5th, 2014

blacklifeisprecious mylifeismeaningful
As we heard the news about the grand jury decisions in Ferguson and Staten Island, WritersCorps teaching artists began sharing teaching ideas. Here are some of our ideas on how to engage students in writing or discussion. We will update this list with more ideas as we develop them. You can also find ideas by searching #FergusonSyllabus on Twitter. Please feel free to email us at or tweet at us if you have resources you’d like us to share.

Photos by Carrie Leilam Love, who took these in WritersCorps workshops in July 2013 after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the death of Trayvon Martin.


Writing Activity: Benjamin Watson’s Response to Ferguson
by Roseli Ilano

1) Many people are posting their reactions to police brutality on social media. Using the following post by NFL player Benjamin Watson as an example, have students fill in the blanks about how they personally feel. Students may share or keep their emotions private.

I’M ANGRY because
I’M FEARFUL because
I’M SAD because
I’M OFFENDED because
I’M CONFUSED because
I’M HOPELESS because
I’M HOPEFUL because

2) Optional Personification Activity by Maddy Clifford

Next, ask students to take one emotion and personify it. Personifying emotions allows young people to create some level of distance from a trauma, but also encourages them to use their imagination.

Ask students clarifying questions…

  • What is your emotion’s favorite past time?
  • Where does your emotion live and what does it eat for breakfast?
  • Does your emotion have a gender or is your emotion gender-free?

Here is an example of personifying fear from “The Book of Qualities” by J. Ruth Gendler


“Fear has a large shadow, but he himself is quite small. He has a vivid imagination. He composes horror music in the middle of the night. He is not very social, and he keeps to himself at political meetings. His past is a mystery. He warned us not to talk to each other about him, adding that there is nowhere any of us could go where he wouldn’t hear us. We were quiet. When we began to talk to each other, he changed. His manners started to seem pompous, and his snarling voice sounded rehearsed.”


Writing Activity: Truths and Myths
by Sandra Garcia Rivera

1) Ask students to make a list of three beliefs they had about “the police” or “the U.S.” or the “justice system” that they realized are not entirely true, or are a lie. (Choose just one topic to be as specific as possible. Specificity allows for a cohesive directed discussion.)

2) Ask students what they learned was the truth for each of these three beliefs.

3) Have students choose one belief and write about the time or experience that caused them to change the belief, or informed them that it was not true.

4) In small groups (no more than 4 participants in each), ask students to share their two lists. Ask students how many they have in common.

5) In the small group, have each student share the moment that their ideas changed. Students do not have to read their writing; they can just talk about the moment.

6) Come back to large discussion and have each group report back to create one collective visual of both lists.

7) Discuss the lists / experiences. Why are there so many in common? Be prepared to facilitate hard feelings, and affirm students experiences related to disillusionment, mourning, trauma, etc.

8) Share examples of leaders who overcame disillusion and turned their knowledge into action, ex: Cassius Clay became Muhammed Ali, or Malcolm Little to Malcolm X to El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, or Angela Davis, etc.

9) Give additional individual writing time to add to the earlier free write, or to start a new one. Allow time for students to volunteer and share their stories.

Note: This lesson can be modified for ELL students by using the “U.S.” as a point of opening up the door for discussion. For example, you can use the topic of immigration with a class of students who were born inside and outside the U.S. The discussion needs to be safe for the students who have migrated. You can also use a fishbowl discussion with a group that has already established trust, so that the students who have migrated get to speak, and the other students listen.


Discussion: W.E.B. Du Bois Quote
by Roseli Ilano


1) Ask students to respond to this quote by W.E.B Du Bois, who wrote this almost 100 years ago. What does he mean by this? Do you think it still applies today? In thinking about our current system, who is it protecting? How? Give concrete examples.

This could frame a discussion about police brutality and how it is related to so much more (gentrification, laws, courts, etc), as a system is made of many intersecting parts.

2) Additionally, you may discuss the concepts of “black rage” and “white rage.” This article frames how white rage is the way the power structure uses laws to hold up white supremacy. Voter ID laws, Stand Your Ground laws, and Arizona’s SB1070 are a few examples of white rage.

Writing Activity: Poem Inspired by Martin Luther King, Jr.

Adapted from the WritersCorps book, “Jump Write In”

WritersCorps teaching artists often honor the work and memory of the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. by asking students to write poems about the principles of civil rights and freedom. Here is an opportunity for teachers to talk not only about Martin Luther King Jr. on the day honoring him every January, but also about the civil rights movement, race relations, the qualities of a leader, heroes, and so on.

1. Bring in photographs from the days of segregation, such as of a water fountain with a “whites only” sign.

2. Ask students to imagine living in a world with that kind of overt racism and then write about how times have changed or not changed since Martin Luther King Jr.’s death.


Other Resources

Teaching the #FergusonSyllabus, by Marcia Chatelain

Teaching the Ongoing Murders of Black Men, from Rethinking Schools

Black Lives Matter Poetry Activity, from Youth Voices

How to Teach Beyond Ferguson, by Jose Vilson

Teaching for Change


“Not An Elegy for Mike Brown:” Two Poems for Ferguson by Danez Smith

Black Poets Speak Out

“Poem About My Rights” by June Jordan

“I Too” by Langston Hughes

“Let Me Breathe” by Donte Clark, poet laureate of Richmond, CA (Video)

“To Men of Melanin, Bullet wounds, and Tear drops” by Obasi Davis, 2013 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate (Video)

I Can’t Breathe – WalkRunFly Productions, Poem written and performed by Daniel J. Watts (Video)



‘Am I Next?’: Ferguson’s Protests Through the Eyes of a Teenager

Teaching Huck Finn in the Classroom

Thursday, January 13th, 2011

Should a bowdlerized version of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn replace the controversial original version? That’s the subject at the heart of this Mother Jones piece, which addresses censorship in the classroom. Tadd Scott, one of the English teachers at Mission High School that WritersCorps works with, weighs in — and also offers his own take on how English classes can better serve a more multicultural society than Twain’s by offering their students alternative narratives alongside classics like Huck Finn.

AWP Recap

Friday, February 20th, 2009

WritersCorps attended AWP in Chicago last week to present our new book: “Days I Moved Through Ordinary Sounds: The Teachers of WritersCorps in Poetry and Prose.” We had a panel reading on Saturday, February 14. Yes, it was Valentine’s Day. And lots of people shared their love of WritersCorps.

The panel featured several writers from the anthology, all writers who had served in WritersCorps.

Here are the panelists: Chad Sweeney (who also edited the book), Maiana Minahal, Hoa Nguyen, Thomas Centolella, Elissa Perry, and Jeffrey McDaniel. It was great to hear everyone’s different styles and voices.

We also had a lot of fun checking out other panels at AWP, plus the big bookfair.

In fact, it was such an action-packed conference that it took us a week to recuperate and write this post. Thank you to everyone who came to our panel and to Elaine, our publisher from City Lights. And to the great city of Chicago. We had a lovely time.

Judith’s New Site

Thursday, April 24th, 2008

Our training coordinator, Judith Tannebaum, has revamped her personal website. It’s full of information about teaching arts and prison arts, so if you’re looking for resources on those subjects, check it out.



Photos from our Latest Event