Words Within the Walls Reprint is Here!

December 9th, 2014 by Admin


Thank you to those of you who donated to our Words Within the Wall campaign this past spring. Our goal was to raise enough money to reprint 5,000 copies of a writing journal we created for incarcerated youth. With your support, we were able to print 2,500 journals. They recently arrived in our office. This is what 700 pounds of journals look like!

We’re looking forward to sending them out to organizations and juvenile halls across the country. Thank you to all the supporters who made this possible.

Classroom Ideas on Ferguson #FergusonSyllabus

December 5th, 2014 by Admin

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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 hello@writerscorps.org 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 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-less?

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



Lit Crawl 2014 Recap

October 23rd, 2014 by Admin


Thanks to those who came out to see us at Litquake on October 18. Many thanks to our kind hosts, Paxton Gate’s Curiosities for Kids who made the space welcoming for our reading. The theme of our reading was WritersCorps Turns 20, as we’re entering our 20th year of service to the youth of San Francisco. Both our writers-in-residence and youth shared writing with the enthusiastic and supportive crowd. We always have a blast at Lit Crawl.


WritersCorps teaching artist Rose Tully.



Student Rowan of International Studies Academy.



Our MC, WritersCorps teaching artist Maddy Clifford, performing a powerful piece.



Hilltop School student Jessica reads a poem.



Readers from the evening. We love Lit Crawl!

Apply Now for Oasis For Girls Workshop

August 26th, 2014 by Admin


Applications are now open for our fall workshop at Oasis For Girls. Our CREATE arts education program emphasizes the development of creative writing skills toward improved academic performance and healthy self expression. The program is open to ages 14 to 17 and participants will earn $300 to $500 depending on their tenure in the program. To apply (and learn more about Oasis For Girls’ other awesome programs), visit the Oasis For Girls site here. (Application link is on the upper right-hand corner) Applications are due September 5.

Oasis For Girls fall 2014 program dates are: Tuesday, September 23rd – Thursday, December 4th, 2014

CREATE Arts Education Program meets on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 4:30 – 6:30 pm

This is Where: Posters on the Muni T Line

June 25th, 2014 by Admin

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We are thrilled to present This is Where: Poems on Place and Memory. This poster series will be on display on Muni’s T-Third Street Line light rail platforms in Bayview Hunters Point from mid June to August 2014. The posters feature poem excerpts by seven youth, ages 14 to 17, who participated in WritersCorps workshops at College Track San Francisco, an educational nonprofit based in Bayview Hunters Point. The teens wrote about memories tied to specific places in San Francisco, many of them in the Bayview. These poems are not just memories, they are maps. They tell the histories of our young people, the history of right now. See all the posters here.


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