Latino Writer’s Day

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Latino Writer’s Day was a success, but I do feel like I’ve been run over by a train. Next year, I will make sure NOT to host a writing workshop and Poetry Walk in heels.  It was a true whirlwind having all my students in one place at one time all trying to create a masterpiece in a 70 minute block.  I didn’t sit down one time all day long.

Last semester all my students read a book by my creative writing professor, Dr. Judith Ortiz Cofer, called An Island Like You. Back in October, they all hand-wrote some poems about their neighborhoods, based on Dr. Cofer’s poem “A Day in the Barrio” that opens the novel.

Then, late in January Dr. Cofer said she’d be in Athens and would love to do a reading at my school! I was overjoyed & a bit stressed. I had no idea how to plan an event of this size. As you all know, I am not a master of organization or details. Those sorts of things are usually left to Lucy Obus in my past life. What to do when I don’t have a detail-oriented master at my right hand.

Thank goodness I teamed up with the LIBRARIANS at my school. Seriously… my new title for librarians = MIRACLE WORKERS!

They had all these creative ideas for Latino’s Writers Day and what I thought would just be a poetry reading turned into a true fiesta with Puerto Rican desserts, coffee & decorations. They delegated so much of the work to Latino students & library volunteers and it made my role just plain FUN.

To prepare for the event, one of the librarians showed me this fantastic website called Flipgrid. O my goodness, if you are a teacher you must jump aboard the train of Flipgrid. We asked students all around the school, “What is your BEST memory in your neighborhood…” Check out their responses  by clicking on the image below.

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This map & question was the first thing students saw when they walked into the library… The ultimate goal of the event was to encourage students to write poems about their Barrios that are under-represented or misrepresented, so their first sight got them thinking creatively in this vain.

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Some of the students volunteered to set up and decorate for the event. I was impressed! Later in the day, all these chairs would be filled with my students.

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Some of the Puerto Rican students gave up their weekend to cook some of their traditional desserts & coffee. Of course, I never found time to try these snacks! LIFE LESSON: When hosting a large event don’t drink a large DD coffee & then forget to eat all day. My head was spinning around 2 PM when our author finally arrived on scene.

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All the students who had written a Neighborhood Poem before Latino Writer’s Day had a poem displayed in the Poetry Walk. photo 2 (2)

Students gave up their lunch period to come into the library & vote on their favorite poem.
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Before they took part in the Poetry Walk, they checked out an Ipad and then voted on their favorite Poem. They also had to write WHY it was their favorite poem. Here are some of the questions they were required to answer

Poetry Voting

About 60% of the “Day in the Barrio” poems were written in Spanish and the other 40% were written in English. I LOVED seeing some of the Latino students translating the Spanish poems for our English-speakers. They felt their language was show-cased and not shunned. I loved giving the Spanish language an equal footing in a creative space.

Tom Lebo & Lauren Baker, I need you to translate about 20 poems for me:) I kept on wishing you were both there with me!

When you tell students they can write creatively in their home-language you forget about the difficulties that come when you want to read these after the event and you speak NO Espanol.

The poem below is hard to read but it’s written by one of my most talented writers. He read this poem outloud to the group and I was never so proud. I’ll make sure to scan it & show-case this masterpiece on RamHorn later this week.

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So many students voted for this poem below as their favorite. I wonder if it’s because it was short & easier to read!

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My students could not believe a famous author like Dr. Cofer came just to read her story & listen to their stories. They were honored & heard.

I was through-the-moon proud of four of my students who represented their neighborhoods & culture in front of the entire group.

Some of their “Day in the Barrio” poems that were written at the event will be posted on my blog later this week!

And I leave you with a paraphrased message that Dr. Cofer told my students today,

 “To discover your voice & develop your language is to find empowerment. In high school, I wasn’t popular & I certainly wasn’t athletic. I was the only Hispanic in my school. I had no friends so I read through the entirety of the Paterson Public Library. Words became my weapons. Poetry helped me become visible. I use to be the quiet girl in the back of the classroom who everyone thought was slow. I stand in front this  group today because I discovered the power of language.” -Judith Ortiz Cofer

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I can’t wait to show you some of the finished-products they fashioned at the Writers Workshop. I am so very proud.

One thought on “Latino Writer’s Day

  1. looks magical, colorful, beyond successful- you don’t need me at all (but I’m happy to come plan the next one…and translate your spanish poems too)

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