During our eight-year partnership with District 79* (D79), we’ve sent teams of educators, volunteers and visiting artists to work in Horizon Academy at Rikers Island Prison and Community Prep, which serve students that are currently incarcerated or recently released from juvenile detention centers, as well as Bronx Regional High School, which serves recently immigrated English Language Learners (ELLs). This year, we launched Speaking Worlds 3; the third edition to two previous, successful Speaking Worlds book projects.
Speaking Worlds 3, like all of the 120 SPI published projects over the past 12 years, shows us the power of an 'authentic', real-world audience—and the promise of a published book—in motivating students to recognize the benefits of strengthening their writing skills.
This focus on direct application of skills in a real world context is an area of curricula that, in an assessment-driven era, aims uniquely to engage student-to-community partnerships through authorship and agency. These ‘real world’ ways of working are too often divorced from the writing process in an educational system where the student-writer’s audience is generally an audience of one--the teacher or the test.
Concepts of an ‘authentic’ audience and genre study are integral to this process. To publish, students must know what they are publishing (genre study). They must know who they are writing for (audience). Students achieve both by exploring texts similar to the text they are intent on publishing and mining their lives, families and communities for deeply important topics. For instance, through genre of Profiles and a theme of “Community Leaders”, or the genre of Reviews and a theme of “Our Neighborhood” students are given the freedom and autonomy to structure their own learning; an experience akin to university-level students and lifelong learners.
Given the platform to write outside of the scope of standardized testing prompts and homework assignments, students are able to fully tap into their potential as writers and leaders. Equally important is their excitement and sense of achievement around becoming published authors!
To celebrate our students' work and launch this Speaking Worlds 3, the book, a 4-school multi-media event will take place at Teachers College where all of the students, as well as students’ families and the community, are invited. This event will serve as the book release and book signing, where every student receives a copy of the book.
We are currently selecting a date for the event that will occur in late May/early June. All TC current students, alumni and faculty are invited to attend.
*D79 is network of NYC public high schools that serve the city’s most high-needs and at-risk youth, ages 17 to 21, through GED classes or credits toward a high school diploma. D79 also supports students transitioning to college and careers.