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Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The Power of Poetry at Brightwood, Part II: All About Me

This fall, DC SCORES Digital Media Intern Paris Volpe is attending the after-school poetry sessions at Brightwood Education Campus (Elementary School) to observe how the Panthers discover "The Power of Poetry." Each week, Paris is writing about the curriculum and lesson plans of the program. Follow as she documents the progression of the students’ self-expression and writing techniques. You can also follow Paris' experiences on Twitter by following @DCSCORESinterns and view photos on Flickr


Written by Paris Volpe
Digital Media Intern

Since I began attending the Brightwood after-school writing sessions, I’ve been working on my own poetry. It’s been awhile since I learned about similes and metaphors, so I decided to take full advantage of Monday’s DC SCORES lesson and tuned in for a refresher course.

I am DC SCORES. Hear me roar — Well, it’s a work in progress.

The “All About Me” poetry lesson begins with the mechanics of similes. The curriculum is designed to engage the students in comparative thinking. Coach Rachel Rosenberg writes on the board, “He is cold as ice,” and the students begin to interpret this simile.

After dissecting the phrase, the lesson moves on to metaphors and the room erupts. The classroom of Brightwood Panthers transforms into a room of otters, eagles, dolphins, cheetahs and the like.

There is even a hyena sitting right next to me. “I am a hyena because I like to laugh really loud,” says Hikma H.

“I am a dolphin because I know how to dive!” says Alazar T.

The metaphors come from every stretch of the imagination.

As a transition to writing, the students listen to a few example “I Am” poems. They discuss what they interpret as the meaning of each poem. Coach Shannon Nelson then begins to read a list of questions as a starting point for the students’ own “I Am” poems.

If you were a color, which one would you be?
If you were a food, what would you be?
What if you were a shape?
A musical instrument?
What do you like about yourself?
What are you proud of?
What are three things you hope for?

The students’ answers are eclectic and the room transforms once again. We are now a room of purples, reds, apples, triangles, drums, proud athletes, future authors, doctors, singers, dancers, believers, dreamers.

Then Coach Nelson poses the most thought-provoking question yet: “What will you be doing 20 years from today?” This stirs the room a bit.

“Where will I be in 20 years? What will I be doing? Where will I be working?” Betelihem G. asks me emphatically, as if I am Pandora’s box holding all her answers. “That is entirely up to you,” I tell her.

She pauses to consider this for a moment. I can tell her thoughts are dramatic as she searches for an answer to the question. “I’ll be running my own game show,” she says finally. Her direction in life is unbounded, but for right now, this is a wonderful prediction.

“These are tough questions,” says Carlos G. while staring at his full journal page. And he’s right. The activity challenges the students to think about themselves in an alternative light. At this time, they are no longer simple beings. They are complex individuals with infinite dimensions.

The Power of Poetry is transcendent at Brightwood, especially when students are given chances like these to celebrate who they are.

And the season is still young. Much more to come!

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