Exploring Poetry with Columbus School Students

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Exploring Poetry with Columbus School Students

Writing and poetry can be powerful tools to help students express who they are and learn about themselves during the process. This theme was apparent in the recent writing workshops conducted by Dr. Bryan Ripley Crandall, assistant professor in the Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions and director of the Connecticut Writing Project .

Earlier this semester, Dr. Crandall hosted a series of four writing workshops with students from his Philosophy of Education class and 5 th - 8 th graders from Columbus School in Bridgeport. Columbus students visited campus to sit in the seats of college students and learn about writing and poetry while working in small groups alongside Fairfield students.

The workshops were made possible through a successfully funded turnaround plan for Columbus School, which became the 19 th school in the state to join the Commissioner’s Network. Funding is being used for the provision of literacy intervention support in select classrooms, as well as for educator professional development.

One workshop titled “Is It April yet? Teen-People, Poetry & Potential for 8th Grade Freedom Writers at Columbus” complimented the students’ study of The Freedom Writers Diary. Dr. Crandall split up his students and Columbus students in small groups to go through a series of writing exercises. During the workshop he asked questions like, “If you put that word in your mouth, what does it taste like? What does it feel like?” He encouraged students to take words and play with language to say what they want to say.

“For some of my students this is the first time they’ve left Bridgeport,” said Miss J., an 8 th grade teacher from Columbus School. “When Dr. Crandall found out we were reading The Freedom Writers Diary he reached out and said we should work on poetry. For my class, we spend a lot of time asking the question 'Who am I?' These exercises are helpful for my students to discover their identity and also to allow my second language learners to mix English and Spanish.”

This workshop is just one of the many unique learning opportunities that Dr. Crandall has created for Bridgeport School students at Fairfield. Just last month, Crandall was awarded the 2017 Elizabeth M. Pfriem Civic Leadership Award by the Bridgeport Public Education Fund. The award is given to a person who has made a difference in the work that the Bridgeport Public Education Fund undertakes and who is committed to equity in educational resources and high academic achievement for Bridgeport students.

“Being recognized as the 2017 Elizabeth M. Pfriem Civic Leadership Award recipient is an honor,” said Dr. Crandall. “The award may be given to one but it really belongs to many — the wonderful students of Bridgeport, the National Writing Project, the phenomenal teachers I’m fortunate enough to work with and numerous community organizations that work in support of achievement.”

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