Portfolio of Work - Internship w/ InsideOut Literary Arts Project

Visual Thinking Strategies Workshop and Performance at the DIA

Photo by Erin Kirkland

Photo by Erin Kirkland

During my internship with InsideOut Literary Arts Project, I went through an intensive training program called VTS or  Visual Thinking Strategies. This training provided me with important skills that allowed me to facilitate a workshop (pictured on the left) made possible by a partnership between InsideOut and the DIA. Through this opportunity, I was able to lead a group of teaching artists in the creation of a lesson plan for young writers incorporating the VTS process. This included overseeing scheduling, multiple visits to study our chosen art work in the 30 Americans exhibit, and the collection of all information from our brainstorming sessions.  The workshop concluded with a guided writing session, followed by an open stage where writers shared their work and received feedback. As a part of this program, I created a poem to perform in collaboration with another teaching artist and presented it in the Rivera Court of the DIA, and again as a part of Detroit's Noel Night. Here is a link to the lesson plan created for this workshop. I was able to use my experience as a teaching artist and my work as a student of English to choose appropriate language that best represented the ideas of the group, and which best articulated the lessons clearly. 
This image to the right shows the use of yarn to start a discussion around intersections, both geographical and emotional. This was a part of the 30 Americans writing workshop at the DIA. This exercise begins with one person holding a ball of yarn and sharing something about their personal connections to an intersection or crossroad, as well as an emotional based connection -  a cultural reference. The yarn is tossed to another person, who also shares something about themselves. At the end of this experience, the yarn has created a multitude of crossings and has become a reflective map of the cultural and geographical intersections of all the participants. I thought that this exercise would be a great ice-breaker and allow the participants to get to know each other a bit and create a visual model for us all to examine.
Photo by Erin Krikland

Photo by Erin Krikland

Photo by Erin Kirkland

Photo by Erin Kirkland

As a part of the VTS workshop and the partnership between the DIA and InsideOut, I was asked to write a poem to share at the closing celebration of this effort. I took inspiration from the art we used in the workshop (pictured at the top of this page) and the poems that were used to spur a conversation around identity and our connections to the world around us. The poem I created is called "On The Surface" and is linked here. The image to the left was taken in the Rivera Court at the DIA as I prepared to deliver my work to a crowd of writers, students, educators, and InsideOut supporters. This process allow me to explore my personal writing and presented a wonderful opportunity to become an investigator in my own story. After developing a plan to help others create writings, this was my chance to get deep into my story and my cultural and geographical intersections. 

Classroom Ritual

While interning with InsideOut, I created a Classroom Ritual for the Writers in Residence. This ritual was designed to bring focus to students at the beginning of class and to inspire young learners to begin to understand how to use metaphors. The procedure can be found here: Today I am... I developed this ritual idea from personal experiences, and from observations that I made while watching other teaching artists work in the classroom. We all can benefit from what happens when we create a ritual to begin or end a process. Not only is it a call to focus, but it can help re-align us and ready us for a transition. Having a repetitive practice that you come back to again and again in the classroom helps to build confidence and help the students evade stress associated with change. The students are supported by knowing that there will be something they can rely on and this can help ready them for something new to happen.

As a part of creating this Ritual, I researched teaching the use of metaphors and the benefits to bringing this process into the classroom. Here is the Supporting Literature that I put together to help highlight its value. 

10 Week Songwriting Residency at Garvey Academy

The video below shows a snippet of a songwriting residency I conducted at Garvey Elementary in which I taught 2nd graders about the use of metaphors. Through creating metaphors for 'I am...' they were able to each develop 2-3 phrases that then were crafted into a song, with my guidance. This process would begin with a brainstorming session where students would come up with their own metaphors. During the first few weeks of the residency, I would have them develop their lines by asking them to add more details. This was a 10 week residency which ended with a roving performance where the students went from class to class sharing their song. Here is a link to lesson plans in connection with this experience.
The image at the left shows some of the rough drafts created by the 2nd graders at Garvey. During my time at Garvey I helped the students create metaphors for 'I am _____'. Each student made a list of 4 or 5 ideas. 'I am a stone', 'I am a bridge', 'I am a brick' and so on. As the sessions went on, I had them choose one to develop into a longer phrase. For example 'I am a leaf', became, 'I am a leaf falling from a tree'. I then took each line developed, and printed them out on strips (as seen in the image). Dividing the students into groups, I asked them to order the lines in 4 line stanzas. These stanzas became our verses. I will note that the groups did not order the phrases that they created, but had to work with other student's writing. Toward the end of the sessions, I helped create a melody and musical theme for the song.
This is an image of a student taken on the performance day. I created handmade folders for each student using the schools colors (red, green, and black). The words to the song were then pasted inside each folder. The song was performed in a 'roving' style where we visited a handful of classrooms. This format allowed the student songwriters to gain confidence, as with each new performance the song seemed to grow in power and delivery.
Photo by Nichole Christian

Photo by Nichole Christian

Through the 10 week residency, the student writers created, developed, and performed an original song. I watched the students begin this process with trepidation. Over our time together, I saw them gain confidence and develop a sense of accomplishment through writing. I noticed that with each visit to the classroom, the students were becoming more comfortable singing and expressing themselves through song. Here is the link to the final lyrics - 'We Are Everything'.