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What Worked

The students liked identifying songs as personal narratives. They liked Miguel Pinero’s “A Lower East Side Poem" and were interested in the author’s life and the topics he explored in his writing. They could connect with his life and identified him as a survivor who did the best that he could with his circumstances. They liked sharing stories about their backgrounds and discussing their neighborhoods, how their lives were influenced by how they grew up, and how they relate to their world.
Students wrote personal narrative poems that included a story about a situation that occurred in their lives or they described a relationship. After they completed their poems they turned their poetry into art and felt a sense of accomplishment when they completed the project. 90% of the students turned in their personal narrative poems. However,  many students didn’t include all of the requirements as stated in the rubric, even though they were closely monitored while they were completing this project . 
In addition to the poetry and identity work we did, I decided to read as a class novel, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chposky.  The students journaled their reactions to the conflicts and struggles that plagued the characters throughout the novel. I wrote back to my students in order to respond to their thoughts without critiquing their writing. Most students liked the novel and got used to the idea of journaling their thoughts.

What Didn’t Work

  • I chose songs that were a hard sell to students and that were occasionally a bit too complex in their narratives.  
  • The students who were constantly absent could not work on their poems independently, so extra time was needed to direct them in order to complete the work that led up to the final task.  
  • Journaling more than two sentences was difficult in the beginning, but as I got to know my students better I became better at crafting writing prompts that they wanted to respond to. 
  • I considered peer editing for the personal narrative poem assignment, but students were reluctant to share their work with one another.