I have the great fortune to spend this year with New Hampshire Humanities. We’re working on a literacy project with adult education and refugee resettlement classes for English learners. The project is A Year of New Voices,
In the Year of New Voices, professional writers will meet English learners in Connections book discussion programs. Selected students will have an opportunity to work with the writer, read samples of each other’s work, look for ideas that each have as a thread through their writing. Then English learners, alongside professional writers, will read their poems, stories, and memoirs in “Year of New Voices” readings in New Hampshire communities.
The collage is by Linda Graham who allowed us to use her art on the cover and inside. ESL educators and professional writers joined forces to write prompts, poems, and essays on the value of what bilingual writers bring to English. The full handbook is available for English learners everywhere and to teachers who support them. You can download and printout. Please tell us how you use it and about writing that you do. “Tell Me More” is here.
I just found this animated story by Naghmeh Farzaneh who came from Iran to study in the U.S. Naghmeh struggles so much with the English language and the life but she remembers one thing her mother told her and it helps. This is called, “Scent of Geranium.”
“This is how we’re gonna do. We’re gonna dance the Nepali song. Cross left leg over right. One – two – three – go.” Then the movie song, Kale Dai, blasted from the instructor Pujan Wagley’s phone through the school gym. Over the weeks, we moved from the Nepali dance into “Whatcha Gon Do With That Dessert.” And Pujan, a student at Worcester State and a Bhutanese dancer, taught 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders hip hop moves to rapper Darwin’s song. Students end with a flowy, traditional dance to Ki Chhori hu ma. This is a story about working with Pujan at Concord, NH’s Broken Ground School where I brought a poetry workshop, too – so together Pujan and I offered poetry and dance. Our work was supported by a grant to the 21C After School program by the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts.
Here are some lines of poems students wrote about dancing with friends and with Pujan:
Pujan is one of the best dancers in the world.
When I dance I feel happy inside because
my body is moving.
I love dancing.
Pujan is so fun. I love dancing with Pujan
These are Pujan’s own words, “1 – 2 – 3 – Go.”
Then we start.
My name is Molly. I drift
with the beat.
right, left, right, left.
Now repeat that a few times.
My name is Molly. I drift
with the beat.
No matter what, I keep dancing
When I dance with Pujan I feel…
When I dance with Pujan he says,
left arm high,
then right arm high
Out of time.
Put your left hand here and put your
right hand here. The girls do this
and the boys do this.
It is really fun to dance with Pujan.
He says one foot at a time and move
your hips and, Always smile every time.
and, Don’t look sad. Be happy.
That’s why I love dancing.
When people dance with Pujan they feel like
they are about to fly in the Milky Way
because he can teach you how to do the dance
moves in a second. He doesn’t yell when you get
the moves wrong.
Dance feels like you could just
lift up into the clouds with
a mind of joy.
Well-loved volunteers who came to see the students perform at Parent’s Night and were awarded with flowers and art.
Of course we read lots of poems. Here’s a reading list of ideas for a poem and dance celebration.
Seeds, Bees, Butterflies, and More, Poems for Two Voices. We played with poems in two voices to feel the rhythm of movement back and forth between readers.
Arm in Arm – by Remy Charlip
I love this book for it’s crazy whimsy. The students didn’t move into stillness, but a way to imagine it comes from Remy’s poem:
BEFORE ME PEACEFUL
BESIDE ME PEACEFUL
BEHIND ME PEACEFUL
ABOVE ME PEACEFUL
BELOW ME PEACEFUL
ALL AROUND ME PEACEFUL
Remy always makes me smile. Take “Riddle Joke:
“Ask me if I’m a boat. / Are you a boat? / Yes. Now ask me if I’m an airplane. / No, silly. I’m a boat.”
Hailstones and Halibut Bones by Mary O’Neill includes this poem we read like an echo chant.
And colors sing,
And colors laugh,
And colors cry___
They make you feel
Every feeling there is.”
Honey, I Love by Eloise Greenfield especially “Way Down in the Music”
This is Just to Say, poems of Apology and Forgiveness by Joyce Sidman
The title of our workshop was “Building Friendships Through Dance and Creative Writing” and this collection gave us ideas for writing about friends, including “Dark Haired Girl.”
You Read to Me I’ll Read to You by Mary Ann Hoberman. I adapted the poem “New Friends” in this collection and it inspired many students’ poems about meeting a new friend for the first time.
Congratulations Pujan, new friend, and kids at Broken Ground!