I am involved with Citizen Schools this semester and will be blogging about it, so I thought I’d give you an introduction the program and what I’m doing.
Citizen Schools is a voluntary-enrollment after-school program for middle schoolers that was started in Boston and has spread to other urban areas. In Austin, students spend Mondays/Wednesdays on AIM (aspire, invest, make the grade) homework time and Tuesdays/Thursdays participating in apprenticeships led by volunteer Citizen Teachers, culminating in public presentations called “WOW!s”. Other explorations, service days, and field trips happen throughout the semester.
My Apprenticeship // Paper Stories
I am leading an apprenticeship at Bedichek Middle School on Thursdays (90 minutes each week for 11 weeks) that is focused on “Paper Stories.” Students will be creating their own graphic novels using the medium of collage. We will then publish our graphic novels online for our WOW!
I have 9 sixth and seventh grade students. They got the chance to hear short presentations for all the apprenticeships to then choose which one they were going to participate in.
We have started thinking about story ingredients and character development. Students got to read copies of Amelia Rules. Then we got to cutting—creating silhouettes of ourselves in paper that we then traced onto a background sheet. We held the two silhouettes together with brads and then wrote external traits / physical characteristics on the outside silhouette and internal characteristics / dreams / goals / feelings on the inside. Do our inner and outer selves match or conflict? We ran out of time, so we’ll have to explore that a bit more next week.
Pluses and Deltas
A quiet group overall. Students silently read at about the same pace and seemed to be engaged with the material, though I forgot to ask for their feedback on Amelia in my rush to get them to the third activity. They seemed to enjoy creating characters out of themselves, though some took longer than others because they needed to create the “perfect” silhouette. I should ask more questions throughout, make my transitions stronger, and have the students participate in more teachbacks instead of watching me write their answers on the board (slow and tedious, a time-waster).
This was an idea I got from my Literacy Austin training from one of the great speakers and fellow tutors, Alina. This semester, each storytelling student got his/her own one with a note from me already inside, and ideally we’ll write letters back and forth in them. A way to get to know each other better, more space for questions, and an introduction to the idea of a “sketchbook” in their lives. I had started some with adult reading students at Literacy Austin, and some took to it more than others. The consistency and quality of writing always depended on the student’s interest, his/her schedule, and his/her commitment—not to mention his/her organization. I’m interested to see what the middle schoolers do with them.
We had written and submitted 10-week plans, but mine has already changed a lot as I shift my focus away from “creating by understanding the mechanics of graphic novels” to “creating through storytelling.” Developing characters, plot, themes, and settings for the final product will take up the bulk of our time now. Next week: Students will create their personal Author Profiles and explore the role of storytelling in their lives. Perhaps this should have come first, but better late than never.
If you want to help
- Paper and fabric donations. A good excuse to clean out that craft drawer.
- Suggestions for age-appropriate comics/graphic novels/illustrated stories—particularly about friendship, journeys, or “reaching your future dreams and goals.”
- Age-appropriate comics donations. A good excuse to clean out that bookshelf.
Thank you to all who have already donated. I will most likely need volunteers later on in the semester, too. And of course, you can lead your own apprenticeship in the coming semesters on whatever topic moves you!