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Building Community & Teaching Tools

During these first few months in Community-Word Project's Teaching Artist Project (TAP) Saturday training sessions, I’ve learned how to create a cohesive and fun lesson plan with another Teaching Artist.

But learning how to create a cohesive lesson plan took time. In our first Saturday meeting, our mentors helped us create an environment where we felt comfortable enough with one another to share our ideas. The facilitators asked us to come up with something called an artist map. Afterwards, they asked us to share our artist maps with our peers. I remember feeling embarrassed at the thought of having to share mine, but everyone I shared it with was supportive and friendly. Creating a safe space is paramount in both the classroom and while creating a lesson plan.

Another great activity the facilitators at TAP had us do was to create a poem with our fellow Teaching Artists. During that Saturday session, we brainstormed and wrote a poem about our childhood. Afterwards, we chose our favorite line from our poem, then split up into groups. The facilitators tasked us with creating a poem using our favorite lines. At first, it felt like our individual lines could never come together to form a poem. But as we hashed it out, our separate lines slowly fit together like jigsaw pieces to form a poem. Not only that, but the facilitators asked us to perform the pieces out loud. This exercise helped us learn how to work together. It also showed us how various art forms can meld together.

Soon, we were separated into pairs and asked to create a lesson plan of our own. By observing the facilitators and participating in the various activities assigned to the class, we had learned various ways of structuring a lesson plan and how to generate ideas for it. In our lesson plan, Alyssa (my partner) and I incorporated both poetry and theater. Alyssa did a wonderful job finding improv exercises that we could use. I scoured the web, and found a poem by Jacqueline Woodson that we thought would be perfect for our lesson plan.

While I was nervous to share with the class, our lesson plan turned out great. For our intro activity, we explained how to play “Buzz Buzz Bee.” A game based on images and sounds, two ideas central to both theater and poetry. Then I presented the poem “Group Home Before Miss Edna’s House” by Jacqueline Woodson. Not only did I get to share a poem I love, but I was also able to feed off my classmate’s enthusiasm for the poem.

After we had presented our lessons, we played a community building game called Airplane. At first, I felt like my instructions to the airplane driver were clumsy and unclear, but by the end of the game, I felt like my instructions were clear and concise. It was like when I was teaching my lesson: at first it was difficult. But by the end, I was having a blast working with everyone in the classroom.

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