November 2012


  • Photography by Sedrick Miles
  • Editors:
    Tishon Woolcock
    Caits Meissner
    Anna Meister
    Nora Salem
  • Editor's Note:
    Other Names for Home

November 2012

In the Classroom: Bravery and Courage: Facing Fear Through Art

Age group: High School/University

Goals and Objectives: For students to become comfortable with poem writing through prompted autobiography, in the “confessional poem” tradition.

Warm Up: Facing Fears

1. Using example work, show students artist –‘s exploration of fear with elementary students. Examine this work. How does fear change based on the individual? What contributes to their fears (neighborhoods, race/class etc.) Discuss.

2. Students create their own “fear portraits.” By tracing each other’s figures on large butcher paper, students illustrate themselves, and write all of their fears in this large silhouette of their body. Hang the portraits around the room and take a gallery walk. Are there shared fears in the class? What struck you about another’s fear? Discuss.

Creative alternatives: Students can simplify this process by creating journal lists. Other more involved ways to approach the warm up might be through self-portrait photography with hand written or photoshopped words laid on top, video blogs, or illustrations.

3. Using scrap paper or sticky notes, students write ways they are brave and courageous in life. These can range from, “I get up and face another day” to “I walk past my bully in the hallway” to “I came out to my Mom.” Ask students to take these notes and plaster them over the fears in their portraits. Talk about how it felt to transform their body visually.

Example Work: Read Emily ‘s poem, “Kismet” from the Well&Often Reader Issue Two and discuss how the author talks about fear and bravery in this poem.

Pre-Writing Exercise: Taking key words and phrases from the poem, develop a worksheet where students use Emily’s structure to fill in the blanks, keeping in mind their fears listed, and their bravery listed:

(Thinking of fear):
—- where my heart should have been

(Thinking of fear:)
List three everyday objects and how you interact with them, inspired by Emily’s first stanza:

(Thinking of fear turning to bravery) costume change from —— to —–

Walk home from —— , carrying ——

I dare —— to ——

I’ve been gifted —–

I sing —–

I drink —–

Writing Prompt:

Using these lines created, remix them, and fill in the lines before and after, fleshing out the poem. Create an anthem about reclaiming your fears and becoming brave. What is the transformation? What key phrases give away your growing courage? The use if metaphor and simile will help to paint the picture without telling us the story. Disguise it a bit. Make the reader take the journey with you through feeling.


Extended Writing Prompts

Write a Letter to Fear: Using a more straight-forward approach, task students with writing a letter to their fears. Have them personify fear- what does their fear look like? The sound of his/her voice? What clothing does fear wear? What crowd does fear run with? Does fear get along with his/her parents? Now that fear is a person, address fear by name- what do you need to tell fear?

Bravery Poem: Using the five senses task students with creating a sensory poem illustrating their courage. Use the refrain:

My bravery looks like
My bravery smells like
My bravery tastes like
My bravery feels like
My bravery sounds like

Post-Critique: Peer Edits

In pairs, students should critique a partner’s work. Where can the metaphor and imagery be pushed? Is the piece clear? Is there a reason this story is being told? What feeling does it give the reader. Does it push the reader’s imagination?

Giving students a rubric or a check list grading sheet based on their identified “what makes a good poem” elements will help guide the process.


Using the advice given by peers, students retool and revisit their piece, adding imagery, metaphor and simile in areas identified and clarifying problematic/unclear language. It is helpful to scaffold this process into “draft one” and “draft two,” so students can see their own growth.

Share Out

Students share out in front of the class. It is always a positive experience to have students build in an element of positive feedback. Some ways to guide this process:

– Create a performance environment: Identify a student host to “lead” the “open mic.” Each student is introduced with a brief biography. Hand claps or finger snaps set the stage. Assign a student to “DJ,” intro-ing each poet coming to the “stage,” or front of classroom, with appropriate music.

– Sharing aloud: After each poem shared, ask for a few students to verbally share out parts of the poem they enjoyed.

– Index Cards: Have a list of guiding questions on the board. Ask students to give specific, positive feedback to each piece shared aloud that can be collected. At the end of class, distribute the index cards to each poet.

– Assigning “positive feedback” partners. Each student is assigned a fellow classmate to “grade” or “positively assess” a peer on their work using a rubric or pre-planned feedback sheet.

Beyond the Classroom:

Create an experience for the student work to live beyond the four walls of the classroom. Consider compiling a photocopied “chapbook” of the poems, asking an artistic student to illustrate the cover, or a blog where the poems can live and be shared with parents, school administrators and peers. Another option may be a lunch time “poetry open mic” where the students act as the “feature,” having a few brave class members share out their class pieces to a wider audience.

Related Article: Kismet

Written and Developed by Caits Meissner for Well&Often

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