Student Centered Curriculum
On my way to becoming a psychologist, I volunteered to work with incarcerated youth facilitating poetry workshops. I conducted art-based lesson plans which bridged canonical writing with hip-hop music. The youth could critically analyze the music they loved and I showed them they could use the same skills to decipher scholarly texts. As their confidence grew, they were able to understand and link literary terms and concepts to a diverse range of texts. This led to thoughtful discussion and critical analysis of mainstream media and society at large. Their skills translated into projects consisting of anthologies, CD’s and research reports. Most people and institutions have given up on at risk youth because they do not seem to connect with traditional curriculum. However, in my experience, when the curriculum is relevant to the youth, they do engage the material and expand their literary abilities. I witnessed the youth get involved in critical thought and it was clear from their writing that they expanded their views on many issues. The class concluded that mainstream hip-hop can depict real life on the one hand but it can also commodify a group of people. This incredible experience, along with my passion for literature, inspired me to become an English teacher and continue to facilitate critical thought in texts and society.
Interactive Lesson Plans
In addition to student-centered curriculum, I believe in art-based lesson plans. There are different types of learners such as auditory, visual and kinesthetic. Lecturing can put students in a passive position and may not foster much learning. However, using theater games, music and art captures students right away and appeals to different learning styles. More importantly, Boal argued that theater games could be used to raise consciousness and create productive citizens. He believed theatre could be used to bring awareness to critical issues and promote a positive change. The audience was encouraged to be active in order to explore, analyze and transform their own reality. Similarly, theater can be used in a classroom to examine and critique literature, which is entwined with societal issues. This allows students to process the concepts they are exploring as well as physically evaluate concepts from different perspectives. Literally, this kind of practice can produce active citizens who have practiced possible solutions for current issues.