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Picturing A Writing Process: Photovoice And Teaching Writing To Urban Youth

By Author: Arsenalo
Total Articles: 116

As veteran urban English teachers, we have been troubled by the apparently limited value many of our high school students see for our curricula and school in general. We have heard more than a few students complain about the insignificance of the books we use, the literacy tasks we assign, and the very character Cartier Replica Watches of the institutions that employ us. In response, we hoped to help our students appreciate our English curricula, and we longed to become teachers like those described by high school student Xidi in his reflections on a photograph he took of a friend (see Figure 1)—teachers who trust youth enough to engage them with our literacy tasks in ways exceeding the expectations of these young adults and society in general:

"Teachers Who Trust You"
This is Tony. He breaks with friends of mine, as much as a couple of times a week in the summer.... He's very good and he's very into it. He is also in drama club at school. The drama teacher [also an English teacher] lets him do his break dancing and plan all the dancing in school plays.... Some teachers may not trust you enough to do that. That's what keeps guys like him in school.

Our goal was to help students develop richer connections to the constructive potential of their English class tasks by illustrating the tasks' larger relationships to school. With this objective in mind, four years ago we initiated the "Through Students' Eyes" (TSE) project, which uses a "photovoice" method to allow middle and high school students of diverse backgrounds and living in poverty to document via photographs and accompanying reflections what they believe are the purposes of school, the supports for their school success, and the barriers to their school achievement. Through our work with nearly 100 youth, we have become increasingly aware of the implications of this visually focused project for our in-class writing instruction and students' development as effective writers.

Xidi's photograph of a friend breakdancing in front of a neighbor's garage is an example of the photographic responses these youth have highlighted— this one as an answer to the question of what supports his success in school.

But it is his written reflection and the composition, feedback, and editing methods we've used that we count as the most instructive outgrowths of this project. Xidi's insight that it is teacher trust that allows adolescents Cartier Replica to engage with school suggests that a relationship-oriented approach to teaching might become a foundation of our writing pedagogies. In this article we describe and illustrate this and other implications for writing instruction that we've drawn from these diverse youths' visual explorations.

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