Write Away!, the secondary schools creative writing project produced by the Bocas Lit Fest and sponsored by the Scotiabank Foundation is making its mark with students, teachers and the Ministry of Education.
The Write Away! Young Adult Literature Project, now in its second year, provides students with a valuable learning tool via a series of dynamic videos that in year one (2021) explained the nuts and bolts of fiction, and in 2022 focused on poetry.
These are core elements of the CSEC English B curriculum, and the fun videos reference some of the key texts while helping students to understand the fundamentals of the literary genres that are part of the secondary schools' English Language Arts curriculum, a media release said.
Minister of Education Dr Nyan Gadsby-Dolly received a small box containing the unique digital learning tools for English Literature students from the president of the Bocas Lit Fest, Marina Salandy-Brown, and Stephan Lalonde of Scotiabank at the Ministry of Education on June 24.
All educators have open access to the new digital teaching resources via the Ministry of Education’s School Learning Management System (SLMS). This year’s Write Away! project includes a nine-part video workshop series and a PDF workbook for students and is accompanied by supporting material for teachers.
Over 80 per cent of the participating teachers indicated that their students were more engaged in discussions and lessons as a result of the Write Away! Poetry series, and more confident about reading aloud and writing their own poetry in the classroom, the release said.
Independently developed by the Bocas Lit Fest and award-winning author Lisa Allen-Agostini, who was recently shortlisted for the highly-coveted Women’s Prize for Literature, the Write Away! Poetry Series uses dynamic motion graphics and dramatic readings to keep students’ attention. The lessons are delivered with humour and energy by the 2022 video hosts, Darrion M Narine and Alexandria Douglas, who are both poets themselves and are passionate about helping other youth embrace the artform, the release said.
The videos aim to make classic Caribbean poetry feel more relevant to contemporary young people, encouraging better performance in language arts subjects at CSEC level, and to equip all English Literature and language teachers with engaging digital teaching resources that supplement the curriculum.
Over 50 secondary schools across TT have already used the series for the 2021-2022 academic year. As early participants in the project, these schools received the pre-recorded digital resources available to all schools via the SLMS, but their students were also invited to participate in writing workshops with the Bocas Lit Fest via Zoom and to submit original poems to be published on the Bocas Lit Fest’s website https://www.bocaslitfest.com/youth/write-away/.
In the release Bocas Lit Fest founder Marina Salandy-Brown said, “There is an inspiring showcase of poetry by talented young writers, aged 12-18, from schools all across the country. These poems explore a range of emotions, topics and styles, showing how valuable poetry and language can be as tools of self-expression and reflection in personal development.”
Commenting on the project, Scotiabank chairperson Roxane De Freitas said, “Our priority at this time is helping children to succeed in their education as a means to economic resilience as adults. This project empowers them with the tools to make the most of their studies and will pay dividends in the end.”
Teachers who were polled said that they would continue to use the Write Away! Poetry series in their classroom for years to come – one of several benefits of having the material in an easily accessible digital format.
Allen-Agostini, who led the fiction workshops which broke down the essentials of creative writing, said, “We know how important literature is and how vital it is for young people to see themselves in the books and poems they read and study.
"It is my hope that these Write Away! video lessons in how to read and write fiction and poetry are accessible and fun in their language and approach so the teenagers they’re written for can not only succeed in their CSEC literature exams, but go on to actually enjoy literature and its benefits–building their empathy, improving their communication skills and maybe even encouraging them to commit art.”
Gadbsy-Dolly lauded the Lit Fest's and also said funding from corporate citizens indicated to the students that people were interested in their future.
“As we take into consideration the reality at our schools and what has been the reality for many year… covid has made us put on masks, but it has unmasked some very real truths of our society," Gadbsy-Dolly said.
“Even as we grapple with the difficulties our children face and the ways they have difficulty expressing that difficulty we look at other avenues and how all of us can contribute to ensuring that they can express themselves, their challenges and their difficulties in a way that does not lead to violence.
"Certainly projects like these initiatives like these funded by corporate citizens really go a long way in showing our children that there are different ways of getting around their challenges and that there are different people who are interested in their future. Saying that our children means a lot.”
She congratulated Bocas Lift Fest on “doing excellent work over the years and said she was “very proud of this product.”