Nurturing Voices: Maribel and Cynthia’s Journey at Washington Elementary School

Hello to everyone in The Practice Space community! Maribel and Cynthia here. We're excited to share a heartwarming story of how poetry, literacy, and public speaking came together to build a stronger, more vibrant community at Washington Elementary School.

For six weeks, we had the privilege of working closely with two classes on a series of poetry lessons. One of the poems was inspired by the captivating words of author Alma Flor DeAda's poem "Bilingue'' which beautifully captures the pride of speaking both Spanish and English, emphasizing the joy and ability it gives us to connect with others on a deeper level. The second poem focused on describing the beauty of a Spanish and English elementary classroom.

In one third-grade class, we embarked on a journey of self-discovery through language. We asked the students to write their own lines to this poem, reflecting their unique perspectives and aspirations. The phrases they crafted were remarkable. Lines such as "Because I am bilingual and I speak both languages, I can help many people" and "And someday, because I speak two languages, I will be able to tell people what I want in Spanish and English" echoed the powerful sentiments of embracing one's linguistic heritage.

We were moved by the enthusiasm and creativity of the students. As their teacher, Ms. Jones, shared, "I'm just so pleased with the work that you did with my class. Not only was it fun. Not only does it celebrate Hispanic heritage, but it was a really great deep literacy activity. So the kids really built on their literacy skills. And so that's why I'm just so fascinated by it. I know they're gonna enjoy the performance. I know the parents are going to enjoy their performances, but we had solid, solid practice developing the literacy skills in addition to public speaking, of course. But their reading, their fluency, their confidence, it's all built up.”

Both classes performed their poems for an audience of 500 at the Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration.
Both classes performed their poems for an audience of 500 at the Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration.

It was a privilege to guide 52 amazing students on their journey towards confident public speaking through this poetry project. It was magical when these brave students stepped onto the stage, facing an audience of eager guests, their voices resonating with newfound confidence and pride. In particular, in Mr. Brandow’s 5th/6th grade class, one 6th grade student initially rated their confidence at a modest 4 on a scale from 1 to 10. However, after six sessions with us, that number skyrocketed to an impressive 8.4. With encouragement and support, they took the stage, leaving behind any lingering doubts. And when the moment came to reflect on their achievement, a radiant smile and the simple words "10" were all that needed to be said.

The Practice Space isn't just about public speaking; it's about creating lasting memories and fostering a sense of belonging. It's about inspiring individuals to embrace their unique voices and share their stories with the world. Our journey at Washington Elementary School exemplifies how the intersection of poetry, literacy, and public speaking can strengthen the bonds of community. We're immensely proud of these students and grateful to have been a part of their transformative experience. As we continue our mission, we're reminded that every step forward, no matter how small, leads to a world of possibility.

Check out the student poems below. Enjoy!

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