How can stories about our differences bring us together? This is the essential question seventh grade students at WTA have been exploring this semester in their Cultural Narratives project. First, they read “Flying Lessons, and Other Stories” a collection of multicultural short stories edited by Ellen Oh. Students worked with the individual stories to build and deepen cognitive skills in theme, and then were asked to craft a personal narrative about their own life and culture.
Taking inspiration from professional storytellers such as Kwame Alexander, Soman Chainani, Grace Lin, Meg Medina and others, students mined their own life experiences for narrative material that ran the emotional gamut from sorrowful loss to humorous triumph to peaceful contentment with the simple pleasures of life. They learned that by telling their own stories and listening to those of others, they reveal how each person is a unique combination of their past, culture and environment.
To share their work and build classroom culture and community, as the climax of the project, students prepared oral presentations which they each gave before the class. Providing constructive verbal and written feedback to one another within a supportive classroom workshop space encouraged and empowered the students to express themselves creatively and confidently. Through this process of interactive discovery, seventh graders not only honed their writing and public speaking skills, they enlarged their worldview, enriched their cultural understanding and enhanced their experience of community.