Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Beyond our Four Walls: Community Outreach

This semester, several of my assignment ask student to go beyond the boundaries of the classroom. I want my class to be a laboratory for producing something of worth for someone else, producing text for a real audience. 

I already have students publish blogs. A follow up assignment is for students to promote their blogs. I want them to feel the burn of looking for an audience - friends, families, members of other communities students may claim membership. Currently, students are doing a "hacked" version of the blog challenge I'm doing this month, to get into blogging and to gain confidence with their own voices. Later this semester, we will publish posts directly related to the content weare study.  I'm asking students to pick topics they can compose short narrative, expository, or even persuasive pieces that introduce those topics to their readers. 

My next growth step for the blogging project: figuring out a way to feature their blogs here on my own page. Coming soon! 

I'm also experimenting with two other projects. One is a community story-telling project. Here in San Diego, So Say We All is a non-profit literary and performing arts group. They promote and produce story telling and writing events. One program they organize is VAMP, a visual, audio/monologue performance showcase. Think The Moth, Snap Judgment, or other story telling program on NPR. VAMP puts out a call for stories on a broad them, selects the most "story telling worthy", helps the writers revise their work, and prepares them to deliver a multi-media monologue. One of my colleagues is spearheading bringing VAMP to our campus. We will solicit narratives (the theme is "Borders") from students and help them prepare their own monologue. Since students have to write a narrative essay for my class, I've hijacked the VAMP theme and am encouraging students to submit their work. 

The second project is working on public service announcements. One of my classes focuses on the topic of Filipino American community, so instead of simply learning about what's out there, I'm asking students to select an agency or group and produce a public service announcement to publicize that agency. Part of the process includes writing a proposal, an informative essay on their community agency/topic, a business-type timeline report, as well as and script and the evaluation/metacommentary. 

It's a big project. 

I'm anxious about all the different skill sets I'm asking students to learn and elements we'll have to juggle. But I am attracted to this as not only will students be "making" but they'll also have to produce authentic writing pieces in the service of doing something in and for the community. I am piloting this project with only one section, testing it out to see if I'd like to do it in all my sections. 

All these projects, from publishing blogs to telling stories to promoting an agency, helps me make the students work public in ways that term papers and traditional essays can't. I'm invested in creating opportunities where students not only showcase their work but also experiment with sharing their voices and knowledge outside the classroom.