After more than a year of virtual outreach programs, we are so excited to be back in person with our youth and teen writers. There is no sweeter sound than pencils scribbling across paper, signaling our students are deep in thought—reflecting, imagining, creating.
This summer, we are providing weekly programs with Red Bank Borough Schools, Red Bank Regional High School, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Monmouth County (Asbury Park and Red Bank branches), and Keansburg. We’ve been having so much fun getting to know our students and giving them a safe, supportive space to explore their feelings and ideas.
One of our favorite ways to generate writing is using our Wheel of Writing and we’ve put a new spin on it. In Red Bank, with our younger students, we labeled each “pie” with an emotion, and then we wrote off what got picked:
“I was worried when I broke my thumb and had to go to the hospital.”
“I was sad when my friend moved away.”
“I feel peaceful when I’m with my mom.”
With our older students, we created a “Quest-ion Box” for students to drop in questions that are on their minds. Then we tacked those questions to the wheel and spun.
Questions have ranged from the more trivial “Do you like pineapple on pizza?” to the more introspective “Do you believe in soulmates?”
No matter what the prompt, our writers are thrilled to share their thoughts about themselves and the world, and we love exploring their ideas together!
Boys & Girls Clubs (Asbury Park & Red Bank)
With both the Red Bank and Asbury Park branches, we meet virtually once a week and write from the heart in our writers notebooks. Using Peter Reynolds’ book Be You! as our mentor text, we dive into prompts that revolve around identity. We’ve sketched pictures of ourselves and then written words to describe us all around the pictures, just as Peter Reynolds did in his book. The students wrote words such as helpful, creative, pretty, strong, curious, athletic, artistic, and more. We’ve used these words to tell stories about times we’ve demonstrated these qualities. These stories were a great way to get to know one another and focus on how unique we all are. And we look forward to using Be You! during our upcoming weeks for more writing about what makes us so special!
Family Based Services of New Jersey
This is our sixth summer providing writing experiences to the teens of Family Based Services! To kick off our three-session workshop, we read an excerpt from Harry Potter. We each picked lines or phrases we liked. Some connected to the feeling evoked in the description of a hot summer day while others liked the description of Harry’s appearance. We then used our setting (Wolcott Park) to describe all of the senses evoked there (except taste). We were excited to see what everyone came up with!
We are thrilled to offer our Spoken Word Project, in collaboration with KYDS, with 8th and 9th grade students in the summer program at Joseph R. Bolger Middle School in Keansburg. The goal of the project is to give students a safe space to authentically express themselves to deepen connections. KYDS begins each session with mindfulness, helping us all get centered. Then our spoken word artist and PWN instructor Krysta Elora leads the writing portion. We’ve written about what makes us different and used favorite song lyrics as prompts. And Krysta and Mychal Mills of KYDS have also shared their own original performances.
Every Friday, we meet on Zoom from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. to write in response to prompts on a designated theme. This month, we’ve explored themes on “tie,” “harbor,” and “crystal.” Though writers never have to share their work aloud, we always enjoy hearing one another’s pieces and have formed an incredible, supportive community. Join us for our next Lunchtime Write-In to get a taste of our Friday magic, or join us for our special Lunchtime Write-In: Second Helpings if you want to leave extra stuffed … with ideas!
Red Bank Middle School
3rd-5th Grade: Writers get ideas for personal stories by thinking about moments that are close to our hearts. One way of finding those stories is by thinking about emotions. With the 3rd through 5th graders, we spun our Wheel of Writing and wrote about times in our lives when we had that feeling. Feelings like sad, angry, surprised, peaceful, and worried came up on the wheel. We talked about the feeling of being brave and read the story “Courage,” by Bernard Waber. We look forward to continuing our discussion of what courage means to each of us!
6th-8th Grade: The first part of the word “question” is “quest,” and we’ve been embracing that quest with our 6th through 8th graders. We’ve created a Quest-ion Box so students can ask anything, write it on a notecard, and slip it into the box. We’ve been writing on the theme of “difference,” and we’ve written about what makes us different, how we feel when people disagree with us, and how we can celebrate our differences. We end each class by pulling questions from the Quest-ion Box and putting them on our Wheel of Writing to spin for a topic to write about and discuss.
Red Bank Regional “Summer Slam”
We spent two days at Red Bank Regional High School for “Summer Slam,” where we worked with rising 9th graders to show them the power of storytelling. We talked about how empathy is built through generous listening, and then we gave the students questions from Proust’s Questionnaire to interview one another. It was wonderful to see smiling faces and hear the chatter as students learned things about one another they hadn’t known before and shared their stories.
Shore House (Long Branch)
We celebrated “Be a Kid Again Day” on July 8 with our Shore House writers by reading “Jackrabbits, Green Onions & Witches Stew,” by Juan Felipe Herrera, and writing about the times where we believed in magic and the ways in which we still embrace that childlike feeling today. We ended that day with a little Show & Tell on Zoom, where writers showed us some of their favorite things in their homes including paintings, wall hangings, and even pets! When we returned in person on July 22, we read “Ode to Kool-Aid” by Marcus Jackson and then wrote our own odes to objects. We also wrote about food that holds special meaning to us and the history behind it. We always love writing with Shore House!
Teen Writing Group
With ELEVEN students in attendance, our summer session of Teen Writing Group is one of our biggest sessions yet! We are so proud of our new teen leader, Alex, for inspiring the group with her thoughtful prompts and encouraging each writer to share, offering words of encouragement and support at the end of each piece. We have an eclectic group this session with teens from all over New Jersey and one teen from North Carolina! So far, these teen writers have written about nature, vacations, fears, dreams, music, how they distinguish a sore loser from a good sport, and more! We can’t wait to see what they come up with next!
The Write Time
This summer, we are offering a six-week writing class to teachers to reignite the writer within. Our focus has been on “summer shorts”: short mentor texts and short writing prompts that generate short responses. Using Abigail Thomas’ Two Pages as inspiration, we’ve written “two pages” in response to “being in water,” “apologies,” and “a kitchen table, a slammed door, and a dead cat.” Most of these teachers attend our Teacher Writing Collaborative during the school year, but focusing solely on our writing is deepening our bond. The Teacher Writing Collaborative will resume in September and is open to teachers of all grades. For more information, email Jennifer Chauhan at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Zoom Open Mic
We had a blast in our monthly Zoom Open Mic on July 16! It’s hard to applaud or snap for readers in a virtual space, so we use the Zoom chat for support and praise. We still silently clap and snap, but now that we’ve been doing open mics on Zoom for more than a year, our writers are seasoned virtual admirers! As each reader reads their work, the chat now explodes with favorite lines and phrases that listeners pick up on. It’s been very helpful for readers to be able to see the praise this way as it not only allows them to feel supported but also acts as an aide in revision—don’t take out the most loved lines! Would you like to join this supportive writing community? Then sign up for our next Zoom Open Mic on August 20!
Through our mission as a nonprofit organization, we assist in removing barriers to participating in our studio classes by providing full and partial scholarship seats as well as payment plans. Since the pandemic began, we’ve seen a dramatic increase in the need for financial assistance and therefore have met that need by offering more scholarship seats. In 2020, we provided 48 adult and 28 youth/teen seats totaling nearly $15,000 in scholarships. Since January 2021, we have provided 48 adult and 18 youth/teen seats totaling $11,635. For summer alone, we have provided $4,375! For information about our scholarship program or to become a valuable donor providing these seats, please email Jennifer Chauhan at email@example.com.