Poetic connections: Using literacy to connect the classroom, community, and culture of middle school students

Angela Michelle Wiseman, University of Pennsylvania


My study was designed to document a collaborative relationship between an white English teacher and an African American community member who created a poetry workshop that incorporated students, parents, and community members. The context of this study is an urban public eighth grade classroom in a historic African American community. The overarching question is: How does a collaborative relationship between a teacher and a community member support literacy instruction for middle school students? Four specific questions guided my data collection and analysis: (1) What is the community member's philosophy and pedagogy? (2) What are the characteristics of the partnership between the teacher and the community member? (3) How does the poetry program affect the literacy learning of students? (4) How is family involvement understood and expressed by students, community members, and teachers? Data were generated from classroom observations, out-of-school poetry events, interviews, students' poetry, and classroom artifacts. Data analysis included developing conceptual categories and themes (Strauss & Corbin, 1998), and narrative analysis (Riessman, 1993). The data illustrate that the community member's involvement in the community, flexibility and understanding, and student-centered approach to learning made this learning space unique. Furthermore, the critical exploration of topics related to identity, gender and race were important components of the writing lessons. While the teacher and the poet often implemented their goals independently of each other, they had a shared goal of using students as resources and valuing their social and emotional development. My findings reflect that the poetry workshop was significant to students because they had opportunities to receive mentorship from another caring adult who was a different race and gender than their teacher. In addition, his focus on relevant and personal topics and encouragement for students to collaborate with peers was a significant aspect of their learning. The findings indicated that teachers, community members, and students had different experiences and expectations that affected the relationships between families and schools. While my findings illustrate the complexities of building relationships among schools, families, and communities, this study also confirms that partnerships among schools and communities can provide significant contributions to literacy learning in the classroom.

Subject Area

Literacy|Reading instruction|Secondary education

Recommended Citation

Wiseman, Angela Michelle, "Poetic connections: Using literacy to connect the classroom, community, and culture of middle school students" (2004). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI3125920.