Collage Poetry

By Vanessa Borjon

I recently brought in a collage poetry writing curriculum to my groups in Back of the Yards and South Shore. My students had been having a difficult time finding a way to put their words to paper, so I thought an opportunity to use appropriated and lifted language to piece together a poem could help with the writer’s block. The results were gorgeous. 

collage poetry 1

I brought in this activity with my students at Sinclair, Second Chance and Sullivan House. We started the group with a poem by Luis Javier Rodriguez, a writer from Chicago. After short discussion and getting the mind inspired, I gave each participant a few print-outs of random words and phrases, brightly colored cardstock, and their new ‘pens’: scissors and glue.  

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The Holiday Spirit

there was energyby Abby Harris-Ridker

The week before winter break is always a hectic time in book groups. The students are ready for vacation, the teachers are piling on tests, and there are holiday parties and spirit weeks at the schools. But, we also make book group a special time. We bring our students books or journals as holiday gifts, sometimes we engage in a special curriculum or art projects, and we get to be a place where our students can take a breath and talk about what’s going on for them in the final weeks of the year.

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Ten of Abby’s Best Moments at Literature for All of Us



by Abby Harris-Ridker

This is my last week working at Literature for All of Us and I’m feeling so very thankful for my four and a half years here. I have learned so much from my students. I have learned what it means to use trauma-informed facilitation techniques, and to create space which allows participants to connect, share, reframe their experience, and heal. I have experienced groups where students love to read and groups where they are on their phones the whole time; groups where participants open up right away and groups where they need several months before personal stories start to come out. LFAOU opens worlds by opening books for our students, but it has been a life-changing privilege for me to learn from my students, hear their stories, and witness their lives. In June, I will start the Chicago Teacher Residency with Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL). This is a student-teaching and master’s degree program where I will become certified to teach elementary education. I know that I will take all that I learned from my time as a Book Group Leader into my future classrooms.

So here are 10 great moments from my time at LFAOU, in no particular order. And I know that there are definitely more than 10!

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There is no easy walk to freedom: inside work with refugee students

no easy walk to freedom nelson mandelaBy Abby Harris-Ridker

“There is no easy walk to freedom…” - Nelson Mandela.

I started our book group with this quote at Sullivan High School, where I work with a group of English Language Learners from all over the world.

“What is freedom?” I asked.

One student responded, “Freedom is when you’re free.”

“Yes,” I said, “But what does it mean to be free? How do you know if you’re free?”

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