ETAI Annual National Conference
July 8-9, 2014
"Writers Matter":
An International Program for Multicultural Communication
Dr. Maureen Rajuan
Pedagogical Advisor
English Department
Achva Academic College of Education
La Salle University, Philadelphia PA
Dr. Robert Vogel
Dr. Sami Adwan
Kerrin Garripoli
Matt Howell
Youssef Kromah
Writers Matter
Voices of Teens in the Middle East
• Why?
• Provide an emotionally and physically safe environment
• Provide mentors who serve as role models that nurture
tolerance and allow students to live a moral life
• Opportunity to listen to voices of Israeli and Palestinian
teens and pay attention to voices seldom heard
Writers Matter
Voices of Teens in the Middle East
• Develop critical writing and communication skills
• Create an atmosphere of trust and belonging
that are developmentally appropriate
• Dealing with feelings of isolation, frustration and
Writers Matter
Voices of Teens in the Middle East
• What?
• Year long program that is integrated into curriculum
• Provides professional development in research-based
instructional strategies throughout school year
Modeled after Writers Matter program in Philadelphia
that was implemented in 2005
• Began in Israeli and Palestinian Schools in 2011
Writers Matter
Voices of Teens in the Middle East
• How?
• Through journaling and telling personal stories.
• Empowering young writers to share their voice
• Pat Speight, an Irish storyteller once said “Stories are the
shortest distance between people.”
• Quaker peace activist Gene Knudsen Hoffman once
stated “an enemy is a person whose story we have not
heard yet”
• Digital Story
Writers Matter
Voices of Teens in the Middle East
What’s going on now?
11 Achva Student Teachers and 5 Cooperating
Teachers in Darka Jr. High, Kiryat Malachi
2 Achva Student Teachers and 1 Cooperating Teacher
in Al Najah Jr. High, Rahat
7th, 8th and 9th grade classes
Innovations to the program
1. English as a foreign language: a neutral and direct
means of communication known equally to speakers of
other languages.
2. Student Teachers as designers of lesson plans and
instructors of writing.
Writers Matter
Voices of Teens in the Middle East
• 2 Training Sessions lead by Bob, Sami and Samar in October
2013 before implementation of the program and in January
2014 as a follow-up
• Visits by Samar to the schools
• Lesson planning by student teachers in collaboration with their
cooperating teachers
• Pedagogy lessons
• Brainstorm I AM FROM sun on board: family, teacher,
pets, hobbies, personality, etc.
Individual I AM FROM sun drawings
Examples from the internet *
Write your own I AM FROM poem
Share with partners
Share in groups: compare similarities and differences
Add new ideas
Group presentations of similarities and differences
Volunteers read their poem to the class
Discussion: implementation in the classroom
I AM FROM template
An I Am poem is a good way to teach children to focus on their own
characteristics. It also is a good ice breaker for the beginning of the year.
I Am
I am (two special characteristics)
I wonder (something you are actually curious about)
I hear (an imaginary sound)
I see (an imaginary sight)
I want (an actual desire)
I am (the first line of the poem restated)
I pretend (something you actually pretend to do)
I feel (a feeling about something imaginary)
I touch (an imaginary touch)
I worry (something that really bothers you)
I cry (something that makes you very sad)
I am (the first line of the poem repeated)
I understand (something you know is true)
I say (something you believe in)
I dream (something you actually dream about)
I try (something you really make an effort about)
I hope (something you actually hope for)
I am (the first line of the poem repeated)
I AM FROM Assignment
• Write your own I AM FROM poem.
• Describe the process we went through in Pedagogy class.
• What are the advantages and disadvantages of this
process for teaching pupils?
Colleen David
I am from Hannah
I am from 33 years of living
I am from battling the past
I am from surviving the present
I am from worrying about the future
I am from a close and loving family
I am from the joy of my BFF dog, Belle
I am from a lonely self
I am from limitless TV Shows and films
I am from dreamless of Tennis and songs
I am from ADD and LD
I am from listening, speaking, reading and writing
“There are many advantages and good reasons for having
students write an I Am Poem. First, it is suitable for every student
in every level. There is no wrong or right answer. Second, it
allows them to learn about themselves and others through
writing. Third, it is authentic and motivates them to improve their
English. All the language skills are included (listening, speaking,
reading and writing). The possibilities are endless and it is a
process that everyone benefits from. It is designed to allow
students to address every issue that affects them or that they
care about. It is a good opportunity for the teacher to get to know
the students and learn if a student has a problem/a situation that
affects him/her. Personally, I liked writing this poem.”
“I haven't found real disadvantages for this type of writing.
Although it is personal and private, the students decide what
they wish to share with their teacher or class.”
Topic: Family Matters
“I was glad that I spoke with them about types of families
because most of them claimed that a father and a child
only weren't considered to be a family. I put them in that
position for a moment and then they understood that they
actually were a family. It was very important for me to
present to them and make them accept other types of
families, since they exist among their friends. I have kids
from divorced families and single parent families.”
(Reflection by Yael Ganot, 3rd-year Achva Student)
Topic: Family Matters
“At the beginning, some of the pupils were a bit shy and
didn't want to read in front of the whole class. However,
when the first pupil read, I made sure that everyone was
quiet, and when he finished, everyone clapped their hands.
It was very nice and increased their confidence. Suddenly,
many of them wanted to participate. I was so satisfied!”
(Reflection by Yael Ganot, 3rd-year Achva Student)
Topic: Family Matters
“There was one boy in particular who excited me the most. At
first he didn't want to share his story, but then he asked me to
read it for him to the class. He told his story for the first time to
the class: his parents were divorced and his mom re-married a
man with children. Today they all live together.”
“I noticed how nervous he was when I started reading,
but when I finished, everyone applauded and I praised him. He
relaxed suddenly and smiled. The whole lesson was worth this
one moment.”
“Later on, he even came to tell me a secret and asked
me not to tell the rest of the pupils. He said that he thought his
mom was pregnant and wanted to surprise him. I thought it was
adorable and I was excited by the fact that he trusted me.”
(Reflection by Yael Ganot, 3rd-year Achva Student)
Topic: Friendship
Student Teachers from Rahat teach in Kiryat
Topic: Friendship
Student Teachers from Kiryat Malachi teach in
Pen Pal Letter Exchange
• Pupils from 2 classes from Rahat and 4 classes from
Kiryat Malachi
• Wrote letters about themselves
• Received letters
• Wrote back with answers to the questions they were
• Prepared to meet their pen pal friends in person.
Pen Pal letter
End-of-year Celebration
• Participants:
• 300 pupils from Kiryat Malachi and 50 pupils from Rahat
• 12 English Teachers from both schools
• 13 Student Teachers
• Prof. Robert Vogel
• Activities:
• Acquaintance games
• Writing feedback about the program
• Sharing writing
• Drawing on material
• Singing and dancing
Darka Junior High School
Kiryat Malachi
June 20, 2014
Media coverage of the event
Writers Matter •
Voices of Teens in the Middle East
Topic: Future Hopes and Dreams
"If we are to teach real peace in this
world, and if we are to carry on a real
war against war, we shall have to begin
with the children." - Mohandas Gandhi

Writers Matter Voices of Teens in the middle east