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curriculum project

sshameti's picture

Silvi Shameti

Identity, Access, Innovation

Fall 2014 Curriculum Project


The placement I am designing a curriculum for is an all-female correctional facility and the program I am involved in is a literacy program. The definition of literacy, as Gerald Campano mentioned in his talk during our class, is comprised of many layers. One way Campano described it is in the form of a “technology or acquisition that some people have and some don’t”; this leads into the “great divide” theory in which it is decided that some people have access to/the ability to learn literacy, while others do not. Campano also mentioned that “the use of reading and writing in language is a social practice that varies from context to context,” and that the term “literacy” does, in fact, contain pluralities. It is important to note that certain definitions or conceptualizations of literacy are given more privilege than others both in our society and the educational system, and it is important to critically reflect on why certain conceptions are acceptable and others less so, and who gets to decide this issue. It is also important to be take the opportunity to expand the commonly held conceptions of literacy and include many different ways it could be seen or recognized in order to integrate groups of people who are often viewed as the “have nots” in the often dichotomous way that literacy is maintained.

Before creating a curriculum, it is important to give a background on the classroom environment in a correctional facility. There are many things to keep in mind in matters of identity and access in this kind of placement, as there can be certain limitations to what can actually happen in a classroom or certain concepts that need to be restructured in order to create a productive atmosphere. One of the first issues that I encountered in this literacy group concerned the way the women in the group viewed themselves as students, or viewed their skill level. Many of the women seemed to consider their abilities inferior to the abilities they perceive us to have. This could have stemmed from so many different places; they may have encountered an educational experience that left them feeling insecure about their performance, or they may have developed certain ideas about us based on the fact that we attend private institutions of higher education - or both. This should be addressed because, as Campano said during our class, “if people don’t respect each other as knowledge generators [or contributors], it is hard to develop a trusting relationship.” In order for our classroom to be meaningful, there should be a sense of egalitarianism and the sense that everyone in the room has something worthwhile to contribute. Another way to reframe this issue is to make use of an idea Campano described in class (and that has been described by many others, as well): “epistemic privilege.” We could consider the lived experiences that the women in the group have experienced to be “privileged knowledge of certain aspects of the world,” because “individuals from historically disenfranchised communities” often experience the world in vastly different ways from people who do not live/grow up in those communities.

There are also many reasons why someone in a correctional facility would attend a group like ours - some have mentioned that they want to work on building their reading and writing skills, or working on grammar; others have said that they like to keep busy and have something to do; still others may just want to be in a social environment where they are able to see people that they don’t have the opportunity to see during the week.

Lastly, it is important to keep in mind that reading and writing materials can be scare and certain resources we take for granted - like the internet - are non-existent in this environment.

Essentially, the ideas that this curriculum would use involve a) the idea of viewing the women in the group as students capable of contributing, as “cosmopolitan intellectuals,” and as having epistemic privilege, b) seeing diversity (both in skill level or other demographics like race, culture, etc.) as a useful and wonderful added resource and c) using their personal narratives/lived experiences as driving content in class.



Because I think the best way to get better at reading and writing is to practice it a lot, I think it would be useful or interesting to have one large writing prompt that runs throughout the program. Each week could explore a new facet of writing or a new genre of writing or a new writing tool (like going into detail about metaphors, organization of paragraphs/thoughts, etc.) that eventually contributes to this one large writing prompt.


Begin with poetry, because poetry is fun and makes people feel vulnerable at the same time:


If I Can Stop



If I can stop one heart from breaking,

I shall not live in vain;

If I can ease one life the aching,

Or cool one pain,

Or help one fainting robin

Unto his nest again,

I shall not live in vain.


We Real Cool


              The Pool Players.

       Seven at the Golden Shovel.


           We real cool. We   

           Left school. We


           Lurk late. We

           Strike straight. We


           Sing sin. We   

           Thin gin. We


           Jazz June. We   

           Die soon.



-How are these poems different? How are they similar?

-What makes them work? What do you like about these poems? What don’t you like?


-How is poetry different from other writing?

-musical aspect to poetry? cadence, rhyme?



(Inspired by Hill’s hip-hop education) This can lead into a discussion of hip-hop music, after introducing specific pieces:


"None Of Your Business" - Salt N’ Pepa


What's the matter with your life?

Why you gotta mess with mine?

Don't keep sweatin' what I do

Cause I'm gonna be just fine - check it out




If I wanna take a guy home with me tonight

It's none of your business

And she wanna be a freak and sell it on the weekend

It's none of your business

Now you shouldn't even get into who I'm givin' skins to

It's none of your business

So don't try to change my mind, I'll tell you one more time

It's none of your business


Now who do you think you are

Puttin' your cheap two cents in?

Don't you got nothin' to do

Than worry 'bout my friends? Check it...


I can't do nothin', girl, without somebody buggin'

I used to think that it was me, but now I see it wasn't

They told me to change, they called me names, and so I popped one

Opinion's are like assholes and everybody's got one

I never put my nose where I'm not supposed to

Believe me, if he's something that I want, I'm steppin' closer

I'm not one for playing high-pole

Like the high soditty 90210 type of the ho

I treat a man like he treats me

The difference between a hooker and a ho ain't nothin' but a fee

So hold your tongue tightly, wish you could be like me

You're poppin' all that mess only to stress and to spite me

Now you can get with that or you can get with this

But I don't give a shit cause really it's none of your business


(1993, S and P, packin' and mackin'

Bamboozlin' and smackin' suckers with this track

Throw the beat back in!)




How many rules am I to break before you understand

That your double-standards don't mean shit to me?

I know exactly what you say when I turn and walk away

But that's OK cause I don't let it get it to me

Now every move I make somebody's clockin'

Don't ask me nothin', will you just leave me alone?

Never mind who's the guy that I took bone


OK, Miss Thing never givin' up skins

If you don't like him or his friends what about that Benz?

Your Pep-Pep's got an ill rep

With all that macaroni trap for rap you better step

Or better yet get your head checked

Cause I refuse to be played like a penny cent trick deck of cards

No, I ain't hard like the bitches on a boulevard

My face ain't scarred, and I don't dance in bars

You can call me a tramp if you want to

But I remember the punk who just humped and dumped you

Or you can front if you have to

But everybody gets horny just like you

So, yo, so, yo, ho - check it, double deck it on a record butt-naked

Pep's ass gets respect, and this butt is none of your business




So the moral of this story is: Who are you to judge?

There's only one true judge, and that's God

So chill, and let my Father do His job


Cause Salt and Pepa's got it swingin' again

Cause Salt and Pepa's got it swingin' again

Cause Salt and Pepa's got it swingin' again

Cause Salt and Pepa's got it swingin' again...




"C.R.E.A.M." - Wu Tang Clan


(Cash Rules Everything Around Me

C.R.E.A.M. get...)

Yeah, check this ol fly shit out

Word up

(Cash Rules Everything Around Me) Take you on a natural joint

(C.R.E.A.M. get the money) Here we here we go

(dolla dolla bill y'all) Check this shit, yo!


[Verse One: Raekwon the Chef]


I grew up on the crime side, the New York Times side

Staying alive was no jive

Had second hands, moms bounced on old man

So then we moved to Shaolin land

A young youth, yo rockin the gold tooth, 'Lo goose

Only way, I begin to G' off was drug loot

And let's start it like this son, rollin with this one

And that one, pullin out gats for fun

But it was just a dream for the teen, who was a fiend

Started smokin woolies at sixteen

And running up in gates, and doing hits for high stakes

Making my way on fire escapes

No question I would speed, for cracks and weed

The combination made my eyes bleed

No question I would flow off, and try to get the dough off

Sticking up white boys in ball courts

My life got no better, same damn 'Lo sweater

Times is rough and tough like leather

Figured out I went the wrong route

So I got with a sick tight clique and went all out

Catchin keys from across seas

Rollin in MPV's, every week we made forty G's

Yo brothas respect mine, or anger the tech nine

Ch-POW! Move from the gate now


[Chorus (2X): Method Man]


Cash Rules Everything Around Me


Get the money

Dollar, dollar bill y'all


[Verse Two: Inspectah Deck]


It's been 22 long hard years and still strugglin

Survival got me buggin, but I'm alive on arrival

I peep at the shape of the streets

And stay awake to the ways of the world cause shit is deep

A man with a dream with plans to make C.R.E.A.M.

Which failed; I went to jail at the age of 15

A young buck sellin drugs and such who never had much

Trying to get a clutch at what I could not touch

The court played me short, now I face incarceration

Pacin', going up state's my destination

Handcuffed in back of a bus, 40 of us

Life as a shorty shouldn't be so rough

But as the world turns I learned life is Hell

Living in the world, no different from a cell

Everyday I escape from Jakes givin chase, sellin base

Smokin bones in the staircase

Though I don't know why I chose to smoke sess

I guess that's the time when I'm not depressed

But I'm still depressed, and I ask what's it worth?

Ready to give up so I seek the Old Earth

Who explained working hard may help you maintain

to learn to overcome the heartaches and pain

We got stickup kids, corrupt cops, and crack rocks

and stray shots, all on the block that stays hot

Leave it up to me while I be living proof

To kick the truth to the young black youth

But shorty's running wild, smokin sess, drinkin beer

And ain't trying to hear what I'm kickin in his ear

Neglected for now, but yo, it gots to be accepted

That what? That life is hected


[Chorus - 3X]


Cash Rules Everything Around Me


get the money

Dolla dolla bill y'aauhhhaaaauhhhhahhhauhhhhll, YEAH



-How is this music like poetry? What are some similarities?

-how do they both use literary devices? [WRITE ON SHEET ON WALL]

-What is this song about? How can you tell? pick specific lines to back up

-how can we use songs to tell stories?

-can songs be more or less effective than other pieces of writing when used to send a message? or as a general form of expression? how so/why? [WRITE ON SHEET ON WALL]


Writing assignment: Create your own poem/rap/hip-hop song. Think carefully about how you are using language; what is most important to you? the message? or how it sounds overall?




Next time:

People come back into class with completed writing assignments (or not completed is also fine)

-Ask if people willing to share what they wrote - but do not share yet

-Take the pieces from willing volunteers, tape on the walls around the room next to large blank sheets of paper --> silent discussion; people can give feedback on the completed assignments

-After people have gotten a chance to walk around several times, ask people to share their thoughts together as a group; ask people who volunteered their pieces to share them out loud [because reading poetry/rap/hip-hop out loud is different from seeing it on paper, can show how they meant their writing to be perceived/performed]


--> speaking of performance, what are other kinds of writings that can be performed? -SPEECHES

-what can speeches be used for? [to inspire, to preach, to PERSUADE]


Martin Luther King, Jr., “I Have a Dream”:

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, "When will you be satisfied?" We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro's basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: "For Whites Only." We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until "justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream."¹


I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest -- quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.


Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.


And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.


I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."


I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.


I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.


I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.


I have a dream today!


I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of "interposition" and "nullification" -- one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.


I have a dream today!


I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; "and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together."2


This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.


With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.




Sojourner Truth (1797-1883): Ain't I A Woman?

Delivered 1851

Women's Convention, Akron, Ohio

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?


That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?


Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?


Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.


If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.


Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.



-What are these speeches about? Why do you think they were written?

-do you think they served their purpose? (ignoring the way they actually played out in them in a contemporary space)

-What works in these speeches? What do you find compelling?

-what doesn’t work? did you find it boring?

-what literary devices do you notice (if any?)

-How do they make you feel? What do they make you think?


Writing assignment: What do you feel passionate about? Write a speech about it. Make sure the speech has a clear aim, direction, message. Make sure people can follow along. Make it interesting -- will be performed in next class.




Next class: Start off with people who come in with completed speeches and who want to share them with the class; remind them that a speech is a kind of performance

-Allow feedback after the speech is given



Set up a scene: 4 people are in a car. Set up 4 chairs in the middle of the room, two in front, two behind, all facing the same way. Ask for women to volunteer to be in the car. Let the scene go where it may! Tell them to envision what the scene would look like - what character each person would be, what they would talk about -- INTRODUCING TOPIC OF DIALOGUE


-Let more than one group cycle through if there is interest


-How was that activity? Was it hard for people? How so/Why?

-what worked? what didn’t?

-how did you work off of each other? was dialogue stilted? did it flow naturally?

-what did this activity teach you?


Now that we have done a bit of work with different kinds of writing styles, we can begin to tackle the idea of the novel



-What is a novel? What does that mean to you?

-what are the different components of a novel? [WRITE THESE ON A SHEET OF PAPER ON THE WALL]


-if you could choose to write a novel about anything, what would it be? who would you write about?

-make large brainstorming sheet in middle of room, give everyone markers

-put one prompt in the middle and allow people to make branches


-Let people brainstorm on their own


Writing assignment: bring in a beginning to a novel. This could be conceptualized as a character, a setting, a time period, the start of a plot, etc. - anything that could be picked up into a larger thread


------>> From here on: there will be activities that help people develop a novel, but also activities that don’t directly relate to writing a novel


Sources for lyrics/poetry/speeches: