Bocas Lit Fest

Write Away!, the secondary schools creative writing project produced by the Bocas Lit Fest and sponsored by the Scotiabank Foundation is warmly welcomed by students, teachers and the Ministry of Education.  

On Friday 24 June, Dr. the Honourable Nyan Gadsby-Dolly received a small box containing  the unique digital learning tools for English Literature students from the President of the Bocas Lit Fest Marina Salandy-Brown and Mr. Stephan Lalonde of Scotiabank at the Ministry of Education.

The Write Away! Young Adult Literature Project is now in its second year and provides the nation’s children with a valuable learning tool in the form of a series of dynamic videos that in year one (2021) explained the nuts and bolts of fiction, and the 2022 series focused on poetry.  These are core elements of the CSEC English B curriculum, and the fun videos reference some of the key texts while helping students to understand the fundamentals of these literary genres that are part of the secondary schools English Language Arts curriculum. 

All educators in Trinidad and Tobago have open access to these new digital teaching resources via the Ministry of Education’s School Learning Management System (SLMS). This year’s Write Away! project includes a 9-part video workshop series and a PDF workbook for students and is accompanied by supporting material for teachers. Over 80% of the participating teachers indicated that their students were more engaged in discussions and lessons as a result of the Write Away! Poetry series, and more confident about reading aloud and writing their own poetry in the classroom. 

Independently developed by the Bocas Lit Fest and award-winning author Lisa Allen-Agostini, who recently made international news when she was shortlisted for the highly coveted Women’s Prize for Literature, the Write Away! Poetry Series uses dynamic motion graphics and dramatic readings to keep students’ attention.  Unlike in the typical classroom, the lessons are delivered with humour and energy by the 2022 video hosts Darrion M. Narine and Alexandria Douglas, who are both poets themselves and are passionate about helping other youth embrace the artform. 

The videos aim to make classic Caribbean poetry feel more relevant to contemporary young people, encouraging better performance in Language Arts subjects at CSEC level, and to equip all English Literature and Language teachers in secondary schools with engaging digital teaching resources that supplement the curriculum.

Over 50 secondary schools across Trinidad and Tobago have already used the Write Away! Poetry series for the 2021-2022 academic year.  As early participants in the Write Away! Project, these schools received the pre-recorded digital resources available to all schools via the SLMS, but their students were also invited to participate in writing workshops with the Bocas Lit Fest via Zoom and to submit original poems to be published on the Bocas Lit Fest’s website https://www.bocaslitfest.com/youth/write-away/.   

“There is an inspiring showcase of poetry by talented young writers, aged 12-18, from schools all across the country. These poems explore a range of emotions, topics and styles, showing how valuable poetry and language can be as tools of self-expression and reflection in personal development”, commented Bocas Lit Fest founder Marina Salandy-Brown. 

Scotiabank Trinidad and Tobago Foundation Chairperson Roxane De Freitas is pleased about the alignment of the Write Away! project. “Our priority at this time is helping children to succeed in their education as a means to economic resilience as adults. This project empowers them with the tools to make the most of their studies and will pay dividends in the end.”

According to Ms. Callender, English teacher at St. James Secondary, “It is the sort of resource that can reinforce classroom teaching, as well as support independent study… and might also help students …..  determine that the subject (Literature) is not as intimidating as it might otherwise be perceived.”  All of the teachers polled said  that they would continue to use the Write Away! Poetry series in their classroom for years to come – one of several benefits of having the material in an easily accessible digital format.

Award-winning author, Lisa Allen-Agostini, who led the fiction workshops which broke down the essentials of creative writing said “We know how important literature is and how vital it is for young people to see themselves in the books and poems they read and study.

It is my hope that these Write Away video lessons in how to read and write fiction and poetry are accessible and fun in their language and approach so the teenagers they’re written for can not only succeed in their CSEC literature exams, but go on to actually enjoy literature and its benefits—building their empathy, improving their communication skills and maybe even encouraging them to commit art.”


KEY FACTS & TEACHER ENDORSEMENTS

  • The Scotiabank Foundation funded Write Away! Poetry Series is a valuable digital resource that supports teachers in our secondary schools.
  • The Write Away! Young Adult Literature project gives all schools access to five virtual creative writing workshops via the Ministry of Education’s School Learning Management System. Led by the award-winning author Lisa Allen-Agostini, the workshops break down the essentials of creative writing.
  • Produced by the Bocas Lit Fest and sponsored by The Scotiabank Foundation, the Write Away! is designed to keep students and teachers motivated and engaged in online learning this term. It also gives students access to exciting, culturally-relevant books of all genres that can foster a lifelong love of reading.
  • The virtual workshop covers everything from character building to plot and scene setting, using engaging, short videos with illustrations from Caribbean Literature and popular Young Adult Fiction like Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.
  • Former Curriculum Coordinator of the Ministry of Education’s English Unit at the Curriculum Planning and Development Division Mala Morton-Gittens says, “The project is aligned to the secondary school English Language Arts curriculum and will stimulate keen interest in student writing. Certainly, the possibility of writing under the guidance of an award-winning author will energise students to produce their best writing!”
  • The virtual package that all schools can access, nine secondary schools in the Write Away! project receive books for their school libraries to facilitate book clubs and reading groups, and guided writing support for their students from the Bocas Lit Fest and workshop facilitator Lisa Allen-Agostini. 
  • The best writing from students in the Write Away! project will be published next year in an e-book, launching the next generation of writers-to-watch from Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Bocas Lit Fest founder and director Marina Salandy-Brown adds, “What makes Write Away! unique is that it covers all the bases with beautiful videos, prize-winning books with stories full of Caribbean characters, and a complete teachers’ package designed to support online teaching and learning.”
  • The nine secondary schools were selected from each school district with the support of the Ministry of Education’s Curriculum Planning and Development Division. They are Arima Central Secondary, Belmont Secondary, Fyzabad Secondary, Marabella North Secondary, Pleasantville Secondary, San Juan North Secondary, St. James Secondary, Tableland Secondary and Waterloo Secondary.
  • Ms. Carol Ramkissoon, Head of English Department at Fyzabad Secondary School, observed that, “Students have demonstrated a greater appreciation for poetry and are enjoying it more in class”, following participating in this year’s Scotiabank Write Away! Project.  
  • Myra  Durham- Alfred Head of  English Department  (Ag.) Bishop Anstey  High School East “I used the resources you shared to provide support for my teaching of poetry and the students’ preparation for their CSEC SBA oral examinations.  Thank you.” 

  • “After the lessons student who were reluctant to write poetry were more easily encouraged and they were even proud to display and read their poem in class in front of other students.” Skeater Frederick, Teacher, Goodwood High School.
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