Mindy Hardwick's Blog

Author Mindy Hardwick Muses about Writing

Writing With Teens in Juvenile Detention Ideas

on May 9, 2012

I’m facilitating another poetry and YA Lit workshop at the juvenile detention center this week. And, I thought it would be fun to share some of what I’m doing with the kids. Thanks to a generous grant from the Greater Everett Community Foundation, Terry & Cheryle Earnheart Fund for Children, our collection of YA books and memoirs include the following titles:

Jasper Jones, Craig Silvey

Crank, Ellen Hopkins

Glass, Ellen Hopkins

Running with Scissors, Augusten Burroughs 

It Calls You Back,  Luis Rodriguez

Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A, Luis Rodriguez

Couldn’t Keep It To Myself:  The Women of York Correctional Institution

Fly, Colton, Fly: The True Story of the Barefoot Bandit, Jackson Holtz 

The first two days, we talked about The Hero’s Journey. None of the kids had heard of it. I was a bit surprised by this, and quickly took the opportunity to walk them through the Hero’s Journey using the Wizard of Oz. One young lady said Dorothy’s pals the Scarecrow, Lion, and Tin Man were her Homies.

After we talked about the Hero’s Journey, I asked the kids to think about their own lives and brainstorm around the Hero’s Journey. Some of the “Calls to Adventure” included trying drugs and joining gangs.  Belly of the Whale moments included being arrested and going to jail, but the most surprising was way the teens tackled the “Gift” moments of the Hero’s Journey. We talked about how “Gift” moments are the wisdom that you learn from taking a Hero’s Journey (positive or negative), and the teens easily came up with a lot of lessons they’d learned including: how to be strong and face adversity and how to survive tough situations.

Here is the handout of the Hero’s Journey

Today, our topic was doors. I read the teens a section from the first book of Harry Potter where he finds the magical platform leading to the train to Hogwarts. Then, we drew doorways and where they might lead in our lives. I also shared some of the poems from the FreeMinds BookClub and Writing Workshop Blog, The teens’ favorite poems were “Momma Told Me,” and “Danger.” Both poems were finalists in the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards and you can read about that here.  We wrote poems about Danger and “_________Told Me.” (Fill in the blank with a person who gave you advice that you followed or did not follow)

Tomorrow, we’re going to talk about monsters. In honor of Maurice Sendak, who passed away earlier this week, I’m reading Where the Wild Things Are, and we’ll write about monsters in our lives.

The teens are writing some great poems, and once we get release forms, I’ll post them on the Denney Poetry Blog.

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3 responses to “Writing With Teens in Juvenile Detention Ideas

  1. Gosh, I wish I was in your class!

  2. Nah…then you’d have to wear orange and read your book in a cell. The class may be good, but I don’t think the rest would be….

  3. […] You can read about that workshop and see some of the lesson ideas here. […]

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