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The Year of New Voices project of New Hampshire Humanities' Connections program offers a new focus on writing this year. To support students in their writing, the Connections program created Tell Me More: Encouraging and Developing the Voices of English Learners, a handbook of essays on writing with students, reflections on how we write and why we write, and instruction on ways to discover stories and write them with clarity. Tell Me More was written by Connections facilitators and New Hampshire teachers and writers.
"Creating Tell Me More was a meeting of such creative and good spirits and I felt blessed to be a witness to all those voices coming together,” said Carolyn Hutton, co-editor of the handbook. “The voices and vision represented in this book remind us that the humanities do have the power to change lives."
Early in the planning of Tell Me More, Connections coordinator Terry Farish met with Louise Wrobleski who was site director for the UNH Literacy Institute for 20 years. Louise spoke of working with Donald Graves, professor of education and founder of the Writing Process Lab at UNH. "Don would come in to my classroom," she said, "and he wouldn't ask a student a question about his writing. He would just say, "Tell me more." The title of the Connections handbook draws on Donald Graves' and Louise Wrobleski's wisdom.
Louise described finding a "hotspot" in a student's story and inviting the student to discover where that hotspot could lead them. She demonstrates that process in an essay she contributed to Tell Me More, called "The Gift of Story: Kneel Down Bread." Here's an excerpt:
In 2015, I spent five weeks as a guest teacher at a Navajo middle school in Page, Arizona, encouraging young Navajo students to write their stories. One of the first to greet me at the school was a woman who had lived there her entire life. “I have been writing my stories of growing up here. Will you read what I’ve written and help me?" she asked.
We began with a section about making kneel-down bread with her grandmother.
"Martha," I told her, "I don't know what kneel-down bread is. Tell me more."
That began their journey of telling, listening, and writing to document Navajo life in the 40s, 50s, and 60s.
Beginning in 2019 writers in Connections programs will be invited to “tell us more” as they work with professional writers and poets in many New Hampshire communities.
“My Chinese students tell me there is a saying in China about how there are a thousand ways to look at a story. That’s a lot of revising, but this approach to changing a story is a shift from the tiresome act of ‘fixing’ what’s wrong to the possibility of discovery.” - Carolyn Hutton, co-creator of Tell Me More
“Tell Me More invites learners of English to fearlessly find their voice through storytelling, writing, poetry, memoir, and art.”- Lynn Ditchfield, doctoral student and creator of Focus on Immigration Education & Stories Through the Arts
“What most excites me is when new writers feel excitement in having found words for their experience. I think it helps people to remember and show their identities, which can feel lost when they’ve left home and started over somewhere new.” - Alice Fogel, New Hampshire Poet Laureate and Connections facilitator
“The ideas in Tell Me More are wonderfully easy to incorporate into any level classroom. My hope is always that the students become as comfortable with writing words as with speaking them.” - Chris Powers, former director of the Manchester Adult Learning Center and state mentor for ESL educators
“The Tell Me More writing prompts are a great way for adult learners to practice communicating clear and coherent messages with others. Every writing prompt provided can help adult learners hone their writing skills.” - Ginette Chandler, Ed.D., statewide professional development coordinator
The Tell Me More handbook published by New Hampshire Humanities is available online at www.nhhumanities.org/Connections.
New Hampshire Humanities programs are made possible in part by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this these programs do not necessarily represent those of the NEH or New Hampshire Humanities.