Pre-Texts in California

September 22, 2017

Pre-Texts went to California August 14-18, invited by Arts Bridging the Gap and YouthBuild Charter School of California (YCSC). For five days, Vialla Hartfield-Méndez and Jais Brohinsky facilitated the workshop with 25 committed and passionate teachers who work at some of the 19 YCSC sites around California. YouthBuild Charter School is a free project-based charter school, rooted in social justice, for students between 16-24 years of age who have previously left or been pushed out of traditional public schools.

For three hours each day, teachers became learners, playing and transforming two pages of Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, reading aloud, posing questions to the text and creating answers, considering each other’s reflections, developing their own Pre-Texts activities, and collaborating on creatively constructing deeper understandings of the text and ways to fold this pedagogy into their own. By the end of the week, the group proposed new texts with which to try out this approach, and we spent the last day exploring “A Decent Home,” suggested by a social studies teacher. This 1944 pamphlet, published by the Los Angeles Housing Authority, advances ideas about “bad housing,” “good housing,” “blighted areas,” and “social disease.” The teachers jumped into a Pre-Texts approach to teaching about the history of housing in Los Angeles, and very quickly figured out engaging and playful ways to invite students into analysis and critical interpretation of this pamphlet while encouraging civic participation.

Many of the teachers have very concrete ideas about how they plan to use Pre-Texts. In addition, the YouthBuild Charter School administrators are working with Arts Bridging the Gap in a three-month school-wide pilot check-in structure and an evaluation of the effects of the Pre-Texts approach on student performance, based on pre- and post-trimester surveys and teacher observations. One of the pillars of the YouthBuild Charter School approach is the development of Community Action Projects, and Pre-Texts may find its way into these projects. We look forward to hearing how Pre-Texts continues to unfold and deepen for this outstanding team of teachers.

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