Giving Hope
July 8, 2018
Mariama fundraiser to help children, youth
July 8, 2018

Writing workshop for teens

Cultural scholar Dr Danielle Elliott (left) and writer Lisa Allen-Agostini will lead The Writing Intervention, an educational English and writing camp for teens 14+. Photo courtesy: Roxanne Herbert.

English is a required subject for the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC). Writing is a requirement for Caribbean Advance Proficiency Exam (CAPE). Students applying to universities abroad have to write essays to get in. Why is there no holiday camp to help teens with writing?

That was the question that came up when US-based independent cultural scholar Dr Danielle Elliott met T&T-based writer and editor Lisa Allen-Agostini.

The two alumnae of Bishop Anstey High School share a passion for words. Though they had never met at school, they instantly found common ground in talking about writing.

Out of that conversation came ‘The Writing Intervention’, a series of two-week English language and writing workshops for teens aged 14 and up. The workshops, the only of their kind locally, will take place at the Trinidad Theatre Workshop, Newbold Street, St Clair, over the July/August holidays.

Elliott holds a doctorate in English Literature from Princeton University, a Bachelor’s degree from Brooklyn College, City University of New York and has taught Caribbean and African American literatures, particularly poetry.  She has worked at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Smith College, among other institutions.

She has been visiting schools to talk to students, teachers and principals and the parent and teacher response to the initiative has been encouraging.

One Chemistry teacher shared about asking her class to read a section of text and come up with definitions of a list of terms. The response from students demonstrated there were major issues with reading and comprehension. “Conversations like that confirm for me that a camp that focuses on writing is not only a good idea, it is necessary,” Elliott said.

Competence in writing affects nearly all subjects. At a recent career day Elliot had a chance to talk with students individually and in small groups. One group said they hated writing but luckily had chosen careers which wouldn’t require them to do much.

One student wanted to be a biologist and another botanist, Elliott informed them the road to these careers “was not a writing-free highway” as they imagined. In the future at college and graduate school white papers, articles, public talks and grant requests and more had to be written.

Elliott stated, “I’d like young people to realise that strong skills in written communication are an essential aspect of a good education and invaluable asset in life… It’s about being able to be an effective communicator and translator of your world.”

Allen-Agostini, though best known as an award-winning author and journalist, has taught English at tertiary level at the TT Hospitality and Tourism Institute and COSTAATT.

Allen-Agostini wrote a weekly column in Trinidad Creole and brings that familiarity to the camp. “Creole is a beautiful, poetic language. Where else can you find words like ‘obzockie’, ‘bobolee’, or ‘tabanca’? The challenge comes when Creole speakers are faced with the need to write in Standard English; many students don’t know how to identify the differences in grammar and it ruins their confidence as writers,” she said.

The Writing Intervention is an opportunity for students to receive more personal attention for their trouble spots. It’s also going to be fun, using games, improv, and physical exercises to exploit the mind-body connection and make the whole act of writing less intimidating.

The Writing Intervention runs July 9 – 20; July 23–August 3; August 6 –17; and August 20 –30; and camp activities from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. Spaces are limited and early registration is encouraged.

For more information about The Writing Intervention visit its Facebook page or contact the team via WhatsApp at 646-505-7872 or 868-753-6220.