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This past year I wrote Telling Our Stories Through Art and Writing, an innovative curriculum for English as Second Language high school students. Students tell their own life stories through personal reflections and hands-on art projects inspired by many cultural traditions. This video shows some of the wonderful artwork created by the ESL students at three Portland, Oregon high schools.

Telling Our Stories uses the visual arts as the starting point for writing and discussion -- and our students had a lot to say. All art projects were taught by ESL teachers, not experienced art teachers.  Even though the classrooms had neither sinks nor flat work tables, the students painted, drew and collaged with great concentration and attention. Learning came in many ways for Telling Our Stories students. One student used a pair of scissors for the first time in her life to create Asian paper cut collages, and another first learned to use a ruler to design her African symbol painting.

A painting by Victor Ortiz-Sumano, a junior at Renaissance Arts Academy at Marshall High School, combined images and his own words. On it he wrote, "Whenever I draw something on paper, I feel motivated." Exactly.      
  2009 Telling Our Stories ESL Teachers
 Peter Puhvel (Roosevelt High School)
Ann Truax (Madison High School)
Terry Jensen (Renaissance Arts Academy
at Marshall High School)
This curriculum was created by Dory Kanter with support from Diana Fernandez, Director, ESL/Immersion, Portland Public Schools, Portland, Oregon. Much appreciation goes to the Portland Art Museum and special guest artists Hector Hernandez, Una Kim and Baba Wague Diakite for speaking with and inspiring our students.