Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Teaching The Children of Willesden Lane
Resources to help you teach the book in middle schools and high schools

Chapters 13–19

Classroom Video:
Gaining Insight Through Poetry

How can teachers help students reflect thoughtfully about people who are marked as different by virtue of race, sex, nationality, culture, language, appearance, or sexual orientation? This fundamental challenge can emerge as a central theme in teaching The Children of Willesden Lane.

In the video, high school English teacher Chris Mazzino uses poetry to connect The Children of Willesden Lane to themes he is exploring in his creative writing elective: the human condition, and what it feels like to be an outsider—or “the Other.” Students have previously read and discussed the book as part of a citywide reading program. Chris uses a technique for teaching poetry called “copy-change,” in which students follow the form of a published poem, while inserting their own words, ideas, and emotions.

  • Students read and discuss the poem Will They Ever Learn? (see Additional Resources).
  • Students “copy-change” this poem, drawing on situations from The Children of Willesden Lane and from other class discussions.
  • Students read the poems they have written, and discuss the ethics of writing about events and emotions that one hasn’t actually experienced.

Questions for Reflection

  • Asking students to speak openly about personal experiences could bring up negative emotions. What are the risks and rewards of this kind of conversation?
  • How do you help students connect their personal experiences and feelings to themes in the material they are reading?
Chris Mazzino kids with a student


Teacher: Chris Mazzino
Grades: 10–12
Subject: Creative writing elective
Location: Scranton, PA

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