Pongo's Group Techniques

There are many different ways to inspire and design group activities, but here is a basic model for the Pongo Teen Writing Project that gives the teens some opportunities to warm up to creativity and to succeed in writing, whatever their level of distress, inhibition, or skill. (In addition to the group writing model discussed below, we have created a page on How to Manage a Group Activity .) You may also want to read a Pongo blog post about two teachers who created a poetry unit based on Pongo teen poetry and fill-in-the-blank activities.

Here are the steps for a successful group writing activity using the Pongo method:

  1. Follow the Pongo approach (including structured, personalized, non-intrusive activities). If you haven't yet, please read our pages on the Pongo Approach , How We introduce Ourselves to Youth , the Principles for One-on-One work with youth, and the Pongo Group Process , which discusses our methods for interacting with youth in a group setting.

  2. Select an appropriate theme. Following the Pongo model, this theme should be relevant to the teens’ lives, non-intrusive in terms of their specific personal experience, emotionally resonant, containing real and complicated emotions and ideas, and allowing for a range of expression (for example, including a range of both areas of strength and vulnerability, both aspirations and frustrations). See the Writing Activities provided on this web site. See also How to Create a Pongo Fill-in-the-Blank Activity .

  3. To begin each group session, provide the Pongo context – the Pongo background, philosophy, faith in poetry, respect for teen stories. Also, clarify group rules (as developed with teen input). A sample rule is that “People should show respect for one another.” Finally, explain the session’s timing and transitions. See How We Introduce Ourselves to Youth .

  4. Talk about poetry and read poetry on the day’s theme, and possibly discuss a poem as you begin.

  5. Lead a group discussion or a group participation poem, such as a list poem, where individuals can participate orally, with you writing down their ideas on an easel or board. This discussion and poem should be relevant to the writing exercise that will follow in the form of a fill-in-the-blank poem. While you are working on the group poem, read it back to the youth. For a brief description of a list poem, and for descriptions of some other activity structures, such as a poem based on questions, see Improvising a Poetic Structure .

  6. After the creative preparation in the form of group discussion and a group poem, provide a fill-in-the-blank poem handout for the teens to complete individually. See the Writing Activities provided on this web site. See also How to Create a Pongo Fill-in-the-Blank Activity .

  7. During the time when individuals are working on the handout, give people the second option of writing their own poem, in any form, on blank paper.

  8. When the teens are finished with the fill-in-the-blank poems or individual poems (or even while they are working), ask the teens to read their work to the group or ask them to allow you to read their work.

  9. Compliment the teens’ strengths throughout the writing activity, and especially as you conclude. (And please go on from here to read our page on How to Manage a Group Activity !)