A Classroom Pongo Project

In this section we discuss the classroom Pongo project. This is a context in which a teacher or counselor is working with youth in a class or a therapy group, and does not have the opportunity of working with youth one-on-one. A particular feature of this classroom model is that it is theme-oriented, to facilitate the teens' openness, creativity, and dialogue. The themes should be non-intrusive (not on topics of particular family members, for example), but they should be relevant to the emotional concerns of young people who are leading challenging lives. Themes might include "home," "misunderstandings," "love," "regret," "strength," etc.

There are basically four parts to a classroom Pongo writing session:

  1. Introduction, including poetry on particular theme (15 minutes)
  2. Group writing activity on the theme (15-30 minutes)
  3. Independent writing by youth on the theme (15-30 minutes)
  4. Group sharing at end (15 minutes)

The introduction (#1) is used to communicate Pongo's intention and set a tone of emotional openness. Read the sections of this web site about Pongo's Approach, How We Introduce Ourselves to Youth, and How to Begin with Openness and Poetry. The poetry you share should reflect the day's theme.

IMPORTANT: The introduction may also be a time to communicate important messages about safety, group rules, confidentiality, and reporting. ("Reporting" is a reference to the need to respond if youth seem to be in immediate danger of hurting themselves or of being hurt by others.)

The group writing activity (#2) should be an activity that is completed orally, by members of the group, with the adult writing down the young people's ideas on a white board or easel. In this way the youth can participate comfortably, with less inhibition and with lots of stimulating ideas. Many of the fill-in-the-blank activities on this site will serve, for example the activities "Home to Me," "If My Fist Could Speak," "Good Day / Bad Day," "Where I Come From."

After the group works on a poem together, or at least shares ideas, orally. They can be given the opportunity for independent writing (#3). The adult can give them copies of the same fill-in-the-blank exercise to complete on their own. And the adult can also give the youth the freedom to write on their own, as they are inspired.

If the adult leader is available, and if the leader has assistants, these adults can circulate to help out individuals during this independent writing time. The adult assistants might take dictation from some youth who have poor language skills.

The group sharing of poetry at the end (#4), is very meaningful. Youth may feel more comfortable having the adult read their work aloud. Some writers may be shy about having their shared, at first, until they listen to their peers.

The work that is shared may be beautiful and painful and revealing and sad. It might represent a breakthrough in awareness for the writer. This time at the end of the session might be very moving and rewarding for everyone.