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How to use
this curriculum

Pathways to an Empathy-Based Approach

A Hands-On Immersion Before You Begin

Experiencing the Student Stories, Discovering a New Way of Listening, and Beginning to Write Your Own Memoir Herstory Style

We invite you to spend a couple of weeks:

  1. Immersing yourself in the Herstory collection of stories to see which ones resonate particularly for you.  

  2. Working with the concepts behind Becoming the Stranger Reader, a new way of listening, practice exercises and reflections, videos and more.

  3. Writing your own page one moment, Herstory style with a partner in learning the method, or a small team, so that you will have experienced using the pedagogy before you share it with your students.

First we are going to ask you to enter the “Stories to Share” section of our Library to pick out five stories that speak strongly to you, that you might consider using on your very first day of introducing your students to the Herstory unit, to dare them to think big about the changes that they’d like to see. 

How might you talk about each story? If you are working with a partner or team, please share your responses before you go onto the next lesson. 

"I was fifteen when I decided I knew what trust meant. This was to be considered revolutionary for me because my parents raised me with the strict belief that you could rely on no one in this world but yourself.


But I thought I knew better..."

This is the opening "Page One Moment" from I Was a Dreamer by Marcela Contreras Ortiz, one of thousands of stories written by middle and high school students from all over Long Island with the goal of changing hearts, minds and policies. Ten years later, Marcela is a Herstory facilitator herself, telling other young people just beginning her Herstory journey how writing this story, with the goal of having it heard, changed her whole life. 

We invite you to enter our new website for teachers across all content areas, an online curriculum from Herstory that will bring home the words that are at the heart of the pedagogy:  “if your words had the power.”  All too often, teachers are not empowered to design curriculum that they know their students will benefit from in life.  In an era where teachers are more accountable than ever for student outcomes, there is a belief in the teaching of knowledge in one’s discipline, devoid of the context or meaning of what is being taught.  To teach to the test is decried by all educators but many teachers are expected to do just that in the months and weeks leading up to high-stakes tests.

Through this online curriculum, we will share our experiences with developing the Herstory pedagogy in a movement to return context, meaning, and student experience to knowledge in deep and critical ways, empowering students as well as teachers, to develop their voices and understandings in English and other languages, in mathematics, in the social studies and the sciences.  

A Path to Liberation

We believe that the work with the Herstory curriculum is a path to liberation and independent, life-long learning championed by some of the giants in education, including Paolo Freire, Maria Montessori and John Dewey.  At the same time, it echoes the more recent works of those who see student identity at the heart of learning and growth, such as Sonia Nieto, Gholdy Mohamed and Zaretta Hammond, who also recognize the power of student experience in learning.


Our curriculum is designed to give teachers the tools to support students in the development of personal memoir writing while demonstrating how it can be intertwined within the scope and sequence of their curricular areas as well as how their own reflections, their own writing is at the heart of the Herstory pedagogy. 

Curriculum Structure 

We have organized this curriculum into four chapters that will allow teachers, counselors, and youth group leaders—who are working on their own—to proceed with integrating some of the things we have discovered over the course of the last dozen years. 


It is critical here to stress that each new educator who will be using this curriculum will be creating new pathways coming out of deep listening to the needs of each new group of students. It is with humbleness and reverence for those who have boots on the ground that we offer our discoveries, inviting you to use what you wish and take of them freely in your own way. 

To best learn the Herstory Writers Network’s methodology, we recommend that you move through this curriculum in sequential order, chapter by chapter. 

Chapter I: Before the Workshop

Chapter II: Let the Workshop Begin!

Chapter III: Stories in Evolution

Chapter IV: The Light on the Opposite Shore













We ask you to spend a couple of weeks experiencing the "Stories to Share" section of our Brave Journeys website and the NYSUT Youth Writing for Justice collection of Herstory stories.


We encourage you to return to them over and over again as you create your own crib sheet for how you will use them in your teaching.

In the coming weeks and months, we will be adding more stories from our work in the Hempstead, Uniondale, Freeport, Westbury, and Long Beach school districts. We will be adding teacher-created exercises to go along with each story, which you will be able to download and use in your classes.

NEW Stories for Liberation Flyer.png


  • Short videos and audios about using the Herstory tools in school settings, with corresponding stories to inspire your writing circle.

  • An extensive gallery of stories to draw on whenever you wish. These are stories collected from Herstory’s work with young people in a variety of school and community settings over a 12-year period, and from people in reentry and prison families.

  • Pop-up reflection documents that you can download and use for your own preparation and as you conduct the workshops

  • Reading and listening exercises and downloadable worksheets 

  • A crib sheet of essential questions to get writers started

  • A menu for teaching the Page One Moment and planning your first workshop day.

  • A selection of articles about using the Herstory Technique in school settings and much more.

As we proceed to develop this website, we will be adding many resources including:

We have set up this curriculum so that it can be used with a small group of students in a community youth group or an after-school program or with oversized classes of 35 students or more. 


Depending on the needs and requirements of each school district or community program, whether it is taking place in person or via Zoom, with real life interference and faulty video connections, it may be as formal as school protocol requires, or it may be completely informal as you work with young people wherever they are able to meet you.


To best learn we recommend that you move in sequential order, lesson by lesson. More coming soon!


26 years ago, Pat Gorman, a Native American writer, articulated what she was experiencing in Herstory by comparing our work with oral imaging to what goes on in a drumming circle, where each participant picks up the drumbeat, like a heartbeat, each building on what the other has said in order to shape the piece of writing hidden deep inside. 

To image aloud what goes on in our most secret hearts is something that we don't normally do before an audience, which is the magic and power of the way we have learned to work.


With our mixture of videos, stories, exercises and reflections, we have tried to replicate the kind of repetition that goes on with in-person training, as much as this is possible to do online. We like to think of it as a spiral, so that when you move through the key sequences of oral imagining– the movement from introducing yourself into helping each participant into image aloud what would would happen if their words had the power to finding your page one movements, each time that the material seems to repeat itself, you will become more accustomed to the constructs that guide this work.  


Feel free to take this work at any pace that feels right, and to skip the downloadable reflections, or to use our back arrows to return to earlier parts of the curriculum where concepts are first introduced, playing favorite videos over and over again.


We are all voyagers together, adding and changing as we go.

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