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Herstory in
the Classroom






A Mini-Memoir Course for Younger Writers

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How to Use this Curriculum

Herstory Writers Network is excited to bring you this online curriculum for teachers, school counselors, youth leaders and more to be used as a tool for lifting student voices to empower and heal their families, communities and worlds.  


We hope this curriculum will inspire you to incorporate a new approach based on Passing Along the Dare to Care, in working with young people where other approaches to writing have failed to engage them or create a meaningful change in their academic performance and lives.

Before you begin, we invite you to watch these two videos from the newcomers program at Hempstead High School, to get a sense of the work we do.

Watch our two-minute trailer

Watch our full 16-minute video

Passing Along the Dare to Care

The notion of passing along the dare to care (the cornerstone of the Herstory approach) is simple. The ramifications are far reaching and profound, as we move out of silence into speech.


When we care deeply enough, we find words we didn’t know we had. Each of us has a “poetry of experience” hidden deep inside us, that can be called into being out of the stream of memories that bubble up to the surface from our hope and our anger and grief. When we dare to imagine that someone might hear us and actually care, bit by bit, we break out of the silence and isolation that is the fate of so many.  


But what is caring, really? It is so much more than a feeling passed along to another, going nowhere. It is—and must always be—a very deep call to action.  Otherwise our belief in society’s capacity to protect us will die even before it is properly born.


Through nearly three decades of bringing people into small writing circles and giving them the empathy-based tools to break silences together, we join hands to create a literature that will dare our larger community to care enough to take action, as we seek to find paths away from the cycles of poverty, violence, addiction, abuse and despair into which so many were born.

We invite you to come on a very special journey that, over a twelve year period, has moved thousands of students and hundreds of teachers to embark on an empathy-based approach to narrative writing that has brought narrative mastery, college preparedness, and individual and community healing where other approaches to the teaching of writing have failed.

Preparing to Teach Your First Workshop

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.

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


  • 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.

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.

We gratefully thank the Angela and Scott Jaggar Foundation for providing the seed money to allow a collective of teachers, school counselors, and school administrators to create this new open source website dedicated to educators who are seeking new ways to connect with their students.

The artwork on these pages is from the Paintings for Justice series, created by Gwynne Duncan for Herstory

© 2023 by Herstory Writers Network. All rights reserved.

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