(Dys)poetry: Children

In-Person / Digital Generative Workshop


Bringing poetry and an exploration of words and stories to children.


(Dys)poetry: A Generative Workshop is a program aimed at children from grades first through eighth that provides children the tools they need to explore poetry, creative writing, and language skills. The workshop consists of a presentation by Sarah A. Shapiro in which she talks about her struggles with language-learning (dys)abilities, and her exploration of language and learning through poetry. After the presentation, there is a learning activity that encourages children to create their own concrete poem and enables children who may have difficulty with language learning (dys)abilities to open up in a classroom setting.

Learning goals:

  • Bringing poetry to children in an accessible and creative way.
  • Empowering children to have ownership over words and their stories.
  • Enabling children to write their own poetry and explore new styles of writing.
  • Highlighting accessible experiences for children who are resistant readers and writers. 

Concrete poetry image


Concrete poetry is a format that uses words and pictures to tell a story. For children, free writing can be difficult but having children choose one word to explore can be less daunting. Children will be asked to choose one word and create a poem telling the story of that word. They are then encouraged to share their story and continue working on writing skills.


Due to the diverse nature of schools, each institution is able to select a format that fits their needs. Each workshop is 40-60 minutes and can be conducted in-person or digitally via video chat.

Sarah can present to groups of all sizes including:

  • Full school assemblies
  • Grade level
  • Individual class workshops
  • Small group instruction

About the Presenter

“I grew up with learning (dys)abilities in a community that views academic success as success in life. I began to learn to read at the age of eight; my school years were tough, with no easy translation between ability and academic success. Now, my poetry works to bridge the gap between those who read with ease, and those who struggle to read. As a poet, I am excited about how language can be bound to the page, as a site, to make poetry. At the same time, the page is the site of my reading (dys)abilities, my barrier to comprehension. This complex relationship to the page, and to poetry, means that I have an unusual perspective which allows me to broaden the conversation about teaching reading and writing, and explore strategies for reclamatory and/or recuperative writing practices. On a larger scale, I believe it is important to open up the conversation because people with learning (dys)abilities are often marginalized in the reading and writing world.”


Sarah is a poet and visual artist. She has taught courses at UMass Boston including Composition, Creative Writing, Osher Long Life Institute, Suffolk County Correctional Facility, and Harvard Graduate School of Design. Sarah has published two chapbooks exploring the path of language in her life. 

*We use a different spelling for the words disabled/disability/disabilities. The prefix dis- means apart or different, while the prefix dys- means difficult. Through intentional rewording, we reorient difficulties with reading towards the positive, recognizing that struggles are difficult but the experience of reading is not necessarily different for those with (dys)abilities than those of others.