Mirrors, Windows, and Sliding Glass Doors

What do you want others to see in your story? What part of your human experience do you want others to share with you? Who do you want to invite into your world?

This week my first year writing students and the Just Write Virtual Writing Group dug deeper into the stories that shape our identity and help form our personal values. This work continues our “What If” exploration of our personal values as part of the Morehead Writing Project‘s Building A More Perfect Union grant, Root Deep, Grow Tall and builds on our This I Believe American Creed work. This writing is part of the foundation for our rhetorical analysis work, but also provided inspiration to both groups of writers. Rhetorical analysis is among the most important work I do with my first year writers as it supports not only the exploration of text, but also an important exploration of self and identity via the texts we analyze.

We drew inspiration from the work of Emily Styles and Rudine Sims Bishop. According to WITS, the notion that classroom curriculum should serve as “windows and mirrors” for students was first coined by educator Emily Styles in 1988. It was in 1990 that well-known children’s literature researcher, Rudine Sims Bishop, wrote about “windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors” as it relates specifically to children’s books. With this way of thinking, Sims Bishop states that books should be windows into the realities of others, not just imaginary worlds, and books can be mirrors that reflect the lives of readers. Sliding glass doors refers to how readers can walk into a story and become part of the world created by the author – readers become fully immersed in another experience. Approaching children’s stories through the lens of windows, mirrors, and sliding glass doors, prioritizes diversity, honors many cultures, and promotes empathy. As my students drafted their rhetorical analysis essays we examined our chosen texts using mirrors, windows, and sliding glass doors.

To begin our classes last week I shifted the usual “I am a writer from…” prompt to instead draw inspiration from Walt Whitman and Robert Frost. For our initial check-in writing students were invited to respond to one of these ideas:

  • From Walt Whitman’s A Hand-Mirror: What internal conflict does your mirror not show?
  • From Robert Frost’s Now Close The Windows: How are outside forces pressuring you?

Both poems and questions inspired some powerful writing!

We then shifted to writing specifically for rhetorical analysis asking first how our stories (our chosen pop culture texts) reflect the values and experience of living in America today (mirrors) or provide insight into the identities, experiences, and motivations of American values today (windows)?

We wrapped up our writing with Lens by Patricia Hooper and these questions:

  • What do you want others to see in your story?
  • What personal value do you want to argue using your story?

Image by Peter H from Pixabay