Session 8: Family

This session opens the second thematic phase of Writing Out: Community. In this session we re-define family by understanding family not in terms of relationships of blood, but relationships of support. After the opening discussion, we suggest you spend time on the Interactive Activity of creating the unconvenationl family tree — it allows writers to to choose their family and understand how family is what we make it to be. The writing activity, inspired by Sandra Cisneros’ Hairs, insitgates participants to introduce their family in a more poetic and meaningful way, which in turn pushes the writer to reflect over their family relationships with greater depth and meaning. This poem can be challenging for many new writers, so we are providing an optional guided appraoch to the poem. However, in the past, some iniated groups of writers found the guided process tedious. So see what works for your group and go from there.

For a printable version of this session, click on Session 8: Family


1. General Art Supplies (Pens, Crayons, etc)

2. Blank sheets of Paper


Opposite Sides

Have all participants gather in the center of the room. Tell the participants that you will announce two opposite (or semi-contrasting) words – one opposite belonging to one side of the room, the other opposite belong to the to the other side of the room. (They will know which opposite is which side, because you will simply POINT). When the group hears both opposites (or again, sem-contrasting words), they should run towards the side of the room designated to the opposite they have more affinity to. After each pair of opposites has been announced, and participants have made their choice, look around to see your fellow participants choices and then return to the center Its enjoyable to this activity listing out the opposites with great speed.

Some examples, (Bus/Auto Rickshaw – Shahrukh/Abhishek – poetry/short stories – mobiles/public phones – Summer/Winter – Barefeet/Shoes)


1. Lets talk Family Start a discussion on the concept of Family. Open the discussion by asking participants “Who is in your Family?” Try to deconstruct the concept of family through questions like: What defines family? Blood? Living Vicinity? Love? Do any of you have stronger relationship with individuals who are beyond the conventional definition of family? Let the discussion evolve. The main goal for the discussion is to come to a collective understanding that family does not mean “MOTHER, FATHER, SISTER, BROTHER.” Rather family means individuals who are close to our heart, individuals who play are part in making us who we are.

2. Family Tree Pass out blank sheets of paper and art supplies. Ask the group to think about who they consider to be apart of their personal family (in terms of the previous discussion.) Have the participants make a Family Tree for themselves. This tree is not a conventional family tree consisting and limited to uncles, grandparents, etc. This Family Tree should consist of individuals who play a role in the participant’s life — some one who you thin has contributed in who are you today. These “family members” could be friends, neighbors, teachers, mentors, etc. If the participants want, they can associate they’re chosen family member into branches, roots, flowers, fallen leaves, as a way of defining what role that family member has played in their life. Facilitator’s Note: Sometimes its helpful to bring in an example family tree that you have made and share it with the group. Or, quickly create your own family tree on paper in front of the group, just so they get an idea.


Group Reading

Read “Hairs” by Sandra Cisneros from The House on Mango Street. Discuss the poem with the group and ask the possible guiding questions:

1. Ask the group for initial reactions.

2. How does the narrator introduce her family? How is it different than conventional introductions?

3. As readers, do we feel we get a better understanding of the narrator’s family members? How?

4. From the narrator’s writing, what can we make out of the type of relationship the narrator has with her Mom?

5. Discuss how the use of specific similes and metaphors are reflective each family’s characteristics.

Writing Activity: “Body Part” Poem

We are all going to write a poem modeling “Hairs” — except we will write about our own family members, and instead of writing about our family’s “hair,” we can pick any one body part that we feel comfortable and confident writing about (eyes, fingers, feet, etc). Ask the writers to pick up to four members from their family tree and write a poem modeling “Hairs.” If you the group needs to be guided into the writing this poems, follow the optional Guided Writing Activity.

Optional Guided Writing Activity

Pass out Blank sheets of Paper

1. Fold your 8×10 sheet of paper once horizontally and once vertically, creating 4 equally divided squares. Open the piece of paper.

2. Think of the one body part you will write about – and write it on the top of your sheet.

3. In each box of your sheet, write the name of one family member you will write about. Each box should contain the name of a different family member.

4. In each of the boxes (which now have names of family members) answer the following questions in each box for each family member’s name written.

  • Describe the nature of this family member. (Serious, Humourous, Light, Bitter, Carefree, Tense, Angry at the world, etc)
  • Describe the physical characteristic of the chosen body part (written at the top of the sheet) for this family member. (Eyebrows – thick, messy, dark brown)
  • What does the chosen body part of this family member look/smell/sound/feel like? (Think 5 senses)

5. After you have written the answers to the probes above for each of your chosen family member, you will realize that you have all the raw material you need to write your own “Body Part” poem.



Go around the room and ask the group to “sign” how they felt about this session. Thumb up, Great Session. Thumbs Down, Bad Session. Thumbs Sideways, So-so session.

Not to be used or reproduced without written permission from Kalam: Margins Write unless it is for educational purposes.

Explore posts in the same categories: Community, Sessions

3 Comments on “Session 8: Family”

  1. I’m often looking for new infos in the net about this issue. Thx!

  2. Yes! Finally someone writes about sdf.

  3. Now I am ready to do my breakfast, later than having
    my breakfast coming again to read more news.

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