dlLesson: Organizing Large Groups


At Ferry Pass Middle School in Pensacola, Florida, each one of their approximately 700 students declares and shares a dream every year, and they have an inspiring and wonderful annual all-school outdoor Dream Celebration. Including the entire community, it incorporates exhibitions outside, readings from many students, and musical contributions including the whole band and chorus. But how do they do it? Here’s how they do it,  based on information provided by Ferry Pass teacher Deborah Richmond, a longtime supporter. Her words are in italic.

The Poems

Each student writes a Dream poem in English class.

  1. The first thing we do is study some of Langston Hughes’ poetry and discuss it. (I also throw in some stuff about the Harlem Renaissance). There’s a great little book, Poetry For Young People: Langston Hughes that we use as well. They also use a sheet of Hughes poems distributed to teachers.
  2. Once we’ve done that, I have them brainstorm in their writer’s notebooks about their different dreams. Then, they pick one dream and write a short poem about it. We tell them to keep in mind the fact that the poems have to fit on the cloth, so they shouldn’t be epic.
  3. They write their poems in class, finishing at home if necessary.

Individual teachers can do whatever they like with their lessons – some do more with Langston Hughes, some less. When we have new teachers, we just partner them up with someone who guides them along.

Related Dreamline Resource:

Dream Cart
Because the school is producing 700-1,000 Dreams, it takes a lot of materials. They ask families to donate. Once they have the materials, they are loaded onto a Dream Cart that moves from classroom to classroom.

The way we do it is that each teacher sets a day that they’re going to paint, then we just ship around our cart which has paints and brushes and everything on it. If a student is absent on painting day, then we usually ship them over to a class that is painting in order for them to catch up. 

Related Dreamline Resource:

Poems to Flags – 2 days

Ferry Pass has a system for making it easy for all teachers to help their students create Dream Banners in just a few days.

  1. Once the poems are edited, we spend one day writing them on the cloth – first in pencil, then going over in Sharpie to avoid mistakes. I give them a clipboard and a piece of sandpaper – they place the cloth on that to help hold it in place.
  2. The next day, we paint. Our classrooms don’t have sinks, so I have 2 buckets and some cups. They get fresh water out of the first bucket, then pour the dirty water into the second bucket. I send kids to the janitor’s closet to refill the buckets as necessary.
  3. I let the flags dry, then on another day, we’ll pin them to the ropes. In the past, we have sprayed them with hair spray to hold the paint in place, but sometimes we don’t. Just depends.
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