This summer I am working on expanding the collection of memoirs and personal essays that I teach in my two classes. High school students respond particularly well to personal essays, and I find that they tend to generally enjoy writing about themselves and their lives. Personal essays are a good way for teachers to encourage self-reflection and journaling practices among their students.
I picked up a copy of Growing Up Latino and have been reading through it to find useful texts. Jesús Colón's "Kipling and I" (The link is a PDF copy that I found on the Montclair University website. The copy also includes Kipling's poem "If . . ." and some critical thinking questions. Nerdy teacher stuff.) is particularly intriguing as it provides a nice bridge between personal essays and reader response essays. Colón writes about the effects of a work of literature on his young life, directly referencing lines from the poem and explaining how his perceptions of its message change as he gains life experiences.
Colón provides a nice model that students can use in their own writing. I hope to try this out with some of my classes in the coming semester. We'll take a look at this example and then find poems (or song lyrics) of our own and connect them to our life experiences. I can see this working to bridge personal writing to writing about what we have read. My hopes are that the students will begin to understand reading as a personal connection between an author and a group of readers where ideas are exchanged, manipulated, re-interpreted, and put back into the public sphere for the process to continue.