California Poets in the Schools

A Community-Based Poetry Education Program
Serving Children & Youth Since 1964


Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
about California Poets in the Schools

How much does it cost?

California Poets in the Schools (CPITS) residencies are designed to fit the needs and budgets of individual schools and the students they serve. Cost can range from $350 (for a 5-session, 1 classroom pilot program) to $10,000 and more for school-wide, year-long residencies. CPITS poet-teachers work as independent contractors. Their fees range from $60 to $85 per session, depending on the number of years they have been in the program, and their level of expertise. Thus, the cost of a residency may be negotiated with the individual. We recommend that a poet spend at least five sessions with any one group of students; eight to ten sessions is even more effective. Also, it's to the advantage of the poet-teacher to work with two or more classes during any visit to a particular school.

What happens during a CPITS workshop?

Each workshop session is usually 50 minutes to one hour long, during which time the poet-teacher will meet with students in their regular classroom, with the classroom teacher present. Typically, the poet meets with each class once a week for the length of the residency, though other arrangements can be made to accommodate the school schedule, the poet's availability, and the classroom teacher's plans. The purpose of CPITS workshops is to encourage students to write and the emphasis is on exploration of the creative process rather than the product—though students will usually produce poems in every workshop session. In a typical session, the poet-teacher will present model poems from contemporary literature, along with his or her own work and published work by the student's peers— poetry that is accessible and exciting, presented in an enthusiastic way. There will be discussions of poetic elements and techniques, such as wordplay, imagery, metaphor, rhythm, etc., and then a writing exercise based on one or more of those elements. A part of each session will be devoted to the writing of individual and collaborative poems and, in subsequent sessions, to reading aloud and discussing student's work. Students are encouraged to respond to each other's creative efforts in thoughtful and positive ways, to learn from each other's work, and to approach literature with an insider's— a writer's— appreciation and understanding.

Can we print an anthology of the student's poems?

Longer residencies (15 sessions or more) may be designed to include the production of printed anthologies of students' poems. Poets' fees for editing and preparation of anthologies are generally half of their hourly classroom rates, but may be negotiated individually. The school bears the expense of the printing, which can sometimes be done on-site or at a district duplicating facility. Otherwise, poet-teachers can make contacts with local printers. Public poetry readings and performances by students may also be arranged, usually as a culmination of a residency or to celebrate the publication of an anthology.

What is the classroom teacher's role?

Classroom teachers are encouraged to participate in discussions and writing exercises; teachers who share their own creative efforts often inspire their students to take greater risks. The poet-teacher and classroom teacher may also work together to integrate poetry lessons with the teacher's on-going lesson plans. In addition, CPITS offers inservices and writing workshops for teachers at rates ranging from $200 - $250 per half day.

How do we get funding for a residency?

Funding for CPITS residencies is available to schools from a variety of sources, including Title I, ESL, Bilingual, and GATE programs. Locally-based arts councils and Adopt-A-School corporate sponsors have also funded CPITS residencies. A limited pool of matching funds from the California Poets in the Schools state-wide organization is available to schools that can't meet the full cost of a residency. Local CPITS area coordinators may be able to help educators and administrators track down other possible sources of funding in their communities.

How do we contract a CPlTS poet?

The Area Coordinator will put school officials in touch with the trained CPITS poet-teacher who is best-suited to work with their students. The CPITS roster includes poets from a variety of backgrounds and with a wide range of skills and experience. Some of our poets are bilingual in Spanish and English; others are also practicing journalists, novelists, screenwriters, playwrights, musicians, and visual artists. Since CPITS poet-teachers work as independent contractors, a Unified School District Personal Services Contract must be obtained, if required, and a standard CPITS contract must be completed and signed by a school representative. (When applicable, once the school has obtained the Personal Services Contract forms from the district, the CPITS area coordinator can assist the poet in completing the necessary paperwork, which the school must submit to the school board for final approval.) The residency can begin as soon as the approved CPITS contract is signed by a school or district representative authorized to commit funds.

For more information please contact:
1333 Balboa Street, Suite #3
San Francisco, California 94118
(415) 221-4201
John Fox, Area Coordinator
P.O. Box 60189
Palo Alto, CA 94306
(650) 323-6514
or Peter Y. Chou, Poet-Teacher
Wisdom Portal, P.O. Box 390707
Mountain View, CA 94039
(650) 964-7056

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© Peter Y. Chou, Wisdom Portal, P.O. Box 390707, Mountain View, CA 94039
email address: peter(at) (12-12-96, updated 2-22-99)