Beyond This or That: Challenging the Limits of Binary Language in Elementary Education Through Poetry, Word Art, and Creative Bookmaking

  • benjamin lee hicks
Part of the Queer Studies and Education book series (QSTED)


When first language lessons are taught from a perspective of hard edges, sharp corners, and absolute rules, students simultaneously ingest the message that there are distinct limits around what they themselves can do and be and become. With detailed lesson plans for diverse primary/junior classrooms, hicks encourages teachers to positively disrupt these constructs in beauty-full ways. By weaving activities of free-form poetry, word art, and creative book construction into the practical discussion of co-constructing a sustainable, loving, classroom community, hicks addresses the latent potential that elementary education has to become a safe, affirming, and celebratory place for every student’s complex story of self.


Lesson Plan Class Member Classroom Community Activity Description Colored Paper 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


  1. Abley, M. (2003). Spoken here: Travels among threatened languages. Toronto: Random House Canada.Google Scholar
  2. Blackburn, M. V., Clark, C. T., Kenney, L. M., & Smith, J. M. (2010). Acting out: Combating homophobia through teacher activism. New York: Teacher’s College Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bornstein, K. (2006). 101 alternatives to suicide for teens, freaks and other outlaws. New York: 7 Stories Press.Google Scholar
  4. Camilleri, A. (2013). Triangle Program Zine Projects: 2011,
  5. Camilleri, A. (2014, April 14). Winchester Park Public Art Project: Dispatch #4,
  6. Gandini, L., Hill, L., Cadwell, L., & Schwall, C. (2005). In the spirit of the studio: Learning from the atelier of Reggio Emilia. New York: Teacher’s College Press.Google Scholar
  7. Hicks, H. (2007). You are a girl: An installation of mixed-media print, drawing and painting. International Feminist Journal of Politics, 9(3), 410–420.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Hooks, B. (2000). All about love: New visions. New York: Harper Perennial.Google Scholar
  9. Jung, C. (1969). Archetypes and the collective unconscious: Collected works of C.G. Jung, Volume 9 (Part 1). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Kosciw, J. G., Greytak, E. A., Palmer, N. A., & Boesen, M. J. (2014). The 2013 National School Climate Survey: The experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in our nation’s schools. New York: GLSEN.Google Scholar
  11. Laplantz, S. (2001). The art and craft of handmade books. New York: Lark Books.Google Scholar
  12. Meyer, E. J., Tilland-Stafford, A., & Airton, L. (in press). Supporting transgender and gender-creative youth: What we can learn from their teachers. Teachers College Record.Google Scholar
  13. Miller, S. (2008). Liberating grades/liberatory assessment. International Journal of Critical Pedagogy, 1(2), 160–171.Google Scholar
  14. Miller, S. (2015). A queer literacy framework promoting (a)gender and (a)sexuality self-determination and justice. English Journal, 104(5), 37–44.Google Scholar
  15. Miller, S., Burns, L., & Johnson, T. S. (2013). Generation BULLIED 2.0: Prevention and intervention strategies for our most vulnerable students. New York: Peter Lang.Google Scholar
  16. Palmer, P. (2007). The courage to teach: Exploring the inner landscape of a teacher’s life. SanFrancisco: Jossey Bass.Google Scholar
  17. Sacks, D. (2003). Language visible: Unraveling the history of the alphabet from A to Z. New York: Broadway Books.Google Scholar
  18. Snyder, M. (2005). Fiji Island Mermaid Press: How to make an 8-page book out of a single sheet of paper.
  19. Wein, C. (2008). Emergent curriculum in the primary classroom: Interpreting the Reggio Emilia approach in schools. New York: Teacher’s College Press.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • benjamin lee hicks
    • 1
  1. 1.Ontario Institute for Studies in Education (OISE), University of TorontoTorontoCanada

Personalised recommendations