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All Write! Adult Literacy Program

A diverse group of adults, who are All Write! program participants and staff, stand on a stage arm-in-arm and smile at audience - this links to a video.

Our adult literacy program All Write! fosters a unique and inspirational learning experience.

Now in its 31st year, this multifaceted program offers: exposure to great literature, an exciting and bonding theater experience, alternative and creative strategies for engaging with challenging fiction and poetry, and a way to propel students to enthusiastically write their own.

All Write!

At the first performance, students listen to a specially tailored program of published poetry and stories performed by well-known actors. The students are then invited to submit creative work of their own, developed over several months in their classes, using resource materials provided by the All Write! program. At the second performance, the same actors return to perform a selection of the students’ work, a deeply moving, joyous, and empowering experience. All teachers are invited to participate in professional development workshops led by All Write! staff. 2023-24 resources, including the texts of the poems and stories to be read at the first performance, a Resource Guide, and a set of images to use as writing prompts will be available to registered educators.

Questions? Contact us at [email protected].

Participating in All Write!
  • Any Adult Basic Education (ABE) or English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) class, at any level, can participate.

  • Teachers, tutors, or site administrators register their class(es) for either the morning program or the evening program.


Symphony Space offers the All Write! events at two times, Morning and Evening, to accommodate the time the class meets. If teachers teach in both the morning and the evening, they are welcome to register for both times. But any class enrolled in the Morning All Write! can only attend the Morning All Write! performances. Likewise, a class enrolled in the Evening All Write! can only attend the Evening All Write! performances. This is because we will choose stories to be performed for the culminating Morning performance from the registered Morning classes. The same goes for the Evening classes.

All Write! Program Details

Symphony Space’s All Write! gives teachers resources to inspire and enable their students to engage with challenging prose and poetry, and to write creatively. We understand that most ABE and ESOL classes are focused on helping students master the basics of standard English. However, we have heard from teachers and tutors of students at ALL LEVELS that introducing students to great literature and poetry and inviting them to express themselves creatively unleashes not only a desire to read and write more, but an elevated level of confidence in themselves across the board.

To that end, Symphony Space provides the following:

  • The texts to the published stories and poems that will be performed at the first presentation.
  • An accompanying Resource Guide with a unit on each of the above pieces, including “Pre-Reading,” “About the Story or Poem,” “Language,” “Writing,” and “Drama” activities and strategies focused on the piece.
  • Along with the Resource Guide comes a set of images that are related (sometimes very closely, sometimes very generally) to some or all of the stories and poems. These images have been extremely effective in stimulating discussion, enhancing understanding of the text, and in prompting creative writing.
  • Professional Development Workshops: Two PD workshops are offered to all participating educators. The first one, held in the late fall, focuses on alternative strategies for introducing students to the stories and poems they will hear performed at the first presentation. The second one, held shortly after the presentation, will explore a variety of ways to inspire and enable student to write their own stories and poems. Both workshops are interactive. Once an activity has been tried out, teachers discuss how they would adapt it for their particular students. The “cross-participant” sharing is especially valuable. All activities are hands-on and replicable in both in-person and virtual classroom settings.
  • In the classroom: With the above resources, much of the content of All Write! happens in the classroom. That is, the participating teacher or tutor introduces some or all of the provided texts to the class, using some or all of the techniques given in the Resource Guide, the PD workshops, and/or the teacher’s tried and true teaching methods. Note: There is no required amount of preparation. It is up to you to see where this can fit into your schedule. In the Resource Guide, we have super-short activities that can open a window onto each story and poem but take only a couple of minutes.
  • Performances: There are two performances, each one presented in the morning for the morning classes and the evening for the evening classes. The first one features acclaimed actors of stage and screen performing published short stories and poems, the ones whose texts have been given to the teachers after registration. At the end of this performance, the student audience is invited to submit original writing to be considered for selection at the second performance.
  • After the first performance, the attention shifts back to the classroom where the teacher guides the students in the writing assignment, if they choose to, and then submits the students’ writing to All Write! in March. Again – there is no obligation to submit student writing.
  • The second performance features the same cast of professional actors reading a selection of stories and poems written by the enrolled students to an audience of their peers, teachers, family, and friends.
  • Teachers and students attend the performances at Symphony Space, or live streamed in the classroom or in their home. The performance generally lasts 60 minutes or less.
Schedule of Events
  • November 21, 2023 – Registration deadline
  • Late November – Confirmed workshop and performance dates will be sent to all registered teachers, tutors, or site administrators.
  • Late November – Links to the online resources: the story and poem texts, the All Write! Resource Guide, and the set of images are sent to registered personnel.
  • Early December – Professional Development Workshop #1 (Working with the stories and poems) is held.
  • Early February – Performance #1: professional actors perform published short stories and poems. Note: this performance is offered at 11:00 AM EST for classes that meet in the morning; and at 7:00 PM EST for classes that meet in the evening.
  • Early February – Professional Development Workshop #2 (Generating Student Writing) is held.
  • Mid-March – Student writing submissions are due to Symphony Space.
  • Early April – Teachers who have submitted student writing are informed of the pieces chosen for the second performance.
  • Mid- to Late May – Performance #2: professional actors perform short stories and poems written by enrolled students. Note: this performance is offered at 11:00 AM EST for classes that meet in the morning; and at 7:00 PM EST for classes that meet in the evening.
In-person/virtual options

Due to the ongoing pandemic and its variances, we continue to offer both in-person and virtual events. Those include:

  • All Professional Development workshops
  • All performances

If you and your students plan to come to Symphony Space, please review our safety protocolsbefore your visit.

What Teachers are Saying about All Write!

"I can't begin to tell you what a valuable service your program performs for the adult literacy community. The performances and highly professional, well-thought out support materials provide structure and inspiration for many different types of valuable lessons supporting reading, writing, and listening skills, as well as conversation and reasoning. Your programs have become an important part of our curriculum." -Volunteer Tutor, NY Public Library

"My students were greatly impressed. [one of the students]… has blossomed as a writer, [he] says it’s the best thing that has ever happened to him." -Teacher Brooklyn Adult Learning Center

"Through All Write!, students feel less alone knowing that they are not the only one struggling with literacy problems. For me, it is a voice in the dark. It fills me with a great sense of joy knowing that my students’ voices are acknowledged, not only in my center, but through other important venues as All Write!" -Teacher, Brooklyn Public Library

"The biggest impact of All Write! on my students is hearing great literature, including the student writing. The biggest impact on me is seeing my students honored." -Teacher, Brooklyn College Adult Learning Center

"The curriculum guide is wonderful. I have five years of guides that I use all the time." -Teacher, Brooklyn Public Library

"The All Write! program has been an anticipated series of events on my professional calendar every year for more years than I can remember. The motivation it inspires, the professional development for our instructors, and the celebration of selected student writing by professional actors in the wonderful theatre is FANTASTIC! I can't wait to see this year's program." -Literacy Program Director, NY Public Library

Program Impact Data

A recent evaluation revealed the following findings as a result of participating in All Write!

Of the 28 teachers who responded (62% of all teachers):

  • 74% reported that as a result of participating in All Write! at least 50% of their students now write more
  • 71% said that at least 50% of their students read more
  • 95% reported that overall student participation in classroom activities had been positively affected by participating in All Write!
  • 55% reported that TABE (Tests for Adult Basic English) scores, and 42% said GED essays were positively affected by All Write!
  • 100% of responding teachers said they incorporated the All Write! materials into their curriculum; 70% said they incorporated them “a lot”

Of the 179 students who responded (15% of all students):

  • 90% report that they read more often
  • 91% report that they write more often
  • 89% report that they read more “literature and poetry”
  • 95% report that they feel more hopeful about their future
About Symphony Space

Symphony Space is a multidisciplinary performing arts center where bold programming, presented in a uniquely warm and welcoming environment, forges indelible relationships between artists and audiences. Our fundamental mission is to connect art, ideas, and community through our programs and our commitment to literacy and education through the arts. On our New York City stages, through our national broadcasts, and in the classrooms and communities we serve throughout the country, we foster access to the arts through all the disciplines. Our embrace of the audience and the arts is wide, and the experience of our patrons is deep and enriched.

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Symphony Space Development Office
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New York, NY 10025

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