Thursday, January 6, 2011

Jump Out of an Airplane or Check out the NWP – You Choose

writing(I first heard about the National Writing Project on Sioux’s Page. I have her blog in my Google Reader because I enjoy reading what she has to say, so if you get a chance, please check it out. Of course, her comments made me curious about this project and I asked her to write a guest post about it for me. Thank you Sioux!! So here is what she writes…)

Life changing, for sure. Re-energizing. As exhilarating as skydiving, and a heck of a lot less dangerous. That’s what the National Writing Project is…

Ten years ago I took a break from teaching summer school, and applied to be part of the Summer Institute (SI) at one of the Missouri sites (Gateway Writing Project). The Summer Institute is the core of the local National Writing Project programs. It’s an intensive class---lasting between four and five weeks and resulting in 6 graduate credits---but there are no “busywork” projects or never-to-be-used-again article reviews or finals. During that time, you form a community with the other teachers—and they range from elementary to college instructors, from reading teachers to science and math teachers—and you work on your own personal writing. You choose the genre, as you hone your craft in your writing response group. And I promise you: as you become a better writer, you will learn ways to teach your students how to become better thinkers.

Where are these NWP Sites?

There are more than 200 sites. They are always university based. Chances are, there is one close to you.

This Sounds Like Yet Another Program, a Program That Will Disappear When the Pendulum Swings the Other Way…My Plate’s Already Too Full

NWP has been around since 1974, and their headquarters is in Berkeley, California. If you’ve survived “Four Square” and “Power Writing” and all the other writing fads, this is not another program to overwhelm teachers even more. In fact, during your work during the summer, you will find ways to integrate writing into all academic areas, which actually lightens your load.

I Can’t Afford It! I Spend All My Money on Books and String Cheese for My Students (Since Candy is No Longer Allowed in School, and Nothing Says “Festive” Like Some String Cheese)

Some of the programs even make available a stipend, to help cut down on the tuition cost.

I’m Not a Good Writer

Yes, writing is not like math, where there is an answer that is always right and other answers are wrong. You may not be the next Hemingway, but now you know how your students feel. Take a risk right along with them. Try. If you usually write stories, dabble in a bit of free verse poetry. If you expect your students to progress and grow as writers, you need to do the same.

Life Changing? Right! And I Bet You Have a Magic Pill to Sell Me That Makes It So the More Chocolate I Eat, the More Weight I Lose

I began this summer course thinking—as a 3rd grade teacher—that creating webs was the best way to pre-write. What a bunch of hooey! I started discovering what worked for me as a writer, and found there are interesting techniques that work for others. (For example, one member of our group writes with a fountain pen. The audible scratching across the paper is a necessary part of the writing process for him.) I learned countless ways to inspire students, to conference with them, to help them find writerly habits that work for them.

In the ten years since I did the Summer Institute with Gateway (in St. Louis), I have been to national conferences, countless writing retreats and many workshops. I’ve written round-robin limericks on cocktail napkins during writing project get-togethers and laughed until my face hurt. I’ve led workshops at other school districts. I launched a summer creative writing camp for my school district. I just got word that a children’s book of mine has been picked up by a publisher. I’ve made friends and connections all over the country. And I did this all because of the National Writing Project…

If you want more information, go to You won’t regret it.

Posted on the Successful Teaching Blog by loonyhiker (successfulteaching at gmail dot com).

Original image: 'road trip journal' by: Andrew

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