Tuesday, February 15, 2011

National Writing Project

Writing is Essential
Writing is essential to communication, learning, and citizenship. It is the currency of the new workplace and global economy. Writing helps us convey ideas, solve problems, and understand our changing world. Writing is a bridge to the future.

Our Mission
The National Writing Project focuses the knowledge, expertise, and leadership of our nation's educators on sustained efforts to improve writing and learning for all learners.

Our Vision
Writing in its many forms is the signature means of communication in the 21st century. The NWP envisions a future where every person is an accomplished writer, engaged learner, and active participant in a digital, interconnected world.

Who We Are
Unique in breadth and scale, the NWP is a network of sites anchored at colleges and universities and serving teachers across disciplines and at all levels, early childhood through university. We provide professional development, develop resources, generate research, and act on knowledge to improve the teaching of writing and learning in schools and communities.

The National Writing Project believes that access to high-quality educational experiences is a basic right of all learners and a cornerstone of equity. We work in partnership with institutions, organizations, and communities to develop and sustain leadership for educational improvement. Throughout our work, we value and seek diversity—our own as well as that of our students and their communities—and recognize that practice is strengthened when we incorporate multiple ways of knowing that are informed by culture and experience.

A Network of University-Based Sites
Co-directed by faculty from the local university and from K–12 schools, more than 200 local sites serve all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Sites work in partnership with area school districts to offer high-quality professional development programs for educators. NWP continues to add new sites each year, with the goal of placing a writing project site within reach of every teacher in America. The network now includes two associated international sites.

National research studies have confirmed significant gains in writing performance among students of teachers who have participated in NWP programs.

The NWP is the only federally funded program that focuses on the teaching of writing. Support for the NWP is provided by the U.S. Department of Education, foundations, corporations, universities, and K-12 schools.

NWP Core Principles
The core principles at the foundation of NWP’s national program model are:

Teachers at every level—from kindergarten through college—are the agents of reform; universities and schools are ideal partners for investing in that reform through professional development.

Writing can and should be taught, not just assigned, at every grade level.

Professional development programs should provide opportunities for teachers to work together to understand the full spectrum of writing development across grades and across subject areas.

Knowledge about the teaching of writing comes from many sources: theory and research, the analysis of practice, and the experience of writing.

Effective professional development programs provide frequent and ongoing opportunities for teachers to write and to examine theory, research, and practice together systematically.

There is no single right approach to teaching writing; however, some practices prove to be more effective than others.

A reflective and informed community of practice is in the best position to design and develop comprehensive writing programs.

Teachers who are well informed and effective in their practice can be successful teachers of other teachers as well as partners in educational research, development, and implementation. Collectively, teacher-leaders are our greatest resource for educational reform.

1. Go the National Writing Project website at www.nwp.org

2. Find the tab at the top of the site "Resources" and click on it.

3. On the right side of this page their is a list of "Resource Topics" available for you to select from.

4. Click on the one "Teaching Writing"

5. From this page select an area of interest and browse through the articles provided under that topic.

6. Choose one article, read it (they are short) and summarize it for this week's blog post.

7. Go back to the "Resources" page and select another topic (Professional Development, Teaching Reading, Research, Teacher Research/Inquiry, Standards & Assessment, Policy & Reform, Being a Writer).

8. Choose one article from this new topic area (NOT Teaching Writing), read it and summarize it for this week's blog post.

9. Final response is a critique of the NWP website itself: 1) What surprised you? 2) What challenged you?


Example Post:

Title of Article 1:
Quick Summary:

Title of Article 2:
Quick Summary:

What surprised you?

What challenged you?


  1. Title of Article 1:Teachers Use Photo Prompts to Spark Writing
    Author(s):Gavin Tachibana
    Quick Summary: Teachers are exploring new ways of using interesting photographs to spark thoughtful and creative writing from their students. Teachers use "photo rings", which is a collection of photos on a metal ring, to help inspire students to write. In addition, "Youth Voices", a website that connects student writers across the U.S., allows students to share their photography and comment on each other's photography. Even the Smithsonian Institute has jumped the bandwagon on photos and writing, they currently have a vast collection of photos and stories generated from the photos in their collection. Lastly, "Photo Fridays" is another online photo sharing group that inspires its members to post photos and comments with the hopes of supporting writing and photography.

    Title of Article 2:A Little Praise, a Very Long Way
    Author(s): Heather Hollands
    Quick Summary:
    This article is about how Heather Hollands, a tenth grade English teacher, inspires her student, Joey, to foster a passion for writing. Joey hated writing prior to writing his "Where I'm From" poem. After writing his "Where I'm From" poem and receiving encouragement from Hollands and his classmates, Joey had a new interest in writing and even aspired to submit his poem to a popular teen magazine. Joey's enthusiasm inspired his classmates to want to write "Joey poems" in Holland's other English class. It just goes to show how a little encouragement and support from your peers can foster a passion in something you hate.

    What surprised you?

    I was surprised by all the different features, resources, and articles available. Also, I was surprised by the blogtalkradio on NWP. I didn't know the NWP had one and it was very interesting to listen to.

    What challenged you?
    Since there are so many wonderful features on the website, it was difficult for me to narrow in one topic to focus on and learn about. I felt kind of overwhelmed(in a positive way) by all the information presented to me.

  2. Article 1: Literacy, ELL, & Digital Storytelling: 21st Century Learning in Action

    Author: Pearson Foundation/WP teachers Clifford Lee and Yumi Matsui

    Summary: This article/video was about a writing project done int he Bay Area where students integrated the study of immigration and writing in a digital story-telling process. Students interviewed family members in order to create a digitial story portraying the journey of an immigrant. It successfully integrated writing and social studies, while allowing students who typically don't succeed in writing to have a meaningful basis for writing and a unique outlet to express their writing.

    Article 2: “Third Space” Inquiry Group Examines Intersections of Multiple Literacies

    Author: Kristin Schweitzer

    Summary: This article was about the collaboration of a group of WP teachers whose goal was to really look into how teachers can incorporate the "third space" or the intersection of the first space -home,community and peer networks- and the second space - discourses of formal schooling. The teachers collaborated in person and via blogging and online chat rooms to discuss how they help students become readers, writers, and thinkers in the discipline. A common theme that emerged was the use of multiple literacies, such as digital literacy and visual literacy, as a means of connecting student interests and experiences to formal texts and concepts.

    I was surprised by how many free accessible resources there are on the website. I loved the free book download, and printed it out just in case I ever teach pre-school. I was also surprised by the amount of resources that span SO many different interest/demographic/age areas. It's like one-stop shopping for everything.

    Like Jae, I was challenged by just how much there is. Looking through all of the resources and projects that people are doing, it made me really realize just how complex teaching writing is. I feel somewhat intimidated and just hope that I'm able to teach writing to the scope and expanse that is represented on the website...so thank goodness I have this website now, to inspire more ideas :)

  3. Title of Article 1: 21 seconds to teaching humanity
    Author: Lisa Weinbaum
    Quick Summary:
    Though the section titled “English Language Learners” peaked my interest, I purposely skipped it figuring I needed a break from my typical 9-5 of Med TESOL. So on I went to a section titled “Style and Rhetoric”, here I read an interesting article from Renee Webster titled “Growing Writers: Considering Talk, Time, Models, and Purpose” which was interesting but amazingly reminiscent of something we recently read for this class. When the author attributed her teaching style to Katie Wood Ray, I knew her message would be useful, but not novel, and it was time to move on. Finally I landed in a section titled “Personal Writing” and I set off to skim “21 seconds to teaching humanity”. Except I was immediately grabbed by a one sentence introduction to the article which read, “Her lessons met the standards, but her students were pummeling each other in the restroom between classes.” I couldn’t just skim. This was going to be something different. This was going to give me something I hadn’t already seen before. So I settled in for a good long read.
    The author, Lisa Weinbaum, proceeds to tell her story of whispers behind her back by fellow teachers for “not following state mandates” because she chose to introduce her students to literature outside of the canon. There were those that thought her crazy for bringing stories about KKK hangings and the murder of gay students into her classroom. But when the teacher found out about a “game” her 7th graders were playing called “21” where students would brutally fight in front of their peers, she chose to show her class “The Lottery” and had students compare their brutal tradition to the annual murders in “The Lottery”. The discussion started and the fighting stopped. The author closes with, “Some may be unsettled by what we read in class, but as a principal once stated when discussing the Holocaust, "turning ours heads from it doesn't make it go away." And so I won't turn my students away from stories that matter. And I won't allow students to turn away from each other, either. Educators can teach to mandated standards and benchmarks and still teach the ultimate standard, one of human dignity.”

    Title of Article 2: Writing Project Partners with Denver High School for Six Years and Counting (from the section titled “Professional Development”)

    Author: Elizabeth Radin Simons

    Quick Summary:
    This article reviewed some helpful resources teachers learned from each other an annual reading and writing PD sessions. Attendees fill out exit slips sharing strategies learned in the conference that they plan to implement in their own classrooms. One idea of particular interest to me was the idea one teacher shared of doing book reports as a movie pitch.

    What surprised you?
    I’m not sure if “surprised” is the right word but I was impressed by the multitude of free resources available on the site. I spent a fair amount of time perusing the Quarterly Archives Journal which spanned 27 years! In Volume 27, No. 1 there was an article titled “I’m a Writer Now! The Who, Where, and When of an ELL Newspaper”, which was pretty inspirational. I think I’m going to try publishing a newspaper with my students!

    What challenged you?
    Like Jae and Julie said before me, the sheer magnitude of resources available is overwhelming! There is a lot to navigate through. I spent over an hour playing around the site and I feel like I haven’t even experienced the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

  4. Title of Article 1: From Grief, Poetry: Expressive Writing from the Westside Tragedy

    Author(s): Robert Lamm

    Quick Summary: This article talked about the 1998 shooting at Westside Middle School in Arkansas that took the lives of four students and a teacher. After the tragedy some students started writing poetry to get their feelings down on paper, soon the teachers started giving them writing assignments regarding the shooting. Poetry was used to have the students express their feelings about the shooting. Many of the poems were also given to the families of the students and the teachers that died. Even the eulogies were filled with poetic prose. The entire community used poetry to help heal the wounds of such a horrible tragedy.

    Title of Article 2: I Write Because Writing Has Saved Me

    Author(s): Mindy Hardwick

    Quick Summary: This article talks about a woman’s experience with writing through out her life. She wrote in her journal all through high school, college, and even while teaching. She wrote and continues to write because it helps her focus her life, because to her it was the only thing she could control.

    What surprised you?
    I was surprised by the range of reading material, so many different genres. I was also happily surprised by the lack of text book style writing, I loved being able to read things that remind me of an NPR story.

    What challenged you?
    I wasn’t challenged by much anything on the site, on the opposite I embrace their idea of making every student a writer.

  5. Title of Article 1: English Language Learners, Classroom Drama
    Author(s): Dana Loy
    Quick Summary:
    This article is a narration of Dana Loy’s playwriting and drama project for a bilingual class. Through involving parents, developing scripts together, providing model plays, adding improvisational activities, dramatizing the stories, and performing, the author finds that playwriting and drama were effective ways to motivate English learners, to build a climate of trust, to improve writing, speaking and other academic skills, to excavate their potentials, and to build students’ confidence.

    Title of Article 2: I Teach, (I Feel), I Write: The Effects of Emotion on Writing About Schooling
    Author(s) Joe Check (from Being a Writer)
    Quick Summary:
    This article is a discussion about the issue of emotion in professional writing. The author addresses three typical problems through specific examples, and provides possible solutions to each problem. The first problem--the unbalance content caused by strong emotions, could be solved through multiple drafts and supportive response groups. The second problem—the frustration caused by leaving personal experience out of writing in order to sound professional could be solved through intentionally and strategically involve the writers’ voice and experiences into professional writings. The third problem—the frustration caused by changing writing styles and emotional perspective to meet the needs of different audiences, while keeping the original “flavor”, has no quick solution.

    What surprised you?
    I was also surprised by the rich resources NWP provided on-line. Almost every issue related to writing could be found on this website. Under the column “NATIONAL PROGRAMS”, I discovered an ELL network, which had lots of new information about ELL education. It was amazing.
    What challenged you?
    I also felt challenged when I was searching for the articles. There were so many interesting topics and links. It took me a long time to explore them.

  6. Title of Article 1: “21 Seconds to Teach Humanity”
    Author(s): Lisa Weinbaum
    Quick Summary: This article is written by a junior high teacher. The article began with the teacher stating that she overheard teachers talking about a teacher who didn’t follow state mandates while teaching. She was surprised to hear to was her. She is aware that the literature she chooses to read in her 7th grade class isn’t typical, but she goes deeper into her students lives and makes the material relevant; not only academically, but personally as well. At the school she taught at, she was surprised to hear the students participated in what is called ’21 seconds.’ ’21 seconds’ is were students beat up each other very gruesomely while other students watch for 21 seconds. This teacher chose to have the students read The Lottery and watch the movie. This gave the students a different scenario where small town ritual had individuals murder people in their own community; friends and family. The students thought it was horrible that people could do that. When it was brought to their attention that they do the same thing at their own school with ’21 seconds,’ they wrote a response. It came from their heart and made them aware of how horrible what they were doing was. This teacher was able to take material that is relevant in students’ lives and will make an impact on them, and incorporate it with the school standards. She was able to have students produce writing samples they may not have without the passion they had behind the topic.
    Title of Article 2:Book Review: The Book Club Companion: Fostering Strategic Readers in the Secondary Classroom, by Cindy O’Donnell-Allen
    Author(s):Jamie Heans
    Quick Summary: Jamie Heans analyzed O’Donnell-Allen’s book club that he has used with his classes. After using literature circles, and seeing that they were not very effective in his classroom, Heans decided to incorporate the book club. Heans saw that students were bringing a variety of reading strategies to the table when they would discuss their reading. O’Donnell-Allen identifies how to choose books to get the book club ready for the students. Choosing the right books is essential. Then, after choosing the right books with the students, the teacher needs to develop rich open-ended questions. She allows students to use strategies that will help develop personal identity, expression and choice. Strategies include; life map (students create a visual of the most important events), Body Biography (life size image of character and traits). Heans saw that her strategies were allowing students who normally struggle to participate, participate in engaging and meaningful discussions. Students are also assessed on an ongoing basis. These assessments also allow students to have a deeper literacy interpretation.

    What surprised you? I liked how there were so many resources available through this site. It is not only narrowed down to writing, there are so many interesting articles, that not only come from theories, but real life teachers I can relate with. All of the topics and articles seemed interesting and relevant to any teacher.
    What challenged you? Nothing really challenged me, I think the site is set up well, and I am looking forward to exploring it more when I have more time.

  7. Title of Article 1: Maryland Voices: Publishing Students’ True Stories

    Author(s): Rus VanWestervelt

    Quick Summary: This article describes the steps teacher-consultant Rus VanWestervelt took to create the creative nonfiction journal, Maryland Voices, written and published by teens throughout Maryland. While teaching high school, rather than reiterating the formulaic style of writing, VanWestervelt introduced his students to the genre of creative non-fiction. Instead of writing for the teacher, or for a grade, the students began writing for themselves, writing real stories about events in their lives that mattered to them. VanWestervelt was inspired by his students work and it was then he began his campaign to establish Maryland Voices, a biannual journal edited by high school students and written by Maryland teens. VanWestervelt began his campaign by first, spreading the word to teachers and students. The four student editors created a presentation designed to educate their teachers about creative nonfiction and the Voices Journal. This was very successful. They networked outside of school asking for anyone who had any interest in supporting of publishing student writing. What came next was the creation of an editorial Voices team to establish the journals foundation. So far, the journal has received a few grants to support their publishing efforts. A number of volumes have been published and Maryland Voices continues to exist today.

    Title of Article 2: Using Picture Books to Teach Writing with the Traits: K-2

    Author(s): Janet Bassett

    Quick Summary: In this article, Janet Basset writes a positive review of the book, Using Books to Teach Writing with the Traits K-2. “Using Picture Books to teach Writing with Traits, is written by Culham and Coutu and contains the information needed to assist teachers who wish to teach their students about the trait of ideas, organization, word choice, sentence fluency, conventions and presentation. This book contains 150 annotated bibliographies of books that can be used to help explain the above traits to children K-2., as well ideas of how each book can be used to teach a particular trait.

    What surprised you?
    I was surprised by the extensive list of resources available for teachers. I was not aware that site such existed. I know I will regularly utilize this website before and during my career as a teacher.

    What challenged you?
    With so many resources and articles available at my fingertips, I had a challenging time choosing an article. I read quite a few and wrote summaries on the one’s that will be most helpful for myself in the future.

  8. Article #1: Back to Square One: What To Do When Writing Workshop Just Doesn’t Work by Glorianne Bradshaw.
    In the article, Bradshaw describes how she was compelled to rethink the writer’s workshop for her first-grade class after she had a year with “The Class Who Wouldn’t Write”. She decided to introduce more structure into the workshop, rather than giving the students complete autonomy over their choices of subject matter.

    Bradshaw started off the year with a “How I Spent My Summer Vacation” narrative. She used the “Clifford” books as mentor texts. She explicitly scaffolded the writing process for her students by providing graphic organizers in which they drew pictures of what they had done over the vacation. She demonstrated an example by describing her own vacation. In shared writing lessons, Bradshaw wrote captions with her students for the pictures. She took it very slowly, writing only one sentence at first, and then having her students go write their own. Through the shared writing lessons, she also modeled editing, word study, punctuation, and overall story structure (who, what, when, where). Bradshaw posed many open-ended questions, encouraging the students to come up with solutions.

    It took a long time and many lessons to give the students the support they needed in order to come up with an original piece of their own. I think this is a key element in what she did—she did not rush the process.

    The books were published and kept in the independent reading library. The student authors were given the same weight as the adult authors in trade books.

    By offering extensive support, along with validation of their individual voices, the first-grade students were able to become confident, self-sufficient writers.

    Article #2: Kelly Gallagher Takes on the “Killing of Reading” by Art Peterson

    This article is an overview of the views of Kelly Gallagher, a teacher and author of the book, Readicide. Gallagher says that high school students are not engaged in reading. Many of them think reading is boring and useless. He attributes this to the “inane, mind-numbing practices found in our schools”. He also cites the focus on teaching to the test as another reason that the love of reading has been killed. He says, “A student will not learn to love reading . . . by completing an endless parade of shallow test-preparation exercises.”

    Gallagher advocates the use of novels in high school reading classes, but he warns against over-teaching a novel. He says that teachers often take too long to cover one novel and try to cover every single literacy standard. He also cautions that students should not be left completely on their own to read a book. The Grapes of Wrath is used as an example of a book that is often assigned for summer reading but really requires a lot of scaffolding on the part of the teacher if the students are to completely understand it.

    Several options are offered as remedies for “readicide”. One is the use of high interest reading materials. Not only novels, but magazine articles, newspapers, and blogs are sources for stimulating reading. Gallagher uses an “article of the week” to teach his students about current events. Another approach suggested by Kelly Gallagher is to pay attention to “reading flow”. It can be distracting to have to stop every few pages to make notes. As an alternative, he offers the idea that students can go deeper into a novel by engaging in topics that are related to a book.

    Gallagher states "If students are to become avid readers again,we must find our courage to recognize the difference between the political worlds and the authentic words in which we teach, to swim against the current of educational practices that are killing young readers, and to step up and do what is right for our students."

  9. NWP – I was pleasantly surprised to read the mission statement for NWP. I appreciate the fact that the teaching of writing is seen as a social justice issue. I also was surprised at the size of the organization. I did not realize that it is as extensive as it is. I was not challenged by the website per se, but after exploring it, I feel more deeply the challenge and commitment to teach my students to be writers.

  10. The Book Club Companion
    By Jamie Heans

    Quick Summary: This explored the different styles of running book clubs. It went on to discuss the different types of reading groups and how they differ from one another. For example, small group discussions versus literature circles. The Book Club Companion is a book that offers tips on how to successfully hold these group discussions. The book also offers strategies on how to deal with texts containing explicit scenes, strong language and sensitive issues. I found this to be a very useful article, especially as I have done a few literature circles with my students in the past. I especially found the multimodal methods of strategic reading to be very beneficial. These are methods for developing strategic reading.

    Book Review on Writing Centers in High School
    By Art Peterson

    Quick Summary: This article talked about the establishment of writing centers in a high school started by Jennifer Wells. She talks about the benefits involved in writing centers and how her students really developed as writers when she launched a Reading and Writing center. It allowed students to receive one on one attention over a longer period of time and this resulted in higher quality of writing. She along with her colleague now have become writing center advocates. In a book they co wrote, Literacy Lives in the High School Writing Center, she talks about the variety of models of writing centers that are currently being used as well as the benefits of a successful writing center.

    What Surprised You?
    I had no idea about his website. It's such a wonderful resource for educators and students alike. Within one website there are hundreds of websites, links, books and more that will help us with teaching literacy. I especially liked all the strategies you have access to by reading these articles.

    What challenged you?
    Not sure if its exactly a challenge, but there was an abundance of information on this website. So I think going through all of these at once was a bit overwhelming but definitely a positive overall.