Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Mourning in America

Tonight was Parent Conference night and my room was full.  My juniors and seniors lead their parent conferences, explaining goals, sharing work, describing their scores.  They introduced their parent to me, offered refreshments, and then lead them to a private corner where they could describe their work and their personal goals for the course.  The parents love the opportunity to hear about school from their child.  I love to hear them describe what they are learning.

I learned how to do this from a colleague in the National Writing Project.

Today, in two classes, we worked on good beginnings--how to get your reader interested enough in your writing to want to read on.  I modeled, they wrote, I wrote.

These three things I learned from colleagues in the National Writing Project.

Earlier in the day, while my students took their state tests, I wrote notes on their personal essays.  I use sticky notes and first respond to the strengths of the writing.  "I love your personal belief.  I agree that you need to set goals before you can achieve them."  "Thank your for sharing a powerful story about the losses in your life.  I'm so happy that you have taken away a positive lesson from these experiences."  And then I ask questions that, I hope, will make the students want to revisit the writing and make it even better.

I learned to encourage all of my students from colleagues in the National Writing Project.

In the twelfth grade classes we dove into poetry with a three-reading exercise.  The students read a poem three times.  After each reading they write a metacognitive passage and describe what they think, wonder, or notice after each reading.  Then they rate their understanding on a scale of 0-10.  Three readings.  Three writings.  Then they discuss the poem with their peers.  Then we all discuss the poem.  At the end of this process most students can articulate a clear understanding of what the poem says, means, and why it matters.  The students will practice this on their own tonight.

I learned this from a colleague in the National Writing Project.

In fact, I cannot think of a single move I make in the classroom that is not the end result of the close examination, sharing, and planning of the teaching consultants and fellows of the National Writing Project.

Here is a list, off the top of my head, of things I do that I learned from colleagues in the National Writing Project:
--Reflective writing
--The Daybook (a cornerstone of my teaching practice)
--Peer review groups (and how to manage them)
--Publishing student work
--Invention strategies (hundreds of them)
--Revision strategies (dozens)
--Multi-genre papers
--I-Search papers
--Building community and trust
--Portfolio assessment

I know there are even more techniques and strategies, all based on a philosophy fed and nurtured in the Writing Project.  
The success students realize are the direct result of work done through the National Writing Project. I am still in the classroom teaching because the National Writing Project has kept me learning and growing so that students can learn, improve, and describe their own growth.
On March 2, President Obama signed a bill to keep the government running until March 18. 
The bill cuts about $4 billion in spending from the FY 2011 budget, eliminating a number of education programs, including 
The National Writing Project.

This can not stand.


  1. I am so sad for this loss. I know how energizing this program has been for you, and have watched your passion for teaching grow through your collaboration with like-minded peers.

  2. Your last paragraph resonates so strongly with me. The NWP has transformed my teaching and has given me the confidence to write alongside my students.

  3. This brings back wonderful memories of student-led conferences and portfolio parties shared with my 3-5th graders. It's actually encouraging to know in this "state of testing" teachers are still able to share and learn from each other. Let's keep doing what we do and keep fighting to inform others about its importance! Thanks!

  4. The Writing Project makes it possible to engage kids and teachers! School is much more than testing. Thank you all for adding your voices to the cause.