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Puny Poetry Meets Its Match

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Author: Gerri Ruckle & Jim Horrell

Summary: What can we do when confronted with the challenge of helping young poets develop an awareness of the expressive power of poetry as opposed to rhyming lines that that often convey little meaning? By sharing a series of scaffolded strategies illustrated with multiple examples of student writing, the authors tell the story of how they changed their teaching and supported students in exploring poetry and creating sophisticated works of self-expression. This resource offers excellent ideas for professional development related to teaching poetry within a reading/writing workshop approach.

Place-Based Poetry, Modeling One Revision at a Time

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Author: Ann Gardner

Summary: With the goal of helping her students create free-form poetry that engages “the part of their brains that allows them to crawl into deep recesses of memory, shake hidden treasures awake, and write from their souls,” Ann Gardner illustrates each step of the writing process she introduces to her students. Sharing a close look at student writing, she juxtaposes specific revisions made by one student from the Navajo reservation with those created through her modeling with the class. This article would be equally useful in professional development discussions with teachers and team planning for young writers programs.

Language, Identity, and Learning in Talking Appalachian (NWP Radio)

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Author: Amy Clark

Summary: This NWP Radio conversation with Amy Clark, co-editor of Talking Appalachian: Voice, Identity & Community, begins with a personal story of how transcribing an oral history interview with her great grandmother revealed the syntax and poetry in her speech. Subsequent segments include discussions of: 1) teachers’ and writers’ essays in Part II of the book that incorporate implications and ideas for instruction (4:38 -19:42); and 2) Amy’s teaching career trajectory that led to her bringing research about dialect to her writing project community; a discussion of contrastive analysis as a tool for helping students use their writing to understand reasons nonstandard grammar patterns exist so they can learn to make choices to switch between home/informal and school/formal languages; results and advice for researchers/study groups interested in this work (20:08 – 39:04).This resource could be useful in planning and/or leading professional development, study groups, or teacher inquiry focused on dialect and empowering student voice.

A Poem for all Seasons

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By Shirley McPhillips

It’s National Poetry Month! For inspiration, we have invited Shirley McPhillips, poet and NWP Writers Council member, to share some thinking about WHY poetry matters and HOW, as teachers and writers, we might jump into it. For more on writing seasonal poems, and to better understanding the central role poetry can play in our personal lives and in our classrooms, you may want to read Shirley’s book Poem Central: Word Journeys with Readers and Writers, Stenhouse Publishers, 2014. Also, her latest collection of poems called Acrylic Angel of Fate, made its debut in 2016, Finishing Line Press.

Exploring “Systems Thinking” with Grinding New Lenses (NWP Radio)

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Summary: Eight teachers from three National Writing Project sites spent a month in Chicago exploring the power of systems thinking to support students in the way they learn, make, and write. Of particular interest to teachers planning and leading young writers programs that focus on digital literacy, this project, called “Grinding New Lenses,” engaged teachers in their own learning and thinking about systems, followed by an opportunity to lead a summer camp with youth from the surrounding area.

Bridges: From Personal Writing to the Formal Essay

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Author: James Moffett

Summary: Asserting his belief that “all writing is idea writing,” James Moffett explores the transition from writing personal experience themes to writing formal essays. In the process, he presents a schema that groups different writing types and shows their connections. This essay, and Moffett’s work in general, is a key resource for teachers exploring issues of genre and levels of discourse in writing.

Short and Meaningful Programming: Expanding the Work and Reach of the Site

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Author: Meg Petersen and Valerie Combie

Summary: You’re a teacher, not a small business owner? Yes, that is true, but running a Writing Project site and/or developing writing project programming requires an entreprenureial spirit and approach. With that in mind, this collection offers a glimpse into several ways sites have developed shorter, yet meaningful, programming that expands the work and reach of the site while also generating revenue.

Lee Anne Bell Counters the “Stock Stories” of Race and Racism

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Author: Art Peterson

Summary: This article by Art Peterson describes how Lee Anne Bell, author of Storytelling for Social Justice, explores the tension between stock stories and counter or concealed stories in order to develop an anti-racist pedagogy. As Peterson notes, “Bell’s purpose is not only to expose the myths that support the stock story, but also to help those she works with create what she calls transformative stories. . . stories [that] ‘imagine alternative scenarios for racial equality and articulate strategies to work toward these visions.'” Resources attached to this article include a link to Bell’s Storytelling Project Curriculum and may be most useful in planning and designing professional development related to issues of equity and social justice.

Radical Revision Strategies: My Road from Fairy Tale to Catharsis

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Author: Juanita Willingham

Summary: A teacher-writer shares her experience using radical revision, a strategy for taking ones writing apart and reassembling it. In the process of illustrating the impact of trying out various revisions of a poignant poem she wrote and shared with a writing group, she includes five clear and useful strategies that encourage writers to experiment with changes in structure, genre, and point of view. Teacher-writers as well as classroom teachers and facilitators of writing-intensive workshops may appreciate this piece.


Love Ties My Shoes: Long-term English Learners as Thoughtful Writers

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Author: Lynn Jacobs

Summary: Students in a high school English Language Development class writing a book? Lynn Jacobs’ story of her students success can inform teacher study groups and inspire professional development sessions. For details about the project, powerful student voices describing the process, and ties to professional literature that help to explain how and why this was a possibility for Jacobs and her students, check out this inspirational article.