Teacher as Writer

The Journey of an Emerging Site Leader

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Author: Kathleen Ann Gonzalez

Summary: Are you taking on a new role at your writing project? Are you both excited and nervous? If so, then following Kathleen Gonzalez’s journey as she stepped into a key leadership at her site may help set you at ease. Her story confirms what we know deep down: trusting your writing project instincts and staying true to NWP core principles will lead to positive experiences and  outcomes. In the process of telling her story, Gonzalez shares several concrete strategies and suggestions for how to help writing groups develop community and maintain momentum throughout an institute.

Literacy Coaches Explore Their Work Through Vignettes

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Author: Carrie Usui

Summary: What is the work of a literacy coach? Twelve UCLA Writing Project teacher-consultants serving as literacy coaches in the LA Unified School District spent a weekend retreat exploring that question by writing vignettes as a way to illustrate what it is they do as coaches. Here they share some of what they do and how it makes a difference for students and teachers in the schools where they coach.

Reflections on an Online Teachers Writing Group

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Author: Anne Elrod Whitney

Summary: After participating in an NWP program, teachers may be eager to continue writing and yet may find themselves consumed by other obligations related to teaching and their personal lives. This thoughtful article offers concrete, constructive protocols for sustaining a writing group online, as well as authentic models of collegial response and reflection on the implications of teacher-writers’ experiences for their own classroom student writing groups.

Becoming Your Own Expert—Teachers as Writers

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Author: Tim Gillespie

Summary: In this brief article, the author argues that teachers need to write so that their teaching of writing can be “based on knowledge we have earned ourselves…. We don’t need to give up our curriculum to experts. We can just watch ourselves write.” In recounting what he knows as a result of being a writer, he provides a great resource for teachers in summer institutes, writing groups, or professional development series that could be used for discussion or as an impetus for participants to create their own “what I know about writing because I am a writer” piece.

Publishing Students’ True Stories

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Author: Rus VanWestervelt

Summary: Creative nonfiction? What better way to engage students in all disciplines than to write real stories about life events that matter to them! And what if there were opportunities to publish these pieces in a journal designed and edited by youth? In telling the story of the creation of a journal that eventually encompassed the state, the author describes types and characteristics of creative nonfiction and shares an example of one student’s narrative that focused on her family’s evacuation from the American compound in Saudi Arabia following terrorist bombings. Even without the goal of publishing a journal, there are excellent suggestions that could be used for creating and supporting collaborative writing spaces (e.g., in classrooms, student writing clubs, supporting Scholastic Awards) or in supporting teacher-writers at writing project sites.

A Year of Action Research: An Adaptable Model

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Summary: This advanced institute program overview from the Lake Michigan Writing Project could be a valuable resource for any sites looking to add an action research/teacher research component to their programming. The overview outlines program goals, objectives, key components, and expectations for participants, as well as a detailed and helpful breakdown of the focus for each of the academic year meetings. This short overview is an example of how to concisely convey the scope and desired outcomes of a program.

Reading, Writing and Revising in Digital Spaces: Oakland Writing Project’s Literacy Webinar Series

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Summary: In partnership with the Oakland School District, the Oakland (MI) Writing Project developed and hosted an online webinar series focused on revision. Links to all of the webinars, resources, and related readings for the 2015-16 series (Revision: the Heart of Writing) and 2014-15 (Reading and Writing in Digital Spaces) are available here. The strong line-up of presentations gives a deep look into both revision and digital literacy. Individual webinars could be great additions to professional development sessions that have a revision or digital literacy component. Additional workshops and webinars are also posted on this site.

“A More Complicated Human Being”: Inventing Teacher-Writers

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Author: Christine Dawson

Summary: How might teachers pursue and support personally and professionally worthwhile writing practices in the midst of the many demands associated with teaching? How might writing groups sustain their work together – in person or online? This final chapter from The Teacher-Writer: Creating Writing Groups for Personal and Professional Growth, a book that documents the first year of a successful teacher writing group, includes strategies developed and a generative framework grounded in lessons learned by the group as they met face-to-face and worked online. Their story and what they learned together will be of particular interest to teachers who wonder how to build on their commitments to personal writing and sustain a collegial community that forms in the process of writing and sharing.

Helping Teacher-Writers Begin to Write

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Author: Troy Hicks, Anne Elrod Whitney, James Fredricksen, and Leah Zuidema

Summary: How can we best support our own and our colleagues as teacher-writers? In this chapter from Coaching Teacher-Writers: Practical Steps to Nurture Professional Writing, planners and leaders will find constructive strategies to motivate teacher-writers to begin, sustain, and complete professional writing. A valuable resource for facilitators, the chapter offers, “descriptions of key practices…developed over years of coaching, teaching, and collaborating with K12 teachers who write about classroom instruction, teacher research, or advocacy for better policy and pedagogy.”

Lawnmowers, Parties, and Writing Groups: What Teacher-Authors Have to Teach Us about Writing for Publication

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Author: Anne Elrod Whitney

Summary: When teachers write for others in their profession they are taking on a form of leadership and embracing a means of advocating for the value of classroom inquiry and reflective practice. This article by Anne Whitney, a researcher who has studied the professional practice of NWP teachers, invites teacher-writers to get beyond the hurdles of doubt as they approach publication of their professional writing. An inspirational article for teacher writing groups, it could resonate with teachers who are ready or getting ready to share their work more publicly.

Lessons from Tony: Betrayal and Trust in Teacher Research

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Author: Sharon Miller

Summary: In a compelling narrative laced with details of a teacher’s relationship as a co-researcher with Tony, a student in her class of seniors with special needs, and her own ethical struggles as a teacher-researcher, Sharon Miller provides insights into issues such as ownership of data, and the relationship between vulnerable populations and consent forms. The honest and respectful portrayal of her own experience provides lots of fodder for teacher inquiry communities to grapple with, whether students participate as informants or co-researchers.

Teaching in Two Worlds: Critical Reflection and Teacher Change in the Writing Center

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Author: Dale Jacobs

Summary: This article is a model of how one teacher used inquiry to revise his classroom practice. The author explains how his experience working in a college writing center led him to revise his approach to classroom teaching, leading him to a pedagogy that was more student-centered and focused on individuals. He describes a process of “productive disruption” in his thinking about his practices, followed by critical reflection that led to change. This article would be useful in a professional development context focused on teacher inquiry or reflective practice, especially early in the discussions, as an example of this approach in context. It could also be recommended to writing center tutors who move into the classroom, to demonstrate how their skills as tutors can effectively translate into the classroom.

Writing Project Teachers as Writers and Bloggers

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Author: Grant Faulkner

Summary: This article highlights NWP teachers/consultants who use blogs as a tool for inquiry and reflection and as a way to converse with a community of educators about their classrooms, their pedagogy, and educational reform. Teachers reading this piece can see the myriad purposes of creating a blog, and also receive tips on how to begin. This article could be used during a summer institute or school-year professional development series to support and inspire teacher and student blogging.

Professional Writing Retreat Handbook

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Authors: Joseph Check, Tom Fox, Kathleen O’Shaughnessy, and Carol Tateishi

Summary: Support teachers to share their work through publication! This comprehensive handbook, developed by National Writing Project leaders, helps facilitators plan a Professional Writing Retreat from beginning to end. The guide includes detailed suggestions for the design of retreat agendas and activities as well as a list of additional resources and short articles. It also includes ideas for creating an anthology of participants’ writing with the support of the group.

“I’m a Writer”: Essays on the Writing Marathon and Why We Write

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Author: Richard Louth

Summary: This brief piece describes a book that puts writing–both teachers’ and students’–at the center. The first part focuses on writing marathon how-tos and offers guidelines, planning and facilitation resources, and teachers’ anecdotal experiences of writing in community. The second part of the book includes essays by teachers about why they write and how their own writing impacts their teaching. Further resources are included on this page, along with purchasing information for the book.

Teachers Writing for Publication: Tips from a Teacher, Author, and Editor

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Author: Louann Reid

Summary: Written by a former journal editor, this article provides advice about developing teacher voice and in-depth information about getting published in a range of professional forums. The piece offers useful content for writing retreats, and other events/activities related to teachers’ professional writing.

Ten Prompts to Help Turn Your Demonstration into an Article

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Author: Art Petersen

Summary: This brief list of prompts is designed to help teachers think about turning teaching demonstrations into professional articles. The prompts could help launch a writing retreat or encourage teachers to move towards publishing their classroom inquiry projects.

Writing in Good Company in New Orleans (NWP Radio)

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Guests: Richard Louth, Kim Stafford, Susan Martens, and Tracy Cunningham

Summary: In this NWP Radio show, teacher leaders from the Southeastern Louisiana Writing Project discuss their writing marathon-focused advanced institute, a model of a large-scale writing marathon that draws attendees from across the county. Guests on the radio show share information that can be useful for designing local events. They emphasize the ways that marathons inspire writing while also celebrating local place and developing community among writers.

Writing In the Community: The New Orleans Writing Marathon as Model

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Authors: Richard Louth

Summary: This article explores the history and foundations of the New Orleans-style writing marathon. Richard Louth describes what it’s like to lead a writing marathon; he provides tips, insights, writing prompts, and writing samples that illustrate how a community can be guided to write together over time and space. This piece is a good introduction for teacher leaders who are thinking about ways to support teachers as writers, often a transformative dimension of a Writing Project experience.

A Guide for Writing Marathon Leaders

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Authors: Richard Louth

Summary: This in-depth guide, drawn from the book “I’m a Writer”: Essays on the Writing Marathon and Why We Write, covers just about everything needed to organize and run a successful writing marathon. In a writing marathon, small groups write and share their writing as they move through a setting such as a landscape, a city neighborhood, a museum. These events–for teachers, community members, and/or students– can inspire writing while also developing community among writers and celebrating local spaces.


Why Science Teachers Should Write

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Author: Marsha Ratzel

Summary: One science teacher explains the importance of students writing to learn in science and science teachers writing to clarify their teaching. This short article gives examples of student work and is a powerful piece to share with science teachers within contexts of professional development to foster conversation and connections between writing, teaching and learning.

What Data-Driven Instruction Should Really Look Like

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Author: Kathie Marshall

Summary: This article argues for a teacher-led collaborative inquiry approach to data analysis, as opposed to seeing data analysis as a compliance process. Potentially a conversation starter for how teachers can use inquiry processes to regain control over instruction and improve student achievement.

Developing a Definition of Teacher Research

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Author: Marian M. Mohr, Betsy Sanford, Marion S. MacLean, Courtney Rogers, and Sheila Clawson

Summary: A group of experienced K-12 teachers and teacher-consultants from the Northern Virginia Writing Project engaged in teacher inquiry for several years to improve their teaching. The process and the findings from their research reverberated throughout their school system and influenced how their schools were run. This chapter provides a clear and detailed definition of teacher research, and will be useful both as a guide for those planning to facilitate teacher inquiry and as an introductory reading for teachers participating in their first inquiry project.


Window Sill: Teacher-Researchers and the Study of Writing Process

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Author: Marian M. Mohr

Summary: For those new to facilitating teacher-research, this article provides insight into the process, specifically how teachers approach research, the potential for research to change teaching practice, and implications for teacher education. It’s written as an introduction to a collection of research reports on the writing processes of students, grades one through twelve, and prepared by the participants in a teacher-researcher seminar.

Reflection & Reform: Five Myths About Reflective Writing

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Author: Joe Check

Summary: Making an argument for reflective teaching in the face of mandated, external programs, the author identifies five “myths” or beliefs about reflective writing and suggests ways to address the negative attitudes engendered by them. Useful to demonstrate the potential for connection between reflective teacher inquiry and externally mandated school change/reform. This resource may be useful in addressing concerns that Writing Project methods can’t be implemented in heavy top-down schools and provides support for the necessity of teacher voices in the reform process.

Why I Write: Scientist Arvind Gupta Plays with the Words of Science

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Author: Arvind Gupta

Summary: In this short inspiring piece, Gupta explains critical moments he has been motivated to write, including chances to explain scientific phenomena. He urges readers to appreciate the human mind and the joy of experimentation. This piece could be used as a model “why I write” piece and/or to start a discussion of content area writers/writing and student engagement. There is a link out to a great TED Talk.

The Evolution of a Model Writing Teacher and a Model Writing School

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Author: Art Peterson

Summary: How does a Writing Project teacher become a leader? This brief portrait describes how award-winning elementary teacher Julie Johnson evolved into an exemplary teacher of writing and collaborated with colleagues to develop a model writing school. This resource can fulfill multiple needs for site leaders and leaders of advanced institutes or teacher inquiry groups if they are looking for examples of effective early-grade writing classrooms, evidence of content-based writing in elementary grades, or schoolwide efforts to find effective approaches to writing.

A Thousand Writers Writing: Seeking Change through the Radical Practice of Writing as a Way of Being

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Author: Robert Yagelski

Summary: Have you ever found yourself having to justify teachers’ writing as a key, non-negotiable component of your site’s professional development? If so, this article can help ground you in the importance and value of the act of writing. Yagelski proposes a pedagogy of “writing as a way of being” and describes how the approach can encourage awareness, reflection, and inquiry in ways that product-focused approaches may not. Yagelski’s full vision–that writing is more than communication, and that our lives and thinking live within writing–will be helpful to any teacher inquiry group or educator/leader teams who are working together to construct their own philosophical stance about writing: what it is, what it does, and what it should look like in classrooms. This piece will also be an invaluable resource for any teachers needing to justify the practice of having students write without being directly tied to the day’s objective, goal, or standard.

Nonfiction Writing in the Science Classroom

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Author: Nancy Lilly

Summary: A fourth-grade science teacher, Nancy Lilly, describes how she helps her students recognize that the skills that elevate fiction are the very skills that can be useful in writing strong nonfiction, including science writing. Lilly shares her student writing conferences and details her process when working with students to improve writing using mentor texts and specific strategies to develop craft. This glimpse into classroom practice could be a useful resource for a content-area study group thinking about teaching writing in science.

I Teach, (I Feel), I Write: Professional Writing with Emotion

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Author: Joseph Check

Summary: “If feeling emotion is part of working in schools, how does emotion fit into writing about that work?” This essay considers the reality of teachers’ emotional involvement with their work and how to deal with emotion in professional writing. A useful reading for writing groups and their facilitators, it considers three common struggles that many educators face when writing professionally – writing about a situation that they are frustrated by or angry about, trying to remain removed from the writing as a way to maintain objectivity, and being so passionate about topics that they struggle to identify a specific audience.

Teacher Transformation in the National Writing Project

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Author: Anne Elrod Whitney

Summary: Why do teachers so often attribute their personal and professional “transformation” to their writing project experiences? Researcher Anne Whitney considers how participants’ writing time and writing group experience impacts their identity as writers, learners, and instructional leaders. Reading this study could spur an interesting discussion about what writing experiences are transformational and essential when planning learning for new teacher participants.

Expressive Writing in the Science Classroom

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Author: John Dorroh

Summary: In this account of expressive writing in the science classroom, teacher John Dorroh introduces writing to build students’ curiosity, inviting them to wonder, to ask questions, and to imagine. In the process Dorroh wrestles with the issue of assessment and also demonstrates the importance of teacher-as-writer as he writes along with his students.

“Why I Write” Resources

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Summary: The “Why I Write” series highlights people who write as professionals across disciplines including science, geology, music, environmental studies and education, among others. This collection includes a few short videos that accompany the articles and is especially useful in connecting writing in school to the real world purposes of writing in various disciplines and occupations.

Pre-Retreat Coaching Leads to a More Successful Writing Retreat

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Author: Rebeca García-González

Summary: This article describes how pre-retreat coaching can be organized to deepen the effectiveness of a Professional Writing Retreat. This scaffolding prior to the event can be designed to help participants refine, adjust, or modify their writing plans and help build an early connection to a veteran site leader or retreat facilitator. Included are a brief list of pre-retreat coaching ideas and an example of an email to a writing retreat participant.

Annotated Bibliography for NWP Professional Writing Retreats

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Summary: The purpose of this annotated bibliography is to showcase examples of writing that were developed at NWP Professional Writing Retreats. From pieces on teacher practice to books about the teaching of writing, this bibliography has something of interest for teachers interested in developing their own or learning from other teacher writers’ professional writing.  The range of genres highlights the kind of writing that is supported at NWP Professional Writing Retreats, and offers inspiration for sites interested in creating their own forums to support teachers as writers.

Designing a Writing Retreat and Building Site Leadership on a Small Budget

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Author: Nancy Mellin McCracken & Barbara Smith

Summary: This article describes the National Writing Project at Kent State University’s journey into the development of a sustainable Professional Writing Retreat that not only supported teachers’ professional writing but also contributed to the development of new site leadership. The goals and priorities that guided their work may serve as a helpful guide for teacher leaders planning their own writing retreats.  CONTINUE READING

Why a Writing Retreat? Nurturing Confidence, Creativity, and Camaraderie Among Teacher Writers

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Author: Kristy Lauricella Dawson

Summary: This article includes several ideas on recruitment, resource gathering, and scheduling that can lead to successful writing retreats, as well as a discussion of the value of bringing together colleagues over time to work on their writing. Through this example, retreat planners can see how nurturing teacher creativity leads to better classroom instruction.

A Weekend of Writing Isn’t a Weekend of Work

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Author: Cheryl North-Coleman

Summary: This article describes ideas for recruiting for professional writing retreats, shaping the retreat events, and providing necessary equipment and materials. Most of all, it reminds retreat planners and facilitators of the importance and centrality of time to write.

Teacher-Writers: Then, Now, and Next

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Author: Robert Yagelski, Anne Elrod Whitney, James Fredricksen, and Troy Hicks

Summary: Why should teachers write about their work? What is the evolution of this movement? The authors identify the teacher-writer as an activist, advocate, and knowledge creator. When teachers write and take on these various roles, they assert agency and authority in an age of teacher exclusion and blame.

Diving with Whales: Five Reasons for Practitioners to Write for Publication

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Author: Grace Hall McEntee

Summary: The author offers five compelling reasons for teachers to write for publication, including the opportunity to understand our teaching practice and to inform the public. This brief article would work well as a resource for educators who are beginning to explore writing about their work. The article could be sent in advance of a professional writing retreat as well.

Family Matters: A Mother and Daughter’s Literacy Journey

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Author: Amy Clark

Summary: What happens when we explore our “people”—when, through writing, we explore the richness of our culture, our family, our identity? How often do we find examples of a mother and daughter who have the opportunity to experience a summer institute together? This beautifully written narrative set in Appalachia could be a read-aloud in a workshop or summer institute to generate ideas for writing, or as a way to discuss family/generational literacy, dialect, place, and an authentic rendition of the many facets of the writing experience.

Building the Capacity of Writing Project Site Leadership

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Author: Karen Smith, Lucy Ware, Lynn Jacobs, Paul Epstein

Summary: These stories of teacher leadership from the National Writing Project’s Vignette Study provide examples of structures and processes that sites can examine as they seek to expand leadership and create their own opportunities for teachers to lead. As Lucy Ware writes in the introduction to this collection, “We hope that leaders of local NWP sites will discover that challenges they face are not unique and will see adaptable strategies to apply in their own specific settings. By sharing these stories, we also hope that individual teacher-consultants will recognize the importance of their leadership to their local sites and will see ways that the NWP network might support their ongoing professional development.

Preaching What We Practice

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Author: Shelbie Witte

Summary: In what ways do teachers of writing use revision in their own writing? How do digital writing environments impact revision and its instruction? What are teachers’ perceptions of revision in their own writing and in writing instruction in the classroom? Shelbie Witte’s research investigated these questions among teachers who participated in National Writing Project summer institutes and contributed to the NWP E-Anthology. This insightful and accessible article on revision practices and habits can become a part of any writing teacher’s repertoire about best instructional choices for student writers based on teachers’ own writing practices.

The Value of Teacher-Writers (NWP Radio)

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Guests: Christine Dawson, Leah Zuidema, and Troy Hicks

Summary: This NWP Radio show brings together the authors of two co-published books on teacher-writers, Christine Dawson (The Teacher-Writer), and Troy Hicks and Leah Zuidema (Coaching Teacher-Writers). For teachers who want to start a writing group, or for site leaders who are looking for guidance in coaching the development of writing groups, this radio show details experiences and offers practical methods for support and success.

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.


Extending the Conversation: Writing as Praxis

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Author: Robert Yagelski

Summary: This essay is a key reading for individuals and study groups looking to understand the “transformation” that teachers say occurs in writing project institutes and other programs when they write, respond as members of writing groups, revise, and publish. Yagelski grounds his exploration in theory as he considers the power of writing as an active (rather than a passive) pursuit that engages teacher writers in reflective practice.

Resources for Teacher Inquiry Communities: An Annotated Bibliography

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Author: Ann Dobie

Summary:  Compiled by NWP’s Teacher Inquiry Community, this annotated bibliography of approximately 50 books offers a wealth of important designs, guides, case studies, and much more. It provides a rich resource for individual teacher researchers and those planning on leading teacher inquiry projects and professional development.

The Southern Arizona Writing Project Teacher Research and Inquiry Community (NWP Radio)

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Summary: In this NWP Radio program, moderator Elyse Eidman-Aadahl and teachers from the Southern Arizona Writing Project provide an overview of teacher research in general along with various approaches and settings (first 16 minutes), followed by stories of how the projects of three teachers impacted their practice, built connections with students and families, and benefited from a shared community of practice (16:00-51:35 total; 16:16 Laurie; 29:05 Denise; 39:11 Leah). Each segment provides unique insights that could inform new and experienced teachers engaged in teacher research and speaks to the power of teachers writing and talking about their work.

Teaching in a Time of Dogs

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Author: Tom Goodson

Summary: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.”  As most teachers will tell you, there may be no truer statement about teaching. In this essay, the writer reflects on an incident that occurred years ago in his middle school classroom that has continued to serve as a guiding metaphor for “the uncertainty that is the beauty and the challenge of teaching.” In seeking to place students, not standards, as our starting point, this article could serve as an inspiration for teachers–in any inquiry group, institute or professional development program–to reflect on the lives of their students and the dynamic of teaching and learning in their classrooms. 

Changing Teaching from Within: Teachers as Leaders

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Author: Ann Lieberman & Linda Friedrich

Summary: For sites and individuals interested in exploring why teachers become leaders in their schools and communities and how they move into positions of leadership, this paper and accompanying slides provide a rich and in-depth look at stories from a research study of NWP teacher-leaders recognized as effective models of teacher leadership. Exemplary in its research methodology and rich in detail and examples of collaboration, coaching, reflective practice and professional growth within school reform contexts, these resources could be useful in study groups and a variety of other contexts where teachers seek to learn about teacher leadership and NWP social practices in action.

Transforming Professional Lives through Online Participation

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Author: Luke Rodesiler, Meenoo Rami, Gary Anderson, Cindy Minnich, Brian Kelley, Sarah Andersen

Summary: The NWP principle of “going public with our practice” has taken on new meaning as avenues for connecting and going public have continued to open. This article takes a deep look at what happens when five teachers take their practice public and put themselves “out there” professionally. You’ll read stories of how teachers have overcome isolation by making connections and developing professional learning networks online, grown and evolved their own teaching practice, and developed their writer identity. The writers also share how online participation led them to new levels of teacher leadership through exciting professional opportunities that became available because of the visibility they gained by “going public with their practice.”

More Than Skin Deep: Professional Development that Transforms Teachers

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Author: Deborah Dean, Melissa Heaton, Sarah Orme, Gary Woodward

Summary: Four teacher-consultants explore how their involvement in the Writing Project fundamentally shifted how they approached writing, both their own and their students’. They each detail how it demystified the apparent magic that produces good writing, drawing them wholeheartedly into the messiness, collaboration, and beauty that the process of writing truly entails.

When Students Take a Critical Lens to Traditional Literature: Protest and Student Voice

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Author: Kathleen Hicks Rowley

Summary: With the goal of engaging her students “in using their voices to become positive agents of change in their community,” high school teacher Kathleen Hicks Rowley revamped her ELA curriculum in order to address issues of equity and access. In the process of their class reading of Lord of the Flies students were encouraged to develop a critical stance to both the literature and the world. For classroom teachers and teacher leaders interested in issues of social justice and critical literacy, this resource provides an overview of class activities along with suggested readings and student artifacts.