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NWP & NCTE: Collegial Conferring and Conversation at its Best

By Janice Ewing & Mary Buckelew

        Several of us had the good fortune to attend the National Writing Project and National Council of Teachers of English annual conferences, which were back-to-back in Boston from Nov. 20th to 24th. One of the NWP standout sessions for me was “Narrative Troubles (and that’s a good thing): On Why and How to Find, Shape, and Share Stories of Classroom Life.” I was drawn to this session because I believe that, more than ever, teachers need to support each other and advocate for themselves as a group. I also believe that this can start with sharing our stories. Read more

Full Circle

By Jolene Borgese

      I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe people come in and out of our lives for a reason and a few stick around forever. I am most curious about the people who come in and out our lives and then return years later. I haven’t figured out the reason, but I suspect I never will.

      This semester I have been teaching graduate school and presenting professional development (for the Pennsylvania Writing and Literature Project) at two very different schools. There seems to be an invisible thread running through all these very different teachers I’ve met.  They are young, old, privileged, struggling, working at stellar schools, and schools that lack sufficient books. All of these teachers have a common need that I had first addressed 30 some years ago – writing instruction strategies, specifically revision strategies. Read more

Making it Manageable: Feedback at Every Step

by Tricia Ebarvia

      Conferring with students can be exhausting.  Sometimes a single conference can take 10-15 minutes, and if you have 100+ students, conferring is also incredibly time consuming. Time spent conferring with students is time away from whole class instruction, curricular planning, and much-needed grading. But feedback from conferring is invaluable.  When I was in the Writing Institute two years ago, I emailed Penny Kittle for some advice.  I was struggling with how to fit all the elements of the workshop model outlined in her book Write Beside Them.  When I mentioned reducing time for conferring, her response was unequivocal.  “Conferring is our most powerful teaching time,” she responded. “Everyone learns best in the context of their own writing piece, so we have to work it into practice.”

Still, time is always the issue.  Read more

Practical Management of the Writing Workshop: The Super Board

by Gaetan Pappalardo

The writing workshop is fluid. The currents and tides are in constant motion (literally and figuratively) because it’s fueled by the human element. I’m not going to lie.  It’s a mess. I know this sounds like a headache. It certainly can be, but kids need this “mess” to find the gold. Barry Lane, author, speaker, and musician, states in his book, But How Do you Teach Writing?, that real writing needs time, space, and freedom. Read more