Reflections of Blending English and Technology in the Classroom

Archive for July 2010

IWP – Powerful PD for All Educators

leave a comment »

This past July I finished Level II of the IWP (Iowa Writing Project) a branch of the NWP (National Writing Project). I am currently working on my Master of Art in English through UNI and was required to take IWP as part of the graduate requirement. Although some of the courses I have taken in my program will have little impact on my current teaching assignment, I have been forever changed personally and pedagogically by my experience with the IWP.

IWP is a member of the NWP (National Writing Project). The NWP and IWP began in the 1970s to promote writing in all grade levels, across all curriculums to increase student learning. Both also promote the professional development and reflection in teachers through writing.

I have always found creative writing difficult to teach. How does one inspire creativity in students? How do you grade/assess creative writing? I have had no problems teaching Advanced Writing and Research – using MLA as my text and modeling how I tackled research papers, students easily learned the skills necessary to complete assigned papers. Creative writing, on the other hand, was a more difficult subject to teach. Every year, for one semester, I would assign students compare/contrast, persuasive, classification, etc. papers. They would complete them, sometimes share the writing, I would grade them with my trusty rubric, then they would be tossed into the recycle bin.

Last summer I took IWP Level I and was revived with a passion to write personally and teach writing to my students. I started the school year with a toolbox of ideas and enthusiasm to try a new way of writing in my classroom. I threw out my old lessons and began anew, inspiring students with models of stellar writing, poetry, objects, locations, etc. I organized my classroom into a  workshop -style model – “Inspiration” on Monday and Wednesday, writing on Tuesday and Thursday, sharing on Friday. I allowed my students to explore multiple genres of writing, choosing the best fit for each individual topic. I modeled response – a major area that was lacking in previous years. The students wrote, created, shared, laughed, and cried. A community of writers was born, and when our class suffered a tragic loss of a student during the semester, it was their writing, his writing, their responses, and their memories that helped them heal. In fact, they graduated with a meaningful class motto – part of a piece that he had written that year. This past year had been my most successful and satisfying as an educator and I attribute it to my IWP experience. The students also found value in their writing, wrote more, and enjoyed the class. And although my focus was on the Creative Writing class that I taught, the things I learned in the IWP trickled over into all of my classes.

This year BCLUW will focus on Project Based Learning, and writing will fit seamlessly into our goals for student learning. Using the IWP instructors, BCLUW will have professional development days focused on ways to incorporate writing into the classroom. Throughout the next couple years, part of our PD days will be spent filling our toolboxes with writing strategies to help our students learn, write, read, and reflect. Throughout the year I will update this blog on the impact the PD is having on staff and students.

The NWP and IWP offer opportunities for all educators, regardless of subject and grade. My experience included a myriad of educators, from a shop teacher to an elementary teacher, writing and researching how best to incorporate writing into their own classroom. IWP has been the most powerful PD I have ever taken. It has not only changed the way that I teach, it has changed the way my students view writing and themselves as writers!

Written by sfarnsworth

July 27, 2010 at 1:52 pm

Posted in Writing

Tagged with , , , , , , ,