DiigoNotes - NWP in Central Texas

It's amazing what's going on around one and still remaining clueless...sigh. Fascinating stuff.
    • Every summer, across the nation, teachers assemble on college campuses to learn the best ways to teach writing. These summer institutes are part of the National Writing Project, a professional development network of kindergarten through college teachers. For four weeks, these teachers demonstrate their classroom practices, stretch their own writing skills, and above all, learn from each other.
    • “We all believe in the model of teachers teaching teachers,” says Dr. Liz Stephens, director of the Central Texas Writing Project on the Texas State campus, one of 12 writing project sites statewide and 200 nationwide. All are on college and university campuses and are funded through a grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
    • When Stephens started the Central Texas Writing Project, there were only four National Writing Project sites in Texas. Directors of those four met at Texas State in 2002 to talk about how to expand the program in the state. “We had a map of Texas on the wall,” Stephens says, “and said, ‘Here are our four. Where else do we need sites?’ We picked out several colleges and universities, and we now have sites at just about all of them.”
    • Writing is evolving, Stephens says, especially among those she calls digital natives. “Take text language,” she says. “Is it a valid form of our vernacular or not? Is it something we should accept in colleges or not? It’s a form of speedwriting that has emerged from instant messaging and text messaging by the digital natives, young people who are very comfortable and savvy with technology. So now they’re growing up and going to college and they are using text language in their freshman comp classes and in their essays. New Zealand even accepts it in their high school exit exams.
    • “Faculty have mixed feelings,” she continues. “Some people think text language is outrageous and ridiculous. Others embrace it and think it’s just a shift in the way our language works.”
    • “Each teacher presents a virtual visit to his or her classroom,” Stephens says. “The teacher brings the lesson, and the rest of us write like the kids in that classroom would write. We’ll be writing as kindergarteners one day and seventh-graders the next day. Some of the high school teachers roll their eyes when they think about writing like a kindergartner and listening to a kindergarten teacher explain what happens in her classroom. But they are blown away by the end of the presentation. They’ll say things like ‘I didn’t know that you had to put two fingers between two words within a sentence to teach them that this is one word and this is another.’”
    • After completing the institute, participants become consultants for the National Writing Project. “They become teacher leaders,” Stephens says. “They do professional development workshops, mentoring, study groups, whatever a school district needs. They also teach young writers camps in the summer.”
    • “What I call the magic of it is that they become writers,” she says, “They’re already writers, of course, but they become aware of themselves as writers. So they’re as much writers as they are teachers and as much teachers as they are writers. I can’t tell you how many times a teacher has told me, ‘This changed my life.’ Teachers teaching teachers is empowering.”

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