Now in its second year, Gate City Writes, in partnership with the UNCG School of Education, invited area K-12 educators for the Gates City Writes Conference July 10-13. Ten teachers from multiple content areas and one library specialist joined us to experience a writer-centered, strengths-based approach to the writing process. We continued the theme from our inaugural year, “Teachers as Writers, Writers as Teachers,” prompting conference participants both to learn about instructional strategies for young writers and to practice being writers themselves.
Discussions centered on the use of a number of instructional strategies to support young writers: occasional papers, daybooks, writing workshop, mini-lessons, conferencing, and mentor texts. Participants kept their own daybooks and met in workshop groups as they prepared their own occasional papers, which they presented at the end of the week. Beautiful pieces about family, pets, learning, math, identities and more were shared by our talented teacher-writers.
Participants also had opportunities to observe the Young Writer’s Camps sessions running concurrently in the UNCG School of Education. We saw students preparing spoken word poetry, composing fiction, using digital tools to create podcasts and publish their writing – all ideas our teachers can take back into their classrooms this fall. We were also privileged to observe and assist with the Community Voices Project, which helps immigrant and refugees from the Triad compose and record their autobiographical stories. Community Voices Project is a joint partnership between UNCG and the Coalition for Diversity, Language and Community. With THREE programs – one for students, one for teachers, and one for community members – all under one roof, we were wonderfully crowded with many voices imagining possibilities, crafting stories, rewriting their worlds.
Our work continues with Gate City Writes, and we look forward to a year of opportunities to reconnect our educators with one another and to engage Triad schools in the work of fostering student and teacher voices through writing.
When I taught high school English, I became familiar with the dramatic moans and groans from some students after I said, We get to write today! Some students, clearly uncomfortable with this task, resisted by saying, I’m not a writer or I don’t write or I’m not good at writing.
In my early years of teaching, I used to buy into that kind of fixed mindset. To help them, I provided structure (e.g., 5-paragraph essay worksheets) and strategies (e.g., daily journal prompts). Even though some of them improved on academic writing, they never said I’m a writer, and that really bothered me. I wanted my students to leave my classroom believing that they were writers in some way.
In my latter years, I responded to students’ comments by saying, Everyone is a writer. We just have to figure out what you want to write about and how you want to write it.
To read more, check out our publication on Writers Who Care.
Curious about occasional papers, daybooks, writing workshop, conferencing, and mentor texts as tools to support writers? Gate City Writes Conference participants took away these concepts and more at our session for in-service teachers. The Young Writer’s Camp that began five years ago to connect young writers with university education faculty has sparked a community that now includes UNCG graduate students and teachers pursuing continuing education in writing instruction.
Gate City Writes, in partnership with the UNCG School of Education and the Impact Through Innovation Grant, sponsored the first Gate City Writes Conference July 10-13. Twelve area K-12 teachers were invited to experience a writer-centered, strengths-based approach to the writing process. This year’s conference theme was “Teachers as Writers, Writers as Teachers,” prompting conference participants both to learn about instructional strategies for young writers and to practice being writers themselves.
In addition to spending time with student writers in the Young Writer’s Camp sessions, conference participants wrote their own occasional papers on topics ranging from the teaching profession to standards of beauty to the sometimes-bizarre nature of our dreams. On the final day each teacher-writer took a turn in the Author’s Chair to read his or her work aloud to the group.