Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Teachers Love Summer Vacation TOO

I am a teacher/writer, and I spent my first week of summer vacation facilitating a workshop for teachers called Strategies for Teaching Writing. As a teacher consultant for the Appalachian Writing Project(AWP), (http://people.uvawise.edu/awp/) I am dedicated to coaching teachers on how to use more writing in their classes regardless of the subject area.

AWP is part of the National Writing Project, an organization networked across the country and anchored in colleges and universities. It's mission: "The National Writing Project focuses the knowledge, expertise, and leadership of our nation's educators on sustained efforts to improve writing and learning for all learners." (http://www.nwp.org/cs/public/print/doc/about.csp).

Fourteen teachers from six different school districts gathered for a week of learning about and exchanging best practices for teaching writing. These ladies had just walked out of their classrooms and into mine. Their jobs ranged from teaching grades kindergarten to high school with subjects ranging from English to Art. They were tired and worn-out from all the duties and responsibilities of ending a school year, but they were ready to soak up new strategies to take back to their classrooms - classrooms they had just left.

Dedication. These ladies are perfect examples of dedicated teachers. They soaked up the new activities, research, and presentations like they were fresh, rested and ready to charge back into the classroom the next day.They shared one of their best teaching strategies and demonstrated how it was used in their classrooms.

We discussed ways to engage our students, and we shared ways to help our students learn how to communicate through writing.

AWP Teacher consultants came to the workshop to do demonstrations they had prepared. We discussed: 

Motivating the Reluctant Writer

Hook, Line, and Reel Them In:  Writing Great Opening Lines

Book Arts (How to make books and journals with our students
Oral History and Writing in the Primary Classroom

Appalachian Literature and Local Authors

Evaluating and Publishing Your Students’ Work 

Making Writing Meaningful  

Boys Will Be Writers—How to Narrow the Performance Gap Between Boys and Girls

We discussed how to use journals as a tool to teach writing and shared topics for student writing.
We even went on a scavenger hunt in the library to "find" poems!

On the last day of the workshop, we used Skype technology to talk to Dr. Amy Clark, professor at UVA Wise and co-author of the book Talking Appalachian. Amy told the group about the research that went into this book, and how we, as teachers, can use it to help our students in Appalachia understand their English is not "wrong". We can teach our students that the language of their region is a "living testament to its rich heritage."
The book contains essays and excerpts from works by authors such as George Ella Lyon and Silas House.
The group left Amy's discussion talking about how to teach our students how to "code-switch" from their "home-voice" to more standard English. By teaching them where their language/dialect comes from, we are empowering them in the classroom and beyond.

Do teachers like summer vacation? Of course we do! But this group of dedicated ladies gave up a week of  their summer vacation to gather a toolbox of ideas and activities for their upcoming classes. They know that the summer will speed by and soon they will be standing in front of a group of fresh faces, ready to learn!

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