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National Writing Project Core Program

The National Writing Project has a well-defined core program that every one of its local sites must follow in order to receive annual funding. The model may be confusing because parts one and two (see below) have one purpose and parts three and four (also below) have another. The purpose of parts one and two is to develop a group of trainers, that is, expert teachers who can teach and mentor their colleagues in school and district programs, including partnership programs. The purpose of parts three and four is to conduct those school and district programs, using the trainers/expert teachers in instructor/mentor roles. In other words, parts one and two are the prerequisites for parts three and four.

Part I - Invitational Institute

Every site conducts a four- to five-week invitational institute for expert teachers in the teaching of writing and in the uses of writing to learn. Applicants are screened through nominations, writing samples, references, and interviews. Those selected for a university fellowship--from 20 to 25 each year--are trained in the invitational institute to become teacher-consultants, that is, the teachers who will conduct writing project programs in the schools and districts in the surrounding area. The training has three parts:

  1. Every participant gives a demonstration of a successful approach to teaching writing, writing and reading, or writing to learn in a specific subject area. Each demonstration includes the classroom practice, the supporting research, and the student writing that resulted.
  2. Every participant reads and discusses research in the teaching of composition, including research on specific processes (i.e., drafting and revision), on specific populations (i.e., teaching writing to English language learners), on writing conventions, on writing assessment, and on uses of writing to improve student achievement in reading, mathematics, science, and so forth.
  3. All participants write in multiples genres for multiple purposes to gain firsthand experience in the kinds of writing they teach their students and in the kinds of interventions students might need.

Part II - Continuity Programs: follow-up to the invitational institute

Every site offers follow-up programs for its teacher-consultants to keep them engaged in learning and in training for their roles as consultants. Follow-up programs include study groups, seminars, teacher research programs, university courses, conferences, advanced institutes, writing and reading groups, and curriculum development.

Part III - Inservice

Every site provides outreach programs to schools and districts in the local area. Every site is expected to offer extended programs (from 15 to 30 hours) and to follow the NWP teachers-teaching-teachers model. Teacher-consultants (institute graduates) provide demonstrations of exceptional classroom practices in the teaching of writing, along with supporting research and student results. Participating teachers are asked to apply each practice in their classrooms and to analyze, with the support of the writing project consultants, how their students responded.

The content of the inservice sessions is well defined, that is, participating teachers may receive instruction on how to help students plan, draft, revise, edit, and publish their writing. They learn how to analyze student writing and how to conference with students. They learn how to teach writing for different purposes and audiences, how to use writing in connection with reading and with other subject areas, and how to assess writing. They learn techniques for teaching writing to special populations of students, for example, English language learners. However, clearly the content has to vary from school to school. If the teachers are new to the teaching of writing, the workshops are tailored to that situation. If many of the students speak English as a second language, the workshops focus on approaches that will enhance the achievement of those students. The writing project works with administrators and faculty members at a given school to make clear what content will give students the most support, whether it is learning how to write a research paper or learning the fundamentals of proofreading.

Part IV - Partnerships

Where funding is available, NWP sites conduct school and district partnership programs. The NWP partnership model offers a variety of programs from which a school can select or gradually build its partnership with the writing project. But as with the training model for teacher-consultants, there are core provisions for school partnerships, that is, partnerships consist of the writing project's central programs: institutes, workshops (or coaching), and continuity (study groups or seminars). A description of available services follows:

Summer Institutes: Like the invitational institute previously described, these institutes focus on teacher demonstrations of best practices, on reading and discussing research, and on participant writing. In this case, however, the demonstrations are provided by experienced writing project teacher-consultants, rather than by the participants themselves.

Inservice workshops: These workshops have also been described previously.

Demonstration teaching/coaching in classrooms: The purpose of this component, as with the others, is to improve student literacy outcomes by strengthening teacher practice. Experienced teacher-consultants are paired with school participants to solve the everyday and complex problems of teaching, to develop shared language and concepts for learning new knowledge, to introduce key research, and to provide teachers with strategies that will help students with their writing and reading.

Curriculum development: Teacher-consultants and teacher participants create curriculum that moves students toward designated outcomes. For example, more than half of the partnerships at California Writing Project locations support the development of curriculum to improve students' academic writing and reading in preparation for college. This focus is especially important in schools and districts with a high proportion of ELL students.

Study groups and seminars: Focused on particular issues, such as working with state standards, these forums offer teachers the opportunity to discuss interpretations and practical applications, to share resources, and to problem solve.

On-site writing assessments: Where teachers and students find it useful and where they are not overwhelmed by other testing programs, the writing project conducts direct assessments of student writing performances, including fall and spring samples, portfolio assessment, or assessments that involve both writing and reading. The purpose is for teachers and students to learn assessment techniques, to understand scoring procedures, to analyze results, and most important, to use assessments to inform instruction.

Parent, community and young writer programs: Partnership schools have access to the full range of local writing project programs, whether these programs take place at the school site or on campus. In this category, schools tend to choose most often opportunities for young writers. Young writers programs, or camps, as they are sometimes called, serve students of all age groups. Like the ever popular sports camps, they provide a combination of intense instruction, engaging activities, interaction with peers, and inevitably, pizza parties. The writing that results from the programs is published either in anthologies, on web sites, or both.

Planning and goal setting: Initially, but also throughout the partnership, writing projects and schools refer to their shared plans, data, procedures, outcomes, and expectations for evaluation.

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Last Modified: 02/16/2005