Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Teacher as Consultant

Writing: A Family Project

By Kim Pavlock and Cathy Fleischer

Since January of this year, we have had the privilege of presenting more than fifteen workshops for parents, teachers, and families through the EMWP Family Literacy Initiative. While we have received a number of requests in the past two years for our 90-minute workshop for parents and our 90-minute workshop for families, two schools (Pittsfield Elementary School in Ann Arbor, and the Cesar Chavez Academy in Detroit) requested our four-workshop series, Make Way for Writing: The Family Writing Project this past winter and spring.

Over the course of a month, students and families at each of these schools came together on four different occasions to listen to, write, and share stories about favorite places to play. Each workshop brought forth incredible energy and enthusiasm as the families talked together about their memories of play places, wrote stories and poems about those places, and worked hard to make these places come alive for their readers. Students learned about strategies like adding details, taking snapshots, choosing strong nouns and verbs, and writing good leads. Parents learned strategies and techniques for talking with their children about writing and ways to support their children as writers.

In the first of four sessions, we read stories and poems about favorite play places and invited the children and their parents to draw, brainstorm, and begin writing about a favorite play place. In the second session, we focused on revision techniques and introduced students and families to Barry Lane’s Snapshots, Thoughtshots, and Exploding the Moment.

In the third session, we focused on the finer points of polishing, introducing students and families to self and peer evaluation and offering checklists we developed based on their own school’s grade level expectations. During the fourth and last session, participants came together for a celebration of writing where families received an anthology of the students’ and parents’ writing collected and published by the Eastern Michigan Writing Project, had a chance to read their writing out loud, and sign autographs.

Just as writing is a key component to these sessions, so, too, is the time spent stepping back to reflect on what the writers are learning about writing and how to support student writers. We brought each session to a close with a discussion about the different strategies that we modeled and how the parents might adapt these strategies at home. And because a number of parents attending these workshops could not speak or understand English, we were fortunate to have had a Spanish translator present at each session to help us work with the families (provided by the schools).

We’d love to encourage any TCs who are interested to join us in this special opportunity to meet and work with families on writing. So far Lisa Eddy, Deb Hetrick, Susan Lake, and Lori Loewer have participated. Every time we work with families, we are amazed at their willingness to share and write about some treasured memories that touched their lives. As Cynthia Ozick explains, “If we had to say what writing is, we would define it essentially as an act of courage.”

We applaud the students for their work in developing and polishing their writing. And we commend the parents, too, for modeling the importance of writing by immersing themselves in the writing process as well and publishing a piece of writing in either English or in Spanish. For more information on how you can participate contact Kim or Cathy at

Inkstains Young Writers’ Summer Camps

Middle School – July 7-11, 2008

High School – July 14-18, 2008

By Doug Baker

Inkstains, EMWP’s Young Writers’ Camp for middle and high school students, returns for its fifth year. For the first three years, Tim Authier (now a vice principal at Dexter High School) directed the highly touted camps and provided middle and high school students with opportunities to engage as writers and to develop as communities of writers. The young writers experienced daily writing activities offered by local teachers and writers; they shared manuscripts with peers, published selected works in an anthology, and engaged in “slam poetry,” among other events. Last summer, Aimee Grant Eldon (EMWP Fellow 2003), an English teacher at Huron High School (Ann Arbor), continued to direct the camp in exciting, new directions.

This year, Aimee will once again direct the camp, and she plans to continue the energetic pace for this summer’s young writers. She has selected EMWP fellows (all certified local teachers) as instructors for the camps and is in the process of coordinating visiting writers and other events.

EMWP invites middle or high school students to apply for the camp, and teachers are asked to encourage interested students to apply. The application may be sent to the address below and should be accompanied by a letter of recommendation from a teacher and a writing sample from the student. The camps will be hosted by EMWP and EMU at the new Student Center.

Please email or send questions about the camps to:

Dr. W. Douglas Baker (
Co-Director Inkstains Young Writers’ Summer Camp
Eastern Michigan University
612 Pray-Harrold
Ypsilanti, MI 48197

For an online copy of the Inkstains brochure, visit

Helping Families Love to Write

By Kim Pavlock

On Monday, June 9, 2008, Kim Pavlock and Deb Hetrick will present a parent workshop at 826michigan in Ann Arbor entitled, “Write On! Summer Activities for the Whole Family.” The focus of the workshop will be to explore family activities that promote writing as well as effective ways to respond to children about their writing. The EMWP Family Literacy Initiative seeks to help families discover joy and meaning in writing. To attend the workshop, please email to reserve a spot.

During the Inkstains Middle School Writing Camp, which takes place July 7 - 11, Cathy Fleischer and Kim Pavlock will offer two sessions for parents of students enrolled in the camp on the topic of “How to Support Your Middle School Writer.” The purpose of these workshops is to help parents find ways to support their child as a writer: by learning about best practices in writing instruction, by discovering specific strategies that parents can use to help student writers, and by doing a little writing themselves.

On Tuesday, July 8, parents will explore strategies, take part in a “parents only, mini-writing marathon” (much like the one their kids will experience on Monday), and learn tips for how to respond to kids’ writing. On Friday, parents will learn ways to talk about writing with students beyond the one-week camp. For more information about this unique opportunity for middle school parents, please contact Kim Pavlock at