Friday, September 5, 2008

September Edition of eMuse

Welcome to the September edition of eMuse!
Click here for the current "Tap into Writing" calendar and "Writing for Real" flier.

Really Writing:

A Conference for Everyone
By Bill Tucker

What do you write in the “real world”? How often have our students asked a version of this question or challenged some of our lamer writing assignments? In our first collaboration with the EMU Writing-Across-the- Curriculum program, the Eastern Michigan Writing Project will address this enduring question in sixteen sessions aimed at students, grades 2-college, so we call it “Writing for Real: Writing for Professional, Social and Exploratory Purposes.”

Starting at 9 a.m. on September 27, “Writing for Real” will cover the third floor of the Student Center at EMU. Keynoting the sessions will be Dr. Elizabeth Moje, Thurnau Professor of Educational Studies at the University of Michigan, who will speak on:

“What Does it Mean to Write ‘For Real’
in the Subject Matter Areas?
Learning from Writing in the Disciplines and Professions”

“A former high school history and biology teacher, Moje’s research interests revolve around the intersection between the literacies and texts youth are asked to learn in the disciplines (particularly in science and social studies) and the literacies and texts they take up outside of school.” She has written three books and in numerous research journals on adolescent literacy.

The sixteen concurrent sessions will represent all grades in every time slot. For example, in grades 2-9 “Navigating Non-Fiction Writing: Sail into Writing Using Non-Fiction Text Structures 2-9,” in the secondary grades, “Why do I have to write in here? Leading Students to Persuasive Writing in Social Studies,” in grades 6-12, “Opinion Implosion: How to Help Students Write Interesting Literary Essays,” and in college, “Genre, Convention, and Strategy: Three Words for Real Writing.”

The conference should attract science, social studies, construction, and business teachers, as well as language arts. We hope you will invite colleagues, who are not familiar with the Eastern Michigan Writing project.
Pre-register by September 19 to reserve breakfast, lunch, and a banquet of teaching wisdom. We’ll be sharing teaching experience across a wide range of schooling. Please join the conversation!

Registration and payment requested by September 19, 2008: click here for the registration form.

>For more information, please contact Dr. Bill Tucker ( or

Kimberly Pavlock (

Creative Inklings

By Angela Knight

Creative Inklings was a half-day camp for students entering fifth-ninth grades at two Hamtramck schools. The camp was a hybrid of the writing project summer institute and the Inkstains creative writing camp at EMU. We started each day with a prompt, had a writing marathon, and published an anthology by Friday. Our writing groups met daily. Teachers had an opportunity to practice writing instruction strategies to a receptive audience of eager writers.

We did our best to transform the classroom into a writing area: pillows, bean bags, papsan chairs, colorful curtains, fake plants, and carpets. There were end table with clipboards, magazines, and community journals. Students and teachers sat on the pillows on the floors, and we wrote together.

Iqra Nasir is a sophomore at HHS. She was the junior counselor for the middle level camp week, and helped out during the last two days of the elementary camp, and submitted the following thoughts about the camp for this article:

This camp gave middle school and elementary school students a chance to express their thoughts and feelings through writing. Students were also taught how to make their writing more unique. Teachers gave writing prompts designed to inspire students to write about what they see and hear.

The campers were taken on field trips to Greenfield Village and Belle Isle for a writing marathon. No, we weren’t writing and running. The purpose of these field trips was to get the students thinking about what they saw and inspire then to write.

As the week went by, teachers shared their ideas about how to improve writing skills, and how little things can make a bigger story.

The writing camp let the kids’ imaginations go wild. From comfy pillows to great shirts, this camp has given the kids a great opportunity to express themselves with the help of others.

The encouragement and motivation throughout the weeks resulted in two anthologies. “Inspiration Creation” and “Thinklings of Inklings” are filled with poems, narratives, short stories, and much more.

Writing was a passion of these campers. So at the end each camper got to read their creation to their parents and friends at a reading party.

“If you wish to be a writer, write” by Epictetus was our motto.

Everyone who helped with this camp made it a true success.

Almedina Agic is an eighth grader at KMS, and wrote the following about her camp experience:

Camp was a great experience for me. I learned so much. The activities were creative and fun, but they also taught me a lot. We learned about the writing process in a whole new light. There were lots of laughs and lots of ideas. The writing marathon to Greenfield Village was a great idea. The sites were interesting to see, and it was nice to have some inspiration. At the end of the week, we got our anthologies. They were filled with writing from all the writing camp members. Some were short, some were long, but all were beautifully written. I was even a little sad when camp ended. I know one thing for sure: I can't wait for camp again!

Jawaria Sarfraz is a seventh grader at KMS, and wrote:

Creative Inklings is the best summer writing camp, you can ever go to! When it's your first day of camp, you will get to introduce yourself to the classroom, and you'll also get your own little backpack, pen, journal, t-shirt, and name tag.

Friday was the last day of camp, and we had a celebration. We received our anthologies and shared with everyone. After that, we got awards and a group picture. This is what the summer writing camp was all about: fun and writing. If you join the Creative Inklings Summer Writing Camp, then that'll be one of your best moments in the summer!

Angela Knight was the co-director, with Tricia Maslowski, of the two weeks of writing camp. We are deeply indebted to Shirley Klokkenga, Aimee Grant, and Doug Baker at Inkstains for sharing their time and ideas to get us started.

Inkstains 2008: Writing in the Summertime at EMU!

By Sarah Soebbing

This past July, I had the privilege of facilitating the middle school week-long writing camp along with Shirley Klokkenga. Inkstains 2008 had extremely high registration in both the middle and high school camps; both camps had more students interested than we could accept. Campers and parents alike repeatedly recommended we extend Inkstains’ length and enrollment.

On the final day of camp, when families were invited to share pizza and listen to the students read from their anthology, several parents begged us to extend the camp for at least another week. Parents were blown away by the enthusiasm from their students, not to mention the amazing anthology of writing the students created in less than five days!

Students at the middle school camp enjoyed using many different writing prompts and situations as inspiration for their writing. Below students use mysterious images as starting points for writing their own mysteries:

The camp met in EMU’s student center, which provided large and inspirational windows for writing:

I brought my passion for blogging to this year’s middle school camp, in hopes to build even more of a sense of a “community of writers,” to create the chance for students to continue writing on their blogs and possibly stay in touch with each other after camp, and to provide an additional “space” in which the students could practice writing.

Modeled after the EMWP’s summer institute, I updated our camp blog (

after each day with a re-cap of what we did and lots of pictures. And in addition, each student created their own personal blog that connected to our camp blog.

Students were able to utilize the computer rooms in EMU’s library for writing and editing their pieces for the anthology, as well as updating their writing blogs.

One of the highlights of the week: the writing marathon! We explored EMU’s campus for interesting places in which to write:

All week long we had local writers visit our camp as guest speakers. The students had tons of questions for all of our guest speakers, but were particularly in awe of Professor Heather Neff. Not only did she keep them mesmerized as she spoke, but she also offered the chance for them to read their writing and receive valuable feedback from her. We were all so grateful!

Heather Neff gave us tons of great advice, including:

"When you are at school, write for your teachers. When you aren't, write for yourself.”

During our discussion with Professor Neff about writing, and why it is important to us, these memorable student comments were made:

"If I get in trouble, I don't tell my mom. I write it down and put it next to her bed." - Rashika Ramireddy

"Paper doesn't laugh at you when you put your ideas on it." – Emily Loewer

I found the experience of Inkstains truly remarkable. There was a palpable feeling that the students really wanted to be there, and really wanted to grow as writers. I particularly remember a moment during our writing marathon, where student after student lined up with their writer’s notebook, desperately wanting me to read what they were working on and give them feedback. “Will you read mine next?” they begged.

The students were such a joy to work with. Their enthusiasm was infectious. I had more fun than I could have ever imagined. And how could you not, when surrounded by happy faces like these?

Killing the Blues: Optimism Returns

An Anthology of Teacher Narratives

By Deb Marsh

The Eastern Michigan Writing Project of 2007 was such an amazing experience for its members that we decided to write a book. We decided that a collection of teacher narratives would be useful to others as well as ourselves. It's available on and if you're interested in laughing and crying with us, sit down, open the book and enjoy!

A few “preview” quotes:

“This compilation of narratives is written by teachers who have reached out and cried, gotten up and laughed, sat back and wondered, and gone back again and again.” - Chelly Eifert

“Learning is the same for the adults as it is for the kids. While magic is not an ingredient, being rooted in the possible, as opposed to thinking of the impossibilities, helps move that learning forward.” - Nick Kalakailo

“This is not about grades; this is about something much more.” - Angela Knight

“As an eternal optimist, I foresee a time when writing is an integral and accepted part of every class and isn’t seen as the sole domain of the English teachers.” - Carol Sliwka

Kudos to Dingell

By Bill Tucker

Jim Schaefer, TC’04, shared this response to our July Writing Initiative with Congress. Rep. John Dingell (15th District) has been an active supporter of the National Writing Project for at least two years, signing the “Dear Colleague” sponsorship letter in 2006 and 2007.

Considering the cynical storm we have rained on the current Congress, I think Rep Dingell deserves our thanks for keeping abreast of the authorization bill for NWP. I append his letter below to show his thoughtful support of the bill that keeps the NWP breathing.

If you become aware of comparable support from other members of Congress, please send me the documentation, and we will make sure they will be recognized in our circle and around the state (

Dear James:

Thank you for writing to express your support for the National Writing Project (NWP). I agree with you.

As you know, the NWP is dedicated to improving student writing through teacher development. Education is a top priority in this country and I feel strongly that one way we can improve the quality of our schools is by providing continuing education and development programs for our teachers. NWP has proven to be a wise investment that allows teachers to continue their education, and in doing so, helps them to bring new, fresh and better approaches to learning to their students. It is vital that we give every child the tools needed to succeed in a changing world and there is no better way to do this than by giving teachers the chance to learn new methods.

On August 3, 2007, Representative George Miller (D-CA) introduced H.R. 3357, legislation to reauthorize the NWP. The bill would increase the maximum federal share of payments for teacher training and authorize funding for the program through fiscal year 2013. H.R. 3357 has been referred to the House Education and Labor Committee. While I do not sit on this Committee, I will be sure to take your comments into consideration should the bill come before me.

Again, thank you for being in touch. For news on current federal

legislative issues, please visit my website at ; you can also sign up there to receive my e-newsletter. In the meantime, please do not hesitate to contact me again if I may be of assistance with this or any other matter of


With every good wish,

Sincerely yours,

- John D. Dingell

- Member of Congress

Enjoying Student Feedback
by Jim Schaefer

At the end of each semester, I ask my college composition students to compose a journal in which they share three or four insights that they discovered in their writing during the class. This serves as an invaluable source for reflecting on my teaching strategies and the quality of interaction with students in a specific class. I call this activity a “portfolio presentation,” since my students are asked to prepare this one-page journal after putting all their work (reports, journals, and essays) in chronological order.
I should mention that I divide the class up into small groups at the beginning of the semester and that there are three basic types of writing assignments: reports (one-paragraph responses), journals (one-page explorations of the topic of their choice), and essays (three typed pages on the topic of their choice). Throughout, I use the process method to cultivate students’ voices and their ability to “speak” from their hearts in all their writing tasks.
Here are some of the highlights of their comments. I would imagine that these comments run parallel to what many (if not all) of you also experience. I’m sharing the comments here, for I find myself compelled to read student feedback because it’s so enjoyable. I’m also sharing these comments here, in the context of the Eastern Michigan Writing Project and the National Writing Project, because they indicate how powerfully and effectively the process strategy works for students in their writing.

* Student A talked about how the process method helped her deal with the “emotional block” she faces when she tries to write—and how she was able to transcend that limitation.
* Student B “liked the fact that we could write whatever came to the heart” and that the combination of the workshop format and the other students in his small group helped him when he “was stuck on a thesis statement” or other technical issues. That student said the experience was “one of the most interesting I have ever been in.”
* Student C said that as she reflected on the semester, she could see how her writing had improved so she would “stay on topic much better,” with stronger focus. She added that she thought the class was “valuable” for “her education” because it taught her a lot about “formal writing.”
* Student D said he felt “more confident” about his writing because he was “given the freedom to express whatever I felt was important to me,” and that this freedom helped him “get a good writing process down” in which he could “better apply to subjects that I’m not so familiar with.”
* Student E said that he learned that “revision is your friend” and that “rewrites…and the looking at it [the essay] again lend themselves to clarity and better writing.”

So enjoy the student feedback. It contributes, as Greta Nagel comments in her book, *The Tao of Teaching*, to the “ageless wisdom” and “art” of teaching.

Read more!