Wednesday, May 21, 2008

May Edition

Welcome to the May edition of eMuse!! Read more!

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

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Teacher as Citizen

EMWP Partnership with Hamtramck Public Schools

By Tricia Maslow

Two schools in the Hamtramck School District had the opportunity to enter into a partnership with the EMWP this year. Along with two teacher consultants that are members of the school staff at each school, Dave Fisher was assigned to assist in the project.

As a result of this partnership, three teachers from Hamtramck will be able to attend the 2008 Invitational this year. This will increase the number of teacher consultants in the district, and hopefully it will continue to gain momentum as more people join in the coming summers.

Staff members from both schools were given professional development time to:

  • Visit schools in other districts to observe reading and writing workshops.
  • Observe for a half day, and then go back to building to discuss and reflect on the morning experiences.

The partnership enabled the staff from both buildings to volunteer to attend a Saturday workshop at Wayne State University presented by the Wayne State Writing Project Teacher Consultants. Even though it was a Saturday, about 20 staff members attended and left with new ideas, attitudes and excitement about the teaching of writing. Many people are already trying the lessons they observed in their own classrooms.

As a result of this partnership, the two schools will pilot two separate week long writing camps this summer. Creative Inklings will be held one week at the middle school for advanced writers in grades 7-8 and one week for the elementary level for grades 4-6. The camp will involve the students in a writing experience that is sure to be inspirational and memorable. During the week long camp, the writers will have the opportunity to:

· Experience a writing marathon.

· Write in a comfortable and encouraging atmosphere.

· Participate in reading and writing response groups.

· Contribute to an anthology that will be published by the week’s end with a celebration.

The camp teaching staff will gain professional development daily, and have the opportunity to teach mini lessons throughout the week. Then, once school starts in the fall, the 6 teachers along with the director and co-director will meet three times during the year to discuss what they are trying in the classroom, and support each other as they continue to try new writing lessons.

EMWP Representatives Seek Federal Support

By Debbie Young

Hundreds of Writing Project teachers, from all fifty states, and from all grade levels K-16, gathered in Washington, D.C. on April 3rd and 4th as part of the National Writing Project Spring Conference. These teachers know how much the Writing Project has helped them, and in essence, that was the message they went to Washington D. C. to deliver.

Sarah Lorenz, (TC ’97), and I, (Debra Young, TC ’06), from the EMWP, joined other teachers from Writing Projects of Michigan to make a strong delegation who requested the continued financial support of the Writing Project by Congress. Teachers generally made appointments to meet with Congresspersons who represent the district where he or she lives, works, or where the Writing Project has served schools in the past. Sarah and I met with Rep. John Dingell, Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, Rep. John Conyer’s assistant, Sen. Debbie Stabenow’s assistant, and Sen. Carl Levin’s assistant.

Each visit was an amazing experience. In each case we were greeted warmly and made to feel that our opinions and experiences with the Writing Project are important. In our meetings, one consistent comment that was expressed by the politicians, or those who represented them, is that writing is an essential skill for today’s workforce. Many with whom we spoke with credit their own ability to write well as the means for getting them into the job positions they now hold.

Our meeting with Rep. John Dingell was very warm and friendly. It was especially meaningful to me when he recalled the 55 letters that I hand delivered to him one year ago during my visit to the 2007 Writing Project Spring Conference. My third graders wrote persuasive letters about social issues that concern them. He even made specific reference to a few of those concerns my students had expressed. Others from his staff also remembered the letters, and they made positive comments as well. These brief meetings do establish trust with the politicians whose decisions affect education so greatly. Fortunately, Rep. Dingell has been a supporter of the Writing Project in the past.

Perhaps the meeting that turned out to be the most fun was with Rep. Thaddeus McCotter. He had an intense interest in hearing about our work. McCotter, who you can tell loves to write himself, is a very funny man. During the visit he continually cracked jokes about the importance of writing. At one point he even called one of his junior staff members into our meeting and joked with him about writing. The young man who I’ll call “Henry” reluctantly approached Sarah and me. Mc Cotter told the young man, who was about twenty years old, “Henry, these women can teach you to write. They can even teach kids to write. You ought to listen to them!” Poor Henry barely broke a smile, and this led Sarah and me to conclude that McCotter was, indeed, quite serious about his remarks to Henry. In the context of the setting, it was funny because others in the office heard the Representative joking about writing.

Sarah was able to make a special connection with McCotter because she has done some Writing Project work in the school where his three children attend. Finally, near the end of our conversation with him, McCotter told his senior assistant, named Crystal, to “sign me up for this, Crystal.” He was referring to adding his signature of support to legislation that funds the National Writing Project. Sarah and I felt great when we left this meeting; the entire staff was lively and interested in the teaching of writing.

Hopefully, our pilgrimage to Washington, D.C. will leave a favorable and lasting impression on our nation’s policy makers. Their Congressional votes are needed to keep local Writing Project sites fully functional. Last year, the National Writing Project received $21.5 million from the federal government. These funds touch the lives of over 16,000,000 students who are in the classrooms of NWP teachers. Furthermore, NWP sites, located on university and college campuses in all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, conduct Summer Institutes for over 3,000 participants each summer. In addition, over 7,000 teacher consultants reach over 92,000 teachers each year by providing professional development. The National Writing Project is so much more than a federal “expenditure.” It is an important vehicle for improvement in student writing while at the same time it provides inspiration for teachers.

Rep.Thaddeus McCotter (Republican), Debra Young and Sarah Lorenz

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Teacher as Writer

National Writing Project Updates

By Sarah Lorenz

Writing Intention

The NWPM and the Michigan Reading Association recently collaborated to write a book entitled: Writing Intention: Prompting Professional Learning Through Student Work. Teacher Consultants from many sites across the state contributed, and the book has been quite successful, even earning some modest royalties. The National Writing Project will feature information about the project and a few of the book chapters on the NWP website, under State and Regional Network page. Look for it soon or order the book from MRA at

Summer Retreat

The National Writing Projects of Michigan will host its annual summer retreat on July 29-31 in Traverse City. Beginning on Tuesday evening with dinner and extending through Thursday afternoon, the retreat will bring together directors and teacher-leaders from each of the ten NWP sites in the state. We'll share successful programs and practices at our sites, discuss literacy issues, and do some statewide strategic planning. We'll also devote some time to examining lenses for looking at student work: rubrics, the Analytic Writing Continuum, the Collaborative Assessment Conference, and others.

If you wish to be part of the EMWP's four person team attending the retreat (expenses paid), please contact Bill Tucker. We usually need one or two TC's to fill up our slots, so don't be shy! You don't need previous experience working with the state network to attend, and collaborating with other TC's from around the state is interesting and fun.

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Teacher as Researcher

Teacher Research Group Updates

By Cathy Fleischer

As this year’s Teacher Research Group prepares for its busy summer of writing (we’ll be meeting for one week in July to analyze data and write up our findings), we’re already looking forward to next year! Next year will mark a change in how the TR group is organized and will offer—we hope—even more opportunities for EMWPers.

Our plan is this: The TR group will divide in 2 groups.

  • The first group will be designed specifically for new Teacher Researchers and will be led by Kris Gedeon (TC, former Returning Fellow for the Invitational, and TR group member for the last 3 years). This group will spend some time throughout the year delving into teacher research (what it is and how to do it) and helping participants begin a TR project.
  • The second group will be a support group for experienced teacher researchers, meeting monthly for sharing ideas and writing and encouraging publication of some sort and will be led by Cathy Fleischer (Co-director).

We’ll be sending out more information over the summer, but if you have questions in the meantime, please feel free to contact Kris ( or Cathy (

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