Friday, September 14, 2012

Welcome to the Fall 2012 Edition of eMuse!

In this edition...

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Reunion Re-visited!

We’ve rescheduled the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Eastern Michigan Writing Project. Mark your calendars!

November 2 (Friday) from 5:00-7:00 at the Corner Brewery in Ypsilanti. We’ll provide appetizers and a great space for mingling. You can purchase beer, wine, or non-alcoholic beverages as well.

We’ll still have an amazing silent auction as a way of raising a little money for the EMWP (including signed books from some of your favorite authors, from Peter Elbow to Penny Kittle to Katherine & Randy Bomer). We’ll also have information about some of our latest programs and ideas for how you can get involved and support our ongoing work.

Come see old friends, make new ones and–best of all—show your support for our collaborative work!

(The Corner Brewery is a family friendly place, so feel free to bring spouses, significant others, and kids. Just make sure to RSVP—Evite will come soon—so we know how many to expect.)
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Literacy Standards for Life: Common Standards and Uncommon Sense

Bill Tucker

Building on the success of last year’s Saturday workshops, the Eastern Michigan Writing Project will offer a demonstration series addressing the full range of writing performances described in the Common Core State Standards. Once a month we will offer concurrent sessions (K-8 and 9-college) at EMU’s Pray-Harrold (329 and 324) that demonstrate successful practices in teaching writing.
As we did last year, we will open with a Continental breakfast at 9:30 a.m. and close with discussion of college readiness as it applies to the topic of the demonstrations. We plan to investigate the complexity of this elusive concept, “college readiness.” The attached registration describes the topics and dates for our investigations, as well as the teacher consultants already committed to presenting. This is a great opportunity to encourage your colleagues to sample the thoughtful practice of Writing Project teachers.
We are eager to attract teachers across the grades and across subject areas. You can mail your registration to Danielle Newby at the address indicated or just confirm your plans to attend on October 6 by e-mailing Danielle at We need to anticipate numbers, at least for ordering refreshments. Thanks for spreading the word about “Literacy Standards for Life.”
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Dead Authors & Ducks
EMWP Summer Institute 2012

Angela Knight

The summer institute commenced with two elementary school teachers, three middle school teachers, three high school teachers, and three college-level instructors. It ended with twelve writers, four dead authors, three rubber ducks, one virtual dog show, and one anthology.

Daily writing prompts were brought to us via pictures, music, and words. They left us via poetry and prose, laughter and tears. Demonstration lessons began with nervous teachers in front of an audience of professional strangers, and each one ended with a teacher consultant speaking in front of a appreciative audience of colleagues. Writing marathons took us to art museums, Depot Town, cemetaries, libraries, and botanical gardens.

Book groups challenged us to think differently about the teaching and assessment of writing, reshaping our philosophies and reformulating our instructional techniques, right there in the middle of the Student Center, in the middle of summer. Mini-lessons taught us how to create QR codes, how to self-publish, how and why to participate in NaNoWriMo, how to rethink our classroom seating charts, and how to find dead authors* for writing collaboration. We were taken on digital scavenger hunts and rewarded with rubber ducks. We were fired up and ready to go back to our schools and share our writing and our selves-as-writers with our students; we woke up in the mornings but did not curse the alarm that interrupted the extra sleep that we craved to compensate for academic deprivation, all in spite of the fact that it was still July. Now it is still early in the morning, and some of our students are as comatose as the writers with whom we had been able to collaborate. *

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Family Literacy

Cathy Fleischer and Kim Pavlock

Lots of growth and change in the Family Literacy Initiative. Some recent highlights:
• Regional Training Institute: Last May, twenty-three Teacher Consultants and Writing Project Directors from Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan joined us for an all day workshop on how to create and support Family Literacy Initiatives at their own sites. It was a wonderful day, filled with creativity and camaraderie! We look forward to offering more of these—as the interest seems to be there.
Pictures from Family Writing Fun Night at Pattengill Elementary School in Ann Arbor:

• Upcoming NWP Presentation: We were invited by the National Writing Project to present at the Annual Meeting in November in Las Vegas. The National office is very intrigued by our model and wants us to share it with TCs across the country. We’re thrilled by this opportunity!
• Bright Futures Grant Project. We met recently with the director and the site coordinators for the state-funded Bright Futures Project. This project offers afterschool support for at-risk students and their families at 15 different schools in 4 area districts. (We did some work for them a few years ago.) They have written the FLI into their grant and we hope to work with their students and families across the school year.
826 Michigan. We continue to partner with this wonderful organization. This year we’ve been invited to do several workshops through their after school program at Ypsilanti Middle School.
• New FLI Assistant. Join us in welcoming Karen Hoffman (EMWP TC) who will assist us as a Family Literacy Assistant. Specifically, Karen will be coordinating the Bright Futures outreach.

We have the potential for lots of new work and the need for many presenters. Please let us know if you’d like to join the fun!
We will offer a training session Wednesday, October 10, at Cathy’s house, 6:30-8 (pizza provided). Let Kim know if you are interested ( If you’ve already gone through training but want a refresher and to meet new presenters, please join us!
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Teacher Research Goes Live

Cathy Fleischer

What happens when a group of teacher researchers decides to go public with their work? The results are coming in – and it’s pretty exciting! EMWP’s Teacher Research Group is a featured group in the new National Center for Literacy Education’s Literacy in Learning Exchange.
The Exchange highlights groups of teachers who are working together to create change in their schools—with portraits, blogs, and information written by teachers about the work they’re doing. Our group is writing a blog, with new posts every 2-3 weeks. Each post focuses on a different aspect of teacher research, told in our teachers’ own voices. Most have links to video of discussion from our teacher research meetings. Anyone can join the Literacy in Learning Exchange and follow all the groups—and we’d love to have you follow us! Simply go to and click to follow our group!
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SEEDs of Promise

Bill Tucker, Director

The Eastern Michigan Writing Project received three separate grant allocations in May and June from the National Writing Project under a Title II program called "Supporting Effective Educators Development" (SEED). Each allocation was worth $20,000, much of it to work in so-called "high-need" schools in the local area.
The "Teacher Leadership Development" grant provided $20,000 to support teachers in new leadership roles in professional development, in teacher research, and in instructional coaching. This funding partially replaced the annual grant, which the National Writing Project lost to federal budget cuts in 2011.

A second grant supported a national research study called "Evaluating the Impact of Professional Development to Meet Challenging Writing Standards in High-Need Elementary Schools." Only fifteen Writing Project sites were awarded these grants to work in twenty elementary schools spread across the country. The Eastern Michigan Writing Project was awarded $20,000 to provide 45 hours of professional development in the teaching of writing to teachers of grades, 3, 4 and 5 in Central Academy, Ann Arbor. Central Academy is a charter school with a large population of Arabic students located at 2455 S. Industrial Hwy, Ann Arbor. Teacher consultants Rosanne Stark and Diane Vanston are leading much of professional development in this project, with “thinking partners” Michelle Vanston, Mary Admiraal, and Chelly Eifert.

The third grant supports "Professional Development in High-Need Schools" without the evaluation component required in the second grant. The EMWP received $20,000 to offer 30 hours of professional development at Ann Arbor Tech, an alternative high school on Packard Road in Ann Arbor. Teacher consultants Val Tomich, Karen Chichester and Dawn Izzi are supporting this project. All three have significant teaching experience in alternative education.

Although the EMWP has offered professional development in the Teaching of writing for nearly two decades, this will be the first year that work can be sustained for a full year in one school with grant funding. The work will be supervised by Sarah Lorenz, Professional Development Coordinator and Bill Tucker. This is an extraordinary opportunity to make a difference in schools attended by students with economic and cultural disadvantages.
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EAA Update

Sarah Lorenz

If you keep up on school reform news or education developments in Detroit, you've no doubt heard of the EAA--the Education Achievement Authority. The EAA is a new, statewide district formed by the Michigan Department of Education to take over the direction of low-performing schools that have failed to make progress under a redesign plan. Schools will remain in the EAA for five years. The EAA launched this fall with 15 schools in Detroit and will expand statewide in the future.
The EAA is linked to Eastern Michigan University through a partnership agreement, and last spring, Bill, Cathy, and Sarah attended an informational session on campus with the leadership of the new district. After a long trail of email and postponed dates, we had a meeting regarding literacy programming and how the EMWP and other NWPM sites might offer assistance to the EAA schools. We were pleased to hear that a reading and writing workshop framework was one of the preferred approaches to instruction, along with Guided Reading and Reading Apprenticeship.

As a result, our site, in collaboration with the Oakland Writing Project and the Meadowbrook Writing Project, offered four workshops in August to new EAA teachers--a total of 23 hours. The sessions included an introduction to reading and writing workshop for elementary teachers and also for high school teachers, a writing across the curriculum session for one of the high schools, and a Guided Reading session for K-2. The material was enthusiastically received by the teachers in attendance--which was impressive, considering the fact that they were in the midst of four weeks of professional development!

We are hopeful that the new EAA schools will be successful in their mission to improve the literacy outcomes for the students in these high-need schools.
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Unlike Las Vegas, what happens in college does not just stay there

Jim Schaefer

As I was working on some research for my Law case in my Ph.D. program, I had an encounter with a legal case, formally listed as Gall v. United States, 552 U. S. (2007), that provided me with a lesson that I will not forget as a scholar, learner, and practitioner. And it is the kind of lesson that I wish college students would remember during all of their time in institutions of higher learning: Unlike the infamous Las Vegas motto, what happens in college does not just stay there. Usually I think that refers to the profound positive lessons we learn, but in this case, the student—who was actually a former student when this unfortunate situation erupted—had a very unpleasant surprise.

I initially discovered the Gall case while I was doing research as part of a project looking for cases reflecting situations involving students in some kind of trouble, either procedural or violent. When I saw that this situation involved a student with a drug issue, I included it in my pile of possibilities. I did not realize the full extent of this college student, whose name was Brian Gall, until I read the entire case. Then I realized how tragically similar his situation was to many of my students now and that of too many of my classmates during my college years. Gall had started out sampling the various drugs of choice, such as ecstasy, cocaine, and marijuana, and then his growing addiction got him ever more involved in the illegal drug business or, as the federal law enforcement agents called it, “the conspiracy.”
I have had students and classmates who did not get the breaks that Gall ended up enjoying. They also tried to confess for what they had done and attempted to “work a deal,” but they experienced, tragically, much different results. Instead of 30 to 36 months of probation, they received that much time and more—and in prison.
I also liked the Gall case because it showed that at least sometimes the courts can work quite deliberately to provide justice for people if they are willing to stop their drug use, find a way to work, and lead a decent life.
The Gall case also taught me that all these words and stacks of papers and books that we are reading now do, after all, represent the lives of real people and the choices that they have made, good or bad, plus the daunting task of sorting out what is a fair and just way, based on years, decades, and centuries of this effort, to enforce the rules and boundaries of our social order.
I will continue to remember Gall’s story and use it in my classroom, not only to show that justice is possible but also that what you do in college may re-emerge in your everyday life later—and not necessarily in nice ways, if what you did was illegal. I will also reflect on this in terms of my teaching of writing because I have had students who have served jail or prison time and are now in school, and they often really struggle to make sense of their compromised lives (although writing does seem to be valuable in those struggles).

Gall v. United States, 552 U. S. (2007).
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Written Response - Not Just for Reading Anymore

Deb Hetrick

Attending the annual literacy conference in Hillsdale, MI this summer, brought me back to my summers with the EMWP. Write, respond, and write some more. Now, with the focus of the Common Core Standards on in-depth reflection/student interaction, the emphasis of the conference was - student participation in peer discussions and written response.

When engaged in thinking, speaking and writing activities on a regular basis throughout the day, students take responsibility for their learning. They take ownership of the material when they have multiple opportunities to discuss, write, discuss and revise their thinking/writing again. Both nationally known authors, Sharon Taberski (reading) and Penny Kittle (writing), stressed the importance of written response, for all subjects, throughout the day.

So, as the school year gears up for another stressful round of standardized tests, teacher evaluation, and focusing on meeting the Common Core Standards as well as the report card objectives, I need to get back to the basics. The “writing project” basics: think about it, talk about it, write about it, talk about it, think about it and write about it some more. That’s what I need to model for my new class.

If you drop into my classroom, I hope you hear my students discussing and coaching, and see them reflecting and writing during guided math, literacy, social studies, science and writer’s workshop. I want them to attend to the mini lessons or focused instruction and then talk with peers and write about the “how and why.” During work station rotations I expect them to talk, write, talk and revise, and write again.

Creating a classroom climate conducive to this independent thinking/reflection is more daunting to me than new curriculum material. Modeling behavior for supportive peer coaching, independent working, and staying on task are what the Daily Five Sisters advocate for literacy. This year I’m trying it out as a daily way of life in my classroom. Wish me luck! And if I’m in the front of the room talking too much, don’t hesitate to take me aside and whisper supportively into my ear, “Get back to the writing project basics.”
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