This One Time at Writing Camp

I have spent the last two weeks engulfed, submerged in the Area 3 Writing Project Summer Institute. Others who have attended tell of how it can be life changing or at the least, fulfilling. As I mark my halfway point, I am finding myself already lamenting that it will be over soon. Don’t get me wrong. I’m exhausted. But so far, it’s been so worth it. Why? Here’s a glimpse:

The Learning I have been blown away at the amount of strategies (real classroom application stuff) that I gather each day. From actual lessons I can incorporate in my classroom in August, to changing my mindset entirely about writing and reading. More than anything I’ve learned that writing doesn’t fall neatly into three text types: narrative, argumentative and informative as many have interpreted the CCSS to demand. In fact, that was never the intention of the writers of the standards. Writing can cross many types. What we should instead challenge our students to do is write often and through many kinds of genres. What’s really important is that we teach students to write for authenticity, keeping in mind: audience, purpose, content, context and structure. With this in mind, a student could write a review convincing someone to buy a product, using facts, persuasion and even a story. That would encompass all text types. We have been doing our students a disservice by limiting them. I am so guilty of this. I wonder if there’s writing teacher confession. Forgive me Father for I have sinned by teaching formulaic writing…

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The Writing A big purpose of the Writing Project is to create a community of writing teachers who actually write.Because how can you be an expert on something you never do? One of my fellow attendees joked that we were spending our summer at writing camp.  This couldn’t be more true. Coming into this, I was excited about the prospect of filling up my composition book. I love writing, and I couldn’t wait to have time in a structured setting to do so, instead of stealing moments between soccer games and grading papers. So far, though, I’m having a hard time. I’m used to writing essays for my master’s classes and blogging, but those are very different audiences. My essays are written for my professors, who are looking for specific regurgitated content. My blog, well, it’s written for me. I publish it on the web, but really don’t expect much of an audience, maybe a few loyal friends. At the Summer Institute, we share writing, aloud, in writing groups. We will eventually be asked to publish four to five pieces in an anthology. This authentic audience is freaking me out! I know it’s only a matter of time before I relax. The more I write, the more comfortable I’ll get, I’m sure. Sure makes me think about my own students. I think that might be on purpose. Well played, A3WP.

The People Each member of the Institute, 19 of us this year, is required to do a demo. This is a 75 minute lesson presentation and walk through, demonstrating writing strategies taught in the classroom. This is a truly magical experience. Let me preface with an introduction to the qualifications of admittance to the Institute. There is an application and interview process, and the coordinators are very good at choosing phenomenal candidates. Teachers, administrators and curriculum coaches all fill the seats with various levels of expertise, but the same passion for kids that drives the best educators. I am humbled to be in the room and blown away at their demos. I have learned so much from these amazing educators. I have laughed with them, cried, but most of all, I feel I’ve found yet another professional learning family that with whom I will continue to collaborate for decades to come.

Only two weeks left…
But I’m guessing those will be two weeks full of more learning and sincere emotion than any two weeks I have experienced all year, or maybe even for years to come.

One thought on “This One Time at Writing Camp

  1. Kristina,

    You summed it up perfectly! You have a gift with words. So happy to be learning alongside you.

    See you soon!

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