The Illinois State Writing Project hosted its 2010 Summer Institute on campus from June 21-July 9. Cosponsored by the National Writing Project and Illinois State University, the institute provides teachers with a place to meet, read, write, develop, and demonstrate expert teaching practices. This year, co-directors Janice Wirsing and Joan Mullin led the fellows in writing activities at the McLean County Museum of History and Evergreen Cemetery in Bloomington. In addition to field trips that involve writing, the fellows participate in and teach writing workshops. Much of the focus of the Writing Project is to allow teachers to see themselves as writers, and then use more writing in their classrooms and respective subjects. The Writing Project is not limited to English or language arts teachers. Teachers of all subjects and all grade levels can benefit from the writing workshops in learning from other teachers what they’ve found to be successful in teaching their students.
The purpose of the writing workshops is to put the teachers in the shoes of a student. They go through the feelings of learning and being a student at the Writing Project to better understand their students. Janice Wirsing, co-director of the Illinois State Writing Project said, “The Writing Project helped me not resist writing myself. I can understand what my students are feeling when it comes to writing. My confidence from the Writing Project has helped me build the confidence of my students.” The project is meant to foster networking among the fellows and presents itself in a very friendly, open manner. Teachers want students to view writing as non-threatening, and in order to do that, the teachers have to view writing the same way, and that’s what the Writing Project aims to do.
This year’s fellows and consultants are Jan Neuleib (Illinois State University), Jan Wirsing (Trinity Lutheran School), Joan Mullin (Illinois State University), Kathryn Kerr (Illinois State University), Amanda Hapgood (Olympia High School), Elizabeth Zold (Illinois State University), Deborah Bertschi (Eureka High School), Mary Current (St. Mary’s School), Kristin Dragos (Western Illinois University), Shelly Gruenwald (Central Catholic High School), Sarah Johnson (Thomasboro Grade School), Nicole Mackinson (Normal Community High School), Rich Martin (El Paso-Gridley Junior High School), Tara Prevo (Parkside Junior High School), Jennifer Smith (Monticello Middle School), Lisa Thompson (Rankin School), Alan Williams (Illinois State University), and Chris Wyant (Ridgeview High School).
“The best part of the Writing Project for me is seeing the fellows come in and gradually open up and be comfortable sharing their writing and experiences. Watching them learn and share is amazing. And that translates to the classroom,” says teaching consultant Amanda Hapgood. The Illinois State Writing Project is the central Illinois site of the National Writing Project (NWP), which is a federally-funded professional development network linking teachers across the country. The site at Illinois State started in 1992 with Janice Neuleib as director. The program introduces strategies that help students become accomplished writers and learners to teachers in all subject areas at all grade levels. The NWP also prepares teachers for local leadership roles and conducts year-round programs for the continuing study of new research that supports student achievement in writing. Visit the NWP at their website, http://writingproject.org.