The Minnesota Writing Project aims to improve K–college literacy in Minnesota. Housed within the Center for Writing at the University of Minnesota – Twin Cities, MWP is the local site of the National Writing Project, an authorized provider of No Child Left Behind.
Much of what we read in the local education section of the newspaper describes shifting tests scores or school closings. It is infrequent that we are offered a peek into the mind and heart of teachers. Our new Teacher Showcase feature will give our recent ISI participants a chance to speak their mind about the teaching of writing and the need for quality professional development. Return often to read these profiles.
How has the MWP experience impacted your teaching? My experience in MWP has given me practical lesson plans and classroom procedures to immediately improve my students’ reading and writing. It has also reaffirmed my belief that teachers have the most to teach each other, and the Writing Program’s format is an excellent way to do it. Most importantly, MWP has given me a community of teachers and writers to continue learning with for the rest of my career.
What are your beliefs about writing? My beliefs about the teaching of reading and writing are layered. One way of articulating them would be to begin from the most local and immediate, then work outward. The heart of literacy instruction is imparting a practical skill to students. Reading and writing are some of our most ancient skills and, ironically, are growing increasingly important as technological innovations become a bigger part of our lives. It is one of the primary ways we communicate our ideas to one another. Our ability to do it well helps us to be better friends, partners, and employees.
Moving out from the most immediate, reading and writing are important intellectual endeavors. By putting pen to paper, we can put our thoughts in a place outside our minds and reflect on them. Publishing our written work allows others to read and learn from our own ideas. They can contribute their knowledge to our own, thus collectively refining our ideas. Writing also allows us to use evidentiary reasoning, to state our beliefs and support them with examples. Evidentiary reasoning is in many ways the core of not only academic institutions, but also explaining ideas to others in the social and business worlds.
Literacy is also a powerful political instrument. As higher education becomes more important for obtaining living-wage jobs, being able to read and write allows one to access that education. Reading and writing are “the keys to the castle” of academia, a decent job, and better quality of life. The ability to code-switch in speaking and writing allows those outside the predominantly white world of business to enter that sphere. It is an empowering skill.
Finally, on a spiritual level, reading and writing can help one find peace and understanding. Life is a difficult text to read. Literacy provides us a valuable tool to make sense of it.
What is a book on writing or the teaching of writing that you would recommend (and why)? Hip-Hop Poetry and the Classics by Alan Lawrence Sitomer has practical lesson plans that use Hip-Hop lyrics as a bridge for students to understand poetic literary devices and classic poetry. In doing so, he puts the work of Public Enemy, 2Pac, and the Notorious B.I.G. where they belong: in the canon alongside that of Frost, Shakespeare, and Shelley.
Believing that teachers can empower other teachers, members provide an environment in which teachers can learn from one another and then share that learning with others in their classrooms, departments, schools, and districts. MWP is committed to improving the literacy of all students, strengthening university and school collaboration on reading and writing instruction, and increasing the professional power of teachers in meeting state standards and the curricular demands of NCLB.
Identifies exemplary teachers who can teach other teachers
Encourages teachers to write
Assists schools and districts in identifying their literacy needs and supports them in meeting those needs through pertinent staff development
Supports long-term reform and improvement in literacy instruction through classroom-based, action research
Maintains partnerships between schools and the University
Promotes cultural, racial, and ethnic diversity and understanding within MWP
For additional information, see About MWP.
Muriel Thompson, Director
Join us for the 8th Annual Fall Workshop on Saturday, October 11th. Paul Oh, Senior Program Associate for the National Writing Project, will lead us in an exploration of Connected Learning.
Registration has been extended to Monday, September 29th!