Photo by Yvonne Feece

The Writers in the Schools (WITS) Alliance hosted its first national conference August 26 – 28 in downtown Houston, convening 15 literary arts groups to discuss how to turn America’s students into outstanding creative writers. The meeting combined intensive training sessions and professional development for 15 nonprofits representing each region of the U.S. Participants included administrators from Texas, New York, Michigan, Florida, Washington State, Indiana, Arizona, Pennsylvania, Colorado, and Ohio. The conference provided participants with the necessary tools for running a successful WITS-type program.

WITS flew in experts Michele Kotler and Keith Kamisnski, from New York’s Community Word Project (CWP) to demonstrate the Teaching Path model for curriculum development. Together with WITS Associate Director, Long Chu, the team led lessons on engaging student work and enforcing effective teaching strategies for under-served children.

On the last day of the program, WITS welcomed 79 writers to the 2010-2011 roster for an interactive orientation focusing on best practices in education and tips on planning a successful school year.  Kotler’s inspirational keynote address was the highlight of the morning followed by a community poem exercise that writers performed as a group – the largest collaborative piece ever recorded by CWP.  Each attendee walked away with a comprehensive lesson plan to use in their classrooms.  Says Josephine Jones of Colorado Humanities Center for the Book, “The Conclave renewed my passion for the work and prepared me with more tools for positive change than I can hope to use as I begin to assume responsibility for training the teaching writers in our program this year.  I’m honored to be part of the Alliance.”

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