Teachers and Writers Launches the Digital Resource Center

Teachers and Writers Collaborative Digital Resource Center

The WITS Alliance welcomes the very much needed Digital Resource Center to the Internet. It is an online repository of lesson plans designed by writers for teachers and writers. Access to these materials is FREE.

Teachers & Writers Collaborative in New York has led this project, raising funds from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the National Endowment for the Arts. Currently the resources made available by the site include materials from the extensive Teachers & Writers archives, several decades of book publications and magazine articles. In the coming year, member organizations of the WITS Alliance will help build the collection by adding their best lessons. According to Amy Swauger, the Executive Director of Teachers & Writers, “The Digital Resource Center grew out of our desire to give new audiences easy access to T&W’s 45 years of print resources. We are delighted to work with our colleagues in the WITS Alliance to add materials from other organizations to this new database, which we believe will be of value to both existing programs and to those just starting to send writers to teach in K-12 schools.”

Congratulations, Portland WITS!


Congratulations to Literary Arts, the home of Portland Writers in the Schools (WITS), for winning the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation Creative Leadership Award. Only four nonprofits in the Northwest received this award (read the full press release here) in honor of “innovative and bold leadership, and in recognition of the ability to thrive amidst challenging times and to continue to deliver high-caliber programming and services in our community.” Way to go, Andrew, Mary, and all our friends in Portland.


WritersCorps Rocks Litquake


WritersCorps, a WITS Alliance organization in San Franciscowas thrilled to be a part of Litquake again this year, the annual literary festival that brings hundreds of writers and thousands of literature lovers to San Francisco for a fun-packed week of events. Our teaching artists and students read on Saturday, October 13, 2012, as part of Lit Crawl, the last hurrah of the Litquake fest for the year which features three hours of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction readings in bookstores, bars, art galleries, restaurants, stores, cafés, laundromats, and community spaces in SF’s Mission district.

As an organization employing professional writers and teaching creative writing to underserved youth, it is important to us at WritersCorps to have a connection to the city’s literary scene, which is exactly why we participate in events like Litquake. A bit about us: we are a joint project of the San Francisco Public Library and the San Francisco Arts Commission and have helped nearly 18,000 youth from neighborhoods throughout San Francisco improve their literacy and increase their desire to learn. We publish award-winning publications, produce local and national events, and are part of a national alliance with sites in the Bronx and Washington, D.C. In 2010, we were honored with the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award from the White House, presented to us by First Lady Michelle Obama.

At Lit Crawl, WritersCorps packed the house at gift shop Serendipity. Teaching artist Rose Tully read an excerpt from a short story in which Crisco played a starring role. harold terezón read a series of poems, including one made up of all the names he’s ever been called. Carrie Leilam Love, true to her name, read a series of love poems. Roseli Ilano read an excerpt from her story, “Treasure.” Minna Dubin read from a prose piece. Anhvu Buchanan read a bromance ode to Jeremy Lin. Representing our students, Indiana PehlivanovaEvelyn León, and Roger Lopez read from recent work.


Though the entire reading was a success, a particular highlight was Evelyn reading a poem about her father and bringing him, and nearly everyone else present, to tears.

To see all of the photos from the event, click here. To see all of the videos, click here. Thanks to Litquake, all of our teachers and students, and photographer Cole Anetsberger!

by Alexandra Wilder

Program Associate, WritersCorps

Poet Dean Young Visits WITS – Seattle

Students at the Hutch School had a visitor last week. Through the Seattle Writers in the Schools program, prize-winning poet Dean Young stopped by and did some writing with the kids. Jeanine Walker describes the it this way:

Dean brainstormed with the students, paraphrasing for them something Apollinaire once said: Poets imagine, and science and technology catches up. Across the street, construction was going on. “We’re going to help those builders,” Dean said. “What could we make a building out of?” The kids tossed around ideas: candy, spaghetti, shoes. Dean then had the students draw pictures of their buildings and write poems from those pictures, which they shared with the poet at the end of the hour.

For the complete story, click here.  The Seattle Writers in the Schools is part of Seattle Arts & Lectures. Their program serves students in dozens of local schools in the Puget Sound area.

Little Kids Write about the Big Apple

The book is out!  A POEM AS BIG AS NEW YORK CITY, a collaborative work by the talented students of Teachers & Writers Collaborative, hit the stores this month. With illustrations by Masha D’Yans  and a forward by Walter Dean Myers, this is a truly beautiful book. Here’s part of the publisher’s press release:

A POEM AS BIG AS NEW YORK CITY could only come out of the hearts and minds of New York’s schoolchildren.
Hundred of lines of poetry created by New York City students were collected and edited to form a single poem that
speaks with many voices. The project was organized by the Teachers and Writers Collaborative, a 40-year old
nonprofit organization that offers innovative creative writing programs for students and teachers throughout the five
boroughs. This beautifully illustrated picture book offers a kids-eye view of the sights, sounds, and soul of NYC, as
well as a chance for kids of every age to rediscover the Big Apple. “These are young people learning to celebrate the
ordinary and to transform that ordinary into the rich stuff of life,” says award-winning novelist Walter Dean Myers in
his Foreword. “They boldly discard the stale as they bring their own rich and unique inner visions to the page. I am
sometimes surprised at the talent represented here, but not the creativity. It is what young people are capable of
when given the chance.”

If you are interested in helping your students write about their own community, here are some lesson plans and teaching ideas that worked well for Teachers & Writers. Congrats to everyone at T & W!

Symposium for Writers in September

California Poets in the Schools will host its 48th annual Writing and Teaching Symposium on September 14th – 15th in Petaluma. Camille Dungy will be the featured presenter. The weekend event will take place at the IONS retreat center in Marin County, about 30 minutes north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Participants from out of state are invited to attend. It’s truly a magical location very close to San Francisco. Either SFO or Oakland airports provide relatively easy access to the site, by rental car or by Super Shuttle. The registration deadline is Aug. 31, 2012.  For more information about this conference for writers who teach children, click here.


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What? Free Writing Workshops in NYC?

Yes!  Teachers & Writers is pleased to offer FREE poetry workshops for children and teens this summer!

With generous support from The Lily Auchincloss Foundation and The Lotos Club Foundation, T&W is partnering with the Brooklyn Public Library, the New York Public Library, and the Queens Library to offer poetry workshops based on our 2008 A Poem as Big as New York City project. Bring kids of all ages to pay poetic tribute to New York.

These FREE one-hour poetry workshops will be held in select library branches on the following dates and times.

 More free workshops will be offered in the fall.

Kew Gardens Hills – July 2, 4:30-5:30 (Queens)

Mott Haven – July 10, 3:00-4:00 (Bronx)
Dyker – July 10, 4:00-5:00 (Brooklyn)
McKinley Park – July 11, 2:00-3:00 (Brooklyn)
Rugby – July 12, 2:30-3:30 (Brooklyn)
Paerdegat – July 13, 2:00-3:00 (Brooklyn)
Clason’s Point – July 16, 2:30-3:30 (Bronx)
Dyker– July 17, 4:00-5:00 (Brooklyn)
Flatlands – July 18, 2:30-3:30 (Brooklyn)
McKinley Park – July 18, 2:00-3:00 (Brooklyn)
Roosevelt Island – July 18, 4:00-5:00 (Manhattan)
Bellerose – July 18, 2:30-3:30 (Queens)
Inwood – July 19, 3:00-4:00 (Manhattan)
Coney Island – July 20, 4:00-5:00 (Brooklyn)
Paerdegat – July 20, 2:00-3:00 (Brooklyn)
Lefrak City – July 20, 2:30-3:30 (Queens)
Dyker – July 24, 4:00-5:00 (Brooklyn)
McKinley Park – July 25, 2:00-3:00 (Brooklyn)
Coney Island – July 27, 4:00-5:00 (Brooklyn)
Paerdegat – July 27, 2:00-3:00 (Brooklyn)
Melrose – July 31, 2:00-3:00 (Bronx)
City Island – August 6, 2:00-3:00 (Bronx)
Homecrest– August 7, 2:30-3:30 (Brooklyn)
Grand Concourse – August 8, 2:00-3:00 (Bronx)
Tottenville – August 9, 3:00-4:00 (Staten Island)
Children’s Center @ 42nd Street – August 11, 3:00-4:00 (Manhattan)
Broadway – August 14, 3:30-4:30 (Queens)
Castle Hill – August 14, 11:00-12:00 (Bronx)
Francis Martin – August 15, 3:00-4:00 (Bronx)
Soundview – August 20, 3:30-4:30 (Bronx)
Coney Island – August 24, 4:00-5:00 (Brooklyn)
The poems created in the project were adapted into a single narrative by T&W writer Melanie Maria Goodreaux, A Poem as Big as New York City, which Universe Publishing (an imprint of Rizzoli) will publish as a hard-cover, illustrated children’s book in fall 2012. The book includes a foreword by T&W Board member, three-time National Book Award finalist, and newly appointed National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature Walter Dean Myers. Masha D’yans will illustrate the book.

Creative Writing Camp Connects to Houston Arts and Culture

The WITS Blog

In an ongoing effort to enrich creative writing through an integration of literacy and art, students at our Creative Writing Camp took field trips to iconic Houston art and cultural centers including The Menil Collection, Rice University, and The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. On these tours, they experienced and wrote about public art pieces, including James Turrell’s “Twilight Epiphany” and Jaume Plensa’s popular “Mirror.” Younger writers in grades K-2 were visited in the classroom by artists, including contemporary dancers and drummers, who help students find beauty and unexpected inspiration in art and culture. “Children are most stimulated by the things and activities that surround them,” said Robin Reagler, Writers in the Schools Executive Director. “Through the experience of seeing, touching and hearing art firsthand, our camp shows students that their writing is art and their words are powerful.”

Jameelah Lang, a second-year WITS writer goes on to say: “I continue to…

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What Matters Most?

ImageIn fall 2012, Teachers & Writers Collaborative (T & W) will launch a searchable Digital Resource Center (DRC) on theirr website. Initially drawing on material from T&W’s 45 years of print publications, the DRC will also include resources provided by other members of the WITS Alliance–the professional network of literary arts education programs and individuals who serve K-12 students and provide professional development for their teachers.

Help them shape this new resource by completing a short survey here. Thank you!

In the News: Nick Rabkin’s Research Indicates the Power of WITS

education (Photo credit: Sean MacEntee)

University of Chicago researcher Nick Rabkin has presented new data supporting the success of the Writers in the Schools model. Here is an excerpt from an article on the Huffington Post:

What is good teaching?

There is broad agreement among leading researchers and education organizations about good teaching. Reports and studies have repeatedly found that it is grounded in three principles that test-driven schooling subverts:

• Good teaching is student centered. It begins with students’ interests and what they already know, offers students new and real challenges, choices and responsibilities, and features curriculum that that they find relevant.

• Good teaching is cognitive. Learning is the consequence of thinking and work on compelling ideas and problems across subject areas, and the demonstration of real understanding through the representation of learning in a range of media, including art forms.

• And good teaching is social. Individual students build competencies and knowledge, but students do that better together than they do alone. Good teaching involves building a community of learners that works and thinks together, challenges each other, reflects on its work, and supports taking the risks necessary to learn new things.

Read more about it at the Huffington Post.