New Book Makes Strong Case for Writers in Schools Programs

9781441111944Forthcoming from Bloomsbury in January 2014, Terry Ann Thaxton’s book Creative Writing in the Community makes a powerful statement in favor of the expansion of Writers-in-Schools programs. Here’s some of the buzz surrounding the new book:

“Terry Ann Thaxton’s thorough and thoughtful guide to community-based creative writing programs mixes inspiring stories with concrete strategies to turn inspiration into action. The voices gathered in Creative Writing in the Community make the strongest possible case for the value of the literary arts and convey the joy of helping students
find their voices as writers, whether those students are seven or seventy years old.” – Amy Swauger, Director, Teachers & Writers Collaborative

Creative Writing in the Community is a unique, comprehensive guidebook – an indispensable, whole-hearted resource both for aspiring writing teachers and practicing writers who, like the author, believe that the union of creative writing and service based learning can build confidence and generate, in learners from all walks of life, a sense of hope, possibility, and purpose.” – Michael Steinberg, Professor Emeritus, Michigan State University and co-author (with Robert Root Jr) of Those Who Do, Can; Teachers Writing, Writers Teaching (1996)

From the publisher: Each chapter is packed with easy-to-use resources including: specific lesson plans; case studies of students working with community groups; lists of suitable writing examples; “how to…” sections; examples and theoretical applications of creative writing pedagogy and techniques; reflection questions; writings by workshop participants. Enhanced by contributions from directors, students and teachers at successful public programs, Creative Writing in the Community is more than an essential guide for students on creative writing courses and leaders of community-based learning programs; it is practical demonstration of the value of art in society.

Terry Ann Thaxton is Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Central Florida and the founder of Literary Arts Partnerships. Other directors and leaders of WITS Alliance programs who authored chapters are Terry Blackhawk, Allen Gee, David Hassler, and Robin Reagler. To pre-order the book, click here. It will be officially released in January 2014.

Summer Institute for Advanced Teaching Artists

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Save the dates: July 19, 22 + 23, 2013!

Apply by June 5, 2013

Summer Institute is a three-day intensive workshop conducted by Community-Word Project for creative writers, visual artists, musicians, dancers and theater artists with 2+ years teaching artist experience.

Summer Institute’s training curriculum is based on Community-Word Project’s “creative process” exploration methods, teaching practices and arts-in-education philosophy developed over 12 years.

Deepen your teaching practice:

  • Explore creative processes and critical thinking
  • Transform creative processes into effective teaching tools
  • Refresh techniques for project-based arts integration
  • Strengthen classroom management strategies
  • Cultivate environments of social change within classrooms
  • Learn best practices in the teaching artist field

Be a part of the movement!

2013 Application

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!

For Advanced Teaching Artists Only

Writers in the Schools Alliance member Community Word Project is offering a summer training opportunity for Teaching Artists with 2 or more years of experience. Here are some details about the program:

2012 Summer Institute for
Advanced Teaching Artists
July 20, 23 and 24, 2012

WHAT: A three-day, intensive workshop focusing on Innovation, Multi-disciplinary Arts Integration, Curriculum Development, Evaluation/Assessment, Critical Thinking Skills and Classroom Management.

WHERE: Community Resource Exchange
42 Broadway, Suite 2000, New York, NY 10004

WHEN: Friday, July 20; Monday, July 23; and Tuesday, July 24

WHO: Creative Writers, Visual and Multi-Media Artists, Musicians, Dancers and Theater Artists with 2+ years experience teaching their art form in a public school setting.

The Summer Institute’s training curriculum is based on Community Word Project’s creative process exploration methods, teaching practices and philosophy developed over 12 years in NYC public school system.

Participants gain hands-on experience through classroom exercises, discussions, role-playing and collaboration in these focus areas:

• Transforming your Creative Process into Innovative Teaching Methods
• Developing Critical Thinking Skills through Arts Exercises
• Collaborating with Teaching Artists of a Different Art Form
• Evaluating and Assessing Student Work
• Arts Integration
• Cultivating environments of Social Change within classrooms
• Co-teaching with Classroom Teachers
• Classroom Management Techniques

For further details, please visit the Community Word Project website or contact Program Director Khalil Murrell at TATIP@communitywordproject.org

WITS Alliance Joins Forces in Houston for First National Conference

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.”

Questions Without Answers by Nicole Callihan

“Is there anything in the world sadder

than a train standing in the rain?”

–Pablo Neruda

I’ve always loved Pablo Neruda’s poems. Ripe-apple-tender and wild-eyed, they’ve carried me from classroom to classroom for more than a decade as I’ve worked as a teaching artist in the New York Public Schools through Teachers & Writers Collaborative. One of my favorite lessons asks students to do nothing more than question the world. “Ask a question that can’t be answered,” I tell them. “Anything,” I say.  The students stare at me or gently rock or twirl hair around the tips of their fingers, but bit by bit—with the help of teachers and paraprofessionals and communication devices and speech therapists—their questions emerge.

Why don’t apples grow on pear trees?

Why doesn’t America have Founding Mothers?

Do broken hearts break things?

Why is night?

What is different? Why is different different?

I’ve been working with these same students for the past three springs, all of whom are middle school-aged and considered to be on the “lower end” of the autistic spectrum, and each time I return to them after a long city winter, they disarm me.  To be quite honest, it almost always feels like we’re starting from the very beginning. I hold up a poem on a piece of paper, and week after week, I ask them, “How do we know this is a poem?” And week after week, I wait. Today, lesson five, the room promised as much silence as ever, but then James spoke. “Space?” he said, more of a question than an answer. And I clapped and jumped, and Yes, James, yes, we know it’s a poem because there’s SPACE!

Eighteen months ago I gave birth to my daughter, Eva, and immediately she carved out this frighteningly tender spot in my heart. It’s strange because mornings, before I go teach, I do the same sort of exercises with her that I do to warm up my students. And this is your nose, and these are your toes, and where o where are those pretty elbows? The fact that my students are so much older than Eva—and so trapped in their pubescent early teenage bodies and in their very different working minds—is sometimes difficult for me to take.

Motherhood has cast my work with these students in a special, harsher light. If I think about it too hard—and sometimes I do because, I believe, as writers and artists and compassionate beings we must—this discrepancy threatens to disable me. It’s such a reminder of how unfair the world is, of how unequal we all are, of how many questions there are that fly so  wildly around refusing to be pinned down by any single answer.

It’s at those times that I have to remind myself to see the world a bit more like Neruda does—as unanswerable and surreal and magical, as a train standing in rain—knowing that, sometime soon, either the rain will stop or the train will pull away, and I will be left standing oh-so-near the tracks, weighed down only by poetry and love.

Nicole Callihan works with Teachers and Writers Collaborative, a sister organization  in New York City. Her poems, stories, and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Painted Bride Quarterly, Salt Hill, Washington Square, and New York Quarterly. She was a finalist for the Iowa Review’s Award for Literary Nonfiction and was named as Notable Reading for Best American Non-required Reading. She teaches at New York University and in schools and hospitals in New York City.