Seven CRWP Teachers Present at National Conferences

Most teachers attend a conference for professional development, many choose to go to local events, a few go to national, and even fewer present at a national level… Chippewa River Writing Project is present at all levels.

CRWP Co-Director prepares for her presentation at the NCTE 2012 Convention.

CRWP Co-Director prepares for her presentation at the NCTE 2012 Convention.

Since the inception of Chippewa River Writing Project (CRWP) in 2009, we have been involved at a national level, attending the National Writing Project (NWP) Annual Meeting and the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) Annual Convention for the past four years. These national conferences attract many participants—nearly 600 attend NWP’s annual meeting, and over ten times that attend the NCTE Annual Convention.

As a new writing project site, CRWP wanted to send teacher consultants to national conferences to gain information about best practice and new trends in the teaching field, not only to help with their own classroom instruction, but also to help foster the growth of CRWP and the Summer Institute.  After a few years of attending these conferences, and renewing our excitement for the classroom setting, conversations post-conference eventually led to the submission of proposals.  Even as a young site, we knew we had something to offer other colleagues.

CRWP’s national presence began in Orlando in 2010, with an invitation to Site Director Troy Hicks and Co-Director Kathy Kurtze to present at the NWP Annual Meeting as a first-year site.  CRWP’s commitment to furthering writing and literacy education continued in Chicago (2011) and in Las Vegas (2012) with presentations by many teacher consultants.  Most recently, in Las Vegas, Teacher Consultants Jeremy Hyler, Erin Busch-Grabmeyer, Elizabeth Nelson, and Co-Director Penny Lew, along with Site Director Troy Hicks, presented “Writing, Technology, and the Common Core.” In this presentation, the genres of narrative, informational, and argumentative writing were discussed, along with ways to incorporate different types of technology, including Glogster, Prezi, and digital stories into writing instruction.

In addition, Teacher Consultants Andy Schoenborn and Amanda Smoker, along with Co-Director Kathy Kurtze, presented “Alternative Approaches to Teaching Argumentative Writing.” Using George Hillocks’ book, Teaching Argument Writing as a framework, these three discussed how argument can be taught in a classroom setting without falling into the 5-paragraph trap, utilizing Prezi, Public Service Announcements (PSA), Glogster, and Voki.

Finally, several teacher consultants have participated in NCTE’s Tech-to-Go, an on-the-fly conversation about digital learning tools.  Teacher Consultants – Elizabeth Nelson, Erin Busch-Grabmeyer, Andy Schoenborn, Amanda Smoker, and Site Director, Troy Hicks – have all offered their knowledge and experiences with various types of technology in the classroom.

In addition to our national presence, several teacher consultants have also presented in local districts and at statewide conferences, including Michigan Reading Association (MRA) and Michigan Council of Teachers of English (MCTE), showing CRWP presence around the state as well.

Admittedly, it is common for all teachers to attend some kind of professional development.  As we continue to grow, we fully expect to expand our voice in area schools as well as at the national level at both NWP and NCTE.  Whether it is sharing our experiences about technology or guiding teachers in effective content instruction, CRWP is a presence that is here to stay.

CRWP Attends NWP 2010-11 Annual Meeting in Orlando

November 17th, 2010 marked the kick-off of the National Writing Project’s 2010-11 Annual Meeting, staged this year in sunny Orlando, Florida.  Eleven members of the Chippewa River Writing Project’s leadership team traded chilly Michigan temperatures for the chance to exchange ideas with NWP colleagues from around the nation (and around the world) during the three-day event, which took place on the grounds of Disney’s Contemporary Resort.

CRWP Co-Directors Sue Steffel and Liz Brockman attend a special-topics session together.

Held in conjunction yearly with the National Council of Teachers of English’s Annual Convention, the event offers a tremendous opportunity for teacher participants to reinvigorate their love for teaching and writing, as they return to their classrooms with new ideas and innovations gleaned from intense seminars, discussion sessions, and fellowship opportunities with colleagues to use throughout the year. Moreover, these teacher leaders return to CRWP with ideas for site development opportunities related to the summer institute, professional development, continuity, and youth programs.

St. Louis High School teacher and CRWP team member Erin Busch-Grabmeyer captures the feelings of all participants as she notes:  “Orlando was a wonderful experience; not only to learn new ideas to incorporate into our own SI, but to re-energize myself as a writer and a teacher of writing! I enjoyed seeing other like-minded individuals collaborate and learn from each other to improve writing programs in schools across America. Overall, it was a very positive and motivating experience.”

Highlights of the Annual Meeting included a welcoming address delivered by NWP President Sharon Washington, as well as a general session led by renowned elementary school educator, NWP teacher, and author Donalyn Miller, whose recent work The Book Whisperer has helped many teachers find new ways to help their students foster a love of reading.

CRWP teacher team member Beth Nelson during Friday's general session.

For many participants, however, the most valuable experiences were gained from the sessions themselves, which offered a wide range of topics targeted at a variety of interest levels– from technology, to administration; youth programs to partnership building, the conference offered something for everyone.  “The level of commitment and professionalism was refreshing and amazing,” observes Greenville High School teacher and CRWP team member Beth Nelson.  “I especially enjoyed the accessibility of the presenters.”

Meridian Junior High School teacher and CRWP team member Amanda Smoker echoes Nelson’s enthusiasm when she recalls a particularly favorite session: “I’m not exaggerating when I say that I found all of the sessions I attended to be valuable. The session that I was probably most inspired by was the session on Content Area Reading and Writing. I’m glad I put myself on the waiting-list for this session! For years, I have been a huge supporter of reading and writing across the curriculum and this session gave me some great ideas to bring back about how to get other content area teachers as involved in and excited about it as I am.”

The range of sessions offered during the Annual Meeting even lent two CRWP members the chance to share the expertise they have gained in developing the Summer Institute program since CRWP’s inception in 2009.  CRWP Director Troy Hicks and K-12 Co-Director Kathy Kurtze were joined by Iowa Writing Project’s Ann Berger and University of Colorado Denver’s Rich VanDeWeghe in delivering “Reading in the Invitational Summer Institute,” an exploration of the role reading plays in the Summer Institute classroom in connection with writing and teacher demonstrations.

All in all, the experiences gained from Orlando will remain with each of the eleven participants as they look towards CRWP’s future and begin to plan for a new year.  “The conference was so invigorating for me!” notes Smoker. “I love attending conferences in general, but the Annual Meeting is different; it’s a hands-on extension of the Summer Institute. I spent the entire three days being reminded why I love being a part of the Chippewa River Writing Project.”