CRWP Teacher Participants Keep the SI Experience Alive through E-Anthology

SI teacher participant Jonathan Case puts the finishing touches on a portfolio piece.

While the 2011 Summer Institute may be drawing to a close, for Chippewa River Writing Project participants, the writer’s journey is far from over.  To many of these writers, E-Anthology is a tool that will help carry their experiences at the SI forward into the months to come.

Developed in 1997 by a group of teachers through the Dakota Writing Project, E-Anthology was adopted into the National Writing Project site in 2003.  Today, it offers more than 2,500 participants from over 100 local writing projects continual opportunities for growth and collegiality.    The purpose of E-Anthology is multifold.  Various forums allow writing project participants to share “day in the life” snapshots of their summer institute experiences with colleagues across the nation, as well as participate in pedagogical discussions concerning both teaching and writing.  For many of the CRWP participants, however, one of E-Anthology’s most attractive features is a forum that allows members to share and respond to personal pieces of writing they wish to develop further.

“I more accurately define myself as an Internet ‘consumer’ than ‘producer’,” confesses CRWP co-director Liz Brockman, “but posting on the E-Anthology makes me a producer–at least this once!”

This experience was shared by CRWP teacher participant Jennifer McDougall, who used E-Anthology to help polish her final portfolio project for the SI.  Receiving feedback from other NWP members on a personal narrative she had posted allowed McDougall to view her writing in ways she had not previously imagined.

“I was a little hesitant at first,” McDougall admits.  “I started reading and responding to pieces I saw posted from colleagues I was familiar with.  Once I got more comfortable, I picked a piece and just put it up there.  I asked for suggestions to improve it, and I really got some good feedback from someone I didn’t know in Pennsylvania.”

SI teacher participant Jennifer McDougall enjoyed exploring E-Anthology as a tool for developing her professional writing.

McDougall’s experience highlights what, perhaps, E-Anthology does best: it offers participants new avenues for growth both personally and professionally.

“It makes this community we share a lot larger,” McDougall observes.  “I love what we’ve been doing here at the Summer Institute, and this made the picture even bigger and more meaningful.  These are the kinds of sites that keep up going.”

For more information on the E-Anthology, or to learn how your site can participate, check out the National Writing Project’s website.

CRWP Writers Set Out on Third Annual Writing Marathon

SI Participant Sheri Kuchek settles down to write at Mt. Pleasant's Nelson Park.

They gather in coffee shops, at libraries, at bookstores, and ice cream shops.  Sometimes you may find them huddled together at a picnic table in the park, pencils and pens scribbling feverishly across open notepads.  Other times, they may be settled at a corner booth of a local restaurant, quietly taking in the scenery of a hectic lunchtime rush.  Ask them what they’re doing, and they’ll all lend the same answer: “We are writers.”

Wednesday, June 29th marked the third annual Writing Marathon for the Chippewa River Writing Project, headed once again by CRWP leadership team member Penny Lew.  For a full afternoon, Summer Institute participants gathered with friends and family to share their love of writing.  As participants divided into groups, each set forth with the task of exploring their world with the eyes of the writer, naturally drawing inspiration from the settings that surround them.  The journey took them beyond the campus of Central Michigan University, to shops, stores, parks, and restaurants all across Mt. Pleasant.

“It was fantastic,” Summer Institute participant Jonathan Case remarks.  “Having the opportunity to just sit and observe is something I normally don’t have the chance to do.”

Fellow SI participant Judy McAlvey echoes Case’s sentiment.  “The Writing Marathon awakened the writer in me,” she explains.  “In the area of observation, writers need to describe in detail.  Even by just listening to sounds, it helped me focus more on the things around me.”

SI Participants Rebecca Conway (left) and Angie Vandewarker enjoy the celebratory read-around.

Asked about her favorite Marathon experience, SI participant Angie Vandewarker recalls a quiet hour spent with a group of friends amid the sights and smells of a French-style bakery.  “The Marathon was wonderful—very informative,” she observes.  “A meaningful experience, and it went by so fast!”

As the Marathon drew to a close, participants reconvened on campus for a celebratory read-around with friends and colleagues.  Together, the lines shared served as a patchwork picture of the many different people and places making up the Writing Marathon.

For more information on the Writing Marathon and our Summer Institute, please see our wiki at

CRWP Continues with its Third Annual Invitational Summer Institute

Penny Lew (right) consults over a podcasting project with Liz Brockman.

Monday, June 2oth marked the kick-off of the Chippewa River Writing Project’s third annual Summer Institute on the Mt. Pleasant campus of Central Michigan University.  For the team of nine teacher participants, the opening week has been just the beginning of an exhilarating journey of self-discovery.  Under the mentorship of leadership team members Liz Brockman, Sue Steffel, Penny Lew, and Kathy Kurtze, participants have had the opportunity to take part in intensive workshopping, lesson development, and collaborative writing.  For writers like Sheri Kuchek, the Summer Institute has been a time for both reaffirmation and renewal.

“I love writing and the opportunity to interact with my peers beyond the classroom,” notes Kuchek, who is currently taking graduate courses through CMU’s English program.  “It’s great for my self-esteem to be able to get positive feedback from my peers.  It reaffirms my talents.”

Alongside collaboration, technology continues to be a key component in the Summer Institute’s overall vision. Throughout their time together, participants gain experience with a variety of digital tools they can take back to their classrooms, including wikis, audio podcasting, video streaming, and Google Docs.

Sue Steffel (left) and Rebecca Conway collaborate over a writing project.

“Technology is a challenge, but it’s a valuable one,” notes Kuchek, in considering what it means to be a writer in the 21st century.  “It’s a struggle that opens up so many new avenues we can use with our peers and our students.”

The greatest value for participants, however, is the opportunity for growth—as both instructors and as individuals cultivating a lifelong love of writing.  Alma elementary school teacher Kristen Case sums up the SI experience best when she notes, “Being immersed in the tech has helped me to learn an amazing amount of new tools that I will use in the classroom, and in my own life as well.”

The Summer Institute will culminate in a celebratory luncheon on July 7th, when participants will share selections from their electronic Writer’s Portfolios and join one another in a screening of their digital storytelling projects.  For more information on the SI 2011, check out our wiki at