Write in the Middle: A Workshop for Middle School Teachers
Learn effective practices and strategies to help students become confident and proficient writers.
A video workshop for middle school teachers; 8 one-hour video programs, workshop guide, and website.
Write in the Middle: A Workshop for Middle School Teachers is an eight-part professional development workshop designed to help teachers learn effective practices and strategies to use with middle school students in writing instruction. Through classroom footage of excellent teachers modeling successful strategies and interviews with teachers, students, and nationally recognized experts about the writing process, workshop participants will learn ways to create a positive and productive writing environment for young adolescents.
In this eight-part workshop, classroom video and insightful discussion illustrate effective ways teachers can help their students become confident and proficient writers.
Middle school teachers from across the country share specific strategies they use with their students, and extensive video from each of their classrooms gives viewers an opportunity to see those strategies in action. The workshop explores several common themes that underlie effective writing instruction at the middle school level—providing engaging prompts, allowing student choice, modeling good writing, and using innovative approaches like multigenre writing. Some workshop videos feature aspects of the writing process, such as revision and pre-writing, while others illustrate successful strategies for teaching specific writing forms such as poetry or persuasive essays.
Individual Workshop Descriptions
Workshop 1: Creating a Community of Writers
After a brief introduction to the goals of all eight workshop sessions, a middle school teacher and writing expert Linda Rief and several of the teachers whose classrooms are featured in Write in the Middle share strategies they use to build a safe writing environment for their students starting at the beginning of the school year.
Extended classroom video segments demonstrate some community-building activities teachers can use with their own students. Through classroom examples, teacher discussions, and interviews, Workshop 1 also examines how room arrangements can encourage written and spoken communication and how sharing their writing helps students become part of the writing community.
“Creating a Community of Writers” closes with an exploration of some of the psychological and emotional needs specific to young adolescents and their learning.
Workshop 2: Making Writing Meaningful
Workshop 2 demonstrates how teachers use authentic sources and topics to prompt students to write about things that matter to them—subjects that relate to their lives, relationships, and communities. The topic may be the students themselves—their feelings, emotions, reactions—or it may involve outside forces that have an impact on their lives.
Damond Moodie, a teacher from Oakland, California, uses current events as a prompt for encouraging his seventh-graders to write. Using television, newspapers, the Internet, and radio as sources, the students locate and summarize stories that interest them. Allen Teng, another teacher from Southern California, uses various resources and activities to guide his seventh-grade students through a lesson designed to help them develop and substantiate their opinions on controversial issues. We see Gloria Hamilton, who teaches eighth grade in the Los Angeles area, using an advice-column approach to prompt student writing.
In addition to classroom segments, the video also features teacher discussions about student engagement and excerpts from an interview with Linda Rief, the author of Seeking Diversity: Language Arts With Adolescents.
Many students—and teachers—avoid reading and writing poetry because it seems so difficult and foreign to their everyday experience. But for middle school students, poetry offers an unparalleled opportunity to explore feelings and emotions and to increase awareness of the power of written expression. In Workshop 3, we see two master teachers—Vivian Johnson, who teaches eighth grade in Elizabethton, Tennessee, and Jack Wilde, a fifth-grade teacher from Hanover, New Hampshire—helping their students develop as readers and writers of poetry.
Vivian Johnson introduces a mini-lesson on line breaks. The lesson features exemplars; excerpts from books on writing poetry; opportunities for discussion, sharing, and response; and writing applications. Throughout the classroom segments, we see how Vivian’s carefully structured, student-centered approach fosters her students’ appreciation and understanding of poetry and helps them begin to find their own poetic voices.
Like Vivian, Jack Wilde uses exemplars to teach his fifth-grade students about writing poetry. In the lesson featured in the video, Jack has the class read and analyze a published poem and then practice writing stanzas modeled on the exemplar to combine into a class poem. After the children share their writing, Jack leads them in a discussion of the difference between poetry and prose. Later, students will choose their own topics and write individual poems modeled on the exemplar.
Rounding out the video are excerpts from a conversation between Jack and Vivian, in which they share their overall approaches to teaching poetry as well as their reflections on specific instructional practices and strategies. Also featured is a cameo appearance from author and educator Tom Romano (Writing With Passion: Life Stories, Multiple Genres).
Workshop 4: Teaching Persuasive Writing
The fourth workshop features the classrooms of two teachers: sixth-grade language arts teacher Jenny Beasley from Somerset, Kentucky, and fifth-grade teacher Jack Wilde. Both are teaching units on persuasive writing that allow students to write about topics that matter to them—topics drawn from their experiences within their own communities. Also featured are excerpts from a discussion in which the two teachers reflect on their strategies and practices.
For Jenny’s students, the definition of community is wide-ranging—it includes their families, their school, and their town. But under this broad umbrella, Jenny encourages her students to think specifically and concretely about issues that interest them. The students begin by exploring a range of possible editorial topics. When we catch up with the class, they already have narrowed their focus to one issue. Now, with Jenny’s help, the students are laying the groundwork for effective and authentic editorials by stating their opinion, identifying their audience and purpose, and beginning to think about support for their point of view.
Meanwhile, Jack Wilde is introducing his students to persuasive writing by asking them to write on a familiar subject—their school community. Using a skillful mix of modeling, brainstorming, and conferring, Jack is teaching his class how to develop and organize an effective persuasive essay. The children’s audience is the school principal and their purpose is to persuade him to go along with a suggested change—letting fifth-graders go home for lunch or giving students more computer time, for example. We see the students beginning their first drafts, well on their way to the unit’s culminating activity: choosing representative essays for the principal to read and respond to.
Workshop 5: Teaching Multigenre Writing
Workshop 5 centers on multigenre writing, an eclectic approach to writing instruction that offers students a wide range of options for expressing ideas and communicating knowledge. As students explore different avenues for translating what they think or know into writing, they begin to understand that there is no single “right way” to communicate. Instead, writing demands intelligent, informed choices based on purpose, audience, content, and personal preference. Giving students the freedom to make these choices fosters their creativity and increases their engagement.
The first teacher featured in the video is Laurie Swistak from Newport, Rhode Island, whose fifth-graders are starting work on a research-based multigenre unit. Laurie begins by reviewing FQI—Facts/Questions/Interpretation —an inquiry framework that helps students think critically about genre choice. Through the course of two class periods, we see Laurie use whole-class and small group work to prepare her students to use FQI independently.
In the second part of the video, we see St. Paul teacher Mary Cathryn Ricker and her seventh-grade students approach multigenre writing from a different angle. Over the next few months, the students will prepare a portfolio of multigenre pieces focused on personal experience. To get the students started, Mary Cathryn introduces several literary models including Jerry Spinelli’s entertaining memoir, Knots in My Yo-Yo String, and a collection of biographical poems about George Washington Carver. Later, we see her use a student poem—written in both English and Spanish—as a prompt, a particularly apt choice for her class of second-language learners.
Also featured in the video are excerpts from a conversation between Mary Cathryn and Laurie, and from an interview with Tom Romano, the author of Blending Genre, Altering Style: Writing Multigenre Papers and a national expert on multigenre writing.
Workshop 6: Responding to Writing: Teacher to Student
Because of the personal nature of writing, one of the best ways to teach the craft is to interact directly with individual students. To make these vital student-teacher conferences as effective as possible, teachers need to be intentional in their planning and practice. At the same time, they must balance the benefits of conferencing with the challenges of fitting it into their busy classroom schedules.
“Responding to Writing: Teacher to Student” demonstrates how five teachers—Jenny Beasley, Vivian Johnson, Mary Cathryn Ricker, Laurie Swistak, and Jack Wilde—use student-teacher conferences to help their students improve as writers. The workshop provides classroom illustrations of several different approaches to conferring with students including formal one-on-one conferences, informal one-on-one interactions, and formal and informal conferences with student response groups.
Through interviews and discussion, the teachers reflect on their practice: planning effective one-on-one and group conferences, providing direction without taking over students’ papers, using conferences to assess student learning and communicate expectations, and dealing with classroom management issues related to conferencing. The workshop also features excerpts from interviews with Tom Romano (Writing With Passion: Life Stories, Multiple Genres) and Linda Rief (Seeking Diversity: Language Arts With Adolescents).
Workshop 7: Responding to Writing: Peer to Peer
Peer responses provide a tremendous learning opportunity for young writers. These interactions help students with topic generation and idea development, increase their confidence about sharing their work, force them to look more objectively at their own writing, give them valuable feedback for possible revisions, and allow them to learn from the writing successes and challenges of their peers.
“Responding to Writing: Peer to Peer” visits the classrooms of three teachers—fifth-grade teacher Jack Wilde, seventh-grade teacher Velvet McReynolds, and eighth-grade teacher Vivian Johnson—to explore various ways that teachers can structure student interactions, from whole-class responses to informal writing partnerships.
The video highlights teaching strategies that help students learn how to respond appropriately and meaningfully to each other’s writing. Both Jack and Velvet model response using their own writing, and Jack and his students demonstrate how a whole-class response to an individual writer can help all the students hone their conferencing skills. We also sit in as Jack facilitates a small response group, another way of helping students learn how to respond more effectively.
The video abounds with classroom examples of students interacting. It also features excerpts from teacher discussions about peer conferencing, held at the end of the school year, as well as comments from Linda Rief, an eighth-grade English teacher and the author of Seeking Diversity: Language Arts With Adolescents.
Workshop 8: Teaching the Power of Revision
Workshop 8 takes viewers into the classrooms of three language arts teachers—Velvet McReynolds, Mary Cathryn Ricker, and Jack Wilde—as their students tackle the ongoing task of revision.
To Velvet McReynolds, revision is at the heart of the writing process—it’s “where the magic happens.” Using a student exemplar, class discussion, handouts, and individual and small-group work, Velvet prompts her seventh-graders to focus on revising personal narratives they wrote earlier in the year. The two-day session culminates with a celebration circle where students share “before” and “after” versions of their papers.
Mary Cathryn Ricker’s seventh-grade students are beginning work on an autobiographical multigenre project. On the second day of the unit, Mary Cathryn presents a mini-lesson on the Barry Lane revision technique “exploding the moment.” After the students “mine” their writing notebooks for a piece of personal writing to revise, Mary Cathryn moves around the room, helping them come up with details that will expand and improve their writing.
Jack Wilde also is teaching a mini-lesson, this one on leads for persuasive essays. Using models drawn from past students’ papers, Jack helps his class generate a list of effective ways to begin their papers. Then, after the students have drafted openings for their essays, they confer with one another and with Jack about possible revisions.
Throughout the workshop, we hear reflections on revision from both teachers and students, as well as discussions among the teachers about dealing with student resistance to revision, planning mini-lessons, and other issues related to the revision process.
About Support Materials
If you are participating in a group session, your facilitator will give you a copy of the print guide or request that you print the pdf for yourself from this website. Your facilitator will give you any instructions concerning meeting time and place, what you should bring to sessions, and work you should do outside the group sessions.
Using the Group Materials
The Support Materials and website provide background, activities, discussion questions, homework assignments, and resources to supplement Write in the Middle. They also provide information for facilitators to plan and structure group sessions, so if you’re watching the videos with other teachers or facilitating a group, check out the Helpful Hints for Facilitators section in the Support Materials for discussion points and suggestions for activities to do before, during, and after viewing the workshops. If you’re using the workshop for self-study, there are suggestions to help you optimize your viewing as well.
Each workshop session is designed to last about two hours and has a suggested format and a guide to discussion and activity breaks. The suggested viewing format includes background reading to do ahead of time to prepare for each workshop. This reading includes a piece tailored to each workshop titled “Key Practices To Observe,” a guide to help viewers identify the specific teaching moments seen in the videos that are considered “best practice.”
During the time participants are watching the workshop video, facilitators are encouraged to stop the video for discussion and activity breaks. Included in the Support Materials is a guide with suggested pause points and discussion questions to get you started. There are also suggestions for discussion and activities to do immediately after viewing.
The materials available on this website were developed to enhance, not to replicate, the viewing of Write in the Middle, so peruse the site and read samples of authentic student writing, listen to reflections from the teachers featured in the programs, or download handouts to use with your students.
Try your hand at evaluating a piece of student writing at Interactive Practice. You’ll find three samples of authentic drafts, written in different genres, by different students. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of each sample and then compare your assessment to those of another teacher.
Best Practices in Teaching Writing
Best Practices in Teaching Writing (pdf)
Dr. Charles Whitaker‘s detailed description of the best practices demonstrated in Write in the Middle.
Best Practices in Teaching Writing: An Outline (pdf)
An abbreviated, one-page version of Dr. Whitaker’s list of best practices.
About the Contributors
Bobbi Ciriza Houtchens, the lead content advisor for Write in the Middle, teaches English and ESL at San Bernadino High School in San Bernadino, California, east of Los Angeles. Among Bobbi’s students are Spanish, Hmong, Vietnamese, and Arabic speakers. Bobbi and her classroom were featured in the Annenberg series Conversations in Literature.
In addition to her full-time work as a teacher, Bobbi serves as chair of the NCTE’s committee on racism and bias and edits the column “English in the News” for The English Journal. She also is a part-time lecturer in the Department of Language, Literacy, and Culture at California State University, San Bernardino.
Charles Whitaker, Ph.D., the lead field content advisor for Write in the Middle and a contributing writer for the Web site, is a professor of English at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky where he has taught for 28 years and has been recognized as an EKU Foundation Professor. He has taught writing for more than 30 years, along with graduate courses in composition studies, and has published articles and a textbook on writing. He administered the writing program in his department for ten years; and for the past 17 years, he directed two National Writing Project sites—EKU and the Mountain Writing Project, conducted in collaboration with Hazard Community College. Dr. Whitaker has served on the Kentucky Writing Advisory Committee for more than ten years and has worked closely with the Kentucky Department of Education to develop the state’s Program of Studies in English/Language Arts, materials used in the statewide assessment of writing and statewide professional development in writing instruction. In addition, he consults with school districts and schools throughout Kentucky to improve instruction and test scores in writing. Dr. Whitaker also has served on the faculty at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky.
Barbara Flores, Ph.D., is a professor in the Department of Language, Literacy, and Culture in the College of Education at California State University, San Bernadino. During her tenure at Cal State, she has collaborated with teachers and administrators in action research on literacy among culturally and linguistically diverse children. Barbara co-authored Reading in a Bilingual Classroom: Literacy and Biliteracy with Drs. Ken and Yetta Goodman and Whole Language: What’s the Difference? with Carole Edelsky and Bess Altwerger. Both books were published by Heinemann. She also has written a number of articles and chapters for journals and books.
Dewey Hensley works for Jefferson County Public Schools in Louisville, Kentucky, in their principal internship program. Part of Dewey’s time is spent traveling the district working with assessment-year elementary school teachers helping them in their reading, writing, and math instruction. Prior to this position, Dewey served as a Highly Skilled Educator for the Kentucky Department of Education, selected on the basis of his teaching excellence and leadership ability. During his two-year tenure as an HSE, Dewey was assigned to several struggling Kentucky schools, where he provided on-site training and support and helped the administration and faculty develop school-wide plans for improving student performance.
Before becoming an HSE, Dewey taught English at South Oldham High School in Crestwood, Kentucky. He also has taught at Eminence High School in Eminence, Kentucky, and at Fairdale High in Louisville. Dewey’s professional activities include serving as associate director of the Louisville Writing Project, conducting training sessions for the Kentucky Association of School Administrators, and serving as a leader for portfolio analysis and as on-demand writing test writer for the Kentucky Department of Education. A National Board-certified teacher, Dewey has a B.A. in English and philosophy from Berea College in Berea, Kentucky, and a master’s in English from the University of Louisville.
Linda Rief teaches eighth-grade language arts at Oyster River Middle School in Durham, New Hampshire. She also is an instructor in the Summer Reading and Writing Program at the University of New Hampshire and has taught graduate courses for Northeastern University and Simmons College in Boston, Massachusetts.
Linda’s publications include Seeking Diversity: Language Arts With Adolescents (1992) and a 1999 book and companion CD, Vision and Voice: Extending the Literacy Spectrum. In addition, she coedited All That Matters: What Is It We Value in School and Beyond?(1995) and Workshop 6: The Teacher as Writer (1994) with Maureen Barbieri. All four books were published by Heinemann. Linda also has written several chapters and articles for professional books and journals.
Linda’s teaching was the subject of Conferences and Conversations: Listening to the Literate Classroom (2000) by Douglas Kaufman, also published by Heinemann. In this book, Kaufman chronicles a year in Linda’s classroom as she fosters relationships with and among her students; establishes classroom organization and routines; and uses conversations and conferences to improve her students’ writing, reading, and thinking.
Tom Romano, Ph.D., teaches writing and language arts methods in the Department of Teacher Education at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. He is the author of Clearing the Way: Working With Teenage Writers (Heinemann, 1987); Writing With Passion: Life Stories, Multiple Genres (Boynton/Cook, 1995); and Blending Genre, Altering Style: Writing Multigenre Papers (Boynton/Cook, 2000).
Tom taught high school English for 17 years and has been a faculty member at Miami since 1995. Tom is in demand nationwide as a consultant because of his unique combination of scholarly expertise, his specialized knowledge in teaching multigenre writing, and his experience in high school classrooms, writing workshops, and in teacher development.
Tom’s undergraduate and master’s degrees are from Miami, and his doctorate is from the University of New Hampshire.
Frank X Walker is the director of Kentucky’s Governor’s School for the Arts, which provides hands-on arts opportunities for the state’s talented high school students in dance, musical theatre, drama, vocal and instrumental music and creative writing in addition to visual art, architecture, and historic preservation. Frank also serves on the board of directors for the Kentucky Writers Coalition and the Louisville Arts Council.
A photographer, muralist, and writer, Frank is a founding member of the Affrilachian Poets, a group of African American writers with roots in the rural South. In 2000, he published his first collection of poetry, Affrilachia. He also was featured in Coal Black Voices, a 2001 documentary on the Affrilachian Poets produced with support from the Kentucky Educational Television Fund for Independent Production.
Frank was born in Danville, Kentucky, a small town south of Lexington, and graduated from the University of Kentucky, where he majored in English. He presently is working on an M.F.A. at Spalding College in Louisville. In addition to his work with the School for the Arts, Frank has served as the assistant director of the Black Cultural Center at Purdue University, as the program coordinator for the Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center at the University of Kentucky, and as the executive director of the Bluegrass Black Arts Consortium, an organization he founded. He also has five years of experience teaching creative writing.
Jenny Beasley has taught language arts at Meece Middle School in Somerset, Kentucky, for the past nine years. She is presently teaching sixth-graders. Jenny earned a B.A. in public relations/journalism from Auburn University in Alabama and then returned to Auburn several years later to complete her M.E. in elementary education.
Jenny is very active professionally. At Meece Middle, she has served as a language arts chair and Writing Cluster Leader. She also has been part of the School Portfolio Assessment Team and was the chair for Meece’s school-wide review, conducted in 1998-99 by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges. After completing the Eastern Kentucky Writing Project’s Summer Institute in 1995, she spent three years serving as the EKU Writing Project co-director. The recipient of several teaching awards, Jenny has conducted professional development workshops on writing instruction at the state and national level.
For the past 23 years, Gloria Hamilton has taught in the Inglewood Unified School District in Inglewood, California, an urban community near Los Angeles. Currently, she teaches eighth-grade language arts at Crozier Middle School and serves as a district-wide literacy coach. Her other accomplishments include designing and implementing a writing and testing program for technical students at the University of Illinois, Northwestern University, the Illinois Institute of Technology, the University of Southern California, and West Los Angeles College. She also developed and piloted a student mentor program in partnership with the Inglewood Public Library. Gloria graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree from Indiana University. She completed an advanced study in reading from Northern University in DeKalb, Illinois.
Vivian Johnson has been teaching language arts at T.A. Dugger Junior High School in Elizabethton, Tennessee, for seven years—the last five years enjoying eighth-graders. She holds an E.Ed. in curriculum and instruction and an M.S.T. in English from the University of New Hampshire, and she became National Board certified in 1999.
Vivian’s special interests as a teacher of literacy center on the workings of a writing process classroom, and she frequently presents writing and reading workshops for school districts in her region. She has published articles in Tennessee Reading Teacher and In the Middle. Her most treasured accomplishments, however, are students who leave for high school with a strong sense of who they are as readers and writers, on their way to being lifelong learners.
Velvet McReynolds has been teaching for 30 years. Following graduation from UCLA, Velvet spent 20 years teaching middle school language arts in Los Angeles County’s Lennox School District. While in California, Velvet served as a peer coach and mentor, specializing in portfolio assessment, and as president of the Lennox Teachers Association. She was named Teacher of the Year for the Lennox School District in 1989. Velvet earned her master’s degree in curriculum development at California State University at Dominguez Hills. Since the early 1990s, she has taught in Hoover, Alabama, a suburb of Birmingham. She continues to serve in a mentorship role and facilitates workshops on portfolio assessment, multi-culture in language arts, and authentic writing. She earned National Board certification in 1997.
Damond Moodie is in his sixth year of teaching at Roosevelt Middle School in the Oakland, California, school district. He has taught seventh-grade English and history for more than four years. Damond has served on the Leadership Team and as chair of the Social Studies Department. He coaches the seventh-grade boys’ basketball team and works in Roosevelt’s homework center as well. He has a B.A. in English from the College of Wooster in Ohio.
Since 2000, Mary Cathryn Ricker has taught seventh-grade language arts at Cleveland Quality Middle School in St. Paul, Minnesota. She received her undergraduate degree at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul and her master’s in teacher leadership with a certification in staff development at the University of Minnesota. She began her career at South Junior High in St. Cloud, Minnesota, and she also has taught at North Junior High and Tech High School in St. Cloud. Additional experience includes three years teaching seventh-grade language arts in Camas, Washington, and a year teaching English in Seoul, Korea. Mary Cathryn coordinates the Promising Young Writers Program for the Minnesota Council of Teachers of English and serves on the board of the Minnesota Writing Project. She is a member of the Minnesota Best Practice Writing Workshop, the Loft Literary Center, and the St. Paul Federation of Teachers Executive Board and COPE committee. She co-chairs the Education Action Committee at Progressive Minnesota.
Laurie Swistak received a B.S. in education magna cum laude in 1989 after 20 years as a stay-at-home mom. In 1991, she left her first teaching position at a small Catholic school to begin working at Cranston-Calvert Elementary School in Newport, Rhode Island. In addition to teaching general fifth-grade social studies and math, she teaches language arts to gifted and talented students who come to Cranston-Calvert from schools throughout the district.
Laurie presented on the multigenre approach to writing instruction featured in Workshop 5. In addition, she is active in her local teachers’ association and serves on the curriculum and literacy committees. She also serves on the Cranston-Calvert School Improvement Team and attends the Rhode Island Institute for Learning.
Allen Teng is in his third year of teaching seventh-grade language arts at Rogers Middle School in Lawndale, California. He received his master’s degree in education and credential from UCLA in 2000 after finishing his undergraduate degree at UC Berkeley with a mass communications major and creative writing minor. Before teaching, he worked on race and education policy in Washington, D.C. and Sacramento.
Jack Wilde has taught for more than 34 years. He presently teaches the fifth grade at the Bernice A. Ray School in the small town of Hanover, New Hampshire, where Dartmouth College is located. Jack and another fifth-grade teacher share the responsibilities for teaching two groups of approximately 20 students. Jack teaches language arts to his own homeroom and math to both classes while his partner is in charge of science instruction. Jack has two master’s degrees, an M.A.L.S. from Dartmouth College with a concentration in math and science, and an M.Ed. from the University of Toronto in language arts. He has been a workshop presenter and instructor of writing at various sites including the University of New Hampshire.
Annenberg Media Project Manager
Instructional Design/Content Development
Managing Producer/Project Director
Writers and Content Editors
Mary Duncan, Ph.D.
Field Content Producer
Charles Whitaker, Ph.D.
Web Site Producers
Mary Duncan, Ph.D.
Web Site Designer
Web Site Consultants
Web Site Contributing Writer
Charles Whitaker, Ph.D.
W. Jay Akers
Content Advisory Panel
Bobbi Ceriza Houtchens, Lead Advisor
Barbara Flores, Ph.D.
Tom Romano, Ph.D.
Frank X Walker
Mary Cathryn Ricker
M. Elizabeth Spaulding, Ph.D.
Pillar to Post
Cleveland Middle School, St. Paul, MN
Cranston-Calvert Elementary School, Newport, RI
Crozier Middle School, Inglewood, CA
T.A. Dugger Junior High School, Elizabethton, TN
Meece Middle School, Somerset, KY
Bernice A. Ray School, Hanover, NH
Rogers Middle School, Lawndale, CA
Roosevelt Middle School, Oakland, CA
Arthur Rouse, Video Editing Services 1
Simmons Middle School, Hoover, AL
Sue Swaim, National Middle School Association
1 Creating a Community of Writers
In this session, participants explore practical strategies — from desk arrangements to classroom organization to writing routines — that allow young adolescents to share their writing in an atmosphere of trust and safety and to recognize their identities as lifelong writers and readers.
2 Making Writing Meaningful
When teachers introduce subjects that matter to middle school students or allow them more freedom to choose and develop topics, the task of writing gains new meaning and purpose. In this session, participants examine how five middle-level teachers help their students connect to writing and understand its capacity to transform their own lives and the world around them.
3 Teaching Poetry
Poetry offers young adolescents an unparalleled opportunity for exploring feelings and learning about the power of written expression. This session showcases two master teachers as they help their students develop as writers and readers of poetry.
4 Teaching Persuasive Writing
In this session, participants visit two middle-level classrooms to see how teachers can help young writers develop effective and authentic persuasive pieces based on their own experiences and interests - for example, using cell phones in schools or altering their homework schedule.
5 Teaching Multigenre Writing
Multigenre writing offers students a wide range of options for expressing ideas and communicating knowledge. In this session, participants examine two different, but equally successful, examples of this eclectic and engaging writing approach
6 Responding to Writing: Teacher to Student
In this session, participants see how five middle-level teachers use both formal and informal student/teacher conferences to monitor their students' progress and help them improve as writers.
7 Responding to Writing: Peer to Peer
Throughout the writing process, peer response can help young adolescents develop as thinkers and writers. In this session, participants explore strategies for structuring peer interactions and for teaching students to respond positively and productively to each other's work.
8 Teaching the Power of Revision
In this session, participants visit the classrooms of three teachers to examine strategies that help even reluctant writers see the power and purpose of revision.
Supplementary: Write in the Middle: Best Practices in Teaching Writing
Dr. Charles Whitaker's detailed description of the best practices demonstrated in Write in the Middle
Supplementary: Write in the Middle: Best Practices in Teaching Writing - An Outline
An abbreviated, one-page version of Dr. Whitaker's list of best practices.