Making writing essential to teen lives


So much of today's push around adolescent literacy involves reading. However, there are invaluable resources on the writing end, too, and here we offer a collection of them.

Key players
Innovative books on teaching writing
Helpful websites

Key players
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Common Core State Standards: English Language Arts—Writing (Grades 6-12)

Overview: "For students, writing is a key means of asserting and defending claims, showing what they know about a subject, and conveying what they have experienced, imagined, thought, and felt. To be college- and career- ready writers, students must take task, purpose, and audience into careful consideration, choosing words, information, structures, and formats deliberately. They need to know how to combine elements of different kinds of writing—for example, to use narrative strategies within argument and explanation within narrative—to produce complex and nuanced writing. They need to be able to use technology strategically when creating, refining, and collaborating on writing. They have to become adept at gathering information, evaluating sources, and citing material accurately, reporting findings from their research and analysis of sources in a clear and cogent manner. They must have the flexibility, concentration, and fluency to produce high-quality first-draft text under a tight deadline as well as the capacity to revisit and make improvements to a piece of writing over multiple drafts when circumstances encourage or require it."

The National Council of Teachers of English

The National Council of Teachers of English is devoted to improving the teaching and learning of English and the language arts at all levels of education. Since 1911, NCTE has provided a forum for the profession, an array of opportunities for teachers to continue their professional growth throughout their careers, and a framework for cooperation to deal with issues that affect the teaching of English.

NCTE has over 60,000 members and subscribers in the United States and other countries. Individual members are teachers and supervisors of English programs in elementary, middle, and secondary schools, faculty in college and university English departments, teacher educators, local and state agency English specialists, and professionals in related fields. Anyone interested in advancing English language arts education is welcome to join the NCTE membership community.

The NCTE website includes links to:

    • Awards—student award programs, professional service awards, and awards for scholarship and teaching.
    • ELA policy blogs—the latest in literacy education trends and breaking news.
    • Education issues—news of interest to literacy educators, policy studies, summaries of national, local and state education issues, Council action on policy questions, the Anti-Censorship Center, and the Educators Advocacy Network information.
    • Grants—funding sources available to educators, including NCTE grant opportunities and various grant programs offered by educational institutions, foundations, and corporations.

National Writing Project

The National Writing Project is the premier effort to improve writing in America. Through its professional development model, NWP builds the leadership, programs, and research needed for teachers to help their students become successful writers and learners.

Every student deserves a highly skilled teacher of writing. To that end, each of the over 200 NWP sites (across 50 states) conducts an annual summer institute, attended by the most experienced teachers in the area. Together, these teachers prepare for leadership roles by demonstrating their most effective practices, studying research, and improving their knowledge of writing by writing themselves.

After the institute, writing project teachers conduct project-sponsored programs in their own schools and in neighboring schools and districts. They attend to two purposes: developing teacher knowledge and leadership in their home communities and putting this knowledge and leadership to work to improve student achievement.

This model of summer and school-year programs, designed and supported by the National Writing Project, is validated by NWP research. Studies of student achievement, both local and national, show positive results. Importantly, NWP sponsors research directed by local sites as well as research targeted at key educational concerns, for example, how to support new teachers or how to support teachers, grades 4-12, in their efforts to improve students' reading and writing for academic purposes.

NWP sites, all located on university campuses, serve over 175,000 educators annually. NWP continues to add new sites each year with the goal of placing the writing project within reach of every teacher in America.

Breadloaf Wrtiers' Conference

Bread Loaf is the oldest writers' conference in America. Since 1926—a generation before "creative writing" became a course of study in educational settings—it has convened in mid-August at the Bread Loaf campus of Middlebury College. During the Conference, writing workshops in fiction, poetry, and nonfiction are the core of the curriculum. Each faculty member conducts a small workshop, most often of ten contributors, meeting for five two-hour sessions over the course of the Conference. All participants also meet individually with their workshop leader to amplify and refine what was said in the workshop itself. Faculty give lectures on writerly issues, and one-hour classes on specific aspects of craft. Readings by faculty, guests, and contributors occur throughout the day and into the night.

Bread Loaf also offers many opportunities to learn about the world of publishing. Early in the Conference, guest editors and agents give overviews of the industry, describing the functions of agents and literary editors, answering questions, and offering guidelines on how to submit book proposals and full-length manuscripts. .

Bread Loaf also hosts the New England Young Writers' Conference, for high school juniors anywhere in the country. It is held in May.


Innovative books on teaching and writing
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Because Writing Matters: Improving Student Writing in Our Schools
by National Writing Project with Carl Nagin (Jossey-Bass, updated edition 2006)

A fresh, comprehensive, and invaluable book which offers case studies of successful schoolwide writing programs that improve student performance, and gives examples of effective assignments, assessments, and research-proven classroom strategies for improving writing.

*Note: The National Writing Project website includes a list of NWP books filled with insights on writing and the teaching of writing.

City of One: Young Writers Speak to the World
edited by Colette DeDonato, foreword by Isabel Allende (Aunt Lute Books, 2005)

City of One is a compelling portrait of a generation of youth who use their words to re-envision the world.

Educating the Imagination: Essays and Ideas for Teachers and Writers
edited by Christopher Edgar & Ron Padgett (Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 1994)

The 72 informal essays in Educating the Imagination were selected from the very best articles in Teachers & Writers Magazine over the past 17 years. Fifty-five creative writers present a multitude of ideas and techniques for writing in the classroom: poetry; fiction; writing across cultures; bookmaking; creative reading; the history of punctuation; and that great, alluring mystery known as the imagination.

Hip Deep: Opinion, Essays, and Vision from American Teenagers
edited by Abe Louise Young (Next Generation Press, 2006)

This riveting anthology presents fifty-six student writers on themes of contemporary life, and includes a guide on how and where aspiring young writers can publish their work.

Reading Your Students: Their Writing and Their Selves
by Anne Martin (Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 2000)

Building on more than 20 years of teaching experience, Anne Martin shows how teachers can gain valuable insights into students by a close reading of their writing. She then demonstrates how this new knowledge contributes to a more creative classroom.

Reading, Writing, and Rising Up: Teaching About Social Justice and the Power of the Written Word
by Linda Christensen (Rethinking Schools, 2000)

A practical, inspirational book offering essays, lesson plans, and a remarkable collection of student writing, all rooted in an unwavering focus on language arts teaching for justice.

The Story in History: Writing Your Way into the American Experience
by Margot Fortunato Galt (Teachers & Writers Collaborative, 1992)

The Story in History gives teachers and students of all levels an entirely new way to learn about American history: by re-experiencing it from the vantage point of the imaginative writer.


Helpful websites for the teaching of writing
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25 Helpful Websites for Creative Writers
Need help getting your students' creative juices flowing? These websites for creative writers offer grammar tips, writing mechanics, writing prompts, peer critiques, and advice on getting published.

Teachers & Writers Collaborative
T&W—a nonprofit organization—is one of the oldest and most innovative writers-in-the-schools programs in the country. T&W places writers in schools and publishes books and a magazine on teaching writing—materials that provide sound theory and practical curriculum ideas for classrooms. T&W links our country's rich, diverse literary community with the public schools.

Poetry 180: A Poem a Day for America's High Schools
Created by Billy Collins, former Poet Laureate of the United States, Poetry 180 is designed to make it easy for students to hear or read a poem on each of the 180 days of the school year.

Online Poetry Classroom
Here you will find a wealth of resources, including teacher forums where teachers can share ideas and seek help from colleagues; pedagogical and critical essays about poetry; extensive links to relevant websites; curriculum units and lesson plans; biographies of hundreds of poets; and nearly two thousand poems.

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“There’s a radical—and wonderful—new idea here… that all children could and should be inventors of their own theories, critics of other people’s ideas, analyzers of evidence, and makers of their own personal marks on the world.”

– Deborah Meier, educator