WA Greater Madison Writing Project Hosts a Yearlong Institute:

Nov 18, 2015
Posted by: Jsinger2


WA Greater Madison Writing Project Hosts a Yearlong Institute:

Last year at this time we were writing about our enthusiasm at the prospect of hosting a Yearlong Institute, and we are happy to report that in July we kicked off our inaugural Yearlong Institutes with two cohorts. Our goal with the Yearlong Institutes was to develop a model that would take the ISI and stretch it out over the course of a full year. We know and cherish the transformative experience of the ISI, but we wanted to experiment with a model to address two struggles we have with the ISI model: the inaccessibility of the four-week program for many educators and the struggles individual educators face when they return to classrooms and schools full of constraints that are stripped away during the ISI. Our model of two intensive weeks in summer followed by monthly meetings throughout the school year addresses both of the concerns. (A program flyer is attached.) Teachers in the yearlong institute also will spend two full days together - one in December and one in April - to address their classroom action research issues and work toward writing a document about their research.

 We spent much of the spring discussing how to make sure we didn’t turn the Yearlong Institute into “ISI Lite.” The Yearlong Institute needs to maintain core structures and features of the ISI – the personal writing, reading groups, writing response groups, structured writing time, exploration of the research on teaching writing – yet spreading the experience out over such an extended period of time also meant that some of those core features would be different from what we have experienced. After much discussion, the directors and facilitators decided that the primary focus in summer would be on teacher as writer, while the primary focus during the school year would be on teacher as researcher of her/his writing practices. The summer weeks whet the appetite for the research components to come during the school year, with each participant preparing a brief presentation on the literature they are using to ground their classroom research, but the major push in summer was to immerse ourselves in writing as a way to better understand how our own writing practices inform our teaching of writing. Reading and writing groups from the summer will continue into the school year meetings, but the primary focus has now shifted to implementing a classroom action research project investigating writing instruction in the classroom.

The 2015-16 Yearlong Institute is partially funded by the 2014-16 SEED Teacher Leadership grant, with the remaining costs paid by partnering school districts. As mentioned in the previous section, we will be presenting to the area Directors of Instruction in the coming months in an effort to garner additional partner districts for the 2016-17 Yearlong Institutes. With the SEED funding coming to an end, it will be essential we find additional partners since the districts will now take on the full cost of the program. 

While we cannot yet write about the full experience of the program, we can say the summer experience received overwhelmingly positive reviews from participants and the participants easily and eagerly reconnected with one another and quickly shifted to talking about teaching writing at the first of the school year meetings in September.