When speaking about the National Writing Project, Dr. Sheridan Blau stated that
This model of teacher professional learning sparked a movement that is still growing strong today. More than 200 Writing Project sites can be found across the United States, and these sites continue to use a teachers-teaching-teachers model to build community, capacity, and passion for writing instruction. In this blog, I will highlight the teacher professional learning opportunities and the youth programming offered by one of those sites - the UC Irvine Writing Project (UCIWP).
What is UCIWP’s history?
This site was established in 1978 by Carol Booth Olson, Professor Emerita and the Director of the National WRITE Center. It is located on UC Irvine’s campus in the School of Education. UC Irvine’s School of Education ranks No. 20 in the U.S. News & World Report’s list of top graduate schools of education, No. 9 among public schools. Located in the heart of diverse and burgeoning Orange County – the nation’s sixth most populous county – the UC Irvine School of Education serves a culturally and linguistically diverse student population. Many of these graduates serve as teachers, specialists, and administrations in school districts around the county and across the nation.
Since its conception, the UCIWP has reached over 20,000 teachers through a variety of professional learning opportunities. Also, UCIWP was the first California Writing Project site to create a summer youth program, which has grown from 35 students and two teachers in 1984 to more than 2500 students and 200 teachers in recent years.
What teacher professional learning is available?
UCIWP engages teachers in professional learning opportunities throughout the academic year and the summer months. Although UCIWP offers research-based workshops and invitational events, here, I highlight the cornerstones of the UCIWP—the annual summer institute and the annual December literacy conference.
UCIWP’s Summer Institute: A Teachers-Teaching-Teachers Model
The annual summer institute is a four-week, 100-hour seminar for teachers (elementary through university) and teaching scholars. While teachers teach their colleagues during this immersive learning experience, they engage in the model-practice-reflect instructional cycle, an evidence-based recommendation. This has a three-pronged benefit to teachers.
Teachers also have opportunities to engage with colleagues during reading clubs and writing clubs. They also get to engage in teaching scholars through interventive presentations. Next, I’ll showcase the affordances of the reading clubs, writing clubs, and the teaching scholar interactive presentations.
The Institute's Book Clubs
Book clubs are led by an experienced, former Summer Institute Fellow and offer teacher participants weekly opportunities to engage in small groups around a self-selected read. Teachers experience what it is like to be offered choice in reading and structured discussion time with their peers. The mutual experience of looking forward to learning what happens next in each others’ books keeps readers accountable and engaged. Past fellows have reported that they routinely use book clubs in their own classrooms.
The Institute's Writing Clubs
Writing Clubs also offer summer institute participants structured time to (re)connect with their writerly identities. Much like the choice that is built into Reading Clubs, Writing Clubs offer teachers guided opportunities to craft a genre-specific text of their choosing. Structured peer feedback opportunities help celebrate what works well in their writing and guide writers in ways they might improve their text. These experiences also help teachers reconnect with students who are asked to engage in peer review (and offer moments to think through the types of scaffolding students might need to support their readings of peers’ writing).
The Institute's Teaching Scholar Interactive Presentations
The annual summer institute also features interactive presentations by teaching scholars. In recent years, Kelly Gallagher, Jim Burke, Gretchen Bernabei, and Sheridan Blau have provided their expertise and knowledge about writing instruction. During the virtual summer institute of 2020, teachers also participated in interactive webinars offered by the National Writing Project. One such webinar was facilitated by Troy Hicks, the Director of the Chippewa River Writing Project. During this learning opportunity, Hicks focused on designing instructional arcs for remote literacy instruction. A replay for his webinar is available by completing this brief form.
UCIWP’s Annual December Literacy Conference
During the 2019 conference, Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle provided opening remarks that focused on the key principles for motivating young writers: relevance, engagement, and agency. Participants attended workshops provided by teaching scholars, literacy directors, educational consultants, and faculty members. Some of the specific topics that were offered are below.
Note: Due to the restrictions placed on large gatherings, the in-person December Literacy Conference will not take place. Teachers might be interested in attending a free webinar on 12/10/2020 titled “Using the Notice and Note Signposts to Create Empowered Readers - Even from a Distance” This interactive webinar will be facilitated by Kylene Beers and Bob Probst, and is co-sponsored by the UCIWP, the National WRITE Center, the National Writing Project, and the Orange County Department of Education. Registration is now open! A book give-away will be offered for these authors’ newest title (to be announced during the webinar).
What programming is offered for youth?
During the summer of 2020, the Annual Summer Youth Program went virtual. Their offerings included courses for:
Much like the best practices for instruction used during the summer institute, the summer youth program also employed the model-practice-reflect instructional cycle. First, teachers provided synchronous, whole class instruction. Next, students practiced and applied what they learned in small groups with time for instructor feedback. Each day concluded with synchronous time for reflection and celebration of progress.
Staff are now embarking on extending the virtual program for youth to provide school-year course offerings. This extension originated from requests from parents, who voiced strong praise for the on-line summer program.
Taken together, the UCIWP offers the community high-quality programming that meets the ever-changing needs of the teaching profession and the corresponding learning needs of students they serve. To learn more about UCIWP, visit their website at: http://writingproject.uci.edu/
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