After two days of introductory activities, KMWP’s 2015 Invitational Summer Institute (ISI) got fully underway on Monday, June 8. With an emphasis this year on place-based writing and finding inspiration in nature, co-director Kitty Drew and her colleague Mary Ann Stillerman got the fellows exploring KSU’s campus in order to write with a photographer’s eye. This was followed up with an activity that has become an ISI mainstay. Led by co-director Rob Montgomery, the fellows gave themselves a Cree Indian name and wrote a poem explaining it.
Tuesday was largely spent at the Root House in Marietta. The fellows were treated to a tour from Abbie Parks, Board Chair for Cobb Landmarks and Historical Society, and afterward they discussed place-based writing prompts with Root House manager Melissa DeVelvis. This was followed with lunch on the square and an opportunity to explore (and write about) Marietta National Cemetery.
Poetry and writing groups were the order of the day on Wednesday. First, Rob had the fellows study Carl Sandburg’s poem “Jazz Fantasia,” and then participate in an activity where they listened to several pieces of music and wrote a poem inspired by one of them. With the first writing group meeting occurring that afternoon, the fellows were introduced to writing group protocols by performing three skits written by Scott Smoot, KMWP fellow and teacher at the Walker School. The fellows met in two writing groups after lunch, and then Kitty and Mary Ann brought the day to a close by having the fellows create personal literacy maps.
Thursday saw a visit from KSU’s Dr. Michelle Devereaux, who spent the morning discussing language ideologies, code-switching, and contrastive analysis, and sharing practical ideas for ways these complicated issues can be addressed in k-12 classrooms. Running throughout the week, fellows received coaching on their teaching demonstrations from Derek Wright and Amanda Montgomery, and Thursday afternoon was spent in one-on-one sessions as they put the finishing touches on their presentations.
At the end of a long first week, several unstructured activities were planned for Friday: writing groups, coaching sessions, and the first meeting of three different teacher research book clubs at lunch. In between, Rob introduced the concept of performative literacy by asking the fellows to analyze and write about two different poems.
It was a productive and exhausting week, but the fellows left energized, full of ideas, and ready to resume work on Monday.
– Rob Montgomery