2017 ISI – Week 2 Recap

June 19 – 23, 2017

The Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project’s Summer Institute charged ahead during the week of June 19. Fellows, directors, and guest speakers alike explored playful, engaging methods for teaching argument and grammar.

The week began with presentations from Rob and Amanda Montgomery on using imagery to spur writing. Amanda presented a series of archival photos as prompts for creative writing; then Rob used Norman Rockwell paintings as prompts for visual analysis. Interpreting the paintings made for a nice segue into discussing various approaches to argument writing. Tommy Jolly presented a case for using students’ tastes in popular culture as a gateway to teaching argument writing. After lunch, Rob introduced an activity called the “English Throwdown,” a series of prompts intended to get students to be mindful of the tools at their disposal as writers. In groups, the fellows also debated short narratives to determine whether the events depicted were examples of courage.

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On Tuesday, the fellows were given more images to explore argument in a variety of contexts, this time involving such disparate scenarios as selecting a magazine cover, creating a corporate logo, or determining an award recipient. Writing groups met for a second time, providing a space for sharing drafts of writing and testing ideas for further research. KMWP strongly supports teachers pursuing writing on their own to improve writing instruction.

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Wednesday saw an insightful presentation by two guest speakers, Darren Crovitz and Michelle Devereaux, who  discussed grammar–how it is taught, how it varies from one dialect to another, and how best to teach it. Crovitz and Devereaux’s latest book, Grammar to Get Things Done, presents a number of low-stakes, high-yield methods for incorporating grammar instruction into all kinds of student writing. The afternoon saw two important and related conversations. The first was about putting together an effective conference proposal, Rob, Amanda, and Tommy all shared stories of composing proposals and giving presentations at GCTE, NCTE, and other conferences. After that, the fellows shared some of their ideas for their inquiry-based demo projects. These demos will be the driving project for the fellows as we transition to monthly meetings during the school year.

On Thursday, the fellows spent time in their own communities, looking for writing opportunities at locations near their schools. Our group is from areas as far from each other as Alpharetta, Rome, and McDonough, so the teachers found a lot of places where they can take their students next year to study their communities through writing. On Friday, the fellows presented the results of their searches, sharing locations such as coffeehouses, museums, parks, and memorials. One thing that was clear from the presentations is that there is a lot of potential for exploration outside the classroom that can lead to writing in all genres and for all purposes.

We ended the week with further demo coaching. Certainly the activities for the week extended the Summer Institute’s theme of blurring the lines between work and play. While many of the methods shared in the week had a fun element, they also directly involved the rigorous attention to language, style, and genre that we need in our classrooms, regardless of grade level or subject matter. The 2017 Fellows will next be devoting themselves to research, the initial stages of which they will share in early August.

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