The 2012 ISI was directed by Rob Montgomery, who serves as the director of Institutes, and Kitty Drew, a teacher at The Walker School who served as teacher co-director. The ISI combines core values of both NWP and local customs developed at our site to build community. We begin our day with breakfast, which inadvertently evolves into an unstated competition where fellows supply elaborate spreads of home-baked goods, and it becomes an opportunity for our international fellows visiting from Costa Rica and Ecuador to share a taste of their culture. During breakfast, fellows sign up to present a morning report on the previous day’s events since it helps everyone settle back into the reflective spirit of the Writing Project Work.
Responses to teacher demonstrations are another core value of our site, and over the years, the ISI staff has experimented with a number of methods for having fellows respond to the demonstrations. Carrying forward a successful method of response from the 2011 ISI, fellows in the 2012 ISI hand-wrote thank you notes to each other. The teaching team felt a handwritten note would be more personal and more appreciated by recipients. While the team gave participants guidelines for the notes (include some comments on what was done well, what could be further developed, and what you will use in the future), we found that writing the notes by hand led to more thoughtful composition.
The ISI also implemented a variety of reading and writing strategies, structures, and genres. The teaching team selected a set of common articles for large-group discussion. These articles covered basic topics such as writing as a process (Murray), individual freewriting (Elbow), and the current debate surrounding education reform initiatives (Ravitch, Ohanian, etc.). The fellows of the ISI also spent time writing in the genre of memoir. Since Dawn Kirby joined the KMWP community, memoir writing has become a mainstay of our ISI. This year Dawn joined us for a week of memoir work, spending two hours with the fellows each day, and Dan Kirby also joined us for one two-hour session. The fellows also participated in writing groups twice a week. The groups were created by the teaching team and were determined by grade level and subject area so that each group would have a range of experiences and voices present. During writing groups the fellows would provide copies of a work in progress to the other group members for the purpose of receiving constructive feedback and suggestions for revision. This follows the NWP principle that teachers of writing are writers themselves, and participation in these groups not only gave ISI fellows the chance to participate in the writing process, it also allowed them to see how they might use such groups in their own classrooms.
The ISI continued implementing KMWP’s focus on technology integration with a group wiki, the NWP e-anthology, and support for fellows exploring their own tech tools. Fellows were also allowed flexibility in the format for Teacher Demonstrations. Individuals could present within a 60-minute time frame or collaborative groups could present during a 90-minute time frame. Finally, the ISI continued its tradition of including KSU faculty and local teachers. Darren Crovitz (KSU) presented on visual rhetoric; Scott Smoot (The Walker School) presented on playwriting; and Justin Franco (Barber Middle School) presented on innovative uses for PowerPoint as a writing tool.