Teachers Write – An Online Summer Writing Forum for Teachers

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Do you teach writing — whether it is your subject area, a cross-curricular skill or one of several subjects you teach as an elementary teacher?  And, for fun or professionally, do you write, yourself?

Last year, I was still exclusively teaching middle grade Writing. As summer approached, I also had a fresh novel draft and a growing writing blog, and I wanted nothing more than to turn those long summer days-off with my sons into a finished novel and thriving blog. So I was happily surprised to stumble across a fabulous, dynamic and free resource for teachers: Teachers Write.

Teachers Write is the equivalent of an online writing camp for teachers. The forum is hosted by middle grade/young adult fiction writers Kate Messner, Gae Polisner and Jo Knowles.  Kate and Gae announced the project in spring 2012, and you could hear the excitement in their updates when more than 700 teachers nationwide signed up. Participation this year is over 1,000.

Teachers Write posts daily writing activities to help teachers stay motivated in pursuing individual writing goals during the summer months. There are teachers at all writing levels, working in all formats. While the daily prompts help set up a healthy routine (dare we say discipline?), participants are encouraged to set their own goals for involvement. Says Kate, in announcing the schedule: “Schedule is kind of an ugly word for summer, isn’t it? So let’s call this the plan-of-the-day instead. Feel free to participate in whatever floats your boat and skip the rest.”

It’s Summer – Why Write?

If you love to write, that’s not even a question for you. There are lots of teachers who write on a regular basis, and participants in Teachers Write cover the full range from those keeping a journal, creative writing or blogging as a hobby, to professional, published fiction and nonfiction writers. Wouldn’t you bet a large percentage of participants are those who have always loved to write, dreamed of writing, but rarely claim the time?

On the other hand, many participants say they have come to Teachers Write because they never write, are afraid to write or that teaching writing is the subject they feel least confident about. They have the right idea: many professional development programs agree that teachers are better able to model good writing practices when they practice writing frequently, themselves.

The National Writing Project lists as the second of its four core principles: “Knowledge about the teaching of writing comes from many sources: theory and research, the analysis of practice, and the experience of writing. Effective professional development programs provide  frequent and ongoing opportunities for teachers to write and to examine theory, research, and practice together systematically” (emphasis added).

Whether out of love or trepidation, participants join Teachers Write to be motivated and encouraged through the forum’s routine.

The Basics – How It Works

Teachers Write posts activities every day except Saturday. There are mini-lesson Mondays and a Monday warm-up, Tuesday quick-write, Wednesday Q & A, Thursday quick-write, Friday “happy hour” and Friday Feedback. There’s a Friday bonus and a Sunday check-in, to share how your week went. Whether lessons, prompts or Q & A, participants are motivated by insights from published authors — including the program hosts as well as visiting writers.

There is lots of encouragement… but no real whip cracking. If you are interested but worry you won’t be able to participate every day or even every week, you won’t be the only one. It’s summer for the hosts, too, and they talk frequently about fitting writing in while playing with kids, sitting poolside, vacationing or (gasp!) working.

Where do participants complete their work, and do they have to share? That’s up to you and — for teachers on vacation — that flexibility is one benefit.

Teachers Write 2013 button. Visit the site for more info.

Teachers Write 2013 button. Visit the site for more info.

When a participant asked where to share their work today, Kate explained: “You can share short excerpts in the comments for each blog post/assignment. Some people share more on their own blogs, or simply keep a notebook or file for Teachers Write. How/when/where you share is up to you.”

The resources shared by the hosts and fellow participants is another great benefit. For example, a participant at the Facebook forum today said she wants to set up a blog and wondered whether to use Blogger or WordPress. There was immediate useful feedback from fellow participants, sharing their experiences ranging from simple impressions to detailed advice.

Join In – Where to Find Teachers Write

Enough already… if you’re interested, you should really go check out the official site:

  1. To start, go to Kate Messner’s site for the Announcement of Teachers Write, with an explanation and sign-up form. There is no cost, but you’ll see a reasonable request that you consider buying books by the hosting writers. They’re established writers and it’s a fair approach.
  2. Most daily prompts will be on Kate’s site.
  3. Monday warm-ups will be on Jo Knowles’ site.
  4. Friday Feedback is at Gae Polisner’s site.
  5. Sunday check-ins are on Jen Vincent’s Teach Mentor Texts site.

Here are other ways to connect and interact:

  • Teachers Write Facebook page: this is a central place where updates are posted. Participants post questions and interact with each other here, as well. (It is not a forum for self-promotion.)
  • Teachers Write Roster: Want to build platform, get other teachers reading your blog or otherwise connect with participating teachers? Use the form on the Facebook page to add yourself to the participants’ roster. I’ve met some great teachers this way.
  • TW list on Twitter: if participants list themselves on the roster, above, writer Joanne Levy will add them to this member list on Twitter.

Be sure to show some love for the writers who give so much of their time to this project. Here are links for more information on their books:

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What about you?

Are you a teacher who writes? Is summer your free time to write, or is budgeting time for writing a concern for you? How might Teachers Write or other groups or prompts help you stay disciplined in your writing… or would they be a distraction?

If you’ve never dared write before, how might Teachers Write or other writing prompts help you brave it?

Good luck, whatever your summer goals might be!

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For more on this site:reading list

Where else you’ll find me this week – from my writing blog:

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