FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 21, 2007
EDITORIAL CONTACT: Lisa L. Rollins, 615-898-2919
MTSU SITE OF NATIONAL WRITING PROJECT INSTITUTE
FOR K-COLLEGE TEACHERS FOR 3RD YEAR IN A ROW
$45K Matching Grants Secure Opportunity to Offer Writing Program;
MTSU Also Will Sponsor Three 2-Week Youth Writing Camps in June
(MURFREESBORO, Tenn.)—Thanks to generous matching grants totaling $90,000, MTSU will soon embark upon its third annual Middle Tennessee Writing Project (MTWP), an on-campus writing institute for select teachers of kindergarten through college students, on June 4-29, and three Youth Writer’s Camp sessions, which are two-week intensive writing camps held Mondays through Thursdays for students from Rutherford and other local counties.
Although MTSU has been the site of MTWP-sponsored Youth Writer’s Camps in the past, this year three separate such camps will be conducted, including an 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. June 11-21 session for grades 4-12 in MTSU’s Cason-Kennedy Nursing Building; an 8:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. June 4-14 camp for grades 5-9 at Castle Heights Upper Elementary in Lebanon; and a 7:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. June 4-14 camp for writers in grades 4-8 at Woodbury Grammar School in Cannon County.
Author Michael Shoulders, who penned “V is for Volunteer,” a book about Tennessee, will be the guest author at all three youth camps.
Regarding the teacher-focused MTWP project, Dr. Bobbie Solley, professor of elementary and special education at MTSU, said the multi-week institute targets those educators who are already doing good work when it comes to writing instruction in the classroom.
“We have 18 teacher participants from Williamson, Rutherford, Bedford, Cannon and Wilson Counties, along with several from Lebanon and Murfreesboro City Systems,” she said. “These teachers will be sharing their expertise and learning from one another the most effective strategies for teaching writing. …”
“Once the summer institute is complete, these 18 participants will join the almost 40 other teachers who have gone through the institute to become teacher consultants,” she continued. “Their job then is to conduct in-service, present at conferences or anything else that would provide professional development for other teachers in the area of writing.”
MTSU is only the second Tennessee college to offer such a writing project. The MTWP is one of 185 sites of the The National Writing Project, a federally funded program launched in 1974 by professors at the University of California at Berkeley who were interested in helping teachers become more effective teachers of writing.
According to its Web site, MTWP is a professional development program for K-college teachers and across the disciplines who wish to improve writing instruction. The project offers teachers the chance to explore new and effective approaches to teaching writing, as well as theorize their own effective methods.
According to its mission statement, the MTWP’s organizers seek to improve writing and learning in the nation's schools, specifically Middle Tennessee's schools … and promote effective writing instruction through a teachers-teaching-teachers professional development model that recognizes the importance of teacher knowledge, expertise and leadership.
“This is a very good thing for MTSU,” said Solley, who—along with Dr. Trixie Smith, assistant professor, English—penned the initial grant request that made MTWP possible.
Solley said that it’s important to note that the MTWP is not a remedial writing institute,
but instead, focuses on best practices in writing instruction.
What really excites me about me about this is teachers being put up on a pedestal,” Solley said. “These are professional people. They have the knowledge that other people don’t have, so let’s use it and spread it.”
Regarding the three student writing camps, 25 students already are registered to attend the June 11-21 camp at MTSU, which costs $200 per student. This year, the Rutherford County camp will be under the direction of Jill McHenry from Rock Springs Elementary and Laurel Taylor from Smyrna High School. The June 4-14 writing camp in Cannon County, which costs $100 per student, will be under the direction of Jeff Todd and Shannon Cornelius, both teachers at Woodbury Grammar. Meanwhile, the June 4-14 camp for the Wilson County School System and the Lebanon Special School District, which also costs $100 per student, will be led by teachers Missy Owens of the Lebanon district and Kathy Gallagher of the Wilson system.
Past MTWP teacher-participant Marcy Pflueger of Eagleville School is the coordinator for all three writing camps this year.
“In 2005, Marcy Pflueger, one of the participants from the first summer institute, attended a national conference and began hearing and learning about youth writers' camps as a way to involve kids in effective writing as well as provide professional development for teachers,” Solley said. “She came to the directors and co-directors of the MTWP with a plan. … (And) after last summer's institute, more teacher participants wanted to be involved in the youth writers' camp, so Marcy became the director, overseeing three camps for this summer.”
As for the writing ability of today’s learners, Solley has characterized the current writing skills of students from elementary grades to graduate school as unimaginative. In the lower grades, she added, teachers traditionally have been pressured to teach writing through a prompt, which eliminates the creative process of children coming up with an original subject.
“Kids come to kindergarten bursting with imagination and ideas, (but) by second grade, they are already struggling because too many teachers have only the right stuff to write about,” she said.
As for the college set, ample room for writing improvement also exists.
“I have graduate students who can’t write. Their sentence structure is simple and boring, and I think it’s for fear that they don’t know how to use commas right,” remarked Solley, who said she hopes the writing project will spark renewed interest and involve teachers and principals in reversing this situation in our schools.
• For more information about the MTWP, including the Youth Writer’s Camp, please access its Web site online at www.mtsu.edu/~mtwp. For youth camp registration information, please contact Pflueger via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (615) 274-6320.
ATTENTION, MEDIA: For editorial needs, including interview requests with institute organizers or teacher participants from specific counties, please contact Lisa L. Rollins in the Office of News and Public Affairs at email@example.com or by calling 615-898-2919. **Media are welcomed and encouraged to attend the writing camps and teacher institute.