This July, 18 teachers from eight Wisconsin school districts came together through the Fox Valley Writing Project’s (FVWP) Advanced Institute for eight days to study English Language Arts Common Core State Standards (CCSS), CCSS Literacy Standards in Content Area Classroom Grades 6–12, and use of technology for writing instruction.
“The institute was designed to have teachers develop a professional development proposal based on what they want to do in their own classrooms and then engage in their own inquiry about that work, the questions they need answered and how to implement an action plan,” said Lisa Weiss ’97 and ’04 MSE, FVWP co-director and Literacy Coordinator for the Neenah Joint School District.
For example, a high school art teacher at the institute wanted to align art and design standards with literacy standards for reading, writing, speaking, listening and language by setting up student blogs for each of her art classes.
These classroom blogs are set up to develop an online portfolio of artwork and students learn how to evaluate and explain their own work, as well as to respond to the work of classmates. The blogs will also extend students’ reading and writing to an oral presentation at the time of their final exam.
“We also had a high school English teacher who recognized informational text, a CCSS requirement, is not particularly the focus in high school literature courses, and so her proposal work was looking at the ten informational text standards in the CCSS and how to embed informational text within that literature curriculum,” said Weiss.
With the Advanced Institute complete, the FVWP leadership team will review the teachers’ proposals and determine what professional development opportunities they could organize that would have applications for other teachers in the Fox Valley Writing Project area.
“Once we decide what it is we have to take out to districts, it’s all about further developing these teachers into leaders who will provide professional development to other teachers in their building, in their district or the broader area,” said Weiss.
“These teachers have done inquiry work on their own, but they’ve done so knowing they will play a vital role leading efforts to improve learning by sharing effective practices that enhance student writing and learning, designing resources and taking on new roles in effecting positive change, “ she said.
The FVWP Advanced Institute was funded by a SEED Grant (Supporting Effective Educator Development) from the National Writing Project and the U.S. Department of Education to support teacher leadership development and to provide professional development to school districts. Patricia Scanlan, FVWP director and UW Oshkosh associate professor of literacy and language, is the Principal Investigator.