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Capital District Teachers Focus on Writing at University at Albany

June 29, 2009



A teacher in the classroom; child raising hand to ask a question.

Teachers from around the Capital Region will focus on helping students to become better writers. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

School's out for summer except for the dedicated teachers who are coming to the University at Albany for a month starting today to develop best practices of teaching K-12 students to write well.

These 14 teachers who went through a rigorous application process will join the Capital District Writing Project's 2009 Invitational Summer Institute. The institute began in 2004. It is hosted by UAlbany's School of Education in partnership with the Greater Capital Region Teacher Center.

The School of Education plays a significant role.

"The University and specifically the School of Education support the work of our site as part of our efforts to integrate theory and practice and provide outreach to local schools," said Robert Yagelski, associate professor of English education in the Department of Educational Theory and Practice, who co-directs the Capital District Writing Project, a site of the National Writing Project.

"What makes the National Writing Project model so powerful is that it offers teachers an opportunity to explore their own writing as part of a sustained inquiry that ultimately enables them to teach more effectively," said Yagelski. "Their own experiences as writers give them insight into the nature of writing and the struggles of student writers. In effect, teachers in the writing project become better learners so that they can in turn become better teachers."

Student reading over a paper he has written.

Good writing skills are more important than ever before. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

Studies of National Writing Project sites show that students whose teachers have participated in the project write more effectively than other students. CDWP works with local schools to design programs aimed at improving teacher effectiveness.

"We directly impact instruction in local classrooms," said Yagelski. "We work with schools and respond to their specific challenges."
The UAlbany site is one of only seven writing project sites nationwide to serve as part of the research team for Distinguished Professor Arthur Applebee's National Study of Writing Instruction. Applebee chairs the Department of Educational Theory and Practice.

The teachers participating in the 2009 summer institute represent eight school districts in the Capital Region, one in Vermont, and one private school in Albany. They include three elementary teachers, four middle school teachers, and nine high school teachers in English, social studies, and special education.

Leading the day-to-day sessions will be Alicia Wein, an English teacher at Guilderland High School, and Aaron Thiell, who teaches kindergarten at Tamarac Elementary School in the Brittonkill Central School District. Carol Forman-Pemberton of the Greater Capital Region Teacher Center co-directs CDWP with Yagelski.

The CDWP also sponsors an annual Teen Writing Workshop for local high school students. This year the teen workshop is July 13-17 on the UAlbany campus.  



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