GWP: Writing for Improved Learning and Civic Engagement
Over the past three and a half decades, the Gateway Writing Project (GWP) at UMSL has been the source of inspiration and improved teaching for hundreds of COE alumni and their students. GWP teachers have enriched their classroom experiences and found authentic ways to propel their students toward writing for audiences beyond the classroom — whether it’s a guest editorial in a local newspaper, a blog post, or a letter of complaint to a business about a product that malfunctions.
Each spring and fall, GWP hosts Youth Writing Festivals for students in grades 3-8 and their teachers. This fall, the Youth Writing Festival will be held at UMSL in the J.C. Penney Building on Thursday, Oct. 20, from 9 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. The festival, which coincides with the National Day on Writing, sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English, provides students with mini-sessions that focus on improving writing skills and style, and concludes with a celebration of writing for students and teachers. The festivals is $30 and open to teachers and their students from all area schools.
“Writing is one of the most important ways that people learn,” said Nancy Singer, COE associate professor and GWP director. “Good writing assignments help students organize their thoughts and prompt students to think more deeply about what they’re learning.”
Writing switches student learning from passively receiving information through lectures or reading, to active engagement, she explained. GWP is a great resource for educators in the area. “We have a large cadre of GWP ‘Teacher Consultants’ who have completed our rigorous academic program, and who serve as mentors in schools across the region. They are a great resource for helping educators to create meaningful writing assignments in all content areas.”
Student voices heard – letters to the next president
Digital technologies have opened up a vast array of venues for students to express themselves through creative writing, journaling about their daily lives or voicing their points of view. Social media such as Twitter, Snapchat, YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, and blogging platforms or discussion boards and forums are all examples of places where students can publish, share and promote their work, thoughts and opinions. Whether it is mapping out a storyboard for video, producing a PowerPoint presentation, or creating a poem to express emotions, the ability to write clearly will open doors to better understanding among people and will promote more fulfilling lives in the Information Age.
As part of its affiliation with the National Writing Project, GWP is encouraging schools to participate in a popular online project during presidential years. Letters to the Next President 2.0 (L2P 2.0) engages and connects young people, aged 13–18, as they research, write, and create media to voice their opinions on issues that matter to them in the coming election. It is a project built by teachers for teachers and students that engages a range of partners interested in supporting youth civic participation. More than 10,000 students across the country have participated in past elections.
Teachers, librarians, mentors and other educators are invited to use Letters to the Next President 2.0 to provide an opportunity for youth ages 13 – 18 to publish writing and media about the issues and topics that are most important to them during the 2016 Presidential election. Writers are asked to address their letter to the future US President, and not to a specific candidate, or party. Multimedia letters as well as text-based letters are welcomed.
Letters to the Next President 2.0 provides a list of community guidelines to help educators guide their students or youth groups in creating and sharing their messages.
GWP provides professional development and school-based in-service programs, mentoring, academic programs, and programs for youth. The GWP is part of the National Writing Project and the Missouri Writing Projects Network.
Singer has directed the Gateway Writing Project since 2010. She described how the program has grown and why it is such a success: “The writing project might start with a summer institute experience, but it continues long after that. Teachers rely on GWP for professional development and renewal. It is great to see teachers intersect with the writing project at various states of their careers.”
Trackback from your site.