A life changing event.  That is how many who attend the Oklahoma Writing Project Summer Institute feel about their experience.  While only a short couple of weeks every June, according to Priscilla Griffith, director of the Oklahoma Writing Project, “Some teachers have said they were ready to leave teaching until they attended the summer institute, but instead they leave energized and with a purpose.”  She continued, “I think it is a life-changing event for them because they finally see that there is a professional community that honors and recognizes their practitioner knowledge.”

The Oklahoma Writing Project promotes good writing instruction.  Its organizers firmly believe that writing matters and is a very important part of the curriculum.  “Writing can help a student learn how to connect the dots in their knowledge,” Griffith said.  “Every student serves a good writing teacher.”

OWP promotes good writing instruction through the annual Summer Writing Institute. Teachers are invited to study in-depth writing instruction.  “They reflect on themselves as writers, because in order to teach writing, you have to be a writer yourself,” said Griffith. Teachers prepare demonstration lessons and along with best practices, tie together what research says about writing instruction.  They then present their demonstration lesson to all of the summer institute participants.  The Oklahoma Writing Project is part of the National Writing Project Network, which started in the early 1970s. The first summer institute was held in 1974 on the campus of the University of California at Berkley. Then and now, the goals have remained simple: teachers developing teacher leaders, teachers teaching teachers, writing matters, and students are entitled to a good writing teacher. The University of Oklahoma was one of the earliest sites for the National Writing Project, hosting its first summer institute in 1978. Currently there are more than 200 sites across the nation, resulting in a large professional network of teachers.

Summer Institute in-service are all directed by teachers who have already been through the institute.  According to Griffith, “The summer institute also stresses the importance of school and university collaboration. Following the same model for every writing project across the nation, the institute is directed by university faculty and a highly respected member of the school system.”

In addition to the Summer Institute, OWP annually hosts “Write to Win,” a writing contest followed by a conference, which recognizes student writing from the contest. An anthology is published for elementary, middle school and high school students and one for teachers. A number of teachers bring their students to the conference, and OWP provides an in-service for the teachers, so the conference serves a dual purpose.

Every other year OWP hosts the Amazing Writing Race, which is held at the Oklahoma City Zoo and patterned after the television show “The Amazing Race.” Students move from station to station around the zoo and OWP teacher consultants provide a mini writing lesson at each station on a particular genre of writing. Those mini lessons often become the beginning of what the children submit for the writing contest.

Recently, the Oklahoma Writing Project received two grants to help further good writing instruction.  One of the grants allows 30 hours of professional development to Pioneer Intermediate School in Noble, Okla.  A teacher consultant will be on site for the next year at the school to assist all of the teachers with writing instruction in their own classrooms.

The second grant allows OWP to evaluate the model of professional development through the National Writing Project. The grant provides 40 hours of professional development to Monroe Elementary in Norman and Plaza Towers Elementary in Moore, Okla. Professional development will be embedded in the school and the classrooms through book discussions and lesson study meetings. OWP will do demonstration lessons and help teachers reflect on their teaching. “The grants were extremely competitive so it’s very exciting that the National Writing Project is recognizing what we have been doing in Oklahoma with in-service,” Griffith said.


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