The One and Only SJAWP!
Have you heard of the San Jose Area Writing Project (SJAWP)? If you have been looking for an organization that supports writing, check this one out. This program has something for everyone:
- educators looking for professional development
- students looking to improve and develop their passion for writing
- parents who want perspective and insight about how to support their children with writing.
Read on to find out why the dynamic SJAWP is the one and only writing program I would recommend. Plan on participating in 2018!
Calling All Teachers:
I first became acquainted with the San Jose Area Writing Project as a participant in the Intensive Summer Institute 2015 (ISI 2015). Earlier that spring, I had been looking for ways to get involved with organizations which supports kids with reading or writing. Immediately, the SJAWP attracted me for a couple reasons - 1) I would be in a writing community with other teachers who were passionate about teaching writing, and 2) the summer institute would focus on promoting effective teaching strategies aligned with the Common Core.
One of the very first surprises upon entering "class" on the first day of ISI 2105, was that the instructor standing at the front of the classroom was none other than Nancy Kennett, my former high school English teacher! Talk about deja vu! Through the course of the summer, I realized just how fortunate I was to have had Ms. Kennett as my high school English teacher and then to get reacquainted with her as Nancy, the Co-Director for ISI 2015. It's not everyday someone who challenged you to grow as a student continues to influence and enrich your practice as a professional...some twenty years later! Nancy Kennett epitomizes what the SJAWP is all about - a legacy of dedicated educators and teachers coming together to develop their expertise of teaching writing for the benefit of their students.
The second surprise dawned on me...slowly. Sitting in class again brought back a lot of teenage student insecurities. Would my writing be good enough? Would I have accurately captured the essence of the writing assignment? Was Ms. Kennett going to give me a "bad" grade?!? Thankfully, the process of working on my own personal writing through my ISIS 2015 small group helped me to see that my writing had matured as an adult. My writing was seasoned by perspective and experiences, including personal tragedies and victories. My A-Ha! moment was that as an educator, I should be focusing on guiding students through the writing process instead of arriving at the product. Every student voice is powerful the teacher should guide
Teachers, the SJAWP experience of being in a community with committed teachers is as unique as it is rewarding. The next Intensive Summer Institute will be in 2019, so stay tuned! In the meantime, take advantage of their Professional Learning Community during the Spring 2018 Saturday Seminars.
For 3rd Grade to High School Students:
Having personally experienced the awesomeness that is the San Jose Area Writing Project, I knew I had to send my own kids to SJAWP's Summer Creative Writing Camps. This past summer, both of my kids were old enough to enroll in the Summer Writing Camp. Even though both girls had different teachers, they both unequivocally said it was The. Best. Camp. Ever. And they cannot wait for creative writing camp next summer.
Every minute of the camp was spent on learning creative writing techniques, playing games focused on expressing details, and of course, working on the process of writing. Here's a comic strip detail from one of my daughters' pre-writing activity. The main character was a slice of bread named Bear who took a walk in the park. You can see her attention to detail in the five senses - Bear's ear twitches and nose tingles! Bear's eyes are full of worry when conflict is introduced. Attending the writing camp inspired her to incorporate all these expressive details in her writing. A shout-out to Andrea Katz, my daughter's Creative Writing Camp teacher who showed her how to enjoy the writing process!
Here's another creative writing activity. These are not just any ordinary rocks - they are story telling rocks! Perfect for the younger writer, but fun at any age, these rocks make for a tactile and kinesthetic activity to jump start the imagination. Draw pictures on some rocks, shake them up in a bag, roll them out and tell the story that unfolds! Writing activities for older kids are more verbal, spontaneous and just as fun. For a slide show or video of what your 3rd grade to High School student might do at any one of the SJAWP Writing Camps, check out their Student Sumer Programs.
Meeting Parent Needs:
Parents, do you often feel like you want to help your children with their writing, but maybe you don't know where yo start? Perhaps you want to know more about what they are learning at school? Or maybe you've never felt confident in your own writing? After I completed ISI 2015, I became a Teacher Consultant for the SJAWP. Since that time, I've been fortunate to work with Andrea Katz (yes, my daughter's Summer Creative Writing Camp teacher!), connecting with fellow parents and helping to shed some insight into questions parents may have about supporting their kids with writing.
One distinctive and remarkable feature of the San Jose Area Writing Project is that it holds concurrent workshop for parents while the children are attending their own workshops. Parents have a session tailor made for parent needs. During these sessions, we talk about what students learn in school related to writing, such as writing characteristics, writing style, and the writing process. We especially make time for parents to write so they have first-hand experience on how their children may perceive writing. Often times, a parent will pose question to the group and another will chime in with, "Yes, the same thing happens with me and my kids!" Then, they discuss and share what was effective for their family. We also show parents how to relay appropriate help and share relevant guidance to support their kids' writing development needs. All this community building and mutual support, my friends, is what makes the SJAWP parent workshop meaningful and powerful.
Friends, I am not the only one who thinks the San Jose Area Writing Project is the best organization for teaching writing. Enjoy Laura Brown's video interviewing participants about the San Jose Area Writing Project, presented at the National Council of Teachers of English Annual Convention held earlier in November 2017.
Join the SJAWP's mailing list to receive news about their Spring 2018 Saturday Seminars for Teachers, Students, and Parents! You won't want to miss it!
See you at the one and only SJAWP in 2018!
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