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Third Coast Writing Project expands

May 21, 2007

KALAMAZOO--Michigan schoolteachers, faced with a dizzying array of new mandates and pressures, are finding the "write" help from an expanding summer writing initiative at Western Michigan University.

Now entering its 14th year, the Third Coast Writing Project offers classroom-tested, research-based strategies that support teaching and learning at all levels and in all content areas. And its programs have continued to grow over the years. An example is the project's relatively new Digital Storytelling Workshop, which this year received an additional $15,000 expansion grant from the National Writing Project, on top of the usual $45,000 annual funding from the same source. The additional grant money will let the project build on the early excitement generated by the genre and offer expanded professional development in digital storytelling to teachers across Southwest Michigan, not just in language arts, but across disciplines.

Another example: The National Writing Project has asked Third Coast to be the host site of its national spring conference in 2009. The spring conference is one of four national networking conferences organized by the National Writing Project to bring together writing professionals from across the country.

When originally funded in 1994, project organizers began with the basic requirements for all National Writing Project sites nationwide, says Dr. Ellen Brinkley, WMU professor of English and the project's director. Chief among those requirements was to offer a four-week Invitational Summer Institute for teachers, which this year is July 2-27 and remains TCWP's flagship program.

"Since 1994, TCWP's work has grown, in part by gaining significant additional grants from the Annenberg Foundation and Michigan Council for Arts and Cultural Affairs," Brinkley says. "It also has grown through additional funding from the National Writing Project and simply from the design of programs that TCWP teacher consultants know will appeal to teachers in Southwest Michigan."

Teachers in K-12 education have faced increasing demands in recent years, such as requirements in No Child Left Behind federal legislation and new ACT and state assessments. Third Coast gives teachers some much-needed help with teaching writing, while building a community of writing professionals. Its summer camps also help children ages 8-13 with their writing.

Programs being offered this year and their dates are:

Camp for Young Writers (June 18-29): A camp for students ages 8-13 to explore and expand creative writing skills while building a community of writers and readers. Divided into two groups: "What Do Authors Do?" for ages 8-10 with a focus on reading, writing and discovering each camper's own writing process; and "The Writers' Toolbox" for ages 11-13, designed for advanced aspiring authors and writers.

Digital Storytelling Workshop (June 25-29): A one-week program that invites participants to create digital stories and consider how to integrate the exciting new genre into their curriculum. The program focuses on using technology to support writing and learning and includes some school-year follow-up.

Improving Thinking and Comprehension Workshop (June 25-29): A one-week reading, writing and thinking program featuring teaching strategies that support all content areas and all grade levels.

Invitational Summer Institute (July 2-27): TCWP's flagship program for teachers at all levels and content areas featuring research, professional and personal writing, technology assistance and teacher-led demonstrations.

Teacher as Writer Summer Workshop (July 2-13): A two-week workshop that provides time for writing, response groups, discussion about writing and the teaching of writing and submission for publication.

English Language Learners--Connected to the Classrooms and the World (July 17-19): A three-day mini-institute for teachers who work at least occasionally with English language learners. The program features classroom-tested, research-based strategies and structures.

For more information, visit www.wmich.edu/thirdcoastwp or contact Dr. Ellen Brinkley, WMU professor of English and director of the Third Coast Writing Project, at ellen.brinkley@wmich.edu or (269) 387-2581.

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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