Sustainable Teaching Retreat Days
By Molly Robins
Over the course of this school year, the Denver Writing Project through a partnership with the Colorado State University Writing Project, sponsored four Sustainable Teaching retreat days. Facilitated by Molly Robbins, Brittany Richardson, and Bine Trujillo, these days had twelve participants who came together to build connection with other teachers looking for ways to fill their cups to examine how to build healthy teaching lives. This group came from districts all over the front range, with one participant braving the drive from Telluride.
We began our year with what we refer to as “cave practices,” those tools we can utilize with ourselves to build greater resilience in tough times. We discussed the nervous system along with creating compassionate boundaries. The final two retreats we shifted our focus towards creating “hospitable spaces” for ourselves. This included an exploration of who we offer our trust towards and building a superhero story of our own to be “enough” in the ways we navigate our careers.
This summer we will offer a full weeklong Sustainable Teaching Institute along with the four retreat days over the school year. Please reach out to Molly Robbins if you are interested: email@example.com Details to come!
Facilitating Digital Discourse Project
By Joe Dillon
At the outset of 2020, the Denver Writing Project was selected to participate in “Facilitating Digital Discourse: Teachers as Learners in a Digital Age,” a 5-year research project headed by the University of Pennsylvania and the National Writing Project (NWP). Funded by the James S McDonnell Foundation, the Teachers as Learners grant investigates how expert literature teachers understand and facilitate discussions that help students develop their individual and collaborative reasoning, and how they translate those discussions to online platforms.
A team of nine teachers from the Denver Writing Project began the inquiry in the 2020-21 school year, and have worked in collaboration with a teacher cohort from the Philadelphia Writing Project. The group representing DWP, led by Joe Dillon from Aurora Highlands P-8, is comprised of teachers from across the Denver metropolitan area: Jennifer Dunbar from Centaurus High School, Jennifer Henderson from Aurora Central High School, Molly Robbins from Cherokee Trail High School, Jon Saliman and Alex Thieme from Littleton High School, Shelly Smith from Thornton High School, Sarah Woodard from UCD and DPS Online High School, and Calbe Wohlust from Endeavor Academy. Additionally, Dr. Miranda Egger from UCD works with DWP’s teacher cohort as a research liaison.
The work is guided by inquiry questions that help us understand how English teachers lead digital discourse:
- What can we learn about high-quality discussion about literature online?
- What moves (on the part of facilitators or moderators) help us get toward ‘high quality’?
- How are online literature discussions shaped by the different contexts and formats in which they take place?
In the first year, teachers shared their practice by leading each other through lessons they’d developed and participating as students to experience and think critically about different forms of digital discourse. In the second year of the project, teachers shared artifacts of student work from their classrooms. The team annotated those artifacts socially using a framework drafted by the research team to study the ways students responded to texts, tools, and the social opportunities afforded by different teaching approaches.
During this, the project’s third year, teachers have created discourse spaces and refined approaches to test in their classrooms. Our team recently met in Atlanta, Georgia, to mark the midpoint of the project and to share their designs face-to-face with teacher colleagues from Philadelphia and researchers from the University of Pennsylvania. Also at this meeting in Atlanta, researchers and teachers from both cities began designing two professional learning venues to engage a new cohort of teachers from the National Writing Project network: an open online professional learning that will take place this summer and inquiry group cohorts that will help teachers apply their summer learning to classroom teaching.
Looking forward, this collaboration between teachers and researchers will culminate in a fifth year devoted to writing and disseminating a framework for digital discourse, teacher methods, and findings from studying the way teachers learn in inquiry groups.
Fall 2021 Newsletter
Summer 2021 Advanced Institute
By Blaine Miller
The Denver Writing Project’s Advanced Institute (AI) celebrated another successful session. COVID presented its challenges, but the AI folks continued writing and learning. We wrote into our days, shared our thoughts as writers and as educators who cared about doing what was best for the kids. We talked about our struggles with remote and hybrid learning; we discussed the impacts of COVID; we discussed how the impacts may last for many years, as well as how things have changed. It was, for me, very much a National Writing Project event: a group of dedicated professionals working towards a common purpose. And we wrote about all of it as often as we could.
We took a chance this year offering a theme we had not tried. How can we use writing to reengage ourselves as teachers, as writers, and as individuals? We encouraged participants to take risks and try different genres. We witnessed writers doing what they did best: write with honesty and compassion. There were narratives, poems, observational essays, and analogy pieces. I wrote a letter to a rookie teacher and tried writing a villanelle poem.
We were treated to our traditional speakers and project leaders, and much of the project remained unchanged. Sometimes we need variety, and sometimes we don’t. This year was difficult in many ways for most of us in the educational arena: balancing the classroom in an online world; making sure kids were ok and “Zoom” ready; managing our own wellness and self-care. It was a long year, and the DWP was what we all needed.
We still ran sessions remotely due to the restrictions on social gatherings. It was disappointing not being able to see folks. I miss the face-to-face, the handshakes in the morning, the bantering over coffee, the workshops, and the discussions about writing. I miss walking around the campus observing. In short, I miss the way it used to be.
The Summer Institute was exactly what some of us needed. We continue to support each other as we navigate this brave new world. For those who have been involved with the DWP over the years, welcome back! For the newcomers, welcome to what I believe will become your professional development home.
2021 Denver Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute
By Alma Olaechea
Swimming, drowning, cicadas, inner saboteurs, sustainability, and being enough. These are just some of the many topics that the participants of the Denver Writing Project Invitational Summer Institute explored during their three-week online session this summer. Guest speaker and poet Jovan Mays shared his process of “breadcrumbing,” asking, “Where is my idea going?” and “What haven’t I said yet?” before taking time away from a draft. Writers examined their desks, front doors, and sought inspiration outside during co-director Abbi Heller’s Neighborhood Writing Marathon. Ideas for this year’s writing demos included identity, storytelling, implicit bias, and setting goals. For a fun overview of conversations and events, please enjoy the following poem by 2021 participant Janna Winkle:
Sometimes a gift is…
by Janna Winkle
Time. And talents. And truth.
Making a stranger chuckle
Or smile beyond courtesy.
A wiggly, biting puppy, a cat in the crook of your neck, or walking across the back of your
couch or tattooed on your shin.
The giant turtle who watches you run.
The cicadas that sing you to sleep.
The clover mite that doesn’t bite
yet carries its own mysterious purpose.
It’s the cool breeze that breaks the heat wave.
The silence after the jack hammers.
The sound of double-dutch ditties sung by neighborhood kids.
It’s a new bookstore, with open doors before open hours before open pages.
Recommendations of restaurants, books, ice cream flavors, and parlors.
It’s a door.
An unexpected friend.
A check in the mail.
A new pen and notebook.
The mug you don’t need and must keep.
Jazz written for what wasn’t written.
Compasses that show where you are but more importantly, where you haven’t yet been.
It’s exploding moments of creativity
newly recalled memories of moth orchids, moon earrings, marathons, markets, and markers. Whether swimming or drowning, it’s the etceteras of life.
Someone who throws her head back to laugh.
It’s a mid-morning break.
Food delivered to your step.
Prosecco brunches and long lunches.
It’s a group without the token annoying person. A space where catharsis says, “Here. and now.” Backgrounds of books
Drinking tea -- instead of pee.
It’s the shore between the river and the mountain.
It’s insights, incidences, and inspiration
Sometimes a gift is...
Knowing it’s enough
Young Writers Camp 2021
By Shannon Hanschen
The Denver Writing Project continued its programming in an online environment during the summer of 2021. The DWP’s Young Writers’ Camps are a place for enthusiastic young writers to start their summer with numerous, engaging writing experiences to power them through a summer of writing play. This summer- more than ever- youth needed these kinds of experiences, so the DWP was fortunate to be in a position to offer them.
During the week of June 7th, master Colorado teachers communed online with over 60 enthusiastic young writers, grades 3-12+ for three and a half hours each morning to make writing magic. The young writers showed up, and the week still sizzled with good writing juju.
Over the course of the week, youth engaged with a variety of writing genres and challenges to craft multiple strong drafts that they could continue revising and building from throughout the summer. A much-loved piece of Young Writers’ Camp is experiencing workshops facilitated by a professional writer. The Denver Writing Project (DWP) was elated to partner with Jovan Mays, former poet laureate of Aurora. He delivered two energetic writing workshops in which youth explored their own writing voice. As always, it was a captivating and energizing workshop that had young writers dancing, laughing, and challenging themselves to explore deep themes in their writing.
Another evergreen part of camp was having youth understand and explore the writing process. Young writers were supported to finalize a piece or two to share during the Writer’s Celebration on Friday, June 11th. This celebration is the culminating activity of Young Writers’ Camp each summer. Family and friends listen in as young writers read their work. To hear young writers writing in their own voice is always such a delightful and meaningful conclusion of camp. While the space this year shifted to the digital, the magic was preserved.
The DWP was also delighted to offer a three-day Minecraft and Writing Workshop for youth this summer. Across three, 90-minute sessions, involved youth were able to engage conversations around Minecraft, play-tested worlds with embedded writing tasks created by the National Writing Project, and switched off the game to write outside the worlds for 20 minutes. Young writers also explored game review mentoring texts in order to notice and emulate the features that worked in their own writing. DWP looks forward to offering a similar workshop in person next summer.
The Denver Writing Project is proud to offer innovative, engaging programming for young writers while at the same time giving teachers the space and support to explore innovative teaching approaches. This is the highest, most effective form of teacher professional development: giving teachers the space, encouragement, and support to do what’s best for youth of today. The DWP will forever continue to respond to the needs of young writers and teachers in the Denver metro area and beyond.
Fall 2019 Newsletter
Advanced Institute Summer 2019
By Blaine Miller
It was another energetic and active summer with the Advanced Institute of the DWP. The weather was warm on the campus as we embarked on another packed week of writing, discussing, conferring, and above all, learning how to reach our students. The topic this time was something a little different. We tackled the art of persuasion and rhetoric. The week started out with the group creating our argument and rhetoric frames for the week. We tossed around names of individuals who we determined were good speakers and writers, and we also played around with topics that lent themselves to good argument and persuasive discourse. The conversations and discussions flowed naturally as we jumped from common, everyday issues to educational policy to families and our own backgrounds. It was a strong start to a busy week.
There is a certain security in knowing what to expect. The DWP came through once again. We were treated to the insights of Mark Overmeyer. He gave both groups some insights on how to get students motivated to write and how to keep the process going in case they might need some reengagement. We were all treated to Overmeyer’s positive energy, and I am sure we look forward to hearing from him again soon. Nicole Piasecki presented to both groups, and she jumped right in with some writing prompts to jog our memories using song lyrics. It was inventive, and in those few minutes, our energy was laser- sharp towards our writing. Having been involved with the DWP for just over five years now, I always find Piasecki’s insights as a writer and as a teacher inspiring.
We ended the week with our traditional writing marathon at the Denver Botanic Gardens. The weather was warm, and walking along the paths, observing, and enjoying the variety proved inspirational. We ended our days with some hugs and promises to see each other soon. Not a bad way to begin the summer. I hope to see you all again soon. Keep writing!
The Gnarly Nine at the DWP Invitational Summer Institute
By Abbi Heller
The DWP Invitational Summer Institute started off in rain and darkness, not the typical summer setting we are accustomed to in June. No amount of June gloom could keep the loyal nine secondary students from creating their own sunshine in their writing, their wit, and their genuine collegiality. Although ten Teacher Consultants were inducted in May, nine carried the torch for the three weeks at the King Center, room 210. These nine educators exemplified the mission of the Denver Writing Project, earning themselves the nickname: The Gnarly Nine. The Gnarly Nine learned about the power of predictions from Mark Overmeyer, the power of creative non-fiction and intertextuality from Nicole Piasecki, and the power of the prose poem from Eliot Wilson. Our final speaker, fellow DWP alumni and director, Molly Robbins reminded us how we must take care of ourselves as people before we can be teachers and caregivers of our students. Robbins allowed us permission to be amazing teachers who also live amazing lives outside of our classrooms.
The Gnarly Nine took risks in their writing and even bigger risks in sometimes sharing, but most of all, they jumped into their demos with gusto allowing themselves optimum opportunities for growth and reflection for their future classrooms and students. This summer’s ISI was fortunate enough to go on two writing marathons: one at the Denver Botanic Gardens and one traveling the streets of LoDo writing amongst the cats of Larimer to the comings and goings at Union Station, ending with food at the Milk Market.
It was a bittersweet ending to the summer as we shared food and our polished pieces at The Book Bar. The Gnarly Nine showed up at the Post-institute feeling nostalgic for Room 210 and the company of one another on their adventures of self-discovery through writing and demos from the summer. Although the ISI came to a close, this group of fabulous educators has organized themselves into a writing group, promising to meet up once a month and share writing, life, and of course, food.
Auraria Young Writers Camp
By Shannon Hanschen
Ahh summer…! More time for writing. That’s how the Denver Writing Project and the 120 young writers who attended Young Writers Camp last June felt anyway. DWP is thrilled to provide the space for young writers grades 3-12 to work out their writing muscles through exploring a multitude of genres and styles through guest writer presentations, attending master-teacher led workshops, and workshopping their own ideas in peer-led groups at Young Writers Camp 2019.
This year young writers learned from three professional local writers. Len Vlahos, young adult fiction writer and co-owner of Tattered Cover Bookstore, explored narrative writing through the stages of the hero’s journey. Whitney Gaines, essayist and poet, used abstraction as inspiration through color gradient and Clifford Still’s paintings. Jovan Mays, former poet laureate of Aurora and award-winning slam poet, encouraged young writers to go deeper through focused concentration on dynamic sentence starters.
Master-teacher group facilitators led spirited workshops on a variety of topics, such as parody writing, community mapping to find through-lines, writing in a digital space, and micro-narrative. With plenty of time to both write and share, young writers added an abundance of skills, genres, and tricks to their writers’ toolboxes.
One high-school-aged writer reflected on the opportunity for collaboration at camp stating, “We take time out of the day to do peer revision, exchange stories, and provide feedback. Every member of my group looks extremely uncomfortable as we all read their work, but the criticism is helpful. Once the sharing is done, we go back to writing, diving into new projects, or continuing to revise the one shared.” Sharing writing can be difficult, but it is necessary to continue to grow as a writer. DWP is glad that gutsy young writers are willing to share and grow alongside one another, making new connections with like-minded peers.
The culminating event of the week is the Writers’ Celebration on Friday afternoon. Young writers gather with families and friends to share a piece or two they worked on throughout the week. It is a highlight for sure and leaves audiences gratified, amused and humbled by the beauty of writing that flows from young people when given space and support.
The Denver Writing Project is delighted to continue to offer summer opportunities for young writers in the Denver metro area and beyond. Finding one's voice is a lifelong journey, and DWP is grateful to support young writers along the way.
Writing for Civic Engagement Young Writers Camp
By Christine May
During the week of June 10, 2019, twelve young writers from around the Denver Metro area descended onto the University of Colorado Denver campus to experience the Writing for Civic Engagement Young Writers Camp. Young writers, ranging in ages from 12-16, spent the week engaging in thinking and writing activities designed to help them establish a social justice lens and expand their perspectives on the world around them.
Throughout the week, we had two returning guest writers join us to lead the students in writing workshops. On Tuesday, Jovan Mays, National Slam Poet Champion and the former Poet Laureate of Aurora, led his presentation with the theme that is best described by a Chinua Achebe quote: “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.” Mays encouraged our writers to tell the story of the “lions” in their lives. He presented the idea of using first person to create change by calling readers in rather than focusing on calling out and using third person to point fingers. He then led our young writers in a writing activity that required them to write continuously while receiving a new sentence starter, like “when the ground gives way” or “I was told to fly, unless,” every two minutes.
Our second guest speaker was award-winning artist, activist, and educator Suzi Q. Smith, who like Mays grew up in Denver. Smith spent time getting to know our students and their favorite books, and then she allowed her students time to individually define who they are with an activity that had them moving about the room based on how they saw themselves. This activity then led to a writing assignment, where first students brainstormed a list of terms that defined their personas. Smith then asked them to start with “To know what it’s like to be....” and end the phrase with one of their brainstormed ideas. She allowed the students to show their expertise in an aspect of their own lives, teaching them that you have to know who you are and what you believe in before you can begin to create change.
Both of our guest writers got students to think both inward and outward about important topics of identity and social justice. Inspired by them, our writers also completed a writing marathon around the UCD campus, inspired by the views and people around them at each location. By the end of the week, they had produced a plethora of pieces but ultimately narrowed it down to one piece to share with friends and family on the last day. The whirlwind of a week ended with some amazing stories and spoken word poems about what mattered most to these writers. Another successful week of writing in 2019!
CU South Young Writers Camp, Summer 2019
By Elizabeth Maloney
While many kids were swimming, vacationing, and soaking up the beauty of a Colorado summer, approximately forty young writers from second through ninth grade chose another path. For one week in June, writers from all over the state signed up for the DWP CU South Campus Young Writers Camp to grow their writing identities. The instructors consisted of two APS secondary teacher leaders, Jennifer Henderson and Denise Huber, who co-facilitated the older group, while CCSD teachers Elizabeth Maloney, Mary Derbish, and Heidi Huebscher supported the elementary. The CU South location is a favorite among the community and staff alike, and to say they were thrilled to return to this beautiful facility would be an understatement.
Each morning, camp began by focusing on our essential question, “How do writers get inspired?” We used every inch of the incredible CU South campus to collect ideas and to write each and every day. From sensory writing through the world’s biomes to descriptive writing using some of the amazing art hanging throughout the building, young writers grew their creativity and craft. We even had the exciting opportunity to use the Imax Theater (and the smell of fresh popcorn) as further inspiration.
On top of the outstanding location, we welcomed a guest writer who has definitely become a familiar face to our writers. Jovan Mays, a local poet and former Aurora Poet Laureate, worked with our writers both inside and outside the facility, showing them how to find inspiration within themselves and their own experiences.
The final highlight and culminating activity of the week is our annual Writers’ Share, when friends and family are invited to hear the amazing work of our talented young campers. We are in awe every year by the poems, stories, arguments, and art in written from that is produced during this week of fun and exploration. We already can’t wait for next summer.
Cherry Creek Young Writers Camp 2019
By Susan Foster
For a week in mid-July, nearly forty young writers convened at Heritage Elementary in Cherry Creek to write alongside like-minded peers who share a passion for writing. On the first day of the Cherry Creek Young Writers Camp, writers were asked to share their superpower. It didn’t take long to experience the powerful gift of writing within each participant. Through daily openings called “Writing into the Day,” writers allowed themselves to take risks, share thoughts, play with word choice, try a new genre, and learn from one another.
Creating a community of writers happens quickly during Young Writers Camp. Each writer feels free to try something new. Each writer allows themselves to be inspired by mentors’ texts, thought provoking poems, and a featured guest author. The outdoors also provides inspiration. Exploring the greenbelt just beyond the school grounds provides just enough change to create change in what writers notice and capture in their journals.
By the end of the week, writers are ready to share their work with a larger audience. This summer, a gallery walk allowed writers an opportunity to showcase their work. Guests enjoyed walking through the gallery stopping to listen to the carefully crafted pieces. The gallery was the perfect way to bring a powerful week to a close and celebrate the power of writing.
Fall 2018 Newsletter
The 2018 Invitational Summer Institute
By Keith Garvert
It’s just not summer if you aren’t thinking about ice cream, warm days, swimming pools, cold drinks on Denver’s many cool patios, or writing with the Denver Writing Project. This summer eleven teachers joined us for three weeks to write, share, explore, and evolve as teachers of writing. Our time together included learning from guest writers Nicole Piasecki, Mark Overmeyer, and Jessica Comola. Each guest writer brought fresh ideas and perspectives that challenged us to refine our writing techniques and revise, revise, revise.
One of many memorable events was branching out into downtown Denver with our writing groups to explore the Dairy Block. Each institute teacher reunited with the group at historic Ninth Street Park to share their writing seeds with one another.
At our post-institute meeting in September, our teachers returned to campus to share how their new school year was shaping up and to join together once more to write, laugh, and enjoy the freshly published anthologies created from their wonderful writing over the summer.
Plans are already being made for our 2019 summer institute. We’d love to have you join us or encourage someone you know to apply. Check out our website at https://clas.ucdenver.edu/denverwritingproject/
The 2018 Advanced Institute
By Blaine Miller
It was an awesome week on campus for the Denver Writing Project Advanced Institute 2018. The first thing people might have noticed was the changing faces of the Advanced Institute. Alice Smith was still one of the facilitators, and I had taken on a new position as a facilitator because Kyle Crawford had moved on as the Director of the DWP. We all met in the King Center and immediately started writing. Alice gave an awesome introductory lesson on pastiche writing that used various models from young adult fiction. I helped the group draw up some story ideas from their own lives based on the book The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall. After a busy year in the classroom, getting back to writing was a great way to kick off the workshop.
The week focused on personal memoir and the presentations from the invited guests were as strong as ever. Nicole Piasecki invited us to use our core memories to springboard into a topic. Mark Overmeyer delivered on how images and the brain connect in order to use the latest neuroscience for writing and exploration. We had the opportunity to discover our unique identities using multi-media. All three presenters gave the participants insights into teaching in the classroom. Perhaps equally important, we all got insights into our own development as writers. The week was intense yet worthwhile, and folks had ample opportunities to show off their stuff.
Keeping with the AI tradition, the week concluded with a writing marathon. This year the group visited the Denver Botanic Gardens. For a few of us, myself included, it was the first time visiting this little gem of the Mile High City. The flowers were in full bloom, fragrant, and beautiful. Many of the participants found some unique inspiration for their writing. They sat on the benches in the shade, conversed with others, wrote their pens dry.
The week brought some welcomed time to revisit our “inner writer,” but it was also a chance to connect, collaborate, explore, and create. I enjoyed seeing some old friends and meeting some new ones. The Denver Writing Project is a special place, and it is always an honor. I am humbled by the great people who make the trip to the CU Denver campus, and not only participate in the Project, but they help move it forward and continue its development.
As always, please tell your colleagues about the work that we do and invite them to one of the events throughout the year. It is solid professional development that applies to just about every aspect of education today. We would love to have them join us.
The 2018 Tech Institute
By Audra Binney
The Tech Institute (TI) had a great summer operating under its new name (formerly Tech Matters) and in its new on-campus location in the King Center. We were able to enjoy the benefits of being on campus while operating in tandem with the other institutes, and we were still able to get in a significant amount of work time to produce some wonderful products.
Our participants learned about Edpuzzle where we spent some time editing previously-published videos to include commentary, questions, and quizzes for our students. We also played around with tools like Google Classroom, Google Sites, Padlet, Flipgrid, Wix, and even learned how to write code to make our websites better.
In lieu of a textbook this year, we spent some time exploring the Internet and social media to gather resources for learning about technology. We shared our findings and read articles and tweets about the tools we want to work with and about bringing technology into our classrooms.
Our week ended with a presentation of our accomplishments - teachers in the TI teaching teachers in the Invitational Summer Institute (ISI) about some new tech tools and a photo/writing marathon at the Denver Botanic Gardens.
Writing is Power at the Cherry Creek Young Writers Camp
By Lauren Zuiker
Writing is powerful. We learn this year after year when we see young writers gather at our Cherry Creek Young Writers Camp. Apprehensive, reluctant, beginning writers join the eager, confident, experienced writers on a week-long journey of writing. The campers soak up every bit of inspiration they can from each other, the guest speakers, and especially from within.
Each day begins with an activity called “Writing into the day” where we get the wheels turning and sweep the cobwebs away. Some writers return to these quick writes later during the day and transform their jotted notes into poems or narratives. Sometimes writers find inspiration in the most surprising places.
This year we led the young writers in a Writing Marathon in the space surrounding Homestead Elementary. I think this was my favorite day of camp. We took notes, drew pictures, and played in nature - all parts of observing and listening to Mother Nature and then putting it into our own words. The young writers were like little explorers and scientists searching for the words of wisdom they longed to hear from the babbling brook or the birds chirping from the trees.
As always, every young writer leaves camp at the end of the week a changed person. They see themselves as writers and know that the power to write is within them.
Auraria Young Writers Camp 2018
by Tiffany LoSasso
Every June, over 100 writers from 4th - 12th grade congregate on Auraria’s campus to hone their writing passion. The Denver Writing Project sponsors this Young Writers Camp where young writers from all over the metro area - and even out of state - come together to learn, to collaborate, to explore, but most of all, to write.
I have had the pleasure of working with YWC for the last five summers, and everyone who knows me knows that it is my favorite part of the year. The writers that attend this camp are so eager to write and share. The most common feedback we get is the request for more writing time. These writers are so creative and excited about their work-- it is an inspiring way for all involved to start our summer.
The camp is separated into three different groups: 4th – 6th, 7th – 8th, and 9th -12th graders. Each group works with their “homeroom” facilitators but is also visited by various other camp leaders who facilitate workshops on various genres to expand their writing. This year, I ran a session all about fanfiction writing, which was met with giddy applause and uniquely strange ideas. Jennifer Henderson facilitated a session in a similar vein: parody writing. Writers worked on song parodies and some even demonstrated their vocal talents when it was time to share. The young writers created Facebook profile pages for various heroes to dig into character development with Raylene Kaufman. Finally, Joe Dillon introduced the writers to digital writing programs and platforms.
Not only do the leaders of camp facilitate workshops on various writing topics, but each year there are a variety of professional writers from Denver who come in to talk with the young writers about their writing lives. Typically, the visiting authors will explore the publishing process (an aspect of writing that many of the young writers are interested in), their inspiration, their writing process, and the act of leading the young writers in a practice of some kind.
This year we were honored to welcome Suzi Q. Smith, Jessica Comola, Tim Earley, and Sara Jade Alan. Suzi Q. Smith is a performance poet who works with various programs to teach performance skills. Our young writers crafted rhythmic poetry with unfamiliar words during Suzi’s workshop. Jessica Comola and Tim Earley, both poets, worked with the young writers on dream writing and focusing on details. Sara Jade Alan is a young adult writer who led a fiction writing workshop centered around the ways we develop character through exploring feelings and emotional response.
An incredible week must have an incredible last day. The young writers spent Friday morning conferring, collaborating, revising, and finalizing a piece to share at the Friday afternoon celebratory reading. Parents, family members, and friends came to hear the young writers read an excerpt of their work from their time at camp. The air was always full of excitement and pride from all our writers as we waved goodbye. Luckily, we get to see many of them year after year.
Writing for Civic Action Young Writers Camp: June 2018
By Christy May
This year, young writers from around the Denver Metro Area met on campus at the University of Colorado Denver for the 2nd Annual Writing for Civic Action Young Writers Camp. Our writers had the opportunity to write with and learn from some fabulous guest speakers, to workshop pieces of their own, and even to use their writing to encourage civic action around their immediate communities.
With our guest writers, Jovan Mays, Suzy Q. Smith, Adrian Molina, and Assetou Xango, the young writers wrote poems, heard slam poetry performed, created blackout poetry, shared narratives, and much more. Students engaged in activities to develop their own identities and beliefs in the world of social justice. They created a multitude of pieces in varying genres to workshop with each other with the help of the guest writers. With the idea that change starts small, our young writers examined their communities for places where they could improve their immediate surroundings. Creating and chalking “kindness haikus” across campus helped our writers start small but make an impact on those around them.
We also completed a writing marathon where the participants gained inspiration from their surroundings. Each writer also joined a network through the National Writing Project where they were able to share their work with other young writers across the nation. The culmination of our time together was a final performance day where our writers shared their polished pieces with friends and family members. Many of them put their words to music or shared art with their writing, but each writer stood proudly in front of a room full of guests to share their vision of a better world.
Pine Ridge Young Writers Camp
By Elizabeth Maloney and Jennifer Henderson
“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.” -Benjamin Franklin
This past summer, over 60 young writers and four local teachers convened upon Pine Ridge Elementary in Aurora for our annual South Campus Young Writers Camp. For an amazing week, elementary and middle school students wrote and laughed and wrote some more, living up to both pieces of Franklin’s advice.
Each day at camp began with various “Writing into the Day” prompts and then some sharing. Instructors intentionally mirror the writing warm-ups to the work that teachers do in the Denver Writing Project at the CU Denver Campus. Just like the adults at DWP, every young writer uses their vulnerability and courage and dives into each morning’s challenge. Instructors are amazed at how the simple process of writing, mixed with fun writing games and warm-ups, instantly creates a tight writing community.
The focus on our camp centers around “How do Writers find Inspiration?” Highlights of the camp included: Black-Out Poetry, Nature Sensory Walk, emotion poetry and much more. Guest poet Jovan Mays and guest author Kathleen Pelley are always favorite writing mentors. Ending the final day with sharing and treats for friends and families made our 2018 camp a great success. In closing, here is what some of our writers’ thought when they reflected on the camp:
“I’ve learned there can be no 'have to.'”
“This proved I really am a writer.”
“I’ve learned that when you write, you can become a better person.”
“Writing can heal hearts.”
Newsletter Editorial Staff
Editor in Chief: Julie Vick
Copy Editor: Maryann Hoffmann
Spring 2018 Newsletter
Writing Marathon at Museum of Nature and Science
By Alice Smith
Twelve teachers from across the state gathered together on Saturday, February 10th for an indoor writing marathon. Thanks to our partnership with the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, we were able to gain access to the museum before it opened, and they donated the use of one of their classrooms for the day so that writers could have a home base.
We began the day with DWP Director Kyle Crawford delivering a few announcements about summer programs. Johanna Zablocki, president of the Colorado Language Arts Society (which helped promote the writing marathon), also spoke about the upcoming CLAS conference. (Information about requests for proposals for that conference can be found on the CLAS website.) Additionally, Robert Payo from the educational staff at the DMNS shared some information about professional development available through the museum.
After announcements and some Q & A, we completed a writing into the day activity that was inspired by the sparkword "exploration." We had a short amount of time for sharing; then teachers were free to explore the museum working on projects of their choice or experimenting with various writing prompts that were aligned with the exhibits.
At the end of the day, we gathered together once again for sharing writing and reflecting on our experience. Many teachers spoke about what a gift it was to have time to be creative and nurture the writers within. Two of our frequent marathon participants mentioned the fact that they consider this marathon time sacred: they register way in advance and don't allow any other obligations to interfere with their day devoted to writing.
All the marathon participants spoke about how freeing it was to have unstructured time to write, and the group discussed ways to incorporate more organic writing time in the classroom as well. It was definitely an inspiring day all around.
DWP visit to Washington D.C.
By Miranda Egger
Before legislation hunkers down for the upcoming election campaign season (reminder: 1/3 of the Senate and all of the House Representatives are up for re-election in November), we’re on the hill again to remind legislators of our existence. They’re busy like always. This time, their energy is being eaten up by balancing two budgets FY 17/18 and FY 18/19, dealing with rampant ever-shifting priorities and mixed directives, and managing the myriad gaps in support staff.
The good news? Secretary of Education DeVos’ has published a series of departmental grant priorities that reflect a value in literacy and in supporting effective instruction, so with any luck, upcoming grant opportunities will reflect those values with fiscal support.
On a separate, fun note, we found the halls of the underground tunnel (from the Senate buildings to the Capital building) lined with artwork of high school students from every state, so some of the amazing work our students are doing is being displayed for legislators.
Of course, there’s bad news too: the House Education Bill eliminates all federal funding for support of teachers, principals, and a more general education workforce—even the competitive grant funding that we’ve been working with for years. The Democrats in the House have responded with a bill of their own (that includes $2 billion in education preparation funding), but neither bill has made it to the floor of the House (lots of partisanship playing into this non-vote).
The President’s budget is equally dire. His proposed budgetary priorities, like the House, aim to eliminate all funding for educator preparation, alongside the monies distributed to states to be disperse to varied districts, funding for preschool initiatives, etc., etc…. You get the point. The proposed budgets, while certain to be DOA, set the tone for a federal government that doesn’t see much use in education funding.
Sarah Woodard, Bud Hunt, and I know, as we walk into each of those offices, that there are a lot of forces working against federal support for education, but here’s what we keep in mind as we visit with those legislators and their top education aides: advocacy is education, and our job is to educate the legislators about the extensive work of those federal dollars—specifically, the work of our local sites: our Young Writers’ Camps; our College, Career, and Community Writers Program (C2WP); our work with local school districts; etc….
We take with us glossy research findings and stories of student and classroom success—both seem to capture their attention—and we remind them that the investment in professional development for teachers has a ripple effect on other educators, on their students, on their communities. We remind them that “70 percent of NWP teachers remain in the classroom throughout their careers, and 98 percent stay in education until they retire,” and that NWP teachers “serve an average of 22.7 years in education—more than 50 percent longer than teachers in general" (NWP Legacy Report, 2007).
We ask the legislative aides to share their experience with writing, and note that overwhelmingly, they tell us that the skills they most use in their jobs are writing and reading. Some even tell us that they were once teachers, and that writing was the hardest thing to teach but also the most rewarding. We share stories from the Young Writers’ Camps. We speak of the teachers and their varied projects back in Colorado. We tell stories—the most powerful form of advocacy.
So, please share your stories. If something cool happens in your classrooms or workshops that was connected to DWP in any way, jot it down, take a pic, send it my way; we’ll include it in the show-n-tell materials we take to D.C. next year.
Summer Program Plans
Advanced Institute Plans
By Alice Smith
Whether they're long or short, classic or modern, fiction or nonfiction, the power of stories is undeniable. That's why storytelling is the theme for this summer's Advanced Institute (AI).
The Advanced Institute is the perfect place for Invitational Summer Institute (ISI) Alumni to come together once again. Those who haven't completed the ISI but who are looking for a place to work on their writing projects and professional demonstrations are welcome as well.
This summer, we will join the ISI for professional writing demonstrations from Nicole Piasecki, Mark Overmeyer, and Jessica Comola, who will cover topics such as creative nonfiction and multimedia storytelling. Additionally, the Advanced Institute will offer two bonus demonstrations from Blaine Miller “Tapping the Power of Storytelling” and Lindsay Brown “StoryCorps: Storytelling for Empathy and Understanding.”
All participants will receive a copy of The Storytelling Animal by Jonathan Gottschall, and we will discuss parts of the book during an afternoon book study. In addition to the writing time and workshop time with writing groups, AI participants will finish off the week with a writing marathon at the Botanical Gardens. Register today. We look forward to sharing stories with you.
- When: June 11th-15th, 2018. Monday through Friday from 9AM to 4PM
- Where: CU Denver, Auraria Campus, Room TBD
- Cost: $100.00
- Click here to register.
Invitational Summer Institute
The Invitational Summer Institute will take place during three weeks in June this year. Participants will gather on the Auraria Campus to learn proven methods for teaching writing; to study research, theory, and pedagogy for teaching writing; and to work on their own self-designed writing projects. Applications for the program closed on April 15th.
The Technology Institute
The Technology Institute offers K-16 teachers a chance to connect with other educators, discover multimedia resources, and create multimedia learning experiences.
- Days/Times: June 11th-15th, 2018. Monday through Friday from 9AM to 4PM
- Location : CU Denver, Auraria Campus, Room TBD
- Registration Fee: $100.00
- Click here to register.
Young Writers Camps
The Denver Writing Project offers a range of summer writing camps for students in 2nd through 12th grade. Camp locations include Denver, Aurora, and Centennial. DWP is offering three specialty camps this year.
Auraria Flagship Young Writers Camp:
- When: June 4-8th, 2018 from 9am to 3pm
- Where: CU Denver Auraria Campus
- Cost: $210 per student.
- Click here to register
Young Writers Camps at Pine Ridge Elementary:
- When: Monday, June 18th – Friday, June 22nd, 2018, from 9:00 am – 12:00 pm
- Where: Pine Ridge Elementary, 6525 South Wheatlands Pkwy, Aurora, Colorado 80016
- Registration Fee: $225 for each individual for the week.
- Click here to register
Writing For Civic Action Young Writers Camp:
- When: June 11th - 14th, 9am - 2pm & June 18th - 21st, 9am - 2pm
- Where: Auraria Campus, Denver, Building and Room TBD
- Cost: $50 per child
- Click here to register
Cherry Creek Young Writers Camp at Homestead Elementary
- When: July 16th - 20th, 9am to 12pm
- Where: Homestead Elementary 7451 S Homestead Pkwy, Centennial, CO 80123
- Cost: $200 per child for the week
- Click here to register
Calls for Submission
Check out these publications that are looking for writing submissions:
- Motherly publishes parenting-related stories and essays. Submission guidelines.
- SmokeLong Quarterly seeks flash fiction submissions. Submission guidelines.
- Hippocampus Magazine looks for creative nonfiction submissions. Submission guidelines.
DWP Dispatch Editorial Staff
Editor in Chief: Julie Vick
Copy Editor: Maryann Hoffmann