Thursday, July 28, 2011

Columbus Area Writing Project (CAWP) Part II

On my last post here at My World/Mi Mundo, I've shared my summer experience of participating in the Columbus Area Writing Project (CAWP). You can read the first part of this blog right here. 
In the first part I shared the big ideas and the philosophy behind such an amazing program like this one. Today I want to share with you what a day at CAWP looked like and some of the amazing titles recommended to all of us.
Every day a group of writers would gather in the classroom at Ramseyer Hall at The Ohio State University to start a day full of ideas, wonders, words, questions and books. Coffee brewing in the back, sleepy teachers walking one by one with excitement of a full day of writing ahead of us. Every morning, Robin Holland would filled our world with books, wonderful books, picture books, poetry books, large books, small books. This part of the day allowed our brain to wake up slowly in the preparation of the day ahead. Her knowledge and passion for books is admirable. Robin's passion for books opened our mind to genres, different genres of writing. She tuned my attention in different forms of writing and how to allow our minds to read a variety of texts, authors and genres. Every day our notebooks got filled with titles and titles to explore later.
Some of the titles I have gathered during those days include:

Teaching with Fire Poetry That Sustains the Courage to Teach by Sam M. Intrator
Professional Book: To Teach, The Journey in Comics by William Ayers
Listening-A Framework for Teaching Across Differences- Katherine Schultz
Terrible Thins-An Allegory of the Holocaust by Eve Bunting
Seeing the Blue Between- Compiled by Paul B. Janezco
Haiku This Other World by Richard Wright
A Postcard Memoir by Lawrence Sutin
Six Word Memoirs (there are several of this kind)
The World's Shortest Stories  Compiled by Steve Moss

This is really a partial list of the many many titles shared. I loved the fact that this was built in our daily schedule. I loved being read aloud. I loved being introduced to different "containers" where stories and words live. It helped me pay attention to other genres and formats.
Besides being immersed in the world of books, we also have daily writing time. A huge part of our day was allotted to just writing. This simple yet amazing daily moment allowed us to try new things, to create a routine and a schedule for us. We would get together with our writing group for feedback and suggestion. Other times, we would just write for our own purposes and by ourselves. We could write in any part of campus that allowed us to get into that writer's mood and let the pencil guide our way.

Almost every day we had a speaker, a guest that came to be talk to us about a specific topic. On these days, CAWP would treat all of us to an amazing lunch while we listen to another amazing person in the community share their knowledge and expertise with us. Some of our guest included Pat Enciso, Mollie Blackburn and our keynote speaker this year was William Kist whose topic included New Literacies. The set up for this guests allowed thinking and discussion time. Every voice was heard and respected. I attribute this type of atmosphere to the three instructors we had: Robin Holland, Melissa Wilson and Kevin Cordi who created this safe environment since day one. They made it possible for all of us to feel validated and appreciated regardless of our level and expertise in the writing or teaching world for that matter.

From our retreat at Kenyon College to our classroom at OSU, writing happened everyday and because of it, we all grew as writers ourselves. I highly recommend this amazing program because in order to be excellent teachers of writing, we must be writers ourselves or at least understand what it is like to be in those shoes. Teaching writing is not enough, igniting a passion for writing is a must.  I invite you to look at the National Writing Project in your area and get involved. After this experience, I feel that our job has just now started as we begin to advocate for a program that has changed and enriched the lives of many educators along the way. 
On our last day together at CAWP, I wrote this poem inspired by all the hard work my classmates and fellow teachers have put into their own lives. It is a magnificent group of educators, and it is an amazing program that opened our eyes to the importance of getting involved and advocating. 

by Stella Villalba

Stay connected 
expand yourself
stay connected
get involved
stay connected
there's so much to do.
Stay connected
we're all in this

Stay connected
because that's 
the beauty of
a community
It encourages
personal connections
sharing ideas
sharing stories.

Stay connected
get involved
so what when 
you reach 
a crossroad in your life
and it's time to reflect
and look back
you can say, 
"job well done"

Stay connected 
stretch yourself
what are you
afraid of anyways?
Of expanding your 
and not being able 
to look ahead?
Stay connected
stretch yourself
pick up the phone, 

There is no YOU or I 
in this community
There are only WE 
and present tense
Stay connected
get involved

Whatever you're passionate about, do your part, get involved, advocate. There is so much to do for one person to do alone. I want to thank our CAWP professors, and my fellow teachers for a wonderful experience of growing as a reader and as a writer!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Columbus Area Writing Project (CAWP) Part I

This summer I had the opportunity to attend, participate and become involved with the Columbus Area Writing Project, an affiliate of the National Writing Project (NWP). Under the patient guidance of the CAWP directors: Robin Holland, Melissa Wilson and Kevin Cordi, a group of writers were led every day on an outstanding journey of self-reflection, daily writing and encouragement. The writers came from all over Columbus: from east to west, from north to south with one common goal in mind: to become better writers and better teachers of writing.
The outstanding journey began at a retreat at Kenyon College. To all my dear Ohioan friends, let me just say this is a MUST place to visit. Their campus is gorgeous, small but with a flare of vintage. Their streets beg to be walked on while paying attention to the smallest details. The buildings' architectural design is one you want to pay attention. It is covered with unique twist and turns. The town is filled with brilliant minds, inquirers, researchers, word lovers, tales and superstitions. It was impossible not to feel inspired to write at a spectacular setting like this. Kenyon Colleges invites all writers to take out their pens and let them lead the way. It was at Kenyon College where CAWP Institute 2011- A Community of Writers was born. Our group bonded over poetry and read alouds. Our group connected through experiences and words. Our common love for all things well written brought us together. Our common passion to become better teachers of writing became our mutual goal.
Our group even had the chance to meet a celebrity on campus: Richard Jenkins (from the movie: Eat, Pray, Love)

That was definitely one of our surprising moments that we all like to remember and talk about. It is life's little moments or big ones that bring a community together and make us all look back and think, "hey, that was fun!" But Jenkins wasn't the only famous person that had the privilege to enjoy a walk on Kenyon College's campus. Other writers like Nikki Giovanni, Jonathan Kozol, Henri Petroski among other celebrities left their footprints and words among those buildings. 

Our amazing instructors filled our Writing Institute with books of all sorts, types, backgrounds and genres. We explored a variety of books that led us to try unique pieces of writing. Our instructors are full of knowledge and expertise and the invitation to explore was impossible to resist. I'm a strong believer of creating safe communities in the classroom where students will feel safe writing, reading, talking, sharing, asking, making mistakes and exploring. Our three CAWP directors not only talked about the importance of creating a community, they showed us how it is done by creating that culture and environment in our Writing Institute. We all felt safe putting ourselves out there. We all came from different background and different levels of experience but together we became ONE writing community. One that listens, respects, provides feedbacks and get involved with the community. 

I became a better teacher of writing through CAWP. I learned to put myself in the shoes of my students. I learned to listen and pay attention to details and to recognize beautiful language when I hear it. I learned to stretch my horizon as a reader by exploring different genres and how it is written. I learned to give my words a new meaningful, a new taste. I learned the importance of marinating my writing and let it soak it to acquire new taste. I learned to come back to old pieces of writing and firing my the grill of words again. I learned to listen, to pay attention and how to give productive feedback.  We all learned to validate each other for who we are. I can honestly say I loved everything about this Summer Institute. I'm certain that our journey together did not end at our Writing Institute. I'm positive that this is only the beginning of bigger and better projects. 

On my next post, I'll share with you what a day at CAWP Summer Institute looked like. I will also share some great titles recommended plus some projects we got involved in. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Collecting Read Alouds-Early Grades

Oh there are so many reasons I love summer time. Here are just a couple:
*endless time to read
*watermelon and patio dinners
*pool and the smell of coconut+vanilla lotions
*road trips
* collecting Read Alouds for next academic year...

Oh yes, I keep my eyes open for great read alouds for next year. I'm blessed to work with the same group of children every year (I teach ESL) and this blessing gives me the extra challenge of keeping myself updated on the world of children's literature. This way, I can bring a range of great read alouds to the various group I teach. 
For my younger ones in Elementary grades I have:

Walk on by Maria Frazee Walk On!: A Guide for Babies of All Ages

Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg Beautiful Oops!

my classic: Leo The Late BloomerLeo the Late Bloomer

and now I want to add : Hooray for Amanda and Her Alligator by Mo WillemsHooray for Amanda & Her Alligator!

Mo Willems did it again! He created yet again another adorable book with great characters and a situation that children will understand. I love what he did this time. He created a short chapter book. This book is perfect to start introducing our younger readers to the world of chapter books and sustaining information. Amanda is a reader. She gets lost in the world of books because you know..."books beat boredom!" She has a best pet friend Alligator (a stuff animal really). Alligator and Amanda knows how to have fun, just the two of them. Until one day Amanda comes back from the zoo with Panda (another stuff animal!) Is this going to work? Amanda, Alligator & Panda? Read to find out. Another great addition to any library.