Friday, April 8, 2011

#blog4nwp - Laren Hammonds

Laren Hammonds is a language arts teacher at Paul W. Bryant High School in Cottondale, Alabama.

I spent June 2010 at the Longleaf Writing Project Summer Institute, working with an amazing group of ladies from all over west Alabama. It was overwhelming. Every day, I came home with new ideas for writers' notebooks, strategies for writing workshops, and resources for learning more. I placed weekly orders at Amazon for books on writing instruction recommended by my fellow writers, and ended up buying more shelving to accommodate them all. Post-institute, I spent the remaining weeks of the summer break trying to process all I learned and developing lessons to take back to my students.

During the fall semester of this school year, my final class of the day was a group of ninth graders, all of whom were new to me but repeating English 9. The instruction they'd been use to was all about prep for the state graduation exam and writing assessment. They came into my room assuming I'd be throwing grammar workbooks at them and trying to drag them through writing five-paragraph essays, but because of my time in Longleaf everything was different. From day one, they were recording their experiences in writers' notebooks and sharing them with their peers and me. Kids my colleagues had "warned" me about, who'd been labeled as failures, were well-behaved, actively participating, and proud of the work they were doing.

Because of my participation in the Longleaf Writing Project, I was able to transform my instruction and provide my students with something different, engaging, and valuable to them, and I imagine that other NWP teachers have had similar experiences. We can't afford to give up what the National Writing Project has to offer us and our students.

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