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Writers in the Schools

Log Cabin Literary Center

Writers in the Schools (WITS) is an arts educational program run by The Cabin, a literary organization located in Boise, Idaho. During the 2017-2018 school year WITS had 11 teaching-writers served 26 classrooms at 15 locations in the Treasure Valley, and served upwards of 700 youth in grades 3 through 12. Locations included Frank Church High School, Marian Pritchett High School, Ada County Juvenile Detention Center, The Bridge Program at Borah High School, Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center, Idaho Distance Education Academy (I-DEA), Galileo STEM Academy, Rose Hill Montessori, Roosevelt Elementary, Seven Oaks Elementary, Trail Wind Elementary, West Canyon Elementary, and White Pine Elementary. In a WITS residencies teaching-writers teach one hour, once a week for 12 to 24 weeks. The goal of WITS was to engage every student in active practice with literary texts as both readers and writers. Each residency was catered to each schools individual needs. Teaching Writers’ residencies focused on a variety of genres including: poetry, playwriting and historical fiction.

The Essential Question that guided our projects’ focus was:

How do writers generate ideas?

Our goal was for our WITS students to exhibit accomplishment in the following areas

Anchor Standards 1, Creating: Generate and conceptualize artistic ideas and work.

Anchor Standards 6, Performing: Convey meaning through the presentation of artistic work.”

Anchor Standards 7, Responding: Perceive and analyze artistic work.

Anchor Standards 10, Connecting: Synthesize and relate knowledge and personal experiences to make art.

At the conclusion of the project, students responded to questions related to the identified Standards:

Classroom teachers and students take an anonymous survey at the end of each WITS residency. Below are some of their responses.

CREATING:
Creative writing matters because…
“…in a world so dangerous, and scary, our writing can give us hope.” Idaho Distance Education Academy.

“…it creates new and original writing. It also opens up new ideas to peoples’ minds.” Seven Oaks Elementary

PERFORMING:
“The WITS program gave some of my students the opportunities to shine. I particularly loved having one of my students, who has not received a lot of recognition for his work, have the opportunity to read part of his story at the WITS celebration. This was a big boost for him!”

RESPONDING:
“I have learned to express my feelings. Guisela made me think of things in a different perspective. I wrote things from a different perspective which is out of my comfort zone. It helped me get out and expand my horizon.” Marian Pritchett

CONNECTING:
“One young man, who is only 17, was able to work through his feelings about being a father of his two year old daughter. Because of the workshops, he was able to visualize what type of father he wanted to be when he leaves the facility. Writing and seeing it in black and white made it more real for him” Ada County Juvenile Detention Center

Impact

WITS’s biggest accomplishments this year was the addition of a residency with the Bridge Program. This program serves refugees, immigrants, and English Language Learners, age 12 through 21. Below is an excerpt from Guisela Bahruth’s final site report of her residency there.

For this group of writers I cannot speak of a singular success story because I had thirteen success stories. Each writer went from writing one line to being able to write and express a whole memory. Their writing improved as well as their English. They learned to express themselves clearly in their new language. The reception was warm and the participation was full. Each and every one flourished and surpassed my expectations.

The number one goals were to create a space for the writer to fall in love with their own talent, feel confident sharing their work, learn to trust their talent, and finally see themselves as real writers. Each writer concentrated on learning what he/she needed at the moment, making it more personal and intimate. Other objectives were to help the writers discover the writer in them, and to learn or better their English through writing while communicating their thoughts and feelings.

Reflection

The Cabin is committed to the success of WITS. A large portion of our organization’s efforts are dedicated to expanding its reach and strengthening its outcomes. Programs like ours—putting professional teaching-writers in schools—are popular throughout the country because it is essential work that supports teachers and students in their academic goals.

We are constantly collaborating with our teaching writers, classroom teachers and school administrators to evaluate and improve WITS to better serve our diverse youth population. Since our success piloting our pre – and post- writing assessments in select schools, next year we will implement this qualitative research program wide.

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