National Writing Project

Michigan Sites Collaborate on Book Project

Date: May 2008

Summary: The Michigan state network of sites partnered with the Michigan Reading Association to publish a book focusing on the examination of student work as a starting point for teaching writing. Six chapters by teacher-consultants are included here.


"Just tell me—what is the best way to teach writing?" That's the question asked by a Michigan teacher facing the multiple demands of the current school reform climate. It's also the kind of question that inspired Writing Intention: Prompting Professional Learning through Student Work , according to Tony Tendero and Cynthia Clingman, the editors of the book.

A collaborative effort sponsored by the state network of Michigan NWP sites and the Michigan Reading Association , the publication, a collection of chapters written by classroom teachers, illustrates that while there are is no simple answer to this question, a valuable starting point for conversations about teaching writing is an examination of student work.

The book is tangible evidence that we, as a state network, have grown in terms of our capacities.

"The articles are the fruit of our efforts as a state network to find common language as we systematically look at student work," said Laura Roop, director of the Oakland Writing Project at the University of Michigan. "We wanted to make sure that all Michigan sites were familiar with teacher inquiry, and understood the use of protocols in conjunction with examining student work."

Another reason for the book, according to Roop, is that a group of organizations in Michigan, including the unions, had been talking for about a year and a half about high-quality professional development, and it was clear that classroom-based assessment—assessment for teaching and learning—was part of their picture.

Chapters Reflect Expertise in Teacher Research

The project was designed to accommodate a range of experience and expertise in teacher research / action research / inquiry at sites across the state, including several new sites.

"The book is tangible evidence that we, as a state network, have grown in terms of our capacities," Roop said.

The publication has become an important resource for Michigan teachers, and there is talk of the NWP and the Reading Association partnering on another publication.

Included below are several chapters from the book authored by writing project teacher-consultants, who describe how students are supported as writers in a wide range of classrooms.

Leading with Intention, by Tony Tendero, former director of the Lake Michigan Writing Project, and Cynthia Clingman, past president, Michigan Reading Association, introduces the collection of pieces and explains that the "main purpose [of the publication] is to prompt an ongoing professional learning community that develops its own questions about writing, its own best practices, its own student work, and its own beliefs about teaching writing."

On the Verge of Understanding: A District-Wide Look at Student Writing, by Kathleen Reddy-Butkovich, Meadow Brook Writing Project, focuses on an examination of student work to discover what student writers are "on the verge of understanding." She applies these observations to arrive at some implications for teaching and learning in her school district.

Growing Writers: Considering Talk, Time, Models, and Purpose, by Renee Webster, Red Cedar Writing Project, describes how the author, working with first-graders, supplements writing workshop by using the text of picture books to provide models of techniques—such as "sound words"—that students integrate into their writing.

A Moment of Understanding: Getting on the Bus of Justice, by Jan M. Sabin, Upper Peninsula Writing Project, explains how the author pushes her second-graders to write about social justice issues by focusing on familiar contexts like the cafeteria, the playground, and their homes.

In Dancing with Authors Bev Matulis, Saginaw Valley Writing Project, discusses her technique for getting students to pay attention to different sentence structures by using sentence combining.

In Using Genre in the Social Studies Classroom Kari E. Scheidel, a social studies teacher with the Lake Michigan Writing Project, tells how she immerses her students in the study of American history by introducing them to writing in genres such as plays, news articles, and brochures.

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