National Writing Project

NWP Teachers at Work: Melissa Chapple

Date: October 2018

Summary: Elementary school teacher and NWP teacher leader Melissa shares her cross-discipline approach to writing and science, and the impact that her local Writing Project site has had on her teaching practice.

 


...authentic experiences, learning that is meaningful and important to kids. That's my experience of the National Writing Project.

I have been a teacher in the early elementary grades for 14 years in Tempe, Arizona. I love children and their thinking, their ideas, and their questions; I marvel at how they see the world. Kids are eager to learn about the world around them. They may not like formal writing assignments, but they love to share what they know; so writing activities for young learners should be tied to authentic experiences, whether read-alouds or science experiments or personal narratives.

On Professional Development

I learned about the Central Arizona Writing Project because of an opportunity to participate in NWP's Intersections Initiative. This program supports partnerships between NWP sites and science museums around the country to integrate literacy practices with science, technology, art, engineering, and mathematics (STEAM) education and to work at the intersections of formal and informal education. Not only did my work in Intersections have a lasting impact on my classroom, but it also changed the way I view the world. Last summer, when I took my own children to the museum, I kept thinking about all the learning possibilities inherent in each exhibit: What could young people do here that they aren't doing? What might they write about? What could I do after this trip to the museum to extend my kids' learning and engagement? At my school, we have a school garden called The Learning Patch. Intersections helped me ask the questions, "What other science activities can we do that build on what kids have done in The Learning Patch? How can I bring hands-on work inside?" I understand intellectually, and practically, that real science is doing it (and writing about it), not just reading about it.

During the last school year, I organized activities for my second-graders to include writing with science experiments all year long; for instance, writing out a prediction, doing an activity, and recording our results. These kinds of hands-on experiences, in which the kids are writing and communicating, and having fun, build both skills and stamina for more writing.

I've had a few profound learning experiences as a teacher these last 14 years; one was with the National Writing Project. I appreciate the opportunity to learn from teachers around me, and I've grown so much from putting disciplines together. CAWP director Jessica Early really impresses me with the way she approaches teachers. Though she's a professor, she has the heart of a teacher; and when you have the heart of a teacher, you help teachers keep their eyes on what's really important—authentic experiences, learning that is meaningful and important to kids. That's my experience of the National Writing Project.

Melissa's story was featured in the 2017 NWP Annual Report.

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