Writing is often used to test student knowledge, but it can also help students to inquire about the real world and school subjects from literacy to science, art and more, and at all levels from kindergarten through college.
“Writing doesn’t always have to serve as the final word on a subject,” said David Franke, professor of English and professional writing at SUNY Cortland and director of the 7VWP. “It can be a place to start asking questions, to wonder aloud, to connect with others in and outside the classroom.”
The Writing Matters conference will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 4 in Corey Union Exhibition Lounge.
Christine Dawson, professor at SUNY Albany and former secondary English teacher, will deliver a keynote speech titled “Creating and Inhabiting Spaces as Teacher-Writers.” She will discuss ways that writing is a tool for both students and teachers. Her recent book The Teacher-Writer will be on sale at the conference.
Franke will present at Writing Matters along with regional teachers and SUNY Cortland faculty.
During the Writing Matters conference, educators present their original proposals for teaching strategies, emphasizing how writing can be utilized in the classroom for all academic subjects and grade levels. These proposals were submitted to the 7VWP in March and are selected for inclusion based upon criteria such as creativity, originality, incorporation of new media, scale and collaboration between content areas. SUNY Cortland faculty and graduate students may register to attend the conference on the Writing Matters website.
“The best writing teachers are teachers who write,” Franke said. “Most teachers are way too busy to write a novel, but they can get firsthand experience as writers that will give them insight into what their students go through.”
7VWP workshops introduce teaching strategies designed to bring writing into the classroom across all disciplines. During these workshops, teachers educate each other on the writing process, revision and creating writing prompts and lesson plans. At Writing Matters VI, Franke will explore ways to use writing to wonder about situated experience.
“Teacher-writers always give very practical lessons that any instructor can use in the classroom Monday morning,” Franke said.
Writing Matters is just one of the many programs administered by the 7VWP in their mission to bring writing education to Seven Valleys region schools, at all grade levels and across all fields of study. The Seven Valleys region includes school districts as far north as Lake Ontario and as far south as Horseheads.
Based at SUNY Cortland, the 7VWP is one of about 200 National Writing Project sites at universities across the U.S. that provide writing conferences and workshops for educators, both on the College’s campus and in regional schools.
According to Franke, the most significant of the 7VWP’s offerings are the Summer Writing Institute programs, held at SUNY Cortland for two weeks every July. The series of workshops are led by and for teachers, introducing groundbreaking ways of using writing in the classroom. Over 100 graduates of 7VWP teach in regional schools.
“You can always pick out a teacher who’s been through the Summer Institute,” Franke said. “You can pick them out just by walking past the door, because they will be writing along with their students.”
Franke sees writing as an educational tool and a community venture. He is a proponent of using writing to strengthen the relationship between student, family and instructor.
“The one thing that we are most allergic to in the whole world is busy work,” Franke said. “Writing should be authentic, it should be used for learning, and it should help teachers reach their goals.”
For more information, contact the Seven Valleys Writing Project at 607-753-5945.