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I got to spend yesterday morning with my people…and by that, I mean the Redwood Writing Project crew.  It is the second week of their two week long Intensive Summer Institute (ISI).  If you aren’t familiar with the organization you can check out their website.  But here’s the scoop…  Basically, it’s some of the best professional development out there.  Teacher consultants (those who have attended a season of ISI) maintain a professional learning network and spread their goodness throughout their school sites (K-16).  It feels like every rock-star teacher I’ve encountered here in Humboldt has attended at least one ISI (and yes, it’s so good that many educators give up two weeks of summer repeatedly, year after year).  The two weeks are spent researching inquiry topics that these educators want to focus on to improve their own teaching.  Everything is very applicable, even if not directly related to the writing process (this is the bonus result of putting 13 K-16 educators together with time to discuss, brainstorm, and problem-solve). They read great texts (yes, Anne Hartline is involved), they laugh, and laugh some more (Mary Ann Loch), and at the end of the ISI, attendees can even get HSU credit (HSU English Department’s very own Nicolette Amann is the RWP Director).  But really the highlight is the food camaraderie.

Hart Ford's ISI notebook

Hart Ford’s ISI notebook

The RWP manages to mix practical writing exercises (that you can immediately transfer to your classroom) into each day, cementing the processes we want our students to practice while nurturing relationships between educators whose sites range from Redway, to Hoopa, to Trinidad.  Throughout the year(s) these teacher consultants call on each other to bounce ideas, answer questions, and support each other.  Many continue an active role in the RWP, presenting workshops and providing one on one coaching.

I was fortunate to spend a couple hours with the group this week and to participate in discussions about this summer’s text, In the Best Interest of Students by Kelly Gallagher

We put our heads together and talked about writing strategies from chapter four.  We played with prompts like, “Make a backwards bucket list,” and “What happened in history on your birthday?” The benefit of collaboratively reading a professional text is that the content becomes richer as each mind adds to it, tweaks it, and finds more ways to apply the strategies.  Not only did we learn five things Deb Ownbey from Blue Lake would never do, we also found a way to apply the prompt to Hart Ford’s Winship science class by changing it to, “What things would [a creature] never find in their habitat?”  This was the light stuff as we eased into our first cup of coffee for the day, but make no mistake, the RWP packs a punch and you walk away with your head buzzing like a bee hive, hungry for more, and inspired to plan your next writer’s workshop for your students.

But my surprise take-away was this…a solution for all those students who are always losing their pencil:    Crystal Fenell at Toddy Thomas orders big boxes of golf pencils (500 for $3 from Amazon).  Your classroom lottery funds will go far with this deal!

The Redwood Writing Project has brought us learning opportunities such as the Young Writers Camp, Tech series, and literacy conferences throughout the years.  If you are interested in being a part of this professional development organization, go to their website and please, please, please, register for Literacy at the Center.  This is a three day event co-sponsored by HCOE and facilitated by RWP Teacher Consultant, Ann Hartline.  She has got local guest speakers lined up and a book picked out to give all of the attendees.  I guarantee it will be filled with post-its, highlighting, and sticky tabs by the end of the course (you can get HSU units too).  Don’t wait though.  Registration ends July 22.

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