Florida teachers are participating in the National Writing Project this summer, and they will return to their classrooms with new strategies for encouraging their students to write.
In Northwest Florida, teachers in Escambia County are spending their summer in a classroom at the University of West Florida. The Escambia County Writing Institute Project is the local affiliate of the National Writing Project, and it is in its second year at UWF. The national mission is “to provide professional development that focuses the knowledge, expertise, and leadership of our nation’s educators on sustained efforts to improve writing and learning for all learners.”
The training focuses on using highly visual books in order to engage students and encourage them to write. Research has shown that picture books which are more complex than most adults experienced in their early education are more likely to engage K-12 students more deeply than books with many words, and thus generate a deeper interest in reading and writing.
“As an educator for over 25 years, this is the one professional development that I have used my entire career. I attended the NWP my third year as a middle school English teacher, and no matter what age, level, or socio-economic status, this approach works,” said Susan Densmore-James, director of ECWIP and an associate professor at UWF. “I have been blessed in my career with great opportunities, but the NWP is, by far, the one experience of which I feel most proud. Working with the teachers from my hometown is the pinnacle of my career.”