Cheryl Seligman - Presentation Editor

The Genesee Valley Writing Project at the Margaret Warner Graduate School of Education and Human Development will host a writing workshop for educators on Oct. 15. The workshop is open to educators of all subjects and grade levels, from pre-kindergarten teachers to college professors.

The theme of the workshop, “Conformity vs. Risk Taking: Where Does Excellent Writing Come From?,” will focus on helping teachers aid students break out of the traditional structures of writing at all steps of the process, from the development of ideas to the composition of the piece and its revision.

Joanne Larson, director of the Genesee Valley Writing Project  for three years and a Warner School professor, said the theme took root in the summer of 2010.

With the current academic emphasis on standardized testing, like Regents and AP exams, Larson said breaking out of conventional modes of writing seems “forbidden and dangerous” to students. With this in mind, the project established a program on “how teachers can encourage risk taking, because [risk taking] produces the best writing,” according to Larson.
The half-day event will feature several individual breakout sessions centered on risk taking in writing.

The “Common Core” session will focus on moving beyond conformity. “Readers as Writers” will teach how to study an author’s craft and learn to “break the rules.” Other sessions will focus on famous ledes, ways to start writing a text with an uncommon format and how to experiment with the structure of nonfiction writing. All teachers will produce a piece of writing for the day.
The workshop will be led by teachers from the Genesee Valley Writing Project and local schools. This “teachers teaching teachers” approach is very important, according to Larson.

“It helps teachers get reconnected to their own teaching and excitement about writing,” she said.

Educators will also be able to learn and discuss successful teaching methods from their colleagues.
Larson has high expectations for the workshop.

“We are planning for 150 [educators to attend]. There has been a lot of interest in the community,” she said.

Larson hopes that this workshop will establish the Genesee Valley Writing Program as a writing resource for educators of all fields, not only those in  English. Larson believes that “whoever comes will get re-inspired to do better writing.” This inspiration is key to achieving the ultimate goal of the workshop: to show students that “writing is… an exciting way to learn.”

Hansler is a member of the class of 2015.

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