Chad Sansing made me do it…

Posted: March 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

Let’s get this out there. I hate to write.  I like it short and sweet which is why I’m a big fan of the Twitter. (I narrowly avoided rhyming sweet with tweet. You can thank me later.) During my time with the National Writing Project, however, I’ve come to understand that I AM a writer. I may be a sucky writer, but I am a writer all the same. And, because I’m a writer, I find ways to make my students write.

Before I drank the NWP Kool-Aid (tastes a little like cherry, for the record) I thought it was stupid that anyone would expect me to have students write. Seriously…elementary music…see the kids for 30 minutes every other day…kindergarteners who can’t even hold the pencil are supposed to write…oh yes…Let me work on that for you, Mr. Principal. The fact was that my principal alwaysALWAYSalways got on me for not having any writing activities in my lesson plans. I had no clue what in the world I was supposed to do to fix it. He was sympathetic to my reasons (or pathetic excuses, if you will) for not incorporating writing, but the bottom line was I had to do something. (Cue sweeping music and and a giant NWP logo…)

I came across an application for a Summer Institute for the Marshall University Writing Project’s satellite site, Coalfield Writers. Let’s see…writing in all ages and content areas? Free graduate credit? A stipend? Oh yes. This will do nicely 🙂

I applied.

I was interviewed.

I went.

I was changed.

I’m going to spare you all the research about NWP. The National Writing Project works. You can Google it and find out for yourself instead of me fumbling around trying to make it sound interesting. (I totally get that there are some folks *cough cough Crystal Howell cough cough* who are research nerds, I’m just not one of them.) The bottom line for me is that Writing Project made me better. I don’t mean a little better…I mean A LOT better.  (By the way, I changed jobs the summer I did my first SI so I never got to check off the box beside “Get my principal off my back” darn it.)

My classes write. We write daily. Most of our prompt ask them to share what they think and why they think it on virtually every lesson.  In the beginning it’s worse than pulling teeth.

“What do you mean what do I think?”

“No, really. What am I supposed to write here?”

“Just tell me what you want me to put down!”

“MY opinion? You want MY opinion?”

After a few weeks, the scene changes. Instead of grumbling and whining when a prompt is given, I hear silence. A beautiful, loaded silence. I look around my room at my students and I see them thinking. That’s a pretty powerful sight, folks.

My students’ homework for the weekend is to choose their favorite song lyric of all time. We’re not talking about one they like a lot…it really has to be their favorite lyric of all time. They also have to tell me why it’s their favorite…that’s their prompt for Monday. Since I can’t ask them to do something I can’t/won’t do myself I also have to pick out my favorite lyric and tell them why. (It’s making my brain hurt…I’m supposed to pick one line from one song? Who’s bright idea was that??? Oh, wait…never mind.) Anyway, we’re then going to take those song lyrics and put them on a slip of paper and make a paper chain to count down to the last day of school.

Yep, we turned making a paper chain into a writing assignment that involves some pretty heavy thinking. That’s the power and the beauty of NWP…


  1. And I won’t rhyme my comment, but I enjoyed the power of your writing here, particularly how NWP encourages our own views. (Yes, your opinion).

  2. […] Ms Estep Chad Sansing Made Me Do It […]

  3. Mandy Flora says:

    Now see April.. Aren’t you glad you started a blog? All of this wouldn’t fit in a tweet. I love it.

  4. Tanya B says:

    I love this post; I especially love the evocative description of a classroom of students writing:
    A beautiful, loaded silence. I look around my room at my students and I see them thinking. That’s a pretty powerful sight, folks.
    Well put, Ms. Estep/I am a sucky writer (not)

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