Hawaii Writing Project

This week I'm in a professional development workshop.  But it's not the boring kind you think of when you hear "PD."  It's the Hawaii Writing Project.  HWP is a state affiliate for the National Writing Project, an organization whose goal is to improve writing and learning for all.  I had heard from a colleague that this class would be the best PD I've ever had and will change my life.  And so far, four days in, it's lived up to the hype.  

The premise of the workshop is that we will become better writing teachers by nurturing our own writing development.  We will be better in tune with our own students by turning the tables and being learners ourselves.  We have to write everyday for over an hour.  We have to write reflections after lessons and activities.  We have to share our writing with the class and with small groups.  We have discussions about creativity, vulnerability, and how to teach good writing even though there are curriculum adoptions being jammed down our throats.  

Throughout the past couple of days, we have learned some different ways for students to write and respond.  

Graffiti Boards

This is a cooperative learning strategy where all students add their thoughts and reflections to literature to one class board.  They may then respond to each other's writing.  At the end, the teacher goes over the board and students have to explain what they wrote and make connections to the text.  It's a great way to get kids out of their seats and get them to reference text when they write responses.  

Here is an example of our class graffiti board.

Found Poetry

I first learned about Found Poetry as an ELL strategy in the OCDE Project GLAD® (Guided Language Acquisition Design) trainings I've done over the years.  In this variation, students read a piece of literature, then pull out interesting words and phrases.  They then take those words and use them to create a poem.  They can change some words to fit their poem, or not.

As a class, we read "Take Me Home" by Ray Bradbury, an article from the New York Times.   As we read, we highlighted and underlined parts of the story that spoke to us.  

Here are two poems I wrote:

Poem One: 
He went away for good when I was five, 
Toward the midnight sky,
On a balloon that whispered itself fat with the hot air rising inside. 
Sailing over the beginning to sleep town, 
Leaving me to brush the tears away with fingers sulfured by firecrackers. 
You rarely have such fevers later in life that fill your entire day with emotion.   

Poem Two: 
Midnight sky, 
Brush away the tears. 
Fill your entire day with the hot air rising inside, 
All fired and bright, 
Sailing over the beginning-to-sleep town.

I didn't change too many of the words from Bradbury's article, just rearranged them to evoke a different feeling.  I really liked this strategy for getting kids thinking about the theme and meaning of the literature and using it to make connections to text, life, or the world.  

Response to Writing

The last strategy I want to share with you is one that children can do together in cooperative writing groups.  In these groups, they share their writing and can get feedback from each other.  Of course we want to encourage active listening, so we can give them one of these sheets to help them organize their thoughts and help share their reactions with the author.  

Here are the steps:
  1. Students reads his or her piece of writing to the small group
  2. Other students in the group listen to the writing and fill out their sheets
  3. Students in the group go around in a circle and share their thoughts with the reader/author
I made a little freebie for you to use to facilitate this practice.  It was adapted from something our instructor, Marnie Masuda, gave us.  Marnie believes we should treat children's writing like works of literature.  We can have a wide variety of responses to children's writing and by sharing these responses, it will encourage them and help them develop as writers.  

Have you taken any great PD courses this summer? Don't forget to join in my book study right here on the blog for Teaching With Intention by Debbie Miller and earn graduate credit from Concordia University! 


  1. Love the idea of a graffiti board! I totally want to do that next year with my kiddos. Thank you for sharing!!

    Funky in Fourth

    1. So glad that you can use this idea! I think your kids will love it!

  2. Love students responding to each other's writing. It gives importance to their word choice

    1. I so agree, Debbie! Just because a kid wrote it, doesn't me that it isn't important!

  3. I'm a Writing Project Fellow from 2006. It was one of the best professional development opportunities of my career. I'm glad to hear you're enjoying it as well.
    ❀ Tammy
    Forever in First

    1. Yay! We're in the same club, then, right?? ;)

  4. Thank you for sharing the great freebies! I do something similar in K. After we have an Author Share (when a child completes a book) the class has a chance to share something they like, a connection they have, or a question. I love your graphics and sharing how the story made them feel!

    Fun in PreK-1 & Kinder

    1. I've also had students respond with a comment, compliment, or question. I like that these sheets can be used in small groups and gives the author something tangible to keep. I'm so glad you like them!

  5. Thank you for sharing these! They are wonderful! I can't wait to use them with my 3rd graders this year. I love how the groups HAS to listen and give feedback! Your conference sounds really interesting.

    Thrills in Third Grade

  6. Where can I get info about this PD?? I'd love to take it and share with my admin! :)