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Writing for Change

Written by Margit Boyesen
January 15, 2011


The San Diego Area Writing Project has been running its
highly successful “Young Writer’s Camp” for over 20 years. This two-week summer
writing program attracts predominantly students from privileged circumstances.
When we started asking ourselves how we could bring the writing camp to urban
settings, we realized that technology as an ethical question of access needed
to be apart of the experience.  The
Writing for Change Academy was
launched in the summer of 2009 through an ELL mini grant from the National
Writing Project and other funds.

Project Focus:

The focus of the writing curriculum was to connect students’
experiences and interests via highly engaging Social Justice topics. One of our
favorite resources for this is Writing Project Fellow Linda Christensen’s book,
“Teaching for Joy and Justice.” One of our pivotal lessons came from Chapter 1
of Christensen’s book; “Writing Poetry.” Students read and dissected “Raised by
Women” by Kelly Norman Ellis as a springboard for discussion about who or what
influences, changes, and raises us in our lives; from food to hairstyles,
religion to sports, physical to emotional environment. (See Christiana
Jiminez’s “Raised By Samoan Women” to see student sample).

This particular pilot of W4C focused on iMovie, teaching
students how to record their voices, insert pictures, utilize garageband, and
all the other skills that go with making an iMovie. But subsequent years or
other Writing for Change Academies could obviously utilize a variety of formats
for digital storytelling (***ideas???***) Our pilot year also used Glogster to
create interactive student pages and Image chef to create notebook covers (the
UCSD notebooks were our gift to the students, as we didn’t have enough money in
our grant to buy each of them a laptop).authentic_voice_fall_conf.ppt


We went into this project with the belief that if diverse
students had access to our summer writing programs and if the content was
relevant, they would engage and develop confidence and competence as writers.  This was overwhelming confirmed during
the course of W4C.  Each morning
from 8am until noon, 26 students going into grades 4-7 arrived to write and
make movies.  These students
represented a quite diverse population. 
There were newcomers, some speaking English for less than 3 months,
other English learners (Spanish and Arabic), GATE (Gifted) students, struggling
writers, and a variety of ethnicities and religions (Latino, African American,
Chaldean, Muslim, Christian).  And
at the height of the World Cup, these students came to school to write and
share their digital stories with technology.  They were enthusiastic participants, eager to learn and
explore the technology.  The W4C
staff made adjustments to their curriculum as the academy progressed—noticing that
students needed more writing development, so they added additional mini lessons
to support student writing while continuing their focus on using technology to
deliver the writing.  With access
to laptops, students wrote in classrooms and outdoors.  Teachers worked with students
individually and in small groups. 
They taught lessons, troubleshot technical problems, explained their
processes to parents, created a website and DVD, and hosted a Digital Celebration
on the last day that included parents and district leaders to showcase student

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