Professional Learning Teacher as Writer

Annotated Bibliography for NWP Professional Writing Retreats


Amos, Denise, Glorianne Bradshaw, Toby Emert, Cheryl North-Coleman, Margaret Simon, Shelly Unsicker, Shari Wallis Williams, and Cindy Wolfe. 2008. “Stepping into the Role of Professional Writer.” In The Handbook of Research on Electronic Collaboration and Organizational Synergy, edited by Janet Salmons and Lynn Wilson. IGI Global.

What happens when attendees at the NWP Professional Writing Retreat continue to work and write collaboratively after the retreat ends? These eight authors, who met at the 2004 Professional Writing Retreat Strand A, kept in touch via the retreat listserv. This article examines how these attendees were able to write together professionally, write about teacher practice, and get reacquainted at the NWP Annual Meeting. Statistics comparing these teachers to other attendees who didn’t work together collaboratively after the retreat are used to track the success of the attendees in several areas.

Assaf, Lori Czop. 2008. “Professional identity of a reading teacher: responding to high-stakes testing pressures.” Teachers and Teaching 14 (3): 239–252. Available at

In an atmosphere of high-stakes testing, teachers are forced to make complex decisions based on accountability. This case study examines how an urban elementary school reading specialist used a pull-out reading program with English language learners. The reading specialist struggled between her need for the students to pass the test and her commitment to her own sense of professional identity and ethics.

Bauer, Sara. 2008. “Viewing a Poem as Argument: Helping Students Understand Contemporary Poetry.” Available at

When her high school honors students were put off by contemporary poetry, Bauer found a way to engage them: have them analyze the poem as an “argument.” Here she describes how she used the Toulmin model to help students better understand the concept of “warranting.” The ultimate goal was to help them better appreciate the intention of poets, thereby increasing their enjoyment of poetry.

Bruce, Heather. 2008. “Peace-Building in Indian Country: ‘Indian Education for All.'” Reflections: Writing, Service-Learning, and Community Literacy 8 (1): 214–258.

In Montana, where American Indian students comprise 10 percent of the population but 24 percent of the high school dropouts, the Montana Writing Project takes an active role to implement the Indian Education for All legislation. The lessons learned go beyond Montana, however; as the author notes, “everywhere in America is Indian Country.” The article examines theories of peace education and describes the site’s active practices in peace education—often in the face of resistance. Three of MWP’s community projects are introduced: peacekeeping, peacemaking, and peace-building. The article also addresses difficulties encountered by the site, including resistance to peace-building. Sample writings and photographs are included.

Bruce, Heather, Anna E. Baldwin, and Christabel Umphrey. 2008. Sherman Alexie in the Classroom: “This is not a silent movie. Our voices will save our lives.” Urbana, Illinois: NCTE.

Part of NCTE’s High School Literature Series, this book examines ways to teach the writings and films of Sherman Alexie, probably the most influential Native American writer of this century. (He won the 2007 National Book Award for Young People’s Literature.) Alexie’s work is placed into the larger context of Native American literature, and a sampling of literary criticism is provided. This is a useful and practical book for classroom teachers. Heather Bruce, who attended the 2007 Professional Writing Retreat, provides a particularly interesting chapter on performance poetry.

Bryant, Lizbeth A., and Heather M. Clark. 2008. Essays on Writing. New York: Longman Pearson.

This very accessible and relatively short book explores the social and cultural facets of writing as well as practices of writing. It is an instructor-friendly textbook that makes connections between classroom writing and communication outside the classroom. Included are such issues as attitudes toward writing, the use of technology and writing, and the impact of writing outside academia in real-world business and civic contexts.

Crotteau, Michelle. 2007. “Honoring Dialect and Culture: Pathways to Student Success on High-Stakes Writing Assessments.” English Journal 96 (4): 27–32. Available at

When a speaker of Appalachian English fails the state’s writing assessment, Michelle Crotteau, a teacher-consultant with the Central Virginia Writing Project, demonstrates that appropriate strategies and respect for home language allow for both authentic writing and successful test preparation. Rather than focusing on how Appalachian English is incorrect, Crotteau leverages home dialect and culture in the process of teaching her students how to use Standard English to respond to on-demand writing prompts.

Fattig, Melinda, and Maureen Taylor. 2007. Co-Teaching in the Differentiated Classroom: Successful Collaboration, Lesson Design, and Classroom Management, Grades 5–12. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

This teacher-friendly and practical guide explains how to implement co-teaching programs in mixed-ability classrooms. Both experienced and novice co-teachers will find friendly advice presented in a readable style. Topics include successful classroom management (including flexibility, planning, and scheduling), community-based activities, flexible grouping, and dealing with administrators. There are also sample lesson plans and student profiles. Both authors attended the 2005 Professional Writing Retreat.

Gemmell, Rebecca. 2008. “Encouraging Student Voice in Academic Writing.” English Journal 98 (2): 64–68.

This teacher-friendly article describes the strategies one teacher used to encourage her students to be independent thinkers and writers while at the same time meeting academic standards, and highlights the successful use of Writer’s Notebooks in a twelfth grade English class. It sure beats piles and piles of student essays!

Gulla, Amanda N. 2007. “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackboard: Nurturing Creativity and Developing Voice in Preparing English Teachers.” The New Educator 3 (4): 335–350. Available at

This accessible and informative article supports the central tenet of the National Writing Project: If we want teachers to help students develop voice and fluency as writers, we need to provide opportunities for teachers to engage in the same kind of work. In a Lehman College course called Writing, Reading, and Teaching Poetry, teachers learn strategies for teaching and responding to writing in middle and high school. The article also discusses the role of creative writing in helping teachers develop voice and identity.

Heckenlaible, Cindy. 2008. “The Research Paper: Engaging Students in Academic Writing.” NWP E-Voice (March-April). Available at

A teacher of high school freshmen engages her students in writing their research paper—and eliminates plagiarism—by having them write a historical account in first person. An interesting consideration is having the students choose an appropriate narrator. Excellent examples of student work are included to further explain the author’s approach. Students were engaged in their research topics, retained the information better, and felt proud of their finished product.

Martin, Deb. 2008. “The Authors Gallery: A Meaningful Integration of Technology and Writing.” Middle School Journal 39 (4).

Student examples really enliven this exploration of the authors gallery and the ways it can be implemented—and modified—for effective use with middle school students. Martin shows how she develops the community-building possibilities of the form through having student presentations at the school’s Parent Night. She also explains how this project can be used as an introduction to computers for students with limited technology skills.

Meyer, Jim. 2007, Spring. “Questioning Middle School Lore: Developing Innovative Research Activities.” The Journal of the New England League of Middle Schools 17 (2): 20–24.

In an attempt to challenge the middle school model for research projects, this teacher devised a three-week unit that made it nearly impossible for students to copy directly from a source into a written report. One problem with traditional research projects is that the topics are too broad, so the author chose Native American culture and history as the assigned topic, a choice that also allowed integrating the social studies and language arts classes. The class decided together on five Big Questions, then started researching to complete the required components of the unit: a written product, a physical artifact, and a visual piece to accompany the presentation.

North-Coleman, Cheryl. 2004. “Teacher Therapy: The Professional Writing Retreat.” Writing Works, the Newsletter of the Maryland Writing Project.

This teacher-consultant from the Maryland Writing Project admits “I hate to write and I hate to share,” but she found therapy and inspiration in her local site’s writing retreat and later at the NWP Professional Writing Retreat. Most importantly, she was able to get her teacher voice heard through publishing, something she’d never dreamed of when she first attended the summer institute.

Osterman, Ed. 2008. Supporting On-Site Teacher-Consultants: New York City Writing Project’s Community of Learners. NWP at Work Monograph Series. Available at

Ed Osterman demonstrates how sustained and regular professional development for on-site teacher-consultants not only benefits the teachers in the schools they serve, but also nurtures intellectual and personal growth at the New York City Writing Project. The monograph provides approaches and tools that can be adapted by local sites to support ongoing professional development for teacher-consultants. The author chronicles the evolution of the site’s Friday professional development meetings for its on-site teacher-consultants (teachers serving full-time as mentor-consultants in schools). In a safe, academically rigorous, and reflective professional community, these teacher-consultants develop their writing, teaching, and consulting skills, and collaboratively refine their work in the schools.

Rogers, Paul. 2009. “The contributions of North American longitudinal studies of writing in higher education to our understanding of writing development.” In Traditions of Writing Research, edited by Charles Bazerman et al.,365–377. New York: Taylor and Francis.

This chapter, written by an attendee at the 2007 Professional Writing Retreat, is an overview and summary of the findings of the North American Longitudinal Studies of Writing in Higher Education. It also includes a description of Rogers’s own work on the Stanford Study of Writing, a five-year longitudinal study of writing at Stanford University. The book itself reflects the different styles of work offered at the Writing Research Across Borders conference.

Salazar-Lucio, Melba. 2006. “An Analysis of the Creative Writing of Gifted Children in a Dual Language Program.” (PhD dissertation, Texas A&M University, Kingsville).

In this dissertation, the writer examines the creative writing of children in the fourth grade for one year and finds several patterns in their writing. She observes the code-switching from English to Spanish in most of the children’s writing when referring to close family ties. This Dual Language student group shows resiliency and “commended” marks on Texas mandated tests in all subject areas tested (math, writing, and reading). The author also studies the students’ caregivers’ primary language and the differences in attitudes toward language preference in male and female students. The book that grew out of the dissertation is titled An Analysis of the Creative Writing of Children in a Dual Language.

Swift, Susan. 2008. “From Ugly to Lovely: Creating Student-Centered Writing Assessment.” Colorado Council of Teachers of English Statement 44 (3): 23–25. Available at

After years of resistance, this high school English teacher finally decides to incorporate student assessment into her writing program. She starts with having the students create lists of high-quality descriptors for various genres, and then compiles these lists for further review. Interestingly, some descriptors (like grammar) were common to all genres, whereas some (like diction) were completely omitted. With much more coaching and feedback from the teacher than anticipated, the students become successful at assessing each other’s papers, first using numbers and later using letter grades. Two helpful assessment sheets are provided.

Toussant, Molly. 2007. “Hey Matt! There’s a Reason We Write Like Every Day!” NWP E-Voice (March/April). Available at

Fifth grade teacher Molly Toussant realized with chagrin that she habitually mouthed her precepts about teaching writing in the same rote way she had recited the Apostles’ Creed in Sunday school, and that her students had no idea why they had to write “like every day.” So she wrote this explication in which she shows, with many examples, how her teaching practices result from her five guiding beliefs about writing.

Whitney, Jason. 2006. “Mom Dad Buddy and Sis stories: a drama and fiction writing workshop.”English Journal 95 (6): 52. Available at

This is a useful (and readable) article for teachers interested in developing a drama and fiction writing workshop. By developing stories around four central characters (Mom, Dad, Buddy, and Sis), students were able to improve their writing skills using an innovative approach. Students enjoyed the collaborative atmosphere and learned to view themselves as writers. The piece contains plenty of student voice.

Yeager, Kathleen. 2007. “So . . . Go Slowly.” Schools: Studies in Education 4 (1): 39–59. Available at

After meeting the eccentric Vita on a bus, the author is introduced to the world of the Feldenkrais method. Moshe Feldenkrais was a physicist who applied his knowledge of engineering to the human body. Vita used these methods in a class to help people heal themselves. The author, in an attempt to boost the reading scores of second-graders in her rural school’s remedial reading classes, incorporates some of Feldenkrais’s ideas that she learns from Vita. The overriding idea is that literacy is a system, and the whole complex organism must be addressed.

About the Author: John Pennisi is a writer and English Teacher at Auburn High School and Southern Union State Community College in Alabama. He’s co-director of the Sun Belt Writing Project at Auburn University, and he’s a facilitator of the NWP Professional Writing Retreat.