Why I use workshop

I use workshop because providing students with choice, time, feedback, instruction, and structure creates a magic that entices even the most reluctant and spazziest 6th grader, as well as the coolest and laziest 12th grader, to write and risk and create.

The days when I know my writing workshop is thriving are the days when I get to class and the students don’t even notice my arrival.  Full disclosure: The first time this happened, I felt insulted.  Hey, I’m the teacher and this is MY class! Everything revolves around ME!  Nothing begins in here until I get class going!

And then, I took advantage of this “fly on the wall” opportunity and I listened and observed my writing workshop at work.  I watched my students get their writing areas set up, lining up pencils, finding a fresh, clean page in a writer’s notebook, and powering up computers.  There was a happy buzz of productivity as the students greeted each other and got situated.  They were happy and excited and motivated.  I realized that while my students still needed me, they didn’t need me to get them started or to tell them what to do that day – they knew what THEY wanted to do as writers.  Because of the work we did to establish our workshop at the beginning of the year, my students were serious about their writing work, and they wanted to get down to business.

It was writing nirvana.  And it was magic made possible by workshop.

–Sheila Kaehny, CWP Teacher Consultant

Why I Did CWP

Two weeks in July of 1992 changed my life as a teacher. I know that sounds a bit radical, but that’s the summer I learned about writers’ workshop – not just how to teach writers’ workshop, but how to be a writer in a writers’ workshop. Colorado Writing Project showed me the power of writing in a community, of writing for my own purposes, of writing with passion and power and joy. I never looked back after that summer. I believe unconditionally in the way writers’ workshops change people’s lives, whether they be five or fifteen or fifty. Join us for an unforgettable experience and transform your own classroom. It’s never too late and your students will thank you for it!

Shari VanderVelde, CWP Teacher Consultant

Graduate of Karen Hartman’s 1992 CWP and Stevi Quate’s 1995 CWPII

Testimonial from author James Van Pelt

Author and Colorado teacher, James Van Pelt

Author and Colorado

I’m a long-time veteran of the CWP (I did all the offerings, including the summer seminar in Greeley in 1991 or ’92), and I still tell teachers they should enroll.

This will be my thirty-fifth year of teaching in western Colorado, and I was looking back at all the classes, seminars, and workshops I attended. None of them did as much for me as the CWP. When I took the summer course, I’d just finished my masters at U.C. Davis in Creative Writing. I didn’t need to be sold on the idea of teachers as writers, but it was nice to see an entire movement devoted to the idea that all teachers should write, not just so they can teach it, but because writing is a way for individuals to explore themselves.

That’s a powerful learning tool for the teachers to examine their inner lives, and it’s a powerful teaching tool to bring to the classroom.

Thank you for the work that you and all the instructional coaches bring to Colorado teachers in this powerful program.


Read Van Pelt’s latest novel, Pandora’s Gun, or find out more at jamesvanpelt.com

Here’s What Your Colleagues Are Saying About CWP

(After CWP and CWPII) I have unconsciously become a resource for my colleagues at school. I have unique lessons and techniques to share with others, and when I question how I’m teaching writing, I can go back to my own notebook of writing from the past summers to ground myself and my teaching. I’m aching for my colleagues to experience CWP, see the potential, and understand what I’m talking about when I suggest writer’s workshop.
–Katie Clark, Salida High School, Salida, CO

New Mission Statement!

The Colorado Writing Project empowers teacher writers and writing teachers to engage and inspire students to be lifelong writers. Using a research-based writing workshop, CWP brings joy to the teaching and learning of writing.
New mission statement, penned by the Colorado Writing Project teacher consultants at the annual retreat, 7 May 2016.