Why I Did CWP

I took CWP in 1986 with two other members of the Thornton High School English department. Our department was working hard to move to a portfolio system; it seemed to many of us that assessing by portfolios called for a different way of teaching. We began reading, talking, attending conferences, and some of us took CWP. Our department grew as teachers of writing; I felt so fortunate to be working in a department focused on teaching with best practices in mind, helping each other grow as writers and teachers. I quickly learned that choice, time to write, authentic audiences, good written response, timely focus lessons, conferences, workshop groups, and celebration engaged my students and motivated them to get better at their writing. I’ve been with CWP for 30 years and love to watch how teachers grow as writers and as teachers of writing in our two weeks together. We hope you will join us soon!

Karen Hartman

Director, CWP

Why I use workshop

My students are individual human beings with unique lives, struggles, interests, and talents. Giving them all the same book, the same writing prompt, and a strict formula to follow won’t engage them.

Always writing from a prompt won’t show them how to figure out what to think about the complexities of their lives.

My classroom should not be about what I think or about how I’ve figured something out or about what I’ve learned while living my life. I can share my thinking with my students in the effort to have them help me improve my ability to communicate my ideas, and to model for them the kind of work I intend for my classroom to invite them to do, but that work is not the primary focus of my classroom. I must create a space for students to think, to figure out, to create, to make sense of what they’re learning now and what they learned in the past and what they want to learn in the future.

I teach students.

Not books. Not writing.

Students should make decisions about the work they do, about the books they read, about the words they write. They should make decisions about the learning they need to do. They should be asked to determine for themselves what they have learned. They should have space to reflect, to plan, to revise. If I do all of this very important work for them, school is merely a place where they endure what people tell them to do all day, rather than a place where they go to figure out who they are and how they will contribute to our world.

Read the world to write your future.

Read books to make sense of our complex world, to practice dealing with complexity.

Write to figure out how you fit, how to make a future in our world.

This is why I use workshop.

–Sarah M. Zerwin, CWP Teacher Consultant