For many students, writing is a daunting challenge; there are simply too many ways to start and end. A large number of students lack good writing skills and consequently give in to the belief that they are, and will always be, terrible writers. To counteract this idea and help students experience success, the YISS English Language Arts Department gathered on campus on April 27-28 to extend their training in the Jane Schaffer Writing Program (JSWP).
The English teachers have been learning strategies from the JSWP since last year when they completed training for expository writing. This time, the department focused on literary analysis after recognizing their students' need to think and write more about the literature they read in class. Teachers learned better ways to write prompts to help students think and read with a purpose. Additionally, the training offered more ways to help students find appropriate concrete details and commentary to go along with their own thoughts, including "webbing off the word" and various other useful graphic organizers. Part of the JSWP teaching philosophy is "Writing is thinking," and English teachers from 6th to 12th grade, including faculty from Student Learning Support, practiced the writing skills they learned by walking "in the shoes of the students."
On several occasions, department chair Vicky Deetlefs, who facilitated the training, mentioned the success that former students experienced after using the program. To illustrate her point, several students recorded testimonies about the help and freedom the JSWP methodology afforded them. Stephanie S., a YISS senior, related how the JSWP has helped her writing by giving her the tools to "weave together thoughts... creating a coherent flow from mind to paper... allowing [her] to really delve into the text."
Because all secondary English teachers at YISS completed the JSWP training program, students going through multiple years of middle and high school at YISS will have a common vocabulary and familiar structure to allow their writing craft to grow and find a voice of its own.