By Kierra Pixler, Managing Editor
In the final week of July, nearly 100 Belton ISD teachers, K-12, participated in a summer institute writing workshop. This is the second consecutive year that BISD has partnered with the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Staff at Columbia University to provide teachers throughout the district with new, unique, and innovative ways to develop students writing skills.
Teachers left the weeklong institute with valuable new lessons to prepare for their students coming in the fall. Throughout the week, teachers from across the district tackled multiple topics, including: the central role of curriculum development and planning, units of study in writing workshop, the importance of assessment-based writing instruction, methods of holding our students accountable for doing their best work, and classroom structures that support inquiry and collaboration.
“Teachers are volunteering their time to attend this institute in order to refine their craft and to gain skills not only as educators, but as individual writers as well,” said Lauren Brisbin, Belton ISD Director of Language Arts and Reading.
Participants experienced the writing workshop wearing two hats: one, as a teacher of writing, learning cutting edge methods; the other as a student, participating and engaging in the writing process.
“It’s very hard work, teaching in this manner is not easy,” Brisbin said. “The different mini lessons and activities that they are participating in throughout the week helps to awaken the type of learning that they’re trying to instill in their students. As teachers of writing we have to engage in the same activities that we are asking our kids to do, when a teacher goes through the process and tries out the kind of writing that they’re teaching their students it helps them not only anticipate the challenges and pitfalls that come along with writing, but also gain that empathy for what their students have to go through, because writing is not easy.”
While BISD writing achievement scores out-perform the region and state, writing is the lowest achieving subject area within the district. Writing instruction has been a district goal for the past two years.
“We had many of our students in 4th, 7th, and EOC writing tested grades, move up in their accountability rankings, scoring higher on their state tested exams this past year.” Brisbin said. “However, we know we can still do better.”
With the completion of this training, more than 80 percent of the District’s English and Language Arts teachers have been trained by the teachings of this workshop, facilitated by one of the world’s most premiere leaders in the practice of literacy.
The weeklong workshop concluded with a writing celebration that is designed to help teachers in the Belton ISD revitalize their unique professional learning culture. The celebration allows teachers participating in the workshop to have a platform to share their own pieces of writing with their peers – similar to what they will lead their students to do in their classrooms this fall.