Connecting Real Life & Writing

During the last school year in Washington, DC, more than fifty high school teachers and thousands of students participated in One World Education’s Writing Program. The program is anchored by a curriculum created by excellent local teachers that aligns with the Common Core State Standards. During the course of the three-week program, students complete a series of research, outline, and writing activities that lead them through the steps needed to produce well-written essays about cultural or global issues of importance to them. Ultimately, their writing may serve as a reading source and a model for other students studying writing – creating a cycle of peer-to-peer learning.

I get to enjoy the results of their labor every summer when I finally have time to review these essays – all collected in the Student Writer's Notebooks that OWEd provides every learner. The Notebooks offer students a challenging space to apply the skills they are learning in; the daily lessons. Over the last few weeks I was able to read around 1% of these essays; just a sample of the 2,500 high school students in DC Public Schools who completed the program this year. Reading this student writing is one of the most meaningful parts of my job, and I want to share some of their insights with you, as it will be a bit longer before they’re published on OWEd's website!

Although you'll have to wait several months to read the writing of Torrey Marable, a 10th grade student at Phelps High School, his essay on urban education is a powerful vision for public school reform that every parent and educator should see. As I pass empty playgrounds and ball fields during these summer months, I can’t help but think about Jay Mathews’ essay on gaming culture. This 10th grade student from Calvin Coolidge High School taught me how important and complex the relationship is between video games and youth, and I also learned about the unique skills young gamers are acquiring.

As I sit every morning with the daily paper, I can’t shake the perspectives and insight that I have learned from DC students who are writing about these same topics. Trying to grasp the implications of the recent healthcare law, I think about the clarity in Jamaya Andrews’ essay on HIV education in schools. She just completed her 9th grade year at Eastern High School. Daniel Perez, a 10th grade student from McKinley Tech High School, explains in his essay how our nation’s inability to effectively address the immigration issue is destroying lives every day. One World Education shows students that writing isn’t just about earning a grade, but that it can serve as a platform for expressing their unique perspectives and visions for social change.

In addition to leading its Grade 10 Writing Program in DC public and charter schools again next year, One World Education is set to harness the ideas of middle school students as it prepares them for high school level writing through a Grade 8 Writing Unit with the theme of school issues. Middle school students will be able to write about testing, bullying, sports, safety, and other topics relevant and important to 8th graders. The new Grade 12 Unit will focus on the theme of college and career issues, allowing students to write about topics such as student loans, choosing a major, minimum wage, workers rights, and wage equality. OWEd is not only innovatively teaching writing, it is also, as one teacher expressed, “expanding the meaning of college and career readiness by helping students be college and career aware.”

Although the Writing Program’s demonstrated results of improved student writing and classroom engagement are important to teachers, it is their desire to harness the “student voice” that attracts most educators to One World Education.  As one teacher shared in a program evaluation led by George Washington University this past March, “Our students are having rich learning experiences outside of school. This program channels [them] back into the classroom and into a meaningful academic experience.” I’m already excited for next summer’s reading!

Comments

I read it. I love it. And I am SO impressed, Eric. Keep it up. "World change starts with educated children".

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