By Maggie Shea, Writing Center coordinator
As we move full-steam ahead into Quarter 2, let’s take a glance back at Quarter 1. Though one-on-one writing conferences with MHS students are always our primary focus, innovations and adventures ignited our school year in the Writing Center.
We took the dive into social media with this very blog and our own Twitter feed, @TonkaWrites. Kudos to seniors Brynne Erb and Charlotte Knopp for their professional and creative blog-managing. Early into Quarter 1, they had all 22 coaches scheduled for a post date. Thanks to their leadership, we’ve all been inspired by insightful student voices. And thanks to the Twitter team of Will, Alanna, and Gigi for tweeting with style.
International Writing Centers Conference
Every other year, college writing center professionals from around the world convene with peer tutors in writing at an inspiring conference, presenting research and learning from each other. This year’s conference was in Orlando, and I brought along 12 of our junior and senior coaches. Big bonus for us: the trip was co-chaperoned by our beloved friend and former writing center leader Kelly Bunte, who now teaches social studies at MHS full-time. We learned about all things writing and tutoring in dozens of engaging sessions and bonded with other high school coaches from the East Coast. First quarter, all writing coaches took part in a research project on adapting to iPads in the Writing Center, and four seniors presented the results to a receptive audience from colleges and high schools around the country. Fantastic work, research team!
Writing coach course
A new for-credit course, Writing Center Seminar: Theory and Practice for Writing Coaches, meets every Friday during zero hour. The course allows us to study best practices in peer tutoring and writing and connect weekly; with more time together, we are building community and managing the many details of our work with students and teachers. The University of Minnesota Center for Writing has mentored us in developing this course, and last Friday we all took a “field trip” to tour their writing centers and take a turn as writers in conferences with college consultants.
With the help of student and adult coaches, we conferenced with 6th graders at MME on narrative writing. We also worked with Mrs. Ruffino’s Honors 6th grade class at MMW, a partnership we’ve enjoyed for the past four years. Clear Springs Elementary was our final Q1 outreach, where for the third year, our coaches took part in creative sessions. We taught a workshop on “Ode to an inspiring space” as part of an afternoon of architectural-themed offerings for 5th graders.
Our core work: writing conferences
A writing conference is a conversation between an interested and skilled listener (writing coach) and a writer (student), with a goal of refining ideas and writing. Though outreach, research, tweeting and posting are important – and great fun – the core work of the Writing Center has always been conferencing one-on-one with Minnetonka HS students as they work on academic papers. Students can sign up for a conference ahead of time or walk in to meet with a writing coach. Teachers often bring whole classes down to the Writing Center during the day; together, we can provide feedback to all students in a class while they are drafting papers.
Quarter One Conferences Snapshot