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Learning to write, writing to learn
GSU Summer Writing Project help teachers hone writing skills
GSU Writing Project 030
Alicia Howe, a graduate student at Georgia Southern University, prepares her response to the writing workshop. - photo by PAT HOMER/staff
    The Summer Institute of the Georgia Southern Writing Project came to a close with an open house and banquet for Fellows and potential Fellows on Friday. The GSWP is one of 197 National Writing Project sites in the United States.
    The GSWP Summer Institute is an intense immersion in writing. Fellows of the Institute include teachers of writing at all grade levels and graduate students. The goal is to improve the teaching of the writing process and the writing process of students and teachers alike.
     “Writing matters, plain and simple, and these teachers know it. Most people think it, but writing project participants do it: they write, take risks, and reflect on what would work in their classes with their students. They also read articles about literacy issues, which involve reading and writing practice. These teachers use one to inform the other, not keep them separate subjects,” said director Kathy Albertson.
    For the last month, Fellows have reported Monday through Thursday at 8:30 a.m. and left at 4:30 p.m. They wrote all day, every day.
    Writing is an intense activity, which creates quite an appetite. Participants take turns bringing food. Some bring breakfast items, and others bring lunch items. By having their food readily available, they remain focused throughout the day.
    In her address at the banquet following the open house, Dr. Martha C. Pennington, Chair of the Writing and Linguistics Department said, “Writing can be a very stimulating activity when it involves high mental activity and self-discovery. This group really gets it about writing.”
    Bob Marsh, a math teacher with East Georgia College, attended his first Summer Institute in 2005. He returned this summer as a facilitator.
    He said the Summer Institute is a “life-changing experience.”
    Participants begin the day with a journaling activity, which helps them focus and get settled to write. Writing prompts are provided, but Fellows can write on the topic of their choice, as well.
     “It’s really changed the way I see writing in life. It flows through all content areas and enriches learning across the board,” said Ryan Dehnert, a fourth grade teacher at Nevils Elementary.
    Their day continues with more writing projects. After working on their projects, Fellows then share their work with their peers. At first, they are a little shy about sharing their work, but the atmosphere of the Institute is comfortable with everyone encouraging everyone else. Camaraderie soon develops.
    Christine Kirkland, a teacher at South Effingham Middle School, said, “It is the best thing I’ve ever done for me as a writer, and it’s the best thing I’ve ever done for my students as a teacher.”
    If you would like more information about the GSWP, please contact the GSWP at (912) 681-0884 or
    The Writing Project also sponsors a Write Night for anyone interested in writing for fun on the second Tuesday of every month at Daily Grind. Writers gather at 7 p.m. to write for approximately 20 minutes in a relaxed atmosphere. For more information, contact Bob Marsh at
    More pictures from the Summer Institute can be seen at
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