For about 15 minutes each morning, students of the Great Valley Writing Project would thump and pound on the colorful assortment of drums. But there’s a method behind the powwow, according to program leader Pretta Condon. “It builds community and self-esteem,” she said on Thursday at the San Joaquin County Office of Education’s Goodwin School site. “Students also feel validated.” From that daily exercise, they’re able to jot down the experience into the written language. “The more you give a child – we use creative arts such as visual, music, art, drama, and dance – the more you create a background,” said Condon, who is a kindergarten / first-grade teacher at New Haven School during the regular school year. “With that background knowledge they’re able to be more expressive (in their writings).”
Nineteen credentialed teachers and technology instructors are currently working with 54 students, developing their creative and academic writing talents. Mia Van Lewen of St. Anthony’s Catholic School is among the first-time students of the program. “My mom wanted me to take a writing class this summer,” said the incoming sixth-grade student. In the short time, Van Lewen has already noticed improvements in her writing. She and the other budding authors are helped out in various ways. For starters, there’s at least one teacher working with four students. Mentors are also on hand, providing close personal attention in helping young writers with their composition strategies, said program director Melissa King.
Students also construct their own website pages, create digital anthologies, and organize photo albums. King recalled the first Writing and Technology Workshop opening in 2005 with a small group of teachers wanting to study new ways to teach students about writing. Since then, the workshop has grown to include four school campuses in south San Joaquin County, drawing more than 60 teachers and over 200 students each summer. “It’s like a writing camp for both teachers and students,” said Robin Alexander, who is a co-leader at the Goodwin School workshop. “We have experienced teachers lending support and encouragement to writers of all abilities, and, at the same time, teachers who are learning new and better ways of writing to bring back to their classroom.”
This year’s session at the Goodwin School – it’s the last one of the summer, with earlier workshops held at Woodward School, Ripon Elementary, and Ripon High – consisted of two groups: Kindergarten- through third- grade students, and fourth- through sixth- graders. Through artistic expression, the instructors are quick to notice the enthusiasm and productivity of young writers at the workshop. “We make kids excited about writing,” said Condon. Added teacher Stacy Sims, who will be an English / Language Arts coach for Stockton Unified in the fall: “They see (the creative arts) and they enjoy writing about it.” The GVWP summer programs are 100-percent community funded. About half of the parents pay registration fees, with contributions from local businesses and private donors providing the balance.
In addition, the Tuff Boy companies of Manteca and Lathrop serve as primary financial sponsors, contributing $10,000 each. This dual-funding system allows those from low-income families to attend the workshop on full scholarships while making affordable the registration fees for middle-income families.
For more information, contact King at 209-838-2115.
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