The idea of “English matters” becomes all the more poignant in the department’s clear and direct links to the Seattle community. The substantive contributions our students are making to a broad spectrum of programs are impressive and noteworthy.
The Community Literacy Program (CLP) offers UW students an eight-credit combination of linked courses (English 198 and Education 401) in which they work with elementary school children and do academic reading, research, presentation and writing related to their work in the schools.
Now entering its second decade the CLP, under the direction of Professor Elizabeth Simmons-O’Neill, is part of the “elementary education strand” for students planning to enter the Teacher Education Program in the University of Washington’s College of Education. While many CLP students have gone on to work in education or related fields, this service learning course also appeals to students interested in experiential education, civic responsibility, a small workshop-based course, computer-integrated learning, or a deeper connection to the Seattle community.
Students often form strong bonds with the schools where they volunteer. Many CLP students continue tutoring on their own after the quarter ends through independent study projects, or serve as undergraduate Teaching Assistants and mentor tutors for new CLP students.
CLP students meet on campus twice a week for two hours for the reading, research and writing component of the program. In the linked service-learning component, volunteer work is scheduled individually by UW students (a minimum of 36 hours per quarter; 4-6 hours per week) in one of the CLP partner elementary schools: Martin Luther King, Jr., located in the Madison Park neighborhood; Olympic Hills, located in Lake City; or Alternative Elementary II in Wedgwood. All three partner elementary schools are within 30 minutes of the UW campus on Metro buslines, and all sites have strong volunteer coordinators.
The CLP offers a unique opportunity to combine academic research with experiential learning, bringing the two together in writing assignments. Participants re-examine their own lives as students in addition to reading and writing about current issues in American education, such as the nature and purpose of schooling, literacy, conflict and discipline, assessment and accountability, rapidly changing demographics, the nature and construction of “at risk” status, and the role of civic engagement in public education.
Group projects focus on presenting and analyzing the schools where students work, and final projects allow students to define a subject for in-depth case-based research.
All major writing assignments are discussed in individual conferences with the instructor and in peer groups, with training in relevant library research provided by Education librarians. The CLP is a computer-integrated course taught in a networked classroom.
“My eyes have been opened. Many people don’t realize the complexity; they just assume their kids go to school and things are good. I am a different person because of this class.” CLP STUDENT, SENIOR, BUSINESS, 2001
Now in its 25th year, the Puget Sound Writing Project (PSWP) has distinguished itself as the University of Washington’s premier humanities-based partnership program for K-12 education. Taking as its mission the ambitious task of improving student writing throughout the schools of Western Washington, the PSWP has now trained more than 500 K-12 teachers as Teacher-Consultants specialized in the teaching and learning of writing.
At the Project’s center is its Invitational Teacher Leadership Institute. Held each summer on the University of Washington campus and working within the highly successful model developed by the National Writing Project, this intensive professional development program brings together as many as 20 expert teachers of writing from Western Washington schools. In four weeks of full-day sessions, the teachers begin the process that will enable them to return to their schools and districts as teacherleaders. Throughout the summer session, teachers collaborate with University of Washington faculty to demonstrate their own best practices and to develop their skills as presenters. In addition, they become familiar with research in the teaching of writing, and, perhaps most importantly, they themselves write every day in the belief that the best teachers of writing are the teachers who themselves are also writers. After the Institute’s summer session, teachers continue to refine their skills during the ensuing school year both by working with an experienced mentor and by returning to the UW for five days of follow-up work spaced from September through May.
Under the PSWP’s auspices, these Teacher/Consultants have become a powerful force in area schools, and counts among their alumni not only distinguished teachers throughout the state but local and district administrators as well. Through PSWP-sponsored in-service training, through the Project’s newly created Open Institute, and the Project’s outreach programs for young writers, PSWP enriches the educational experience of literally thousands of Washington State students every year.
This is an individualized outreach program that invites middle and high school teachers to come to campus, usually for two four-hour Saturday sessions, to participate in a scholarly seminar on subjects like the theme of family in Shakespeare’s tragedies, or U.S. Poetry today. Sponsored jointly by Seattle Arts and Lectures and the Simpson Humanities Center, a number of English department faculty have taken part. This past year those faculty included Brian Reed and John Webster.