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Students take writing skills to new level

by | Nov 23, 2022 | Education, Latest

Although it’s not uncommon for students to attend intense training camps to hone their skills, these are typically geared toward extracurriculars, including band, sports and speech. But now, even aspiring middle school writers have the opportunity to attend camp.

Southard Middle School hosted its first-ever writing camp for students who were interested in improving their writing, and more than 60 students spent a Saturday focused strategies, tips and tricks to become better at one of the most basic forms of communication.

“I got the idea for a writing camp during the teacher proposal process while speaking with one of my mentors, Monica Washington,” Southard 6th-grade ELAR teacher Raven Morris said. “I wanted to apply for a grant through the district, and writing camp seemed to be my most impactful and practical option.”

For this camp, Morris drew on her experiences with band camp, both as a band student and band director.

“I wanted to duplicate those experiences for our students,” she said as she explained her reasoning behind offering a writing camp.

“Writing is a task that can feel intimidating for students, so I wanted them to have the opportunity to practice this skill in a low-pressure setting,” she said. “When I was in fourth grade, I attended writing camp and was asked to present my writing in front of my peers and their families. My experience inspired me to continue writing and gave me the confidence I needed to share my writing with others.”

According to Ms. Morris, camp is beneficial for students who need to transform their verbal skills.

“My students often experience uncertainty concerning the writing process but are very successful at telling stories verbally,” she said. “I wanted to use writing camp as an opportunity to show students that writing a story and telling a story are not completely separate skills.”

Administrators and teachers alike are singing the praises of the camp, as well as the facilitators brought in to lead the sessions.

“The secret to success for this camp was to invite excellent facilitators,” Ms. Morris said. “The facilitators delivered engaging, relevant writing lessons, so the students were willing to work hard.”

These session leaders included Dawn Rice and Vickery Skinner with WriteOn! Frisco and UTD professor Dr. Maurine Ogbaa, as well as PISD educators Amanda Davidson, Sally Hooks, Trey King and Nakenya Sneed.

It didn’t hurt that the camp catered to the students by offering middle schooler motivation in the form of Takis, pizza and PopTarts, which helped the students engage.

“The students who attended camp had amazing stories to tell,” Morris said. “They wrote with feeling, variety and creativity, which is what the camp aimed to highlight.” 

The writing camp included breakfast, a journal-decorating session and writing workshops on several topics, including of fiction, personal narrative, poetry and introductions/conclusions. The students also enjoyed a free lunch and bingo sessions.  

The poetry workshop led by Amanda Davidson was a fan favorite.

“Writing poetry was my favorite thing because I have been writing poetry for a while, and I like to express myself through it,” Southard 6th-grader Brielle Miles said.
Southard 7th-grader Alyaan Nayyar agreed.

“I liked all of the writing sessions, and the poetry session with Mrs. Davidson was my favorite,” Alyaan said.

But the workshop did not forget about the basics. Both Alyaan and Brielle say their writing benefitted.

“The camp helped me to write better introductions,” Alyaan said.

Brielle also got help with introductions.

“Camp helped me realize how to better start a story, and it helped me to learn new forms of writing,” she said.

From all the feedback, it sounds like writing camp is here to stay.

“The students loved the camp,” Morris said. “They were excited to share their writing, and many students who are usually shy or soft spoken at school eagerly shared, as well. The facilitators reported that several students asked about having another writing camp next year, which was exactly the response I hoped to receive.”

By Jean Ann Collins | Jcollins@princetonisd.net

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