National Writing Project

What's Next for Rural Voices Radio?

By: Laura Paradise
Publication: The Voice, Vol. 8, No. 3
Date: May-June 2003

Summary: Although the Rural Voices Radio Series has concluded, documenting and disseminating the lessons learned is just beginning. Representatives from all three volumes of the spoken-word series came together in New York City in March, 2003, to discuss and prioritize the next steps, including a writing retreat in July.


With a complete 13-part audio series and a hungry nationwide listening audience, Rural Voices Radio is not exactly Mariah Carey or the Dixie Chicks, but the project has developed a bit of a following. And with the eagerly awaited spring release of Rural Voices Radio III—the final in the series featuring the writings and voices of students and teachers telling stories about their communities—now in sight, the question arises: What's next?

A March meeting in New York City brought together representatives from all three Rural Voices Radio cohorts to consider this question and more. After all, what better place to celebrate the completion of the series than in New York City? In truth, the March meeting was prompted by a presentation at NCTE's 4C's conference by members of the Rural Voices Radio III cohort. But the presentation itself is evidence that, although Rural Voices Radio III represents the completion of the series, an end to the interest the series generates is nowhere in sight.

The larger purpose of the March Rural Voices Radio gathering, however, was to begin a process of debriefing the project, which began in 1998, and devising plans for documenting and disseminating lessons learned. The group, which included teacher-consultants from 10 of the 13 sites whose locales and students were featured in the Rural Voices Radio series, considered how and in what forums they could help other educators integrate elements from the audio project in language arts and literacy.

With only two days to learn about site and classroom experiences, identify common themes, and set priorities for documenting and disseminating their work, the group used a variety of media to augment their discussion. The meeting room was a lively poster session with samples of student work, video clips, and maps. Kim Stafford led the group in thoughtful writing prompts. Deborah Begel recorded each person introducing himself and his place by reading a selection of the Rural Voices Radio project. The teachers themselves shared stories of their work, read favorite selections, and pored over file folders filled with lessons, workshop outlines, press releases, radio guidelines, and more. Much discussion focused on the impacts of Rural Voices Radio on teaching and student learning.

By the end of the weekend, participants had identified priorities for documentation to be developed at a Rural Voices Radio writing retreat in July. The retreat will be open to all sites involved in the radio programs, with the hope that at least one representative per site will attend. Among the activities the group plans to undertake in July is a careful review of the recordings from the March weekend. It is anticipated that the transcripts and actual tape can be used for professional articles and an instructional CD for teachers that compliments the Rural Voices Radio series.

For more information about Rural Voices Radio, visit

About the Author Laura Paradise is a senior program associate with the National Writing Project.

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