National Writing Project

Special-Focus Networks Award Minigrants

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

Summary: Read descriptions of 31 diverse and interesting projects awarded minigrants from NWP's special-focus networks—English Language Learners, Rural Sites, Teacher Inquiry Communities, and Urban Sites.


In February, leadership of the National Writing Project's four special-focus networks—English Language Learners, Rural Sites, Teacher Inquiry Communities, and Urban Sites—finalized 2003–2004 minigrant awards. Of the 72 proposals reviewed, 31 projects were funded.

With increasing interest in minigrant funding, the review task has grown. Network leaders set grant levels and establish criteria in September. In January, review teams meet by email, following strict guidelines for proposal review and evaluation. Then, before final recommendations are made, minigrant coordinators from each of the special-focus networks gather to discuss benefits that specific projects may bring to particular sites. Below are descriptions of this year's minigrant awards.

English Language Learners Network

The Maryland Writing Project proposes to the use the MontBlair High School student newspaper as a vehicle for encouraging English language learner (ELL) students to read and write. The minigrant will support the publication of the newspaper, as well as disseminate information about ways English language learners involved in this program practice the application of their second language.

The Northern Virginia Writing Project will use oral history writing workshops to bring together students and their relatives to write and publish an anthology that later may be shared with a larger learning community.

The Oregon Writing Project at Willamette University will develop two ELL curriculum units incorporating best practice in the teaching of writing and reading to promote global awareness and understanding across cultures. The program, which will use technology, will support English language learners in meeting state standards. The units will be made available online.

The Montana Writing Project proposes to develop a model demonstration inservice that will help teachers of Native American students apply oral tradition to English language learning and writing.

The Philadelphia Writing Project will bring together 20 ELL teachers to use an ethnographic approach to identify promising practices for the teaching of writing to English language learners.

The Rural Sites Network

The Alaska Writing Consortium, with the support of the Alaska Humanities Forum, will conduct a residential rural-urban teacher exchange to promote dialogue across the rural-urban gap in Alaskan education and public policy.

The Hudson Valley Writing Project (New York) will expand its summer writing programs to involve rural and migrant youth, working in partnership with the state Migrant Education Program.

The Swamp Fox Writing Project (South Carolina), will enable children in a rural, impoverished, poorly performing school district to gain support for improved writing skills.

The National Writing Project at Florida Gulf Coast University will integrate professional development activities with their young writers program by conducting two professional develop-ment workshops for teachers during the regular school year, followed by a one-week writing institute for teachers preceding the young authors' institute.

Prairie Lands Writing Project (Missouri) will conduct a weekend retreat focusing on extending outreach capabilities throughout rural areas. The retreat will bring 15 teachers together for a weekend of writing, reflection, and teacher inquiry, concluding with strategic planning and development of outreach programs to recruit rural teacher-consultants.

The Marshall Writing Project (West Virginia) intends to hold a mini-institute for new teachers led by experienced teacher-consultants.

The Northern Nevada Writing Project will bring teacher-consultant instructors to three rural "open institutes," to improve both teaching and recruiting of rural teacher-consultants to the summer institute.

The Live Oak Writing Project (Mississippi) intends to organize a focus study group to write and field test place-based lessons. The final product will be a staff development series to be shared with rural schools.

The Appalachian Writing Project in southern Virginia will use minigrant funds to increase local awareness of the importance of writing through the publication of a collection of memoirs by people who reflect the heritage of the coal fields.

Teacher Inquiry Communities Network

The Teacher Inquiry Communities Network offered its first minigrants this year.

The Southern Arizona Writing Project will develop a model for strengthening teacher leadership in connection with the establishment of new teacher research communities.

Mississippi State University Writing/Thinking Project will build a "site" teacher inquiry community, creating a sustainable structure for supporting teacher inquiry that is embedded in the everyday work of the site.

The UCLA Writing Project (California) will pilot a collaborative approach to teacher research and inquiry with a focus on race and sexual orientation.

The Western Pennsylvania Writing Project will build bridges between rural, urban, and suburban sites across Pennsylvania using teacher inquiry that is subject-specific and focused on using local history in writing.

The Area 3 Writing Project (California) will develop a professional development model that fuses assessment and inquiry.

The Live Oak teacher research community will provide a forum for teacher inquiry and mentoring new teacher partners.

The Northern California Writing Project will host a professional writing retreat to provide additional support at a site level to those already involved in teacher inquiry.

The Kennesaw Mountain Writing Project (Georgia) plans to work toward the publication of their ongoing teacher research and reflection effort, "communities of reflective practice."

The Urban Sites Network (USN)

The South Coast Writing Project's (California) "Word of the City" project emphasizes connectivity and "going public" by using the Web for live research conferences across distance. This professional development model will involve teacher-consultants across four regions in California and Nevada.

The New York City Writing Project will pilot an effort to evaluate how instructional practices have changed as a result of participation in a NYCWP program. The project will serve as a tool for reporting about site effectiveness and evaluating writing project services.

The Utah Writing Project will conduct a Nature Writing Camp for fourth grade English language learners with the objective of creating a rich context for ELL teaching and learning.

The District of Columbia Area Writing Project will host a mini-institute that brings together beginning and veteran teachers to analyze data and develop standards-based lessons that integrate the lives of students into the curriculum.

The Southern Nevada Writing Project will use its grant to support its new teacher initiative.

Both the Meadow Brook (Michigan) and Greater Kansas City (Missouri) Writing Projects received funds for a second consecutive year to continue and build upon previous USN-supported work.

The Philadelphia Writing Project will use the NWP monograph series in staff development for facilitators conducting inservice or continuity programs in the School District of Philadelphia. The staff development will address the challenges related to content and curriculum in an environment of "massive" reform.

More information about minigrant projects may be found under the "Programs" link on the NWP website ( ). In addition, sites that have received grants typically present results and resources from their work at national and special-focus network sponsored events and in The Voice.

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