National Writing Project

Resource Topics

Teaching Writing - Urban Education

Additional Resources

Putting the "Shop" in Reading Workshop: Building Reading Stamina

English Journal, June 2012
Amanda N. Gulla, a teacher-consultant with the New York City Writing Project, observes how formerly underperforming language arts ninth graders became engaged, thoughtful readers. Through an ethnographic study, Gulla describes the teacher's methods of hands-on teaching, independent reading, open discussions, and more that help her students develop literacy expertise without losing their identities. More ›

Ernest Morrell on Navigating Urban Literacies

August 2011
Ernest Morrell, education professor and former Bay Area Writing Project teacher-consultant, examined the relationships between language, literacy, culture, and power in society in his keynote speech at the 2011 Urban Sites Network Conference. More ›

A Conversation with Ernest Morrell

March 2011
The Boston Writing Project speaks with author and academic Ernest Morrell, the keynote speaker for the 2011 Urban Sites Network Conference, about bringing literary theory and popular cultural into the high school classroom. More ›

Lee Anne Bell Counters the "Stock Stories" of Race and Racism

January 2011
Art Peterson
Lee Anne Bell will be a different kind of storyteller at the 2011 Rural Sites Network Conference. She will discuss how she examines and categorizes stories about race and racism in order to create what she calls "transformative stories." More ›

New Teachers in Urban Contexts: Creating Bridges with Teach For America Teachers

August 2010
Dina Portnoy, Tanya Maloney
Teacher-consultants from the Philadelphia Writing Project use a one-week summer bridge course to address the complex needs, challenges, and opportunities facing new urban teachers in the Teach For America program. More ›

Baltimore’s Youth Dreamers Have a Home: The Dream House

May 2010
Art Peterson
A cadre of Baltimore middle school students dreamed that they could help their urban neighborhood with a house where young kids could be mentored and participate in fun activities—and they made that dream a reality. More ›

Patricia Smith: “How Do We Lose Our Own Voices?”

April 2010
In recounting her mother's life story, famous poet Patricia Smith discussed how African American children can lose their valuable histories in order to learn to speak "right" in her keynote at the 2010 Urban Sites Network Conference. More ›

Patricia Smith: Exploring Life Through the Poetry of Personas

February 2010
Grant Faulkner
Renowned poet and poetry slam performer Patricia Smith explores urban life and history by getting into people's skins and speaking their words. As the keynote speaker at the NWP's 2010 Urban Sites Network Conference, she'll discuss the intersections of poetry and teaching. More ›

Book Review: Reading for Their Life

Michael W. Smith
In this foreword to Alfred Tatum's Reading for Their Life, Michael W. Smith, former director of the NWP at Rutgers Writing Project, urges readers to read Tatum's book as a call to action, and for us to heed it. More ›

Expanding Students' Repertoires of Linguistic Practice and Cultivating Transcultural Dispositions

November 2010
Taken from her keynote at the 2009 With Different Eyes conference, scholar Marjorie Faulstich Orellana explains the benefits of translation in the classroom and transcultural dispositions with student writing. More ›

The Literary Map of Santo Domingo: Mapping Cultural Change

October 2009
Meg Petersen
With the aid of a Google map, the author leads her Dominican students to write about urban places often dismissed by Dominican writers as being too close to home to be interesting. In the process, they learn how to be writers. More ›

Writing in the 21st Century: The Genteel Unteaching of America's Poor

April 2009
As part of a series of reports from NCTE calling for support for 21st century writing instruction, Kylene Beers, NCTE president, discusses an urban school where the staff maintain that students benefit from school time sitting still and memorizing facts—a perspective she labels "segregation by intellectual rigor." More ›

The Importance of Resiliency in Learning and Writing

February 2009
Art Peterson
Bonnie Benard discusses the role that schools and communities play in supporting the biological drive for normal human development and triumphing over adversity: resiliency. More ›

Book Review: Culture, Literacy, and Learning: Taking Bloom in the Midst of the Whirlwind by Carol D. Lee

January 2009
Stephen Gordon
Carol Lee reports on her teaching students to respond to literature in a Chicago public school. She concludes that teachers can succeed if they have knowledge about the language, culture, cognition, motivation, and social/emotional realities of urban students. More ›

Reading for Their Life: Poetic Broadsides

In this chapter from Reading for Their Life, Alfred Tatum shares poems and lessons in support of his argument that we should share "poetry worth reading" with African-American male students. More ›

Literacy, ELL, and Digital Storytelling: 21st Century Learning in Action

January 2009
Produced by the Pearson Foundation, this short video documents a semester-long digital writing project led by two Bay Area Writing Project teacher-consultants. The video follows students through the creation of digital stories about their family members' immigration experiences. More ›

Resiliency: An Annotated Bibliography

December 2008
Jean Wolph, Gwen Snow, Linda Satterlee, Irina McGrath, Maria Scherrer
This bibliography includes selections from a wide body of literature about fostering resilience in urban students. More ›

“We Make the Road by Walking”: Building the Urban Sites Network

April 2008
Richard Sterling
In his keynote address at the 2008 Urban Sites Network Conference in Denver, Colorado, Richard Sterling traces the development of the USN from its roots at City College of New York, describing the events, the people, the challenges, the passion, and the learning that make up its history. More ›

Book Review: Young, Gifted, and Black: Promoting High Achievement Among African-American Students

Teacher Magazine, July 2008
Mary K. Tedrow
After reading this collection of essays by three leading thinkers in African American education, Mary Tedrow, a teacher-consultant with the Northern Virginia Writing Project, realized that "the ideas and potential solutions embedded in this book have gone on largely unacknowledged." More ›

Helping African American Males Reach Their Academic Potential

May 2008
Marlene Carter
Marlene Carter, associate director of the UCLA Writing Project, conducted a two-year study of African American males in her AP English class. The study helped her understand that these students underperform for different reasons and allowed her to focus on the real problems affecting their achievement. More ›

Learning From Laramie: Urban High School Students Read, Research, and Reenact The Laramie Project

May 2008
Marsha Pincus
When Marsha Pincus, a teacher with the Philadelphia Writing Project, had her students read The Laramie Project, and then research circumstances surrounding the play's real life events and perform its scenes, they were engaged—and changed—by its themes of homosexuality, homophobia, and murder. More ›

Gloria Ladson-Billings: Biographical Information and List of References

January 2007
Bob Fecho
In a resource developed for NWP's African American Learners Project, Bob Fecho discusses Ladson-Billings' 2006 American Educational Research Association address as well as her writings and contributions to the field of education. More ›

Gloria Ladson-Billings Reframes the Racial Achievement Gap

April 2007
Gloria Ladson-Billings
Gloria Ladson-Billings suggests reframing the idea of the racial achievement gap as one of educational debt in this address to the 2007 Urban Sites Network Conference in Washington, DC. More ›

Possible Lives: The Promise of Education in America

November 2007
In this chapter, excerpted from Mike Rose's text Possible Lives: The Promise of Education in America, Rose takes an in depth look at the classroom work of writing project teacher Stephanie Terry as she integrates the study of science and language arts in her first grade Baltimore classroom, all the while advancing the cultural knowledge and understanding of her thirty African American students. More ›

Veteran Teacher Takes His Victory Lap

The Voice, 2006
Joe Bellacero
Teacher-consultant Joe Bellacero (now associate director of the New York City Writing Project), retiring as a high school English instructor in the Bronx, reflects on his most wrenching experiences, such as being threatened with a knife; his most inspiring experiences, such as coaching failing students to success; and the love he has given and received over the years. More ›

Book Review: Politics, Language, and Culture: A Critical Look at School Reform, by J. Check

The Quarterly, 2004
Marcie Wolfe
Wolfe reviews Joseph Check's text, which critiques the "top-down" process of educational reform and focuses on the struggle for school reform in complex urban environments. More ›

It Takes a School

The Voice, 2004
Mary Ann Smith
Smith describes a tour of Meade Elementary School, where a five-year partnership with the Philadelphia Writing Project has built a professional community working toward school reform. More ›

Reflections on Race in the Urban Classroom

The Quarterly, 2004
Janice Jones
Jones describes her mishandling of her encounter with the only white student in a class of primarily African American and Latino students. Because of the experience, Jones has grown as a teacher and a person. More ›

Urban Sites Focus on Reform Issues

The Voice, 2004
Art Peterson
The National Writing Project 2004 Urban Sites Conference presented participants with both exhilarating and disheartening snapshots of the condition of urban education approaching the middle of the decade. More ›

Whose Core Is It?

The Voice, 2004
Christina Puntel
Bilingual elementary school teacher Christina Puntel describes the challenges of adjusting to a city–mandated "core curriculum" that prescribes content structure and student performance standards for the entire year. More ›

Theory, Politics, Hope, and Action

The Quarterly, 2003
Carole Edelsky
In this article Edelsky employs the arguments of theory and the techniques of case study to make a plea for rationality in the education of English language learners. More ›

Edelsky Talk Brings Urban Sites Conference Theme Alive

The Voice, Fall 2003
Art Peterson
Professor Carole Edelsky, of Arizona State University, documents the achievements of two fifth grade students in a dual–language program, showing how a dual–language class can become a community of practice. More ›

Sculpture Inspires Chicago-Area Students

The Voice, January-February 2002
Judith Ruhana
A Chicago-area middle-school teacher used a nearby sculpture park and a grant from the James Moffett Memorial Award to create a multidisciplinary project for student learning and high-level interpretation of art. More ›

On-Site Consulting: New York City Writing Project

National Writing Project at Work, November 2002
Nancy Mintz, Alan Stein, Marcie Wolfe
Nancy Mintz and Alan L. Stein, teacher-consultants from the New York City Writing Project, describe their experiences with weekly on-site consulting in teaching writing at a middle school and with literacy-based school reform at a high school. Introduction by Marcie Wolfe. More ›

Talking, Oklahoman to Oklahoman

The Voice, September-October 2002
Barbara Howry
Students from an urban community in Oklahoma, stereotyped by students from Georgia during an online exchange, learn a lesson when they realize they have stereotyped another group of students. More ›

Toward an Urban New York Spanish Curriculum

The Quarterly, Spring 2001
Nathan Dudley
Dudley, a teacher of Spanish–speaking students in his Spanish class, argues for such reforms as the inclusion of Spanglish, relevant texts, and an immersion program that allows real language acquisition to take place. More ›

Experiments in Reading and Writing

The Quarterly, Winter 2001
Nancy Wilson
Wilson documents a collaboration between the New York City Writing Project and an overcrowded inner city high school. The model makes use of an on–site teacher–consultant. More ›

Unloading the Excess Baggage

The Quarterly, Winter 2001
Beth Halbert
Halbert wrestles with questions of how she should react to a student memoir that relies on profanity and includes authentic descriptions of violence. More ›

Mandated Reform vs. Classroom Reality

The Voice, September-October 2000
Joe Check
Joe Check takes a look at some of the issues involved in mandated school reform and advocates that teachers should remain at the center of reform. More ›

Imaginary Gardens and Real Issues: Improving Language Arts in the Urban Elementary School

The Quarterly, Winter 2000
Joe Check
Using the form of a hypothetical narrative, Check argues that improved literacy instruction is inextricably linked to improved schools, and that the NWP is an ideal vehicle for helping urban schools build needed exemplary contexts. More ›

Writing Projects and School Reform: A Local Perspective

The Quarterly, Spring 1998
Marcie Wolfe
Wolfe explains how the New York City Writing Project has increasingly worked toward a vision that allows the site to help change and restructure schools while also helping teachers improve their practice. More ›

Do Ebonics Critics Miss the Point?

The Voice, Spring/Summer 1997
Bob Fecho
More ›

In the Spotlight: Boston Writing Project's Denise Patmon

The Voice, Spring/Summer 1997
More ›

Ebonics Ain't the Answer

The Quarterly, Winter 1997
Patricia Smith
Smith argues for the primacy of Standard English in the schools. "As black kids, we were introduced to a world we had to enter in order to survive, and . . . offered the tools to get there." More ›

Ebonics and All That Jazz: Cutting Through the Politics of Linguistics, Education, and Race

The Quarterly, Winter 1997
Michele Foster
Foster reviews the linguistic history of Ebonics, discusses instructional approaches for promoting facility with standard American English while honoring the tradition of Ebonics, and reflects on the politics surrounding the Ebonics issue. More ›

Ebonics, or Language as a Class and Status Marker

The Quarterly, Winter 1997
Maurice Englander
Englander dismisses the Ebonics critics by arguing "The only important question about a student's language is this: Can he say what he needs to say and be understood by the person he's speaking with?" More ›

What the Children Convey: On Matters of Time, Talk and Ebonics

The Quarterly, Winter 1997
Anne Haas Dyson
More ›

What's in a Name? That by Which We Call the Linguistic Consequences of the African Slave Trade

The Quarterly, Winter 1997
John Baugh
More ›

Are You the Teacher Who Gives Parents Homework?

Carole Chin
In NWP's book Cityscapes, Carole Chin describes how she uses the writing of students and their families to build community and provide a forum to address fears, anxieties, and concerns. More ›

Cityscapes: Eight Views from the Urban Classroom

Cityscapes, written by members of the Urban Sites Network, focuses on specific possibilities for teaching in an urban classroom. More ›

Making Connections Between Family and School

Marci Resnick
In NWP's book Cityscapes, Marci Resnick documents how establishing regular phone contact with the parents of her students led her to create a flexible curriculum directly related to the needs of her students and their families. More ›

Creating Work of Their Own: Skills and Voice in an Eighth Grade Research Project

The Quarterly, Fall 1996
Robert Roth
Roth argues that if students are to execute successful research projects they need to put their own stamp on their work and also need explicit instruction in the skills necessary to carry out this task. More ›

Book Review: Other People's Children: Cultural Conflict in the Classroom, by Lisa Delpit

The Quarterly, Spring 1996
Joe Check
Check says Delpit's book reminds us of the need for multicultural voices, rejects the skills-versus-process dichotomy, and presents a critique that can be applied to other than the African American students. More ›

Dialogue Journals: Passing Notes the Academic Way

The Quarterly, Fall 1995
Christine Cziko
More ›

Book Review: Social Worlds of Children Learning to Write in an Urban Primary School, by Dyson

The Quarterly, Spring 1995
Rebekah Fassler
Rebekah Fassler reviews Social Worlds of Children Learning to Write in an Urban Primary School, by Anne Haas Dyson, which presents case studies of six African-American children in a San Francisco Bay Area school. Over a two-year period, Dyson and her research assistants observed and audiotaped the African American focal children's interaction with peers and teachers during their daily composing time and during other classroom literacy events. Dyson analyzes the particular social purposes of the children's use of language and gives specific guidelines for teachers of minority children. More ›

Romance in the Classroom: Inviting Discourse on Gender and Power

The Quarterly, Spring 1995
Diane Waff
In a male-dominated special education class of learning-disabled students, high school teacher Diane Waff initiates an effort to give male and female students equal opportunity in voicing their concerns. After writing journals and analyzing gender roles in literature, her students start to build healthy classroom relationships that help students become conscious of fairness and equality both in school and out. More ›

Stories Inside Stories: Creating Successful Writers in an Urban High School

The Quarterly, Fall 1990
Judith Baker, Joe Check
Providing a group of urban high school students with the real work of producing a student newspaper allowed them to succeed in new ways as writers. More ›

Exchanging Writing, Exchanging Cultures

The Quarterly, Summer 1989
Sarah Warshauer Freedman
The author describes the results of a cross-cultural exchange of writing between students at urban schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and London. More ›

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