High School Writing Center Launch

Writing should be an exciting, enjoyable, and rewarding experience. Unfortunately, for many high school students writing has become a dreaded task -- a desperate attempt at a word count. An innovative remedy to this problem is a high school writing center where discussion, not assessment, is the aim.

Your financial support will go directly towards the furnishing (tables, chairs, desks, bookshelves, paint, etc.) and supplying of a new writing center at Cross County High School, A New Tech School in Cherry Valley, Arkansas. Our writing center will be a place where students can get tutoring and support from trained peer tutors. The Center's focus is not exclusively on the changing of the piece of work the student is bringing in, but also on helping the student become a better, more confident writer. A writing center provides a comfortable, judgement-free (no assessment) opportunity for students to advance their writing. It is a place where everyone is a writer and everyone is a learner. The possible positive learning outcomes are numerous. And the possible positive impact to the school's culture is significant.

While almost every college has a writing center, they are few and far between in high schools, especially in the mid-South. However, there is a big push to add writing centers in high schools, as the video above shows, but most of this change is occurring on the eastern and western sides of the United States. With your support, we can change that.

A writing center is a complete redesign in how a student interacts with writing. Normally, students receive an assignment, go through the writing process, and then they are assessed on their work. Writing center theory realizes that even the best writers need support outside of the classroom. Therefore, we will train peer tutors to facilitate conversations with students during advisory (similar to homeroom). The forty minute session will be voluntary and completely student-driven. The tutor and the tutored plot the course of the conversation together. The peer tutor does not write or rewrite a paper for the student. Instead, writing center tutors know that the development of a student's writing requires an opportunity to talk about their writing. The peer tutors, like successful teachers of writing, engage students in conversations about their work thereby helping students understand and apply a broad range of writing principles. Overall, a writing center is a low risk environment where there is reverence for writing.

As you might have guessed, I teach high school English (10th, 11th, 12th grade). The school I work for is in a rural farming town--population 704. We serve a student population of 7th-12th graders in one building. Thus, your donation would impact over 350 students, along with the surrounding community! Most of my students are on free reduced lunch and many have difficult home lives. While many of my students have struggles in some aspects of their lives, the school and the community members in our small town have worked tirelessly to provide a safe location where kids can feel safe to explore ideas, build relationships, and develop skills.

Three years ago, my school became exclusively project-based learning. In project-based learning, learning is contextual, creative, and shared. Students collaborate on projects that require critical thinking and communication. At this point, project-based learning is at the heart of our instructional approach. Overall, this small rural school has teachers and administrators who are continuously looking for new innovations and strategies to drive positive student outcomes. One such innovation being a high school writing center.

Communication is a basic tenet of the human experience. Writing is a basic tenet of communication, and in an environment that is increasingly centered in technology, effective writing matters even more for students! Please help me fund this project and make a significant difference in the lives of my students and our community!

**Again, the funds will go directly to the furnishing and supplying of our writing center. We have been allocated a small room. As this is an innovative initiative, we are trying to purchase furniture that will create a unique space. I am actively researching designs and varying pricing options and I will provide updates as soon as I have more information. (Note: The indicated goal is an estimate of what is needed to complete the project.)

One thing your donation will definitely go to is the repainting of the space. The photo below may be used as inspiration.

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Matt Swenson 
Cherry Valley, AR
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