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An elementary school teacher passes on the knolwedge she gained from the Ohio Writing Project to her students

Hamilton Schools Writing Project

Ohio Writing Project

The Ohio Writing Project (OWP), located in the English department of Miami University, is one of the oldest sites of the prestigious National Writing Project (NWP).

Founded in 1980, Miami's Ohio Writing Project has offered workshops and in-service to more than 100,000 K–12 teachers. Miami's master of arts in teaching (MAT) in English, overseen and offered exclusively through the OWP, has graduated nearly 300 teachers since its inception in 2002 and focuses on the best of contemporary classroom practice and inquiry.

You, too, can use the Hyphenator!

Add more description to your prose by using the hyphen.

  • sunset: orange-red sunset
  • snow: fluffy-soft snow
  • thin: popsicle-stick thin
  • ocean: ____ - ____ ocean (you try)
Miami project gives elementary students and their teachers time to write

Students in Riverview Elementary School in Hamilton call it "the Hyphenator"—a writing trick that can turn ordinary fifth-grade sentences into "crazy-brilliant prose." It's just one of many tools taught to elementary teachers and students through a Miami University outreach program.

This year, with a $40,000 grant from the National Writing Project (NWP), Miami's Ohio Writing Project launched with Hamilton City Schools what has now become a professional learning community for teachers in two elementary schools, Linden and Riverview.

Miami will add two more Hamilton elementary schools this summer. In addition, Hamilton City Schools plans to expand the program districtwide in grades 3–12 using funds from various sources including the U.S. Department of Education Race to the Top Fund.

The grant's goal is to improve argumentative and informational writing skills in students, grades 3–5, as they relate to the new national Common Core State Standards. Those standards will be implemented fully in 2013–2014 and testing begins in the 2014–2015 academic year.

"The grant's focus gives teachers writing instruction and new teaching techniques," said Beth Rimer of Miami's OWP. "It then flows to the students with new lessons and resources."

Work began in fall of 2012 with Miami faculty and language arts teachers in Linden and Riverview elementaries—high-needs schools where more than 50 percent of the children qualify for reduced-priced lunches. Full-day workshops, monthly coffee conversations and classroom visits provide venues for in-depth pedagogical discussions.

"We began by investigating what teachers do now and joining together what we know works as researchers. Together we adapted lesson plan models for the classrooms," Rimer said. "It's very practical, goes right to the heart of the classroom."

Nikki Bowling, fifth-grade teacher at Riverview Elementary, said, "Before taking the Ohio Writing Project, I think that my idea of teaching writing was one of the most stressful planning things for me to do. I did not like to teach writing, my kids didn't like writing. But the Ohio Writing Project has made writing fun."

Time, choice, and teaching the process

Miami faculty and Hamilton teachers discovered three key areas of focus—time, choice and teaching the process.

Rimer explained, "Time matters. Students need time to write, a really long time. Instructional time for writing had been pushed out of the curriculum because of the current testing situation, which didn't measure writing. However, research shows that good, skilled writing improves test scores, especially reading comprehension."

Through the collaborative, emphasis is now placed on the art of practice while allotting instructional time for writing during the school day.

"A musician would not step onto a stage for a performance without practicing first, right? Nor would an athlete take the field without practicing," Rimer added. "The comparison can be made with writing. The more you practice, the better you get."

Rimer also explained that choice is a critical component of teaching writing. It becomes a form of motivation when a student can select a topic. In addition, teachers work with students on how to gather supporting material and how to organize, which then leads to the process of writing.

"We've also studied the difference between assigning writing and actually teaching it. For instance, so often, teachers simply say 'revise this' because we (teachers) didn't learn strategies ourselves," Rimer said. "Everyday mini lessons now encourage students to look at writing like a writer."

Students also review other writing to learn why one argument is stronger than another.

"Teachers are invested. They show up before school to study text, read professional journals, talk about models and lesson plans. The same lessons we develop for students, we give to the teachers first."

During a typical workshop this spring Rimer presented the teachers with a task. She handed each teacher a photo of a brain. She then asked the teachers to "free" write what they were thinking about at that moment. She gave them 10 minutes to write. Pending testing dates weighed on their minds.

"Students know more than they think," Bowling said out loud. "They do know the answer, but most students struggle with confidence. It is up to us to build that up."

The teachers then wrote about what was "in" their minds. What they know already that can help students with test anxiety.

One teacher suggested how she could create a large brain outside her room and have the children fill it with all the things they do know, from math equations to vocabulary.

"That's the beauty of this program," said Rimer. "We don't have a lesson plan to sell. We know what is good pedagogy, and we pull resources from what is out there, introduce them to the teachers and they decide how to use them. They always come up with something I didn't even think about. That's the beauty of the collaborative."

Written by Carole Johnson, University Communications and Marketing

Published June 2013

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Beth Rimer answers a student's question.

Beth Rimer answers a student's question.

Riverview Elementary students learn about "The Hyphenator."

Riverview Elementary students learn about "The Hyphenator."

Nikki Bowling helps a student while he practices writing.

Nikki Bowling helps a student while he practices writing.

Writing needs practice and Riverview students and teachers make the time.

Writing needs practice and Riverview students and teachers make the time.

Beth Rimer listens as a student shares his "Hyphenator."

Beth Rimer listens as a student shares his "Hyphenator."

Ohio Writing Project

The Ohio Writing Project (OWP), located in the English department of Miami University, is one of the oldest sites of the prestigious National Writing Project (NWP).

Founded in 1980, Miami's Ohio Writing Project has offered workshops and in-service to more than 100,000 K–12 teachers. Miami's master of arts in teaching (MAT) in English, overseen and offered exclusively through the OWP, has graduated nearly 300 teachers since its inception in 2002 and focuses on the best of contemporary classroom practice and inquiry.

You, too, can use the Hyphenator!

Add more description to your prose by using the hyphen.

  • sunset: orange-red sunset
  • snow: fluffy-soft snow
  • thin: popsicle-stick thin
  • ocean: ____ - ____ ocean (you try)
Locations
Luxembourg
West Chester
Middletown
Hamilton
Oxford
  • Luxembourg
    Luxembourg

    John E. Dolibois European Center, Luxembourg

    One of Miami's oldest continuous study abroad programs, the Miami University John E. Dolibois Center (MUDEC) in Luxembourg offers students the opportunity to enroll in Miami classes taught by European-based and Ohio-based Miami faculty. Students enjoy a unique combination of first-class academics, engagement in the local community, and various faculty-guided and independent travel opportunities.

    Contact and emergency information for the Luxembourg Campus. Starting with general contact info on the left; additional contact and emergency information on the right.

    Château de Differdange
    1, Impasse du Château
    L-4524 Differdange
    Grand Duchy of Luxembourg
    luxembourg@MiamiOH.edu
    MiamiOH.edu/luxembourg

    217-222 MacMillan Hall
    531 E. Spring Street
    Oxford, Ohio 45056, USA

    Directions

    Main Operator: 011-352-582222-1
    Oxford-based Coordinator: 513-529-5050
    Emergency info: MiamiOH.edu/emergency

  • West Chester
    West Chester

    Voice of America Learning Center

    Located midway between Cincinnati and Dayton along I-75, the Voice of America Learning Center (VOALC) offers undergraduate and graduate courses and programs drawn from Miami's Regional and Oxford campuses. Home to Miami's MBA program, the Learning Center provides ready access to graduate programs for area educators and courses leading to the BIS degree for undergraduates.

    Contact and emergency information for the Voice of America Campus. Starting with general contact info on the left; additional contact and emergency information on the right.

    7847 VOA Park Dr.
    (Corner of VOA Park Dr. and Cox Rd.)
    West Chester, OH 45069
     
    voalc@MiamiOH.edu
    MiamiOH.edu/voalc

    Printable Floor Plan
    Directions

    Main Operator: 513-895-8862
    (From Middletown) 513-217-8862
    Emergency info: regionals.MiamiOH.edu/emergency

  • Middletown
    Middletown

    Middletown Regional Campus

    Nestled on 141 acres near I-75, Miami University Middletown offers bachelor's degrees, associate degrees, and beginning coursework for most four-year degrees. Nearby Greentree Health Science Academy immerses Miami's nursing and health information technology students in the health care experience while taking classes.

    Contact and emergency information for the Middletown Campus. Starting with general contact info on the left; additional contact and emergency information on the right.

     4200 N. University Blvd.
    Middletown, OH 45042
    regionalwebmaster@MiamiOH.edu
    regionals.MiamiOH.edu

    Printable Campus Map
    Directions

    Main Operator: 513-727-3200
    (Toll-free) 1-86-MIAMI-MID
    Office of Admission: 513-727-3216
    Campus Status Line: 513-727-3477
    Emergency info: regionals.MiamiOH.edu/emergency

  • Hamilton
    Hamilton

    Hamilton Regional Campus

    A compact, friendly, commuter campus, Miami Hamilton offers bachelor's degrees, associate degrees, and beginning coursework for most four-year degrees. Small class sizes, on-site child care, and flexible scheduling make Miami Hamilton attractive to students at all stages of life and career.

    Contact and emergency information for the Hamilton Campus. Starting with general contact info on the left; additional contact and emergency information on the right.

    1601 University Blvd.
    Hamilton, OH 45011
    regionalwebmaster@MiamiOH.edu
    regionals.MiamiOH.edu

    Printable Campus Map
    Directions

    Main Operator: 513-785-3000
    Office of Admission: 513-785-3111
    Campus Status Line: 513-785-3077
    Emergency info: regionals.MiamiOH.edu/emergency

  • Oxford
    Oxford

    Miami University, Oxford Ohio

    Nationally recognized as one of the most outstanding undergraduate institutions, Miami University is a public university located in Oxford, Ohio. With a student body of 16,000, Miami effectively combines a wide range of strong academic programs with faculty who love to teach and the personal attention ordinarily found only at much smaller institutions.

    Contact and emergency information for the Oxford Campus. Starting with general contact info on the left; additional contact and emergency information on the right.

    501 E. High St.
    Oxford, OH 45056

    Printable Campus Map
    Directions

    Main Operator: 513-529-1809
    Office of Admission: 513-529-2531
    Vine Hotline: 513-529-6400
    Emergency info: MiamiOH.edu/emergency