February 1, 2013

UNO’s Greater New Orleans Writing Project Hosts WriteFest and Sees Resounding Success

Nearly 150 educators from 44 schools across Southeast Louisiana flocked to the University of New Orleans campus last week for WriteFest 2013—an all-day conference on writing and the teaching of writing sponsored by the Greater New Orleans Writing Project.

“The event was a huge success,” said Sarah DeBacher, UNO English instructor and current director of GNOWP, a UNO-based site of the National Writing Project, which is an organization dedicated to improving writing and the teaching of writing throughout the greater New Orleans area and the nation.

DeBacher remains thrilled with turnout to the late January event and is already planning next year’s event. She opened last month’s gathering by telling educators: “We’re here because we have a common goal, to improve writing and the teaching of writing in our classrooms, and ultimately to have a positive impact on student achievement.”

The all-day event took place from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 26 in the University’s Lindy Boggs Conference Center.

During morning sessions, educators attended hands-on workshops led by GNOWP teacher consultants on a variety of subjects, from using writing in the math classroom to teaching satire through art and generating purposeful student-written poems in rap form.

UNO alumna and 2013 Louisiana Teacher of the Year Amanda Baudot and UNO English instructor Ali Arnold, who heads the University’s English program for first-year students, also presented thoughts to educators, DeBacher said. During an afternoon session, noted educator and writer Barry Lane led educators in a series of creative writing activities and discussed teaching beyond the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The new standards must be fully implemented in Louisiana schools by 2014.

WriteFest offerings linked to the standards in an effort to prepare educators for the curricular shift, DeBacher said. Attendees received lesson plans linking to the standards, as well as certificates of participation for 4.5 contact hours. The work of preparing teachers to meet the new state standards will continue at the Greater New Orleans Writing Project, DeBacher said. GNOWP is currently working with Carolyn Park Middle School in Slidell to help the school meet the new state standards and increase student achievement through writing.

Schools interested in forming similar partnerships for faculty development may visit www.GNOWP.org.