Thursday, July 30, 2009

Proposal for National Day on Writing

“Celebrate Charleston through Writing”

We're proposing that the LWP host events to celebrate the National Day on Writing. Let us know if you want to get involved!


Students will enter a writing contest "Celebrate Charleston through Writing" in which students will write about Charleston, teachers will choose the best ones to nominate, and then the winners will read at a special event on October 20th, the National Day on Writing.

“Celebrate Charleston through Writing” allows teachers to create assignments that will elicit a wide variety of research and writing skills. Students might engage in traditional, library-based research using primary or secondary sources, they might conduct interviews with friends or relatives, or they might conduct first-person research by visiting a location or participating in an activity. They could use this information in a variety of documents; for example, Standards E4-5.2, E4-5.3, and E4-5.4 list the following genres as samples: personal essay, memoir, narrative poem, personal essay, travel writing, restaurant review, editorial, essay, speech, and report.

A single activity could, of course, lead to a variety of kinds of writing. For example, a student might attend a Battery, Riverdogs, or Stingrays game, then write a narrative (of the experience), a description (of the game, the venue, the team, or the crowd), a persuasive piece (about ticket prices, the behavior of the fans, the quality of the event, or the comfort of the seats), or even write a report (on the team history, on the relation of minor-league sports to the big leagues, or on the promotional strategies used to attract fans). The document might take the form of a letter, a brochure, a report, a poem, a video, or even a web page.

The assignments will meet state standards. In every grade from first through twelfth, according to the standards, “The student will write for a variety of purposes and audiences” (Standard 1-5; Standard E4-5). Research skills are also important in all twelve grades: “The student will access and use information from a variety of sources” (Standard 1-6; Standard E4-6). Although the level of sophistication increases with grade level, students at all grade levels need to find information from a variety of sources and use that information in written documents created for different audiences and different purposes.

The SC ELA standards for 2008 ( are based on the following guiding principles:

1. An effective English language arts curriculum is framed within the context of a community of learners
2. Learning in English language arts is recursive.
3. Reading, writing, communication, and research are interdependent.
4. An effective English language arts curriculum provides strategic and purposeful instruction in reading and writing.
5. Oral language and expression is foundational to literacy learning and development.
6. An effective English language arts curriculum uses literature from a variety of cultures and eras.
7. An effective English language arts curriculum emphasizes writing as a centerpiece of the school curriculum.
8. An effective English language arts curriculum utilizes all forms of media to prepare students to live in an information-rich society.
9. An effective English language arts curriculum emphasizes informational text that is relevant to our increasingly complex and technological world.
10. An effective English language arts curriculum teaches the strategies necessary for independent learning.

We (the Lowcountry Writing Project) would develop a list of genres in which students could submit their work. Teachers could choose to assign work in particular genres or let students choose their own categories. Each category would be divided in age groups, creating a matrix of categories. For example, the matrix might look like this:

Gr. K-2 Gr. 3-5 Gr. 6-8 Gr. 9-12
Web page
(any genre)
(any genre)

Participating teachers, using their own class-specific criteria, would select “winning” entries for each class and grade level; depending on the level of participation, we might have only one entry per school, or we might have grade-level entries, or even allow schools to submit one entry for each genre. If participation is high, we would encourage schools to have school-level readings, and maybe to publish school-level anthologies, to allow as many students as possible to be published and to read their work in a public setting.

Students would write and revise in August and early September, using a time-table that would allow schools to submit entries by the end of September. LWP teachers would then select winners for each grade level and genre to present their work in a public event on the National Day on Writing, October 20. Again depending on the number of entries, we might display multiple submissions in each category.

The focus of this event would be on the students and their work, but we would invite local, state and national politicians to lend their weight to the event to stress the importance of writing. We would invite, for example, Mayor Riley, Governor Sanford, Congressman Clyburn, and Senators Graham and DeMint. To pump up student interest, we would also invite some local celebrities to lend their endorsements, say a few words about the importance of writing, and maybe sign some autographs. We hope to get coverage in all the local media.

All the pieces selected for performance and/or presentation at the October 20 event would also be published either online or in an anthology of some sort.

WRITING MARATHON FOR THE TEACHERS AND SUPPORTERS. As a leading up to the event activity, we will sponsor some mini “writing marathons." A regular feature of the Lowcountry Writing Project’s Invitational Summer Institute, these events will give teachers, parents, and other community members an opportunity to experience for themselves the act of using writing to remember, learn about, make sense or, or simply recollect an experience.

Our goal is to have writing groups of 6-10 people each blanket Charleston to write about as many different facets of the area as possible. Using our contacts in the community, we will get free admission to as many site and activities as possible, such as these:

Carriage tours Ghost walks SC Aquarium Historic houses
Churches tour Downtown parks County parks Plantations
Harbor tour Museums Food tour Arts tour
Fort Moultrie Fort Sumter Sports events Theater

Some events, such as a football game or a theater performance, would have set starting times, but others could be designated as “morning” or “afternoon” events, so die-hard writers could sign up for two events. Each group would be led by a professional writer or an LWP Teacher Consultant.

As with the students, each participant could submit a piece of writing based on the activity to our local gallery to showcase Charleston, and to demonstrate how much one can learn about an area by writing about it. We would also create a “local gallery” on the “National Gallery of Writing” web site ( sponsored by the National Council of Teachers of English.

If we generate enough corporate support, we’d like to offer a slot free to every “participating” teacher – that is, every teacher whose students wrote something for the National Day on Writing. For everyone else, we would charge a nominal fee – probably $10 – to cover costs of T-shirts and supplies.

We Need . . .

*experienced writers and teacher consultants to lead the various small groups. We would like to have a sports writer, for example, lead a group to the football game at The Citadel, offering tips on sports writing and on interviewing players and coaches after the game. We would like to have a food critic lead the food tour, and a theater critic lead the theater group, offering tips on how to write a review.

*sponsors for individual events: comp tickets to a theater performance, various museums, carriage tours, a ghost walk, a harbor tour, and so on.

*T-shirts: an appropriate “Celebrate Charleston through Writing” logo, plus logos for sponsors.

*readers to help select “winning” submissions. LWP teachers will carry most of the load, but we’d like to have to professional writers and celebrity readers, too.

*advertising to get the word out: public service announcements, print ads, posters for schools and libraries, and whatever else it takes to let the community know about these events.


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