RI Writing Project

people at India Point Park

About RIWP

Founded in 1985 and affiliated with the National Writing Project in Berkeley, California, the Rhode Island Writing Project is a network of teachers who are dedicated to the improvement of teaching and learning in all schools. Rhode Island Writing Project teachers work in all content areas and at all grade levels, helping students become thoughtful readers and writers and connecting reading, writing and content area learning.

Reflecting the National Writing Project model of “teachers teaching teachers,” Rhode Island Writing Project teachers are leaders in their schools and communities who work to support students as they become avid and accomplished writers, readers and inquirers. By relying on the expertise of the educators who know students best--Rhode Island teachers--the RIWP  provides sustained and supportive professional development work in the Summer Institute, Open Air Institute, Spring Conference and Embedded Institutes. By supplementing teachers’ knowledge and skills in cultivating their students’ diverse literacy practices, we work toward positive social change.​

Board Members

The Rhode Island Writing Project leadership team works together to create a conscious network of critical practitioners who take risks as they seek to improve teaching and learning by thoughtful play/experimentation, exchange, & implementation of ideas who lead not only with their heads but their hearts, and who work to challenge the structures of both safety and threat around them. 

RIWP Site Director
Janet D. Johnson

Co-Directors
Brittany Richer Ahnrud
Anne Barnhart
Jeff Lawton

Executive Board
Jeremy Benson
Seth Curran
Stephanie Griffin
Alyssa Mason
Nora Pace
Emmanuel Ramos
Aimèe Ryan
Jason Ryan​​​​​​

Programs and Events

Exciting news!  You can now register for RIWP Summer Events.  See below for more information on each event. If you have questions, please email riwritingproject@gmail.com

Writing in Westerly park
Writing in cemetery
Downtown Providence writing

Open Air Institute: Summer 2021

August 3-5, 2021, 8:30am-3pm (approximate)

The OAI is a three-day, place-based form of professional development that integrates state and local history, geography, and culture with writing and educational practices. This unique, largely outdoor opportunity exposes participants to a wide variety of locations and experiences as we explore the features that make Rhode Island special. Each year’s event centers around a common theme; past years’ themes have included topics ranging from rivers and coastlines to libraries and farms. What’s in store for 2021? Watch for updates in future newsletters for this year’s theme and registration information.

Cost: $100

Register here: RIWP Summer Events


Open Air Institute Fall 2020:  “Storytelling in Warwick Villages”

Saturday, October 24, 8:30-3:30, Places TBA
Facilitator: Jeff Lawton, Pilgrim High School

In conjunction with the National Writing Project’s “Write Out:  Stories Around the Campfire with the National Park Service” event in October, RIWP will offer our own place-based event on Saturday, October 24 when the Open Air Institute visits Warwick. Come discover several of the historic villages of the city, explore the cultural and social significance of storytelling -- and maybe even make some S’mores! More details and registration coming soon!

Cost: $20     
5 PLUs available         
Register by October 20


Reflection on Summer 2020 OAI Event

The Open Air Institute (OAI) was the one program we could run in-person safely and responsibly during COVID times because of the nature of the institute. Our six facilitators selected the theme of The Dark Side of Rhode Island: From Shadows to Light as our theme and researched and planned according to the restrictions established by our governor while maintaining the integrity and spirit of the OAI. Where we might normally engage with a park ranger or historian, facilitators integrated a variety of texts from Apps to The Color of Law to town websites; where we might normally explore a museum or mill, our facilitators became and allowed us to become the docents of spaces that once were. Spread over three days, Each day facilitators created spaces for participants to critically think about the geography & history of Rhode Island, embody literacy strategies that could be applied across disciplines, and reflect deeply on their own pedagogies and possibilities of place-based learning experiences in their contexts. 

Snippets from Participants 

What are you taking with you?--“The writing I did and some stronger connections with my RIWP friends,” “a.) New writing ideas to try out in my classroom--which I love! b.) A sense of renewal and rejuvenation for the importance of the written word,” & “My hope to figure out a way to utilize local areas of my town for day trips.”

Spring Conference Series - Writing to Exist, Persist, Resist!

The Rhode Island Writing Project is delighted to continue our Spring Conference tradition despite COVID. We are hosting a virtual Spring Conference Series throughout the month of March and our theme is “Writing to Exist, Persist, and Resist.” The events will all incorporate writing pedagogy and practice, but you do not need to be an English teacher to attend. Renowned educator Elizabeth Dutro, whom we booked in 2020 but had to cancel due to COVID, has graciously agreed to be our keynote again this year.

  • On Saturday, March 6 from 10-11:30, we'll begin with a BYOB (Bring Your Own Brunch) Mixer kickoff event where we'll write, share, catch up with one another, and even offer some raffle prizes.
  • On Tuesday, March 9th from 4-5:30, we'll host an unconference session designed to share ideas about what you've learned about pandemic pedagogy.
  • On Thursday, March 18th from 4-5:30, we'll offer a more traditional conference experience with several workshop sessions to choose from. You'll be sure to leave with ideas to implement in your classroom the next day.
  • On Wednesday, March 24th from 4-5:30, we will be collaborating with NEARI to host a panel on being antiracist educators.
  • On Saturday, March 27 from 10-12 featuring Dr. Elizabeth Dutro from the University of Colorado Boulder, focusing on trauma-informed and restorative practices for our students and ourselves.

REGISTER HERE

The price is $40 for regular attendees and $20 for presenters. This gets you into all events. You may attend as many or as few as you like.

If using a purchase order or paying by check, here is the form. Please email Dr. Janet Johnson at jjohnson@ric.edu with the form so all names can be added to the email list.

If you are a teacher in NPSD, please register with this form.

Email riwritingproject@gmail.com or jjohnson@ric.edu with any questions.

Please contact Janet Johnson at jjohnson@ric.edu if you need special accommodations.

New Teacher Camp: July 12-23, 2021, 9am-2pm

Find your Magic. Fill Your Knapsack. Always Swim with a Buddy. New Teacher Camp is a week-long professional development experience for early career teachers. You’ll join a supportive and fun community of “campers” who will work together to understand the RIWP philosophy, develop strategies for successful teaching practices, efficient daily routines, self-care, and lifelines for your first few years. You’ll take away increased confidence in your identity as a teacher and writer, insights into the daily life of strong teachers, and a knapsack full of strategies to make next year less hectic, more adventurous, and truly magical.

Cost: Free

Register here: https://tinyurl.com/riwpteachercamp


Reflection on the Inaugural New Teacher Camp

Identifying a need to be of service specifically to emerging educators, RIWP added New Teacher Camp to its slate. This July, its designers Nora Pace and Seth Curran, along with 14 participants, took it out for a spin. Here are the details and their takeaways:

Who were the Counselors?

Nora Pace: Since 2015, Nora has taught middle grades, high school, and adult learners. She currently works at Founders Academy in Woonsocket. 

Seth Curran: Seth started teaching in 2005. The following year, he became the music teacher where he currently works — Tri-County in Franklin, MA.

What were Camp’s goals?

Knowing the teachers would arrive recently minted from their preparation programs, we intentionally opted away from pedagogical instruction and chose instead to focus on practicalities. We tried to provide strategies, tips, and when possible, real solutions for making the first few years of teaching less hectic, less stressful, and more magic. To that end, we invested our energies in the following areas:

Master the small stuff so you can focus on the big stuff.

We talked about the nitty gritty, from “What do you eat in between classes?” to “How do you arrange a classroom?” to “How do you handle cliques or gossip in the teacher’s room?” Campers had 24/7 access to an “Ask Me Anything” form to get at those potentially embarrassing or seemingly silly questions. Their concerns led to very productive moments during the week. A sampling of their actual questions: 

“Gradebooks: Electronic or paper? Pros and Cons?” 

“How long after the students leave do you generally stay each day? Do you ever go into school on the weekends?” 

“Where do you draw the line at buying needed supplies or wanted supplies?”

Making the abstract concrete is an evolving process.

We knew it would be difficult to articulate, but we were also as committed to discussing those practicalities that are harder to quantify. These are ideas good teachers spend entire careers getting their heads around. We tried anyway. 

How to actually grade writing. How to actually tell when and whether learning is taking place. How to actually create a classroom community. How to know the difference between actually being a good educator and when the students just like you. Although we couldn’t show the campers every brick in the path to becoming a successful teacher, we think we successfully showed them which way to walk.

We’re all colleagues and resources now. Be in touch any time.

We plan to continue the spirit of Camp in two ways moving forward. We will hold monthly “office hours” during the year. We see these gatherings as both informal opportunities to engage with one another as well as community-sourced professional development, attendant to and benefitting from our specific classroom experiences. For the moments in between our meetings, we’ve built a Camp website that will exist in perpetuity and provides access to a prodigious shared resource folder that will grow with each year’s Camp.

Who were the campers? 

No matter how much knowledge and eagerness the counselors had stored up, they couldn’t have done it without the amazing campers! We had teachers from elementary, middle, high school, and even preschool; many were English teachers, but special ed and math were represented as well. We were surprised and delighted that we had two campers participating from 12 hours away, in Taiwan and Shanghai. This huge plus would have been impossible in a traditional face-to-face camp and was one of the hidden benefits of running virtually. As a bonus, two campers received offers and accepted their first teaching jobs during Camp!

What did campers get out of it? 

Campers were most excited about the resources and the network they have now begun to build. In their surveys, some focused on activities they could carry into their own teaching: “I enjoyed the different group activities we did throughout the week. I am excited to implement a lot of writing in my own classroom when I start this fall (just got hired two days ago!!).” Other campers were enchanted by morning writing and valued this time to get back to writing poetry and journaling. We are most gratified to hear the increase in confidence and self-efficacy after such a short time. “New Teacher Camp gave me permission to feel like my classroom and my teaching can be 'me shaped', which is sort of refreshing; as a new teacher, I find it difficult to lean into what I think will work or a new idea I have.”

Summer Institute: July 12-23, 2021, 9 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Registration ends June 30

The SI is a 2-week immersive professional development experience for teachers of all content areas who are committed to writing and the teaching of writing. Built on the teachers-teaching-teachers model, together we will renew our identities as writers, share our pedagogical expertise, and explore texts to help us push back on the inequities in education. Through practices like daily journaling, writing groups, and lesson workshopping, we build community and share ready-to-use strategies that we can take back to our classrooms (be it virtual or in-person). This summer we’ll continue our work with the theme of Writing to Exist, Persist, and Resist!

Cost: $200 (Often covered by districts, financial aid available)

Register here: RIWP Summer Institute
After being accepted, please pay here.

Testimonials

In their exit surveys, participants wrote about their gratitude for the opportunity to focus on their writing. One teacher said,  “I loved having the space to journal every morning. I reconnected with myself as a writer, and produced a piece I'm proud of. I'm also walking away feeling more empowered to build a strong writing community in the online classroom.”

Participants agreed that their greatest takeaway was “understanding others’ point of view” and “that expressing yourself through writing makes you feel more human, and that sharing your writing with others builds community.” They want other teachers to know that “The Writing Project empowers teachers to connect with themselves as writers, to make writing in the classroom a less formulaic and more joyful experience.” 

Writing with kids at beehives
Writing on rocks
Writing at RIC picnic tables

Youth Camp: July 12-23, 2021, 9 a.m. - 12 p.m.

Registration ends July 5

Led by RIWP facilitators, students in grades K-12 will gather each day on the RIC campus and participate in a wide range of activities. The camp helps students develop their skills and creativity, encourages collaboration and interaction with peers, and fosters a love for writing. Spread the word to parents and students who might be interested! Interested parties can contact camp coordinator Jeff Lawton at riwpwritingcamp534@gmail.com.

Cost: $225

Register hereRIWP Summer Events
Camp Flyers: English | Spanish


Summer 2020 Reflections

RIWP confirmed its dedication to providing writing options and inspiration for students by offering its first ever online version of our annual camp. We developed a website dedicated to inspiring students with a range of activities. During the scheduled weeks, students who accessed the website were provided with several writing prompts to inspire them to write and spark their creativity, as well as multiple short video writing lessons produced by RIWP teachers that explained engaging writing activities and techniques to enhance their writing ability. The week was capped off with Zoom conferences that allowed students to receive and share feedback on their writing from the week. While nothing can replace the in-person experience of Summer Writing Camp, the 2020 online version successfully bridged the gap between the pandemic summer of 2020 and what we hope is a return to in-person learning in summer 2021! More details on process and engagement.”

Camp features include:​

  • Writing exercises designed to jumpstart thinking and improve each writer’s craft
  • Exploration of the work of published authors to use as models in a variety of genres
  • Freedom to explore individual writing interests
  • Opportunities to collaborate with instructors and peers and to receive constructive feedback for revision
  • A space for students to see themselves as writers with individual voices

At the end of the program, each participant will publish a self-selected piece in a compilation of student writing. All students will receive a copy of their group’s anthology.​​

​​​​​RIWP Parent Feedback

My son looked forward to camp every day. He never once "didn't want to go". I believe that is because each day he had fun, learned, was included in all activities and was proud of his work. We will be back next year!

What was most important to me is that my kids woke up each day and looked forward to going. They had to get up at 7:30 for two weeks and there was never a morning of complaining or grumbling. Once you set up an environment in which kids actively want to participate, the growth (be it academic, creative, or social) will happen.

As a reluctant writer, my son was not initially excited for this camp. Happily, it turned out to be “surprisingly good!” Fun counselors, amiable co-participants and a safe creative outlet. Thanks!!!

The camp turned out to be, by a very considerable margin, my daughter’s very best summer experience ever! The camp succeeded not only in teaching its students about many dimensions of the writing process but also in establishing a bond buoyed by trust that never wavered.

Student Feedback

It is a very relaxed environment and you do different things everyday.

For anyone who loves writing but hasn’t done this camp, it is worth it!​​

Writing Institute for Educators

Writing Institute for Educators: July 19-23,2021, 9am-2pm

The RIWP Writing Institute for Educators is a week-long intensive workshop for teacher consultants and other RIWP affiliates (seasoned and new!) who want to hone their personal and professional writing and engage in a summer workshop. Want to publish? Cool. Want to reconnect with your craft? Yasss. Want to share space with other teachers who love to write? Amazing. It will be a focused, productive, workspace for participants to not only work on their own writing, but also to collaborate with others for a true workshop experience. Whether you’re just collecting ideas or refining a journal article or experimenting with ways to articulate #life, writing vignettes for an emerging memoir, or any other writing, this space is for you! And the most amazing bonus? The practices we embrace are ONE HUNDRED percent applicable to our teaching spaces. The question isn’t why you should do this with us this summer...the question is why not?

Cost: $150

Register here: RIWP Summer Events


Educators As Writers: Summer Workshop
Facilitators: Anne Barnhart & Jason Ryan

The Educators As Writers Summer Workshop had a successful debut even amid the restrictions of COVID-19. The goal of the workshop was to create a week-long writer’s experience for teachers who were looking to expand on something they’ve been crafting, or to provide inspiration for those who simply wanted to engage with a community of writers.

The participants represented middle school, high school, and college-level teachers as well as a healthy mix of new and veteran teachers, which allowed for deep discussions on craft and provided a diverse range of perspectives. We used Zoom to facilitate our daily meetings and attempted to mirror the rhythms and traditions of our normal, in-person workshops. This was achieved by thoughtfully constructing a schedule that blended synchronous time (shared readings, journaling, discussion) and asynchronous time (independent writing time, break-out groups, “free time”).

Acknowledging the absence of Black voices in the group, there was a conscious choice to include Black authors and authors of color in the daily readings. These authors included Ta-Nehesi Coates, bell hooks, Sherman Alexie, Maya Angelou, Louis Armstrong, and Langston Hughes, just to name a few. Writers in the group pursued fiction, non-fiction, and scholarly work while keeping in the forefront issues of social justice, equity, and human connection.

In a short span of a week, we were able to build a strong sense of community, develop our own writing pieces, and by immersing ourselves in over 20 hours of workshops, reconnect with our writer’s soul.

Our week culminated with an in-person, socially-distanced event at Colt State Park in Bristol. We embarked on a scavenger hunt, spending the midday hours exploring the park and writing. The day ended with a sharing session beneath a shady tree with the ocean in view, and was a perfect end to an uplifting and inspiring week. There are many takeaways from the week, but perhaps the largest one is that even a global pandemic cannot kill the magic that comes from building a community of writers.

Voices of the Participants:

“Ah-ha” Moments

“I need to keep my craft and these discussions going with this incredible group. I'm realizing how much writing solo has discouraged me from writing in the first place. I'm no best-seller, but I damn near feel like one every time we break out for independent work time now.”

“Today I wrote BEFORE eating lunch which was huge.  I got a lot more done that way.  So something I already knew about myself but was confused.  Writing, like yoga, needs to be done on a fairly empty stomach :).  I also love reading other people's work.  I'm learning a lot.”

“Here's something I wrote from my manifesto reflection: I am beginning again.  Luckily writing is a practice that still waits for me, vastly patient and kind.  Writing says, "Great!  You're back, sweetheart!  I missed you!”

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Rhode Island College entrance

RIWP Site Director