By Ben Mayberry
SUNY Cortland Communications Office
Writing is often thought of as a means to an end but it is a crucial tool in the teaching process, a medium through which teachers and students engage with each other.
The Seven Valleys Writing Project (7VWP), a National Writing Project site at SUNY Cortland, hopes to drive home this message with its upcoming conference, Writing Matters V: Creating a Culture of Writing.
“Writing has a deep relationship with learning in all subject areas,” said David Franke, professor of English and professional writing at SUNY Cortland and director of the 7VWP. “As a matter of fact, we consider writing a method of learning, a learning practice.”
The conference will take place from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, March 10 in Corey Union Exhibition Lounge.
Kelly Wissman, associate professor of literacy teaching and learning at the University at Albany, will deliver the keynote speech titled “Cultivating a ‘Beloved Community’: Collaborative Composing with Words and Images.”
Franke will present with SUNY Cortland English Department faculty Heather Bartlett, lecturer, and Laura Davies, associate professor and Writing Programs director.
During the Writing Matters conference, educators present their original proposals for teaching strategies, placing the emphasis on how writing can be utilized in the classroom for all academic subjects and grade levels. These proposals were submitted to the 7VWP in February and are selected for inclusion based upon criteria such as creativity, originality, incorporation of new media, scale and collaboration between content areas. Faculty and graduate students may register to attend the conference on the Writing Matters website.
“The best writing teachers are teachers who write,” Franke said. “Teachers are way too busy to write a novel, but that doesn’t mean they can’t get firsthand experience as writers that helps them understand what their students go through.”
7VWP workshops introduce teaching strategies designed to bring writing into the classroom across all disciplines. During these workshops, teachers educate each other on the writing process, revision and creating writing prompts and lesson plans. At Writing Matters V, Franke will present on how to write instructions.
“The teachers always give very practical lessons that any instructor can use in the classroom Monday morning,” Franke said.
Writing Matters is just one of the many programs administered by the 7VWP in their mission to bring writing education to Seven Valleys region schools, at all grade levels and across all fields of study. The Seven Valleys region includes school districts as far north as Lake Ontario and as far south as Horseheads.
Based at SUNY Cortland, the 7VWP is one of about 200 sites at universities across the U.S. that provide writing conferences and workshops for educators, both on the College’s campus and in regional schools.
According to Franke, the most significant of the 7VWP’s offerings are the Summer Writing Institute programs, held at SUNY Cortland for two weeks every July. The series of workshops are led by and for teachers, introducing groundbreaking ways of using writing in the classroom. More than 100 of the program’s graduates have gone on to become teaching consultants in Seven Valleys region districts.
“You can always pick out a teacher who’s been through the Summer Institute,” Franke said. “You can pick them out just by walking past the door, because they will be writing along with their students.”
Franke sees writing as an educational tool and a community venture and he is a proponent of using writing to strengthen the relationship between student, family and instructor.
“The one thing that we are most allergic to in the whole world is busy work,” Franke said. “Writing should be authentic, it should be used for learning and it should help the teacher reach their goals.”
For more information, contact the Seven Valleys Writing Project at 607-753-5945.