Writers in the Schools

Since 2003, Get Lit! Programs has been sending published authors into K-12 schools in the Inland Northwest as part of Author’s Tour. Between January and April, writers working in a variety of genres-poets, novelists, nonfiction writers, journalists, children’s authors, naturalists, and humorists-travel to rural and low-income schools. Through visits to an average of thirty schools each year, Authors Tour touches nearly 5,000 students, most of whom have never before met a “real” author. A principal from one of the participating schools said it best: “It has been an entire school generation since we last had a published author in our district.”

Since 2004, Get Lit!’s Writers-in-Residence Program has helped to inspire over a thousand young writers by placing professional writers in K-12 schools in and around Spokane. Our authors (poets, essayists, and fiction writers) offer writing tools to students and teachers alike. With the goal of enhancing basic literacy skills and generating an enthusiasm about learning, they engage students of all ages and backgrounds in discussions about literature and guide young writers to make discoveries about the human condition, into which the world of literature provides an endless wealth of insight. The program also allows participating classroom teachers to refine their understanding of literary writing and to develop new classroom strategies. Teachers often report that collaborating with a professional writer left them feeling invigorated and that it had enriched their own interest in writing.

Writers in Residence

WiR teachers work with three classrooms, each for an hour a week. Sessions generally open with a discussion of a specific published work. The discussion is followed by brainstorming, writing, and sharing. In the presence of a professional writer, students often become energized about reading, and they learn to enjoy writing as a craft. As their writing skills expand, so does their self-confidence, and they begin to experiment with a variety of forms and styles. In particular, WiR teachers encourage students to write from their own experience. This approach helps students not only to discover the value of their own stories but to recognize that, as writers, they are contributing to the broader conversation that is literature. Following the best practices set out by the Writers in the Schools Alliance, a national coalition of writers-in-the-schools programs based in Houston, our writers are selected on the basis of their knowledge of literature and creative writing, their teaching experience, and their passion for education, especially in the arts. In addition to working with classroom teachers to create projects that respond to the needs of a particular group of students, each WiR teacher produces his or her own set of lesson plans, which address various Washington State standards. The plans are left with teachers to use with future classes and to share with fellow teachers, which helps to extend the impact of the WiR program at each school. Over the years, we have worked with many of the same schools, moving from one grade level to the next to sustain the impact of the program or targeting a certain grade level so that students can look forward to participating in a specific year. Our residency programs traditionally run for 26-weeks, but we recently began offering a 10-week program as well, in which our authors focus on a single genre: poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. We also offer a Poetry on the Go field trip to a local art museum, either as a stand-alone event or in conjunction with the 10-week program. See Options/Fees for more information. Through our programs students learn:

      • To write concisely and make use of concrete details
      • To convey passion and emotion in their writing
      • To think logically on the page and write in the active voice
      • To engage in brainstorming as way of generating ideas
      • To write imaginatively and persuasively by using imagery, sensory description, and other rhetorical techniques
      • To identify the structural elements of a poem and the various poetic forms (haiku, sonnet, free verse, etc.)
      • To practice editing and revising
      • To pay attention to word choice and the use of dialogue
      • To be confident about presenting new ideas
      • To appreciate the rhythm of writing and the musicality of words
      • To express original ideas and share personal stories

To develop public speaking skills and build their self-confidence   There are several options for the Writers-in-Residence Program: (We can also work with you to design a program that fits the needs of your school.)In our traditional 26-week residency, we pair a writer with three classes of your choosing. The WiR teacher conducts a one-hour workshop each week with each class, guiding students in writing projects related to poetry, fiction, and/or creative nonfiction. Using the work of published authors as a launching pad for discussions, teachers introduce students to topics such as: conflict, emotional subtext, authorial intent, word choice, linking content to form, and recognizing multiple interpretations. Through these readings and discussions, students learn how to evaluate their own writing and are encouraged to take risks in the writing assignments given each week. Students end each session by sharing their writing with their fellow students. Sharing their work allows students to appreciate the many different ways an assignment can be approached and teaches them to value a variety of perspectives on the same subject. Reading their work aloud also gears students up for the community reading, where they will have the chance to share their writing with a larger audience. As part of the WiR program, students compile an anthology of their best work, which we publish and present to the students at the end of the year. A Poetry on the Go field trip is also incorporated into the 26-week program (see description below).

Sample 26-week Schedule

Activity Month
WiR teacher meets with classroom teachers to plan the year September
Residencies begin and continue through May October
Community reading for all three classes (MAC auditorium) Winter
Poetry on the Go field trip February/March
Selected students showcase their work at the Get Lit! Festival reading April
Anthologies are published and delivered to classes May
Writing program evaluations take place June
  • In our 10-week residency, a WiR teacher again works for an hour every week with each of three classes at your school. WiR teachers collaborate with classroom teachers to design a project that will give students experience with creative writing in a specific genre: poetry, fiction, or nonfiction. Our teachers adopt the same instructional approach as in the 26-week residency but narrow the focus to the selected genre. At the end of the program, the WiR teacher helps to arrange a celebratory reading at your school for friends, family, and fellow students so that young writers can showcase their work.
  • (options are October to December or January to March)

Sample 10-week Schedule

 

COSTS

Program costs are paid in part by schools and in part by sponsors and grants. The following costs are based on a three-hour per week commitment:

  • For a 26-week residency, the cost to the school is $2,500.
  • For a 10-week residency, the cost to the school is $1,000.
  • For a Poetry On the Go field trip, the cost to the school is $250.

Participating Schools

Over the past six years, Authors Tour has sent authors on over 200 visits to rural schools within ten northeastern counties in Washington-Spokane, Pend Oreille, Ferry, Stevens, Lincoln, Adams, Whitman, Garfield, Asotin, and Columbia-as well as both Latah and Kootenai counties in North Idaho. The following districts have participated in one or more years:

Almira-Coulee/Hartline Benge Central Valley Cheney
Chewelah Colfax Columbia Colville
Creston Curlew Davenport Deer Park
East Valley Endicott Freeman Garfield-Palouse
Great Northern Schools Harrington Keller Kettle Falls
Liberty Lind Loon Lake Mary Walker
Moscow Nine Mile Falls Northport Oakesdale
Odessa Onion Creek Orchard Prairie School Pullman
Reardan-Edwall Republic Ritzville Selkirk
Spokane Sprague Steptoe Summit Valley
Tekoa Washtucna Wilbur Wellpinit

Author’s Tour

Note: To request an author, please contact getlit@ewu.edu or 509.828.1498 to ensure that you receive the Get Lit! Programs discounted author rate.

To see a list of available authors, click here.

Author’s Tour provides a published author in the genre of each school’s choosing for an exciting, one day visit to a school. The visit usually includes visits to various classrooms to lead students in hands on writing activities tailored to different age groups, as well as an assembly featuring the author, where students can learn about what it means to be a writer, ask questions, and get their book signed. During their daylong visits, authors strive to give students and teachers a concrete, joyous, oh-my-gosh experience with literature.

Our authors are carefully chosen according to the following criteria: the author must have published compelling prose or poetry, the author must display a genuine passion for writing, and the author must take an energetic approach to working with youth. Their presentations create excitement about both reading and writing, as well as teach students to read their own stories and poems more closely and objectively. Teachers have repeatedly reported that, after an author’s visit, students are very often eager to get started on their own writing projects. When students have the chance to meet a published author, books come alive, imaginations bloom, and writing becomes something that is within their reach.

Authors collaborate directly with teachers to plan the particular emphasis of their visit. With the students, authors might focus on writing skills emphasized as part of Common Core, or they might try to spark interest in science or history through storytelling-but always their goal is to demystify the writing process and help make reading and writing accessible to all students. In addition, our authors often hold staff development sessions on how to incorporate creative writing into the classroom.

While each author visit is modified to fit the needs of the school, our authors always keep the following goals in mind:

  • Convince students that literature is being created every day by ordinary people and that, if they approach writing with imagination and dedication, their own ideas can turn into published books. Students need to recognize that literature-of all sorts-is one of the richest means by which our culture is created and conveyed. They need to understand that, through the written word, they, too, can contribute to a larger conversation.
  • Encourage students to view reading and writing as an adventure since books open windows onto new worlds. This can also help students understand that writing can be both a playful and a powerful tool for self-discovery.
  • Explore where authors’ ideas come from so that students can begin to appreciate the processes that underlie writing. Give them an insider’s perspective by showing them, for example, how a fiction writer creates characters, how a contemporary poet produces a poem, or how writers do their research.
  • Help students learn to brainstorm new ideas and leave them thinking about important writing skills such as: making close observations, using vivid language, incorporating rich sensory images, and playing with sounds and rhythm. Urge them to write about things that really matter to them, and show them how details breathe life into a story or poem.
  • Contribute to the writing instruction in our area by offering teachers new strategies for incorporating writing into the classroom and for invigorating their own creative passion.

Above all, Get Lit!’s Authors Tour seeks to encourage students to think of themselves as writers. By exposing students to working authors who are able to generate excitement about reading and writing, the program seeks to promote language arts skills and foster an abiding love of learning.

Because our authors support the program-and the community-by working for less than their normal fees, districts with a student population of over 2,000 pay only $500 per author visit, and smaller districts pay $300. Get Lit! Programs covers author travel costs.

Although we price our services modestly so that any interested school or district can participate, some schools or districts are in need of extra financial assistance. If this is your situation, contact Melissa Huggins, Get Lit! director, at mhuggins33@ewu.edu to find out how you can apply for a partial scholarship.

Note: To request an author, please contact us at getlit@ewu.edu or 509.828.1498.

Request a Visit

To request an author for Author’s Tour (one-day visit), here are the steps to follow:

  1. From the list of authors we provide, identify a first and second choice
  2. With reference to your school activities calendar, pick several possible dates between December and May for the visit
  3. Contact getlit@ewu.edu with your authors and dates
  4. We will finalize the date with the author and then put you in contact with them
  5. Correspond with the author about ideas and goals
  6. Send both the author and the program coordinator a tentative schedule for the day (authors usually work 4-5 hour long sessions)
  7. Once the details are set, we will send out an invoice, payable within 30 days
  8. Arrange activities to prepare students for the visit (see below)
  9. Two weeks prior to the visit, be sure to touch base with the author about the final schedule
  10. After the visit, send feedback to Get Lit! Please indicate the number of participants and provide comments on the author’s presentation and workshops, making special note of how students seemed to benefit from the visit.

To prepare students for your author’s visit:

  • purchase copies of the author’s books for the school library and/or for individual classrooms
  • read excerpts from the author’s work to students
  • ask students to illustrate a scene from one of the books
  • create welcome banners
  • brainstorm questions for the author

OPTIONS TO CONSIDER: Some schools choose to invite more than one author to visit in a single day so that each author can target specific grade levels. Other schools have found it helpful to arrange for a number of different authors to visit throughout the year so that students will be exposed to a range of genres and styles. To request an author for Writers in Residence (many visits over a period of weeks), here are the steps to follow:

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