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Student writing

Genesee Valley Writing Project

Community initiative

Quick facts

Director/PI: Joanne Larson

Collaborators: East High School, Center for Urban Education Success, National Writing Project

Funding: National Writing Project


The Genesee Valley Writing Project collaborates with school districts to host summer institutes that support teachers in all grades and content areas improve the teaching and learning of writing in their schools.  

The writing project also hosts a Young Writers Camp for students in grades 6-12 who love to write and want to spend time with like-minded peers practicing different kinds of writing. We welcome students who are good writers, as well as those who want to improve their writing skills. New York State certified teachers provide instruction on writing strategies, but the writing genres are open to the writers themselves.

The program collaborates with East High on several projects. The project has worked with the College, Career and Community Writers Program, which is funded by the National Writing Project. That program answers the contemporary call for respectful, source-based argument. The program offers intensive professional development and instructional resources that support students in reading critically, exploring multiple points of view, and taking a stand on important issues.

Funded by a grant from John Legend’s Show Me Campaign and the National Writing Project, the program worked with youth from East on our “Youth Producing Justice” project. Beginning with urban high school students’ authentic interests in bringing about meaningful change in their community, the project brings together a team of nine East teachers across three content areas (Social Studies, English and TESOL) with their students to design and implement student interest-based justice projects. Given the endemic issues of poverty and under-teaching in Rochester, the team shares the purpose of working with students to design and implement justice-oriented projects that will seek to change the inequities they live with every day. The students are acutely aware of the unjust education they have received and the trauma associated with everyday life in high poverty communities. The project facilitates their developing relationships in the community and identifying mentors who can help them make the changes they want to see. The project also focuses specifically on connecting students with community organizations, neighborhood groups, a new national newspaper, and relevant government offices who can help student collaborative teams enact the projects they design and to make their projects freely accessible via various digital outlets. Our shared purpose is to take authentic action for justice and equity in the Rochester community and beyond.

Sponsored by and housed within the Warner School of Education and administered through the Center for Urban Education Success, the Genesee Valley Writing Project is directed by Joanne Larson, a leading scholar in new literacies. The project serves teachers and students from urban and suburban schools in Monroe and surrounding counties. Using a teachers-teaching-teachers model, the program allows participating teachers to tap into what is known about writing and the teaching of writing from all sources —t heir own writing, key research findings, important books and articles, and most importantly, the classroom practices of effective and successful teachers.

In its mission to improving the quality of student writing and learning in area schools, the program sponsors an array of programs including contracts for Summer Institutes, school-based inservice programs, professional development continuity programs, summer camp for youth and grant support for source-based argument writing. Summer Institutes help participating teachers to study classroom strategies for teaching writing, read and discuss research, and improve their knowledge of writing by writing themselves. The program features collaborative writing groups, teacher demonstration workshops, reading research groups, and presentations that draw from local and national literacy expertise. The community of teacher leaders formed during the Summer Institute becomes the foundation for the continuing work of the program. Writing Project Fellows are encouraged to remain involved with our local and national Writing Project network and are supported in developing community outreach programs, school-based inservice workshops, collaborative partnerships, and teacher study groups to support the goals of the National Writing Project in the Greater Rochester community.

For more information contact Joanne Larson.