February Digital Roundtable Recap: Planning and Proposing a Session for SSWCA 2018

In an effort to build community among secondary school writing centers and to provide more opportunities for directors to collaborate, SSWCA is pleased to announce our Digital Roundtable Series. Each month, SSWCA member schools are invited to join us for an informal discussion via GoogleHangouts. Each month’s topic and guiding questions will be announced in the month leading up to the roundtable.

On Tuesday, February 13, SSWCA President Kate Hutton hosted the first SSWCA Digital Roundtable, which focused on planning and proposing sessions for SSWCA’s Seventh Annual Secondary School Writing Centers Conference, “Process and Progress. Kate Hutton of the Herndon Writing Center (VA), SSWCA Vice President Trisha Callihan of the Eagle Writing Center at Osbourn High School (VA), and tutor leaders Abbie and Arleigh of the West Springfield Peer Tutors (VA), participated in this month’s roundtable.

The following notes were generated from our conversation.

Potential Proposal Topics for Directors + Tutors

  • How does your center build empathy for clients or tutees?
  • How do you encourage teachers to trust your tutors?
  • How can tutors help to support and sustain a center as directors transition out/in?
  • How do centers recruit and retain tutors?
    • Who are your tutors?
    • Does your staff represent your student body?
    • How do you recruit tutors?
    • How do you recruit tutors from groups who are under-represented in your staff?
  • Writing workshops: scheduling, promotion, effectiveness
  • Hot topic: group session tutoring
    • How do you train tutors to tutor in groups?
    • How do you prepare tutees/clients to be tutored in groups?
  • What structure(s) are in place for students to students sign up to be tutored in the center? How do you manage these?
    • Paper sign-ups
    • Digital sign-ups
    • Combination
  • Decentralizing the peer tutor center
    • How do you make the best of an inconvenient location?
    • How do you establish yourself as a learning center if you aren’t able to officially label yourself a “center”?
    • How do you manage competing tutoring services in your school community?
  • How do you implement incentive programs to encourage students to be tutored?
    • Party for class that has highest % of attendance at center during time frame
    • Random prize drawing for a student who has worked with a tutor (i.e. basketball game tickets, Prom or Homecoming tickets, etc.)
    • Random prize drawing for a teacher whose student(s) have worked with a tutor
  • Tutoring as Labor
    • How do you prepare tutors for the emotional labor of tutoring peers?
    • How do you and your tutoring staff build morale?
  • How do you encourage tutors to respect professionalism policies & tutor outside of school hours?
  • How do you implement  tutor liaisons to teachers and academic departments?
  • How do you develop community and a sense of belonging among your tutoring staff? (And how do you avoid tutor cliques?)
    • Tutor trees or tutoring families
    • Tutor houses similar to Hogwarts houses
  • How do you promote your center?
    • 50 cent poems
    • Cookies and Composition
    • National Day on Writing Celebration
  • How do you budget and fundraise when you have no budget?
  • If your staff of returning tutors are working on SSWCA proposals, what do you do with Seniors and non-returning staff?
    • Herndon – Legacy Project (Seniors and non-returning staff propose and implement a sustainable component to the writing centers
    • Experienced tutors prepare binders with resources for tutoring every subject

Suggested Resources for Research

  • Data compiled by your center. This may include:
    • Sign-in sheet data
    • Post-conference evaluation data
    • Tutoring Logs
    • Tutor observations
    • Teacher interviews
    • Tutor interviews
  • The Peer Review
  • Writing Center Journal (This link will take you to JSTOR. You will need to log in with your institution’s credentials.)
  • WLN: A Journal of  Writing Center Scholarship
  • Tutor training manuals, including:
    • The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors (Ryan and Zimmerelli)
    • The St. Martin’s Sourcebook for Writing Tutors (Murphy and Sherwood)
    • A Tutor’s Guide: Helping Writers One to One (Rafoth)
    • Tutoring Writing: A Practical Guide for Conferences (McAndrew and Reigstad)

Save the Dates for Our Spring 2018 Digital Roundtable Series:

Wednesday, March 14, 2018 7:30 pm- 8:30 pm EST

Thursday, April 26, 2018 7:30 pm- 8:30 pm EST

Saturday, May 19, 2018 1:00 pm-2:00 pm EST

Tuesday, June 12, 2018 7:30 pm-8:30 pm EST


Announcing Our First SSWCA Digital Roundtable!

Join us for our first SSWCA Digital Roundtable!

We invite directors from SSWCA member schools to share ideas for potential conference presentations, ask questions about the proposal writing process, and share strategies for guiding students through the proposal writing process. Registration is currently open to SSWCA member schools. Join today!

Tuesday, February 13, 2018: Register here.

Saturday, February 17, 2018: Register here.

Announcing the SSWCA Logo Design Contest

We Need a New Logo! You Need $$$!

Starting today and continuing through Friday, January 12th, the SSWCA board will be accepting submissions for a new, polished logo which captures our hope of building a secondary school writing center community across state lines. Tweet and share your designs with the hashtags #SSWCA and #CAPTAgoesNational to submit your entry. One winner will be chosen by the SSWCA board and will receive a $150 Visa gift card. Happy designing!

CAPTA’s Newsletter Updates

Welcome back to school! It has come to CAPTA’s attention that our weekly newsletters don’t always make it past school email firewalls and into your inboxes. We don’t want you to miss out on our important conference updates, including registration information, travel grant and registration waiver opportunities, housing/lodging options, CAPTA renewal for 2017-2018, and the conference schedule, all NOW available!

Here is a link to the update we sent out last week via Mailchimp. If you’d like to subscribe to our updates from a personal email that may be more likely to receive our newsletter updates, you may do so here.

CAPTA Conference 2016: A First-Year Tutor Attendee Review

Natalie Glover is a current 10th grade tutor at Peters Township High School Writing Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

I am a part of the Peters Township High School Writing Center in Pittsburgh, PA, and this past year was my first experience at the CAPTA Conference.  Although I was not presenting, my peers had been working to prepare a presentation for several months, and I went along as support.  Our former writing center teacher had presented the opportunity to attend; I saw it as a chance to learn more about the possibilities for the developing a writing center back at our high school.  

Once the much anticipated day of the conference had arrived, I was nervous, not knowing exactly what to expect.  One of my friends (who was presenting) and I were there early enough that we were asked to help set up a few last minute details, and all of the adults were extremely welcoming and grateful for the help.  This immediate kindness from everyone involved calmed my nerves and assured me that it would be a great day.  

Once the introduction was about to start, all of the students and presenters had congregated in the main room, and I was amazed.  The loud, crowded room was filled with an amazing passion for writing and sharing ideas that would benefit everyone.  The atmosphere was relaxed and was encouraging to the flow of ideas.  Sitting there, I was almost overwhelmed with the magnitude of creative and ambitious minds in the room, but it was an unforgettable experience.  

Each of the sessions I attended was conducted in the same manner, not too formal, but still informative and intriguing.  Following each presentation, the group of coaches from Peters would discuss new ideas that were shared and ways that we could possibly adapt them to our center.  Many of these ideas have been implemented since then and have contributed to our success as a group!  

This was my first conference ever, and it was such a positive experience that it most definitely will not be my last.  I will even be presenting at  the 2017 conference along with my peers.  Hopefully, we will also be able to contribute to the sea of incredible ideas that are fostered throughout the gathering of different writing coaches.   

CAPTA’s 2017 Conference Keynote Speakers

The Capital Peer Tutoring Association is thrilled to announce our keynote speakers for this year’s conference CAPTA 2017: People, Purpose, and Passion to be held on Friday, December 8, 2017 in Arlington, VA!

We welcome Jeffrey Austin, founder-director of the Skyline High School Writing Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan and current IWCA Secondary School Representative, and Christine Modey, Peer Writing Consultant Program Director at the Sweetland Center for Writing at the University of Michigan, to share with all conference participants their experiences around meaningful collaboration across secondary school and university writing center sites. We look forward to hearing from Jeffrey and Christine, both during their dual keynote address on Friday morning as well as in their interactive workshops for directors in the late morning and afternoon. Conference registration is now open here.

Past keynote speakers at CAPTA events include Dr. Jennifer Wells (CAPTA 2016) from New College of Florida and co-editor of The Successful High School Writing Center: Building the Best Program with your Students and Dr. Andrew Jeter (CAPTA 2013) from Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois and founder of the Chicagoland Organization of Writing, Literacy, and Learning Centers.

JEFFREY AUSTIN teaches Humanities and serves as the Writing Center Director at Skyline High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan where he was named a 2017 Washtenaw County Teacher of the Year. Jeffrey is also the current Secondary School Representative for IWCA.

His writing center life began as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan when his poetry professor nominated him to be a consultant in the Sweetland Center for Writing. Although he didn’t know it at the time, Jeffrey’s work at Sweetland would become an essential part of his teaching pedagogy, as he works to help his students multiply their funds of knowledge in their own writing through growth-oriented and process-minded dialogue. One of Jeffrey’s main goals in founding the Skyline Writing Center was to create a learner-centered space where peers could meaningfully dialogue with one another about any kind of writing at any stage of the writing process.

Since 2012, Jeffrey and his Skyline consultants have conducted thousands of sessions in their Writing Center, in classrooms, and online, organized three Writing Prize competitions to financially support emerging student voices, published five issues of Teen Spirit, an award-winning literary magazine, and formed an enduring collaboration with the consultants of the Sweetland Center for Writing at the University of Michigan.

Jeffrey earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Education and Political Science and Master’s Degrees in Teaching and Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of Michigan.

DR. CHRISTINE MODEY is a lecturer in the Sweetland Center for Writing at the University of Michigan, where she teaches directs the Peer Writing Consultant Program and teaches courses in peer consultant training and new media writing. She has taught first-year writing courses on the themes of art and technology; suffering, justice, and community; physicians and their patients; and the history of the book. Her current research, conducted with colleagues at Sweetland, concerns the interactions between writers and consultants in Sweetland’s Writing Workshop.

She lives, gardens, reads, and cooks in Ann Arbor with her husband, children, Labrador retriever, and two cats.

Spring 2017 Elections for CAPTA Tutor Representatives

This spring, CAPTA will hold elections for the two open student representative positions on the CAPTA Executive Board. Applications for the 2017-2018 CAPTA Student Representatives to the Executive Board due by Friday, May 26. The elected representatives will serve a terms from June 2017 to June 2018. Board members will meet on a monthly or bimonthly basis, as agreed upon by the Board itself via Google Hangout.

Student Representatives (two open seats): The elected student representatives will be responsible for providing input to the board and advising them on student-centered issues. As they are elected by their peers, they will have voting rights on the board. Student representatives will be responsible for reaching out to peer tutors, facilitating partnerships between schools, and maintaining peer tutor and alumni contact lists.

Tasks include:
Coordinating bi-monthly CAPTA tutor gatherings
Collecting and managing submissions for and editing tutor-written CAPTA Blog posts of the week
Designing and helping distribute promotional materials via the web and in CAPTA schools
Corresponding with and planning events with CAPTA school-based liaisons
Other tasks to help further CAPTA projects, such as those associated with the annual conference, the directors’ retreat, and partnerships between CAPTA schools

Any current peer tutor at a CAPTA-affiliated secondary school writing center is eligible to apply. Student representatives should expect to participate in CAPTA activities approximately 2 hours per week in addition to attending meetings. Representatives are also expected to communicate with the Board on a regular basis. One year term.

Please consider running for a position. Serving on the board is a great way to promote the work of writing centers, meet writing center colleagues throughout the region, and gain valuable learning experiences.

How do I apply?
Complete and submit this Form by the May 26 deadline.
Online elections will be held from May 29-June 2. We will send a link to the voting ballot to all CAPTA Writing Center Directors. They will share the link with their tutors.
The new board members will be notified via email by June 7 and officially welcomed at a“transition board meeting” held by our current Student Representatives on a date agreed upon by those attending. This meeting will occur over Google Hangout.

Thank you and please contact me with any questions.

Stephanie Passino
CAPTA Board Secretary

The Capital Area Peer Tutoring Association (CAPTA) exists to build community among secondary school writing and learning center directors, tutors, and partners; promote advocacy for peer-driven programs that transform schools by empowering student leaders; and support development and sharing of local resources for new and existing centers.

Website: www.captawritingcenters.org
Twitter: @CAPTATutors
Facebook: CAPTA Writing Center Tutors

Creating a Snapshot Session with Middle School Students

Renee Brown teaches 8th grade ELA south of Pittsburgh, PA. She is a new member to the CAPTA board, serving as the middle school representative.

Susan Frenck teaches 7th grade English at Irving Middle School in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is the director of the newly founded Irving Middle School Writing Center and the CAPTA board treasurer.

The opportunities for middle school students even to attend a regional conference, let alone to

present at one, are exceptionally rare.  However, CAPTA offers just such a unique learning experience to middle school students through “Snapshot Sessions.” These are 10-minute presentations given by one or two middle school tutors; each Snapshot should focus on a single issue of relevance to middle school writing centers.  This begs the question, how do I help my tutors create a Snapshot Session for this conference.  Susan and I are both middle school teachers and WC directors who are facing that exact task as we write this post.  In the hopes of encouraging other MS directors, here are some snippets of our processes and what we hope are helpful insights.

Renee: My middle level WC is based on conversation: conversations between students around writing and conversations between me and the tutors about their “coaching.”  So, it made sense that I started my search for a presenter with a conversation.  I spoke with students who are not only strong tutors, but those tutors who are also strong public speakers. While you may consider having this chat with all your students together, I prefer more individualized discussions.  One-on-one, I explained what the CAPTA conference is about and what it offers.  I then sent the students away with a page full of questions to consider: What do you do when X type of kid comes to the WC; What do you do when X happens during a tutoring session.

Wait time is important at this age, so I gave my students a few days to ponder the questions related to the conference theme.  The next conversation with those students asked what insight they have to give to other MS tutors based on the work they have done. I asked questions like, “What are the best/most successful/most difficult sessions you had this year.” These conversations varied in length, but talking about what each tutor saw as his/her expertise was vital.  Based on these conversations, each potential presenter can craft his/her proposal.  It’s a bit cliché to use the “think-pair-share” model, but that’s essentially the format that is currently helping my tutors to draft a proposal for the Snapshot Sessions.

Susan: The writing center at my school uses Google Classroom as a way to communicate and collaborate. I plan to use the platform to help my tutors generate Snapshot session topics. By using question feature, I can ask the tutors to reflect on their experiences and provide answers that will be displayed for the group. Some questions I will ask include (1) “What is something that has surprised you about your work in the writing center so far?”, (2) “What is something you think the students at our school would like to experience in the writing center?”, and (3) “If you could share one interesting idea or lesson with other middle school tutors about writing centers, what would it be?” I expect that those answers will provide solid starting points from which we can create excellent proposals.

Since the Snapshot Session format was inspired by Ignite sessions, I plan to share some effective Ignite examples with the tutors (http://www.ignitetalks.io/). The emphasis in showing Ignite sessions will be on the length, focus, and variety rather than on the specifics of the Ignite presentation format. Once the students see how a single good idea can become an effective, albeit brief, presentation, the tutors will have a better frame of reference and feel more comfortable with the idea of crafting their own presentations for CAPTA 2017.



Examining Your Topic: Choosing the Best Means of Research for Your Question

Stephanie Passino, Hayfield Secondary School, Hawks Writing Center Director

Once you have an idea for your proposal, you will need to conduct research. Many students tend to choose topics they have personal experience with from the work they do in their center.  This is a great place to start! I’ve provided some guiding questions to get you started along with some suggestions for how to conduct reliable inquiry.

How can you conduct research on your own center to help you answer your research question?
You will need to consider a few items:

  • Who will need to be involved?
    • Tutors, tutees, directors, administrators, teachers, community members, etc.
  • What type of information are you hoping to discover?
    • Quantitative or qualitative
  • How will you collect your data?
    • Survey/questionnaire – electronic or hard copy
    • Interview

Items to keep in mind when collecting your data:

  • You will need to have a distinct sample size – consider what it truly representative of your center, school, staff, etc. You will want to include demographics in your data that represent your school.  This will vary by school.
  • Timing – will you collect data during the school day? Which classes/students will you target? Be sure to distribute your means of collecting data in a timely fashion.
  • When creating a survey, questionnaire or interview questions, use neutral language. Be sure to write non-leading questions by avoiding words with positive/negative connotations.
  • Comparison point – Would it be helpful to enquiry about other writing centers and their procedures? How can this be done?

Best of luck with your research! Feel free to email me with any questions at SLPassino@fcps.edu.