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.

CAPTA Seeks Nominations for Three Open Board Positions

Would You Like to Join the CAPTA Executive Board?

We are seeking several new positions!
Applications accepted until Dec. 7, 2016

This month, CAPTA will hold elections for three open positions on the CAPTA Executive Board, which meets monthly via Google Hangouts, to discuss and plan events to support the organization’s mission. Members of the Executive Board must be current CAPTA members; they may be directors, administrators, or staff members of secondary school writing centers, or be otherwise involved with supporting secondary school writing centers. 

Board Members need not be local to the Capital Area; we are especially interested in including leaders outside of the region to help support online and digital collaboration projects we hope to continue moving forward as we expand to a national organization. We invite new perspectives and input from directors of high schools, middle schools, independent schools, etc.

The current open positions are:

  • Website Curator (two year, renewable): The website curator will be responsible for the upkeep of website content and design on www.captawritingcenters.org. We use a WordPress site which is fairly intuitive and user friendly, so technical web design expertise is not a requirement. We hope to make our site more easily navigable and robust in content to support for our CAPTA Member Schools and inviting for new schools to learn more about SSWCs and our organization’s mission. The person who fills this position will be invited to propose and implement ideas for developing the website, including publication of resources and blog updates to serve our mission of building community, promoting advocacy, and supporting development of SSWCs. The website curator will also be responsible for providing input and participating on Standing Committees to further the purposes and mission of the organization. They will have voting rights on the Board.
  • Social Media Manager (one or two year, renewable): The social media manager will be responsible for the upkeep of content and design of the CAPTA Facebook and Twitter accounts, working together with the Board and especially the Website Curator, to promote news and events of the organization through these platforms. The person who fills this position will be invited to propose and implement ideas for developing the organization’s social media strategy, including sharing resources and building a network to serve our mission of building community, promoting advocacy, and supporting development of SSWCs. The Social Media Manager will also be responsible for providing input and participating on Standing Committees to further the purposes and mission of the organization. They will have voting rights on the Board.
  • At-Large Middle School Representative (one year, renewable): The Middle School Representative will ensure that our programs and initiatives are inclusive of the needs of our growing community of middle school writing centers. At-large members will be integral members of the board, responsible for providing input and participating on Standing Committees to further the purposes and mission of the organization. They will have voting rights on the Board.

Call for Submissions: Secondary School Writing Centers Toolkit

Call for Submissions: Digital Resource Toolkit for Secondary School Writing Center Directors

Submission Deadline: August 15, 2016 (priority), September 15, 2016 (regular)

Publication Date: On or before November 1, 2016

We invite secondary school writing center directors to contribute to an exciting, updated, and digital new version of the Capital Area Peer Tutoring Association’s Resource Toolkit for Secondary School Writing Center Directors.

The first versions of this resource, assembled in 2011 and 2012 by a team of four SSWC directors in Northern Virginia, were designed to support new SSWC directors by sharing artifacts from our centers and exemplars of the kinds of documents and materials we created to support our work and our tutors’ work. More than a theory-based description of writing center pedagogy (which has been widely published elsewhere), we envisioned this resource as a toolkit, which is what we named it, with practical examples, accompanied by explanations, of various documents and materials throughout the phases of establishing and maintaining our writing centers.

For the past five years, distribution of this resource has been in high demand, but unfortunately limited due to printing and shipping costs. This summer, with funding from George Mason University, we are developing a new digital edition of the toolkit which will be distributed this fall; it will be available in PDF and e-book formats, and we plan to make it downloadable for free. Not only does a digital edition allow for wider and more equitable distribution of the materials, but it also allows for more frequent revisions and updates, which is very exciting.

We are reaching out to the wider community of SSWC directors to invite your contributions to this resource. We invite you to consider the kinds of documents and products you are willing to share with other SSWC directors, including materials you have designed as a program administrator for tutors, teachers, administrators, and other audiences. These artifacts might fit into any of the following categories (described more in detail here):

  1. Planning and Proposal (planning documents, committee descriptions and roles, proposed budgets, administrative proposals, three- or five- year plans, etc.)
  2. Tutor Recruitment and Selection (nomination letters, tutor application materials, tutor selection criteria, selection committee roles, interview materials, etc.)
  3. Initial Tutor Training (training agendas, resource lists, materials designed for tutors to learn about tutoring and/or writing, etc.)
  4. Program Implementation (informational flyers or advertisements, teacher- or tutor-created PSAs for students, teachers, administrators, methods for keeping records on tutoring sessions, tutor reflection logs, tutor evaluation mechanisms, administration meeting agendas, etc.)
  5. Tutor Course Curriculum (syllabi for tutor training courses, writing assignments for tutors, assessment criteria, etc.)
  6. School-wide Writing Initiatives (partnership programs with departments, clubs, activities in the schools, special workshops or outreach initiatives, etc.)
  7. Gathering Evidence of Success: Data and Evaluation (monthly reports, quantitative and/or qualitative data on tutoring, etc.)

If selected, your materials will be included in Chapter 3 (“Implement a Successful Program”) and available in a shareable folder (like Google Drive or Dropbox) as a companion to the toolkit. Your name and school’s name, where applicable, will be included both on the submission itself as well as on the title page as a contributor to the book.

Guidelines for Submissions:

  • Submissions must be original and legally yours to share; any portion of an idea or language that is borrowed or derived from an original source must be clearly credited.
  • Submissions should be sent in editable Word document format, where possible. PDFs, PowerPoint slides, and even digital audio and/or video files are also acceptable; contact capta.connects@gmail.com if you have a question about the format of the resource you submit
  • Submissions are best when they are 1-3 pages in length, but longer submissions will be accepted as well (including Tutor Handbooks, Course Syllabi, for example), especially if we can link to a digital version of the text. Contact me if you are wondering!
  • Submissions will be accepted on a rolling basis between now and September 15, 2016, with priority going to submissions received by August 10.

To Submit a Resource:

  • Email the document as an attachment to capta.connects@gmail.com with the subject line: “SSWC Toolkit Submission.” You may remove any identifying information (names, email address, specific dates, etc.) – or it will be done by the editor prior to publication.
  • Submit a Google Form that includes your contact information and a 200 word explanation about how you use the resource and how other directors might adapt it for their own context.
  • You may send multiple attachments in one email, but you must fill out a new form for each resource you submit for the purposes of identifying and sorting submissions.

By submitting you agree that:

  • You have ownership over the materials and the right to submit them for publication; you give permission for their publication in this digital resource toolkit to be distributed for free.
  • Your name and the name of your school will be included on the document itself and on the title page of the book; including your contact information (e-mail address) is optional.
  • You give the editor permission to edit or modify the content or design of the document, including deleting any identifying information (your name, student names, school names) on the document itself and altering the design of the document to fit within the design of the publication.

Attached is an example of how the page with your resource and explanation for its use will appear in the final publication. Please contact me at capta.connects@gmail.com or ajensen8@gmu.edu with any questions. I look forward to hearing from you soon!


Amber Jensen

President, Capital Area Peer Tutoring Association