NEA Spotlight: Teachers & Writers Collaborative

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Hoa Nguyen

Poet Hoa Nguyen leads Teachers & Writers Collaborative's Virtual Poetry Workshop. Photo: Matt Valentine.

Teachers & Writers Collaborative (T&W), one of the oldest arts education organizations in the country, was founded on the belief that professional writers could make a unique contribution to the teaching of writing and literature. Since 1967, it has been conducting writersin- the-schools programs in New York City and publishing and distributing books and magazines nationally that are filled with helpful resources for classroom teachers.

As technology develops at a rapidly accelerating rate, however, it is necessary to create new strategies to interest young people in the art of writing. Following this thinking, T&W developed an online writing program in 1999 called the Virtual Poetry Workshop, with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Virtual Poetry Workshop is part of WriteNet (www.writenet.org), a public online forum on teaching writing that also offers book reviews, interviews, and other literary and educational resources. Students from across the country can access the workshop via libraries or from home.

The poet Hoa Nguyen, based in Austin, Texas, leads the workshop, providing participants with new writing strategies to develop critical skills and introducing young writers to contemporary poetry in English. The main focus of the workshop, however, is on the writing exercises - there are currently 65 writing exercises to date and more will be created for the spring workshop beginning in March 2006. (These and previous workshop forums are archived online at www.writenet.org/virtualpoetrywrkshp.html.)

Young girl writing in a notebook

Students can access the Virtual Poetry Workshop via libraries or from home. Photo: courtesy of Teachers & Writers Collaborative.

Nguyen designs the exercises to provoke the imagination and introduce creative possibilities in writing. Judging from the high "hit counts" on the writing exercise links, teachers regularly mine the workshop for writing prompts or ideas they can use in their classrooms. For each exercise, Nguyen gives both instruction and a sample poem to examine.

In addition to the Virtual Poetry Workshop, WriteNet offers students (and teachers) other resources to improve their writing, such as interviews with noted poets and fiction writers, including Philip Levine, Cornelius Eady, Colson Whitehead, and Lydia Davis; student poems of the month; and tips, techniques, and advice on teaching writing from professional writers and educators.