A campus abuzz with writing
On Friday, ECU will host the second National Day on Writing Celebration on campus. Although NDOW is not until Saturday, the event coordinators wanted to have the event a day early so school children could participate.
The NDOW was created by the National Council of Teachers of English in 2009. NCTE’s goal was to help people see how important writing is for all ages and occupations.
This year, the university will host 600 students from local elementary, middle and high schools to participate in activities throughout the day. Since there isn’t enough space on campus to host an additional 600 people, the events will take place in the Bate Building, Joyner Library, Mendenhall Student Center and the common room in Jarvis Residence Hall.
Along with a general writing marathon that will take place throughout the day, there will be a wide variety of events that school children can participate in. All grade levels will participate in the digital writing workshops.
Elementary and middle school students will do a collaborative Google map layer. They’ll write about their favorite foods in a modern rap/slam poetry style and tag the public location where they enjoy that particular food. “This gets them thinking about new media, multimodal writing that brings in image, sound, voice, words and collaborative writing,” said Stephanie West-Puckett, one of the organizers of the event.
High school students will use the digital writing studio to investigate memes, a cultural concept that spreads throughout the Internet, and discover how they work and what the logic behind them is. The students will also create their own memes.
All of the Jarvis Leadership students in West-Puckett’s English 1100 class will be volunteering for NDOW. Part of them will be dressing up as famous characters, like Peter Pan, Hermione Granger, Captain America and Jessie from Toy Story. The students will write skits about meetings between these characters and the Jarvis students will act the skits out.
Students can also participate in a graffiti wall, which was a popular event last year. An art teacher will teach students about the use of words and images and how they intersect in art.
Middle and high school students can participate in breakout sessions. During these sessions, students can meet published writers and talk about writing. This year, Christy Hallberg and Brandon Sneed will participate in the sessions. Sneed, who writes for ESPN magazine and has published a book, participated last year.
“We were excited to have Brandon Sneed because he does write for ESPN magazine, and there were a lot of high school guys and girls who just didn’t think about sports writing as something they can do,” said Will Banks, director of the University Writing Program. “He’s making a very smart career of sports writing.”
One of the main differences in this year’s celebration is that substitute teachers will look after the students while the teachers have a professional development day. “They get a half day to work on their own teaching of writing and how to teach writing more effectively,” said Banks.
One of the focuses of the program is to open a college campus up to young people and let them see that this can be a reality for them. “Some of them were saying things like, ‘So is this what it’s like to go to college?’ and ‘Do you think I could go to college one day?’” said Banks about the students last year.
This celebration is vital to Eastern North Carolina since budget cuts and curriculums have cut almost every kind of non-tested writing. “Yearbook is disappearing. Journalism is disappearing. Creative writing classes are disappearing. Anything where the students might have access to other parts of their brains or their experience with the world is disappearing,” said Banks.
Participating in this celebration lets kids know that there are more types of writing than the five-paragraph essay. “Their notions of writing are really small. I’m doing everything I can so that they don’t have to wait until they get to college to really see writing as this broad, expansive, exciting thing,” said West-Puckett.
Students can get involved by submitting their own work to the NDOW gallery of digital text at the NCTE website, ncte.org.
This writer can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.