The Connecticut Writing Project is a University of Connecticut writing program that is a part of the larger National Writing Project. The program is designed to help students and teachers explore writing through various creative writing strategies. Teachers in New Haven have been fortunate enough to be introduced to the program as a part of the English curriculum. Due to our inclusion in the Connecticut Writing Project, teachers in New Haven have been introduced to various ways to help our students become more comfortable with their writing as they discover new ways to express themselves. Journal writing in which content is the focus, I-search research papers, dialogical notebooks and writer conferences are all techniques that New Haven teachers have been invited to explore as they lead students through writing that emphasizes connecting literature and self, taking critical stances and focusing on higher order thinking skills in their writing.
The main impact the Connecticut Writing Project has had on my teaching is the concept of journal writing. Before the Connecticut Writing Project came to New Haven I would have students write in their journals and then go through and correct every spelling mistake, grammar mistake, etc. I was told at one of our first meetings that I was using journal writing incorrectly. My attacks on students journals with the red pen was simply stifling their writing. Students were not letting their writing flow in their journals because they knew I would be correcting and grading every entry. At first overlooking the spelling and grammar mistakes was very difficult for me as an English teacher, but as we went on through the training I realized that I simply wasn't letting the students write. If I had someone stopping me after every sentence of a short story or chapter that I had written I would never get anything worthy written. It is the same thing with the journals. We use the journals to make breakthroughs on the writing. The writing workshop, the essay, the research report were all places where students would be held accountable for spelling and grammar, but the journal was meant for letting the writing flow.
I will always be greatly indebted to the Connecticut Writing Project for making a huge difference in my students' and my own writing. I encourage other systems to get involved with the National Writing Project and to encourage innovative creative writing in the classroom.