Teacher resource center for YWP's community storytelling program
Jul 27
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HELP -- The Concept

Concept and Details

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” 
 Rudyard KiplingThe Collected Works


This program is a complement to your curriculum, tools to encourage your students to practice writing and digital media, explore their communities and tell stories. Why is this important? 

  • Storytelling is the root of good writing and all writing, regardless of genre, benefits from narrative approaches.
  • Students’ interest and proficiency in writing declines as they progress through the grades.
  • YWP’s experience shows there is a correlation between storytelling, interest and performance, particularly if students can explore their own ideas.

YWP embraces the importance of mastering the fundamentals of writing – grammar, usage, punctuation, form, structure, point of view etc. YWP also understands the rigors of today’s school curricula and expectations. However, YWP believes in developing strategies that deepen youths’ interest in writing and increase their interaction with peers will increase their engagement, proficiency and confidence.
This program is aimed at helping you, the teacher, bring a little storytelling back into the classroom by providing digital and content support. We provide you:


  • An easy-to-use digital classroom website of your own where your students can privately share work and give each other comments.  
  • Content: challenges (exercises) and resources designed to progressively get students to explore and find stories in their community and go deeper with storytelling, research, digital media and editing. 
  • Support -- both technical and content-oriented -- from experts with Young Writers Project, a small, award-winning nonprofit based in Vermont that has, since 2006, connected with 100,000+ youths, partnered with 2,000 teachers and published best work of 17,000 youths.

The site is powerful and is designed for both student interaction, revision and your and their ease in accessing the work.

The content is flexible – and was designed that way – so you can adapt it to your own curriculum and your own style and methods. But we do know that the challenges and resources we’ve assembled will help. Your students will be able to focus on what interests them: their communities and the people, places, events and issues that shape their lives. They can hone observational skills and their ability to research, learn how to give and receive specific feedback, take pictures, capture audio, edit and polish their work and find audience. They’ll gain a sense of purpose. They'll also have a little fun. 
And our support is available for both technical aspects of using the site and in using the content to the fullest extent.

We have created a separate document on life-long skills that can be gained with use of this program: independent, informed and critical thinking, digital literacy, clear and effective communication and citizenship. You will be able to survey your own students, but past surveys -- and two independent studies -- of thousands of students using our platform and programs have shown that students work harder, improve their performance, gain confidence about and a more positive feeling about writing and develop a greater understanding and appreciation of their students. This is due, in large part, to how teachers use the platforms to foster good peer-to-peer commenting, allow students to determine content and minimize judgment (grading), particularly on early work.

DETAILS:  Writing is both discovery and a process. When youths understand and accept the process they discover more and have greater success. They must be given the time -- and opportunities -- to explore many ideas so they can select the very best and gain enthusiasm as they go deeper. Here’s how we define the process flow:

Idea >> Research >> Draft >> Feedback >> Editing >> Digital Media >> Polish >> Audience

 There are three structural concepts to this program: Challenges, Resources and Workshops.

  • Challenges are, generally, one step exercises; they could be called prompts or exercises or assignments. The intention is to get the student going, to explore ideas and/or to dive deeper in gaining skills or mastering steps. These are intended to be achievable.
  • Resources are support materials for challenges – tips, more detailed instructions, exemplars or additional web resources.
  • Workshops are a collection of challenges, in sequence, that lead to a larger finished project.

The challenges on https://mycommunity.ywpvt.org have, in most cases, already been tested in classrooms; we know they work. They have been developed by teachers, youths, YWP staff and experts. We have organized the content around "tags" that equate to each of the process steps (along with the Common Core text types), such as idea development, research, editing, etc. You can sort by tag and choose whichever challenge you'd like to move to your own digital classroom (website). We have made it easy for you to import content from mycommunity to your own site.

On your own digital classroom site you can schedule the challenge or group several of them together to create a sequential series in a workshop. (See the Basic Help page for details 
https://mycommunity.ywpvt.org/node/258 .) You can edit these challenges as you see fit and/or create your own.

YWP's bank of challenges and resources will continue to expand during the year as a variety of experts add more detailed challenges on various aspects of storytelling, writing and digital media skills building. Feel free to ask for challenges we have not covered. We also will be adding resources.
As to support, we'll set your site up as soon as you want and in early fall, we will be announcing a round of video conferences and live chats for technical aspects (September and early October) and on the content (monthly, beginning in late October). We will try to schedule two times for each video conference so as to make sure as many teachers can participate because part of the experience will be discussion and sharing of experiences.
NOTE: YWP will be offering a 2-credit Master’s credit (or it can be audited for licensure credit) course that will accompany this project. Please check with https://mycommunity.ywpvt.org for more details in late August.