TC Spotlight: 2nd grade Writing Teacher Kim Oldenburgh

January 28th, 2013 5:10 PM

Kim Oldenburgh

The Maine Writing Project is pleased to highlight the amazing work of 2nd grade teacher and MWP Teacher-Consultant Kim Oldenburgh.  You can feel her enthusiasm about writing and teaching through her words.



Kim, on the MWP and how it affected her as a teacher:

“I participated in the MWP in 2005.   I went into the Writing Project imagining I’d go back to school in the fall with a “toolkit” for teaching writing, but what I left with was so much more than that.

I’ve always found it difficult to explain the essence of the Writing Project when colleagues ask me about it because it was so life changing for me.  During that summer, I developed strong bonds with my fellows, and for the first time, I wrote about feelings that had been covered up for years, feelings I forgot I had.

Through my fellows, I learned about my own writing during the process of getting through the messy parts.  I went back to my classroom that fall knowing I had to emulate that same process for my students.  By paying more attention to my own writing process, I became a better writing teacher and my students got more out of my lessons.

When living closely with a group of writers for so many days, you trust them enough to take risks and share.  This is the type of community I have developed in my own second grade classroom: a community of writers trusting each other to write and share from their hearts.”

Kim, on her work with 2nd grade writers:

“I’ve found the best way to get second graders to write is to allow them to write about what interests them.   Several years ago, I spent one whole year implementing an inquiry study on my boy writers as I always felt they weren’t as engaged as I thought they could be.  While researching the works of Graves, Fletcher, and Newkirk, I learned a lot, but what has resonated with me is that writing in school is often dominated by personal narrative (boys’ least favorite genre) and that female teachers often stifle the creativity in their boy writers by viewing their writing as problematic due to the potty humor and violence they often enjoy writing about.

That year, I learned to foster their creativity by teaching them how authors infused humor and violence into their writing with intention.  The boys quickly learned if their violence didn’t have a purpose, they didn’t use it.  That year, one of my most reluctant writers (who, prior to my inquiry, thrived on writing stories that were violent and spent a great deal of time trying to get his peers to laugh when he shared his writing) wrote a powerful book about September 11th and he was so proud of the work he put into his published piece.”

Kim, on the writing assignment she developed to engage kids AND meet the Common Core State Standards:

“This school year, I attended a workshop with Shelly Moody regarding Customized Learning and for the first time, the work she does with her students surrounding unpacking the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) finally made sense to me.  Since then, I’ve been looking closer at the standards and have discovered many of my current practices already align with the standards. Rather than using the standards as a checklist, I’ve been doing what Calkins, Ehrenworth and Lehman (2012) suggest and going deep and broad within the standards.  With my students, I have been unpacking some of the standards into kid-friendly language so they own the standard and understand their goals as learners.

Opinion Writing

One standard that I hadn’t covered in the past but was particularly interesting to me was opinion writing. I started with a guided opinion piece where I polled the class to see if they liked inside or outside recess the best.  We created a chart with reasons for their opinion.  During this guided activity, students were then able to write an opinion piece about their choice.  This was highly engaging as they tried to convince their readers to like their choice the best.

Toy Reviews

Our next assignment would be a toy review.  Over the next few days, toys trickled in and photos were taken.  Throughout that time, we began reading toy reviews online.  I then printed out 20 reviews the class had particularly liked and partners worked with highlighters to note something about the review they could use in their own writing.  We added their ideas to a chart and the next day we began writing toy reviews.

toy reviews

Over the next few days, students worked with partners and me to revise and edit their reviews.  The kindergarten class is planning to begin writing toy reviews and we will share our reviews with their class and then we plan to hang them in the hall to try to convince other students to buy the toys reviewed.

Check out some of these 5-star reviews.

toy review


toy review

As far as the assessment of these opinion pieces, the CCSS only asks that second graders be able to state an opinion about a topic, supply reasons and provide a concluding statement.  Scroll back to the chart we created as a class and you’ll see the students noticed features about opinion writing that the standards don’t cover.  However, what the students noticed is what makes the pieces engaging to read.  By immersing students in an inquiry study of opinion writing and scaffolding the writing process of this new genre, all students were successful in creating their toy reviews.”

Thank you, Kim, and may all 2nd grade students have writing teachers like you.

TC Spotlight: Emily Morrison

December 10th, 2012 6:33 PM

The Maine Writing Project would like to introduce you to the smart, witty, and talented teacher-consultant Emily Denbow Morrison. 

Emily studied English Literature and Secondary Education at Saint Michael’s College in Colchester, VT and graduated with honors in 2001. She married her classmate, Matthew Morrison. Emily began her teaching career in southern New Hampshire and currently teaches in A.P. English Literature at Bucksport High School. After her daughter was born, she began writing a book, Investigating the Mysteries of Motherhood. Three children later, she’s still working on it. Emily has a Masters in Literacy and writes for The Maine Edge. Her work has also appeared in The New Maine Times.

Emily Morrison

Emily, on the highlights of the MWP Institute, which she attended this past summer:

“So much of our time as teachers is dedicated to students. Whether we’re reading their writing, preparing for class, or fleetingly meeting with colleagues, let’s face it: there isn’t a whole lot of time built into our lives for writing (the craft we teach). MWP enabled me to work on my own writing again, and it gave me a group of people to sound off with. Plus, there was a yummy snack table and an excellent salad bar. Refreshments equal brain food.”

Emily, on how the Maine Writing project influenced her life as a writer:

“MWP helped me write for myself again. I’ve spent a good deal of my life the past two years writing about writing. I had forgotten the pure joy of writing something for myself and for others to be entertained or inspired. Luckily, MWP was a jumping off point for me. After the summer seminar, I spent one month polishing my personal writing and submitting it to The English Journal, local area newspapers, and online magazines. Currently, I have published eighteen articles, and I write a weekly column for The Maine Edge.”

Emily’s Writing Life:

“Right now my weekly articles keep me pretty busy. Initially, I wanted to write two or three pieces a week, but then teaching and mothering started to seem like chores, so I had to put my writing life in perspective! I decided to publish one article a week and work on long range writing goals sporadically. Most of my writing centers around balancing my three passions: running, teaching, and my family. Plus, my husband built me a new writing shack out back so now the pressure is really on. If he builds it, the words must come…”

Please enjoy some of Emily’s recent articles, published in The New Maine Times and The Maine Edge.

Teacher, rock star, gymnast: Same thing” appeared this summer as an OpEd piece in The New Maine Times.This article deals with the disconnect between schools and our students dreams.

On the lighter side of things, “Powerless” is an article that details a morning without power in the Morrison household.

Another humorous article that’s been quite popular for some reason is “My son is a rapper.” He cannot stop his flow, and I’ve given up trying to mold him into a light rock listener.

Shortly after this article came out, I competed in a foot race with my husband. Teaming up with his massive sports ego was quite an adventure, so I wrote about it in “Dynamic Duo: the foot-race that will make or break you!” This one also made the most popular list for several weeks.

MWP is proud of you, Emily! Keep up the great work!

TC Spotlight: Paul Frost

November 13th, 2012 3:08 PM
Paul Frost

Paul Frost

For our first MWP Teacher Consultant Writer Spotlight, we’d like to introduce you to Paul Frost.  Paul attended the Maine Writing Project Institute in 2006. Since that time, Paul has been active in a writing group on MDI and has published poetry and op-eds in the Bangor Daily News.

Paul, on the highlights of the MWP Institute:

 “From the get-go I felt energizing connections with each member of my writing group. These connections rooted in our rich authentic responses to each other’s writing. They grew in our dialogues about Ralph Fletcher’s What a Writer Needs and Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. They blossomed in our celebrations of our pieces and, frankly, of each other.”

On how MWP influenced Paul’s life as a writer:

“Writing without response ceased to be an option, and I learned responders brought different gifts. I began to feel comfortable deciding which responses worked for me as writer.

I discovered that marginal drafts and promising drafts could happen on my laptop when I was fresh or driven, and they could happen on my lined pad when I was tired and reflective.

I became compulsive about reading drafts out loud. I read “hard-fought-for” paragraphs and entire pieces as soon as they were written; I read them a half hour later and the next morning. I learned each “read aloud” enabled me to cut “clutter” and advance my quest for Bill Zinsser’s favored elements, “precise nouns” and “powerful verbs.” “Read alouds” remain a treasured tool.

I came to believe most of my writing is something I live with for a while, not something I make time to get done.”

Current writing endeavors:

“I’ve written poetry, grants, and a couple of op-eds. Currently in my writing group on MDI, I’m writing whatever stories come up about my childhood as I look at furniture transplanted from my parents’ home.”

The following is a current list of Paul’s published writing:

Poetry: “25 – 65” Maine Writes Issue 3, Volume 4, October 2006

“Dual Worlds” Maine Writes

Op-Ed: “Confronting Cultural Genocide, Maine Leads Nation,” Bangor Daily News, March 22, 2012

Op-Ed: “To heal we must learn: a mandate for Wabanaki child welfare, Bangor Daily News, September 6, 2012

The Maine Writing Project is proud of the work Paul is doing!

2012 National Day on Writing

October 20th, 2012 1:36 PM

We celebrated the National Day on Writing here at MWP!  Last year on the National Day on Writing, the National Writing Project asked people to talk about “Why I Write” and many folks shared their thoughts on blogs and through social media.  This year, the topic is “What I Write.”

You can learn more about this National Day here on the NWP website.

So, what do we write?

We write all day.  We write emails, blog comments, grocery lists, and to-do lists.  We write love notes, thank you notes, apology notes, and notes in our kids’ lunchboxes.  We write essays, novels, funny stories, journal entries, and poems.

In classrooms, we write notes to students, notes on the board, homework assignments, and directions for activities.  Whether we like it or not, our students are writing under their desks and in their pockets, even while we are teaching about writing.  Text messages, status updates, and comments about what their friends are writing.

Rich Kent, Director of the Maine Writing Project, writes  emails, Facebook posts, marginal notes in books/articles, articles, oh, and…books.

Ken Martin, Associate Director of the Maine Writing Project, writes  emails answering student questions, entries in online class discussion Forums, notes and goals on my golf scorecard, margin notes in just about everything I read, letters to the editor (not always submitted!)

Follow us on facebook, and tell us what YOU write.

Happy National Day on Writing!

Calling All TCs!

October 16th, 2012 9:40 PM

MWP is on Facebook!

In case you missed it, MWP has a facebook page where you can now connect with all of your fellow teacher-consultants and MWP friends.  If you haven’t already, please “like” the Maine Writing project Facebook page so you will remain in the loop about the happenings of MWP.  Do you have photos of your MWP institute or other gatherings?  Please feel free to share on the facebook page.

New Website Features!

Teacher-consultant from MWP 2012, Emilie Manhart, is now also working as the Editor of this website.  Stay tuned for some new regular posts, including a new “TC Spotlight” feature which will showcase the many talents and creative ideas of all of the amazing teacher-consultants around the state.  These features will focus on either the writing or awesome teaching practices already happening in classrooms across Maine.

So, TCs, here is where we need YOU:

TCs who are Writing:  Have you recently been published?  Been involved in a writing project?  Have a blog you’d like to introduce? Have a poem you want to share?  Working on a book?  If so, please email Emilie and you may be the next writer in the TC Spotlight.

TCs who are Teaching Writing:  Do you have a great idea for the teaching of writing?  Have a cool concept or project that has worked with your classes?  Could you share your favorite writing activity so the rest of us can use it too?  Do you have any innovative approaches to incorporating the Common Core State Standards?  Give us a glimpse into your writing classroom and you will be the next writing teacher in the TC Spotlight.

Please email Emilie if you are willing to be highlighted either as a Writer or Writing Teacher.

Check back for updates!



In the News…

September 11th, 2012 2:50 PM

In case you missed it, site Director Rich Kent and teacher-consultant Dave Boardman are in the press for current great work!

cleatsSite Director Rich Kent
is featured in the Fall issue of UMaine Today.  The article”Sports Writers: A UMaine researcher studies the impact of journaling on student-athletes” describes Rich’s work with team notebooks.  The article is in the print edition of UMaine Today and is also available online.  Rich’s own website, Writing Athletes, includes information on team notebooks and his book, Writing on the Bus.

TC Dave Boardman has joined the faculty at the Mid-Maine Technical Center at Waterville Senior High School this year, and The Waterville Morning Sentinel recently reviewed his new course in mass media communications.  In the article, “Hoping to go viral, students focus on social media, videography in new Mid-Maine Technical Center class,” Dave describes the course as both innovative and advanced, “more like a college course than one for high school students.”

Cynthia Dean '04 Named 2012 Baker Scholar

August 30th, 2012 3:04 PM

We are pleased to announce that Cynthia Dean, Ed.D. has been named the Maine Writing Project Baker Scholar for 2012. The Baker Scholar is awarded to a Maine Writing Project teacher-consultant who exemplifies thoughtful teaching, inspired scholarship, and important contributions to the Maine Writing Project community.

Dr. Cynthia Dean receiving award

Dr. Cynthia Dean, MWP ’04, receives the 2012 Baker Scholar Award from site director Rich Kent

Cynthia Dean joined the Maine Writing Project in 2004.  She has directed the MWP summer institute and is a member of our leadership team.  Cindy has been instrumental in building our initiative to develop student-staffed writing centers in secondary schools and is the coordinator of the MWP’s annual Maine High School Writing Centers conference.  Cindy is a former English teacher at Erskine Academy where she initiated that school’s writing center.

Dr. Dean is currently an Assistant Professor of Education at the University of Maine at Augusta.  She is also Coordinator of Teacher Certification at UMA, for which she developed a new secondary level program.  Dr. Dean received her doctorate from the University of Maine in 2011 with her dissertation on “The ecology of peer tutoring: Perspectives of student staffs in one high school writing center.”  She has presented and published widely to national audiences, including “Exploring the challenges of peer tutors in a high school writing center” in The High School Writing Center: Building the Best Program with Your Students (2011).

The Tanya N. Baker Scholar was established in 2008 in celebration of the contributions made to the Maine Writing Project and the educational community of Maine by our former co-director, Tanya N. Baker.  Past Baker Scholars include Debra Butterfield ’03, Janet Nordfors ’02, and Jean Plummer ’98.

2012 Annual Institute welcomes new teacher-consultants

July 24th, 2012 6:11 PM

teachers working

The 2012 Annual Institute of the Maine Writing Project concluded with the seven-day Institute on Teacher Leadership held on the Orono campus July 5-13.  Eleven Fellows completed the online Introduction to the National Writing Project during the UMaine spring semester and became teacher-consultants by completing the July institute that included a demonstration of their own teaching practice.
teachers discussingThis summer, an Advanced Institute in Teacher Leadership welcomed back seven teacher-consultants from previous years.  These experienced MWP teacher leaders mentored the new Fellows along with completing their own writing and investigation of teacher leadership.

working outside

This year’s institute included a morning writing and sharing with forty-eight writers from grades 3-12 at the Young Authors Camp on the Orono campus of the University of Maine.

Director Rich Kent to appear on NWP Radio

June 25th, 2012 8:00 AM

On July 12, 2012, NWP Radio will feature Maine Writing Project Director Rich Kent in a discussion of the influence of writing on athletic performance and learning.  Rich is the author of Writing on the Bus: Using Athletic Team Notebooks and Journals to Advance Learning and Performance in Sports.  He will be joined by the head coach of women’s soccer at Gonzaga University, Amy Edwards; 17-year-old premiere ski racer from Carrabassett Valley Academy, Sam Morse; and marathoner, blogger, and Sparrow Magazine editor Emilie Manhart.  The panel will be interviewed by Tanya Baker, director of National Programs for NWP.

A review of Writing on the Bus by MWP teacher-consultant Emilie Manhart may be found on NWP’s website and Kent’s resource website maybe found at

Congratulations, Dr. Dave Boardman!

May 2nd, 2012 10:16 PM

Dave BoardmanDave Boardman, co-director of the Maine Writing Project, successfully defended his doctoral dissertation, Educator Responses to Technology Influences in a 1:1 Laptop Middle School.  Dave’s dissertation committee included Maine Writing Project Director Rich Kent, an Associate Professor of Literacy Education at UMaine, and Dr. Tanya Baker, a UMaine & MWP alum, who serves as Director of National Programs for the National Writing Project.  Other committee members were Jan Kristo, Associate Dean of the UMaine College of Education and Human Development; Susan Bennett-Armistead, Associate Professor of Literacy Education at UMaine; and Julie DellaMattera, Associate Professor of Early Childhood Education at UMaine.

Dave Boardman has spent much of his career in education examining how students learn with technology.  A native of Meriden, Connecticut and Springfield, Massachusetts, he was awarded a Bachelor of Arts in Journalistic Studies and Political Science from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst in 1987.  Dave worked as journalist for a variety of daily and weekly publications before starting a career in teaching in 2002.  He was awarded a Master of Education in Literacy Education in 2005 from the University of Maine.

Dr. Boardman has taught students in English language arts, journalism, and multimedia communications at high schools in central Maine, and around the world through online courses he developed.  He is an adjunct instructor in literacy at the University of Maine, and has presented at conferences throughout the United Stated on literacy, technology, and student engagement.  In 2006, Dave was named Educator of the Year by ACTEM, the Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine.  His work has been published in the Journal of Maine Education, and by Heinemann and the National Writing Project.

Joining Dave’s committee for the open defense were Dr. Ken Martin, Associate Director of the Maine Writing Project, Dr. Cynthia Dean, co-director of the Maine Writing Project and Assistant Professor of Education & Coordinator of Teaching Certification at the University of Maine at Augusta, and Anne Miller, co-director of the Maine Writing Project.