Noted Writing Scholar Peter Elbow to Keynote Writing Project Conference at UMass Amherst

Peter Elbow

AMHERST, Mass. – Peter Elbow, one of the most distinguished scholars in the field of writing studies, will be the keynote speaker at the Western Massachusetts Writing Project’s annual Best Practices in the Teaching of Writing Conference on Saturday, Oct. 19 at noon in the Fine Arts Center Lobby at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

In his talk, “What Everyday Unplanned Spoken Language Can Bring to Careful Writing,” Elbow will argue that spoken language is not the enemy of literacy despite the widespread prejudice against the loose tongue. Drawing on his recent book, “Vernacular Eloquence: What Speech Can Bring to Writing,” Elbow will show how talking is full of precious linguistic and rhetorical virtues that careful writing badly needs.

The conference, which will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in Bartlett Hall, is open to all area educators.

Elbow, professor emeritus of English at UMass Amherst, has won several honors for his work, including the Exemplar Award given by the Conference on College Composition and Communication, a division of the National Council of Teachers of English. His books, starting with “Writing without Teachers” in 1973, have helped generations of writers. He has originated or brought to the mainstream concepts that are now central to teaching writing from kindergarten through college, including free-writing and low- and high-stakes writing. Elbow’s theory and practice have also been at the heart of the work of the National Writing Project since its beginning.

At the Best Practices Conference, the Writing Project will also honor Jack Czajkowski, professor of education at Elms College, with its annual Pat Hunter Award for distinguished service to WMWP. The award, which honors one of the founding directors of the Writing Project, is given annually to a member of the WMWP community who has contributed substantially to the work of the project. Czajkowski, a resident of Hadley, has been a member of the Writing Project since 1997, when he was a middle school science teacher. Over the years, as a Writing Project teacher consultant, he has led many professional development workshops in local schools, focusing particularly on using writing in content areas such as science. He also delivers workshops on writing and digital literacy. At the national level, he has twice represented the Writing Project at the National Writing Project Annual Meeting and participated in meetings to set national science standards.

The conference will also feature sessions led by Writing Project teacher consultants on digital literacy, using writing to learn in all subject areas, working with English language learners, and teaching practices to help students develop specific writing and reading skills.

The Western Massachusetts Writing Project, which serves more than 1,000 teachers annually, is affiliated with the English department and College of Humanities and Fine Arts at UMass Amherst. It is also a site of the National Writing Project, the most significant coordinated effort to improve writing in America, with sites at nearly 200 university and colleges campuses across the country.