The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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For Educators

Best Practices in the Teaching of Writing

This Year’s Program

75-minute Workshops 

A: Toward an Antiracist Literature Curriculum

This session will address several common concerns held by ELA teachers committed to teaching antiracism via literature instruction. Participants will gain new insights on current teaching practices and classroom texts. They will be introduced to ready-to-use critical reading strategies drawn from Critical Race Theory, and, by racializing Reader Response Theory, will reflect on how to engage students in thoughtful dialogue around race and identity. Presenter: Sam Briggs. 

B: Trauma-Invested Strategies: Simple, Successful, & De-Stressing

This presentation will share examples of trauma-invested strategies that were initiated from a student-led participatory action research project conducted within a secondary classroom in Connecticut. The project assessed students' perceptions of effective teaching and assessment strategies based on relationships, responsibility and regulation. Sample strategies include community circles, formative assessment, and assessments using a growth mindset approach. Data collected from students reflect students' perceptions of the strategies as de-stressing. Presenter: Kimberly Hellerich. 

Paired 35-minute Presentations 

C1: Staying Connected with the Wild Places

This presentation will explore a years-long project hosted by the National Writing Project and National Park Service called Write Out, which provides numerous entry points for educators and young explorers/writers to find inspiration in the public and private spaces of the world around them, and maybe just beyond. The session will provide place-based learning resources and focus on efforts to highlight marginalized voices in public lands as well find a smaller focus on the places just around our own corners, and how we can encourage students to tell those stories, too. Presenter: Kevin Hodgson.  

C2: 'I am a writer!': Building Students' Sense of Self-Efficacy as Writers 

This session will explore research on the connection between how students feel about themselves as writers and the quantity and quality of their writing. Together participants will consider what steps they can take as educators to ensure their classroom encourages all students to identify as writers. Presenter: Sarah Banning.

D1: Effective Vocabulary Instruction: Building Students' Capacity for Word Magic, One Practice at a Time 

Vocabulary instruction is an opportunity for students to develop an appreciation and awareness of the magic of words. This session will explore innovative strategies for vocabulary instruction and acquisition among adolescent learners and striving readers and introduce practices for improving student capacity for vocabulary acquisition from the research of Anita Archer, Beth Curtis, and Nancy Hennessey. Additional resources for self-paced exploration will be provided. Presenter: Stella Onochie. 

D2: The Question Formulation Technique: A Model of Student-Centered Inquiry 

This session will prepare teachers to utilize the Question Formulation Technique, a strategic model of student-centered inquiry, to help all learners develop and sharpen the literacy skills needed to engage in academic exploration. Participants will examine the strategy, preview examples, and experience the process. QFT will be modeled as a mechanism to support student investigation of topics such as anti-racism, human rights, and equity. Participants will be invited to consider how QFT's instructional practices can open doors to authentic civic engagement and informed action. Presenter: Peter Vamosy.

Bonus Sessions!

5-minute pre-recorded video presentations to watch during breaks or after the conference will be posted online.

The registration form and more information can be found on the 2021 Best Practices event page.


Meet Our Keynote SpeakerDarnell Williams stands in front of artwork, smiling at the camera.

WMWP is excited to announce that Darnell Thigpen Williams will be this year's keynote speaker at Best Practices! Currently the Associate Director of Professional Development at the Massachusetts Department of Youth Services and the Collaborative for Educational Services, Darnell has over 25 years of experience in a variety of educational settings, as well as extensive training and expertise in strategies that promote culturally responsive and sustainable practices in support of equity, justice, and transformation.