The Writers Room® Program

Community-based Writing Coaches

Partnerships and Affiliations

Partnering with schools and universities

The photographs were taken in the 2007-2008 school year.

The Metuchen Writers Room

A Response to a Questionnaire

When someone is interested in our program, we send out a questionnaire to help the writer develop concrete goals. We then provide the initial training for teachers and potential coaches.

A few years ago Marcia Holtzman told us about her plans to spend the first few years of her retirement starting a Writers Room in her district. We were delighted. Throughout her career Marcia has played a major role in both NCTE and NJCTE, helping to make the yearly NJCTE Writing contest a statewide focus. We wanted to know how the Metuchen Writers Room was faring, so we sent her a new set of questions...

For The Writers Room Program in Metuchen

Please write a paragraph for each of the numbered questions. The italicized questions are just to help you get started.

Q1. What does The Writers Room Program look like at Edgar Middle School?
Where is it?
Who uses it?
How many coaches do you have?
What are their backgrounds?
Who trains the coaches?
Have you added new things to the training?
What does a weekly schedule look like?

A. The Writers Room Program in Metuchen Public Schools is located in Edgar Middle School and is designed to serve students in grades 5 through 8. In the 5th grade the program takes place in language arts classrooms that are heterogeneously grouped and taught by the homeroom teachers. In grades 6, 7, and 8, the classes are ability grouped and taught by English and language arts teachers. In Metuchen, classified students are included in mainstream classes, so our coaches work frequently with children with special needs. This year we are also working with a class of gifted 5th graders.

Since we work only with classes in which the teachers have volunteered to participate, the range of our involvement varies from year to year. Currently we have 13 coaches serving 10 classrooms in grades 5 and 7 on a regular basis, or approximately 1/3 of the student population.

Our coaches are usually mothers with professional backgrounds, including lawyers, certified teachers, college instructors, and journalists.

The original cadre of coaches for the first two years of our program were trained by experienced Montclair coaches. In subsequent years I have done the training with the assistance of our Language Arts Supervisor. Typically each new coach participates in 6 hours of training in a small group. Since I am in every class every day in the Writers’ Room, there is ongoing modeling and orientation to the program and this works very well.

We have not added anything significant to the training. In fact, we have continued to use the original video from Montclair, which, although it is outdated in regard to particulars, still very effectively explains and demonstrates the essential premises of the Writers Room. [To view the video, click on “Videos” at the bottom of the screen.]

Q2. What are the most popular uses of the coaches?
Prewriting? Drafting? Revising? Final Edit?
Working with basic writers? Proficient writers? Advanced writers?

A. All of the above. In the classrooms, coaches meet with individual children in all stages of the writing process. In 5th-grade classrooms, meeting in small groups is especially popular. Students read their papers aloud and receive feedback from their peers and from the coaches for use in revision. The children know and respect the Writers Room rules: first talk about strengths, then offer suggestions. We still bring papers home for reading and responding to on response sheets, but perhaps not as frequently as we did in the past, for both teachers and students prefer immediate face-to-face interactions in the classroom. The teachers value the one-to-one conferencing with students most, and the children enjoy the personal attention to their text.

Q3. What kind of feedback do you get from students, teachers, parents, administrators?

A. Extremely positive. In May 2002, the Metuchen Board of Education honored us with formal recognition as a new and innovative program. Students look forward to Writers Room days. Participating teachers and the principal value the program. I frequently hear good things from parents. Unfortunately, there are still some teachers who choose not to participate.