More Thoughts on High School Writing Centers

Maybe you aren't sold on the idea of a writing center yet. Maybe you're especially wary of the idea of kids helping kids. . . I encourage you to think of it differently. Maybe a tutor will tell a student something wrong occasionally. Who wouldn't?? But is it better to not have a program simply because of the fear of that occasional wrong answer than to let students have a shot at a right answer? Besides, students are never forced to change their papers to meet the tutor's standards or comply with their suggestions. Think of it merely as a second opinion. Murphy and Sherwood describe tutors as people who help writers achieve their goals (1995): could you ask for more than that?

Maybe your concerns stem not from your doubts of the effectiveness of the program, but from a lack of space, funding, staffing, etc. in your school. That's not as much of a problem as you think: the writing center philosophy can be incorporated into the classroom with or without a writing center. Simply providing time in class to let students read and respond to each other's papers is one example.

Where to go for more Information

This listing includes several web pages that I have found helpful in learning about writing centers. To the best of my knowledge, the McCallie School and the Webb School are the only secondary school that have web pages for their writing centers: I learned a great deal about the role of the writing center in secondary schools just surfing their pages.

I also included two research sites: the NWCA has articles and links to all online writing centers on their home page. ERIC is also an excellent search engine to use if you want to do more research on writing centers: their resources are vast and relate only to education.

Last, but not least, I included the home page of the University of Richmond's home page because it's the one I happen to know the most about: that's where I have been trained to tutor and where I hope to continue tutoring for the rest of my career here at the University of Richmond.

ERIC (Educational Resources Information Clearinghouse)

McCallie School

Webb School

University of Richmond

IWCA (International Writing Centers Association)

In terms of traditional paper-type resources, my works cited list makes it obvious that I would suggest The St. Martin's Sourcebook for Writing Tutors, written by Christina Murphy and Steve Sherwood (published by St. Martin's Press, 1995). This book has a broad theoretical foundation that covers just about every aspect of a writing center you can think of. Another personal favorite of mine is The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors, written by Leigh Ryan (published by Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1994), which is a more practical "what to do in this situation" type of book. It is simple and straightforward: I would recommend using it in tutor training because it is very easy to read, understand, and apply. Pamela Farrell has also published a book called The High School Writing Center: Establishing and Maintaining One (1989). In my experience, a great deal of the published literature about writing centers deals with colleges and universities; this book is highly recommended within the "writing center community" for those who are working with high school writing centers.

Journals about writing centers also exist: two which I am familiar with are The Writing Lab Newsletter and The Writing Center Journal. Other English journals occasionally publish articles on writing centers as well. The St. Martin's Sourcebook also mentions WCenter, an online electronic network focused on writing centers (1995). If you have Internet or Bitnet access and wish to subscribe, send an e-mail message to LISTPROC@UNICORN.ACS.TTU.EDU. Do not include a subject heading. On the first line of the body of the message, type Subscribe Wcenter <your first name><your last name> and send the message.

I would also like to reemphasize two other Web pages to which there have been links throughout this maze of hypertext: the first deals with the logistics of establishing a high school writing, including such topics as writing center atmosphere and tutor training (LINK TO JOCELYN). The second deals with incorporating the principles of the writing center into the classroom (LINK TO EMILY). I hope that this page has answered some of your questions: if you have more, feel free to e-mail me, Kristel Widner.

Comments? Mail to Kristel Widner.

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