Abell Salutes: The “Writing to Learn” Program of the Maryland Writing Project

November 1988 / Salutes / Education

If a student improves his writing, does he as a consequence improve his ability to learn? Does writing well lead to learning well?

“Writing to Learn; a program devel­oped by the Maryland Writing Project, is committed to the idea that it does. Thus, the project undertakes to have students learn better by teaching their teachers to teach them to write better.

Working on a three-year grant from The Abell Foundation, the project trains teachers in the techniques of using writing strategies to help students increase their knowledge of subject matter. To date, 20 Baltimore City Public School teachers have participated in the 1988 “Writing to Learn” summer institute. Before the program concludes, it is ex­pected that 400 teachers from 45 Balti­more City Public Schools will have taken the special training, and will be employ­ing it in their teaching of writing.

After less than a semester, it is too soon to gauge the program’s results. But one of the teacher-participants, Beverly Ellinwood, principal of School #228 (John Ruhrah), feels, “One reason it’s working well is that it’s non-threatening to teachers, they are volunteers. They aren’t tested on the training, they have a relaxed attitude about learning it, and so they bring a special enthusiasm to both learning and teaching. Students are the bene­ficiaries.

“I think because those of us who took the training are now better at teaching our students how to write, our students are writing better, and learning better.”

Which, on a considerably broader scale and designed to affect greater numbers of teachers and students, is the goal of the project. It is a goal to which The Abell Foundation is pleased to lend interest and support.