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Writing in Design helps students unlock their creativity by giving them structure and confidence in the classroom. Although giving students detailed instruction for writing may sound like it zaps the creative process, Amber Parks from Writing with Design believes otherwise. The Mississippian turned

Aug 19, 2015

Writing in Design helps students unlock their creativity by giving them structure and confidence in the classroom.


Although giving students detailed instruction for writing may sound like it zaps the creative process, Amber Parks from Writing with Design believes otherwise. The Mississippian turned Oklahoma resident has spent the last eight years of her career helping educators make writing easy, relevant, and doable for their students.

During the 2014–2015 school year, Parks visited the Arizona K12 Center three times to provide training to teachers working with grades three through five. Due to glowing reviews and a high demand for this training, the longtime educator will return next year, offering opportunities to teachers working with grades three through eight.

Parks says her trainings are worthwhile, not only because they are hands-on and minds-on, but also because they align with the Arizona College and Career Ready Standards.

“My ultimate goal is that teachers leave each session with ideas and activities that they can implement on Monday. One should know that we will never talk about whether or not students are behind in writing because none of us will ever ‘arrive’ as a writer. There are always things we can work on,” Parks explained. “We throw out the window the idea that writing should feel overwhelming. The Writing with Design training takes allows teachers to work with students where they are, showing them, step by step, sentence by sentence, paragraph by paragraph, how they’re going to get to the next level.”

Enticing remarks aside, what might surprise participants is that Parks preaches structure to enhance the art of writing.

“We don’t treat any other subject like we do writing, in the sense that we’d never say, ‘for the next 20 minutes I want you to science.’ But, most writing instruction happens that way in the classroom. Students and most adults don’t know what to do when they’re told to get out a journal and write,” she said. “So I offer a structured and systematic approach, just like we do with every other subject. It’s not limiting them by providing guidelines. Instead, we’re unlocking their creativity by giving them confidence.”

Many members of the Valley of the Sun United Way Literacy Learning Cohort attended Parks’ trainings this year. According to Kathleen Paulsen, an Instructional Coach for the Balsz Elementary School District, she hopes to implement the learned writing strategies district wide.

“Our district does not have a formal writing curriculum in place. Every school and each classroom teacher approaches writing in a different way,” Paulsen admits. “We want teachers to teach with fidelity, using what we learned from the Writing Made Easy workshops at the Arizona K12 Center.”

Fortunately, Parks has the data to prove the power of her trainings.
“We’ve seen tremendous changes in test scores. Every school that has implemented Writing with Design has seen double-digit increases in their test scores, typically within one year, but always in two years. All of this is because we get into the heart of what writing instruction is about. We find ways to bring meaningful writing into the classroom, allowing it to become a seamless thread that’s woven throughout the school day,” she explained.

Visit the Arizona K12 Center's website to learn more and register for upcoming learning opportunities at the Arizona K12 Center.

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