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Sunday, September 24, 2023

New RRVWP Website!

 Click HERE or the banner below for our NEW WEBSITE!

RRVWP Teacher Blogs now found on our new site: click, bookmark, share, and contact if you have a blog post to share with our community of writing teachers!

Monday, September 4, 2023

Summer Institute 2023 Blog Post: Abby Schumann (Turtle Lake-Mercer Public Schools)

 🏫📚 Exciting news from the 2023 Summer Institute! 🌞📝 

We had the absolute pleasure of learning from one of the shining stars in education today - Abby Schumann, a dedicated 6th grade teacher from Turtle Lake-Mercer school. Abby led a truly invigorating teaching demonstration that was nothing short of inspirational.

The topic? Haunted houses. But this wasn't your typical Halloween lesson! 🏚👻 Abby masterfully used the concept of haunted houses to engage us in a deeper understanding of the elements of storytelling - theme and setting. With her guidance, we delved into the eerie atmospheres and captivating narratives that haunted houses encompass.

But the lesson didn't stop at simply appreciating the art of storytelling. Abby showed us how this seemingly simple project could evolve into a civic opportunity for our students. By designing their own haunted houses, the students can foster creativity, community engagement, and civic responsibility. A remarkable way of blending education and societal involvement, isn't it?

Thank you, Abby Schumann, for sharing your passion and expertise with us. You've taught us more than just how to construct a story around a haunted house. You've given us a blueprint on how to creatively instill crucial lessons in our students, encouraging them not just to learn, but to grow as active community members.

Looking forward to implementing these incredible strategies in our classrooms soon! 🍎✏️

#SummerInstitute2023 #HauntedHouseLesson #Education #CivicEngagement #InnovativeTeaching #AbbySchumann

Monday, August 28, 2023

Summer Institute 2023 Blog Post: Erika Dyk (Watford City Public Schools)


Erika Dyk, an esteemed middle school teacher from Hazen, not only guides her students in the classroom but also leads readers on journeys through her captivating novels - 'Hope is the Color of the Sun,' and 'The First World Last Word Quests.' Joining her was Kamri Kitzmann, a young writer and 6th-grade student from Center-Stanton, who has shown us that age is no barrier when it comes to sharing wisdom and insights!

Their combined teaching demo was truly a unique one - focusing on how to disagree without the drama. An essential skill in our increasingly connected world, wouldn't you agree? 🌐💡

They took us step-by-step on how to establish clear rules and guidelines with the class, creating an environment where students can respectfully voice differing opinions. By instilling these classroom norms, they demonstrated how we can foster a space that encourages safe and productive debates.

Through this insightful demo, Erika and Kamri have given us the tools to help our students navigate disagreements while maintaining respect for differing viewpoints. This approach will undoubtedly nurture not only intellectual growth but also emotional intelligence within our classrooms.

Here's to implementing these norms and watching our students learn to articulate their thoughts, appreciate different perspectives, and grow into empathetic individuals! 🏫🎈

Thank you, Erika and Kamri, for sharing your expertise and wisdom with us all at the Summer Institute. 🙏

#SummerInstitute2023 #DisagreeingWithoutDrama #ClassroomNorms #EducationalGrowth #ErikaDyk #KamriKitzmann

Monday, August 21, 2023

Summer Institute 2023 Blog Post: Donna Davidson (Center Public Schools)

 📚📝 A truly dynamic week unfolded at our RRVWP Summer Institute, thanks to the brilliant co-facilitation of Donna Davidson. 🌟🏫 

Donna led us through a rich exploration of Civic Writing, using engaging activities from 'Writing for a Change' by the National Writing Project. From exploring the varieties of milk to thought-provoking discussions and effective coaching sessions, Donna brought an energy and wisdom that infused every activity.

The depth of her expertise became even more evident as she provided useful resources and shared invaluable contacts throughout the week. The titles she carries - 2018 Gilder-Lehrman ND History Teacher of the Year and 2021 NDCTE English Teacher of the Year - reflect her passion and dedication to education. 🥇🎉

But Donna's impact didn't end there. She also played a crucial role in forming the group's name - "Delightfully Participatory." A name that now symbolizes a collective striving towards active learning and engaged discourse.

As we reflect on the week, we are reminded once again of why Donna Davidson is such a remarkable educator. Thank you, Donna, for sharing your passion, knowledge, and practical strategies with us. We look forward to carrying these lessons into our own classrooms and beyond!

#RRVWPSummerInstitute #CivicWriting #DonnaDavidson #DelightfullyParticipatory #EducationalExcellence #InspiringTeachers

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Scholastic Art & Writing Awards


The North Dakota region is offering cash prizes and scholarships again this year, and we’re looking forward to reading your students’ creative works! Students can create an account and ENTER WRITING HERE.


Whether your students are still in the planning and brainstorming phase, or have writing that they are already developing and polishing for this year’s Scholastic Writing Awards, encourage them to join the FREE WRITING WORKSHOPS, led by NDSU Creative Writing Instructor, Jamee Larson!


Saturday, November 5th from 11:00 am - 1:00 pm on ZOOM (link below)

Sunday, December 4th from 4:00 - 6:00 pm on ZOOM (link below)


And let students know about Jamee’s writing group, “WORD HERD,” that meets every Monday from 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm on ZOOM (same link below). Word Herd is an informal, social gathering for teen writers to play writing games, work on writing, share writing and get feedback (if you want), and sometimes just talk about writing and life! Word Herd is a free community group, open to all teens, and they’re welcome to show up any Monday that works!




The FREE writing group and writing workshops are held on Zoom using the same Zoom link:


Thank you for supporting student writing and encouraging them to enter their brilliant and creative work in the Scholastic Writing Awards! The Scholastic poster and “How to Enter” link is attached. Entries must be complete and submitted by December 14th at 11:00PM.


Or just Click HERE to enter the Scholastic Awards and submit work!

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Summer Conferences: NDCTE and NWP Midwest!

Check out the request for proposals for this summer's National Writing Project Midwest Conference in Chicago! Hosted by our friends at the @illinoisstatewritingproject July 15 & 16! 

Hope to see you there! Call for proposals HERE


And don't forget to join us for NDCTE (North Dakota Council of Teachers of English), in Mandan, July 19 & 20! 

Information and registration HERE!


Monday, April 25, 2022

Involvement in the Writing Project Can Change Your Life

By Erika Dyk


I was in my second year of teaching and a postcard showed up in my school mailbox, a postcard advertising the Northern Plains Writing Project Summer Institute from Minot State University with an option to participate in a cohort in Bismarck. My friend, roommate, and fellow second-year English teacher received the same postcard. We signed up. I had no clue what a life-giving experience it would be.

For a few weeks, we began the day writing and sharing our writing together. We shared our best teaching moves, learned together, and most importantly supported each other. 

On the page, I met thinkers like Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, Jeff Anderson, and Nancy Atwell. In the classroom, I met teachers from across North Dakota.

I walked into the experience not fully believing I was a writer; I walked out not just knowing I was one, but also inspired and equipped to help my students find their writer selves as well. To this day, the word writer has opened up so many doors of understanding and enjoyment.


I was a first-year graduate student in the English Department at North Dakota State University. My TA office was down the hall from Dr. Kelly Sassi, Director of the Red River Valley Writing Project, and next to the RRVWP library. I was adopted into the RRVWP and a few writing retreats, writing marathons, and writing groups later, I not only had refined my writing game, but had made some deep friendships. 

I walked into those writing experiences knowing I was a writer; I walked away with a rich writing community. To this day, whenever I see an opportunity for a writing project--whether it is the Northern Plains Writing Project or the Red River Valley Writing Project--I know to pay attention. Because those experiences, they might just change your life.  

If you are interested in experiencing a summer institute, apply below.

Apply Here by May 1st:


$500 participant stipend. 3 credits. In-person on NDSU campus (June 11, June 20-23, and June 27-30).


NDSU campus housing available for $38/day for out of town participants.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

The Conference That Changed Me: My NDCTE Journey

By Angela Hase

It snowed again. Even though we are in April. And I already put away my winter jacket. The white flakes coating the ground are making me moony for summer. I am ready for rest and revitalization. One of my favorite summer teacher events to get this much-needed reset for the new school year is the North Dakota Council of Teachers of English Conference. When I think about all of the memories I have made over the years, it is easy to see how important this event is in my routine: 

In 2013, Ryan Goble, author of Making Curriculum Pop, modeled what an effective inquiry-based lesson using collaboration would look like. At that moment in my teaching career, it was eye-opening. I understood what questions to ask students and how to structure group work to help them have purposeful discourse instead of just mindless talk. I still use his graphic organizers in my classroom. 

In 2015, Penny Kittle led a morning writing group that I was fortunate enough to attend. She picked a prompt, wrote beside us, and shared her work. I wasn’t expecting her to actually read what she had written because it was just a rough draft jotted down in 10 minutes. I remember being impressed at her willingness to be vulnerable. The stakes were higher for her to share. She was the professional, after all. I thanked her for giving us that moment with her, and it inspired me to share more of my rough work in front of my students, a practice I continue today.

2017: Swimming around in new ideas with Erika Dyk

In 2018, Erika Dyk strummed the music of Aladdin's “A Whole New World” while she and I sang our teacher parody (“We Can Open the Doors”) to a room full of our professional peers. They stared at us in amazement and bewilderment. Eventually, they joined in and sang along. It was all things embarrassing and silly and heartfelt. Together, in this big ballroom, as we all laughed and sang and swayed to the plucky sounds of ukulele, I added to my community.

2019: Ready to take flight with Lisa Gusewelle

Last year, I arrived in great need. We were all emerging from isolation and drained from the online schooling world. I reconnected with teachers from across North Dakota, people I only see once a year, at this conference. Over the years, they have become my friends. We laughed and commiserated about the last COVID years. Surrounded by teachers sacrificing summer days, I found joy and passion. I left excited and refreshed.

These few examples do not begin to describe everything I have learned or taken from this conference. Nor have they even dived into the quality of speakers this conference books. I have learned from Kelly Gallagher, Jeff Wilhelm, Harvey Daniels, Donalyn Miller, and more.

2019: Meeting my professional idol, Kelly Gallagher

This year's conference is set to be another great one. It features three keynote speakers: 

I will be there, hopefully glowing from the summer sun, ready to learn and ready to reset. 

If you’re interested in joining me, check out the registration information on NDCTE’s website.

Monday, January 24, 2022

2022 Summer Institute: "Many Stories"

We all need meaningful community, interaction, and connection with each other as colleagues and fellow human beings—now, more than ever. The RRVWP’s Summer Institute offers a meaningful community like no other professional development that I’ve encountered. Many of us can attest to the lasting connections and personal growth that it has nurtured in our hearts and minds. This year’s focus will be on writing stories, and using stories to connect and understand. Together we will hone our approaches to teaching narrative writing, and our own capacities as story-tellers.


Teachers can earn 3 CEUs and receive a $500 stipend by participating in professional development for 45 hours (over 9 days) on June 11, June 20-23, and June 27-30. Space is limited to 7 participants. Applications due Saturday, April 23rd. Notification of acceptance by Sunday, May 1st.  The institute will be led by RRVWP co-directors Angela Hase and Benjamin Melby. 


Apply Here:


Please forward this blog and application link to your fellow committed teachers and instructional coaches!


2022 Summer Institute/Many Stories


Instruction Mode: in-person, Minard Hall, NDSU campus

Course Description:

The RRVWP’s Summer Institute offers participants a place to read, discuss, share, and grow--as writers and as teachers of writing. Outstanding local teachers share best teaching practices through hands-on teaching demonstrations, book discussions, and writing groups. Readings, writings, and teaching demos will cover best practices for teaching narrative writing, analyzing stories, and using stories to improve equity in writing instruction. 


  • learn and apply the current best practices for teaching and engaging students in the process of narrative writing and the analysis of narratives.
  • learn and apply the current best practices for a more equitable classroom: teaching that enables marginalized voices to tell their many stories, encourages a more complete understanding of the world, and works toward social justice.
  • grow in the understanding of teaching and learning writing through engaging in our own writing practice, reading current research and theory, reflecting upon our own writing processes and workshop experiences, and learning from other experienced teachers. 
  • demonstrate growth in giving response to writers by modeling responses in class and by describing appropriate classroom strategies.
  • become familiar with a wide range of print and on-line resources for teacher development and instructional use, including the materials from the National Writing Project network.
  • develop leadership capacity in teaching writing and using writing to help students learn.
  • create teaching demonstrations (after seeing teaching demonstrations by RRWP teacher consultants) which will be aligned with and exceed the Common Core State Standards.  


Texts & Readings:


So, What's the Story?: Teaching Narrative to Understand Ourselves, Others, and the World

(Fredricksen, Wilhelm, and Smith)



Monday, December 13, 2021

How Writing Project Leaders Change the Way Teachers Lead

 A profile of RRVWP co-director and C3WP teacher-leader, Angela Hase

BY Lisa Gusewelle

Angela Hase (Credit: Angela Hase)


I was in my second semester of my Master’s program at North Dakota State University when my advisor and Red River Valley Writing Project director Kelly Sassi introduced me to both an extraordinary leader and an extraordinary opportunity. I can tell you that through my experience in many different teacher organizations (National Council of Teachers of Mathematics, National Math + Science Initiative, North Dakota and National Council of Teachers of English, North Dakota + International Literacy Association) that none of those organizations took the time to develop me as both a leader and a teacher. Within those other organizations, I was a filled chair in an audience of listeners hoping to take the inspiration of an hour or so lecture and turn it into inspiration for a full school year.


All of these organizations are high quality and share a great deal of valuable information with teachers like me. They offer me a chance to hear from some of the greatest educators in the United States where I otherwise wouldn’t have that chance. Yet, why did I still feel alone in my teaching career? Why did I still struggle year after year and never feel satisfied at the end of a teaching year? Was I not meant to be a teacher?


So What Did the Writing Project Do Differently?


In 2016, Angela Hase led me through the introductory workshop of the National Writing Project’s College, Career, and Community Writers Program. It was exhausting.

She had me and the other teachers

  • Writing
  • Reading
  • Speaking
  • Listening 
  • Thinking


These were not fun and cute tasks either. They required me to have to go back and re-examine my thoughts, words, writing, and the text, and then forced me into conversations with people who thought differently while challenging me to truly listen and respond.


I was a trained English teacher! Yet I found each of the three 8-hour sessions of that introductory workshop incredibly difficult. This was my supposed specialty. Should I really have found it so hard?


What I started to learn about my career through Angela Hase is that a true professional in a career is not finished with training at the end of their bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate degree. Knowledge and success in teaching are not simply gained by years of teaching experience or attending featured speaker sessions (though, those are fun!).


Knowledge and Success are Gained Through Conversations with Others and Hard Work!


I recall the awe of watching Hase lead teachers in sessions for the next 3 years as both a participant and a co-facilitator. She held control over the full session and organized the activities we completed, yet participants in her sessions were developed as leaders and asked to lead as well through small discussion activities to offering questions of other participants to even leading a session within the workshop.

I was not a body filling a chair surrounded by other bodies filling chairs. I was an active participant and was an active leader within a group of professionals who were also active participants and leaders.

It was my first time that I …

  • Felt respected in my career
  • Respected other teachers in my career who didn’t have published books and featured lectures
  • Thought I was being listened to as a teacher
  • Was openly willing to admit my faults and struggles in front of other professionals
  • Was willing to struggle in front of others
  • Made friends with other teachers
  • Valued myself as a growing professional and leader and evaluated myself honestly and without fear
  • Read the books of those featured speakers at the conferences that I attended
  • Was given the time, practice, and feedback to become a better teacher and leader


Prior to the C3WP, I overvalued being able to do hard things without support. This showed up in both my personal and professional life. What I was not considering when I refused help was how I was actively preventing my growth as a person and teacher. This inaccurate thinking began to be deconstructed as I listened to peers who shared many of the same experiences as me and as I began to admit that in order for me to become the teacher that I wanted to be that I needed to look for resources to help and that I needed to be humble.


So How Do Angela Hase and Other Writing Project Leaders Create This Learning Experience?

  • Offers Accountability and Opportunity for Hard Work
    • The Writing Project and its participants don’t only have you learn in the summer and then expect you to implement such major changes by yourself. Each month teachers get to share with the people they met in the summer about the changes they’re implementing and hold themselves responsible for goal setting throughout the school year.
  • Offers Guidance and Listens to Guidance
    • Because both leader and participants are open about struggles and asking questions on how to solve problems in their classrooms, everyone gets the opportunity to share insight and gain insight.
  • Asks Hard Questions
    • Most of the questions asked of me at professional development sessions (and let’s be honest: questions I asked my students) were to verify if students had heard and understood what I or the text was saying. Hard questions allow for speculation, interpretation, and adding in one’s personal experiences. I remember completing a difficult activity and wanting to first share what I created during the activity, but then being set back on my heels with the question: How would you approach doing this activity in your classroom? Woah! That’s right. I am not simply there to be the learner, but I am there to lead activities, and I need to be mindful of how to do that.
  • Allows Teachers to Practice
    • It sounds strange to practice reading, writing, speaking, listening, thinking, and teaching, yet that is what we did or had the opportunity to do at each session.
      • With reading, I had not realized how much my abilities had suffered after not reading and discussing books for so long with other adults.
      • With writing, I had not realized how much anxiety I had developed over getting started and sharing my work.
      • With speaking and listening, I had not realized how absent I was during conversations with others.
      • With thinking, I had not realized that I would frequently go with my gut reaction and not question or challenge myself.
      • With teaching, I had not realized how much I benefitted from hearing encouraging words and critical feedback.
    • Supports Teachers through Difficulty
      • There were many times throughout Hase’s College, Career, and Community Writers Program that I considered quitting. I was making teacher moves that I was not used to. I was not succeeding as fast as I had planned. I was not excited about showing my or my students’ weaknesses around other teachers. Yet Hase and the teachers that she helped me to cultivate relationships with during the initial institute and throughout the year somehow kept me going despite the struggles and failures and misunderstandings and fear.
      • If Hase had judged me based on how I began or allowed other teachers to judge me based on my very beginnings, it would have been what I had become accustomed to, and I very likely would have faded into the background and quietly gave up. Instead, they helped me see that even where I found failure, there were places of great success.
    • Provide Agency and Opportunity to Teachers
      • Hase and the program she led us in provided us with activities that were meaningful and relevant to us. We each had a place at the table where we were treated as respected equals, who were there to grow through a challenging and worthwhile program like the College, Career, and Community Writers Program. Not only that, but we were given opportunities to lead what we learned amongst other teachers in a quote commonly referred to by writing project people as “teachers teaching teachers.” It was strange to think that I and not some hired company could help lead other teachers like Hase led me. It was strange that I was encouraged to do so!


Writing Project and The College, Career, and Community Writers Program (C3WP)


Exciting possibilities lay ahead as we learn how leaders like Angela Hase and programs like the C3WP can affect teacher efficacy. By recognizing how these effective teachers lead, we contribute to enhancing cognitive restructuring of teachers which contributes to their increased self-esteem and by providing them with meaningful relationships and professional development.


So if you’re at a place in your teaching career that you feel alone and unheard, if you’re looking to become a better teacher, if you want the opportunity to become a great leader, look up your local writing project site. I know that I will always be indebted to Kelly Sassi and Angela Hase of the Red River Valley Writing Project in North Dakota for giving me the opportunity to develop and shine as a teacher.


Take care, fellow teachers!