Powerful Writers Program Inspired Seattle’s Youngest Authors

In this installment of 40 Years of Washington Stories, we look at Powerful Writers. Elementary school students found self-expression and confidence through writing with this Humanities Washington grant-funded program.

Humanities Washington is celebrating our 40th anniversary with 40 Years of Washington Stories. Each week on Spark, we’ll offer a snapshot from our past, sharing forty years of stories that have helped shape the humanities in Washington state.

From scraped-up legs to falling out of trees, the clip above contains the stories and insights that elementary school students explored during the Powerful Writers program. The young authors took personal experiences and developed them into narratives over the course of six weeks, receiving guidance from their classroom teachers as well as professional writing tutors. This particular program was partly funded by Humanities Washington, and features students from elementary schools in Seattle’s South End, where the program operated in 2004.

The Powerful Writers programs, developed by the Powerful Schools organization, followed an embedded professional development model. This model paired a specially trained instructor with an interested teacher, and once a week, the Powerful Writers instructor would lead a writing session in the classroom. The full-time teacher would observe, and during the remaining four days of the week, teachers would work with their students to help encourage daily writing.

The model not only gave students access to a professional writing mentor, it allowed the teachers to incorporate what they heard into their everyday teaching. Jeannie Collins-Branden, the education director for Powerful Schools, said that the embedded development model allowed for “teaching the students and teachers, side by side.” The Powerful Writers program has since been discontinued, but Powerful Schools continues to empower students through programs designed to encourage literacy and hone writing skills.

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