NeWP Profile-Becky Streff
5th and 6th Grade Middle School teacher, North Bend
- Teachers as Writers: The NeWP Nelps Make Connections
to students and the Classroom
- The NeWP Provides Teachers with the Tools to Help Students
Experience the Writing Process
- The NeWP Helps Teachers Connect Students with Other Writers
- Writing Cafe
- Becky is a fifth and sixth grade Writing/Reading Teacher at North Bend Central Elementary School and currently has a total of eight years of teaching experience.
- She was a third grade Title I Teacher at Hawthorne Elementary School in the Lincoln Public School System for three years.
Professional Contributions and Accomplishments:
- Becky is a member of the North Bend Central School Improvement Committee.
- She participated and facilitated grant writing for Positive Behavior Intervention & Support to work with the Nebraska Department of Education
- North Bend Foundation Grant Recipient in the Spring of 2011 and 2012
- Nebraska Writing Project Mini-Grant Recipient in 2009
Involvement with NeWP:
- Becky has been on the Nebraska Writing Project Advisory Board since 2008.
- She attended the Tech Institute in the summer of 2008.
- She participated in Level II of the Nebraska Writing Project from August 2007 to June 2008.
- She also attended the Nebraska Writing Project in the summer of 2007.
Teachers as Writers: The NeWP Helps Make Connections to Students and the Classroom
- Becky went back to get her masters because she wanted to learn more about education and see what she could do to become an even better teacher. After she was introduced to the NeWP she says, “I just fell in love with it. It was one of the best professional development classes I had ever taken. We as teachers were able to teach, talk, and become teachers as well as students. I was able to make connections to the classroom that I never would have thought of before.”
- Because of her experience at NeWP, Becky realized a personal connection to poetry which allowed her to feel “more comfortable writing poetry and teaching poetry in the classroom.” It’s “such a difficult thing to teach and understand,” she says. “Once [she] had a grasp on it and realized it wasn’t as scary as it could be” she was able to help her students see it the same way and make it fun.
- “Some of the things I did with the Writing Project I continue to do today.” The Project pushed her as a teacher and as a writer and she was able to take those experiences and use them in the classroom to push her students as writers as well.
- Writing can be difficult and it can be a challenge, so to be able to show her students that she is writing along with them, that she enjoys it and takes part in the same projects they do, means a lot to them.
The NeWP Provides Teachers with the Tools to Help Students Experience the Writing Process
- “Before the Writing Project I had no idea what I was doing,” Becky said. Feeling like there was only so much she could do, she had taken control of the writing, “taking the pen away from the students and doing it for them, taking the ownership away from their writing.”
- “Now they choose what to write about” and they consider those ideas during a free writing time. “If they can’t think of anything to write about, I do provide them with a prompt,” Becky says, but it’s the only time she uses a prompt and prefers to encourage students to “brainstorm together and come up with their own writing so that it’s something they want to write about.”
Students in Becky’s class practice writing, reading each other’s writing and writing reflections about that writing along with other important steps in the writing process. “I never would have thought of that until the Nebraska Writing Project”, Becky said; the NeWP created an opportunity to look at the way students undertake writing in a whole new way.
- When working with students on a piece of writing, Becky says she tries hard to “make the students read back their writing,” asking “what are [you] proud of?” and making the students do the revising work their own. “The Nebraska Writing Project modeled that,” she says, “I try to ‘sit on my hands’ so I don’t revise for them because it teaches them nothing.”
- Another activity Becky credits the NeWP for inspiring is taking part in a writing marathon; “I don’t have a three hour time span like the Writing Project does,” she says, “but I have thirty minutes to an hour to take them places around the school or to the park so we can write about what we feel, hear, taste, see, and so on.”
- “I’ve adapted the writing marathon to meet students’ needs, and I never would have thought of it without the Nebraska Writing Project.”
- When asked what she hoped the writing marathons would achieve for her students she explained, “I am hoping writing marathons provide the students with a different perspective of writing,” that they will “see writing through different eyes and start to think think like writers. I want my students to view writing as fun and something you can do everyday with no limitations. Through the writing marathons I want students to enjoy writing and feel like they are successful writers.”
- In addition to creating a love of writing through connecting to students as a writer herself, Becky also connects her students to the writing of other students. “I have collected and kept copies of students’ writing throughout my teaching career. This allows me to pull them out and use them as examples to allow students to continue to develop as writers and help them with the writing process,” she explains. From those examples, students are able to see the writing going on elsewhere. They also have a conversation about what makes a piece good, and what could be done to make it better.
- One activity Becky adapted from the Writing Project is the Writing Cafe.
- “Every quarter students pick their favorite writing piece, practice it, and share it around the table. I invite teachers, foundation board members, and even high school teachers to come listen.” The Writing Cafe is meant to “continue to make students feel like the successful writers they are.”
- Invitations for the Writers Cafe are sent out well in advance of the event and it is enjoyed with popcorn or other treats. “Sometimes I ask other teachers if we can go into their room to share our writing with them,” Becky explains, and some teachers encourage conversation by asking “What process did you go through?” and talking about the writing. “Sometimes they’ll have their students share their writing as well” so the students not only get to share their writing with others, but experience the other side of the process by connecting with the writing of students from completely different classrooms. “The Writing Project made me think more about the connection of, not just writing in the writing classroom, but also writing across grade levels.”
- Likewise for her students participating in the Writing Cafe, Becky values the kinds of connections that a community like those in the NeWP provide, “anytime I have a question I can just shoot them an email and know that they’ve probably gone through it before.”