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Background research and findings

et502's picture

Initial Findings: Before visiting Wordsmiths’ physical site, I was able to access a great deal of information about the organization through other sources. My initial research about the organization was online. Wordsmiths has a stable online presence– a quick Google search brings up their Facebook page, LinkedIn, Twitter, Wikipedia page, and Vimeo site. To me, their constant output of information suggests an air of both transparency and playfulness. The organization is constantly sharing its goings-on with the online community. For example, a tweet from February 12 reads, “Dorsey Dog visited tutoring today, but despite Erica’s very enthusiastic urging, he did not eat anyone’s homework.” Further, this statement provides a glimpse of the kinds of relationships that are possible within this organization – good-natured, sometimes silly, and friendly. On the Facebook page, photos of daily activities or events, invitations to workshops, and many paragraph-long excerpts of students’ writing, are posted every 2-4 days. Wordsmiths’ website also includes students’ writing, with “Student Work” as the first tabbed section on the website; this page contains stories, magazines, and other projects that have been published/formatted online through sites like Scribd. 

To learn more about Wordsmiths’ programming, I also met with Mariah Thompson, the Director of Programming. She told me a little more about the organization’s goals, workshops, and students’ work and online presence. During our discussion, we watched one of the videos that a group of students created with the help of a college-age tutor. Mariah explained that the students had to describe every moment that they intended to act out before they advanced to the filming process. She spoke about this project as a strategy to get students engaged in writing, and explained a frequent thought process: asking, “what are the kids interested in, and how can we take this another step?” Incorporating multimedia – like the production of this video – into the projects is one way to increase attendance. Another method is incorporating science into workshops – this gets lots of students, particularly boys, interested in attending. In other words, the goal is to make writing fun, rather than taxing. The writing programs – most of which are free – include drop-in afterschool tutoring, writing workshops, camps, and in-school assistance with student publications (Wikipedia).  

Plan for my Involvement: My primary involvement in the site will be through the tutoring program, though I may also spend some time working on a newsletter, or helping plan a summer fundraising event. Mariaha described the structure of tutoring sessions as such: students work on homework for the first portion of the afternoon, and then spend 20-30 minutes free reading (either on their own, or with a tutor). Following this, they have recess and snacks; students can select games that will help “grow their brains” – meaning that volunteers encourage students to choose games that are intellectually stimulating. Following this break, students engage in a mini-writing workshop.