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The Gift of Writing Well

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Emerson School and Hacienda School

Every summer, Emerson School of Palo Alto and Hacienda School of Pleasanton open their doors and offer their innovative programs in a camp-like setting to outside students who want to share in the summer adventures.

Students discuss literary, film, and music "texts," produce a series of writing products in response to them, and respond to ideas and concepts our teachers introduce in conversation. At key points throughout the day the faculty provide students with individualized coaching in thinking, conversing, writing, revising, and presentation skills.


Three courses are offered during the summer of 2016. "Expository Writing" focuses on writing mechanics and prose forms used in school assignments. "Creative Writing" encourages the development of self-expression and imagination. "Presentation Techniques" develops public speaking skills, with an emphasis this year on the use of persuasive appeals, tools, and techniques.


The goal of the Write Now! program is to encourage students to love writing because the more they enjoy it, the more they will write and the better at writing they will become. This is done four ways: by (a) engaging students in intriguing material, (b) writing quickly, (c) writing a lot, and (c) only sometimes focusing on the mechanical flaws of punctuation and spelling. The absence of letter grades also helps students enjoy the whole writing process. At the end of each day, students have an opportunity to go back and complete unfinished pieces as well as rewrite pieces they like. These works are then presented to the whole group in the "Authors' Workshop." Parents are invited and, indeed, encouraged to attend these sessions.


Many parents are surprised by how much their students enjoy writing when given a chance to do it in a Write Now! format. In the formal evaluation that students turn in as their last writing assignment, almost all students say they would recommend the camps to a friend because they feel that their writing has improved significantly. Parents are also surprised by the high level of interest students express in very sophisticated ideas and concepts when given the chance to exercise their analytical skills fully. Rather than simply being a summer diversion for their students, enrollment in a Write Now! course is a gift that will last a lifetime and might even alter the course of a life. Students of the Expository Writing and Creative Writing camps produce a "Literary Review," a compilation of the students' favorite writings, that is published at the end of each week. Every student is given a copy of the review without charge.


Students are separated into three groups: lower elementary (grades 2-3), upper elementary (grades 4-5), and middle school (grades 6-8). Though there are whole-group presentations, as well as group instruction on techniques and rules, much of the work is done in smaller groups (e.g., five to eight students) that are conducted in the same way as graduate-level university writing workshops.


Since the Write Now! program is part of the regular curriculum at the year-round Emerson School and Hacienda School, the regular teaching staff are available during the summer. They are supplemented by former students of the two schools who are outstanding writers and competent to assist during the summer camp program. The average ratio of helpers to students is roughly 1:8.


The actual camp program run s from 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM. Extended care from 8:00 AM until 6:00 PM is available at no extra charge.


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