CAPTA Conference 2016: A First-Year Tutor Attendee Review

Natalie Glover is a current 10th grade tutor at Peters Township High School Writing Center in Pittsburgh, PA.

I am a part of the Peters Township High School Writing Center in Pittsburgh, PA, and this past year was my first experience at the CAPTA Conference.  Although I was not presenting, my peers had been working to prepare a presentation for several months, and I went along as support.  Our former writing center teacher had presented the opportunity to attend; I saw it as a chance to learn more about the possibilities for the developing a writing center back at our high school.  

Once the much anticipated day of the conference had arrived, I was nervous, not knowing exactly what to expect.  One of my friends (who was presenting) and I were there early enough that we were asked to help set up a few last minute details, and all of the adults were extremely welcoming and grateful for the help.  This immediate kindness from everyone involved calmed my nerves and assured me that it would be a great day.  

Once the introduction was about to start, all of the students and presenters had congregated in the main room, and I was amazed.  The loud, crowded room was filled with an amazing passion for writing and sharing ideas that would benefit everyone.  The atmosphere was relaxed and was encouraging to the flow of ideas.  Sitting there, I was almost overwhelmed with the magnitude of creative and ambitious minds in the room, but it was an unforgettable experience.  

Each of the sessions I attended was conducted in the same manner, not too formal, but still informative and intriguing.  Following each presentation, the group of coaches from Peters would discuss new ideas that were shared and ways that we could possibly adapt them to our center.  Many of these ideas have been implemented since then and have contributed to our success as a group!  

This was my first conference ever, and it was such a positive experience that it most definitely will not be my last.  I will even be presenting at  the 2017 conference along with my peers.  Hopefully, we will also be able to contribute to the sea of incredible ideas that are fostered throughout the gathering of different writing coaches.   

CAPTA’s 2017 Conference Keynote Speakers

The Capital Peer Tutoring Association is thrilled to announce our keynote speakers for this year’s conference CAPTA 2017: People, Purpose, and Passion to be held on Friday, December 8, 2017 in Arlington, VA!

We welcome Jeffrey Austin, founder-director of the Skyline High School Writing Center in Ann Arbor, Michigan and current IWCA Secondary School Representative, and Christine Modey, Peer Writing Consultant Program Director at the Sweetland Center for Writing at the University of Michigan, to share with all conference participants their experiences around meaningful collaboration across secondary school and university writing center sites. We look forward to hearing from Jeffrey and Christine, both during their dual keynote address on Friday morning as well as in their interactive workshops for directors in the late morning and afternoon. Conference registration is now open here.

Past keynote speakers at CAPTA events include Dr. Jennifer Wells (CAPTA 2016) from New College of Florida and co-editor of The Successful High School Writing Center: Building the Best Program with your Students and Dr. Andrew Jeter (CAPTA 2013) from Niles West High School in Skokie, Illinois and founder of the Chicagoland Organization of Writing, Literacy, and Learning Centers.

JEFFREY AUSTIN teaches Humanities and serves as the Writing Center Director at Skyline High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan where he was named a 2017 Washtenaw County Teacher of the Year. Jeffrey is also the current Secondary School Representative for IWCA.

His writing center life began as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan when his poetry professor nominated him to be a consultant in the Sweetland Center for Writing. Although he didn’t know it at the time, Jeffrey’s work at Sweetland would become an essential part of his teaching pedagogy, as he works to help his students multiply their funds of knowledge in their own writing through growth-oriented and process-minded dialogue. One of Jeffrey’s main goals in founding the Skyline Writing Center was to create a learner-centered space where peers could meaningfully dialogue with one another about any kind of writing at any stage of the writing process.

Since 2012, Jeffrey and his Skyline consultants have conducted thousands of sessions in their Writing Center, in classrooms, and online, organized three Writing Prize competitions to financially support emerging student voices, published five issues of Teen Spirit, an award-winning literary magazine, and formed an enduring collaboration with the consultants of the Sweetland Center for Writing at the University of Michigan.

Jeffrey earned his Bachelor’s Degree in Education and Political Science and Master’s Degrees in Teaching and Educational Leadership and Policy from the University of Michigan.

DR. CHRISTINE MODEY is a lecturer in the Sweetland Center for Writing at the University of Michigan, where she teaches directs the Peer Writing Consultant Program and teaches courses in peer consultant training and new media writing. She has taught first-year writing courses on the themes of art and technology; suffering, justice, and community; physicians and their patients; and the history of the book. Her current research, conducted with colleagues at Sweetland, concerns the interactions between writers and consultants in Sweetland’s Writing Workshop.

She lives, gardens, reads, and cooks in Ann Arbor with her husband, children, Labrador retriever, and two cats.

Spring 2017 Elections for CAPTA Tutor Representatives

This spring, CAPTA will hold elections for the two open student representative positions on the CAPTA Executive Board. Applications for the 2017-2018 CAPTA Student Representatives to the Executive Board due by Friday, May 26. The elected representatives will serve a terms from June 2017 to June 2018. Board members will meet on a monthly or bimonthly basis, as agreed upon by the Board itself via Google Hangout.

Student Representatives (two open seats): The elected student representatives will be responsible for providing input to the board and advising them on student-centered issues. As they are elected by their peers, they will have voting rights on the board. Student representatives will be responsible for reaching out to peer tutors, facilitating partnerships between schools, and maintaining peer tutor and alumni contact lists.

Tasks include:
Coordinating bi-monthly CAPTA tutor gatherings
Collecting and managing submissions for and editing tutor-written CAPTA Blog posts of the week
Designing and helping distribute promotional materials via the web and in CAPTA schools
Corresponding with and planning events with CAPTA school-based liaisons
Other tasks to help further CAPTA projects, such as those associated with the annual conference, the directors’ retreat, and partnerships between CAPTA schools

Any current peer tutor at a CAPTA-affiliated secondary school writing center is eligible to apply. Student representatives should expect to participate in CAPTA activities approximately 2 hours per week in addition to attending meetings. Representatives are also expected to communicate with the Board on a regular basis. One year term.

Please consider running for a position. Serving on the board is a great way to promote the work of writing centers, meet writing center colleagues throughout the region, and gain valuable learning experiences.

How do I apply?
Complete and submit this Form by the May 26 deadline.
Online elections will be held from May 29-June 2. We will send a link to the voting ballot to all CAPTA Writing Center Directors. They will share the link with their tutors.
The new board members will be notified via email by June 7 and officially welcomed at a“transition board meeting” held by our current Student Representatives on a date agreed upon by those attending. This meeting will occur over Google Hangout.

Thank you and please contact me with any questions.

Stephanie Passino
CAPTA Board Secretary


The Capital Area Peer Tutoring Association (CAPTA) exists to build community among secondary school writing and learning center directors, tutors, and partners; promote advocacy for peer-driven programs that transform schools by empowering student leaders; and support development and sharing of local resources for new and existing centers.

Website: www.captawritingcenters.org
Twitter: @CAPTATutors
Facebook: CAPTA Writing Center Tutors

Writing Center Spotlight: Hawk Writing Center

Social media: Twitter @HSWritingCenter ; Blog http://hawkwritingcenter.weebly.com/
Director: Stephanie Passino SLPassino@fcps.edu; @Ms_Passino

Hayfield Secondary School is home to almost 3,000 7th-12th grade students. It is a very diverse school located in Alexandria, VA in Fairfax County. Our writing center is made up of 36 students this year; 14 second year tutors and 22 first year tutors. Our center primarily functions during the school day (lunch periods) and was established in 2013.

What makes our center unique is the fact that we can support 7th-12th grade students during the school day. Since we are a secondary school, we have the opportunity to support our younger writers and show them that the writing is not only a process but that it should be collaborative. We’ve also worked very hard to make our center reflect our school’s population in terms of students gender, race, grade level, etc.

Our center supports all subject areas, but we primarily work with history and English classes (most likely because those classes assign the most writing). We’ve hosted several workshops (college essay workshops, SOL writing workshops, science fair writing workshops) over the years. To make these workshops so successful, we typically co-host them with the Career Center or honor societies. We have also been supporting the 5th graders at the elementary school across the street. This outreach program takes place twice a week during our class. Tutors work with the elementary school students on various writing skills.

Our writing center is a part of the Advanced Composition class. We are on a block scheduled, so the class is held during 5th and 6th period (2 sections), our lunch periods. In order to be a tutor, students must take the class. Students can take the course for three years and earn 3 years worth of elective credits.

Within each class period, there is a student who serves as our Writing Center Recruitment Chair. This student works closely with me to come up with new ways to advertise our class and incite students to become tutors. To recruit, we generally hold a meeting after school and present at our electives fair. I also ask all of the English teachers for students they would recommend for the program. Once I get their names, I’ll send them a letter to let them know that they were recommended for the class because of their writing skills and leadership abilities. This recruitment strategy has worked well in the past, but we are always looking for new ideas. With required courses such as Personal Finance and gym, students often have limited space for electives in their rigorous schedules.

WIthin our center we have committees and leadership roles. The leadership roles include: Tutor Manager, Tutor Manager Apprentice, Statistical Analyst, Event Organizer, Outreach Coordinator, and Recruitment Chair. Students apply for these positions. Each class typically ends up with 2-3 tutor managers. These roles have different responsibilities. The descriptions are included in one of the handouts. Each class also has designated committees. The goal of the committees is to delegate work and tasks for major projects (workshops, fundraisers, etc.) The committees are as follows: Teacher Relations, Student Relations, Media & Marketing, Technology & Communication, Fundraising, and Event Liaison. These roles and committees have been modified/adapted from the roles Centreville High School used in 2012.

My proudest accomplishment is building our center from the ground up. I developed an interest in the high school writing center while student teaching at Centreville High School. My advising teacher, Alison Hughes, was the director, and she inspired me to create a center that fosters creativity, collaboration, and critical thinking.

I’ve designed/adapted the majority of the assignments in Advanced Composition to align with Kelly Gallagher’s, Write Like This, text. He advises that students practice writing for “real-world” purposes. Students focus on a particular form, audience, and purpose with each writing task.Tutors go through the writing process just like the tutees that come to the center. The tutors continuously get tutored to reinforce good tutoring practices and to learn new techniques. In our center we use the principles and practices from The Bedford Guide for Writing Tutors to train our new tutors. After reading several chapters of the text, tutors role-play scenarios, participate in small group discussions, and reflect on their new take-aways through writing.

Our Mission Statement: “The Hawk Writing Center seeks to provide students with quality assistance through peer tutoring. We aim to foster the growth of writing skills within our community through active collaboration in a positive environment where creativity is encouraged.” Our class created this statement in 2015.

I’m hoping to refine the mentor-mentee program our center has adapted over the past two years. I don’t think I use the experience and skills of our 2nd year tutors as much as I could when training the new tutors.

As a CAPTA member school, our writing center has all of the resources to reach out to other centers, but we haven’t quite made this happen. We attend the CAPTA conferences, a few tutors joined a CAPTA tutor get-together in the fall, and are going to the retreat this summer, but our outreach with other centers generally ends at this point. My goal for this year will be for our tutors to visit at least one other writing center.

Workshop with an ESOL class – students were brainstorming and organizing ideas for a Hero Essay.

Tutors delivering “Good Luck” smarties to our 8th and 11th grades classes before the Writing SOL.

Tutor Training – Discussing the types of “hats” tutors wear during a session.


2nd year tutor presenting the basics of the college essay at our annual College Essay Workshop.

Keeping Cool Under Pressure: Presentation Tips for the 2017 CAPTA Conference

Beth Harar is an At-Large Member of the Capital Area Peer Tutoring Association. Questions? Email her: bethany.harar@lcps.edu

For the last few months, you’ve worked hard to put together a solid proposal for the CAPTA 2017 Conference. Your proposal is organized, engaging, and original. You’ve submitted it to the CAPTA committee and are one-hundred percent ready to wow your audience.
There’s just one little snag – you actually have to stand up in front of your peers and pull it off.
For some of us, presenting in front of a crowd is easy. For others, not so much. However, there are some important public speaking and presentation tips everyone should keep in mind for the big day.
1. Dress for Success
Remember – you are attending a professional conference, so you want to dress the part. Look classy, but keep it comfortable. If you aren’t accustomed to walking around in three inch heels, a day-long conference is not the place to break them in.
2. Be Friendly and Make Eye-Contact
Your audience is genuinely interested in what you have to say. Greet them with a smile and make eye-contact during your presentation. This engages your audience, and makes you an approachable presenter. Practice with your family and friends; it gets easier with time.
3. Speak Up
Chances are, you’ll be in a room packed with people. More bodies means more background noise. Make sure you speak clearly and loudly so that your audience can hear your words of wisdom. When you first start your presentation, don’t hesitate to ask the people in the back if they can hear you. By doing so, you grab their attention and can start strong.
4. Avoid Distractions
Most people are naturally nervous when they present. Be conscious of repetitive movements, like pacing, swaying, or foot tapping. Practice your presentation as much as you can to avoid unwanted words and sounds like “um” or “uh” from dominating your workshop. These distractions can detract from the important information in your presentation.
5. Interact With Your Audience
Don’t be afraid to walk around and talk to your audience. It’s a great way to engage them in the presentation, and to encourage participation. The best times to do this are when they first enter the room, while you have them completing small tasks or group work, and while they are packing up to leave. Not only will they feel more connected to your presentation, but they can offer unique insight and ideas you may not have considered.

If I can offer one last piece of advice, it is to be yourself! As a writing center tutor, you have valuable experiences to share with your audience. Relax, take a deep breath, and remember that your audience is here to learn from your valuable experiences.

Leave the Filibuster to Congress: Knowing and Engaging Your Audience

Leave the Filibuster to Congress: Knowing and Engaging Your Audience

Seth Czarnecki is the Social Media Manager for the Capital Area Peer Tutoring Association. Questions? Email him: seth.czarnecki45@gmail.com

We’ve all been through it. A presenter with a Powerpoint (maybe a Prezi, if they’re cool) gets in front of a room and speaks for forty-minutes without taking a breath. You have some ideas about the topic but are forced to keep them to yourself as the presenter drones on. By the time the ‘Questions?’ slide appears, the presenter’s time is up.

We teachers have found ourselves in this position when we were in school, and oftentimes, we still do during faculty meetings and professional development workshops. For you students, listening to an unengaging presentation is likely something with which you are all too familiar.

When crafting your presentation, consider the needs of the audience. As writing tutors, you like to talk and are more comfortable when doing so. You operate best in the noise of the writing center. So rather than monopolize the time, engage your fellow tutors and bring them into the presentation with a few simple techniques.

  1. Engage with a question. As tutors, you know the value of a question. A good question can lead the conversation in the direction you want it to go while inviting the writer to participate. The same can be true of a presentation. By leading with an engaging question (about your topic, of course), you communicate that the audience matters—and they do. Once you’ve fielded answers, you can build off of and refer back to audience insight throughout your presentation.

  2. Use a poll. Audience participation is hard, especially when they may not know the people around them. To get feedback without having to engage in the question-wait-hope for an answer model, unleash the power of technology. There are a variety of online tools (PollEverywhere, Participoll, and others) to poll your audience on questions relevant to your topic. Hear what the audience has to say without having to surrender the time to hear them say it.

  3. Get ‘em moving. Many of your audience members will have just arrived from lengthy bus rides. After sitting for an extended time, they may be ready to move. Harness this energy by building in opportunities for them to get out of their seats. You can adapt several teaching strategies, such as the “take a stand” technique or the “stand-up, sit-down” game, to incorporate movement.

As you begin designing your presentation, consider your audience and embrace the collaborative power of the tutoring session. Doing so will make your work that much more memorable.

Open Forum: The Proposal Drafting Process Struggles and Successes

Open Forum: The Proposal Drafting Process Struggles and Successes

Trisha Vamosi has directed the Eagle Writing Center since 2015. She is the Web Curator for the Capital Area Peer Tutoring Association. Questions? Email her: tvamosi@mcpsva.org

At this point time, if tutors/directors followed the timeline from Kate Hutton’s February 13th blog post, tutors/directors should be finalizing the secondary draft this week. Instead of creating a traditional blog post that leads you through another step of the proposal drafting process, I’d like to open up the conversation for tutors and directors alike to share any questions or concerns they have run into during their instruction or drafting process. As comments arrive, the questions or feedback will be posted on this post throughout the week.

Please fill in the form below in order to respond and share your questions, struggles, or successes. Thank you! 🙂

Creating a Snapshot Session with Middle School Students

Renee Brown teaches 8th grade ELA south of Pittsburgh, PA. She is a new member to the CAPTA board, serving as the middle school representative.

Susan Frenck teaches 7th grade English at Irving Middle School in Fairfax County, Virginia. She is the director of the newly founded Irving Middle School Writing Center and the CAPTA board treasurer.

The opportunities for middle school students even to attend a regional conference, let alone to

present at one, are exceptionally rare.  However, CAPTA offers just such a unique learning experience to middle school students through “Snapshot Sessions.” These are 10-minute presentations given by one or two middle school tutors; each Snapshot should focus on a single issue of relevance to middle school writing centers.  This begs the question, how do I help my tutors create a Snapshot Session for this conference.  Susan and I are both middle school teachers and WC directors who are facing that exact task as we write this post.  In the hopes of encouraging other MS directors, here are some snippets of our processes and what we hope are helpful insights.

Renee: My middle level WC is based on conversation: conversations between students around writing and conversations between me and the tutors about their “coaching.”  So, it made sense that I started my search for a presenter with a conversation.  I spoke with students who are not only strong tutors, but those tutors who are also strong public speakers. While you may consider having this chat with all your students together, I prefer more individualized discussions.  One-on-one, I explained what the CAPTA conference is about and what it offers.  I then sent the students away with a page full of questions to consider: What do you do when X type of kid comes to the WC; What do you do when X happens during a tutoring session.

Wait time is important at this age, so I gave my students a few days to ponder the questions related to the conference theme.  The next conversation with those students asked what insight they have to give to other MS tutors based on the work they have done. I asked questions like, “What are the best/most successful/most difficult sessions you had this year.” These conversations varied in length, but talking about what each tutor saw as his/her expertise was vital.  Based on these conversations, each potential presenter can craft his/her proposal.  It’s a bit cliché to use the “think-pair-share” model, but that’s essentially the format that is currently helping my tutors to draft a proposal for the Snapshot Sessions.

Susan: The writing center at my school uses Google Classroom as a way to communicate and collaborate. I plan to use the platform to help my tutors generate Snapshot session topics. By using question feature, I can ask the tutors to reflect on their experiences and provide answers that will be displayed for the group. Some questions I will ask include (1) “What is something that has surprised you about your work in the writing center so far?”, (2) “What is something you think the students at our school would like to experience in the writing center?”, and (3) “If you could share one interesting idea or lesson with other middle school tutors about writing centers, what would it be?” I expect that those answers will provide solid starting points from which we can create excellent proposals.

Since the Snapshot Session format was inspired by Ignite sessions, I plan to share some effective Ignite examples with the tutors (http://www.ignitetalks.io/). The emphasis in showing Ignite sessions will be on the length, focus, and variety rather than on the specifics of the Ignite presentation format. Once the students see how a single good idea can become an effective, albeit brief, presentation, the tutors will have a better frame of reference and feel more comfortable with the idea of crafting their own presentations for CAPTA 2017.

 

 

Why Should You Present at CAPTA 2017?

As a normally shy student, who does not like to volunteer to talk in front of large groups
of people, the idea of submitting a proposal, knowing there is a presentation in front of strangers
in my future, is daunting. However, I decided to present at CAPTA 2016, and recommend that
you do it too. Here’s why:

  1. The chance to present at CAPTA is a opportunity that few students get in high
    school. Successfully presenting at a conference (or maybe a few) is a great
    experience to have before going off to college or getting a job. Also, presenting at
    a conference looks great on college applications and resumés. It shows your
    dedication to your school and writing center, as well as your drive to share your
    ideas and help others.

  2. Usually for school presentations, the topics are not subjects we are passionate
    about; however, at CAPTA you get to talk about something you are interested in.
    As tutors, we enjoy teaching others and are excited to share our knowledge, so
    why not share your knowledge with other people who are just as passionate as
    you are!

  3. Going along with that, at CAPTA, you get to hear great new ideas from other
    schools that you can bring back to your own center. For example, at the
    conference last year, a school suggested that we hang promotional fliers on the
    back of bathroom stall doors where people are forced to look at them. My school
    hadn’t thought of that! We come from new and old writing centers, each having a
    different perspective on problems. The CAPTA conference gives us a place to
    share our different backgrounds and offer solutions to each other’s problems.

  4. There are many of us who dislike public speaking, but the only way to get better
    is to practice. Presenting at CAPTA is a fun way to get your practice in, and since
    you aren’t getting a grade, it alleviates some of the stress that come with school
    presentations. Besides, you will be in a room with tutors who are excited to hear
    what you have to say and want you to do well, so it can’t really be that bad!

I hope this has inspired you to submit a proposal, and we look forward to seeing you at the
conference this year!

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at jennycbrent@gmail.com.
Jenny Brent
CAPTA Student Representative
Hayfield Secondary