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Recent Blog Posts

Op-ed Part I

An op-ed is a short (maximum length three paragraphs or 500 words) opinion piece where someone tries to persuade someone towards a certain view point using a combination of facts and personal experiences and beliefs. You will usually find an op-ed on the opposite side of the editorial section in your local newspaper. Learn how to express and edjucated opinion through this journalism tool. 

First, find the op-ed section of your local paper to get a sense of the opinionated style. Read one or three pieces. 

Second, as a practice, write a humorous op-ed about a decision your parents or guardian recently made that you disagree with. In 500 words or less, bring in the facts about why your opinion is the correct opinion. 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Megan Charland, 2015]



Is there a special place in your community that is under threat? You can advocate for this place. Write a letter to the local newspaper. Contact officials and make a strong, persuasive argument.

  • Is there a special place in your community that has been changed, removed or is under threat? A playground where you met some of your best childhood friends? A swimming hole? A forest? A sledding hill? 
  • Don't stand by and watch.
  • Organize like-minded people. Write letters to the editor and local officials. Include photos and your best memories of this place. AND make a strong persuasive argument for why this matters -- not just to you, but to the community. 
  • Ask for a meeting with the officials, and make your case, face-to-face.
  • It might not be too late. Act now!

[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang]

Jul 28


Record audio of what your communities sound like. Use that sound to create a piece of writing that will help you gain a greater understanding of your communities. 

We belong to different communities, and every community we belong to, communicates to one another in a unique way. 

First, make a list of all of the communities you belong to. Pick two or three of those communities you belong to, and, specifically, participate a lot in. 

Second, record two minutes of audio from each community. Maybe you end up recording a song in band practice, or the clicking of needles in a knitting club, or the dinner conversation your family is having. Record the sound of the community. 

What you could do with this sound: 

Listen to each sound and reflect. Do these sounds accurately portray your community? Write two or three separate poems about what it feels like to be in each of these communities. While you write about a specific community, listen to the sound recording you made for that community.  

If your classmates wrote poems, listen to their sound and read their poems. Comment on their pieces. 

Read one of your poems to one of your communities while playing your sound recording. Do they feel like you captured the essence of your community? 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Nathan Ballif]

Jul 27
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HELP -- The Concept

Concept and Details

“If history were taught in the form of stories, it would never be forgotten.” 
 Rudyard KiplingThe Collected Works


This program is a complement to your curriculum, tools to encourage your students to practice writing and digital media, explore their communities and tell stories. Why is this important? 

  • Storytelling is the root of good writing and all writing, regardless of genre, benefits from narrative approaches.
  • Students’ interest and proficiency in writing declines as they progress through the grades.
  • YWP’s experience shows there is a correlation between storytelling, interest and performance, particularly if students can explore their own ideas.

YWP embraces the importance of mastering the fundamentals of writing – grammar, usage, punctuation, form, structure, point of view etc. YWP also understands the rigors of today’s school curricula and expectations. However, YWP believes in developing strategies that deepen youths’ interest in writing and increase their interaction with peers will increase their engagement, proficiency and confidence.
This program is aimed at helping you, the teacher, bring a little storytelling back into the classroom by providing digital and content support. We provide you:


  • An easy-to-use digital classroom website of your own where your students can privately share work and give each other comments.  
  • Content: challenges (exercises) and resources designed to progressively get students to explore and find stories in their community and go deeper with storytelling, research, digital media and editing. 
  • Support -- both technical and content-oriented -- from experts with Young Writers Project, a small, award-winning nonprofit based in Vermont that has, since 2006, connected with 100,000+ youths, partnered with 2,000 teachers and published best work of 17,000 youths.

The site is powerful and is designed for both student interaction, revision and your and their ease in accessing the work.

The content is flexible – and was designed that way – so you can adapt it to your own curriculum and your own style and methods. But we do know that the challenges and resources we’ve assembled will help. Your students will be able to focus on what interests them: their communities and the people, places, events and issues that shape their lives. They can hone observational skills and their ability to research, learn how to give and receive specific feedback, take pictures, capture audio, edit and polish their work and find audience. They’ll gain a sense of purpose. They'll also have a little fun. 
And our support is available for both technical aspects of using the site and in using the content to the fullest extent.

We have created a separate document on life-long skills that can be gained with use of this program: independent, informed and critical thinking, digital literacy, clear and effective communication and citizenship. You will be able to survey your own students, but past surveys -- and two independent studies -- of thousands of students using our platform and programs have shown that students work harder, improve their performance, gain confidence about and a more positive feeling about writing and develop a greater understanding and appreciation of their students. This is due, in large part, to how teachers use the platforms to foster good peer-to-peer commenting, allow students to determine content and minimize judgment (grading), particularly on early work.

DETAILS:  Writing is both discovery and a process. When youths understand and accept the process they discover more and have greater success. They must be given the time -- and opportunities -- to explore many ideas so they can select the very best and gain enthusiasm as they go deeper. Here’s how we define the process flow:

Idea >> Research >> Draft >> Feedback >> Editing >> Digital Media >> Polish >> Audience

 There are three structural concepts to this program: Challenges, Resources and Workshops.

  • Challenges are, generally, one step exercises; they could be called prompts or exercises or assignments. The intention is to get the student going, to explore ideas and/or to dive deeper in gaining skills or mastering steps. These are intended to be achievable.
  • Resources are support materials for challenges – tips, more detailed instructions, exemplars or additional web resources.
  • Workshops are a collection of challenges, in sequence, that lead to a larger finished project.

The challenges on https://mycommunity.ywpvt.org have, in most cases, already been tested in classrooms; we know they work. They have been developed by teachers, youths, YWP staff and experts. We have organized the content around "tags" that equate to each of the process steps (along with the Common Core text types), such as idea development, research, editing, etc. You can sort by tag and choose whichever challenge you'd like to move to your own digital classroom (website). We have made it easy for you to import content from mycommunity to your own site.

On your own digital classroom site you can schedule the challenge or group several of them together to create a sequential series in a workshop. (See the Basic Help page for details 
https://mycommunity.ywpvt.org/node/258 .) You can edit these challenges as you see fit and/or create your own.

YWP's bank of challenges and resources will continue to expand during the year as a variety of experts add more detailed challenges on various aspects of storytelling, writing and digital media skills building. Feel free to ask for challenges we have not covered. We also will be adding resources.
As to support, we'll set your site up as soon as you want and in early fall, we will be announcing a round of video conferences and live chats for technical aspects (September and early October) and on the content (monthly, beginning in late October). We will try to schedule two times for each video conference so as to make sure as many teachers can participate because part of the experience will be discussion and sharing of experiences.
NOTE: YWP will be offering a 2-credit Master’s credit (or it can be audited for licensure credit) course that will accompany this project. Please check with https://mycommunity.ywpvt.org for more details in late August.



Use words and/or photos to describe the place where you feel most at home.  The best pieces will be selected for Young Writers Project's digital magazine, The Voice.

If we are fortunate, there is a special place where we feel at home. It could be the family kitchen, a favorite beach, a treehouse, a bookstore, a bedroom. Where do you feel safe, content, at home? Describe this place.
Or create a slideshow that captures "home."

(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Dylan Sayamouangkhua, 2015)

Challenge > Basic Grammar: Punctuation
Jul 27
Grace's picture

Basic Grammar: Punctuation

Most people avoid learning about grammar like it's a 2:00pm test on a Friday. Yet, grammar is not only important for making your work polished and professional, but it's important in terms of comprehension as well. Here are five basic punctuation rules you should know. 

  1. The apostrophe. The common mistake people make with the apostrophe is that they use it to show that something is plural. The apostrophe should actual be used to show possession in a singular or plural situation. 


If the possession is singular, the apostrophe should be placed before the ‘s’ at the end of a word.

If the possession is plural, the apostrophe should be placed after the ‘s’ at the end of a word.   


Singular possession: The dog’s ball, ripped to shred with love, was the only toy he slept with at night.

Plural possession: The humans’ dog didn’t love them as much as he loved his ball.

      2. The colon. The common mistake with the colon is that people use it like a comma. The colon is used to extend something, or to introduce something. 


A colon is used to transition into a list, to elaborate on a point, to introduce a quotation, or to introduce a subtitle. BUT, a colon can only be used after a complete sentence (an independent clause), but what comes after doesn’t need to be a complete sentence.


    The list: My mom and I always follow the same routine when we go to Cape Cod: we take a long walk on a beach, we try and spot some whales, and then we eat fried pickles.

    Elaborate: The pencil is the best thing to write with: you can write, and you can erase.

    Quote: My father always ends his work emails with a quote: “Keep smiling.”

      3. The semicolon. So many people are miffed by this piece of punctuation they don't even know where to start when using it. Just remember, a semicolon can be used as a "super comma" or a "super period." 


The semicolon can replace a period to connect two related complete sentences (independent clauses). OR, a semicolon is used as a super comma to separate listed items that need commas within the subjects of the list.


Super period: The cat ran all around the house at a speed formerly unknown to the world; she rolled around in a pound of catnip just minutes before.

Super comma: I have friends from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Vienna, Virginia; and Lincoln, New Hampshire.

      4. The hyphen and dash. Just remember, the hyphen is the small one used to connect words, and the dash is the big one used to separate and connect phrases. 


The hyphen is used to connect words. You’ll often use a hyphen to combine nouns that create one “thing,” or to combine adjectives that describe one noun.

The dash (technically the em dash) can be used in the place of parentheses, the colon, and the comma. People usually use the dash instead of the other punctuation options to create emphasis or drama.


Hyphen: My mother-in-law, a red-headed woman, instantly started to get a sunburn in the July sun.

Dash: All of my friends — even Margot and Erika — liked their breakfast at Handy’s diner in Burlington, VT. They had all heard the food was only okay — they were very wrong.

[Creative Commons Lisence: Nate Angell, non-commercial, https://www.flickr.com/photos/ixmati/]



Research and interview an elder in your town. You will create a valuable digital story that will provide a unique look at the history of your community.

This challenge will require several sessions -- but it will be worth it!   (Click here for a resource for this challenge.)

Choose an elder in your community -- it could be a family member, a friend, or someone you've never met, but who is willing to talk to you -- and interview them. Get them to tell you stories. (If it's a relative, get them to tell you a story that they haven't told before, or, at least they haven't told you.) (Ask for help from a teacher, family member, even the staff of a local retirement home.)

1.  Get the story  

  • Before your interview, prepare your questions -- everything you'll need for a fair and complete profile. Correct spelling of the person's name? Date of birth? How long they have lived in the community? Family members? Occupation? etc.
  • And because you're curious and you want to write a great story, think of questions that will elicit more than a yes or no answer. Ask your interview subject about anything surprising, interesting, unusual, funny that they think people should know about them.
  • Set up the interview. Bring an audio recorder and ask your interview subject if they would mind being recorded. This helps with accuracy and will be an important element of your digital story.
  • If your interview subject has one really amazing story, you might decide to focus solely on that one story. Or you might choose to write a full profile and just include the story as part of it. (Either way, make sure to ask plenty of questions to cover all the bases.)
  • After your interview, look over your notes. If you see gaps, you might ask for a followup interview.

2.  Write  

  • With the interview information still fresh in your mind, write your first draft on your blog. Get it all down. Listen to your audio recording to fill in any gaps and/or to accurately convey some of the best quotes. Read it over and take a first pass in organizing it.

3. Comment

  •  With a classmate, exchange posts and comment on each other's pieces, noting details that work, questions, confusion, flow. 

4. Write again  

  • With comments in mind, revise your work, proofread and polish it. Reading the piece aloud helps highlight mistakes and stumbles.

5. Add sound and images  

  • If you have audio and photos from the interview, you can create an amazing digital story. There are many options, including narrating the story using your written piece, including the back and forth conversation from your interview, pulling together the best quotes, adding current and historic photos, etc. Audacity and PhotoShop are great tools (more in Resources).

Remember to check out this resource for inspiration: Frank Glazer - An Elder Story.

Exercise Extension:

Invite senior storytellers to your class to tell their stories. Interviewing and writing their stories can be an amazing group project!


(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Madeline Green, 2015)

Jul 27
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HELP -- The Basics

The basics to get you started.


To create a stand-alone challenge:

  • Hover over the CREATE menu item in the upper right of your site; select Add a Challenge.



  •  In Create Challenge form, give your challenge a short title; choose up to 3 genres; provide a short summary of the action you want the student to take. 


  • Click ADD MEDIA to add an audio, embed media or add image or images (use Advanced Upload to drag and drop multiple images to create a slideshow).



  • In “Body”, provide details of your challenge, including action steps, links to resources and exemplars. You can add media within the body of the challenge if you wish by clicking the small photo icon in the editing tool bar. Scroll down and Save.


  • If you choose a Date, it will automatically post the challenge in the Calendar. If you choose “Live” status, the challenge will automatically be put in the Challenges sort in the main menu.


  • If you wish to include a downloadable file with your challenge, you can upload it to the Download field for your students to download to their computers.


  • To post, students click RESPOND at the bottom of your challenge. Their content will automatically be linked and visible below the challenge or in the "Challenge responses" tab.


  • To create a challenge for a workshop: FIRST, create the workshop.  Click the “Create Challenge button” at the bottom of the saved workshop; 

  • NOTES: Make sure to give the challenge a summary; the challenge will automatically appear with the workshop; each challenge will appear in the order it was created. (To change order, change the time/date of the challenge’s creation by editing the challenge.)
    • Students should click VIEW to see the full challenge. Their content will automatically be visible below the challenge or in the "Challenge responses" tab.




  • NOTE: Be patient. Sometimes it takes a while for the Node Export view to load. 


  • Go to your site, log in, and under CREATE menu, you’ll see Import Challenge/Resource. Click that and you’ll see this: 


  • Paste or upload the file.



  • You will see a link at the top when the process is completed; click it to make sure the challenge came in correctly; edit to make changes OR to assign to a workshop you’ve created by choosing the appropriate workshop in the Workshop field.


Jul 27

Environmental Portrait

With this activity, you will be learning the digital art of taking environmental portraits. You will be analyzing your own community, as well as gaining a greater understanding of what a person's identity looks like in a certain community setting. 

An environmental portrait IS NOT a picture of nature. An environmental portrait is a staged photograph of a person in an specific environment, or with objects, that describe who they are visually. An environmental portrait could be a chef holding a cake, or a writer smiling in a library, etc. 

First, think of all of the communities you belong to. Think of communities that have multiple interesting and unique qualities to them. 

Second, take an environmental portrait of each person in that community — including yourself. Show who the person is through your photo. 

Third, create a slideshow of all of your images. Think: what connects this community, yet what are the traits that are unique to its members? 

Think: what about each of these people, and this community as a whole, can you not capture in an image? 

[Photo Credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Derek Pham]



This is a year-long project. Create a photo story that shows how your community celebrates various holidays through the seasons. 

  • Reflect on how your community celebrates holidays. During these holiday times, take a walk around your community and document what you see.
  • Take photos of decorations, parades, that special spooky Halloween house, the Harvest market, anything that captures the essence of the time. 
  • Observe and write down the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings you encounter on your walk. Record as much detail as you can.
  • Collect the photos and descriptions for a year-long photo story of your town.
  • Is there a holiday that is missing in your town? Make a proposal to your town government to organize an event around it. (They are more likely to react positively if you offer them a solution, rather than a problem.)

[Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang, 2015]


Character's Playlist

You thought you had the perfect character, but now you’re stuck. Get unstuck by creating a playlist for your character.

You want your character(s) to seem real, so you need to get to know them. Figure out what emotions motivate and define the character(s). What are some potential conflicts? And ... key to this exercise ... what music do they listen to?

1. For each character, think about the personality you have imagined for them, and then go deeper. What really ticks your character off? Where does your character feel most at peace, most at home? What do they like? Dislike? Who are they friendly with? Who do they dislike? Why? What are the back stories behind each of their emotions?
2. Start with your main character and create a blog entry in which you post the character's favorite playlist. Upload a few songs from the playlist to your blog and in the body of the blog, explain why each song is meaningful to your character.
Why create a playlist?

  • It will make you think more deeply about your character's emotions and goals and motivations.
  • It might inspire someone else who is reading your post to make their own characters deeper.

3. Listen to the playlist and jot down descriptive words that help explain your character. Music is almost a backdrop for your character's life.
4. Share your blog with a friend, classmate, teacher and ask them to listen to the playlist and suggest one potential conflict this character could be confronted with (one that would lead to a good story).
4. Take your own understanding of the character and the best suggestion(s) from your peers and/or teacher to create your character's story.

Click here for free sound resources.

(Photo credit: YWP Photo Library, photo by Kevin Huang, 2016)

Jul 27

Open to Advice - Part I

Feedback helps your writing, but sometimes we don't want to hear it. Use this challenge to help you practice being more open to constructive criticism.

A huge part of writing is revision, and to revise, we need to know what needs to be looked at. Feedback from a friend, a teacher, a YWP mentor can really help you identify trouble areas. Yet, let’s be honest, sometimes it’s really hard to accept feedback or criticism on something you worked really hard on. To grow as writers, we need to practice being open to feedback.


1. Take one of your recent My Community pieces that you have not yet edited.

2. Give yourself feedback on your work. What could you improve? What are the big details (not grammar) that need your attention?


3. Give your piece to a friend. Look at their feedback, and have a conversation with them about their comments. Be open and accepting of their advice, and make sure to thank them. The key is to have a productive conversation, not to get offended.

4. Move on to Part II.

[Creative Commons Lisence: Alan Levine, non-commercial, https://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/]


Jul 27
Grace's picture

Grammar Resources

People are more likely to hold onto grammar rules if they learned them in a fun, easy to comprehend way. Here are some fun and creative grammar resources.


The Yuniversity 
This website is a treasure trove. It has grammar rules covering punctuation, syntax, spelling, and more. They even have essay writing resources. Plus, they post SAT words everyday with easy to comprehend definitions and examples. The Yuniversity is extremely EASY to learn from and navigate — plus, each of their posts have weird and wacky animations, pictures, or even (gasp) memes to help people understand these writing rules in a fun way. 

Khan Academy
Most people know Khan for math help, but the website has expanded over the years to help in all school subjects. Their grammar resources are extensive, and they really have a great coverage in the area of syntax and usage and style. Their videos are easy to follow, and their step-by-step visual guides help even some of the most reluctant learners. They even have a song to help you remember how to correct comma splices. 

The Oatmeal
This website has a very basic list of grammar rules, but everyone always remembers what they see. Through comics, weird and wonderful examples, and modern references, Oatmeal helps people learn the basic rules of grammar on this crazy cool website. The Oatmeal is colorful, yet their distinct and "odd" style helps everyone remember their basic grammar skills because it is so memorable, and so visual. You can even order grammar posters for your classroom. 

Perdue Owl
Perdue is a classic in the classroom. Perdue offers a range of English resources, including a huge list of grammar rules, examples, and guides for students. While this may be more academic than Yuniveristy and Oatmeal, and doesn't have any fun or wacky visuals, it's a classic, down-to-business resource. 


Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation by Lynne Truss 
In her book, Truss uses her witty voice to talk about she is concerned for the "grammatical state" of our language. She creates hysterical examples of grammar mistakes so you can CLEARLY see how people are misusing grammar. She shows you how to, and how not to, use punctuation in your writing. 

Woe Is I by Patricia T. O'Connor 
"In plain English," O'Connor covers a vast amount of grammar rules in her guide in a very clear, extremely easy to comprehend, often funny, and simple voice. Her goal with her book is to make grammar rules so easy to understand through her use of language, you'll be surprised why you were stumped in the first place. 

[Creative Commons Lisence: Kain Kalju, non-commercial, https://www.flickr.com/photos/kainkalju/]

Jul 27
admin's picture

Haiku and Tanka

Tell your community story through poetry. Try the simplicity of Japanese haiku and tanka.

Japanese author Daistez T. Suzuki on the haiku poem: “[They] get inside an object, experience the object’s life, and feel its feelings.”
The haiku is a Japanese form of poetry that developed out of group poetry.  Nearly nine hundred years ago groups of young poets gathered to write together what is called a renga, a type of collaborative poem.  By the 1400s the short sections of the poem broke from the long poem and developed into haiku.
What is haiku? Although nothing is hard and fast, a haiku poem has these qualities:

  • It contains 17 syllables in lines of five, seven, and five syllables.
  • It usually has a theme of nature
  • It sometimes includes a word or two that alludes to the seasons
  • It is written in the present tense about the present moment

What is a tanka poem?

  • The Japanese tanka is a 31-syllable poem, traditionally written in a single unbroken line.
  • A form of waka, Japanese song or verse, tanka translates as "short song," and is better known in its five-line, 5/7/5/7/7 syllable count form.

More info on haiku:
More info on tanka:
(Photo credit: Kevin Huang)

Jul 27

Polish Methods Part I

With this activity, you will be analyzing your polish methods and trying to determine what method works for you. In Part I, you will be doing all of the polish. In Part II, you will be handing the work over to a friend.

First, take the most recent My Community piece you have been working on. Do your revisions and large edits first.


Second, now comes the polish, aka, fixing your work for grammar, typos, etc. Print off two copies of your piece, keep one up on your computer, and find a colorful pen.


Third, read through your piece on your computer and highlight your typos.


Fourth, now, with one of your printed copies, read through your piece and mark your mistakes with a pen. THEN, start over on the same paper, but this time, read your paper upside down and find your mistakes.

[Creative Commons Lisence: Eliezer Borges, non-commercial, https://www.flickr.com/photos/eliezerborges/ ]