February 5--  Students at J.R. Trippe Middle School in Vidalia are working on their writing through a new program of instruction and teachers are enthusiastic about what they're seeing in their classrooms.

Julie Caraballo is an 8th grade English Language Arts teacher and says, "I've told many people I wish I had learned this when I was growing up.  It would have helped me tremendously to write my own stories and to take standardized tests and know how to develop writing pieces of different types."

The curriculum is based on a program called "Calkins Reading and Writing Workshop," and Caraballo observes, "As we started to do some of the sessions, we saw the writing improve, we saw students writing longer pieces and putting some of their feelings into their writing.  They were able to really develop their thoughts and bring the writing to life through dialogue and different strategies we gave them.  We didn't realize quite how much it was going to give them a voice.  When they started writing their own stories and personal narratives, it was almost like therapy for some of our students.  They were very open and honest about things they've been through and I think it was really special for them to do that."

Caraballo also believes the more they write, the better they read, "Students are not going to become better writers if we don't give them the opportunity to write.  This is a month of writing every day, and then when you do a reading unit, they read fast and furiously.  We're challenging students to read 60 pages a day and we're seeing great strides with reading." she said.

"I think we're going to see great growth over the years and I feel like if we adopted this at the elementary level, we would see even better growth."

Julie reports some teachers at  Sally Meadows Elementary School are expected to run a pilot of the new instruction in the future.