April is National Poetry Month!

Posted March 31, 2014 & filed under Notebook.


Tomorrow is the start of A Poem a Day, a month-long celebration of poetry by Houston children. Each weekday we will send out a poem by one of our talented students through email. You can also enjoy these poems here on our blog and on radio station KPFT weekdays at 4:28 PM.

Get in on the fun by writing to our weekly prompt featured Saturdays on the blog, and snap a picture of it! WITS will be re-gramming our favorite poems throughout the month @witshouston #wherewordsfly.

I Wonder

Posted February 14, 2014 & filed under Notebook.

Who knows when the rain is coming?
What in the world are you doing?
Where do birds go in winter?
And when are you coming back?
How much money does a flying car cost?
Does Mars have aliens?
How many aliens are in space?
Why does the rain cool?
Why am I not sitting with you
on this pretty Valentine’s Day?

by Omar, 2nd grade

Illustration by Patrick Moberg

5 Writers Tell Us How WITS Teaching Transformed Them: Susan Bernstein

Posted March 25, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

susanSusan Naomi Bernstein’s most recent book is Teaching Developmental Writing, Fourth Edition. Her articles on basic writing, social justice, and learning differences have been published in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Journal of Basic Writing, Modern Language Studies, and elsewhere. She is a past co-chair of the Council on Basic Writing and a past co-editor of BWe: Basic Writing e-Journal. Susan has worked with students for more than two decades in urban and rural settings in New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas. Her essay is the second in a series of five installments where former WITS teachers tell how their WITS teaching taught them valuable life lessons.

4th Grade Goes to College: Writing in the World a Decade after WITS

By Susan Naomi Bernstein

In 2004, the fourth grade students I wrote with in WITS visited the introductory college writing class I taught at a local university. The purpose of the visit was for these two groups of students to write together across the differences that usually divide people from one another, including race, ethnicity, language, social class, and age.  I wrote more about that experience,“4th Grade Goes to College,” in the WITS publication A New Leaf.  Based on a lesson from the book We Dream of a World, the students documented their dream: “We dream of a world where everyone is treated equally and fairly because everyone deserves it.”

Nearly a decade later, three of us who gathered together on that day continue to enact that dream in our everyday lives. A, one of the college students at the university where I once taught, now teaches multilingual students at an urban elementary school. During the holidays, A and I visited in person for the first time in many years and discussed our shared interest in compassionate pedagogy.

Desireé Mina Baktiar, one of the 4th grade students in my WITS class, keeps in touch on Facebook. Desireé studies musical theatre and writes poetry and spoken word. Last year she published one of her villanelles on tumblr.com:

Ciao World of Old By Desireé Mina Baktiar

Ciao world of old, hello world of new.

I’ll hold your hand as we jump frame to frame.

Take what you’ve learned but not what taught you.

Oh! Glistening looking-glass to step through!

Even reflections are not the same.

Ciao world of old, hello world of new.

Heavy on my shoulders are anchors I rue.

On our journey we’ll sweat off all shame.

Take what you’ve learned but not what taught you. 

Through old world’s scorns, wings I grew;

Now I fly, though as an outcast I came. 

Ciao world of old hello world of new. 

The looking-glass shatters, that is my cue!

Still a victim, but now of wonder’s fame.

Take what you’ve learned but not what taught you. 

Past failures, heartbreaks, and happiness too

Transform into paint to fill the next frame.

Ciao world of old, hello world of new!

Take what you’ve learned but not what taught you.

Currently, I write a blog for Bedford/St. Martin’s called “Beyond the Basics,” which focuses on the writing process and social equity in higher education. Writing remains for me a conduit, a river moving toward an awakening of conscious. We pay attention. We take action. As local disruptions produce global transformations, writing carries us through the moment, and leaves a record of our strivings. Nearly a decade after teaching with WITS, I am dreaming still.

Black Rock Today

Posted February 20, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Student writing at the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center

Student writing at the Houston Arboretum & Nature Center

Today I am a small, black, little thing,
the size of a quarter.
Today I am a rock with a message saying “don’t go there.”
Today I am a rock with no reason and no purpose
but to sit there in the soft, mushy soil.
Today I am life,
I am light.
Today I am flight.

by Zachary, 4th grade


Creative Writing Camp

Posted February 7, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Registration is filling up quickly!

Within the first 20 minutes of open registration, over 100 students enrolled in Creative Writing Camp, a WITS record! Though it comes as no surprise – with our 8 campuses, 70 classrooms, and now 23 years of camp – that parents and kids look to Creative Writing Camp as a staple of their summer plans. Enroll now and find out why Houston Press described the workshops as the “best effort to inject culture into Houston” and AOL City’s Best listed it among Houston’s 6 Best Summer Camps for Kids.

About Creative Writing Camp

Creative Writing Camp offers a supportive environment where children engage in writing stories, poetry, essays, and plays, as well as simply reading for pleasure. Through these activities even the most hesitant child discovers the joy in writing, the intrigue of language, and the confidence of authorship. Students will work with teachers and writers, and the low teacher-student ratios ensure individual attention. Workshops end with a culminating performance and/or reading, and each child will receive an anthology with their published work.

A Collaboration

The Summer Creative Writing Workshops are offered by Writers in the Schools in collaboration with Rice University’s School Literacy and Culture Project (SLC).

Check out the 2012 Camp Highlights:

2012 Creative Writing Camp Highlights from Writers in the Schools on Vimeo.

Dare to Dream Writing Contest

Posted January 28, 2013 & filed under Notebook.

Dare to Dream Cvr
The Dare to Dream … Change the World Annual Writing Contest for Kids aims to promote literacy, poetry writing, and nonfiction research while inspiring students to follow their dreams. It’s based on the award-winning Dare to Dream … Change the World (Kane Miller Books, 2012), which pairs biographical and inspirational poems about people who not only changed their own lives, but the lives of people all over the world. Click here for more information.
WHO: For students in 3rd through 8th grade.
WHAT: Following the format of the book, students will write a biographical poem and non-fiction paragraph about someone who not only dreamed, but who took action and made the world better.
HOW: Send your entry by e-mail to [email protected], subject line of “DARE TO DREAM Writing Contest.” Be sure to include your first name only, your e-mail address and your parents’ e-mail address.
DEADLINE: April 30, 2013

With These Hands

Posted December 17, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Menna signing her poem at the Watchful Eye reading at the Menil Collection

With these hands, I will meet a famous person and shake their hand.
With these hands, I will pet cute puppies.
With these hands, I will work hard at my job.
With these hands, I will hug my friends.
With these hands, I will buy furniture for my own house.
With these hands, I will take pictures in New York City.
With these hands, I will talk with my friends using sign language.

by Menna, 5th grade

Inside a Poem

Posted December 11, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Student Writer at Discovery Green

It doesn’t always have to rhyme,

but there’s the repeat of a beat, somewhere

an inner chime that makes you want to

tap your feet or swerve in a curve;

a lilt, a leap, a lightning – split: –

thunderstruck the consonants jut,

while the vowels open wide as waves in the noon-

blue sea.

by Eve Merriam (1916-1992)

This is a poem that greatly influenced new WITS Writer Florence Miyamoto.

Calling All Student Writers!

Posted November 13, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Poetic Power Poetry & Essay Contest

Poetry Contest Deadline: Dec. 6

Essay Contest Deadline: Feb. 19

Students: For each contest deadline, the top ten entries in each grade division (K-3; 4-6; 7-9; 10-12 for poetry) will receive a $25 check, special recognition in the book, and a free copy of the anthology that is created from the contest.

Teachers: Teachers with 5 or more students who give permission for publication will receive a free copy of the anthology that includes their student writers. Teachers also can qualify to apply for one of 50 $250 grants awarded each year.

Creative Communication is devoted to the promotion of writing, teaching and appreciation of student writing. The intent of the student writing contests is to motivate creative writers. The top entries are published in an anthology that will record the creative insights of today’s student writers. Visit their web site for more information: www.poeticpower.com

WITS Students to Read at the Menil Collection this Saturday

Posted October 30, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Poems for a Quarter Century
Saturday, November 3, 2012

7:00 p.m. Free Public Program

Sasha West, poet, professor, and literary editor, will curate an evening of poetry readings about art and artists whose work hangs in the Menil Collection, including poems by Writers in the Schools students who visited the museum through the Writing at the Menil program. The Menil Collection is celebrating its 25th year anniversary with special events and programs.

Students reading art-inspired works at The Watchful Eye Reading in May at the Menil

Public Poetry to Feature WITS’ Executive Director

Posted October 25, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

From Public Poetry:

“Poetry on TV??  Absolutely!  And we want YOU to be part of the audience on Saturday, November 3, 2012 at 2 PM at Vinson Neighborhood Library, 3810 W Fuqua, 77045 when Houston Media Source’s camera rolls!

It’s all about filming our featured poets – Jasminne Mendez, John Pluecker, Robin Reagler and Scott Wiggerman – in a fabulous new library, built just two years ago, that is moving into the future.  It’s an inviting, interesting, people friendly place that combines both hi-tech and old school, with 46 computers, a colorful fantasy space for young kids to listen to story-time and another to express their creativity, a vibrantly hued hi-tech section that has flat screens for video gaming, side rooms for groups to meet spaced throughout, and of course, books and books and reading nooks.

Please arrive by 1:45. We’ll be set up for filming inside the rotunda entrance, sharing the space with artist Elaine Bradford’s zoo of vibrantly-hued crocheted animals. Filming will go on for about an hour and a half, so come prepared for that.  BUT, if you’re a camera shy lover of poetry, simply take a seat at the back, and you’ll be guaranteed off-camera privacy and anonymity.

Never camera shy, there will be some students reading their poems, too, including kids who participate withWriters In the Schools (WITS).”

We Need Your Vote for SXSWedu!

Posted October 4, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Vote for Writers in the Schools (WITS) and Aurora Picture Show to present our Moving Story Project program at the 2013 SXSWedu conference-the deadline is tomorrow! VOTE and SHARE here.

Moving Story Project was created to give students the opportunity to combine the arts of creative writing and film making (stop motion animation). Students leave the program with ways to talk and think about both art forms – creative writing and film making – analytically and deeply. Here is a past project:

Questions Answered

  1. How can arts education raise the level of learning and prepare students for the 21st Century?
  2. How does media literacy improve writing skills, and how do improved writing skills influence the creation of the moving image?
  3. How can the integration of arts education into a language arts curriculum operating in a standards-based world improve student performance on standardized tests, efficacy in other disciplines, and student attendance/retention?

Public Poetry Featuring WITS Student

Posted October 3, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Join us this Saturday, October 6th at 2pm, for a fantastic lineup of Public Poetry at the Vinson Neighborhood Library. A WITS student will read two pieces along with a talented selection of Houston writers. Free as always!

Visit Public Poetry for more information.

Announcing Meta-Fourth Fridays!

Posted September 26, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

Join Meta-Four Houston every fourth Friday of the month to participate in a FREE written word workshop and poetry slam!

When:  September 28, 2012

8:00 pm – Workshop

9:00 pm – Slam

*Note: You must attend the workshop to participate in the poetry slam

Where:  Hope Stone Dance Studio (1210 West Clay, 77019)

About Meta-Four:

Meta-Four Houston encourages self-expression and literacy among Houston’s youth through creative writing and performance. Click here for more information.


Happy Arts in Education Week!

Posted September 10, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

This week is National Arts in Education Week. Ask your schools about their commitment to arts education, and ask them about WITS!


Meet New WITS Writer Shane Lake

Posted September 6, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

WITS Writer Shane Lake

Shane Lake was born and raised in Mattapoisett, MA. He left the Bay State for Pennsylvania, where he was a student in the creative writing program at Susquehanna University. In 2012 he received an MFA in poetry from Arizona State, and he is currently a doctoral student in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Houston. Shane’s thoughts on what he wishes to accomplish with WITS:

 As a new WITS writer, I hope to help students find their individual voices, and to help them realize that they all have important stories to tell. I owe so much to the great teachers I have had in the past, and I just want to pass on what I have learned to younger generations of writers.

Excerpt from a favorite childhood writing:

When I was growing up, my favorite book was Maurice Sendak’s classic, Where The Wild Things Are. I always loved the part where Max’s room turns into a forest:

 “That very night in Max’s room a forest grew, and grew—and grew until his ceiling hung with vines and the walls became the world all around.”

 After reading this, I always wanted the same thing to happen to my room.

Welcome aboard Shane!

Exciting Year Ahead

Posted August 30, 2012 & filed under Notebook.

New Writers at Orientation

With 80 writers on our roster, we are excited about the new school year and community projects and partnerships that have been developed. We continue to engage children in the pleasure and power of reading and writing, and our vision is to continue to revolutionize the way reading and writing are taught, nurturing the growth of the imagination and awakening students to the adventures of language.

Writers with Guest Merna Hecht

With the addition of 23 writers this year, we hope to expand our reach and continue to fulfill our mission:

-Every child deserves a holistic education that encourages critical thinking, creativity, and personal responsibility.

-Writing is an art that must be practiced and developed over time.

-Low-income students can thrive and grow through high-quality art education programs.

-The relationship between the WITS writer and the classroom teacher is a partnership.

-WITS supports classroom teachers as they adopt new approaches to teaching creative writing.

-WITS writers reflect Houston’s diversity to meet the needs of the community.

-Everyone has a personal story to tell. WITS provides opportunities for storytelling and the skills needed to do it well.

Last Few Days of Summer

Posted August 13, 2012 & filed under Notebook.


Every time I walk in my room

I feel a great breeze of hot air
And a great pool of sunlight
That doesn’t make me freeze.
When I look at my bed
I see only one layer of blankets,
And if I look at the ceiling
I see a fan blowing air.

Outside everyone plays in the water
Splashing each other,
Building sand castles,
Or laying on a chair
Feeling the nice warm sunlight.

I can feel the warm sunlight on me
As I walk toward the water.
I have pale skin,
But in the summer
It’s pretty red.

Does anyone have suntan lotion?

by Bryson, 3rd grade