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Making the Most of NCTE’s National Gallery of Writing

posted: 9.13.12 by Nedra Reynolds

As I begin planning my fall courses, I’m thinking once again about how to incorporate the NCTE National Gallery of Writing, one of the best resources for writing teachers that has emerged in recent years.  The Gallery has stopped accepting new submissions, but it remains a searchable archive of 33,000 pieces of writing submitted by writers across the U. S.:

Opened on October 20, 2009, the National Gallery of Writing solves the problem of not having samples of writing to share “on demand”; this resource makes it easy to find models to share or texts to stimulate discussion or inspire writers.  Asking students to use it also gives them an opportunity to learn how to search an archive.

Under “Browse,” for example, a user can select options that will allow her to find a poem written by a 12-14 year old in Tennessee, a school assignment addressed to a decision-maker, a piece that celebrates something, or a dissertation about secondary teachers and electronic portfolios.  Users can search by Gallery or by other parameters, and with 33,000 documents, the variety and range are tremendous.

The National Gallery is actually a compilation of many galleries:  anyone could propose a gallery (as I did for each of my classes), and after it was accepted by NCTE, writers could submit to it—with each gallery juried by the curator (the instructor or a leader).  As I browse through the site, it looks like hundreds of middle schools, community colleges, writers’ collectives, and other groups opened their own galleries:  Indiana Partnership for Young Writers, U-High Pioneers Write!, Momwriters, Writers in Peace and War, B327 Writers’ Project, Greater San Diego Area Writers, Miss Hutsell’s Writing Rockstars, English 201, Illinois Institute of Art, or Literary Pieces Created by Bilingual Students.

One option for a classroom setting is to simply set students loose to find a piece they like.  I’ve had students bring in a selection, share with a small group why they chose it, and then read it aloud to their group.  I don’t think my uses of the National Gallery on Writing have been particularly innovative, but asking them to contribute seems to have given students some much-needed awareness of writing for readers beyond our classroom.  In the fall semester, acknowledging the National Day on Writing (for three years’ running, it has been October 20, by Senate proclamation) offers an opportunity for instructors to introduce students to the National Gallery and invite them to browse.  For the inaugural Day–October 20, 2009–my students submitted a piece to a Gallery I opened up specifically for our class; getting it posted in time for the NDOW became a “real” deadline, and they enjoyed reading each others’ work as juried submissions appeared in our gallery.  Knowing it would appear online, viewable by anyone who might find it, students were motivated to edit and polish their work beyond what they might do when turning a piece meant only for the teacher.

I’m not sure why the Gallery has been closed to new submissions, but it remains a terrific resource for readers, writers, and teachers.  I’d love to hear from Bits readers about interesting ways they have used or might use this incredible site.

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