Transforming writing skills for over 20 years
Summer Ink uses The Writers’ Express Method (WEX) to transform the literacy skills of all students who attend our camps.* Through a highly structured teaching method and curriculum, students learn the fundamental behavioral habits they need to focus on the work at hand, the academic engagement required to take their education seriously, and the core writing skills to communicate their ideas clearly and persuasively.
From the first day, Summer Ink campers are urged to take social and academic risks. They are encouraged to reach out to fellow campers, who come from Greater Boston and beyond, to establish the trust and friendship that allows them to share their writing. We formalize this risk-taking and trust-building through Closing Circle at the end of each camp day. At Closing Circle, campers learn how to share their writing and how to give thoughtful, verbal feedback to their peers. By the end of the session, every camper’s writing reflects greater focus and more sensory detail, and conveys the writer’s unique voice.
WEX in the World
In 2015, the WEX Method™ was adopted by the state of California as one of three ELL and ELA curricula used in middle schools.
WEX is currently being used by 100 schools in the U.S.
Over 750 teachers throughout the country have been trained in WEX.
Wherever we go and whatever we do at Summer Ink, we bring our journals.
Immediately after campers participate in an engaging activity, such as glass-blowing or rock-climbing, they respond in their journals for about twenty minutes. Each night, their writing counselors give thoughtful feedback to each camper’s entries, pointing out ways that they can focus more deeply on one moment or aspect of their experience. After commenting on each journal entry, the counselor provides a revision assignment (an “RA”) that gives the camper further practice on a particular skill. Even as they enjoy Summer Ink activities, counselors use their comments to guide their campers through a hierarchy of writing skills in which they learn how to focus deeply on one aspect of their experience, use strong verbs and sensory language, and improve their mechanical skills to heighten the impact that they have on their audience.
In the second week of each session, while continuing to develop their skills through writing in their journals, campers write a polished piece.
Campers often use one of their journal entries as the starting point for a narrative, an argumentative essay, or a piece of creative non-fiction. They expand this journal entry, deepening their organizational skills, as they apply the skills they have strengthened in the first week’s journal entries. Campers typically re-write their polished piece five or six times with thoughtful guidance from their writing counselor.
One instructor, Cassidy, describes how she worked with a seventh grade student, Samirah.
TECHNICAL SKILL: COMPLETE SENTENCES
“I knew Samirah was overwhelmed by all that she wanted to express. Her run-on sentences made her writing unclear and chaotic. Every day she found three run-ons in her journal entry to rewrite. It really paid off when she went to develop her ideas in her second draft. She only had one run-on sentence in the entire essay.”
EXPRESSIVE SKILL: FOCUS
“At first, Samirah wanted to write about everything we did during activities. She tried to describe two hours of robot-making at the MIT Museum in a one-page journal entry! I asked her to re-write the entry and focus on developing one idea: whether her finished robot was a success. The work she did focusing journal entries helped when she was writing her persuasive essay. When I told her to focus each paragraph on one point, she knew exactly what I meant.”
SOCIAL & EMOTIONAL SKILLS: TAKING HER IDEAS SERIOUSLY
“Samirah had a lot of great ideas, but she wrote to fill pages instead of taking what she had to say seriously and developing her ideas. After the first draft of her essay, I asked Samirah to explain to me what she meant about washing the uniforms. She gave all these specific details about how hard it was for her family because they didn’t have a washing machine at home. ‘Write it all in there!’ I exclaimed. Her second draft really shows how much more invested she became in her writing.”
“Samirah needed to learn that each stage of the process required different skills and a different attitude. From the first day when we wrote about portraits, Samirah cringed at any sort of feedback—she wanted to be perfect the first time out. I told her that her first draft was perfect—but that it was just a draft. She became persistent and diligent in revising her second draft, understanding that it was part of the writing process. Her hard work paid off!”
“Every day, we have to wear a uniform. It is a problem because we have to wash them a lot. They’re a light color and they get dirty quickly. Some students only have two pairs of uniforms. Washing them often is difficult because some students have to go to the laundromat because they don’t have a washing machine at home. Washing everyday wastes their money. We shouldn’t wear uniforms so that we don’t have to do as many washes.”