Presenter Ruth Culham

“I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned”- Unwritten

Despite the dreary weather on November 7, 2015, over 200 teachers attended a writing workshop sponsored by the Associated Professional Educators of Louisiana (A+PEL). The presenter for this workshop was Ruth Culham, president of Culham Writing Company. As a writing expert, she is the author of many resources for teachers including the book, “The Writing Thief”.

Ruth began her presentation with sharing some recent statistics and the reasons for the recent educational emphasis on writing. Next, Ruth identified the six traits of writing along with the steps in the writing process. In order to improve student work, she said that teachers need to use process oriented language while focusing on one trait at a time. Ruth shared examples of students’ compositions. The attendees then discussed the scores for each using her “Scoring Guide”. Later, she spoke about using “books as bridges” where books are used to demonstrate a specific writing trait. While reviewing some of her favorite resources, I brainstormed ideas for integrating these books into my music classes.

During the workshop, A+PEL presented me with a special plaque for being named the Louisiana State Teacher of the Year. Along with my words of gratitude, I spoke of the importance of professional development. I also pointed out the numerous connections that Ruth had made to music throughout her presentation.

At the end, I had the opportunity to speak with Ruth. She informed me that one of her closest friends was a music educator. This had greatly influenced her ability to perceive the connections between music and writing.

As I left, I thought of my students. Although the future is still “unwritten”, I can give my students the tools to write a life story filled with success through building bridges between music and the other subject matters.

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