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What I Want to See in the National Gallery of Writing

By now, you’ve probably heard about the National Gallery of Writing that NCTE is building online by inviting people to select and post one thing they have written that is important to them. Anyone can share any composition. It can be any format—from word processing to photography, audio recording to text messages—and any type of writing—from letters to lists, memoirs to memos.

I found a great example of the kind of writing that belongs in the Gallery. Read “Video Games: Play and Learn” from this week’s Minneapolis-St. Paul Star Tribune. The article describes a project, created by at the Seward Montessori, that tackles reading comprehension, STEM, analytical skills, and community building:

Over a three-week period, the kids split up into groups and play video games. They also take notes. The goal is to explain how the game is played, how a player might win and how the game is designed. By the end of the session, the students will have created a multimedia presentation, including lots of writing, about their games that is then uploaded to the Web.

Students at Seward Montessori and their teacher Brock Dubbels describe the fun and engagement that are part of this video game unit, but there’s more than just fun going on. Jess Sanchez, one of the students, explains that he likes “learning how the games can help you in the future and how they’re made, instead of just playing them. . . . . It makes me think of them in a different way.” Could a teacher ask for a better recognition of the critical thinking behind a classroom activity?

Dubbels has designed a great assignment, and what makes it work is that underneath it adheres to the basic principles outlined in the NCTE Beliefs about the Teaching of Writing. The students in the middle school class are positioned as authorities in an authentic research project. Their project is personally relevant, and they have a real audience of peers who want to hear what they have to say. The presentations students publish at the end of the unit are precisely the kind of work that belongs in the National Gallery of Writing.

So why do I want to see those presentations in the Gallery? The Gallery invitation asks writers to share one piece of writing, anything that they “deem important or significant.” Those multimedia presentations are perfect because, in them, the writers are exploring something that they know and care about. The presentations are “important or significant” because they matter to the people who wrote them. That’s the kind of writing I hope people will share—and the kind of writing I hope all teachers will encourage others to submit.

Do your part. Register a local gallery in the National Gallery of Writing today, and make plans to submit your own writing and to encourage students, families, colleagues, local community members, and even your state and federal politicians to do the same. I want to see compositions that you really care about in the Gallery when it opens in October!

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