A Guide to Creating Student-Staffed Writing Centers, Grades 6–12, Revised Edition

by Richard Kent (Author)
©2017 Textbook XXII, 208 Pages


A Guide to Creating Student-Staffed Writing Centers, Grades 6–12, Revised Edition is a how-to and, ultimately, a why-to book for middle school and high school educators as well as for English/language arts teacher candidates and their methods instructors. This revised and updated International Writing Centers Association 2006 Book of the Year shows writing centers as places where writers work with each other in an effort to develop ideas, discover a thesis, overcome procrastination, create an outline, or revise a draft. Ultimately, writing centers help students become more effective writers. Visit any college or university in the United States and chances are there is a writing center available to students, staff, and community members. Writing centers support students and busy teachers while emphasizing and supporting writing across the curriculum.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Foreword
  • Acknowledgments
  • Preface
  • A Decade Later: A Revised Look at High School Writing Centers
  • High School WCenter Highlights
  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • A Day in the Life of a Writing Center
  • Where Writers Work with Writers
  • Why Writing Centers?
  • What the Writing Center Did for the Student Staffers
  • What the Writing Center Did for Me as an English Teacher
  • What the Writing Center Did for Our School
  • Theoretical Foundation for Writing Centers
  • Kinds of Writing Centers
  • Faculty-Staffed Writing Centers
  • Online Writing Centers and OWLs
  • Library/Media Center-Based Secondary School Writing Centers
  • University-Affiliated Writing Centers
  • Community-Based Writing Centers
  • Do Not Feel Limited
  • Chapter 2: Planning and Organizing
  • Fortify Your Background in Writing Instruction
  • Introducing the Writing Center Concept to your Department Colleagues
  • Presentation Slides
  • Printed Resource Packet
  • Discussion
  • Working with Your Principal, Academic Dean, or Head of School
  • Networking and Spreading the Word
  • The Politics of Writing Centers
  • On Being a Faculty-Director
  • Chapter 3: Staffing and Training
  • Teaching the Writing Center Staff
  • Summer Work for Writing Center Students
  • What’s in a Name?
  • Understanding Writing as a Process
  • The Tutoring Process with a Draft
  • Connect with the Writer
  • Preliminary Questions
  • Read Aloud
  • Correcting Mistakes?
  • What If There’s No Draft?
  • Minimalist Tutoring
  • Online Tutoring
  • Working with Diverse Populations
  • Students with Learning Disabilities
  • Writing a Mission Statement
  • Creating a Writing Center Staff Handbook
  • A Day with a Writer
  • A Day in a College Writing Center
  • Attend a Conference
  • FAQs
  • How does confidentiality work within the writing center?
  • What if a tutor misses sessions or does a poor job? Can you let them go?
  • What requirements are needed for an effective writing center staff?
  • What do tutors gain from the experience?
  • What other activities will get student-tutors involved with their own learning?
  • Further Reading and Resources
  • Online Resources
  • A Few Suggested Books for Secondary School Writing Center Staff and Directors
  • Chapter 4: Operating a Writing Center
  • Finding a Home
  • Public Relations and Marketing
  • Working with Content-Area Colleagues
  • Branding
  • Charismatic Messengers
  • Atmosphere
  • Keeping Records
  • Using the Data
  • Other Benefits of Examining the Data
  • Assessing Writing Center Services with Student-Editor Self-Evaluations
  • Assessing Writing Center Services: Client Evaluations
  • Peer Writing Tutor Research Project: Peters Township Middle School (PA)
  • Appointment and Attendance Systems
  • Website
  • Mercersburg Academy Writing Center’s Homepage
  • And so …
  • Chapter 5: Working Drafts: Writing Centers in Action
  • Founding Foxcroft
  • Recruiting Coaches
  • Training Coaches
  • FAQs Foxcroft Academy WC
  • Meet the Coaches
  • Promotional Video
  • Start-Up
  • Line Editing, Proofreading, and Tutoring
  • Advice from Bridget and Nick
  • The Ninth Week
  • Postscript
  • Write in the Corner: “Not a Location, but an Experience” Kettle Moraine High School, Wales, Wisconsin
  • One Writing Center’s Start-up: Winthrop High School Writing Center, Winthrop, Maine
  • Week One
  • “What Happens When Editors Don’t Show Up?”
  • Client Issues: Welcoming and Frightening Student Writers
  • Week Three
  • Week Four
  • Ashley: Winthrop’s Coaching Star
  • Max: Writing Center Blog Coach
  • Coaching Issues
  • Post-Mortem
  • Year Three: Building Capacity Souhegan High School Writing Center, Amherst, New Hampshire
  • Monthly Writing Contests
  • Writing Fellows Program
  • Prologue to the New Souhegan High School Writing Center
  • FAQs
  • Chapter 6: Resources and Activities
  • Resources
  • Model Papers
  • WAC Publications
  • English-Language Learners: Information and Study Guides
  • Creating a Writing Center Library
  • Books on Publishing
  • Books on Writing and the Writing Center Library
  • Publishing Outlets for Student and Staff Writing
  • Writing Contests
  • Model Syllabi: Middle Schools, Secondary Schools, and Universities
  • Sample Letters on File
  • Sample Prompts and Writing for College Entrance Essays
  • Tips on Writing
  • Posters
  • Short Film Models
  • Digital Storytelling Models
  • Plagiarism 101
  • Class Assistants
  • Social Media Coaches
  • Research Assistants
  • Activities
  • SAT Seminars
  • Major League Writing Day
  • Athletes’ Writing Workshop: Notebooks and Athletes’ Journals
  • Bridges: A Cross-Age Tutoring Project
  • Writing Contests
  • Reading Poetry and Prose at Assisted-Living Facilities
  • Our Stories
  • Literary Café
  • Writing a Column for the Local Newspaper
  • Working with the Yearbook and/or the School Newspaper Staff
  • Writing Workshops
  • A Writing Center Newsletter
  • Publishing a Literary Magazine
  • Pitching Writing Center Services to School Staff Members
  • Fundraiser for Writing Causes
  • Writing Handbook for New Students and Transfers
  • Movie Reviewers Writing Group
  • Writing Buddies
  • Writing Center Hallway Passes
  • Poetry Pass
  • Community Writing Evenings
  • Professional Writers’ Discussions
  • Informational Workshops on Helpful Websites
  • SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives)
  • Public Library Partnership
  • University/Secondary School Collaborations
  • Bookmarks with Quotations and Technical Advice
  • Writing Careers Night
  • College Writing Expectations
  • Conclusion
  • Chapter 7: Conclusion
  • Final Advice: Join the Writing Center Community
  • Our Work Together
  • Class Reunions
  • Publishing a Chapbook
  • Editing Parties
  • Poetry Garden
  • Independent Study Projects
  • And so …
  • Appendices
  • Appendix A: International Writing Centers Association Position Statement on Secondary School Writing Centers (Approved by the IWCA Executive Board: April 22, 2015)
  • Outcomes of Secondary School Writing Centers
  • Recommendations for Implementation of Secondary School Writing Centers
  • Bibliography
  • Appendix B: Foxcroft Academy Writing Center Syllabus (Bridget Wright / Nick Miller)
  • Quarter 1
  • Quarter 2
  • Bibliography
  • Index

| ix →


In the early days of our high school writing center work, we remember the countless hours of planning, networking, and convincing that was necessary to create a shared vision of developing meaningful tutor-led writing centers in our schools. This work was at times exhausting, at times frustrating, and more than enough times, rewarding. Today, 8 and 12 years into our respective careers as high school English teachers turned writing center directors, we think of where you may be today.

Wherever you are on your own path to navigating your school’s political and social landscape, books like this one—as well as articles, websites, partnerships, and mentors—will help you imagine the potential of your writing center. We know the challenges you’ll face, and yet we are sustained by the joy of the work: witnessing peer-driven learning transform school culture, engaging teachers in reflection about and revision of their own writing instruction, and fostering relationships with our own tutors as they become academic leaders and engaged learners. In this foreword, we offer a glimpse into our experiences in the hope that our words will inspire your work.

You are a part of a growing network of secondary school writing center directors who are ready to share ideas, trade strategies, and offer support. At the October 2015 International Writing Centers Association (IWCA) conference in Pittsburgh, a group of more than twenty veteran and prospective ← ix | x → writing center directors attended a Special Interest Group (SIG) meeting for Secondary School Writing Centers (SSWC). It was only one of a handful of sessions at the conference geared specifically for them. In the room, there were two university directors from Lebanon, eager to bring ideas and resources back to a cohort of 40 Lebanese high school teachers; directors from middle school writing centers in Texas and Pennsylvania; school administrators, full-time directors, and teacher-directors from urban, suburban, rural, public, private, and charter secondary schools across America. There were even postsecondary writing center directors in attendance, eager to know how they can support and partner with their secondary school counterparts. The diversity of their contexts and experiences on the frontier of an expanding network of SSWCs worldwide led to a rich discussion on the real work of running a writing center in a secondary school setting.

As Secondary Schools Representatives to the IWCA Executive Board and founders of the Capital Area Peer Tutoring Association (CAPTA) and the Chicagoland Organization of Writing, Literacy, and Learning Centers (COWLLC), we have had many opportunities to connect with other secondary school writing center directors. While travel costs and time away may prevent you from being able to attend conferences, we imagine those of you reading this book as an integral part of the collective community of SSWC directors and advocates across the nation and the world. And as we address colleagues in our field, administrators at our schools, and even colleagues in our departments, we can say with confidence: “Yes, writing centers do exist in high schools”; “Yes, teenagers are capable of giving meaningful feedback to their peers’ writing”; and sometimes even, “Yes, our budget really is that small (or even non-existent).”

As we take on the roles of advocates and champions of writing centers, we crave connection and seek advice from others whose experiences can inform our own. Richard Kent has been a key figure in marshaling the people and resources to create the vibrant, growing, worldwide community that consists of SSWC directors like us and like you. Not only did he publish the first edition of this book in 2006 and did he create and does he manage the High School Writing Center website (wcenters.com) and its resource portal, Creating Student-Staffed Writing Centers, but Rich has also been an advisor and a counselor and a friend to many of us as we have navigated the ups and downs of our own careers as SSWC directors and scholars.

When Amber found herself as a third-year teacher proposing a peer writing center at Edison High School in 2008, Rich’s book, A Guide to Creating ← x | xi → Student Staffed Writing Centers, Grades 6–12 was the first book she read for direction and advice. The book itself reflected Rich’s down-to-earth, personal investment in the work. He not only offered a theoretical background and contextual framework for how to envision and propose a writing center and shared his own story of founding and directing a high school writing center, but he also provided strategies and tools Amber could easily adapt as she designed a proposal for the soon-to-be Edison Writing Center. From templates of emails sent to staff members to sample advertisements to training materials for new tutors, this book made the daunting task of starting a writing center possible. It provided models alongside an accessible narrative that helped her envision a center that would be sustainable, professional, and grounded in research-based practices. Now in her eighth year as the director of the thriving Edison Writing Center and as a mentor to dozens of other writing center directors locally and nationwide, Amber still recommends this book as the first read for teachers starting centers of their own.

For the past decade, Andrew has not only been using Rich’s Guide to develop his own program, but also to help craft his dissertation and other scholarly work. Andrew also widely recommends the Guide to people as a book, not just of knowledge of the field, but also of the process of envisioning and implementing a schoolwide program. For writing center directors in high schools throughout the Chicagoland area and across the nation, the Guide has been a constant companion, a touchstone, during the process of designing, creating, and maintaining, or perhaps revising, their writing centers. In the first edition of the Guide, Rich shared the story of Joshua, a young writer who loved stories. Of Joshua, Rich wrote, “He helps writers think about and reconsider their writing in the midst of their revising” (30). Although Rich was discussing the politics of tutor selection, Andrew has always been struck by how this so perfectly describes Rich’s role—through his book—in the lives of SSWC directors across the globe. The Guide has been the perfect tutor to us and to a great host of people dedicated to peer-to-peer learning.

In the ten years since the first edition of A Guide to Creating Student Staffed Writing Centers, Grades 6–12 was published, and in large part due to his influence on this work, there has been significant growth in the movement of and connections between middle and high school writing centers across the nation and the world. Rich’s book has long been among the best-known and most relevant books to support new and veteran directors in their work. The updated version responds to an increasing demand to clearly define how writing centers look in secondary contexts, to depict different models at work, to ← xi | xii → identify crucial steps to proposing and implementing middle and high school writing centers, and to apply the scholarship of the field to unique settings with particular parameters and constraints. In the first edition of the Guide, Rich used many examples from university writing centers. With the growth of SSWCs across the nation, this second edition features many more models from secondary schools.

Along with Rich, we support and encourage your first or next steps in establishing or growing a writing center at your school. We seek to connect with you as an ever-growing community of SSWC practitioners and scholars from a variety of backgrounds and institutions. We invite your active participation in the field, whether it be face-to-face at CAPTA, COWLLC, or IWCA conferences, online through the SSWC Listserv, or simply as you apply the principles of this book to your own vision and practice in a thriving writing center at your school. Reading this book is one way for you to learn about process and enroll yourself in this vibrant and change-making community. Welcome!

Amber Jensen and Andrew Jeter

| xiii →


Twenty-five years later, it’s still true that my first writing center staff at Mountain Valley High School in Rumford, Maine, helped me to realize the possibilities of a student-staffed writing center and the promise of a high school English classroom. Your Loving English Teacher will always be thankful to Amy Law Goodwin, Amy Welch-Whissen, Craig Dickson, Chris Larsen, Dave Kasregis, Erin Adams Gurney, Jamie Ippolito, Janet Currie, Kathy MacDougall Oldakowski, Matt Irish, Matt Gaudet, Mike Gawtry, and Scott Marchildon.


XXII, 208
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2017 (July)
New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2017. XXII, 208 pp., 42 b/w ill., 2 tables

Biographical notes

Richard Kent (Author)

Richard Kent, Ph.D., is Professor of Literacy and Director Emeritus of the Maine Writing Project at the University of Maine. A former secondary school writing center director and English teacher, Kent is the author of many books, including Writing on the Bus and Teaching the Neglected ‘R’. He was Maine Teacher of the Year in 1993 and a National Educator Award recipient in 1994.


Title: A Guide to Creating Student-Staffed Writing Centers, Grades 6–12, Revised Edition
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232 pages