For Educators

Dear Colleague:

My name is Adam Witte, and I am a Language Arts teacher at Washington High School in Cedar Rapids. As I begin my seventeenth year in the classroom, I wanted to take a moment to reach out to fellow educators across the state to make sure you are aware of another resource for Language Arts teachers and students: the UNESCO City of Literature.

In 2008, Iowa City was named a City of Literature by the United Nations Education, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). As part of its continuing mission, the City of Literature organization would like to share some of its resources with educators as a way to celebrate that proud distinction, honor the literary legacy, and nurture a creative future in Iowa and beyond.

One unique and ever-evolving resource for the Language Arts classroom is the “Writers on the Fly” video series produced by the City of Literature in partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities. Iowa City’s literary reputation attracts authors from around the world to study, share, and teach, and the City of Literature has recorded interviews with these poets, novelists, journalists, and thinkers. Dozens of authors discuss the origin of their ideas, the process of their writing, and the technique of their revisions, giving students and teachers insight into writing from those who practice what they preach. New interviews are added throughout the year.

To encourage students and teachers to delve into these videos as a learning resource, the City of Literature is developing a series of mini-lessons to accompany the author interviews. Increased emphasis on core-curriculum standards and high-stakes testing in states and districts can make it difficult to find time to use writing to create, to reflect, or simply to have fun in classrooms. Each mini-lesson gives students and teachers an opportunity to hear from an author and then use their point of view as an inspiration to do some “Writing on the Fly”: a unique writing exercise to keep those creative muscles strong. You might use these lessons as part of a writing project in your class or as a one-time-only writing experiment, or even as a “Plan B” (if your classroom is like mine, sometimes even the best lesson plan falls apart; these mini-lessons might be just the thing to turn “dead air” into a chance for “Writing on the Fly”)

Additional “Writing on the Fly” lessons will be added as the program continues, so I hope you keep coming back to the website for more updates and for other resources from the City of Literature, including the “Glory of the Senses” essay contest for high school sophomores. In the meantime, many thanks for all the hard work you do for young writers and best wishes for a great school year!

Adam Witte
Language Arts Teacher
Washington High School
Cedar Rapids, Iowa

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