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UM DeSoto Collaboration Aims to Improve Middle School Writing

Jeanine Rauch, writing center director at the UM DeSoto regional campus, instructs students at Hernando Middle School. Photo by Erin Garrett/University of Mississippi at DeSoto Center-Southaven

Writing center directors at Northwest Mississippi Community College and the University of Mississippi at DeSoto Center-Southaven recently collaborated with eighth-grade educators at Hernando Middle School to explore how writing centers can make an impact on students at any grade level.

During the last week of November, the directors gave mini-lessons on writing to encourage and inspire students at the middle school. Northwest Writing Center Director Jason Jones and Northwest Online Writing Center Director Daymon Kiliman spoke about drafting and the writing process, two skills that can be critical to both writing and broader research projects.

Josh Green, writing center director at Northwest DeSoto Center, and Jeanine Rauch, writing center director at the UM DeSoto regional campus, instructed students on the importance of audience and purpose, and how description in ones’ writing is important for the reader.

The writing center directors hope to initiate visits with other middle and high schools in north Mississippi, Green said. They also encourage schools to consider implementing their own center as part of this collaboration. Writing centers offer free services that are designed to help students become stronger writers and critical thinkers.

“A writing center adds so much to a school as it serves not only as a student support service, but it also models the practice of collaborative writing and revision that is critical at both the high school and college level,” Green said.

Tarra Taylor, eighth-grade English teacher at Hernando Middle School, remarked on the positivity that this type of collaboration brings to DeSoto County schools.

“I feel that other schools in the district could greatly benefit from partnering with writing centers at Northwest and the University of Mississippi,” Taylor said. “This partnership would provide instant professional development.

“As teachers, we seldom get the chance to observe other teachers, and this would provide that opportunity.”

Taylor also said that she would “love to see the implementation of a writing center at Hernando Middle School, as well as at other middle schools in DeSoto County.”

Jennifer Booher, also a Hernando Middle School eighth-grade English teacher, agreed that collaborating with the writing centers is valuable for her students.

“It exposes my students to the world of higher education possibilities,” Booher said. “This in-class instruction on the importance of writing and various writing skills reminds (students) how important writing skills are, and teaches me some new techniques that inspire me.”

Rauch hopes the collaboration will continue to grow and provide helpful resources for students and faculty at DeSoto County schools.

“The establishment of writing centers at the secondary and middle school level is something that will be beneficial to both students and teachers,” Rauch said. “The focus on writing as a process is critical to the advancement of writers and provides a unique student-to-student support system.”

For more information about Northwest Mississippi Community College Writing Centers, visit http://northwestms.edu/. For more information about the University of Mississippi at DeSoto Center-Southaven Writing Center, visit http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/desoto/.

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