Our lesson plans require alignment with Common Core or Arkansas Curriculum Frameworks. How does WITS meet these requirements?
We would like to invite WITS to our school, but can only do it in a large group setting. Is this acceptable?
What is WITS?
Writers in the Schools (WITS) is a program administrated, staffed, and taught by graduate students in the University of Arkansas’s Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) Program in Creative Writing and Translation. These graduate students visit elementary, middle, and high schools throughout the state of Arkansas and teach two-day poetry workshops. The WITS program was first started during the 1973-1974 school year and has served Arkansas schools every year since.
How much does a WITS workshop cost?
There is no charge for WITS to visit your school or institution, but we do request a donation to help offset travel expenses and to also help make visits to underfunded schools possible. Many schools choose to donate $100 per team or $2 per WITS student. Some schools donate on behalf of their school and choose to sponsor a school in need as well. If your school cannot afford to make a donation at this time, don’t let that stop you from requesting a visit. We would be pleased to visit you and work with your students.
Our lesson plans require alignment with Common Core or Arkansas Curriculum Frameworks. Can WITS meet these requirements?
In short, yes. We can certainly build and plan our lessons to align with Common Core Standards, but we do ask that teachers communicate their specific needs with their assigned trip leader at least two weeks in advance of the visit. Please visit the Common Core Alignment section of our site to see the ways in which our program can serve your grade level.
Who can request a WITS visit?
Any and all public or private elementary, middle, and high schools within the state of Arkansas are eligible for a WITS visit. We can coordinate visits with principals, teachers, librarians, and literacy coaches. Juvenile Detention facilities may also request a WITS workshop. Our only restriction is our funding. If WITS is unable to visit a school or institution, it is because funding for the year has already been used up.
Which grade levels can participate in WITS?
WITS is designed to introduce students to poetry and promote creative writing. Over the years, we have found that the program best serves students from grades 3 – 12. Your WITS instructors will select specific prompts and adjust the session’s lesson plans according to the students’ grade level(s), interests, and skills.
Are high school students too old for WITS?
Actually, we regularly work with young adults. At the University of Arkansas, all of our staff members have taught (and most are currently teaching) undergraduate writing courses ranging from Creative Writing Workshops (in both poetry and fiction), Essay Writing (creative non-fiction), World Literature, Composition 1 and 2, Technical Writing, and Advanced Composition.
What if my students have very little experience with poetry or creative writing?
That is perfectly fine! In fact, many of the students we work with have very little familiarity with poetry and the arts when we first arrive. Our program is designed to foster and emphasize creative thinking, associative thinking, experimentation, and problem solving. If teachers want to incorporate WITS into a larger classroom poetry unit, we have resources available in the “For Educators” section of our website.
How many instructors does WITS send per visit?
WITS sends out instructors in teams of two. Our lessons are designed to be taught by a team of two instructors, and schools may not split the team apart for any reason. However, schools can request multiple teams on a single visit.
How many lessons can each WITS team teach per day?
Each WITS team may teach up to four hours (four sessions) per day. We also request that we work with the same students on the second day as we did the first. On Day 2, students generally feel considerably more comfortable, demonstrate a greater sense of authority with their writing, and take more risks.
How long is a WITS visit?
Each WITS workshop takes place over two consecutive days. On the first day, students are introduced to the WITS program and are guided through some short prompts. The second day consists of a short review, followed by more complex prompts. On the second day, students generally feel considerably more comfortable, demonstrate a greater sense of authority with their writing, and take more risks.
We would like to invite WITS to our school, but we can only do it in a large group setting. Is this acceptable?
WITS’s primary goal is to bring poetry workshops to your students. Over the years, we have led workshops in cafeterias, libraries, all-purpose rooms, and auditoriums. Every school has different classroom space, needs, and resources. We will not let any of those restrictions prevent us from fulfilling our mission. If your school has special requirements, we ask that you communicate these in advance with the program director and trip leader so we can plan appropriately.
How does WITS determine when to visit each school?
We understand that the school year is hectic, and your WITS visit is planned around your school’s scheduling needs. When you request a WITS workshop, the program director will ask you which month you would like to schedule a visit. The trip leader will then contact you to determine the final two-day block. Because visits may require coordinating up to six staff members’ individual schedules, we do ask that schools provide the trip leader with 3 possible two-day blocks within their requested month.
What makes your staff qualified to teach?
Our staff is comprised of graduate students in the University of Arkansas MFA Program in Creative Writing and Translation. While many of us arrived at graduate school with teaching, coaching, or counseling experience, we all have taught (and most of us currently teach) undergraduate writing courses at the University of Arkansas. At the U of A, you will find us teaching the following courses: Creative Writing Workshops 1 and 2 (poetry and fiction), Essay Writing (creative non-fiction), World Literature, Composition 1 and 2, Technical Writing, and Advanced Composition.
Where do you get your prompts and exercises?
We invent them. Every single poetry prompt and exercise that WITS brings into your classroom has been created by MFA students at Arkansas who are either current or former members of the WITS Staff.
What is the University of Arkansas MFA program?
The University of Arkansas Program in Creative Writing and Translation is one of the oldest and best MFA writing programs in the country; out of appx. 1,000 applications, up to twelve students are admitted each year. Our MFA program is a 4-year program, making it the longest MFA program in the country. The Masters of Fine Arts (MFA) degree is the terminal degree in the practice of an arts-related field.
What is the WITS anthology?
Each year, the WITS program edits and publishes an anthology of student poetry created during WITS workshops. Every student whose work is published (as well as all participating teachers) will receive a complimentary copy of the anthology for that school year.
When is the WITS anthology published?
WITS anthologies are usually published in late fall or early winter of the subsequent school year. For example, the anthology of poems written during the 2012-2013 school year will be published in late fall 2013 or early winter 2014. Once a new anthology has been published, WITS will begin mailing copies out to participating schools.
What is WITS Magazine?
WITS Magazine is an online magazine that is published once a month, from September through May. Like the WITS anthologies, WITS Magazine also features student poetry created during WITS workshops. There is no overlap in content between WITS Magazine and the WITS Anthology.
Are the same poems from WITS Magazine published in the WITS anthology?
No. There is no overlap in content between WITS Magazine and the WITS Anthology. One is not “better” than the other; we started WITS Magazine simply because we wanted to be able to feature more student work.
Can you take my child’s name off your website?
Yes we certainly can. We respect your privacy and try our best to be mindful of student privacy issues. Please contact the program director via email and we will resolve this issue as quickly as possible.
Can I order a copy of an old anthology?
The 2014-15, 2015-16, and 2016-17 WITS anthologies are available for $6 per copy. Older anthologies are available for $12 – $28 per copy (depending on the year). For more information or to place an order, please contact the program director via email.
Can I make a donation to WITS?
A contribution of any amount helps make our creative writing programs for Arkansas students possible and we sincerely appreciate your support. More information about making a donation is available on the Support WITS section of our website. If you have further questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us via email.
We would like to schedule a WITS workshop, but we have more questions. Whom should we contact?
The program director will be happy to work with you to ensure a successful visit. Please contact us via email.