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The Write Partner

Barbara K. Strassman, Trenton State College

Most typically, students engage in writing because their teacher tells them to. Hence, their audience is almost exclusively, the teacher. Even when the assignment involves writing a letter to a third party, the teacher is typically an intermediary audience. While a teacher s comments and feedback to the student may vary based on the assignment being shared, the teacher is still the teacher. Teachers have their views about the assignment and have already set the educational goals. The teacher s reading and response to the assignment may not be as open as an independent reader. The goal of Writing Partners is to expand the audience for student writing by creating a community of writers that extends beyond classroom walls. In this program, deaf high school student writers are paired with preprofessional teachers of the deaf and hard of hearing. Unlike pen-pals, Writing Partners main activity is not the exchange of personal letters for the purpose of making friends. Rather, the focus is on sharing and responding to writing. What unites the participants is their identities as writers.

Writing Partners exchange written pieces approximately every two weeks. The writer can send a cover letter explaining why they have chosen to send this particular piece or questions they may have for their partner. The partner responds in writing, telling what they liked, what they do not understand, or simply raising questions. Partners can share a particular piece through several drafts, or move on to another piece, as they choose. The partners meet at a Writer s Conference in May. Each writer chooses a work to be published in an anthology. The anthology is available at the Writer s Conference.

Writing samples and correspondence about the sample were shown and discussed. As the goal of the Writing Partners Program is not to correct writing syntactically, but rather to facilitate the process of writing, participants in the program were asked to write a reflective piece about the program. Their reflections were discussed. The presentation also discussed the benefits this program offers to each participant. For deaf students, the program offers an authentic, non-judgmental audience for their writing. For the preprofessional teacher, the program offers a unique opportunity to learn about and interact with deaf individuals outside of the classroom.