Writing Coaches of Montana (WCM) believes that the ability to write clearly is vital to success in life. We create a unique learning experience that supports core curriculum objectives by employing trained community volunteers to provide individualized in-school writing instruction. In pursuing this mission, WCM fosters community-wide support for, and involvement in, public education.
Teachers today are faced with the daunting task of transforming students who too often have rudimentary writing and organizational skills to students who can think and write clearly about complex issues. Teachers do not have the time to require enough writing assignments, or to provide the individual attention and feedback on multiple drafts, that effective writing instruction requires. Writing coaches help to bridge this gap in student skills and teaching resources.
WCM recruits, trains, and supports a community of volunteers—active and retired parents, professionals, business owners, and university professors and teacher candidate students. Professional writing instructors train all volunteers in a hands-off coaching model which promotes critical thinking and student self-discovery in the writing process by helping students recognize the positive elements of their writing and organize their thoughts in a logical manner. Coaches do not edit or proofread; they do not “fix” student papers. Instead, they allow students to discover their own solutions to their writing problems so they may fully grasp and internalize writing skills.
We provide two conferences for every paper, the first emphasizing content, organization, and evidence—how to think and write clearly, and the second focusing on style, fluency, word choice, and grammar and other writing conventions. This two-shot approach conveys to students that writing is a process and that revision is essential to good writing.
What We've Accomplished
Since its inception in 1995, Writing Coaches of Montana has:
- grown from an on-site drop-in center in a single school (Hellgate High School), to a classroom-based, teacher-driven program in nine schools and three school districts in Missoula County
- expanded from fewer than 100 coaching sessions to over 3,400 individual student conferences every year
- maintained a commitment to meet one-on-one with every student in the class, regardless of ability
- increased the number of coaches from a handful of untrained volunteers to more than 150 community mentors
- created formal coaching guidelines and required that all coaches attend a three-hour training with professional trainers from The University of Montana
- developed a “student-centered” approach to coaching writing that prioritizes idea development and critical thinking over editing and conventions
- provided students with two meetings for every paper, emphasizing that writing is a process requiring multiple revisions
- established coaching programs for 8th graders in all MCPS District #1 middle schools (Meadow Hill, Washington, and C.S. Porter)
- began coaching programs in three Missoula County “feeder” middle schools (Bonner, Clinton, and Lolo)
- collaborated with The University of Montana Department of English and the UM PJW College of Education and Human Sciences to provide coaching experience to education training candidates