The Illinois State Writing Program has recently provided research grants for three students at Washington Middle School, in Washington, Illinois, to conduct writing research projects.

The Writing Program regularly provides mini-grants (up to $100) to instructors and students in ENG 101 and ENG 145 to support classroom writing research projects, but supporting writing research for eighth-graders is something new for the Writing Program.

“Our Writing Program has a unique approach to teaching writing, which asks students to think about all the practices and activities that go into people being literate in the 21st century,” said Writing Program Director Joyce Walker. “It goes beyond thinking about ‘writing an essay’ and really tries to get students to see themselves as ‘writing researchers.’  That’s what the mini-grant project is all about.”

The grants provided to Deb Riggert-Keiffer’s eighth-grade students will fund work on a poster campaign, a children’s picture book, and a computer app project. Riggert-Keiffer, who is also a Ph.D. candidate in English studies at ISU, developed the project with Walker.

“I use a pedagogy with the students in my eighth-grade classes that is similar in many ways to the one we use in the ISU Writing program, including the focus on creating writing researchers,” said Riggert-Keiffer. “Because students are using concepts to understand literate activity similar to college students in ENG 101 and ENG 145, I thought the mini-grant project would be a good fit.”

In preparation for composing the projects, students will complete extensive genre research and create writing “research writer’s reports” on their work. The projects will be completed during spring 2016.

The poster campaign is designed to explain a CHAT (Cultural-Historical Activity Theory) approach to writing to middle school students, and the book project does the same work through the creation of a student-illustrated picture book. The third project focuses on designing and building an app for middle school writers.

Although only three students’ proposals were accepted for funding, all of 43 students in Riggert-Keiffer’s class will be involved in creating these projects, and they will be supported by three ISU Writing Program graduate assistants, who will serve as ISU liaisons for the project.

Results will be posted to the ISU Writing Program’s website: