Since 1983 the Young Writers Workshop has offered students the opportunity to explore new directions in their writing in a supportive, collaborative environment.
In the summer of 1983 Simon’s Rock began offering a three-week writing workshop for high school students modeled after the innovative three-week Workshop in Language and Thinking required of all entering students at Bard College. We are now part of the National Writing and Thinking Network, the largest consortium of summer writing programs in the country. Each year 84 academically motivated students are chosen to participate in the Simon’s Rock program. Former participants have gone on to such colleges as Amherst, Bard, Harvard, Haverford, Kenyon, Princeton, Simon’s Rock, Smith, Williams, and Yale.
Unlike conventional workshops in expository and creative writing, Simon’s Rock’s focuses on using informal, playful, expressive writing as a way to strengthen skills of language and thinking. Out of these informal writing activities, using techniques of peer response, students develop more polished pieces, ranging from personal narratives to stories, poems, and exploratory essays.
The workshop sections are small (12 students). This allows for individual attention to each student and helps to foster the sense of belonging to a supportive learning community in which students can feel comfortable exploring new directions in their writing and thinking. Trusting one’s own language and voice, learning to think for oneself and in collaboration with others- these are the qualities and skills that the workshop strives to develop.
Each weekday consists of three ninety-minute sessions organized as writing and discussion seminars. Workshop leaders write with their students, and there is frequent sharing of this informal writing, both in small groups and in the class as a whole. Discussions of assigned readings - mostly contemporary poems, stories, and essays - is informal and speculative. The emphasis isn’t on arriving at a "correct answer" but on exploring various ideas about what a text is saying. The texts also frequently serve as starting points and models for students’ own creative writing exercises. These daily activities are complemented by evening assignments in reading, revising, and journal writing.
Each week students develop a portfolio of "works in progress" and then meet individually with their workshop leader to discuss what they have written. Rather than evaluation, these meetings focus on what the writer is trying to do in his or her writing and how best to accomplish these goals. By becoming more conscious of their choices and strategies, students develop the intellectual autonomy expected of them as they prepare for college.
Students live on campus in the college’s dormitories, along with adults who are members of the Simon’s Rock student life staff. Aside from quiet hours and a curfew, students are free to organize their time in ways that fit their particular needs, whether that means preparing for the next day’s class, socializing with friends, participating in a recreational activity, or attending an off-campus cultural event.
All faculty are experienced teachers and writers with a special interest in the theory and practice of the nationally recognized Bard College Institute for Writing and Thinking. They are selected for the Simon’s Rock workshop because of their record of teaching excellence and their familiarity with the needs and abilities of younger writers.
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Late this summer, I had the pleasure of attending the Young Writers Workshop at Bard College at Simon’s Rock in Great Barrington. (The summer before, I... Read full article »