01.11.17

HIP Stories: Middle Grades Students Share Writing With Their Parents

HIP Writing Program Coordinator for the Middle Grades Program, Upper Division, Avenues: The World School

If you think it’s impossible for an event devoted to the quiet practice of writing to have the energy of a cabaret, you may have missed HIP Stories in November. HIP, or High Intensity Practice, is in its second year at Avenues, and this gathering marked the first time parents joined their children to celebrate the work they’ve been doing in HIP Writing. The purpose of the event was threefold: to share a few student pieces with the audience, to discuss interesting research and data around student thinking and writing and to allow parents to immerse themselves in the practice of fluid thinking through writing.

The evening kicked off energetically, with an eighth grade musical ensemble performing “It’s Hip to be Square.” Head of school Hamilton Clark then joined the students on stage as four sixth graders read responses to a warm-up prompt from October in which they were asked to imagine an elevator conversation explaining the purpose of HIP Writing to the new head of school. Students’ responses ranged from comparisons to sports practice to a narrative about two people applying for a job.

Eight graders perform "It's Hip to be Square."

Eight graders perform “It’s Hip to be Square.”

Then parents took their turn at some actual HIP writing. Everyone in the packed Black Box was asked to practice creative thinking by writing a letter to a person, place, feeling, idea or thing. Some sample ideas included: “A Letter to the MetroCard I Used on the Day I Got Stood Up,” “A Letter to the Person Who Told Me to Lose Five Pounds Last Summer,” “A Letter to the Person Who Told Me I Look Beautiful,” “A Letter to the Website that Rejected My Password.” Just like the students, parents wrote quietly with pen and paper, and some even volunteered to receive public feedback from the HIP teachers.

Writing letters.

Writing letters.

Having a firsthand experience of the HIP Writing class process helped parents to understand the vision of the program and appreciate the value of the work their students are doing. They shared some of their reactions:

“I enjoyed myself immensely and found the totality of the event enriching on so many levels.”

“This is helping our kids stay creative, empathetic, curious, risk takers. Thank you!”

“HIP Writing changes writing from something scary and daunting into something exciting.”

“Avenues students have a place to practice taking risks with their writing.”

“Amazing. I had no idea what HIP writing was…I love this creative and free approach to writing.”

To conclude the evening, a number of students shared their work. Two eighth graders read their letters, “A Letter to Los Angeles,” and “A Letter to My Lost Pencil.” Other students shared a series of reflections on what the Statue of Liberty was thinking in 2016.

Sharing letters with one another.

Sharing letters with one another.

Every school in the country is working to teach students to be creative, flexible thinkers ready for the challenges of a changing world. HIP Writing twice a week in grades six through 11 is one way that Avenues tackles that challenge, and we were glad to have the opportunity to share this exciting program with parents at the first-ever HIP Stories.

The evening helped parents better understand the HIP Writing program.

The evening helped parents better understand the HIP Writing program.

We were glad to be able to share this program with parents.

We were glad to be able to share this program with parents.