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Peer Tutors Help Fellow Highland Students with Finer Points of Writing

The new Writing Center offers students assistance with class assignments.

March 28, 2013

Lee Anna Brawner and Michael Zamora don’t judge; they just offer suggestions to help their peers get their point across.

Highland High School students who need help with writing assignments for any class now can turn to the new Writing Center, a creation of the school’s literacy team. Brawner and Zamora are two of six students available and trained to work with peers to beef up their writing. It’s not easy to get students to share what they’ve written, and the center has only been open about a month, but they’re getting the hang of it.

“It was awkward, at first, but I get them to open up about their writing,” Brawner said of her tutoring experience.

The Writing Center occupies a windowless former storage room off the Highland library. It contains chairs around half a dozen small tables, where tutors can work one-on-one with their fellow students. Tutors can also visit classrooms during the day and work with students there.

Kathleen Miller, an educational assistant who oversees the Writing Center and trains tutors, said the center is intended to be available for all students in all subjects. That even includes more personal papers, or writing that may be published. It’s also designed to be a place for suggestions rather than corrections.

“We want them to get experience as a tutor that’s meaningful to them,” Miller said. “We want them to be empowered to teach their peers and be able to put this experience on their resume.”

Tutors are to listen to students read their papers aloud, and then ask them what the paper is about and help them organize their thoughts. Brawner, a junior who is interested in teaching, said she tries to put students at ease by using her sense of humor, and letting them know that their discussion will be kept confidential. Many papers have personal, emotional content.

Miller said the center has been well-received, though word is still getting out. A blog has been set up to help students online. Because the incoming Common Core State Standards contain a greater emphasis on writing and writing across the curriculum, there will be an increasing need for the center. It could help students with scholarship essays, final projects or even help them get published.

Plans also are in the works for a service-learning course next fall that would connect the Writing Center and the Highland community. Miller said students in the class could tutor elementary students, or work with the elderly to help them tell their stories.

“I have a feeling this will be successful,” Miller said. “This is a good thing at Highland.”

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