Register Now for the March 2016 Curriculum Conversation


On March 20, 2009 IWT offered the first in a series of Curriculum Conversations on cross-disciplinary approaches to teaching canonical texts through diverse writing-to-learn practices. Although writing to learn and writing to read are by now familiar instructional strategies, their use in the classroom remains challenging, especially when applied to familiar texts in the secondary and college curriculum.

Shakespeare’s Othello, written approximately in 1603, is a play that continues to hold center stage in many classrooms today. Perhaps this is because Othello wrestles with themes that are still very much a part of our lives: racism, treachery, jealousy, revenge, and love (among others). In Act I, Scene III, Iago says, “Tis in ourselves that we are thus or thus,” reminding readers that as humans, we are ultimately responsible for our own experiences and have the power to control our own actions. Yet more often than not, the characters in this play behave in ways that cause pain, violence, and heartbreak.

Why does Iago mislead Othello so cruelly? How does treachery and betrayal—real and imagined—flourish in a society where insidious remarks can prompt terrible acts of violence? Why is Othello so susceptible to Iago’s defamation of Desdemona? And what role does Othello’s “otherness” play in these inquiries? Can Othello be read in ways that have yet to be explored in our classrooms? What can Othello teach us about our own contemporary situation? This Curriculum Conversation will address these questions as we explore and grapple with a text that has engaged readers for generations.

IWT Curriculum Conversations foster innovative approaches to teaching and reading texts that contribute to our contemporary sense of an evolving self. Using writing-to-learn strategies, the day’s workshops will focus on Othello and encourage participants to investigate a variety of questions and topics:

  • The origins and rituals of violence and male bonding within the urban culture of Renaissance Italy
  • Attitudes toward race and male/female relationships in 16th-century Italy
  • Contemporary adaptations of Othello—Just how much “contemporary” is too much? When do adaptations of the play violate the integrity of the work?
  • Bringing the work of the workshop into our classrooms and to other plays and literature.

Writing-to-learn practices are the starting point for a rigorous reading of the text through the lens of contemporary and historical nonfiction, fiction, and poetry.


Participants are asked to read Othello before coming to the workshop. Check this page for updates on which edition will be used in the workshop.

Fee: $350 for tuition, morning coffee, lunch, and materials. The early-bird workshop fee is $300; the deadline for early registration is February 11, 2015. IWT encourages teachers from the same school to participate by offering a 10 percent discount to schools sending a team of three or more teachers to any of the workshops.

Cancellation Policy: No refunds can be given for cancellations made later than a week before the event.

All workshops take place at Bard College on Friday, March 11, 2016, from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Check-in is from 8:30 to 9:15 a.m.

Register Now for the April 2016 Conference



April 22, 2016 Conference: “The Difficulty with Poetry: Opacity and Implication in the New and Old”

A decade ago, Charles Bernstein wittily outlined the telltale “symptoms” of the difficult poem: “high syntactic, grammatical, or intellectual activity level; elevated linguistic intensity…[and a] negative mood.” In workshops that put contemporary poets—Ann Lauterbach, Claudia Rankine, Charles Bernstein, Anne Carson, and others—in conversation with those typically taught in high school curricula—Keats, Dickinson, Whitman, Williams—participants will explore how poets communicate ideas and complex emotions through word choice, rhythm, and formal structures. We will also examine poetry that crosses boundaries of literary collage, blog, graphic art, and podcast, and discover why contemporary poetry, while celebrating the new media, can purposely confound and frustrate readers as poets and readers play with what they find impossible to “tell” in any genre except poetry.

IWT’s annual conferences are inquiries into broad issues in teaching directly related to the teaching of writing. The day consists of three group workshops led by IWT faculty associates, with a plenary session that moves the inquiry along and is sometimes the subject of the second workshop of the day.

This year’s conference, “The Difficulty with Poetry: Opacity and Implication in the New and Old,” will highlight IWT’s writing-based teaching practices that help administrators and teachers experience the kinds of teaching that help students learn to work through whatever roadblocks he or she might encounter—to take intellectual risks—in the process of exploring “difficult” topics and disciplines.

An on-site reading and panel will feature poets from a special themed e-edition of Conjunctions, Bard College’s renowned literary magazine devoted to innovative writing.

Friday, April 22, 2016

8:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Early Bird Registration Fee: $300
Regular Registration Fee from March 22 – April 15, 2016:

Registration ends April 15, 2016

Fees include morning coffee, lunch, and anthology of related readings

Cancellation Policy: No refunds can be given for cancellations made later than a week before the event.

Register for July 2016 Workshops



The July weeklong workshops offer teachers an opportunity to develop an understanding of “writing-based teaching,” its theory and practices, and its application in the classroom. Each workshop will focus on a method for teaching different forms of writing–essay, academic paper, creative nonfiction, poetry–or for using writing to teach history, visual texts, or grammar.

The July workshops offer a retreat in which participants learn new writing practices, read diverse texts, and talk with teachers from around the world on the Bard College campus. The luxury of time helps us envision how we might make these new practices our own–how we might tweak the writing prompts, change the readings, figure out ways to accommodate collaborative learning in larger classes, and explore how poetry, for instance, might inspire students from ethnically and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

During the workshops, teachers live in single rooms on the Bard campus, eat meals together, and enjoy the beautiful setting and lively atmosphere of Annandale-on-Hudson in the summer. During the course of the week, workshop groups meet for thirteen 90-minute sessions, beginning Sunday evening, July 10, and continuing every day from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., except Wednesday, when classes end at 1:00 p.m. The week’s workshops will conclude on Friday, July 15, at 4:00 p.m.

Group 1: Teachers as Writers
Recognizing that teachers need time for intellectual stimulation and the exchange of ideas with colleagues from diverse schools, the workshops in this group will provide opportunities for reading, writing, and collaborating. Although the workshops highlight the connection between writing and its numerous classroom applications, the emphasis will be on writing itself. Teachers meet in groups of 12 to 15 for a series of 90- and 120-minute sessions in which they explore their values and concerns as writers and teachers.

Group 2: Writing-based Teaching
These workshops model strategies for applying IWT’s basic writing practices to the teaching of any subject. They allow teachers of all academic subjects to reflect on what it means to teach through writing and how informal writing practices can be woven into class lessons in fields such as history, science, social studies, and literature. As in Group 1, teachers in these workshops will meet in groups of 12 to 15 for a series of 90- and 120-minute sessions in which they will explore the value and use of writing-based teaching practices.Read More