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School & Community Teaching

Writing Workshops & Residencies

Heather Severson is an award-winning writer, educator and gypsy scholar, plying her craft wherever adults gather for self-development and education. She has worked with the National Writing Project, the Southern Arizona Writing Project, the University of Arizona, Pima Community College, University of Phoenix, the Educational Testing Services, the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers, the American Red Cross, Girl Scouts of America, and the Professional Association of Diving Instructors. She specializes in developmental reading and writing, with forays into sustainability, eremology, outdoor education and SCUBA diving.

To support her habits in teaching and teacher education, Heather is a freelance education writer. She is the owner of StudioGraphia, LLC, a freelance writers’ cooperative that provides services in writing, editing, instruction, research and design. She has written supplemental online content, instructor manuals, curriculum, and textbook reviews for Bedford/St. Martins, Cengage Learning, McGraw-Hill Higher Education, Pearson, Wadsworth, and other publishers for almost fifteen years.

Heather’s formal writing practice began with diaries and journals written at the feet of her scholarly grandfather. After enduring a long, dark, night of the soul brought on by severe illness and physical rehabilitation, Heather reemerged into her community with a renewed focus and dedication to sharing the benefits of journal writing. Her current efforts are focused on publishing a memoir about some of her early experiences in education—the lessons she should NOT have learned in school.

Age Groups/Areas of Interest

Grades 7-12
Grades K-6
In School
Older Adults
Persons with disabilities
Young Adults


$50 per hour or session. For more information, please contact artist.

For More Information


Download Heather Severson Bio

A Philosophy of Teaching Writing

Education is a right, though it should be valued as a privilege, and pursued as a responsibility. Education is integral to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Every person can be a student and a teacher, promoting a better way in some aspect of living.

Teachers must create a safe learning context for students. Educators provide each student with a blank canvas, primed and ready for creativity, motivation and inquiry. The external aspects of students’ lives provide a frame for the creative space. All of these elements affect their learning: prior knowledge, cultural experiences, motivation, career goals, self-confidence, family and peer support, learning styles, classroom experience, emotional engagement, perceptions of welcome from the teacher and classmates, nutrition, how much sleep they have gotten, whether or not they have a safe place to go home to, and their expectations of the teacher, their fellow students, and themselves.

If we can shut out the rest of the world for the duration of the class, or even for a few minutes, we can create some kind of equity through that blank canvas, whatever the size, shape and weight of the students’ individual frames. We do that by caring for each other generally and individually. We ask the right questions, and influence the mood and atmosphere of the classroom, given external constraints and group dynamics. We discourage behavior that stifles feelings of safety. We encourage self-confidence, and find guidance in baby steps. We build upon whatever each student brings to the task.

Diversity in education is necessary for a fulfilling and authentic experience of the world. Equity does not necessarily mean that everyone gets the same thing, or is expected to achieve the same amount, level, or quality of work, because that might confine some and overwhelm others. Freedom to achieve at the right pace for each student is one key to achieving equality in the classroom, protecting each student’s right to learn.

Personal motivation is probably the most important factor in any student’s success. If knowledge and skills are not valued, they are short-lived and ultimately irrelevant. While a teacher can provide an inviting context for learning, a significant level of engagement is required from students in order to create a successful learning community. A minimum standard is to be present, open-minded, and respectful. Any effort extended will be returned in large measure, perhaps in a number of concrete and intangible forms.

Often, the creative process is raw and personal, creating a good deal of vulnerability for the artist. A teacher’s efforts to establish safety in the classroom as a fundamental right can help create an opening for that process. Expectations for presence, open-mindedness and respect contribute to the essential element of community in the teaching or facilitation of writing. Like fire, water, a blade, or other tools vital to our survival and comfort in the world, words can also be used to detrimental purpose. As writers, we must hold the power of language in awe, and learn to brandish them with skilled, intentional, responsible hands.

We must not forget the essential element of fun. If there is one thing I have enjoyed most in all of my years of teaching, it has been the laughter and goodwill inherent in any community of learners. We must infuse our approach to teaching with some belly-shaking laughter. This supplies some intrinsic motivation beyond the altruistic drives inherent in the work of any committed educator. Good humor helps provide safety for learning, builds community, and elicits an important degree of personal engagement in the tasks necessary to master skills, achieve objectives, and meet standards.

Download Heather Severson's Teaching Philosophy

Preferred Instructional Methods and Strategies

Describe how you adapt your teaching strategies to address various learning styles, intelligences and/or age groups.

Instructional Methods

I use direct instruction to provide information, develop step-by-step skills, introduce other teaching methods, and involve students in knowledge construction. Examples: lecture, structured lesson overview, explicit teaching, compare and contrast, didactic questions, demonstrations, guided reading/viewing/thinking.

I use indirect instruction to facilitate a high level of student involvement in solving problems. As facilitator, I offer support, resources, and feedback to students as they observe, investigate, draw inferences from data, and form hypotheses. Examples: case studies, concept mapping, problem solving, reading for meaning, reflective discussion, writing to learn.

My primary teaching modality involves experiential learning. The central focus of my workshop content involves personalized reflection and formulation of plans to apply learning to other contexts. My workshop activities emphasize a metacognitive process of learning, not necessarily a final product. 
Learners go through five necessary phases: experiencing the activity, sharing or publishing reactions, analyzing or processing information, making inferences or generalizations about principles, and applying new knowledge to a variety of new situations. Examples: conducting experiments, field observations, field trips, games, building models, writing narratives, role-playing, simulations, storytelling, surveys.

The most important goal of my work in education is to foster the development of individual student initiative, self-reliance, and self-improvement. Independent study, while primarily self-directed with the support of the facilitator, often includes learning in partnership with another student or within a small group. Examples: answer questions, computer-assisted instruction, writing essays, writing journals, learning activity packages, learning centers, individualized learning contracts, learning logs, writing reports, research projects.

I use interactive instruction to facilitate discussion and sharing among workshop participants. Students learn a great deal from their peers and teachers. They are able to practice their developing social skills and abilities, including observation, listening, and effectively communicating with one another. “Publishing” their work by sharing written work or participating in facilitated discussions helps students organize their thoughts and develop rational arguments. Examples: brainstorming, conferencing, cooperative learning, debates, discussions, interviews, panel discussions, role playing, tutorial groups.

Special Considerations for Different Learners

Students in Grades K-6 may have unidentified special challenges with learning, such as partial deafness, limited vision, reading difficulties, restlessness, hyperactivity, and other issues. Children often participate enthusiastically in group learning opportunities, like discussions. They can be motivated by a wide variety of intrinsic and extrinsic factors, such as personal interest in a topic or wanting to please the adults in their lives.

Students in Grades 7-12 are experiencing big physical and emotional changes. They often care a great deal about how they are regarded by others. They are often idealistic, excited to learn, curious, and easily motivated. Some students may prefer to explore their own thoughts and concerns rather than participate fully in academics if the learning context isn’t very engaging. As they get older, students are increasingly independent, and increasingly concerned that their work should have real-life impact. Many students want to see their ideals in action, and want their learning contexts to reflect their concerns and priorities.

In-School workshops and residencies must take academic standards and educators’ time constraints into consideration. Wherever it is possible to support the teacher’s curriculum, I hope to do so.

After-School/Out-of-School learners don’t necessarily require the same stringent academic standards as they do in school. These populations can expand further into realms of creativity and enjoyment, untethered by strict mandates, but guided by sound principles in learning.

Adolescents and Young Adults often appreciate novelty and entertainment, along with authentic creative contexts. They may be future oriented, and willing to engage in learning opportunities even if there isn’t yet a direct application to their current circumstances. They may look to the teacher for direction, and be reluctant to take responsibility for their own learning.

Adults may require flexibility in their learning situations to allow for competing demands on their time and attention, including jobs, caregiving for children or older adults, and other obligations. The term "andragogy," coined in the early 1970s by Malcolm Knowles, describes differences between children and adult learners. Knowles identified six assumptions about the special aspects of adult learning: need to know, self-concept, prior experience, readiness to learn, learning orientation, and motivation to learn. Adults want to know why they need to learn something before undertaking learning. Facilitators often must make a case for the value of learning. Adults believe they are responsible for their lives. They need to be regarded as capable and responsible. Adults have individual differences in background, learning style, motivation, needs, interests, and goals, creating a greater need for individualization of teaching and learning strategies. Adults can successfully mine their background knowledge and experience to enhance new learning. Adults want to learn knowledge and skills that they can apply in their real-life, present circumstances, to deal with problems they confront in everyday situations. Adults are motivated by external factors, but internal motivation is key.

Older Adults thrive in learning situations that allow them to be physically comfortable, have some control over the learning context or situation, provide receptive rather than productive opportunities for learning, and offer frequent opportunities to assess their learning needs in terms of technology, assistive resources, physical and emotional comfort.

Intergenerational audiences combine the learning styles and needs of a variety of age groups in the collaborative accomplishment of a common creative goal.

Persons with disabilities may require accommodation, assistive resources, extra time, or assistance in realizing their creative endeavors.

English Language Learners, At-Risk students and Underserved learning populations may require particular sensitivity to their various and individual learning needs. Creative arts provide a particularly effective vehicle for success for people who may have been marginalized in other academic contexts.

Androgeny: Source: Knowles, M. S., Swanson, R. A., & Holton, E. F. III (2005). The adult learner: The definitive classic in adult education and human resource development (6th ed.). California: Elsevier Science and Technology Books.

Download Heather Severson's Teaching Strategies

A Collaborative Approach to Teaching Writing

Describe how you collaborate with teachers or staff in the design and delivery of arts-based learning experiences.

As an educator with several years of experience in various contexts, I understand the importance of flexibility and collaboration in education. My workshops are designed to meet students where they are, in terms of skill, motivation and experience. I would welcome opportunities to consult with teachers before delivering workshops to make sure that I can help them address current challenges, topics of study, individual student needs, and the like.

Bearing in mind the guiding principles of the Arizona Art Standards (Create, Relate, Evaluate), I can work with teachers to provide opportunities for students to “create artworks to communicate ideas, meanings, and/or purposes; analyze and interpret contextual ideas, meanings and purposes of art from diverse cultures and time periods; and draw thoughtful conclusions about the significance of art.” While my workshops fall into the area of Literary Arts, my approach is multi-disciplinary. Participants incorporate several specific standards in the Visual Arts, and even Dance and Theater, as we engage in our creative writing endeavors.

In collaborating with teachers for in-school workshops or residencies, I can tie workshop outcomes to specific Common Core Standards in English Language Arts, particularly in Writing, for each grade level. While I can address writing and reading standards on the more granular level of grade level and specific standards, I keep in mind the Common Core English Language Arts Anchor Standards for Writing, as listed below:

Text Types and Purposes

  1. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.
  2. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine and convey complex ideas and information clearly and accurately through the effective selection, organization, and analysis of content.
  3. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.3 Write narratives to develop real or imagined experiences or events using effective technique, well-chosen details and well-structured event sequences.

Production and Distribution of Writing

  1. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.4 Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.
  2. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.5 Develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, editing, rewriting, or trying a new approach.
  3. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.6 Use technology, including the Internet, to produce and publish writing and to interact and collaborate with others.

Research to Build and Present Knowledge

  1. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.7 Conduct short as well as more sustained research projects based on focused questions, demonstrating understanding of the subject under investigation.
  2. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.8 Gather relevant information from multiple print and digital sources, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.
  3. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.

Range of Writing

  1. CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.W.10 Write routinely over extended time frames (time for research, reflection, and revision) and shorter time frames (a single sitting or a day or two) for a range of tasks, purposes, and audiences.

Download Heather Severson's Collaborative Teaching Approach

Download Sample Lesson Plan

Download Sample Workshop Evaluation

Download Sample Learning Assessment Activities

For more information about school or community writing workshops and residencies, please contact Heather at info at studiographia dot net.

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