Illinois Writing Project


The Illinois Writing Project is a nationally-recognized teachers group that advances writing and literacy in schools across Chicago and northern Illinois. We are affiliated with the National Writing Project, which consists of over 200 similar sites across the country, and we’re based at Northeastern Illinois University. IWP was founded over 35 years ago by nationally-known educators Steve Zemelman, Harvey Daniels, and B.J. Wagner.  IWP is directed by Zemelman and Northeastern College of Education Prof. Katy Smith.

A core leadership team of 25 teacher leaders guide policy decisions and the work of the Project and lead professional development in schools in Chicago and across the region.

Illinois Writing Project Efforts

Community Outreach focused this fall on Write Across Chicago, to promote the appreciation and enjoyment of writing throughout the community as well as in Chicago schools.

Teacher Leadership Development through summer institutes, to advance writing instruction widely across many school districts, rather than depending on a single limited source.

In-depth professional development workshops on writing in schools and districts across northern Illinois. Our core program consists of 30 contact hours workshop time. A cadre of experienced IWP teacher-leaders conducts these workshops. Hundreds of teachers across the region have participated.

Whole-school development of instructional improvement. Our comprehensive approach helps schools become strategic, so improvements are widespread and sustained. This includes workshops, classroom coaching, meetings with grade-level teams, creation of building-level instructional leadership teams, and coaching for school leaders.

Area-wide conferences bring together teachers from many locations to explore writing instruction.

Annual Writing Palooza – an all-day Saturday writing festival for K-8 students from city and suburban schools.

Student Writing Clubs that take place primarily in Chicago schools.

Professional publication by IWP leaders. Many of these, including Best Practice: Bringing Standards to Life in America’s Schools, and Content-Area Writing: Every Teacher’s Guide, have been used extensively across the country.


Illinois Writing Project activities are supported by a number of sources:

Grants recently from the Federal Dept. of Education, the Chicago Dept. of Cultural Affairs and Special Projects, the Oppenheimer Family Foundation, the Suburban Council of the International Reading Association, Crossland Literacy (book distributor) and Stifel (brokerage and investment company).

Contracts with school districts and education agencies for professional development work.

Fees for teachers’ participation in workshops and conferences.

In-Kind support from Northeastern Illinois University, our home-base, and from organizations now participating in Write Across Chicago, including the Chicago Public Library and the Chicago Bar Association.

Donate! We greatly appreciate donations to the Illinois Writing Project, helping to strengthen children’s literacy and academic success in Chicago schools.