Program Background

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The following narrative was submitted to the California School Board Association's 1998 Golden Bell Awards and provides program background information illustrated with quotes from students, educators, and community members.
We live it. We can't escape it.
We are artists. We are teachers.


As teachers, we were thrown together by external circumstances, but found we shared an understanding and respect for students and creativity. Our students, who seemed to recognize themselves in us, suggested we work together as advisors to create Canvass, the literary arts magazine.


During the three years we worked together on Canvass as an extracurricular project that combined writing and design, we saw a certain type of student benefited from the collaborative process we used. These were students who almost exclusively felt the traditional school setting didn't allow them full expression of their talents. They all had strong, creative voices with personality and passion, but they felt they didn't have a truly meaningful, safe forum in which to express themselves.

Student Difference

"Portfolio creation, self-assessment, presentation, and reflection are skills that I have not been able to refine in any other space of learning. These skills have allowed me to become a more concise communicator in words (written and spoken) and in images. This class and the teachers have created a prime environment for me to become a highly-skilled individual. We are living in the real world, while preparing for it." - Karrie Jackson, second year WriteDesign student


"When I was born, nobody was there to catch me. A thousand tiny pieces flew off in all directions. Into the ground, the sky, and off to the distance. I never even knew they were gone. But then, 14 or so years later, I found one. A little missing piece of me. And then I found another. And another. And now I'm looking for the rest." - Drew Koorey, second year WriteDesign student

WriteDesign gasped its first breath when we as teachers recognized our mutual respect and passion for our subjects, our students, and learning in general; we realized when we worked together, we strengthened each others' skills. We also recognized we had a mutual need for challenge, stimulation, and a forum for our passions and voices.

Five years ago, under the enthusiastic leadership of our principal, Dr. Jeffrey Davis, our community joined in restructuring efforts at the high school. Dr. Davis encouraged us to dream of classes that were powerful for all students, classes we felt passionately about teaching, classes we felt would excite the students who represented the full spectrum of interest and ability but weren't being stimulated and nurtured in a way that addressed their personal learning styles and perspectives.
We presented WriteDesign.

All Students

"WriteDesign epitomizes what we have been attempting to accomplish in our restructuring program. The affirmation that Coronado High School (CHS), and in particular, the WriteDesign program, received from the National Blue Ribbon observer, validates our efforts. The WriteDesign course embodies the characteristics that have made CHS a National Blue Ribbon School." - Jeffrey Davis, Ed.D., Principal Coronado High School


Our first year, we began with 25 juniors and seniors who described themselves as "passionate" about writing and design, and together we explored, fell, and explored some more. We pulled ourselves up, reevaluated, readjusted, and tried again as we wrote, designed, shared, listened, responded, laughed, cried, and created a powerful Canvass in class. Our voices were loud, but a little unclear. As a family, we had to deal with our frustration, small successes, and major victories. As partners, we found ourselves tag-teaming to address the diversity in our students. We were modeling the creative process that is so much a part of WriteDesign. We had no idea exactly what our voices sounded like until we started listening to our students.

Standing Alone and Gaining Siblings

Student Difference

"I can honestly say I cannot recall having seen a program elicit such consistent and self-motivated growth and learning in the subject matter at hand. Clearly, students in this thoughtful program truly think of themselves as writers and designers. They have been equipped, prodded, nurtured, encouraged, and find a sense of meaning, purpose, and perhaps most importantly, confidence, in their learning. It seems to me unique, different from many classroom settings. The obvious respect and warmth between teachers and students serves as a model for those of us in the profession." - Bill Cass: teacher and administrator at Coronado Village Elementary, and facilitator at the WriteDesign Portfolio Presentation Day

Today, as we complete the third year of WriteDesign, we find ourselves having to live up to what we say. We preach integrity and must live integrity. Our once small nuclear family has become a rambling foster home for a large, diverse group of students.


Ensuring a safe and nurturing environment for our students is our first priority. Sustaining WriteDesign isn't a problem; housing it might be due to growing student demand. As we write this document, 80 students are registered for Fall 1998 WriteDesign.

Sister programs, such as the Coronado School of the Arts (a school within a school located on the CHS campus) and Oxford Academics (a 1997 Golden Bell Award winning program that is a technology-oriented, student-centered, cross-curricular, core-subject tutorial course of study) provide a natural integration with WriteDesign. The program itself includes both juniors and seniors and the majority of all students who have taken the course as juniors continue it their senior year.


Self-chosen goals and the flexible mini-lessons also enhance the sustainability of the program because each year is unique. The workshop format of the program encourages personal goal-setting allowing students to grow and progress at their own rate. Students also discuss daily mini-lessons on writing and design topics. As instructors we create mini-lessons in thematic units that develop a particular skill or project. Throughout the process we facilitate as-needed, on-demand requirements with customized instruction.

Student Difference

"Without exception, I was amazed at their depth of feeling, passion, and excitement in presenting and discussing their work. In particular, their thoughts on goal setting, new learning, and taking risks, as well as their self-reflection, were most impressive. What terrific young people they are!

It's to your credit that you've created a learning environment which not only promotes freedom of thought and creativity, but is a "safe" place to try new avenues of expression, to dream, and ultimately to soar with the realization that you've accomplished more than you ever thought possible.

Thank you again for the opportunity to see 'what's right' with education!" - Katy Roberson: Coronado School Board member; Director, VIP Village, South Bay Union School District (1997 Golden Bell Award recipient); and facilitator at the WriteDesign Portfolio Presentation Day

The measure of our course is in the growth we and our students have undergone through a positive and objective environment where we provide tools and a forum encouraging the discovery of personal voice, regardless of the pitch or range, a voice that will reverberate throughout their lives and the lives of those they touch.
WriteDesign champions real life skills that prove immediately useful and transfer to post-high school careers, college, and life-long learning.

Student Difference

"I feel I've grown immensely as a writer this past year. WriteDesign has given me the opportunity to view the work of other students which is an essential component of my growth. It allows me to see writing in all of its stages." - Amy Hansen, second year WriteDesign student

"I didn't realize how significant WriteDesign was to me for the two years I was in it...but now design and writing are my majors." - Sheerah Bucklew, college sophomore, WriteDesign '95-97


First and foremost we live by communication which incorporates the following skills: writing, design, technology, a love of learning, passion, integrity, teamwork, pride of craftsmanship, time and stress management, and fun. We customize instruction for students and allow those who understand and apply concepts to go beyond, following their own passions and learning styles. In addition to structured lessons, students set their own goals in writing and design and measure their progress every six weeks.

Core Curricula and State Frameworks

WriteDesign easily and actively incorporates the state frameworks for English and art, the district vision, and the CHS Expected Schoolwide Learning Results. Examples of this marriage include:
  • Self-directed learners are developed by providing each student with tools and opportunities to think critically.
  • Interpersonal and team-building skills are developed through the use of response groups, literature circles, collaborative learning, and Canvass.
  • Fundamental knowledge is demonstrated through projects that integrate writing, design, and technology in a rigorous manner.
  • School-to-career awareness is developed through the use of individual goal setting and a guided "Journey Into Self" including self-assessment, personal narrative writing, resumés, and research on colleges and scholarships that yield essays and applications.
  • School and community involvement is developed through submissions to the school newspaper, contributions to school projects in writing and design/art, the creation of Canvass, and our annual Portfolio Presentation Day.
  • Social conscience is developed through the study of core literature, selected readings, and a varied mix of media with global perspectives.

    True success is not only being aware of how we learn, but also, working to our individual strengths and actively adopting new strategies to facilitate personal growth. WriteDesign students come to understand we are all responsible for our own learning. Final assessment in the course embodies that responsibility. The students show what they have learned and more importantly HOW they have learned. Students focus on metacognition as a significant part of the learning-creative process so they may apply their learning to future endeavors. The emphasis is on process and learning. Rubrics, personal conferences, and portfolio presentations assess student growth.

Student Difference

"I've truly benefited from the alternative style of grading/assessment of the WriteDesign program. I've learned about a multitude of writing styles, techniques, structures, and genres rather than spending week after week perfecting the standard analytical essay as I did for years in regular English class. In WriteDesign my progress as a writer was assessed through my portfolio and a rubric - which clearly explained 'WHY' I got the A, B, etc...WriteDesign is a class that has prepared me for the real world - life after high school. I've learned about presentation, design, and the world of writing. One of the assessment processes I like best - was my own 'reflection'- an explanation, or look back at my own learning. It allowed me to assess myself - which is a very important skill to have."- Loni Christiansen, second year WriteDesign student.

During the past two years WriteDesign teachers and students have presented our "family" philosophy, course outline, projects, and portfolios to: the CHS faculty; CHS Parent Teacher Organization; the Coronado Unified School District Board; the California Arts Project; the San Diego Area Writing Project; the Greater San Diego Council of Teachers of English "Promising Practices" convention; the San Diego State University Masters of Educational Technology program; and to observer, Neil Nuttall, Ed.D., during the site visitation by the 1997-1998 National Blue Ribbon Schools Secondary Program.


"I reviewed various portfolios in the evidence room created in this course and all were outstanding...I found WriteDesign to be integrated into not only the English department, but all core areas." - Neil Nuttall, Ed.D., National Blue Ribbon site visitation observer

Students have taken charge of their own sharing in the community in the following ways: Canvass, online student and alumni gallery at, Portfolio Presentation Day to interested community members, readings at the Coronado Teen Center and Cafe 1134 (a local coffee house), the formation of a student book club (open to all students at the high school), cross-age learning with classes at Village Elementary, and guest speakers and readers invited into the classroom.

"What I really liked about this experience (Portfolio Presentation Day) was being exposed to the wonderful variety of creative talent. I'm so impressed with the opportunities afforded these students for expressing their various skills and talents! We had a photographer, a painter, and two writers at our table, all of whom are conversant with how to present their work on the computer. This seems to be a wonderfully interesting program." - Carol Lemei, community member and facilitator at the WriteDesign Portfolio Presentation Day

"What I really liked about this experience was everything! The students were prepared, poised, and did a wonderful job. In addition to their fine work, I most appreciated the respect, interest, and support the students gave each other. They truly listened and encouraged. You have developed a community of learners...Your students have grown in their writing, thinking, and as human beings." - Rene Townsend, Ed.D., Superintendent of Coronado Unified School District and facilitator at the WriteDesign Portfolio Presentation Day


This past year we wrote our own textbook for the course that includes our major projects, assessment rubrics, major mini-lessons, and writing and design technique sections. We are in the process of creating an interactive on-line web site sponsored by a local Internet Service Provider, znet, that will include all of the exercises, examples, rubrics, and resources we use. We are exploring the online delivery system to further the students' development of digital communication and to allow the students to work on a flexible schedule according to their strengths and needs. In addition to the delivery of exercises and materials, we are maintaining the student and alumni galleries at our web site in order to facilitate an exchange of ideas and work between past and present WriteDesign students and to assist other schools in the replication of similar courses.

Quite simply, WriteDesign is an example of the powerful combination of passion, knowledge, respect, and integrity.

We live it. We can't escape it.
We are artists. We are teachers.

Student Difference

"...for the first time in my life, I really accomplished something in school, as if what I did was actually worth more than just one letter printed in the top left hand corner of my paper." - Nici Temple, first year WriteDesign student, who moved to Coronado and began speaking English at age 12

"'s not about the grade any more. It's for me." -
Sacha St. Germain, first year WriteDesign student

The following reflects the prompt in the Golden Bell Award application that requested information focusing on the course goals and objectives.

"WriteDesign, a unique class developed at Coronado High School (CHS), is based on the integration of creative writing, graphic design, and technology. Built upon this foundation, the course has flourished into an educational opportunity best described as one of the most meaningful, powerful, and beneficial classes any student can take. It is an outstanding example of the school fitting the students instead of the students fitting the school." - Jeffrey Davis, Ed.D., Principal Coronado High School.

WriteDesign is a two-hour class in which students create a variety of multimedia projects. They participate in a one-hour writing and one-hour design/technology workshop each day. Two instructors team-teach the course, coordinating instruction to empower students in writing, design, and technology, combining all three fields. Students receive English 11 or 12 credit and practical arts/computer literacy credits.

WriteDesign employs the use of appropriate tools, both physical and metacognitive, in a powerful way to facilitate critical thinking and productive expression. The following goals and objectives describe how WriteDesign is innovative and meets student needs.

: Students will read and understand literature and other media (including core curricula, state framework guidelines for both English and art, and district computer literacy) as models for good writing and design.

Students will be able to interact with a variety of texts (core, contemporary, and nonfiction) by: effectively analyzing writing and design using key elements such as theme, structure, style, and symbolism; synthesizing, interpreting, and comparing the content of works studied; evaluating the moral implications of characters, actions and contextual imagery; reading, listening to, or seeing a variety of multicultural works; interacting with texts and visuals created for writers and artists; and reading and analyzing a variety of nonfiction works.

GOAL: Students will develop an understanding of self, voice, and audience.

Students will be able to: collect and organize data about self from various analytical resources; analyze personal strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles; synthesize personal perspectives and knowledge of audience; and develop voice both in writing and design.

: Students will become familiar with the use of technology.

OBJECTIVES: Students will be able to use the computer and specific software including: basic computer skills, word processing, design layout, illustration, art manipulation, e-mail, and the Internet.

: Students will develop an understanding of the basic elements of style in written and visual forms and appropriate applications.

: Students will demonstrate the ability to recognize and execute effective communication.

GOAL: Students will create portfolios and use presentation skills and techniques (verbal, written, design, and technology).

: Students will be able to create and present their portfolios by: exploring portfolio options; reflecting on their work and their creative processes; selecting appropriate pieces to go in portfolio; selecting appropriate techniques to show their work (print and/or digital); presenting their work to community members, faculty, and peers; and critiquing others' work.

The course goals and objectives connect students who want a deep exploration of written, visual, technological, and oral communication skills. To be innovative and exemplary, WriteDesign remains dynamic. Reflection and revision continue to be stressed. WriteDesign responds to the changing real world needs of students and society.

Site Map | Graphic Organizers | On-Line Resources | Rules of Thumb | Glossary | Quotes | WordList | Grades | Co-Teachers - Doug and Melissa | Gallery

E-Mail Doug at or Melissa