Paschal High School students, who attended TCU's writing camp this year, say they felt better prepared for end of the year state testing.

Paschal is the only high school in Fort Worth to have a writing camp in partnership with a university.

TCU’s School of Education has put on a writing camp with Paschal for the past five years. The camp was initially located off-campus, but for the last three years, the camp has been held in TCU’s Brown-Lupton University Union building.

The writing camp is held two consecutive days each year. There are typically about 50 Paschal High School students each day, TCU education professor Jan Lacina said.

This year, there were 112 Paschal freshmen the first day of the camp, with 88 sophomores and juniors the other day.

Leann White, a Paschal English teacher who coordinated the Writing Camps, said the “goal is to boost the students’ morale and give them confidence to do their best on the STAAR EOC tests.”

The writing camp prepares a selected group of Paschal students, grades nine through 11, who are “the most at risk in the areas of reading and writing for the STAAR End-of-Course assessment,” Lacina said.

Students who are in reading classes because they did not pass the STAAR EOC test the previous year and a few other students who were recommended by their English teachers were invited to attend the camp, White said.

White polled her English classes, she said, and her results found all of the students agreed it helped them on the test.

“TCU gave me the strength to keep going when I don’t want to do it,” Paschal student Tre’Lin said.

TCU education students who participate in the writing camp are either recruited by Lacina or are fulfilling a course requirement.  Sixty TCU students were required to go through training in order to help teach. 

The training is over two writing styles the Paschal students will be tested over; persuasive and expository. The TCU students learn ways to guide the students in learning to correctly write in both styles as well as teaching strategies for reading text and thinking critically to answer questions, Lacina said.

Some Paschal students are positive and participate, but since the students attending the camp are struggling with reading and writing, it is possible not everyone will be eager to participate.

This provides an opportunity for TCU’s future teachers to learn how to motivate and engage students who may be resistant, Lacina said.

 “It’s a real-life experience,” she said. “If they are not interested in working with kids who struggle at times, then they probably need to find another field.”

Elizabeth de Gravelle, a TCU junior secondary English education major, volunteered for the writing camp a second time this year. The writing camp allowed de Gravelle to experience keeping the students engaged, “which is really the hardest part of teaching high schoolers,” she said.

During the camp, not only was de Gravelle able to teach students how to outline, organize, and compose expository and persuasive essays, but she also gave students a different way to look at state testing.

One Paschal student said college is only for rich people, de Gravelle said.

“I pointed out that by scoring well on the STAAR and working hard in school, they could secure scholarships, and that college was not impossible for any of them,” she said.

The small-group environment with TCU students gives Paschal students the chance to ask questions they might not ask in class, White said.
Paschal students getting to interact with college role models during the writing camp can make writing exciting for them, de Gravelle said.

“The writing camp provides a rare opportunity for me to be able to lead a group of students, mentor them, and become familiar with both my chosen student age group and my content area,” de Gravelle said.