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NCTE Donald H. Graves Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Writing

2016 Winner:  Lily Diamond

Lily DiamondLily Diamond from The School at Columbia University, New York, has been named the winner of the 2016 Donald H. Graves Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Writing. Lily is a fifth grade teacher at an independent school in New York City. Prior to making her way across the country, Lily earned a Masters of Education at Stanford University, where she was first introduced to readers and writers workshop. After graduating, she continued to develop her passion for literacy instruction while teaching sixth grade in East Palo Alto, California. Through her work with upper elementary students, Lily has experienced the transformative power of writing for adolescents, and she is dedicated to cultivating students’ empathy, growth mindset, and independence through writers workshop.

Learn more about Lily in her Reflective Essay.

Join us for the Graves Writing Award presentation at the Elementary Get-Together on Thursday, November 17, during the NCTE Annual Convention in Atlanta, Georgia.


Nomination Deadline:  June 15

Purpose:  To annually recognizes teachers in grades K-6 who, through the teaching of writing, demonstrate an understanding of student improvement in writing.

Award Criteria:  Nomination application should include the following:

Reflective Essay.  We are looking for your views on the purposes for writing, beliefs about writing, and how a teacher develops it.  As you work with student writers, how do you think about both life long learning and short-term goals? We will consider your own writing in this application, looking for a sense of your voice and an awareness of the audience who might want to read this essay—teachers and others who would want to know about what you believe about writing and how you go about supporting student growth in writing.

1.  Student Samples and Commentary. 
We are looking for multiple samples from three students of varying writing abilities, for evidence of a variety of writing topics among the three writers, and evidence of diversity in the kinds of writing the children are doing. Commentary should address each student's growth as a writer, how the child changed and how you think that growth took place. More than describing the pieces of writing, please analyze or show what you see in each piece.

2.  Evidence of writing strategy instruction in samples or teacher commentary. 
What is your perspective on developing student writing ability? How do you respond to student work so the quality we see develops? How do you organize for instruction so that it actually transfers to the students' writing?

3.  Evidence that instruction, beliefs, and qualities in writing are consistent. 
A teacher's theoretical beliefs guide instruction and improvement in student writing. Help us see your theory-based instruction through the essay, in the writing samples, and in the commentary on the writing samples.

Donald GravesAward Specifics:  The award recipient is presented a certificate and honorarium at the Elementary Section Get-Together during the NCTE Annual Convention.

This award was established in 2001 by Donald H. Graves (1930-2010), professor emeritus in the early childhood program at the University of New Hampshire and renowned educator, researcher, and author on writing.

Read about the influence of Donald H. Graves in the School Talk issue "A Tribute to Donald H. Graves: Teacher, Writer, Friend" and the Language Arts article "Don Graves Remembered," with a podcast from the authors Tom Romano and Penny Kittle.

Deadline:  All portfolios and essays must be received by June 15 and sent to or by postal mail to NCTE Graves Writing Award, 1111 W. Kenyon Road, Urbana, IL 61801-1096.

Nomination application should include the following:

  • Reflective Essay. An introductory essay of 2,000 words addressing your thoughts about writing and teaching writing, as well as discussing what you see as significant improvements in the children's texts and insight into the reasons for those improvements. (see award winners reflective essays below)
  • Three portfolios of student writing, each of which contains three to five selections showing change from earlier to later in the year. Take care that each required item in the application is included and clearly labeled. Papers are to be dated, the names of the children removed, and each coded as child A, B, and C. Where possible, the three students' work should represent a broad range of ability.

    For each student, include a 250-word commentary on the specific growth you see in this student's work over time, predictions of where this student might go from here as a writer, and what further instruction you could provide.

  • Information Sheet. Include your contact information for notification of award results (home/school address, phone numbers, email, etc.).

Judging:  The NCTE Elementary Section Steering Committee selects an award recipient from the portfolios and essays submitted during the year. If the Committee feels that no significant portfolios or essays have been submitted, the award may be postponed until the next year.

Past Winners:

2015:  Emily Elizabeth Smith, Cunningham Elementary, Austin, TX (Reflective Essay)
2014:  Margaret Simon, Iberia Parish Gifted Program, New Iberia, LA (Reflective Essay)
2013:  Heidi Weber
, Loveland Elementary, Loveland, OH (Reflective Essay)
2012:  Suzanne Lak, John M. Sexton Elementary, St. Petersburg, FL (Reflective Essay)
2011:  No Award Given
2010:  Julie Johnson, Avery Elementary, Hilliard, OH  (Reflective Essay)
2009:  Nancy Hutchinson Webb, Belle Heth School, Radford, VA  (Reflective Essay)
2008:  Kim Brown, Ocean Bay Elementary, Myrtle Beach, SC  (Reflective Essay)
2007:  Ann Marie Corgill, Riverchase Elementary, Hoover, AL  (Reflective Essay)
2006:  Kimberly Gombola, Dranesville Elementary School, Herndon, VA  (Reflective Essay)
2005:  Ganna Maymind, Asher Holmes Elementary, Morganville, NJ  (Reflective Essay)
2004:  Pamela Murphy, Trevor Day School, New York, NY  (Reflective Essay)
2003:  Angela Colombini, Hage Elementary School, San Diego, CA  (Reflective Essay)
2002:  Lisa Cleaveland, Jonathan Valley Elementary, Waynesville, NC  (Reflective Essay)


NCTE FundDonate to the NCTE Fund to help support and advance initiatives like the Donald H. Graves Writing Award that expand opportunities for the teaching and learning of language arts!


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Becoming Writers in the Elementary Classroom
Using the Writer's Notebook in Grades 3-8
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The Writing Workshop
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