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

Donald GravesThe NCTE Donald H. Graves Award for Excellence in the Teaching of Writing was established in 2001 by Donald H. Graves and annually recognizes teachers in grades K-6 who demonstrate an understanding of student improvement in the teaching of writing.  The award is administered by the NCTE Elementary Section Steering Committee, which 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.  The award is presented at the Elementary Section Get-Together during the NCTE Annual Convention where the winner is briefly recognized and given a cash award of $2,000 U.S. funds.  

2009 Award Winner Announced

Nancy Hutchinson Webb
is the eighth recipient of the NCTE Donald H. Graves Writing Award. She is a sixth grade teacher at Belle Heth School in Radford, Virginia.

"I believe that each of us is a unique human being---a mixture of intelligence, experiences, and all that we have acquired from our family history. These elements form our tacit knowledge---our unique way of expressing how we see the world. When students know they are free of topic restraints, their writing becomes who they are now, allowing freedom to figure out who they will become."

Read more of Nancy's
Reflective Essay!

The July issue of School Talk is a tribute to Donald H. Graves and includes articles by two former recipients of the NCTE Donald H. Graves AwardGanna Maymind and Lisa Cleaveland.

Submission Process
Applicants for the award should submit 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.
  • 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 including contact information (home/school address, phone numbers, email, etc.)

Application Review Criteria

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.

Nomination Process
All portfolios and essays should be submitted by June 15, 2010 by:

NCTE Graves Writing Award
1111 W. Kenyon Road
Urbana, IL 61801-1096                                        
Email portfolios and essays to 

Know someone you think should apply for the Graves Award?
Print out this letter encouraging application to assist with the process.


Help support and advance initiatives that expand opportunities for the teaching and learning of language arts---DONATE to the Donald H. Graves Writing Award today!


Past Winners

Winning Reflective Essays:  2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005, 2004, 2003, 2002 

2009 -- Nancy Hutchinson Webb, Belle Heth School, Radford, VA
2008 -- Kim BrownOcean Bay Elementary, Myrtle Beach, SC
2007 -- Ann Marie Corgill, Riverchase Elementary, Hoover, AL
2006 -- Kimberly Gombola, Dranesville Elementary School, Herndon, VA
2005 -- Ganna Maymind, Asher Holmes Elementary, Morganville, NJ
2004 -- Pamela Murphy, Trevor Day School, New York, NY
2003 -- Angela Colombini, Hage Elementary School, San Diego, CA
2002 -- Lisa Cleaveland, Jonathan Valley Elementary, Waynesville, NC


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Related Books
Becoming Writers in the Elementary Classroom
Using the Writer's Notebook in Grades 3-8
What Works in Writing Instruction
The Writing Workshop
Wondrous Words
Family Message Journals


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