Sunday, July 24

I Wonder...Writer's Workshop

Writer's Workshop...I've been doing a lot of reading this summer on teaching young students to write. I'm neck deep in Katie Wood Ray's About the Authors, Already Ready, and In Pictures and in Words, Jennifer Jacobson's No More "I'm Done!", as well as Martha Horn and Mary Ellen Giacobbe's Talking, Drawing, Writing. All of these are amazing books by the way and I am devouring every word as I try to get a handle on what I need to do differently. Don't get me wrong, writing time goes "okay" in my class. But, I still feel like I'm fostering dependence on me rather than independence while they write. I am tired when writer's workshop is over, because I have run around for an hour helping 20+ students think of ideas, sound out words, find supplies, and so on. It's exhausting and I'm not getting to conference often enough.

The big idea that both Ray and Jacobson promote is that students should be independent during writer's workshop. Providing ample, well-organized writing supplies (pencils, markers, crayons, paper in multiple sizes and varieties, scissors, glue, staples, post-it notes, etc.) need to be available and in an area for the kids to access on their own. They need to be taught to get what they need on their own as well as how to appropriately get and put away items. When I try to be the "master of the materials" I am taking away independence and making more work for myself. Additionally, both authors dislike writing prompts or any directed writing. They say that allowing students to choose what to write about during each and every writer's workshop time is essential for fostering independence and inspiring a joy for writing.

Another big take away from my reading so far is that writer's workshop is less about the mechanics and more about the authors. I teach kindergarten...most of them are still learning to form their letters and what sound each letter makes. Getting words on paper is a giant task to ask. I am reminded to see them as five and six year old writers and revel in how they craft their stories. Words or no words, they are sharing a story and if I celebrate what they are doing well, they will begin to see themselves as authors. I love when Katie Wood Ray share examples of students comparing themselves to well-known authors as though they are on par with them. It is precious! So another goal I have is to be sure to let them see themselves as authors...not just as kindergarteners doing writing. It really is amazing the stories that they can tell...if we don't get caught up in thinking "but, they're not where they need to be yet!"

Jacobson begins each workshop with ten minutes of music and calls it the Quiet Ten where even she sits down and quietly writes for ten minutes along with the students. Modeling quiet writing and being able to tell students how you solved problems and came up with ideas...priceless...why haven't I been doing this??? The Quiet Ten is going in my planbook! After those ten minutes she begins conferencing and the students are permitted quiet collaboration with each other while they continue writing. Love it.

I will also have the materials form the get-go for the students to actually make books. I usually offer books, but not necessarily always. For the most part I use 12x18 story paper folded in half so it is essentially a book...and I will still have that as an option. But from the beginning I also want to have a variety of book writing options. Ray suggests that calling the writing task "making books" is a more concrete idea that young kids can more easily relate to and willingly attempt...after all, they love making things! Also, since books have multiple pages students are more likely to stay with a single story longer with the goal to finish filling each page (they will need to be taught the expectation that they are not to waste materials, but need to fill each page).

I'm still working through ideas in the books and taking notes. But, I was curious...what do you all do? Please comment!


Runde's Room said...

I just linked up. I'm revamping my writer's workshop this year for my grade 5/6 class - I want it to be a little more structured. I look forward to seeing everybody's ideas.
Runde's Room

dkay said...

this is January and I just read your post on writing. How has it worked for you this school year? Did you follow the ideas from the books you read last summer? Can you tell us what has worked for you and what hasn't? Thanks,