It is amazing to see the growth of writers all around Barrows Elementary. Over the last 2 years our staff has been embracing the Writers Workshop process. I have to say, that I see more students engaged and enjoying writing with this shift. This new process does create changes for families, as you may not be receiving as many 'polished' final drafts as previous years. The Writers Workshop supports the authentic writing process of sticking with a piece for a longer period of time and continually adding, editing, and improving it to completion. This is what "real" writers do, and it encourages that thinking that you're never done and can always enrich and enhance your written pieces. I found the information below posted by a NJ school district that thoughtfully captures an overview of the Writers Workshop model; I thought it was worth sharing with you all. If you want to learn more I encourage you to check it out here: Teachers College Reading and Writing Project: http://readingandwritingproject.org/
Love, Mrs. Leonard
Teachers College Writing Workshop “Lucy Calkins” Guide for Parents
Excerpts from NJ school website: https://www.montclair.k12.nj.us/WebPageFiles/1960/TC_Writing_Guide_for_Parents.pdf
...The Teachers College Writing Workshop model allows students to have the “last” word; it allows students to take something pedestrian and make it meaningful. We believe that our lives are worth writing about, and that our students need to care about what they write. We believe that writing is a craft; it can be empowering for students to learn how to become better writers. We believe that writing should happen every day. Students in each grade write in different genres throughout the year. Students are not assigned to specific topics, but rather choose their own topics within the genre being taught.
What does Writing Workshop look like in the classroom?
Writing Workshop begins with a mini-lesson that teaches a new strategy: Teachers start with, “So far we’ve been……Today I want to teach you…” or with a small moment that connects to what the teaching point of the day is. Or the teacher can let students know that she has been thinking about them as writers and that he/she is going to teach them something that they are actually ready for: “Watch me as I…”
The teacher may begin with a sample of her own writing or a sample of someone else’s writing, a mentor text specific to the unit or genre being studied or with a shared writing piece that the class is working on together.
Various charts will be on display in the classroom. These charts are visual reminders that reinforce writing strategies; they may help with dialogue, structure, elaboration, or conventions.
Ideas are generated and students practice telling their story to a partner. Storytelling is a rehearsal for writing; students develop ideas (time is spent on teaching students how to generate, and choose, a seed idea. Students may choose a good seed idea by asking themselves the following: Do I remember it well? Is this a moment that taught me something? Am I comfortable sharing it?
Revision and development of stories may include;
- · Nurturing and growing the seed idea comes next through rehearsal: students are encouraged to re-read their entry and think about the big, important events in this moment, what they were thinking/feeling at each point, how did they change as the story unfolds. Students then learn to make a writing plan.
- · Students revise, making sure that we show our emotions and thoughts at the time.
- · Students take small moments and break them into beginning, middle and end. Develop the tension and the problem. The problem is not the event.
- · Use illustrations to tell the story - Draw pictures and label them with words. Adding words helps formulate the story.
- · Students tell their story to their writing partner. They show each other their sketches, and they may be prompted to add more pictures and words. Partners ask questions like, what would they be saying? What would they be thinking? Students can draw dialogue boxes to reflect inner thinking; it is often easier to hear voice before writing –
- · The teacher may say, “How can you bring that feeling out with your words?”
Paper choices vary according to grade level, and there is paper choice within each grade level. Students may draft with just picture boxes, or older students may draft on paper with lines skipped so that there is room to go back and add new ideas and revisions. Students in upper grades are encouraged to write “long and strong,” or “fast and furious” using thought prompts to push our thinking (all in all, what I mean is, this is important because…)
They consider how to begin…with dialogue, setting, action, or inner thought. They usually spend a day writing out the entire story. Teachers are modeling throughout this process: For example, a teacher may share, “My story is really about how when you’re a teenager, your parents become embarrassing. For example…”
A few days of revision then occur. Teachers do not mark-up students’ papers with edits, but rather facilitate a process where the students themselves are thinking about what to revise. The teacher may encourage the use of prompts to push our thinking include: for example, another example, in addition, in other words, on the other hand, this is important because, all in all, what I’m saying is….The goal is to stretch out the heart of the story, or what the writer believes the story is really about.
The editing process also includes a focus on grammar, punctuation, and mechanics. Students may use an editor’s checklist. Students learn that good stories have dialogue, detail, inner thinking and setting. This is what we are looking for when we revise. The teacher may demonstrate, and then have the students try it: “Watch me, now you try it right now in your piece.” The teacher may demonstrate by showing the students a mentor text of a great writer. The teacher encourages students to try a similar style in their own writing.
The publishing process (writing celebration) can take place in many different ways: a museum walk where students walk around and read others’ writing, student read‐alouds in front of the class, a publishing party with parents, leaving writing out on students’ desks and having others walk around the room, read the stories silently, and leave a comment. The students are taught that their writing is not solely for the teacher anymore; it is to be celebrated by all!