From the Field: Writer's Workshop

From the Field: Success With Writer’s Workshop

“From the Field” is a collection of short, inspiring and heart-warming classroom anecdotes contributed by our professional developers as they work in classrooms across the country. Names of teachers and students have been changed.

Even though the Thanksgiving holiday has passed, it’s still a great time for reflection. While many of us working at CLI do not work directly in classrooms, I am thankful that we are able to impact thousands of students in neighborhoods that really need us (and soon to be more). The anecdote below demonstrates that we can truly change student attitudes toward reading and writing, by building up teachers and providing the necessary tools for success. That being said, please enjoy this month’s From the Field!

After working with Mr. Carroll for a good part of the year, we realized together that writing instruction and production were weaknesses within his classroom. As we discussed our plan of attack for launching Writer’s Workshop and broke down the lessons into “small seed” lessons, Mr. Carroll began to gain some comfort.

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When we first pulled the children to the carpet to launch our Workshop, they met us with huffs and puffs. One little boy went as far as to say, under his breath, “Writing is so boring!” After meeting several times to discuss the procedures and goals of our initial lessons we could feel the sense of resistance begin to fade within the students.

One particular lesson we did was truly monumental in changing the classes’ whole attitude toward writing. That day, before beginning our activity, we brought the children to the carpet and reviewed our Workshop expectations. Our goal was for the children to generate more ideas they could use in their writing that were directly related to their seed topic. The children were to obtain their topic from their “small seed” list and write on that topic, non- stop, for 2 minutes. Next they would have to choose one word from what they wrote and make that the topic for their next 2 minute writing session and so on and so on through 4 rounds. We tried to play it off as a game or contest of how much you could tell us in a few minutes.

Once we finished, reviewed the purpose, and after a few children shared out, we began to clean up.  As I walked around, something caught me off guard. The children were actually mad they had to stop writing and were discussing how much fun the activity was. What an awesome moment and an eye opening experience for my teacher. That day Mr. Carroll realized that with the right amount of scaffolding and planning, he has the control to take the “threat” away from writing! And now we have a room of 25 children who look forward to Writer’s Workshop time!

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