Tuesday, October 30, 2012

"Owning" the Workshop

At the beginning of the school year, it seems that in instruction within reading and writing workshop, teachers are largely the ones to "own" the learning experiences at first.  By that, I mean that we are largely the ones who are deeply aware of the objectives and purposes of each mini lesson--those several, specific, very focused lessons in the first few weeks that aim to develop our workshop in meaningful ways.  These lessons will no doubt continue throughout the school year.  We are very purposeful in the implementation of these beginning lessons, because we know that it truly sets the tone of the workshop for the entire year.  Though they vary a bit from year to year, my first few mini lessons are always centered around how we "do" things in our reading and writing classroom.  I want students to see how serious we are about the "business" of reading and writing, and these first lessons guide students' understanding and purpose.  Students can readily begin to see the "routine" of workshop, including aspects of mini lesson work, read aloud, independent reading, conferring, and so on.  Students come to understand the expectations.  They begin to follow the routines and know the daily components of workshop.

What's amazingly special to me as we come close to the end of a grading period is learning when our kids really begin to "own" the workshop for themselves.  For example, in writing workshop, we have been learning about using excellent details in our writing, and the recent mini lesson focus is on how to truly "show, not tell" in our writing pieces.  After several sessions of guided practice with this skill, students, during the "practice" phase of writing workshop, continue typing the drafts of their narrative pieces.  During some writing conference time in the past few days, students have shared with me some of their reflections as they were working on their writing.

Here are some of my "noticings" about their work thus far:

*Students are using more details to enhance their leads.

*They are including more sensory details in order to include rich language in describing people, places, and events.

*Students are more excited about wanting others to read their stories, because they see the power in using strong, vivid words.

*They are conversing with me more about the process of reading over their work several times, and finding many areas to revise in order to provide their reader with a better glimpse of their true intent for writing.

*Students are beginning to see the value in revising their work so that it is made better.  They are more aware of the reality of how authors are not finished with their work until after many revisions.

These are just a few examples of ways I've seen students really "owning" their experiences within writing workshop.  I love seeing their enthusiasm grow with this writing project.  I talked with students today regarding how critical a skill it is to learn how to include amazing details in their work.  I reinforced with them how powerful it is to "show, not tell," and that it is definitely not just a "catch phrase."  I told them that the more they learn (and practice) this skill early on, the better writers they will be.  Their future teachers will be excited about what they can already do, and they will be encouraged to take them to the next level in their writing.

Of course, there are many other essential learnings in teaching upper elementary students how to write well.  But this particular skill has resonated with my students. They love details that help them see, hear, smell, taste, and touch.  They care about how their stories sound to others.  They want others to read their pieces.

The strategy of "show, not tell" (or using vivid details, descriptive language, etc.) is so powerful.  I believe if we can "catch" or motivate more of our students in this stage of their schooling to love how writing can influence others through rich details, then we have perhaps made them writers for life.  Just as we have such passion for growing our students as readers, we can have that same hope for writing as well.

No comments:

Post a Comment