Writer's Workshop Questions

Discussion in 'General Education' started by McKennaL, Feb 24, 2010.

  1. McKennaL

    McKennaL Groupie

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    Feb 24, 2010

    A district that I am going to be interviewing with is VERY into the workshop models (writer's worshop/reader's workshop). I understand the basic structure of workshops with a mini-lesson, work time (with conferences), sharing and closing. i have been suggested to get a few books-but can't find them in the bookstores (would like to SEE them before paying $$$ to order them). So, I have been checking out IDEAS about workshops on-line. And I have a few questions for those who know about and are doing workshops.

    1. Mini-lessons:

    It seems that everything I am seeing talks about crafts as opposed to the 6+1 traits (wondering if the terminology in the traits is "so last year"). Are the TRAITS taught in mini-lessons? Or writer's CRAFTS - which seem like smaller, more specific "bits" (etc than the large heading of TRAITS)?

    I heard something that when the students go on to their independent work that they MAY or MAY NOT demonstrate (through their writing that day) the craft mentioned and taught about. Partly that makes sense - if the students are all at different places in the writing process...if you are publishing or copying out your final draft you aren't going to go back in and change the story to reflect a new craft. BUT IF SO... how are you to know they HAVE the concept down? As i see it...if you are teaching the traits in a Balanced Literacy format...and you are teaching voice...then you have them write something using VOICE...to see if they understand and can use the trait. If they aren't even USING what you teach... how can you assess?

    2. So much of the workshop model seems to be INDEPENDENT. And though I believe there IS a nessecity FOR independent work and time to show what YOU alone can do... (and yes, I see that there are student/peer conferences...but that is only one on one). What I seem to notice is missing is WHOLE GROUP WORK and STRUCTURE.

    As a person with A.D.D., a mom of two A.D.D. students, and someone who tends to gravitate toward working with struggling students... I can see that the minimizing of WHOLE GROUP WORK cuts down the demonstrations and development/sharing of various strategies. Say, Jimmy comes up with a cool way to solve a problem that just might help me...but I never get over to Jimmy for peer review because I don't LIKE or KNOW Jimmy - and thus i never am exposed to his theory that could of helped ME. WHOLE GROUP WORK would give me a chance to "hear the thinking" of others in the class. This is too important a strategy utilized by struggling students to be ignored!!

    Next...again dealing with all this A.D.D. .. the workshop model would have given way to WAY WAY WAY too much flightiness, distract, and procrastination for me and others. WE need structure, accountability, and guidance...more than I seem to see is readily available in the model.

    As it seems to be (through what I read)...THIS would be a GREAT program for self-disciplined, highly-motivated, strongly reliant writers. But sadly...in the classes I have taught, and the children I have had/helped (not to mention, myself...after all, for me, it has to pass the what-would-the-school-aged-me-do-in-this-situation? test) there are too many kids who do NOT fit into this classification.

    Sure would appreciate comments (and answers) on this topic. Thanks!
     
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  3. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Feb 24, 2010

    Traits are generally taught within units of study. During mini-lessons you might have a guided practice/give it a try. You can also have a mid-workshop re-focusing to share something a kid tried so everyone can benefit from that. Structure, accountability, and guidance are built into workshop when done well by professional educators who have been mentored, supported in learning this model.
     
  4. Beth2004

    Beth2004 Maven

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    Feb 24, 2010

    I've taught 5th grade readers' and writers' workshop for 3 years now and I love the format. Here are my responses to your questions/concerns:

    If they aren't even USING what you teach... how can you assess?
    The students ALWAYS use what I've taught. They are given a criteria chart at the beginning of a project and know they'll be held accountable for the criteria on there. Even though the students are on different stages of the process, they always go back and reread, revise, and edit their work. If they are on their final copy at the time when I do a minilesson dialogue, for example, they know they must go back to their work and revise again if they didn't add dialogue the first time.

    So much of the workshop model seems to be INDEPENDENT. And though I believe there IS a nessecity FOR independent work and time to show what YOU alone can do... (and yes, I see that there are student/peer conferences...but that is only one on one). What I seem to notice is missing is WHOLE GROUP WORK and STRUCTURE.
    Within the format of the workshop, students are given about 10-15 mins of direct instruction time as well as 5-10 mins of guided practice before moving on to independent work. If necessary, the students will then be given small group instruction during the "independent" working time. Also, if balanced literacy is being taught properly, whole class or small group shared or guided writing will be used at some point outside of the workshop.

    Next...again dealing with all this A.D.D. .. the workshop model would have given way to WAY WAY WAY too much flightiness, distract, and procrastination for me and others. WE need structure, accountability, and guidance...more than I seem to see is readily available in the model.

    Of my 96 students, I have 10 this year diagnosed with AD/HD and have had even more than that in years past. The predictable structure actually works wonderfully for these kids. They're able to work at their own pace writing topics of their choosing. In my experience those kids tend to "zone out" and become more distracted when in a classroom driven by direct instruction. Also, if there are certain students who have a difficult time with the independent work, it's the teacher's responsibility to provide more small group or one-on-one instruction to that student or to try other strategies (checklists, etc)...just like teachers in every other classroom, using the workshop format, or not.

    Really, it all comes down to the teacher who needs to hold the students accountable and provide a structured, rigorous evironment.
     
  5. McKennaL

    McKennaL Groupie

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    Feb 25, 2010

    I want to thank you ladies for your informative answers. This is really helping me to understand the intricacies of the method.

    Thanks!
     
  6. shouldbeasleep

    shouldbeasleep Enthusiast

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    Feb 25, 2010

    Also, you don't have to stick to the workshop model every single day. For example, today we were getting ready for the writing test next week and were working on recognizing key words in prompts that make them persuasive, informational, or narrative. We read prompts together and made a list of key words, and then with a partner they pulled prompts out of a bucket and put them in the correct category, highlighting the key words. Then back together as a class again to check them and decide why some seemed difficult to place. Clarified and just wrapped up the lesson.
    Today they worked as a class to create three prompts with the same topic (Civil War), then with a partner chose from a list on the board and created different types of prompts all centered around one topic. Finally they chose a different topic and created prompts on their own. When they were done with that, they picked up their notebooks and spent the last fifteen minutes working on an essay or story that they were in the middle of before this lesson.
    They just picked up where they left off. Some were peer revising, some peer editing, some working on rough drafts, some typing, a few were just getting their notebooks organized or reading some stories they had already published. They all knew what to do since I've been doing Writer's Workshop since the beginning of the school year.
    No one was off task. And out of 80 kids, you know I've got some with ADD they take medicine, some that don't, some that have special needs, some that are class clowns, a couple of budding flirts, many ESOL students, and a few, well, punks. I don't think I'm delusional when I say that they all seem to like writing--well, I can think of two that don't. That's pretty good for 80 kids.
     
  7. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Feb 25, 2010

    Test prep can be a 'unit of study' within the reading and writing workshop model.
     
  8. Beth2004

    Beth2004 Maven

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    Feb 25, 2010

    We teach test prep in both reading and writing. We do deviate from the workshop model slightly during those times because the way we teach it requires a lot of direct strategy instruction, but once the kids have the hang of the strategies, it's easier to go back to the workshop format.

    However, I should add, that in 4th grade when the students take the long composition portion of the test, they work they do to prepare fits in very well with the workshop format.
     

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