By: Kendall Hunt RPD with contributions from the editorial team of Pathways2.0
Ensuring that your students are getting the maximum benefits from Writing Workshops is imperative for overall academic growth.
Pathways2.0: Journey to Excellence through Literacy provides essential instruction in reading, writing, listening, and speaking. This curriculum was developed based on the Adventist biblical worldview and the belief that Christ is the model teacher. Pathways2.0 recognizes the responsibility of nurturing excellence and service to others. The lessons found in each unit provide thorough academic teachings that align with the standards of proficiency in literacy for grades 1-8.
In addition to the reading skills developed, each week has five days of lessons centered in three instructional blocks: Word Study, Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop.
Most teachers can recall experiences with Writing Workshop from their own days in school. As a tried-and-true approach to fostering writing skills, Writing Workshop has been a feature of all grade-level English language arts programs for many years. In your classroom, one practice you can use to ensure that your students get the maximum of benefits from Writing Workshop is by sharing your own positive experiences from the past. By doing this, not only will you relate with your students more, but it can also help aid them in viewing writing as a positively enjoyable experience!
A Writing Workshop generally consists of the following components:
1. Mini lesson: The teacher provides focused instruction on a specific aspect of the writing process, technique or skill, and the aspect of Author’s craft.
2. Independent writing time: Students work independently on a writing piece, incorporating the skills taught in the mini lessons. Students work to move the written piece from the initial stage of brainstorming and idea selection to planning, writing, revising/editing, and eventually work to produce a finished product over several lessons or weeks.
3. Reviewing/conferencing: Students have short sessions with a peer or with the teacher who focus on providing feedback and constructive criticism to the writer for improving ir work.
4. Sharing: The final product is shared with an audience, whether informally in the classroom through Author’s Chair, or using a more formal presentation or publication in a specific medium.
Among the many benefits of Writing Workshop there are the following key takeaways:
· Students learn that writing is a skill that can be learned rather than something you are “just born with”. When moving a piece through the writing process, students see that mistakes are a natural part of the process and that even the best authors write and rewrite, constantly improving on their previous drafts.
· Students learn skills in an authentic environment rather than in isolation, which makes the learning more meaningful. For example, when they see their peers confused about the meaning of a poorly constructed sentence, students grasp that punctuation is more than just rules and it serves the important purpose of conveying meaning and getting their message across as intended.
· Students learn to formulate and appreciate constructive criticism and see it as a means of improving their writing rather than a concept to be feared. Learning to accept criticism and use it to their advantage will benefit students far beyond the classroom. On the flip side, students learn to provide feedback in a constructive manner. This can be difficult for some students because either they tend to be too blunt or too mild-mannered.
· Teachers have multiple opportunities for formative assessment, like noting which students are struggling with a specific aspect of writing, such as using editing marks in the revising stage. Teachers can use their observations to differentiate instruction and accommodate the needs of individual learners.
· For both teachers and students, Writing Workshop offers flexibility within a structured format. Teachers can tailor content and instruction, while students are encouraged to make their own decisions about their work.
Tips for Implementation
Follow these tips for creating successful Writing Workshops in your classroom:
· Establish a routine. Follow the same routine in each workshop session:
1). Attention-getting introduction or read-aloud highlighting topic of mini-lesson
2). Mini lesson on an area of focus with teacher modeling of skills
3). Independent writing time
. Routines reduce off-task time and keep things running smoothly, allowing more time for independent writing.
· Allow for student choice:
Allowing students to explore topics of interest to them helps promote authenticity. Students are more motivated to persevere in tasks that are impactful to them and they devote more effort into writing when the subject has personal relevance. Prompts and sentence starters are helpful tools to kickstart reluctant writers, but also be sure to provide free-choice activities, such as writing about any student-selected topic within a specific genre.
· Provide proper modeling:
Use the introduction to the mini lesson and the mini lesson itself as opportunities to showcase excellent writing that sparks students’ imagination and creativity. For example, when students are just beginning a fictional or short-story writing project, you might share examples of great first lines that hook reader interest through humor, mystery, or the element of surprise.
· Allow sufficient time for independent writing:
Generally, the mini lesson and reviewing/conferencing components should each take a quarter of the Writing Workshop time and independent writing by students should make up half of the time. So, if you have a one-hour block for Writing Workshop, students should be engaged in independent writing for half an hour, with 15-minutes each for mini lesson and reviewing/conferencing.
· Provide conferencing expectations:
Ensure that students know how to provide and receive feedback. It’s helpful to give students guidelines that explain your expectations, for example, how to phrase criticism, avoid put-downs, and seek clarification on feedback.
· Make writing enjoyable:
Show students the power words possess. How words can make us laugh or cry, inspire us, and stir powerful emotions that drive us to action. Also, especially for younger students, find ways to add an element of fun, such as allowing students to brainstorm their ideas with markers or colored pencils, or having students select a blank postcard from your classroom collection on which to write the final draft of a short letter.
The last point is especially important: In addition to teaching writing skills, fostering a love of writing is also a goal of Writing Workshop!
Pathways2.0 reading and language arts program for grades 1-8, incorporates the key instructional block of reading, writing, listening and speaking so all students have the opportunity to develop skills and support their comprehension and analytical skills. Reading classes also instruct students in vocabulary and spelling, and help them build their skills through instruction, practice and testing.