Hi, y’all! Remember me? It’s been WAAAAYYY too long since I last posted. Other than just taking a break and enjoying some “me time,” I’ve been staying busy with presentations and going here and there…you know, the usual.
If you don’t already know, a few of us blogger teachers started a new Facebook group called Texas Teacher Tribe. We set it up as a tool for teachers to talk to each other and get help when they have questions…all that good stuff. It is NOT intended to be a sounding board for all the bad things that we experience or a rant page…rather an uplifting site to see what’s going on around us and for teachers to share things that work. So…if you haven’t joined in on the fun…you should…
Anywho….I’m back to share with you some tips on how to implement an effective Writer’s Workshop.
I know we all struggle at times when it comes to writing….or at least MANY of us do. Myself included. There are just some days that you get up to teach your heart out, but something seems to be wrong…the kids are antsy and paying attention to everything OTHER THAN what you’re doing…or their eyes are glazed, totally uninterested in what is going on. Ever have one of those days? Yeah…me, too.
Sometimes we just need to remember things that will help bring them back together…other than the typical classroom management mantra. You may read this and think….DUH! I knew that…but sometimes we get lost in our day to day responsibilities and lose sight of some CRUCIAL steps in teaching kids to write. Here goes:
There was a time when I didn’t realize the importance of truly immersing my students in good writing. By immersing…I mean showing lots of examples and allowing students time to share their work with others…ALL THE TIME! Kids don’t know what good writing is until they see and hear it…A LOT! It didn’t really occur to me that they NEEDED to see and hear lots and lots of examples of what good writing is.
And let’s face it…sometimes we have to pick up kids after work…sometimes we have to cook dinner…sometimes we have to bathe our kids after cooking their dinner…and sometimes we have to spend time with loved ones…AND WE DON’T FEEL LIKE SITTING DOWN TO WRITE A PAPER ON WHAT SEASON IS OUR FAVORITE! I get it. Been there. Didn’t write that! It happens.
BUT…there are several ways to utilize others’ work. Collaborate with your teammates. Share that responsibility…and make copies. Take a piece of your students’ work that shows the skill you are working on and make that student a celebrity in your classroom! Or you can use mentor texts, whether they are books you read in class or one that you purchase (I use Fun Size Academic Writing by Gretchen Bernabei) to help teach your lessons.
Another thing that is SUPER important is allowing your students time to share out. Not everyone will want to share…and there are lots of times when you just don’t have time for all who DO want to share…so choose two or three, and allow them to shine. Draw attention to something that he/she did very well, something that pertains to your lesson for the day. This is HUGE for kids…and sometimes they do things that even surprise US!
Whatever you do….share, share, share!
Just as important as sharing writing…is giving feedback. Kids don’t know what they are doing well or what they need to improve if they aren’t given feedback. And that means more than a facial expression. While those are great, kids NEED guidance in their writing.
I try to make sure to conference with my students at least once a week…or when we get really busy, at least every other week. This happens through various phases of the writing process…but NOT just at the end when you get the notorious question, “Is this good?” *Insert a shudder* I don’t even have time to write about THAT! But kids need meaningful feedback to allow them to grow as a writer.
An easy way to get it all in is to put a sheet of paper on your clipboard with each child’s name in a box. I have this one if you want to use it for conferring with your little writers. If not, a piece of notebook paper or class roster will do. Each time you visit with your kids, just jot down short…and I mean SHORT…notes about what you talked about. This helps to hold your kids and yourself accountable and can provide immediate feedback during the writing process.
When my kids are done, I use a rubric to assess their work. I have this one that uses STAAR verbiage to help them see how their writing measures up to the dreaded test. This allows them to see what areas are weak and need more tweaking…along with areas that are awesome! And there are several rubrics that teachers use…but the important thing is to use some sort of rubric so that they know how they are being graded…whether it is for the grade book or not.
And last….but CERTAINLY not least….
I know it seems cliche, but seriously y’all…you HAVE to have fun with writing. If you aren’t having fun, neither are the kids. We all know that saying, “Fake it ’til you make it!” It’s so true. If you don’t enjoy teaching writing
see me after class! at least pretend that you do. Tell your kids stories. Laugh with them. Just. Have. Fun!
I tell my kids all kinds of stories…that time I peed my pants, the time I fell in the pond and ruined my brand new white shorts my mom told me not to wear, the time I fell and busted my chin on the concrete and had blood gushing out all over the place, the time my son pooped all over my friend…stories that kids can identify with and enjoy hearing. And every time, you could hear a pin drop in the room. They’re mesmerized! But because I make it a big deal. Ordinary, every day, boring stories that are made into something much better…by having fun!
Don’t be afraid of what your kids think. They love you…the good, the bad, and the ugly! They love to hear about your stories when you were their age…and all the mishaps you had along the way. And when you have a little fun…they love you even more!
So there you have it. My 3 tips for Writer’s Workshop. I would LOVE to hear your top 3! Leave them down there in the comments!