Enter the writing workshop. I've been teaching writing using the workshop method since my first year of teaching in 2002. The writing workshop teaches the process of writing by allowing students to develop their inner-writer. Students are authors in the workshop. They come up with ideas, develop them through process, discuss their writing with each other, and most importantly learn to communicate in a way that traditional prompted writing classes do not teach. Writing should be taught across the entire curriculum, but it must also be taught as its own craft for students to reach their full potential as both writers and communicators. The writing workshop helps achieve this goal.
Last school year, my first as a fifth grade teacher, I struggled with writing. In fifth grade, the curriculum demands and requirements are so intense that I found it to be a difficult balancing act to fit in the writing workshop. When I taught third grade, the writing workshop was implemented four to five days a week for an hour at a time. In fifth grade, my students now have music class twice a week, intensive science and tech classes three time a week, PE twice a week, and many special events for their final year as elementary students. Although I wanted more time in my teaching day, I would never have suggested taking any of these opportunities away from my students. I realized I had to find time to fit in the writing workshop around the bursting-at-the-seams fifth grade daily schedule.
Enter Columbia University's Teachers College Reading Writing Project (TCRWP). In a prior post, I wrote about my four days at the TCRWP summer writing institute for PAUSD teachers. It was actually life-changing for me. Through the help of my session presenter, Alissa Levy, I was able to find time to fit writing workshop into the schedule. It's not ideal, but it's what I can do.
|Room 20's Fifth Grade Weekly Schedule for the 2013-2014 School Year|
This first mini lesson was about learning how to generate topics for narrative writing by thinking about first times, last times, and times that made us realize something. I modeled on the SMART board by writing the following:
Miss Nosek's Narrative Writing Ideas
-The first time crossed a finish-line at a triathlon. Tears of joy were flowing!
-My first day of school as a classroom teacher. I was both nervous and excited.
-The last time I ate a strawberry. The allergic reaction was ugly.
-The time I realized...
Through writing my examples on the SMART board, my students watched me struggle to come up with ideas. The ideas were not pre-typed. Rather, I sat there struggling to think of what to write. By doing it this way, my students saw that struggling to come up with ideas is a natural and normal part of the writing process. After this mini lesson, I set students free to generate their own ideas. What happened next was magic. They were all writing!