Saturday, July 6, 2019

Building a Writing Community: #cyberPD Week 1

This week the #cyberPD community has been reading and reflecting about chapters 1-4 in Welcome to Writing Workshop.  (It's not too late to join us.  More information can be found here.)

  • Chapter 1 What is Workshop?
  • Chapter 2  The Write Environment:  Creating Our Classrooms
  • Chapter 3  A Community of Writers:  The Ingredients for Building and Sustaining Success
  • Chapter 4  Classroom Management:  Practical Procedures and Predictable Routines

Setting the Tone for Writing Works
As workshop teachers, we know that feeling when we look around the classroom and know that our community has become a community of writers.  Each year, there's that marvelous moment when we notice it has all come together.  Suddenly we look up to realize everyone is finding their way in their writing.  There's something about that quiet hum of a workshop, a predictable rhythm to the way we work, that is characteristic of a strong writing community.  

In truth, when I think about the many writing communities I've sat beside, I know that each year the goal was always the same, but the path is always different.  Every time the classroom fills with a new group of writers new stories percolate, new rhythms are discovered, new ways of working are determined as the writers come together in common understandings.  Yet there are essential pieces that are the bones of the workshop year after year.  There are building steps we take each year as we set about in the first days with a new writing community to allow us to grow forward.  

In these first chapters, Lynne and Stacey share key considerations in the first days of building our writing communities.  Summer is the perfect time to think about these first steps.  As I read, here are a few ideas that stuck out to me.  

Three Big Ideas 

  1. A workshop allows the space for a writer to grow their own identity.  "It is here [in writing workshop] that our students can concentrate on the act of writing and learn about their own writing process while establishing a writing identity," Shubitz and Dorfman remind (Chapter 1, loc 578).  This shifts our thinking from the types of writing writers will produce to a bigger picture of helping writers to learn to work flexibly with purpose to get their message across to their audience.  It acknowledges who they are as writers and pushes us past standardized methods of teaching writing.
  2. The intentional - and shared - decisions we make about our writing environment allow space for possibility.  From the physical spaces carved for writers to work alone or meet with peers to writing tools, mentor texts, and the way talk is leveraged in a workshop all open doors for our writers.  
  3. A workshop should provide opportunities for students to brush up against, and learn from, the thinking of other writers.  In chapter 2, Creating Our Classrooms, Dorfman and Shubitz write, "We want our writers to notice the ways in which different writers problem-solve, think aloud, and use strategies to improve their writing (loc 941)."  The idea of "Opening Our Minds to Let in Other People's Thinking" is full of possibility.  It speaks to learning from our peers and being open to new ways to craft our writing.  It pushes us to reach out to authors to move our work forward.  

Two Questions to Ponder 
  1. How can we help young writers to see the ways planning weaves across our writing process?  Reading the first chapters had me thinking more about planning.  For me, the first chapters shifted my thinking of planning in the prewriting stage of the writing process to the way we plan as we compose across days.  As a writer I plan before I begin, often jotting ideas and my plan for the composition.  Each time I sit down to work, however, I take the time to plan smaller steps.  I appreciated the ideas for using status of the class, plan boxes, peer conversations, end of workshop share, and conferring to learn more about the planning process.  I want to think more about this.  How do I help young writers to own this planning process each day?
  2. What are the mentor texts that help young writers envision new possibilities?  Whether setting up the environment, finding ways to lift student writing, or helping to build the mindset of writers, mentor texts can empower our writers.  

One Next Step 

  1. Create a small collection of writer snapshots to illustrate varied ways writers work.  I see these as a small set of informational snapshots that illustrate the way student writers, adult writers, and published authors go about composing.  What are their processes?  Favorite genres and topics for writing?  Favorite tools?  I'd like these to help to build conversations around finding our own writing process. 
Looking forward to next week's look into chapters 5-7.  

1 comment:

  1. I agree, the foundations of WW are essential, but the paths we use to get there are different. Thank you for this reminder that there is not one "right" way to implement WW. I think with all the key ideas you mentioned, being intention is key. We are intentional about our planning ... WW just doesn't happen. We are intention with our environment and space ... WW needs more than just a room with kids. We are intentional about our mentor texts we use ... WW needs more than just read alouds. All of the intention work leads to so much possibility! Thanks for sharing your insightful thoughts!