Monday, July 23, 2012

Reviving Disengaged Writers by Christopher Lehman

Thank you Jen and Kellee for hosting this weekly!  To see what others are reading and recommending, be sure to check out their blog Teach Mentor Texts :)

This week, I have dedicated much of my reading to professional books in my TBR stack.  One of the books I read and loved is A Quick Guide to Reviving Disengaged Writers by Christopher Lehman.  This book is part of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project Workshop Help Desk Series.  If you have not read any of the books in this series, I highly recommend that you check them out soon because they are so helpful and are geared for students of all ages.  
This book is short, but jam-packed with ideas you can use immediately in your classroom to help students who are disengaged in writing workshop and to help ignite the passion for writing in all students.  Although this book is labeled for grades 5-8, the ideas can be used for both older and younger students. We all have those writers who will do anything and everything to avoid writing during writing workshop.  They will go to the bathroom, sharpen pencils, pretend to be looking for something they need, chat with others, and the list goes on. This book is written with these kids in mind and is filled with ideas and strategies we can use to help students who:  avoid writing, talk instead of write, have writers block, and need constant reassurance. 

Throughout the book, you will find: helpful charts, samples of recording sheets, examples of conversations with students in mini-lessons and conferences, and strategies that have been tried successfully in classrooms.  Each chapter is set up with a bulleted preview of how the chapter may help you as well as a bulleted list at the end of each chapter to remind you of the key ideas from the chapter.  

Some of my big take-aways from this book are: 
  • Introducing and referring to revision as experimenting with our writing, rather than correcting it and "making it better."  I like the word "experiment" when talking about revision because it encourages the writer to try something new with their writing, rather than being told that their writing doesn't have______ and they need to "fix" it by adding it in.  Telling students their writing doesn't have ______, gives the impression that their writing isn't "good enough" and it needs to be "fixed" and made "better".  This will burst some of our writers' confidence and may increase their level of disengagement.  
  • Varying demonstration texts we use as teachers to model our own writing instead of always writing stories with deep emotion or about a certain time in our life.   I have worked hard to collect stories in my writers notebook from my childhood so students could relate to them instead of writing stories from adulthood, but I need to work harder at varying the types of emotions in my writing.  For example, I was very close with my grandfather as a child so almost every moment and essay I write, is about him.  Most of my writing has deep emotions about the times we shared together and how he was always there for me when I needed him growing up.  In addition to all my writing about Papa Joe, I also have stories I share about getting in trouble at school, feeling accomplishment after working hard to learn something, and getting teased in school.  After reading this part of the book though, I realized that I am missing humor in my demonstration texts and need to have some writing that is just plain funny to tap into those students who have funny stories to share.  Also to tap into students who may not have close relatives or are ready to share deep emotions in their writing.
  • Creating a designated partner spot in the classroom where writing partners can meet to talk during writing workshop while others are writing.   In my classroom, writing partners meet at the end of writing workshop to share and talk with one another, but they sometimes want to talk during writing workshop too.  So I have writing partners sit near one another while writing in case they need advice or have a question for their partner.  However, some writing partnerships take advantage of this privilege and do more chatting than writing.  Some writers who need a quiet space to write also get distracted by nearby conversations.  So when I read the idea that Chris Lehman shared about having a specific spot in the classroom for writing partners to meet while writing, I loved it.  In chapter 3, Chris shares ways to set up this routine and area in your classroom as well as a recording sheet partnerships can fill out if they use the partner spot during writing workshop.  If a partnership needs to talk, they go to this partner spot to have their brief conversation and before leaving the spot, they complete the recording sheet hanging up in the area (Names, Purpose of Conference, Where someone can see benefits of this conversation, and date).  Having this partner spot will cut down on the chattiness throughout the room, reinforce the purpose of a partner conference, help students who need a quiet space to write, and hold partnerships accountable for purposeful talk.
These are just three of my many take-aways from this book.  If you have not read this book, I highly recommend that you borrow it, buy it, or add to TBR stack.  

Thank you Chris for writing this important and organized guide for teachers that is filled with real life challenges we face in our classrooms. Thank you for sharing your passion for writing and experiences with disengaged writers to help us reach our own disengaged writers in our classrooms.  

Happy Reading & Writing! :)

1 comment:

  1. I follow Chris Lehman on Twitter and read Pathways to Common Core which he contributed to. This book definitely looks like it was worthwhile for you! It sounds good!