Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Sharing Our Writing Practices

On Tuesdays, Ruth and Stacey host Slice of Life on their blog at twowritingteachers.wordpress.com. Feel free to write, link, and/or comment!

On Friday, we hosted teachers and administrators from a neighboring school district who are considering implementing writing workshop in the fall. We have been an affiliate of Teachers College Reading and Writing Project for over ten years and at this point, our district's writing program is rooted in workshop practices.

Initially, we met in the conference room and went over the history, rationale, systems, and structures that we have in place. Because I work within these structures every day, I don't always think about the groundwork that had to happen in order for workshop to be such common practice in our district.

One of the principals wanted to know about getting teachers to buy in so we talked about how strongly we believe in the workshop approach. Beginning with those foundational beliefs is such a powerful way to bring people on board. Another visitor asked about explaining the workshop model to parents, another important component. Yes, parents do have to understand that their children's work won't be perfect and should not have adult corrections on it. "Adults don't write on students' work?" someone asked. I know that this is a mind shift for people adopting a workshop model, but no, adults do not write on students' work and parents, as well as classroom teachers, special education teachers, tutors, para-professionals, and any other adult working with student writers need to become aware of this.

Part of the visit included three classroom observations and we were all so impressed with the teaching and learning in the kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms. To see three classes in a row of different grades working on their writing is a powerful experience in and of itself--you see the development and progression of learners so clearly! To watch our visitors take in the independence, repertoire and sense of purpose that our young writers had was also powerful. Our teachers delivered their mini-lessons and then had time to answer questions and reflect on their practices because their learners are so programmed to work on their pieces and use available resources to cycle through the writing process. Our young writers were understandably proud of their work in progress and happy to share their challenges and inspirations with their visitors. I kept hearing people say that they couldn't believe the work that children were producing. I also heard our teachers repeatedly inviting our visitors from another district to take pictures, look at student work, read notebooks, and ask questions.

I am new to my position as the district's writing coordinator, so I can not take credit for the high commitment we have to the writing process and the workshop model, but I can be incredibly proud and excited to be a part of it. Additionally, I am proud to be a part of an educational community that opens its doors and classrooms to colleagues from a neighboring district. It was truly a great slice of life and a model for professional practice.


  1. You have every reason to be proud to be part of this. It sounds like the visitors left with inspiration to try it in their districts. Jackie http://familytrove.blogspot.com/

  2. Awesome. There is something so inspiring about watching great workshops in practice. I've always taught the workshop way, and now I have two new teachers to look forward to bringing into the fold next Fall. Yay!!! Also happy to be at TC tomorrow for a day long institute on non fiction writing. Double yay!!

  3. Workshop is a challenge to implement, but so worth it. I am so impressed that you have had this structure for ten years. What an awesome writing life your students experience during their elementary years.
    I worked at implementing writing workshop in a school this year and the teachers were amazed at the work their students produced. One teacher said she thought I was crazy when I showed samples of first grade students' work at the beginning. No way can first graders do that, she thought. Then she discovered they could. That made my day!

  4. It is wonderful to read how there are districts that choose to maintain great programs instead of always changing and looking for bigger and better.

  5. This sounds like a wonderful, rich, learning day for everyone involved. There is a special buzz and feel in a great workshop. Awesome!

  6. It is so exciting to share good work with others. And seeing is believing!

  7. You have to have some part in this day, Melanie, & I hope you are proud of it, plus being in such a district. I am surprised that there are districts who still are not doing writing/reading workshop, but I really am not very knowledgeable about what is happening everywhere. I always enjoy your posts about your work!