Skiers Ski~~~Baseball Players Play~~~Writers write~~~Ralph Fletcher (2001)
|To learn about our CAFE and Writing Target board|
Some important questions we will ask ourselves. Can we read like a writer? What are we reading that is like what we are writing? Do you call yourself a writer? Do we show not tell?
Layout of Writer's Workshop
We begin our lesson by coming together in the meeting area. It is here that reading and writing really blend together as we learn the essential grammar conventions, form, and content through the best mentors possible- real writers/authors. What is the author doing? Why are they doing it? Can we try it in our own writing? This is a basic format that we will continue to use throughout the year. It really allows us to read the richest, most beautiful literature available. I heavily endorse craft study to tie in real-life application.
Lessons last 10-15 minutes, where we address state standards and objectives through the use of rich literature. How do I plan what to teach during these mini-lessons? Through my daily conferences it is obvious what I will need to plan for. The students help drive instruction. The bottom line is that I have to ask myself if this is something a writer would find useful. Is this going to help my students become life-long writers? I don't think I get that from writing prompts and stuffy structure mandates.
Independent Writing/Individual Conferences
We first learn about self-selection of writer's notebooks, because, frankly, those composition books shouldn't be one size fits all!
This block of time ranges from 30-45 minutes of independent writing. The premise is that to get better at writing, we need time to write daily. A well-known professional writing guru, Donald Graves, said he was teaching a conference when a teacher asked, "I understand the importance of allowing students to write daily, but my schedule is very busy. What would you suggest for me if my students are writing once a week?" His response- "Don't bother." I couldn't agree more. If you compare writing to learning how to play baseball, could you imagine getting better with one day of practice a week? Also, would you want your child to spend a bulk of their time learning the rules of baseball or playing baseball itself? If we are spending a bulk of time getting out their to play, I believe my role is to then help each player refine their skill one on one. And that is exactly what I do each and every day!
A recording of our meetings is placed in a conference notebook. I follow the two stars and one wish format in an informal way. My prior conference notes is where I pick up (e.g. "Hey, last time you said you were struggling with...how's that going?"). I have also learned to let the student lead the conversation and to allow awkward pauses. And time, time, time. Don't forget how important it is to allow children to experiment before developing a skill! If just one "skill" is learned a week, think about how much progress is being made. I like to think I am doing that with each and every conference. Those five minutes are very important.
Take this out of the schedule-just 10 minutes- and watch the writing wilt. Writing was meant to be shared, and we celebrate it daily! As each student shares a piece of writing (note, I didn't say story as we write in many ways beyond stories) I often find myself saying things like, "Listen in as they read this poem. Notice the repeating line like the story we read yesterday..."
What are We Reading that is Like We Are Writing?
Swimming at Night- inspired by a music clip posted on NPR.