Teaching a Writing Workshop

“...independence in the writing workshop is one of the most valuable skills we can teach our students. When students learn how to create and navigate their own writing lives through independent work they are able to take the gifts of the workshop model even further. The students then have the tools to explore their passions, decide on their audience, design their own writing plans, and set their own pace. They are more able to become lifelong writers because it is their vision they are following.”

M. Colleen Cruz, Independent Writing

A Writing Workshop approach means teaching through the act of writing, experiencing the process independently and collaboratively, in class, daily. It means teachers explicitly modeling using mentor texts (which can and often should be student texts and not just “exemplary” models which can mask the mistakes and revision the established author made before they achieved that final piece and, for all intents and purposes, won’t be within most students’ ZPD, undermining the development of students’ ability to use the mentor  independently) to determine writing technique or craft, “trying it on” themselves in their own writing, and then taking pieces through revision to publication. It also means being part of a community of writers, experienced through “author shares”. Because the writing happens in class, the teacher observes and listens to their students, learning how they are thinking as writers, adapting curriculum and lessons as they go, or and discovering ways to coach into their challenges and successes. It is an engaged, responsive approach to teaching.

Teaching writing is hard but teaching writing this way allows all of us to learn how to do it better.  

We aren’t training students to be simply good “essayists” or good “storytellers”; we are training them to be good at making decisions as writers and knowing what tools and strategies can support them in any writing they need to do in life, once they leave our classrooms. That is our endgame for students to know how to navigate dominant discourses in a variety of social contexts.

Our Writing Class will be:

  • Experiential through constant writing cycles and practicing writing strategies that help students to develop writing skills and practice being metacognitive throughout the writing process
  • Collaborative through writing teams, shares and analyzing mentor texts.
  • Individualized through choice and 1:1 conferring.
  • Empowering through Grassroots Lessons that examine student drafts as models for processing and problem-solving (not just best practices).