Monday, September 30, 2013

Those that Love Writing, Teach Writing

I meant to write this post on Saturday, and then I didn't.  So, I just figured I'd write it yesterday.  But didn't.

So, today...I'm going to write the post.  

It's not like it's any special post, just what I consider an appropriate post for a person that wakes up at 4:30AM each and every morning JUST so that person can write.

On Friday, it was a professional development day for me.  The entire 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade group of teachers from the district were signed up for a Writer's Workshop workshop.

This made the 6th...maybe 7th Writer's Workshop workshop I've attended since beginning my educational path 6 years ago.  Every time I had to attend some form of PD workshop for college credit, I opted for Writer's Workshop.  And then I found that the schools I student taught in or worked for after college sent me to similar workshops.  So, if I don't know how to do Writer's Workshop by now, then I never will.

Writer's Workshop is a FANTASTIC model for teaching writing.  It focuses on students becoming authors, rather than just learning how to write.  It's about the craft.  The creativity.  Putting ideas and thoughts and stories and imagination on to the paper.  Then, and only then, are the fundamentals of writing addressed...and only one at a time.

Kids are not asked to write to prompts (for the most part).  They are not expected to write a certain amount of paragraphs.  They aren't even expected to write using proper spelling or punctuation, at first.  It's just about instilling a love and passion for writing.  Right up my alley.

There's just one problem with attending the workshops created for teaching Writer's Workshop.  They don't actually teach teachers HOW to put Writer's Workshop in to place.  And that's a big problem for teachers who aren't big fans of teaching writing.

Take the workshop from Friday, for example.  It was an OK workshop.  However, had I not attended a workshop that was almost identical just a couple of months ago, and several more before that, I would have no real idea what the purpose behind the workshop was.  And it was one, and is one, of the biggest complaints that I hear from teachers who are interested in teaching Writer's Workshop but don't know how.

Rather than teaching teachers how to put Writer's Workshop in to practice, the PD workshops focus on what Writer's Workshop is and why it's important for students.  

That's great.  But, one question that is on the lips of almost every teacher is HOW do I get my kids to write?  

I am a firm believer that teachers learn by doing.  Take becoming a teacher.  For three years, I sat through classes and listened to lectures, read text books, and wrote papers and lesson plans based on educational theory.  However, the first day I walked in to my student teaching classroom, I didn't really know how to be a teacher.  That came from doing.  Being in the classroom.  Seeing how kids respond, taking their interests and levels in to account, and just doing it.  

Sitting through a six hour workshop being told how important writing is, won't teach a room full of teachers how to use Writer's Workshop.  They need to do.  Be lead how to instill.  Be shown what a mini lesson looks like, be shown what a writing conference looks like, be guided through a unit of lessons using writing examples.  Just telling teachers what the model of Writer's Workshop should look like doesn't help them one bit when it comes to putting it in to practice in their own classrooms.

Teaching writing is my "thing".  However, I will say, that had it not been for the fact that I was fortunate enough to student teach in a classroom that used Writer's Workshop, I may be a little lost about putting it in to place.  Even after attending 6 or 7 Writer's Workshop workshops.

Not all teachers love writing, which is where I find that the PD workshop we attended missed the mark at making teachers feel more secure about using a model like Writer's Workshop.  I have used and still use Writer's Workshop, and my team wonder how I do it.  With so much going on in my classroom, how on earth does somebody come up with time to teach writing...and ONLY writing.  

When I was interviewed for my job, last year, I was asked what my favorite subject to teach was.  I immediately responded with writing.  Duh, right?  A person that loves writing as much as I do must love teaching it.

I couldn't wait to get in to a classroom and put Writer's Workshop in to effect.  The only problem was, last year, I just didn't have the time.  I was a first year teacher, I had different kids for reading, math, and social studies and science.  It was so difficult to just get through the material I was expected to teach, writing had to take a back seat.  


From day one, knowing that this year my class would be self contained, I've started using Writer's Workshop.  And on the first day of school, I had a class of kids that when told they were going to write, complained and whined.  Now, six weeks later, I have kids that would much rather write than do any of the other classwork that's expected of them.  They ask to write when they are done with an assignment.  They ask to write when it's reading time.  They ask to write after recess, during their 10 minute "cool down" time.  They can't get enough of it.  And I've only barely scratched the surface of putting Writer's Workshop in to place.  I haven't even started getting in to the nitty, gritty of teaching them to become authors.  I've just got them to feel comfortable opening up their Writing notebook and writing about whatever they want to write about.

My team wonders, though, how I do it.  Once again, there's so much to do in our already jam-packed schedule, that it seems impossible that I can fit in WW... especially the model that was somewhat shown to us during PD workshops.

And it really does come down to teachers who love to write will teach writing.  

This week, I'm starting a whole new that will better allot for WW as a core part of my day...rather than something I try to fit in when I can.  Right now, it happens at the end of my day, but several of my students are out of the room for interventions and stuff.  So, half of my class don't get the WW mini-lessons.  That doesn't work for me.  Writing is a key foundation in bettering reading skills, so the kids that could really benefit from it the most are missing out.

Starting this week, ALL of my kids will be there for WW.  I'm excited to see how it goes.  My hope is, if I can make this work... I could help other teachers that are struggling with putting WW in to their own classrooms.  Rather than attending another workshop that just tells them what WW is, I could help show them what it is, how to use it, and how great it is for the kiddos....regardless of whether or not the teacher actually likes writing.

Going back to that interview, when I responded with writing being my favorite subject to teach, I remember the superintendent of education telling me that writing was definitely a subject that needed some help.

Maybe I can help.

Writing is like a best friend to me.  I've gotten through some very tough times by putting a pen to paper.  And, even though all of my writing, nowadays, is done on a computer... it doesn't change the fact that writing is so good for the soul.  

The kids I work with need this in their lives.  Need a place to let it all out.  Share their creativity and imaginations.  And develop and discover talents they never knew they had.

And, again, there is countless research that supports writing as a fundamental in increasing reading levels.  So, there's that.  

So, today I get to start my experiment, and see how it goes.  I'm thinking it's going to be great.

Fingers Crossed.

This week is spirit week at there'll be plenty to talk about.

Today is Disney Character Day.  Fun, right?

And you know that this "Queen" of spirit week is up for the challenge.  That's a little hint on what I'm dressing up as.  There will be pictures to share tomorrow....

Have a great Monday!


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