Friday, December 31, 2010

In the Workshop!

I am going to tackle this book in sections, likely two chapters at a time and give a description of what I found most meaningful.
The first chapter is titled Writing Workshop A Happy Place Where We Make Stuff, signifying how simple the task of writing can be for those just beginning the process. The second chapter is titled, Work, Space, and Time Writing Workshop Right from the Start.
This book is already challenging some of the ideas I have been schooled to try in my own teaching. I love it when my beliefs about teaching writing are confronted. This constantly forces me to review the building blocks of my path and helps me create new ones, because there is always more to learn—right?
Katy Wood Ray is a teaching consultant in Lisa B. Cleveland’s classroom of first grade students. In this classroom, writing workshop begins after a couple days of classroom routine activities to get the year started. Workshop begins at 9:00am each day. Once some stamina is in place, students work on writing for close to an hour’s time. Beginning with a mini-lesson, Lisa introduces concepts to the students and asks them to wonder, “Is this something I could try in my writing?” She then releases them to the materials in the room that are easily utilized independently by the students. They begin with stapled booklets of paper. Their first tasks are making little books full of illustrations and writing at their level. By stapling the paper she has immediately made something they understand—books. The idea of something as big as a book is what elicits the big ideas the students eventually become comfortable with and they write more. Katy Wood Ray explains that their philosophy on little writers deviates from the common “journal,” and their feeling is that journaling takes away the reading and writing connection deemed so important. Journals are often used because of the efficiency, in terms of the management of materials. For the littlest of writers, making a book is much more tangible and understood. It becomes reading material for them and something to be shared. She explains further that often journals may include a given topic, making the reins of writing tight. This quote said it all to me:
“If we told students what to do all day long, we’d be teaching them to think of themselves as people who should wait to be told what to do (pg. 19).”
 See you soon in chapters three and four!
Thanks for reading. I'd love to hear about what you are reading too, please feel free to comment below!

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