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The Writer’s Workshop is a well-known approach to writing instruction that differs from traditional methods of teaching writing and produces meaningful results in various age groups. The method being discussed stands out from the commonly used techniques since it places emphasis on students’ ability to write for various purposes and audiences. Since Writer’s Workshop is beneficial to learners’ cognitive development and their ability to become independent thinkers, I can implement its components during Spanish lessons for elementary and middle school students. It would involve the need to overcome different obstacles, such as time limitations, students’ poor motivation, and discipline.
The first component that requires consideration is the presence of a predictable structure. To achieve success and meet my students’ learning needs, I am expected to implement a well-structured educational intervention and create a workman-like atmosphere. In a real-life classroom, this requirement can be understood as the effective use of planning to proceed from one activity to another. In order to meet this requirement, I will follow the recommendations of Calkins claiming the workshop’s fixed structure to contribute to students’ development (2).
For instance, in my work with students of the middle school age, the workshop may include an introduction (a short explanation of the workshop’s purpose and elements) followed by a mini-lesson explaining some topic linked to writing. Then, students will be given time for writing and practicing, during which I will be providing individual consultations and giving feedback. The use of the same workshop structure every time will contribute to the necessary atmosphere since my students will be aware of the key practices in advance.
The next component, free choice, will be implemented into practice by using writing topics that offer flexibility. As a Spanish teacher who works with different age groups, I typically use reading practices and then encourage pupils to analyze texts and provide the results in a written form. By using the Writer’s Workshop, I will further expand my students’ freedom of expression by encouraging them to be independent in finding applications for their new knowledge.
As Regie Routman argues, students are more likely to enjoy writing if they are welcome to work on a topic of their choice (Boswell 35). In particular, to make lessons logically structured and provide freedom, I will be able to make topics aligned with mini-lessons. For instance, after a mini-lesson on creating detailed physical descriptions, students can be encouraged to choose any object or animal that they like and use their new skills to write short descriptive essays.
The third component of the Writer’s Workshop is the presence of useful mini-lessons. The proponents of the discussed approach to writing claim that mini-lessons improve students’ understanding of the writing process by focusing their attention on particular skills, techniques, or problems (Boswell 16). Mini-lessons, Atwell claims, should be brief and engage the whole group in order to support students’ growth (10).
When getting acquainted with my students’ analysis papers, I can single out the most persistent mistakes regarding the details of paper organization and use this information to design mini-lessons that will appeal to them. Following this logic, my students from the sixth and seventh grades will benefit from attending mini-lessons devoted to creating strong introductions, ways to achieve coherence in writing, and the proper use of evidence. Having collected enough information on the key struggles of writing faced by my pupils, I will be able to create 15-minute lessons and implement them as part of the Writer’s Workshop.
Making sure that students have daily independent writing time is another key component of the workshop method. In general, it can be challenging to add the daily independent writing time to the instructional plan since it requires the removal of some other practices (Boswell 24). My students already devote time to individual writing every lesson, and I will try to make this practice even more productive and intensive.
Unfortunately, the ineffective use of students’ daily writing time presents a common problem of the pedagogical community. For instance, today, educational professionals are busy with multiple tasks and are expected to act as educators and facilitators while being responsible for documentation. Considering this stress, many teachers prefer to proceed with completing their urgent tasks when students practice writing individually. Thus, they fail to prevent students from making persistent mistakes. To optimize the use of independent writing time and avoid the mentioned mistake, I am to collaborate with each student one after another to keep track of problems they face as independent writers and help them to find tentative solutions.
The next essential element of the Writer’s Workshop is conferencing with teachers and peers. Donald Graves, an expert and a famous proponent of the method, suggests that students with poor writing skills show considerable improvement if they receive the personal attention and positive feedback (Boswell 28). To make use of this knowledge, I can practice conferencing with students during their personal writing time. After announcing the start of the individual practice, I will conduct short conferences with particular students (the exact length will be selected depending on class size). Each conference will include asking questions to discover writing difficulties, providing feedback, and proposing a few strategies to help students.
Regular conferencing with peers will be used right after individual consultations are provided to learners. When teaching both elementary and middle school students, I emphasize the development of reading skills since multiple theorists, including Dorothy Strickland, consider early exposure to books as a major prerequisite to literacy. Peer-to-peer conferencing can provide my students with a new opportunity to become critical readers and master the art of providing honest but respectful feedback. My students actually work in small groups, but this practice will need to be altered to use the workshop method to the full extent.
Thus, after receiving recommendations from me, students will be able to choose between working in pairs and individually. On the expiry of individual writing time, they will be encouraged to share experiences by demonstrating their use of new concepts covered during a mini-lesson.
The final aspect of the method being discussed is modeling good writing. In practice, it is manifested in the teacher’s readiness to demonstrate writing techniques with the help of a vast range of approaches, including the use of mentor texts and some pre-writing activities. Boswell, an expert in the workshop method, believes modeling to be extremely important in teaching writing and recommends educators create pieces of writing in front of their students to illustrate particular techniques (19). It can be practiced from time to time when giving mini-lessons devoted to specific aspects of expressing thoughts in Spanish.
To ensure alignment with the final component of the method, I can also change an approach to selecting readings for my students and add more pre-writing techniques apart from writing connections. In particular, it can be helpful to choose mentor texts that demonstrate the mastery of writing and cover topics that interest students and are age-appropriate.
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The Writer’s Workshop is a successful method, but its use is inextricably related to challenges and difficulties. The first obstacle that I might encounter is the need to fit in all of the method’s components without putting the brakes on other important activities. The best way to address the obstacle is to analyze the use of instructional time in punctilious detail and make necessary changes to find at least forty minutes for the workshop. It may include changing the order of in-class practices to optimize the mental workload. In some instances, improvements in children’s discipline may be required; for instance, if lesson time is wasted because of some students’ behavioral problems, such cases are to be solved individually with pupils’ parents.
The implementation of the Writer’s Workshop involves letting students work independently for twenty or more minutes. The teacher is supposed to provide individual consultations and control the class simultaneously, which can be challenging even for an experienced professional. To deal with this obstacle and prevent classroom disruptions, it is critical to help students to get used to the new routine. First, I would adhere to the same workshop structure to make children know what to expect next and how they are supposed to behave to benefit from the workshop. Additionally, I would keep explaining the plan of the workshop to children to make them fully understand the plan and the role of each activity.
To facilitate children’s understanding of the structure, it is possible to create a printed workshop outline and place it in a visible location to serve as a reminder. By implementing these practices, it is possible to reduce children’s stress related to the implementation of totally new activities.
Another potential obstacle to be discussed is children’s unproductive use of individual writing time resulting from their unwillingness to work. To keep students motivated to work hard when writing, it is essential to make sure that they choose topics that appeal to them personally. I strongly believe that achieving this goal is impossible without using the knowledge of psychology and understanding students’ individual characteristics.
From my experience, some pupils need help when given the freedom to write about anything because they wrongly assume that they have no interests or clear preferences. In order to address the mentioned barrier, I would identify such students and provide them with advice on how to choose interesting and personalized topics. Therefore, it would be possible to increase the extent of emotional engagement in the classroom, thus improving children’s motivation to use new knowledge.
To sum up, the implementation of the Writer’s Workshop is associated with multiple benefits, including giving students an opportunity to explore the art of writing through the lens of their experiences and perspectives of life. Moreover, the method allows engaging students in the continuous and consistent process of writing and helping them to develop their unique styles and methods of work.
To implement the method’s key elements, I can follow famous theorists’ recommendations regarding the activity’s structure, modeling writing experiences, and the ways to combining individual work and collaboration. Hard work is also required to address obstacles associated with changing an approach to teaching writing, such as managing instructional time, preventing disruptions, and keeping all students motivated.
Atwell, Nancie. “How to Thrive in the Middle.” Voices from the Middle, vol. 24, no. 2, 2016, pp. 9-12.
Boswell, Kelly. Write This Way from the Start: The First 15 Days of Writer’s Workshop. Maupin House Publishing, 2018.
Calkins, Lucy. “Remodeling the Workshop: Lucy Calkins on Writing Instruction Today.” Interview by Anthony Rebora. 2016. Web.