Twenty-two Teachers During Writing Workshop: The Understated Importance of Student Sharing

Dear Fellow Writing Teachers,

As I read through some prior blog drafts recently, I came across this unfinished post from the end of last school year. Reading it again now reminded me of something that always seems to be cut short or eliminated all together (at least in my classroom). This piece is a reminder that our students can – and should – learn from each other. Not just sometimes, but every day. They have much to offer, if we would only give them the chance.

Happy writing, 

Lisa

adrianneklempert

May 2017

Yesterday I gave our district narrative writing prompt.  During morning meeting that day, one of my second graders asked if she could share the revisions from her story draft. I hesitated at first because I felt pressured to get my own lesson “completed” before the prompt. My plan was to review some of the key features of narrative writing that we had practiced the last few weeks, hoping that this would boost our scores. For example, “show, don’t tell,” “add dialogue,” and “include a clear beginning, middle and end.”

It turns out that I didn’t have to do any of my own teaching.  

Lydia’s piece demonstrated exactly what I wanted the students to notice.  And it came from a fellow writer, not the teacher or a “real author.” After Lydia read her story, I asked the students what stood out to them.

“Turn and talk,” I requested. Eagerly, they obliged.

“She gave details about the sleepover,” said Joey to his partner. “I could really picture it in my mind,” answered Naomi.

Later that day, I casually glanced at their completed writing prompts (given soon after Lydia’s sharing). Tess, a sometimes struggling reader and writer who does not usually welcome feedback, was someone that I worried about.  Just a few days ago, her in-class draft had no story structure. During our writing conference, I tried various strategies to help strengthen this part of her piece but to no avail. “I think it’s good,” was how she normally responded to my suggestions.

Now, as I quickly skimmed her paper, I noticed that her draft had a clear beginning, middle and end. And she had done it in one sitting, during a writing prompt!

How could it be that for two weeks, I had taught mini-lesson after mini-lesson, read mentor text after mentor text, yet she didn’t apply any of these techniques to her drafts?

On a side note, Tess idolized Lydia. They were good friends but it was clear that Lydia was the ring leader in the group, the one that everyone wanted to copy and emulate. Lydia didn’t try to do this, it just came naturally.

Students loved to be around Lydia. When she spoke, they listened.

Sometimes, this caused Lydia’s followers to get a bit chatty (at the wrong times). But on this occasion, her words had greatly impacted the fellow writers in the class, particularly Tess.

Not only did Tess listen, she applied the writing techniques to her own writing. As teachers, isn’t that we always hope to accomplish?

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Our students have so much to offer, if only we remember – and make the time –  to let them share.

fromphonesept2011228

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