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Writing Workshop in Motion

a 2014 NCTE presentation by Black Horse Pike Regional School District English Department

Tara Wood

on 21 November 2014

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Transcript of Writing Workshop in Motion

Enter the Conversation:
Tweet questions and comments with
and we'll answer them as we go or in Q & A.

Conferring & Revision
Writing Workshop: Principles, Process, Plans
What is "idea-gathering"?

What kinds of activities would we use in this stage of Writing Workshop?
Writing Workshop in Motion:

Empowering Writers to Use Personal Stories to Enter, Navigate, and Contribute to the Landscape of Knowing
Marcie Geyer
Kelly Wierski
Tara Wood
Abbe Elliott
Black Horse Pike Regional School District
Blackwood, NJ
English Language Arts Supervisor
Language Arts Literacy Coach
English Teacher
English Teacher
Mini-Lessons &
Mentor Texts

What are mini-lessons?
What are mentor texts?
Why do we use them in this stage of Writing Workshop?
short, focused lessons of 5-15 minutes on skills students will need to write the essay
model texts used to show students "how it's done" in the real world
to provide focused lessons & practice to hone in on specific skills
to prepare students to write the kind of essay we want them to write
to show real-world examples that they can use as models
What kinds of topics are covered in this stage of Writing Workshop?


writing a thesis statement
writing introductions
organizing the essay
using transitions
adding style, understanding craft
writing a claim
writing introductions
organizing the argument
using transitions
adding style, understanding craft
analyzing claims
descriptive details
establishing mood & tone
developing plot, pacing
character development
point of view
setting a scene
using dialogue
showing, not telling
incorporating figurative language/literary devices

What could we do with this mentor text?
Writing introductions: How does King hook us? What are his moves? What will this essay be about?

Structure: How does King organize his cause & effect essay? How can we organize our topics in this way?
What kind of essay does this structure best fit?

How can we use this mentor text to offer a possible
organizational structure
for a social commentary argument essay?
Entering the landscape of knowing:
Navigating the landscape of knowing:
How can we use this narrative as a mentor text to teach students how to interweave narration & dialogue?
Introduction, setting the scene/explaining the topic
Introducing the "issue"
Author's stance; clearly stated
The other side
(would require more development/analysis in an argument paper)
Level your mentor texts up or down for the level of your classes.
AAAH! I want to start tomorrow, but I don't have time to find mentor texts!
AAAH! There's so much they need to know; how do I keep it to a mini-lesson?
AAAH! There are so many skills I want my students to have to write, how do I choose?
AAAH! I can't find mentor texts that fit the essay assignment I gave!
Narration: Setting the scene, establishing mood
Dialogue: Setting the scene
Dialogue: the fight;

the reaction
Dialogue: the fight;

the reaction; intro to the narrator
When does the author use dialogue?

When does the author use narration?
How might this use of dialogue and narration work for my topic?

What might I narrate and what is more suited for dialogue?
A Sample Lesson:
Using Mentor Texts to Write Effective Introductions
* before this lesson, I would have covered the elements of argument and the persuasive appeals (logos, ethos, pathos)
Student quick-write:

What makes an effective introduction?
Generate a class list
Teacher model with mentor text:

Evaluating effective introductions
Student practice (small groups):

Evaluate introductions in the same way modeled.

"Ways to Write Effective Introductions" - Generate class list
In the near future, students will be choosing one of these introductions to model for their essays or combining some of the ''take-aways'' from different introductions into their own effective introductions.
Introductions can be two paragraphs & should include the claim.
Pathos can be a powerful engagement tool.
teen suicide & homicide

mainstream mental health
Organizational Structure
& claim
Thoughtful word choice can engage the reader and enhance the message.
to practice writing
to find and develop topics to write about
to provide space for students to generate, discard, & play with ideas
to motivate students to write by fostering a desire to write in order to answer their own questions, concerns, and ideas about the world
to aid students in making their Writers' Notebooks resources for ideas for current and future writing

connected ideas?
powerful word choice
descriptive details
(lit nerd moment: Romeo & Juliet allusion!)
But why is this an effective and relevant allusion?
A Sample Lesson:
Gathering Ideas for Writing Memoir
Starting Activities
Why do we do it?
the first stage of a Writing Workshop unit in which students engage in different activities to generate potential topics and details for writing
• Do we start with written text or another medium such as music or art?

• Turn and Talk: Do we write first or talk first and then add ideas?

• How much time to we spend on Turn and Talk and/or Whole Group Share? When do we use them in our lessons?

• What complexity of text do we use to prompt them?

Based on the level of our students and classes . . .

What do I do with a student who has nothing to write about?
At the end of this stage of Writing Workshop, students should be prepared to write a complete first draft for the assignment.
By the end of this stage of Writing Workshop, students should have a topic (and research, when required) they are comfortable moving forward with.
At the end of this stage of Writing Workshop, students should have a refined final draft . . .
& be ready to contribute it to the landscape of knowing
Introducing the idea of Writers' Notebooks and beginning to build the notebooks as resources for ideas
What are we going to do with the ideas
we gather?
Create a storyboard
Add post-its
Draw one scene
Sketch a timeline of events (e.g., narrative)
Portable whiteboards
Graphic organizers
Use lines and circles to show visually how your ideas relate to one another and to the main subject

Working out how ideas and details are connected
Generating ideas or details in quick bursts
Writing responses to text and prompts in order to explore ideas
Read and respond to advertisements, music, text, paintings, songs, photos, or political cartoons
Where is this author getting his ideas?
What does this make you think about?
Confessional by Pawel Kuczynski
Minute Lists:
(write beside them); brainstorm ideas in response to "Questions for Memoirists";
Turn & Talk:
(between minute lists) students talk out their ideas and add, subtract, or expand ideas;
Whole-class discussion:
Which questions helped you dig deep and come up with interesting memories? Which will send you as a researcher into your own life?

Student writing:
students choose one question and brainstorm list to use to write a six-word memoir, draw a scene, or map out an event.
partners & whole-class
Why conference?
"Giving feedback during the process ... has been shown as
to growth in writing."
"Students need response to their choices, as well as encouragement to take risks."
Write Beside Them,
Penny Kittle
Conferring offers:
the opportunity to bounce ideas off of their teacher and receive feedback;
students have the chance to talk about their writing and work through problems verbally, rather than
just through corrections and comments on their drafts.
the opportunity to see where students' writing "is going," identify potential problems, and
differentiate instruction tailored to each student's needs.
How do I conference with my students?
You don't have to read the student's entire draft during a conference

By not reading their draft all the way through, students are forced to think about the what, why, & how of their own writing through focused questioning and conversation.
What is conferring?
Conferring is meeting with students one-on-one to talk about their writing.
When should I confer with my students?
Conferring should be conducted during drafting days and can continue through revision.
What is revision?
Revision is:
teaching students what real writers do to improve their writing.
making students responsible for finding what to "fix."
more than a checklist of things to "look out for."
a process.
Everyday Editing
, Jeff Anderson
Why revise?
"Putting kids in charge of the
assessment of their own strengths
and weaknesses
[encourages them] to become
more independent."
Everyday Editing
, Jeff Anderson
How can we teach effective revision?
Mini-lessons using mentor texts are a great way to teach students what good writing looks like and how they might apply that to their own work.
What does a mini-lesson for revision look like?
Students are empowered to discover their own voice as writers.
Choose one writing convention at a time you want to address.
Use a mentor text that illustrates that convention well in order to teach how "real writers do it" in their writing.
Direct students to go back to their writing and revise for that writing convention.
Do this for punctuation, sentence structure, diction, dynamic introductions - anything!
Peer Conferring/Revision
Have students bring multiple copies of their piece to class.
The writer reads his writing aloud while his group members listen and take notes.
When the reader is finished, each group member offers feedback to the writer.
The writer then gets back the "annotated" essays from the group to reflect on and use for further editing.
This approach could be tailored to suit your classes' needs.
Read and respond to literature (Conflicts, characters, setting, etc.)
Read and respond to an article or argument

Strategies for Moving from Idea to Topic
Decorating the Notebook
Writing Territories
Here's the "skinny" on Writing Territories from Stacey Shubitz:
In the words of Don Murray (paraphrased): Most of us have two or three topics that we write about over and over again.

Once a person knows their territories, they can create a web with the territory in the center and then create branches off of the center. Those branches will later become entries in the person’s writer’s notebook.
Writing territories should be listed in a broad way and can include names of people or places that are important to a person.
"Where I'm From" Model Poem
The Music of my Heart (Penny Kittle)
image from theliterarychicks.wordpress.com
Heart Mapping - What's in Your Heart?
(Nancie Atwell)
an example from Stacey Shubitz of twowritingteachers.wordpress.com
Favorite words, phrases & quotes
from Nancie Atwell
Reread quick writes
Find"big ideas" and patterns
Choose a few topics & experiment
What's trending . . .
in the news
on Twitter
Issues in Texts
What Itch Needs Scratching?
"Problems make good subjects." - Donald Murray
What problem needs solving?
What situation needs correcting?
What issue needs explaining?
What phenomenon needs exploring?
What point of view needs my powers of persuasion?
Topic Prompts

A time when . . .
A person who . . .
An event that . . .
An issue that . . .

Walking Brainstorm
Planning Sheets
(Nancie Atwell)
Turn & Talk
Minute Lists
& start with what you like, not what's wrong
Thoughts at the moment: Stream-of-consciousness
All ideas are equally acceptable--do not edit as you write
After a number of free-writes, return and look for patterns of ideas/subjects
Write "I don't know" until thoughts come to mind; repeat activity later in day

Why? Free-writing brings subconscious ideas into consciousness. Anger, ideas, raw thinking, wonder, joy, agony--it is all "rubble" that appears out of nowhere.
Would you be willing to share?
Expose students to many texts in a short amount of time. This strategy
gives a variety of anchor experiences to draw on
allows students to hear writing aloud
can broaden students' understanding of the world
Here is topic...write for one minute...GO!
Beloved things--objects and possessions--now and then...
Teachers, now and then
Favorites, i.e., food, sports, actors, actresses, songs, places, etc.
Conferring: Teacher writes as student talks
Digital Apps: Students record themselves speaking their story
Fill heart with as much meaning as possible.

Spend serious time at home, too (at least 30 min).
idea from Georgia Heard's Awakening the Heart
Students create their own poem to encapsulate a time in their lives, providing insight through their own senses & visualization.
from Donald H. Graves &
Penny Kittle's
Inside Writing
"this way"
Modification - instead of conferring one-on-one, meet in small groups of 4-5 students.
The Principles of Writing Workshop
Prompting, not prompts
Process, not product
Personal Purpose, not prescription
How is Writing Workshop implemented?
Idea Gathering
Mentor Texts
Writing with Students
How is Writing Workshop supported?
Professional Library Materials
Composition Books for Students
Professional Development Workshops
: Year-long training for a small group of 12 teachers
: 2nd year support workshops for the inaugural group +
Training of 15 new teachers (year-long)
: New Training for all remaining department members
: Ongoing development and training of new staff through in-service workshops and individual conferences with Literacy Coach (T. Wood)
Why do we use Writing Workshop?
Through deep engagement in the process, students become writers, not task masters.
Writing becomes purposeful and meaningful.
Ongoing Professional Devleopment
PLC Meetings : Full-day and After-School
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