Write Beside Them: The Opportunities in a Writer’s Workshop

Write Beside ThemIn chapter 6 of Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them, the reader gets a glimpse into how a writers’ workshop might run.  The first thing I wished was that I had a writing class all year next year on a block schedule.  I really want to go out and try everything!  Based on the schedule Kittle outlines, she has 90-classes, and she also mentions A and B schedules, so my hunch is that she’s on an alternating block schedule.  Her writing course is a one-semester course.  My own school schedule is so complicated that I’m wondering how and when I can implement some of her ideas that I really liked.  For example, I would really like to try Sustained Silent Reading.  When I was a student teacher, the high school where I did my student teaching assignment had school-wide SSR two days a week.  Everyone in the school — teachers, students, administrators, janitors, everyone — was expected to read for that twenty minutes.  Magazines were OK.

Here’s what my schedule looks like:

  • Mondays: Block 3: 7:55-8:35; Morning Program: 8:38-9:21; Block 4: 9:24-10:09; Double-Block 5: 10:12-11:45; Lunch: 11:45-12:27; Double-Block 6: 12:30-2:03; Break: 2:03-2:12; Block 7: 2:12-2:57; Block 8: 3:00-3:45.
  • Tuesdays: Block 5: 7:55-8:35; Prayers: 8:38-9:21; Block 6: 9:24-10:09; Double-Block 7: 10:12-11:45; Lunch: 11:45-12:27; Double-Block 8: 12:30-2:03; Break: 2:03-2:12; Block 1: 2:12-2:57; Block 2: 3:00-3:45.
  • Wednesdays: Faculty Meeting: 7:45-8:30; Block 1: 8:35-9:21; Block 2: 9:24-10:09; Double-Block 3: 10:12-11:45; Lunch: 11:45-12:27; Double-Block 4: 12:30-2:03; Break: 2:03-2:12; Block 5: 2:12-2:57; Block 6: 3:00-3:45.
  • Thursdays: Block 7: 7:55-8:35; Prayers: 8:38-9:21; Block 8: 9:24-10:09; Double-Block 1: 10:12-11:45; Lunch: 11:45-12:27; Double-Block 2: 12:30-2:03; Break: 2:03-2:12; Block 3: 2:12-2:57; Block 4: 3:00-3:45.
  • Fridays: Block 1: 7:55-8:35; Morning Program: 8:38-9:19; Block 2: 9:21-9:59; Block 3: 10:02-10:42; Block 4: 10:45-11:25; Lunch: 11:25-11:53; Block 5: 11:56-12:36; Block 6: 12:39-1:19; Block 7: 1:21-1:59; Block 8:  2:02-2:45.

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, it did take me a whole year to learn it.  We rotate the schedule so that each class has one double-block per week along with three regular blocks and one day off.  On Fridays, we finish up at 2:45 to allow students who travel from far away to get home in time to prepare for Shabbat in the winter.

So given that I don’t meet with my students on a schedule that’s regular, my first thought was that Fridays would be a good day for SSR, but how long can I realistically devote to it then?  I could make the day when the class has double-block another day, but again, how long?  Is 10 minutes OK?

Another thing I took away from this chapter is that I need to work on writing conferences.  I do not allow students to do enough of the talking, and they are walking away trying to fix their writing to please me so I will reward them with a good grade instead of really learning to write well.  The good news is that I can fix it, and happily, Kittle provides models on the DVD.  I wrote Listen more!  Talk less! in the margin of my book.

Finally, it occurred to me that two of the suggestions Kittle mentions — publishing writing students wish to share on a shared drive on the school’s network and creating posters for units of study — could also be done and perhaps even more effectively on a wiki, even if it was a closed wiki that only the students could use.  The added advantage would be that students could keep adding to the information and writing pieces gathered, even after they were no longer students if they wished, and they could also access the wiki at home.  Wikis would also have the advantage of being hyperlinked, so if students wanted to link to an online editorial they found interesting for further reading, they could easily do so.  Kittle has mentioned the multi-genre research paper, but so far only in passing.  I hope we get a good picture of what it looks like because based on what I’ve read, it also looks like a prime candidate for a wiki.

I’m guessing I should be getting my Teacher’s Daybook any time now.  I need to start planning, and I mean really planning.

Related posts:

One thought on “Write Beside Them: The Opportunities in a Writer’s Workshop

  1. Last semester, the junior high where I went three days a week for a methods class had silent reading for 15 or 20 minutes every day. At first I couldn't believe students could be that quiet at 7:45 in the morning and not fall asleep; however, they didn't and actually read every day. Newspapers were permissible but I do not recollect magazines being permitted. So, for about 20 minutes every morning Auburn Junior High was completely silent and still. Each English class I observed also had Writing Workshop implemented into their lessons. It was up to them when and what days they dedicated to the students writing, but these teachers were taught and motivated by a local writing workshop called SunBelt. The teachers, like I said, could choose their schedules, but they had to decide between three days and two days: three days writing and two days reading or vice versa. Of course, grammar lessons were implemented in there somewhere. Anyway, it was really amazing to see how well the students took to this type of schedule and reading numerous books a year as well as writing many creative essays as well as academic essays. I will have to purchase Kittle's book. I'm sure it is quite helpful.

Comments are closed.