Tools for a Writing Classroom: The Writing Process & Writers Workshop
ideas for managing and maintaining a workshop environment in your classroom
Hello, my name is Patty Foncault, and I have been a Consultant with the NNWP since 2000. The primary focus of my association with the Writing Project during this time has been to provide a number of various in-service classes aimed at helping classroom teachers become more comfortable with incorporating all sorts of writing assignments across the curriculum. In doing so, in every inservice class, I have noticed a common lament among teachers who attend. Many simply do not feel they have the confidence they need to run a writers workshop. They have many questions: How can I fit in regular writing time in an already crowded schedule? Where do the ideas come from? What do students do when they finish a writing assignment before the rest of the class? How do I manage student conferences? The list of questions seems endless.
My purpose with this page at WritingFix is not to provide a step-by-step procedure for running a successful writers workshop. There are a plethora of excellent books on the market written by people who are far more qualified than I am that do that. Some of the authors who have been most influential in my own teaching career are Katie Wood Ray, Donald Graves, Ruth Culham, Barry Lane, and Ralph Fletcher. I urge you to seek the advice of these, and other experts, if you want a systematic and comprehensive approach to writer’s workshop.
Rather, my vision for this webpage is that it would be a quick reference for teachers who need help with a certain aspect of writers workshop, or who are looking for new ideas to light a spark to something already in place. I have attempted to gather together in one place some great ideas that have worked well for myself and other colleagues. You will find help with getting started, seed ideas if you will. This should help with the “How do I get them all started and how do I keep them busy?” There are many great ideas for illiciting great writing for creative as well as authentic purposes across the curriculum. Wondering how to manage conferences with each of your students? You’ll find some suggestions for that as well. Grading can be problematic for many of us. I’ll share some strategies that have worked for others and how to involve students in the process, thereby giving them a greater degree of responsibility and ownership of their work.
Finally, I would encourage any of you who have been hesitant to begin a writer’s workshop because of some sense of inadequacy on your part. If you wait until you feel like an expert, you probably will never begin at all! Writer’s workshop is always a work in progress, for both teacher and student. We learn and grow as we do! The most important thing is that your students sense your support, encouragement, and your value of writing as a way of expression.