Although Writing Workshop is simply a supplemental class in which students play with different ideas and practice process, drafting, editing, and revising their work, students often use those lessons throughout their high school and college careers. This March (2016), I received the following message written to the parent of a student who had only done two years of Writing Workshop at North Fork School, but who is now using Writing Workshop knowledge at Boise State:
In Writing Workshop, students learn to see their writing as a process, rather than merely as a product. Students offer one another editing advice as they learn to draft and revise every piece of their writing within a supportive, guided writers' circle.
This integrated primary-level class will revolve around writing in all subject areas -- including French, math, art, science, and drama -- rotating as needed in the curriculum. Students can count on having creative writing most weeks.
Classes will follow a Writing Workshop format, focused on process rather than product. Students will receive a binder “portfolio” for the class, in which all math, French, drama, and science projects, as well as artworks and written pieces will be indexed. Student portfolios are a key component of documenting student achievement.
A low student/teacher ratio, an emphasis on writing in all subject areas, the freedom to explore individual student interests, an ability to study elements of short stories in depth, and the opportunity to learn from the differing perspectives of students in other grade levels all make this program different from the conventional classroom.
How process-oriented learning works:
In Writing Workshop, students learn to select writing topics, draft, edit, give and receive response, revise, redraft, and refine their writing at their own pace.
Students have a "draft folder" in which they keep all drafts of their work. Included in the folder is a personalized "skills list" -- a list of grammatical or technical errors that have occurred in each student's writings, and for which the student agrees to be responsible in future edits.
Students typically rework two or three drafts of a piece, receiving response from peers, before they turn in a draft for "teacher editing." At this point, the piece is as polished as they can make it. Often, two or more drafts are necessary before the piece can go into the student's "final folder."
Teacher/peer or group response provides students with feedback on a piece as it is being written, when such help is most useful to them. One of the great advantages of Writing Workshop is that students are not assigned topics; by choosing what and how they write, they become incredibly invested in their pieces.
Writing Workshop is a place for kids to be writers -- not for working on assigned topics, or "creative writing" exercises, but a place where they will have time to work on writing as adult writers do:
Finding topics which interest them;
Sharing their works-in-progress with each other;
Giving and receiving peer responses to ideas, style, and structure of pieces;
Learning how to give constructive criticism to themselves as well as to their peers;
Learning skills and techniques of writing in the context of their own stories, poems, and pieces;
Learning new methods of expressing ideas through hearing what others have written, and by sharing the insights they've gained in their own writing.
The Process -- Writers:
rehearse (find an idea) * * * draft one / confer * * *draft two / revise / confer (repeat these steps as often as necessary, revising and redrafting until writer decides that content is complete, and says everything s/he wants it to say.) * * * decide content is set * * *self-edit (Only now does the writer edit for spelling, punctuation, capitalization and grammar errors.) * * * teacher edit / revise (Content should be complete by this point, and revisions should be concerned with mechanics and specific editing items) * * * Publish.
Students in North Fork School Core (1st, 2nd, and 3rd Year) Programs use the Writing Workshop process as they learn the basics of academic writing. Unlike the younger students, who direct their own selection of topics, Core Program students are more limited in their choices; as they learn the elements of focused essay-writing, they find more time to spend on creative pieces of their own choosing.
photo licensed by Creative Commons: Writing by dotmatchbox