An Invitation to Find Best

In “Welcome to Writing Workshop: Engaging Today’s Students with a Model that Works,” Stacey Shubitz and Lynne R. Dorfman have provoked some deep reflections about writing in our learning space. Some background: I am currently in my third year of exploring personalized learning. It has been a wildly fabulous adventure, full of the appropriate amounts of terror, exhilaration and affirmations. As the ELA teacher, I decided early on to fuse reader’s and writer’s workshop; it’s been an interesting journey, as there are times when the two go hand and hand and yet often need their own space. This has necessitated a program where we first focus on reading (read aloud, independent reading), then writing (quick writes, spill the ink); we then shift to STUDIO time, where students are provided with a variety of pathways to engage with both reading and writing.

For this week’s work, we were asked to read chapters 1 – 3. Chapter 1 focuses on “What is Writing Workshop”, for which I felt a certain amount of knowledge, as I’ve been a fan of WW since Nanci Atwell graced us with her brilliance. I am partial to chapter 2, “The Write” Environment, as Lynne and Stacey included my classroom to illustrate the importance of setting up the writing space. I will, at some point, attend to this chapter in a blog post, as I have spent some time reflecting on my space and whether or not it needs to be further refined to support the writers in my classroom.

I was very interested in chapter 3, “A Community of Writers,” as I am still working on creating a sense of community around writing…and to be honest, I have a ways to go. Since returning to the classroom after ten years in a district position, reading has taken front and center; I’ve always thought of myself as a better teacher of writing, so I needed to delve more deeply into reading. Finally, I am ready to up my game and become the writing teacher I’ve always imagined. I’ve dedicated my summer learning to the topic of writing which has brought unbridled excitement and yes, a little trepidation. If I close my eyes, I can see the kind of writing class I need and want but I am struggling to get there, so this chapter on cultivating a community of writers seems like the best place to begin.

Reading chapter 3 helped center my thinking and gave me a great place to begin the artful creation of a beautiful space to write. I first have to work on helping my students see themselves as writers but critical to that piece is a sense that they’re not in it alone…or as the authors state, we need “a community that fosters trust.” It’s the realization that those two pieces must work in concert with each other that brings me one of my first big AHA’s. I think back to the past three years and how reluctant my students have been to share their work which always struck me as odd. Now, I understand the importance of setting that stage from day one; that, of course, we’ll be writing each and every day and that our space is a sacred space, where we can put ourselves out there in able to grow.

So…first steps. Well, obviously, there is a lot that goes into growing a community. I dedicate the first 4 – 6 weeks to coming together to build the skills, processes and strategies we need in order to be self-directed learners. I love the idea of forming writing partners; I’ve had something like this in the past few years but haven’t utilized it frequently enough. I am interested in perhaps broadening how we see SHARE time. In the personalized classroom, the students make decisions about their learning, with less time spent in whole group. This past year, my students started pulling their own groups together to share their progress on a piece of writing. Ahhhhh…the holy grail…when learners determine what they need and when they need it. I’ll need to help them understand that there are many moments, within the writing process, to share. (Craft, content, process, progress)

I’ll end here…for now….I’m also determined to devote some of my summer to self-care. There is so much goodness in this beautiful book…inviting me to reflect on our writing space…causing some discomfort in acknowledging shortcomings but ultimately leading me to a better version of myself. Stay tuned…




2 Replies to “An Invitation to Find Best”

  1. Cary,
    The link worked for me finally. I’m traveling so maybe the problem was related to internet. Thanks for your patience.

    We are shifting some attention to writing this school year so, like you, I’m dedicating my summer to digging back into reading about writing. I’m loving it. Writing had always been a way to really get to know my students and to help them connect to one another.

    It seems writing workshop so easily fits in a personalized environment. I appreciated your thinking around growing a community of writers. As you remind, the first six weeks is really such an important part of this. Each summer I worry about how I will grow this community, but interestingly I have come to realize that if I trust the kids we will get there every time.

    Looking forward to continuing to learn alongside you. So glad you are joining the conversation.


  2. I love that your class was literally a “textbook” classroom but you are still trying to figure out improvements. To me that is the heart of Writer’s Workshop – always looking ahead and thinking about ways to make it better. Usually I set up my classroom one way, then end up changing it after the first 3-4 weeks of school. I don’t think I’ve ever done it the same way twice. This summer I’m thinking a lot about a better word wall.

    I teach primary students, so it is amazing to me to hear that your students made their own writing group. LOVE IT!

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