10 Myths of Writer's Workshop: Part 1 of 4

Before teaching a writing lesson, I introduce myself to students as a writer. I tell students that I like to write. I tell them I write outside of school just because I want to. (Insert audible gasps here).

Since I have a sense of myself as a writer in the “real world” it bothers me that the way we teach writing is often artificial and bares little resemblance to real writing. Here are my problems with writing instruction, spelled out with ten myths. This is a three part series.

Myth #1: Students can write without modeling.

Without showing students how you write, they have no guidance as to how it can be done. In order to do this, teachers must be writers themselves. You don’t have to be Shakespeare but you do have to allow yourself to be vulnerable and actually participate in the writing process in front of or along with your students. If students don’t see you writing, it’s hard to believe that real people write.

Myth #2: Writers write at the same pace.

Instead of everyone revising on the same day, my students and I set deadlines for pieces to be published. Within XX amount of weeks, students may spend multiple days on the same stage of the writing process as long as everyone meets a deadline set by the class. In other words, a student might spend three days on drafting and half a day on revising but not everyone has to be working on the same stage at the same time. As we get closer to the publishing deadline, students need to commit to one of their drafts and publish.

Myth #3: Students can’t come up with their own writing ideas. They need prompts.

I used to be afraid that my students couldn’t come up with their own ideas. They can. And they do. It’s teachers who often can’t come up with their own ideas. If you model how to come up with ideas, students can do the same. A lot of times their ideas are more interesting than what they did last summer. Give them a chance.

2 Responses to 10 Myths of Writer's Workshop: Part 1 of 4

  1. Myth #1 – I completely agree. What I think we need are some strategies for maintaining classroom behavior during these writing times. And, ways to further communicate any given writing expectations. What I seem to find is that there are one or two students who “don’t get it” and come and ask you for further assistance, thus delaying your opportunity to model being a writer. This seems to go back to something you have written about before, differentiation.

    Myth #2 – I see one of the really important pieces to this being students’ pride in their work. It would be easy to get lost in this time and mess around, unless there is some pride in what you are doing. I am trying to do more Presentation of Learning to help develop this sense of pride. Your thoughts?

    Myth #3 – I SO agree with you. Our prompts are nothing compared to some fo the stories these kids could tell, if we gave them the chance.

  2. @Steven

    Regarding modeling and classroom management…I keep the times when I am writing directly in front of students to about 5-7 minutes max cuz watching someone else writing could be boring after awhile. I do additional writing while they’re doing their writing and I sometimes share that writing with them. But if I keep my modeling times brief, I feel I can make clear that students shouldn’t interrupt because it’s my turn and their turn is coming.

    Regarding pride in work…I’m teaching the youngest students, usually second grade or thereabouts. Students always want to share their work and so I haven’t experienced a lack of pride. Students can get lost in the process though, at the beginning of every session we review when the deadline is coming and towards the end of the cycle you have to push a few students along.

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