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What is Writing Workshop?

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The most successful teaching comes when the writing strategies you use, connect to the beliefs you hold. It’s vitally important that teachers continually return to their underlying beliefs, trying to connect those beliefs to external standards and specific teaching strategies. Otherwise, the teaching of writing can become a series of canned or disconnected exercises, rather than a considered process. This is particularly true of approaches like writing workshop.

Taking time to chart out the connections among these, looking to see where there is a match and where there might be a mismatch, can help you develop a seamless and integrated approach to teaching writing.

  1. Divide a paper into four columns, labeled “Beliefs,” “Strategies,”  “Standards,” and “School Policies/Materials.” You will continually refer back to this chart throughout the inquiry cycle. 
  2. Begin by drafting a list of all the beliefs you hold about the teaching of writing (i.e., I believe students need choice of topics) and write them in the first column. 
  3. Read the chapter "Understanding the Essential Practices of Writing Workshop". While doing so, highlight items that are already listed in your belief column that appear in the chapter. As you read, if you encounter new beliefs you would agree with, add those items to the belief column.
  4. Reconvene as a group. On chart paper, create two columns, "beliefs" and "wonderings". Using an ordered sharing format and go around and ask individuals to share a belief.
  5. After all beliefs are recorded. Give individuals an opportunity to respond to that the list. If any of the listed beliefs do not appear to be shared across the group, either draw an arrow to the right column and try to name a question or wondering related to that belief so the lack of agreement is clarified. 
  6. Finally, invite individuals to name additional concepts or ideas from the chapter they encountered that they did not agree with or had a wondering regarding.

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These tools were created as part of the Literacy Improvement in Rural Education through Collaboration (LIREC) project funded by the U.S. Department of Education