Day 26 – SOL March Challenge – A Writing Workshop Inquiry

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This morning I listened to Maureen Barbieri interview Shelley Harwayne about her new book, Above and Beyond the Writing Workshop.

I was so inspired listening to Harwayne talk about wanting to find a way for teachers and students to reclaim the joy of writing workshop as it was initially envisioned and practiced.

Harwayne’s new book, which I own but have yet to read, is about how to reclaim the spirit of writing workshop, in part, through authentic writing challenges that nudge exploration of the world outside the classroom, as well as short writing projects. At least, that was my take from the interview.

Quiet reading workshop classrooms raise a red flag for Harwayne and although many of us, including children, need some quiet spaces to write, we also need opportunities to talk about our writing with others.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this interview today.

Do my students see writing as a joyful, exciting and worthwhile endeavor?

Do they use writing to accomplish things? Or is their writing primarily confined to what we do in our classroom?

For example, I have been observing some of my students use chart paper to make lists, announce a new club they’ve created, or admonish others to recycle and to put trash where it belongs. At one point, there were so many ongoing “chart” writing projects that I finally designated a red tub for kids to store them rather than leaving them lying around the room.

My initial gut feeling is that my students are doing this when they don’t have any ideas for writing. So, I’ve been observing this trend on the sidelines for a while now. When I return this week I have a plan.

I have more questions than conjectures, but I’m eager to dig into an investigation of these projects.

Is the size of the paper the attraction? It seems easier for two children to work together on a large sheet of paper than it is for them to collaborate on 8 1/2 x 11 paper.

Or is making a poster easier for them than writing a story, no matter the genre?

I will be inviting those students who have participated in this trend to join me for a conversation circle. I want to hear what their intent is (if they even know) and what they want to do with these charts when they’re finished. Some have been hung up around the school; most languish in the red tub at the back of the room.

My primary goal is for my students to like to write and to view writing as an essential part of their life. I know that the self-selected writing projects they work on during writing workshop, such as the chart paper phenomenon, something they enjoy. But are they also learning from these engagements? And what, exactly are they learning?

I’m not sure, but I am eager to explore these questions further.

Cross posted to the Two Writing Teachers March Slice of Life Story Challenge.

5 thoughts on “Day 26 – SOL March Challenge – A Writing Workshop Inquiry

  1. carwilc says:

    These are great questions! Like you, I have Shelley’s new book, but have yet to open it. She was one of my most important mentors years ago, and I’m anxious to return to her work. I suspect the book will really push my thinking!


  2. Your goal is my goal: “My primary goal is for my students to like to write and to view writing as an essential part of their life.” I hope as we have answers to your questions and can share them. I will be listening to the podcast, the interview about Shelley Harwayne’s new book. Thanks for this slice.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. These are such great questions for workshop and for writing instruction at every level. I didn’t realize Stenhouse has a podcast, so I’m off to find that–and already have the prologue to Harwayne’s book open in another tab. Thanks for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

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