If you're anything like me, you simultaneously dread and love writers’ workshop. It seems like nothing more than (barely) controlled chaos. After a few years teaching kindergarten, I was finally able to put my finger on what was not working: I particularly struggled with teaching the concept of writing for an audience. Teaching editing and revising in kindergarten is a completely different beast. It becomes less “How can I make this piece from yesterday look better?” and more “How can I make this look my best in one go?” I decided that my students needed to see good writing every day. My students needed to view me as a writer—not only during writers’ workshop when I modeled finger spaces but also in various other formats and for a variety of other purposes.First, I started taking my examples from the minilesson back to my desk and continuing to illustrate under the document camera as the students wrote independently. At first, nobody noticed. Eventually, I would hear a whispered “Look, Mrs. Sanchez is coloring hers!” from one of the nearby tables. A quick glance around the room would show me Autumn (all student names are pseudonyms), who loved to color and draw, watching while I outlined and shaded my illustration of my husband and me eating tacos. Do I worry that she is not “on task” for the moment? Not at all. While she is watching me write (and illustrating is a form of writing in kindergarten), she is noticing new illustrating and coloring techniques that she will try out in her writing. Students can observe how much time I put into my little book and recognize the effort that goes into making my writing appealing to an audience.It was not long before I decided to bring a card for my parents’ upcoming anniversary and have my students help me write it. Everything from “Dear Mom and Dad,” to “Love, Andi” included writing structures specific to cards and letters that some students were not otherwise familiar with. Plus, the students got a kick out of me writing, “P.S. Mom and Dad, my kindergartners helped me write this card for you.” They knew that this was not just something I was showing them how to do; this was an actual card to be read by actual people, which made them giggle. After this, I had students showing me cards they wrote at the writing center to real people in their lives. “Dear Allan, do you want to play wall ball with me on Sunday? From, Tim.” and “Dear Mom, I love you. I like when you help me and play with me. Love Makayla.”Before, students’ work at the writing center was mixing marker colors to see what new color combinations they could make. Ten minutes into writers’ workshop, students would tell me, “I'm done. When's recess?” But after I began writing with my students, I began to notice a change in them and their attitude toward writing. They began to see the very real purpose that writing could hold in their lives. Eventually, I would show them how I finish off my grocery list so I could stop at the store on my way home, or write a quick note to a colleague asking to borrow a certain book for tomorrow. In making my writing visible to my students, they were able to apply the concept of audience to their writing. It is amazing how much more intentionally and neatly they work when they have a purpose in mind. When you think about it, isn't it the same with us?
The Reading Teacher – Wiley
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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