Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The Evolution of Writing Workshop

This is my fourth year trying to perfect the kindergarten Writing Workshop. I've been to see Lucy Calkins, I've been to see Katie Wood Ray, I've read many a professional texts and sat through many a professional development focused on kindergarten writers.

It's the hardest part of my day.

Until this past week, I've pretty much stuck to a similar format. We begin Writing Workshop (WW) with a mini or focus lesson. Basically, "this is what writers do... you are all writers... now go and do it." Then the wee ones are sent back to their tables for quiet writing times while I conference with individual kids on what they're doing. Then we wrap it all up with a share session that highlights someone's story that did what we were hoping to see.

Now I know I'm not all that flexible, but this format does change depending on the day, the needs of the kids, and well, my mood. Bad mood teacher = shortened WW. Some days we don't even make it back to our tables. We do shared writing (I hold the pen but get ideas from the kids) or interactive writing (they write the words), or we read stories by other authors who do a great job at writing about real things happening. Ezra Jack Keats is a fine example. His books about Peter, Willy and the gang are an awesome example of writing about everyday things that happen to you.

The whole point is to get our kids to understand that they are authors and they have stories to tell.

Pause....

Have you ever heard a kindergartner tell a story? What about a kindergartner with limited English, limited experiences, and limited ability to hold a pencil?

And that's why it's hard.

SO. This year, with the help of my fabulous co-teachers (gawd, I love that it's plural!), we are revamping what WW looks like. We're thinking about centers focused on drawing, concept of story, and beginning, middle and end. Independent writing will still happen everyday, but it will be a smaller part of the workshop. I'm envisioning something that looks similar to my Reading Workshop.

Already we've been working on drawing. Many of our kids don't know where to begin so we've broken things down into parts of a whole (one of the Patterns of Thinking) and shown them that they can draw anything, they just need to go one part at a time! You should have seen the elephant they did together today. Awesome. I will try to remember to take a picture and post.

This week and next we will be pulling small groups to work on beginning, middle and end as well as story vs. picture.

I've also chilled out with the "you must be silent during independent writing" shtick. Turns out if you're not all up in their grill about being quiet, they enjoy writing more. They might talk to their tablemates, but they're talking about their stories, and that's fine by me.

I'm very excited about this. I hope I have amazing results to report! Or at least results that don't mention me thinking how much I hate WW.

1 comment:

bunkobeth said...

I suggest reading KidWriting - it's fabulous and takes so much stress out of Writers Workshop. It may be a terrific addition/ support to what you are doing. We (my teaching partner and I) have been using it for 7 years now. It's noisy but reaffirming for the kids. We've learned to blend it with the Lucy Caulkins approach as that is the Approved District System...