OMG, I am so excited. During a recent planning session, my fabulous co-teachers and I were lamenting how Writing Workshop seemed boring. Conferencing was painful and the kids who weren't with a teacher were disengaged. We were in a rut, the kids were in a rut and we needed to spice it up.
Introducing Writer's Club!!
I've blogged about how conferencing in our room works before. Briefly, each kiddo has a tab on a Google Doc file and the three of us (I still can't believe I am so lucky to have three teachers in one room during WW) conference with kids. We can see each other's comments, chat with each other, and follow up with each student's latest teaching point, no matter who the conferencing teacher was.
So now, we are using this to hold our little writers accountable. We each meet with two to three kiddos during independent writing. Based on that writer's needs, we give them something to work on. Sometimes a mini-lesson is involved, sometimes they just need to be told. We cycle through our two or three kids, being sure to meet back with each. If the student is independently working on what they were asked, they get to write their name on the club. Each week, Writer's Club gets to do something special. Sometimes lunch with a teacher, sometimes a special writing pencil, sometimes we'll go to a special writing place.
The kids ATE IT UP. I found my conferences to be much more streamlined and simple. I tend to focus on too many things and find conferences frustrating. But now I found myself saying, "Smart writers do _________. I'd like you to try this all by yourself. Do you think you can try?" The kids went back to their work with one specific goal and were then rewarded if they did it. We ended with "Now, for next time I want you to work on _______." Now there is a record for the next teacher. Easy peasy lemon squeezy.
There are aspects of this that we will need to work on. One of the newest members of the Writer's Club completed his task successfully and then completely ignored the "next time" bit. We will need to help the writers understand that each skill is a building block. We also need to be prepared that the task might be too difficult independently. Most of our writers don't progress smoothly, it's a herky jerky ride. Two steps forward, one step back. We have to make sure they will feel successful so they have the confidence to try something hard on their own. Luckily, Google Docs have given us a format that allows us to see everything the writer can do, and everything they are working on.
Great Writing Workshop, thanks friends! Go team.