WE Expect Excellence – Writer's Workshop
How do you teach someone to be a good writer? Where do you begin?
"We've always known that writing is the way for kids to think critically. It is that thing that moves kids forward and you can do it in a very thoughtful, methodical way," says Five Oaks Middle School Principal Shirley Brock.
The District's adoption of the new English Language Arts curriculum provided the perfect opportunity for changes to writing instruction that put all middle school Humanities teachers on the same page. This summer, they participated in the Teacher's College Writing Institute. "It has brought cohesion across the District in terms of how writing is taught," says Cedar Park Humanities teacher Denise Cooney.
Students now participate in daily Writer's Workshops that include a ten minute mini-lesson followed by time to write and practice what they've just learned. During that independent writing time, teachers are able to work with small groups or individuals who may be struggling with a particular skill. "It allows for more individualized instruction for each of the students," says Cedar Park Humanities teacher Stephanie Herb.
Cedar Park Middle School Principal Ken Struckmeier agrees. "In Writer's Workshop, I saw an opportunity for teachers to use their knowledge and their judgment to tailor the experience for kids, and make it unique for individuals."
Students are responding to the new instruction. "This year there is more guidance. I've learned how to organize my writing better," says Five Oaks 8th grader Kristyn Basilio.
Five Oaks Humanities teacher Paula Inglett is pleased with the results. "Kids that never saw themselves as having skills in writing have really come up with some amazing phrases and paragraphs. I share these successes with the other students."