Years ago I took a fabulous class offered here in Colorado called the Colorado Writing Project. It is two weeks long, and it introduces and immerses teachers into the writing workshop model a la Katie Wood Ray, Margaret Atwell, and Lucy Caulkins. The two weeks is life changing for teachers. We write and we conference and we read and we write and we write some more. Finally, we reflect on our experience and how we can bring this powerful learning to our students.
I was hooked after this two weeks and really wanted to bring authentic writing and conferencing to the seventh grade classroom I was teaching at the time. It was a scary proposition though, giving students choice of what they write about. Showing them how to pull off their goals, and letting them go from there. The scariest part though was giving up some control over what I guided students to do.If I was always the smartest person in the room, why would my students want to do authentic research or write about their interests?
Today I use a full writing workshop with my Writing Lab students, those who struggle with writing. They blog for a semester. I do mini lessons, but they can choose what they write about. While they control their topics, I comment on their writing, confer with them, and help them find mentor writers to follow. Giving up some control has helped my students understand that their education is actually in their control.
For students who have been told for most of their lives they can’t write, they are learning to take control back over their skills. While it’s not perfect by any stretch, it is a beautiful class that transforms students to see themselves as the writers they once saw themselves as being.