Time for Writing

On our last day of post planning, we had a Common Core ELA training. The purpose was to outline the expectations from our district and give us a sneak preview of the course maps and lessons from the county.

*pause*

When I started teaching, my school was beginning to use the America's Choice workshop model for Reading, Writing and Math. I was very fortunate to start at the same time my school was adopting the program, so I had some fantastic training.

Over the last ten years, our district has adopted the Reader's and Writer's Workshop models as well. At least I thought they did.

*unpause*

There were two people in charge of our training - one of the district literacy coaches and the ELEMENTARY ELA SUPERVISOR. (She gets shouty capitals because she is important.)

VIP Supervisor asked the crowd who had been using Reader's Workshop already.

There were probably 30 people in the room.

7 or 8  hands went up.

WHAT?!?!?!

I thought I was going to fall out of my chair.

What have these people been doing??

How are you brave enough to admit that you haven't been doing what you're supposed to in front of the ELA SUPERVISOR? (I think that's what really got me.)

It gets worse.

Later, she asked who set aside time every day for writing instruction - like Writer's Workshop.

Maybe 5 hands went up.

Oh my Lordy. I think I might have a stroke.

Again, I will ask: 

WHAT HAVE THESE PEOPLE BEEN DOING?????

I know that Reader's and Writer's Workshop is not nationwide.

But I was pretty sure it was a district wide initiative.

And I'm pretty sure it's a big part of the Common Core. 

Warning: Rant ahead.

How are you gathering pieces for a statewide writing assessment if you are not teaching writing on a daily basis?? How are your kiddos going to become better writers if you do not model what good writing looks like on a daily basis? How are they going to understand how language works if they do not have daily authentic practice with it?

Rant over.

I really feel for the folks in our district who have not used the workshop model so far - whether by choice or not. To take on the Common Core and the workshop models for Reading and Writing all in one year is going to be challenging. Certainly not impossible, but challenging.

WOW.

I started thinking about where I might start next year - especially if I was someone who had never used the workshop model before.

I remembered my procedural writing lessons and how much fun the kiddos had with it. {It would also make for an easy end of the year unit.}

I think I may even pull out these lessons when we start summer (school) camp next week. Even my most reluctant writers were excited to write about How to Make a Coke Float.

Make sure you check out Ginger Snaps' Making a Coke Float unit.

Ice Cream Float Publish

I hope I haven't offended anyone. It's just that when my school system tells me to do something or asks me to try something, I do it.


I'm really quite curious to know how many of my readers use Writer's Workshop and if not, what do you use? Do you have daily writing instruction? Am I totally off my rocker? :)


19 comments

  1. I know exactly how you feel! Sadly, I think this happens quite often in districts across the country. I recently heard of a teacher in my school who is not doing reading small groups (we use Reading Street and small groups are when most instruction and learning occurs). I felt the same way!! What are you doing in your room then lady???? I think we all need to keep blogging and talking about how successful our strategies are to keep encouragin those teachers to try something new.

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    1. Good point! Maybe if we keep pointing them to all of these fabulous blogs, they will believe that these best practices really do work!

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  2. I have absolutely NO direction in my school (in any subjects) so I did the best I could with what I knew as a first year teacher last year... but I'm planning on learning as much as I can about writing workshop this summer so I can try to implement that next year!! :)

    Marvelous Multiagers!

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    1. I wish we had about a million of you! :)

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  3. Sadly, I think this is more common place than we think. Because we have been exposed to great teaching mentors and training we assume every must. Right? I am slowly learning this is not the case. And it makes me sick to my stomach.

    I think the worst part is that Abby and I ARE exposed to great trainings and mentors (we work in the same district, but different schools) so the resources to implement great teaching are at our finger tips.
    Unfortunately implementing Reader's Workshop and Writers Workshop take time- something many teachers don't have a lot of time with. I think many people don't realize that eventually the three ring circus becomes some comfortable and routine that teaching becomes MUCH MUCH easier.

    I think Caulkins said something like, " It takes a routine, structure environmental, like a lab (or a workshop classroom) for the extraordinarily to happen." Now it isn't above me to either have misquoted or botched the quote, but you get the idea :)

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    1. I'm just glad there are people like YOU in our district. I think you identified the problem - people either don't want to take the time required to develop their RW and WW time... or they don't understand how.

      I know change is uncomfortable, but our system has given us plenty of time and resources to get there.

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  4. Oh wow! How does one get brave enough to admit that in front of supervisors? I really thought this was only happening at my school. :( I just found your blog through a FB page and am now following you!
    Lori
    Conversations in Literacy

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    1. My chin was on the floor. I'm glad you found your way here! I popped in to follow you as well! :)

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  5. lol. I love the "shouty capitals." I'm probably going to be borrowing that phrase in the near future.

    I'm too much of a rule-follower to NOT do what the district tells me to do! Of course, I do my own research, but if if my trusted leaders tell me what they feel is best for the students, by golly, I'm going to do it!

    To answer your question(s), though: my school uses Writer's Workshop, as well. All teachers are supposed to implement it for at least an hour per day. Does your district have a similar time-frame and those others just ignored it or what?

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    1. It's expected for us to set aside an hour every day for Writer's Workshop every day. And yes, those other teachers have apparently just ignored it.

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  6. I ♥love your post and I agree with you 100%!! I teach Math & Science 3rd grade this year. It is my first year back full-time and I am also the team leader. I am our school's Teacher of the Year and the reason I mention all this is because I haven't been at the school goofying off all these years, nor am I fresh out of college and wondering what to do and what to teach each day. I've been around the block a time or two!
    We have an amazing new principal, or as I joke, a new sheriff in town! What we have found is in the past at our school 2nd didn't worry about much because our 3rd grade Reading FCAT will retain them. Third grade teachers in the past didn't worry about teaching writing because they don't get tested on that in Florida until 4th grade! All I can think about is what I learned at FSU in 1988 and still holds true today ~ Writers write every single day and Readers read every single day. This has to start in Kindergarten, even if it is crayon pictures and scribbles ~ Children need to read and write each day...keep up the great work. Do what the district tells you to do, do what you know PROFESSIONALLY you need to do and most importantly, do what the parents who have trusted you with their children expect you to do!
    ~Fern
    Fern Smith’s Classroom Ideas!
    Fern Smith’s Pinterest Boards!

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    1. You are so right, Fern! :)

      Our principal is (thankfully) a big literacy supporter and is very clear with her expectations for us. "Cleaning house" is usually a good thing! :)

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  7. I enjoyed your blog entry! Maybe because our district is in the same boat! We are now on the verge of "MAKING" everyone have a daily writing and reading workshop. This was no easy task! We were very traditional basal and over the last year we (literacy committee ) fought hard for a 90 minute literacy block so everyone must be teaching reading daily using a workshop model. We adopted the Lucy Calkin's workshop model for writing over the last 2 years and for the most part love it for our K-2. Anyway....how do teachers survive not keeping up on latest research and best practices? How do teachers get by with NOT doing their job?? I know the answers but boy does it make our profession suffer!! Thanks for your great blog!

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    1. Thanks! I LOVE Lucy Calkins. We started using her series this year to guide our Writer's Workshop instruction and it really challenged me to dig deeper with my kids as writers. I'm glad to hear your teachers are finding success with her model as well!

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  8. I loved your post, of course I am a writing teacher. Writing is my favorite part of the day and YES I use Writer's Workshop. I love the workshop model. Every year my students grow leaps and bounds because they receive writing instruction EVERY day and get writing practice EVERY day. Yesterday on the day of our end of the year party I had my students write letters to me because I am fairly certain I have some kiddos that are about to take an eight week break from writing so I am going to squeeze in as much writing as I can :) I am with you though with the question of, "well then what are you doing?" In my opinion if you aren't teaching writing then you aren't doing your job, at least not all of it. Best of luck to your district next year, especially those people that haven't embraced the workshop model they are going to have it rough.

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    1. Thank you! I love your end of the year letter idea - I'm going to have to save that for next year! :)

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  9. Within the past 3 years, I've been new to two different school systems. I've found that when someone says, "Everyone needs to do ____" it's not necessarily followed up the next year! So anyone new may not even KNOW the expectations (or have any training or resources for it!), and then anyone who is either too lazy to make it work or struggles to make it work stops trying if it's not enforced or they're not given more support. I also think there were some teachers at my school not willing to change, though- in large part because they feel like what they are doing is working. Still, if there's a mandate (that I've been informed about!) I definitely try to follow it, and I'm surprised so few were doing it at your school! With many schools in my state moving to a new evaluation system (which is very harsh and can affect whether or not you get raises as your years of experience go up), most teachers I know are working extra hard to follow administrative expectations.

    A lot of basals come with a writing curriculum. It's not great, but I'm sure a lot of people follow it. I also went to a school that just had a standards calendar we would follow for writing. Just this year, I worked on writer's workshop- but it's still not done 'right' in my room!

    I don't think the Common Core mandates a certain way of teaching reading OR writing, although a workshop model may fit well with it.

    Jenny
    Luckeyfrog's Lilypad

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    1. Jenny,

      I think the frustrating part for me is that it wasn't a school wide gathering of teachers - it was a district wide meeting!!!

      At least with the basals, there is the expectation of daily writing instruction. Based on the responses in the room, many teachers didn't even do that this year! ACK!

      There's no "right" way to do Writer's Workshop. I've certainly found ways to change it and make it better each year, but you have to make it fit your teaching style. Best of luck!

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  10. Wow. Thanks for posting. We also do Reader's and Writer's workshops. I really love doing them and the kids get so much out of it. I see the same things though. When I am told or asked to do something in my classroom I do it. I am a rule follower. It always astounds me that there are so many teachers who just ignore what they are told. Some of the things we are asked to do are ridiculuous, I know, but we still have to be accountable. I firmly believe, that if we want to hold out students accountable for following our rules, we have to hold ourselves accountable and follow the rules set down for us.


    ✰Becca
    Fun is Found in Fourth

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