Writing Workshop

| December 1, 2010

I attended some writing workshops held by Teachers College Reading Writing Project. I thought I share with the educators whom I work with one of the workshops that I found very interesting (in italics are my personal thoughts). The one here is called “Writing Clubs: Making Writing Social and Interactive, presented by Annie Taranto. The following is a description of the workshop as presented by Annie.

What are writing clubs? Writing clubs are a group of 3-5 students who work on their writing. They offer each other support and share opinions, building a “community of writers.”

Why does this matter?

  1. Deadlines/Accountability – students are accountable to get stuff done; they have to have done some writing to be in the club.
  2. Levels of experience – students get to hear the voices of different writers who are at different levels of experience.
  3. Shared knowledge – students share what they know about writing.
  4. Problem solving – students are able to turn to others for help.
  5. Reader’s perspective – students as readers help the writer notice things that were not known before.
  6. Community – writing is no longer an isolating, solitary experience. It is made into a social and interactive process.

How do we group kids? How do we choose what kind of writing groups to have?

  1. Genre – students are working on independent writing projects.

I wonder how this can be used in the classroom.

  1. Topic/Study – In topic, students are writing about the same topic. An example of grouping kids based on “study” is one where students use mentor texts to work on particular aspects of their writing.
  2. Problems/Challenges – students have similar problems in their writing.
  3. Students form their own writing clubs – students feel empowered and take ownership in their learning; students drive their own piece of writing, but not at it alone.

When grouping students, think about…

  1. Student behavior and personality.
  2. Different levels of writers, perhaps, with similar problems in their writing.
  3. Whether writing clubs will be beneficial for everyone. Even struggling writers have something to offer for more proficient writers. How can teachers help struggling writers in writing clubs?
  4. Whether to have some students work in partnerships.
  5. Assessment—Are writing clubs still effective? Have student progressed in their writing? How long should writing clubs last?


  1. Schedule meeting days/times for writing clubs and post this schedule in the classroom for everybody to see. How will writing clubs fit with the rest of the curriculum? How many times a week will students meet for writing clubs? Will all of the clubs meet on the same day or on different days?
  2. Students create their own schedule. They decide on which days and which member will be sharing a piece of writing, while others will readers/listeners.
  3. Think about how students will have access to the writing being shared. Will it be put on the overhead, read aloud, copied for each member, or thrown in at the center of the group where students hover over it to read?
  4. Instead of students reading their entire piece of writing, leaving little time for feedback and dialogue, have the writer decide on a particular part in the piece of writing that he/she would like to bring into the club to receive feedback. Hopefully, writing clubs are part of the students’ writing process so that the readers already known where the writer is coming from and some sense of where they are headed.

Teaching – helping students move towards independence

  1. Give positive compliments and be specific with them. Name or describe what the author did, show where, and explain why it mattered.
  2. Give suggestions: “One thing that you might want to work on is…” / “For example…” / “…because…” Explain why the suggestion matters to their writing.
  3. Approach them from the reader’s perspective: “As your reader, I felt…” / “Have you thought about…” / “Was that your intention?”
  4. Pick a particular aspect that the writer needs helps in: structure, voice, etc.
  5. Talk back to things. Start the conversation and keep it going.
  6. Model a writing club.
  7. “Coaching in” — sit in with a writing group that is having trouble. But, be careful not to coach in too much. Know when to step away so that students are able to figure it out on their own and/or work together.

If anyone is interested to know what other workshops I’ve attended, please let me know! I attend a workshop almost every week, everything from sentence combining to teaching literature to teaching writing.