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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Writers Workshop

A thread was requested for Writers Workshop and here it is.

10 comments:

anonymous said...

Thanks for this thread Melissa!

Apparently Writers Workshop is the official LA curriculum for middle school.

We didn't have a great experience with WW when our son's school used it in 6th grade, but perhaps it was just his school, or just his teachers implementation/interpretation? I'd love to hear from other parents whose kids have completed WW in middle school or have at least gone through a year or two? How has it been? And how are kids who have gone through the WW curriculum doing in high school?
Thanks!

BTW the issues we had with WW were

*tons of self and peer evaluation, not much teacher evaluation.

*tons of creative writing but not much structured writing. No book reports, and they only touched on essay writing.

*Little use of critical and analytical thinking.

*Very little emphasis on grammar and punctuation, conventions, fluency.

seattle citizen said...

I think the idea with programs such as this is that some students are hesitant to be expressive on paper because there's so much structure. Punctuate this, semi-colon that, this idea goes here, say this there...

The idea might be that if you show a student some success just WRITING, telling stories and reading each other's stories, do some development, perhaps, but not so much focus on the the nuts and bolts until the student has come to believe that she/he CAN tell a story...THEN the nuts and bolts can be helpful to making the story better.

Sure, we wish all students could use properly grammar punctuation and speling but for those who don't know how, a little creative writing might be just the ticket to opening the gates of written expression.

Of course, if a student DOES know how to write, does know some grammar et al, and the program isn't differentiated, then how does one move on the the fine tuning: writing for a purpose, organization, audience...

seattle citizen said...

and copyediting to avoid such things as "the the"!

whoooops! No gold star?

anonymous said...

I agree Seattle Citizen a LA curriculum should not be full of only grammar/punctuation and super structured writing - that would be rote and boring, and frankly unacceptable. On the flip side it is also unacceptable to not teach any structured writing, conventions, spelling, in lieu of teaching only creative writing. In my opinion a a well rounded curriculum is much more acceptable. The year my son had Writers Workshop it didn't feel well rounded or balanced - it felt heavily weighted to free form, creative writing. His writing actually regressed the year his class used WW.

I realize that this was just my experience with my son, with one teacher in one school, and others may have had a very different experience.

My younger son goes to MS this year and I am curious to know what other parents think. Has WW been successful for your child?

Eric B said...

At Pathfinder, WW has been in use for two years and I was blown away by the remarkable strides in both my daughter's writing and those of her classmates. I know her teacher does emphasize the conventions - the final drafts are all carefully edited for spelling, punctuation, etc. I also know that every year they have done some creative writing and some report/research writing. My third grade daughter is starting on persuasive writing and reviews now. I would say that, like any curricula, the deliverer is the key!

Free said...

Ditto that.

What I like about WW is that kids experience the power and joy of writing before the restrictions. It's like kicking around a ball before learning to halt at each "tweet" from one's internal editor/referee.

However, when asked how they like WW, both our kids knocked it for limiting subject matter (e.g., no nonfiction, which they love to write at home) and for forcing them to get "too personal." They don't like sharing "private stuff," and apparently there is competition for the most unusual experiences (which explains our son's focus on physical trauma, and our daughter's travel wishes).

I'd love to see the WW curriculum to see what to expect in higher grades. As with reform math, supplementation may be needed.

Mercermom said...

Our child just started doing WW in first grade. I am amazed at how much writing he is doing, as compared to what our our son who is in fifth grade did. Our kids are not the types who are naturally drawn to writing. What I like about WW thus far is, at minimum, that it seems to include the ethic that to become proficient at writing, you must do it regularly. Our son is asked to do different types of writing (e.g., how-to, observational, fiction).

ParentofThree said...

The problem with WW is that it is viewed as the be all and end all writing program! While it has many strengths, it also has weaknesses. And teachers are not allowed to stray from the lessons to fill in some gaps. (Does this sound a bit like Math in our schools?)

My youngest is in a school that does NOT have WW and I am thrilled with the writing they doing and the grammar they are learning. When a teacher is not tethered to WW, they have the flexibility to assign writing projects related to other subject matter, versus using the writing prompts that WW is based on. (THE WASL is also based on writing prompts, which is why they get great results; teaching to the test.)

My oldest left middle school having nothing but WW and cannot write an outline, struggles with research writing, and large cross-cirriculum writing projects. But can write great essays about our pets.

So I would rather see WW in our schools as part of a balanced LA program where teachers have some flexibiltiy in writing assignments - especially at the middle level, where they really need to begin learning how to do large research based projects.

Free said...

Drat, my internal editor was napping. I meant to say our kids (grades 2 and 4) chafe at WW constraints on FICTION, not nonfiction. I understand the value of teaching kids to write what they know, but it is terribly limiting, and I enjoy reading their (homespun) tall tales much more than their "small moments."

Slightly off topic, but recently, a parent on a Lowell tour asked "how do you teach kids not to plagiarize?" Good question; not sure if he got an answer. Our son tells me his first grade teacher at Lowell taught them not to do it and why (thank you, Erica Dorje!). How is authorial integrity taught at your school?

Eric B said...

Seattlehorn indicated that there was no non-fiction in her experience with WW. My daughter's class has had nonfiction assignments as part of WW every year. I wonder if this is her teacher going outside of the curriculum or if it is differences in delivery of the curricula.