Monday, January 6, 2014


Whenever you start a new Language Arts initiative with your students, you are always hopeful.  You want THIS program to make the difference.  The materials are purchased, the teachers are trained, the parents are informed.  Then the real work begins. Implementing real change in your own classroom. In order to do this successfully, means looking at literacy differently and creating a writing environment that looks and feels different than what has been done in the past.  Exciting! Year one of Writer’s Workshop was an absolute whirlwind in my 5th Grade classroom at Merton Intermediate School. It was new to everyone, so we learned together.

That was part of the fun.  My class and I loved conferring best.  We simply loved talking and sharing about writing.  It brought us all closer together as writers. We also had a class blog so we could continue our writing and discussions outside of the classroom. Blogging extended our audience to a global community and provided authentic learning opportunities. We loop 5/6th grade, so I was thrilled knowing we could continue what we started the following year.

I attended Teacher’s College Reading & Writing Project in August 2013 and kicked off the new Units of Study this year.  We started with Personal Narratives.  It was exciting to start our unit with experienced writers who were familiar with workshop. We spoke a common language and were living our lives as writers.  I didn’t realize just how much until 6th Grade volunteered to present “Writer’s Workshop: Year Two” at a school board meeting in November.  I started gathering artifacts and recruiting my writers to present at the meeting.  I made some amazing discoveries.

First, I asked my students, “ How are we living life differently as writers this year?”  Over the next two days students posted their responses on a Padlet.

It was exciting to see responses like:

  • “Last year I learned a lot of things that I needed to apply to my writing.  Now that I know all of those skills, it is a lot easier for me to add them to my writing without even having to think about it.”
  • “We are more aware of our surroundings so we can make the moments we have lived into small moment stories.”
  • “I think I have grown as a writer by being unique and brave.”
  • “We are writing blogs which don’t just help me, but inspire others too.  I reach many readers.”

Next, I went back to find a similar activity I did with my students a year earlier.  We were working on building stamina as writers since this was our first exposure to workshop.  My students were not exactly “enjoying” the amount of time we spent writing each day.  We discussed stamina and why it was important to build stamina in all areas of our lives. I had them each contribute to the question, “Why is Stamina Important in Writer’s Workshop?” on a shared Google Doc the same way I did with the Padlet activity.  Some of the responses were:

  • “We can build stamina by putting effort into your work.”
  • “We can build stamina with practice, practice, practice.”
  • “We can build stamina by practicing and writing stories.”
  • “We can build stamina by writing a lot at home or anywhere you go!”
For both of these activities, I posted the question on our class web site and asked my students to share their thoughts.  What a difference a year and the correct writing model can make.  What I noticed the most was the first year responses were all about the work, effort and practice. The second year responses were about the writer, blogger, inspiration, audience, life, and stories.  YES!!
We proudly presented our findings to our school board and ended the presentation with a potpourri voices share. Thanks TCRWP for your amazing resources and instruction this summer.  Most of all, thank you to my Merton 6th Grade writers/bloggers for your dedication and trust in me.  I am so proud of you!  Merton Community School Board Presentation: 11/23/2013

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