Yesterday was a big day in Writing Workshop – our first writing celebration of the year! The “table of goodies” had been set up with an array of donuts and juice when my kids walked in…they were so psyched to get started. We’ve been working on our first to-be-published piece for the last two weeks – I always begin with the personal narrative since it’s something they’re familiar with, feel confident about and it also lends itself to all the work that goes into setting up the Writer’s Notebook for the year. It’s the first run of the writing process we live with in workshop all year – from searching for ideas, sketching in our notebooks, drafting in our writing pads, revising and then editing those drafts, to typing up and proofreading. By the time my kids walked in with that last bit on Wednesday, they had experienced the whole writing cycle and knew the writing game plan for all the to-be-published writing they would do the rest of the year. They were also ready to put this particular writing piece to bed, as it were, they were DONE!
Since the food was getting so much attention ( 6th. graders always hungry!) we went through our mini lesson (Celebration Etiquette) quickly:
With 26 kids in my Writing Workshop, we share by table groups. Each student read aloud their piece, and their groups listened and composed “Compliments” – what they loved about the writing, what they learned about the writer through the writing and some suggestions for improving/clarifying certain sections:
Soon, the room was buzzing with activity – writers were reading their narratives (with great energy and expression, I might add) listeners were paying attention and jotting down notes, and I was making the rounds and listening in. There was a joyous spirit in the room, and I could see that my kids were really enjoying each others’ narratives. Most importantly, the writers looked so pleased with their classmates’ reactions – all that revising and adding and deleting and re-organizing of their pieces was so worth it! This is why I think writing celebrations are integral to Writing Workshop – it puts all the work in context and makes it rewarding…now my kids know that this is what each writing cycle leads to, and they are already asking about what we will be working on next. They are motivated writers !
Having worked with them for the past few weeks, I now know each of my students capabilities- their writing strengths and weaknesses. I have a writing game plan for each for the rest of the school year. But the celebration also showed me another, equally important, side. Some were generous in their feedback, some overly critical, and some just silent. Writers write for an audience, and they improve with feedback. I know this as a writer myself – when I share, I like to hear what others think – whether it’s a poem, a short story, an essay or on this blog. There was a mini lesson or two hidden in my observations yesterday – how to develop my kids as a meaningful audience, an audience that can push each other and encourage each other to be better writers.