SOLSC: March 6, 2016 & Digilit Sunday: Being flexible in writing workshop


Write. Share. Give. Join the March Slice of Life Story Challenge @ Two Writing Teachers

digilit sunday

Digilit Sunday is hosted by Margaret Simon @Reflections on the Teche as an invitation for educators to share ideas for digital literacy and learning.

This DigiLit Sunday Margaret invites us to reflect on the function of the word technique in the writing process, and since my slice of life today is about making the final revision suggestions on my students’ feature articles in preparation for our writing celebrations tomorrow and the day after, I looked for (and found!) connections between the two.

Ever since September, we’ve been exploring techniques of great writing: show not tell, specific nouns and verbs, creating beautifully described scenes for the reader to visualize, incorporating vivid sensory details and meaningful dialogue, crafting effective leads and conclusions, using punctuation intentionally and effectively.  And these are just some of the writing techniques we have studied, played around with, and then stored away in our writing tool boxes.

I was up early this morning to read through my students’ final pieces, one last time before I click “Return All” .  In feature article after feature article, I was struck by how often my kids had chosen to reach into their writing tool boxes and try out a technique we had learned about and practiced.  Some of these techniques were put to use where expected, but the real joy was in discovering how and why my students had done so in unexpected places, and to surprisingly good effect.

In our writing workshop, we hold true to two things, one of them is choice – my kids have complete freedom in choice when it comes to what they want to write about.  Most often, choice of topic leads to great satisfaction: the writing piece shines and lives up to  our expectations.  Sometimes, though, choice of topic leads to something less than satisfaction: the topic was hard to research, or the passion for it faded.  We learn that there is a technique to settling on a topic, no matter how passionately we first feel about it.  Even in disappointment, there are lessons to be learned.

 The second thing we hold true in our  workshop, is that we must be imaginative about using the tools in our writing toolbox: “creating beautifully described scenes for the reader to visualize” is a technique that belongs as much in our memoirs as it does in our feature articles.   We don’t compartmentalize our writing moves, we learn to be flexible about our writing techniques.

It was great fun reading through my students’ work this morning, especially because it seemed that for all the sweating out that was our revision process (never fun, but always necessary) they had take our two truisms to heart, and had written, to quote Ralph Fletcher , “downhill, with the wind at my back.”




17 thoughts on “SOLSC: March 6, 2016 & Digilit Sunday: Being flexible in writing workshop

  1. Love this connected post and the opportunity to see inside your writing workshop. And the Ralph Fletcher quote is new to me. Is it from one of his books? Wish I could drop in on your celebration this week.

  2. Seeing the tracks of teaching pop up where unexpected is the reward for all that work. Love the two things that hold true in your workshop. Your students do “own” their writing.

  3. That final image of writing downhill with the winds at our backs makes all the toil worth while. It’s the payoff, yes? Congratulations to your students for seizing the revision process.

  4. It is great when students take tools we introduce them to and use them not only where expected but in unexpected places as well. Congrats to you on inspiring their creativity.

  5. Flexibility, creativity, and choice…what every writer needs! I’m always so inspired by the descriptions of your classroom practices, Tara. Your students are so fortunate.

  6. The idea of choice and the need to have a technique in choosing is so important. Just giving students choice isn’t enough. It can leave them high and dry. Stuck with something that just doesn’t work. Having a technique to pull them out of that place is necessary. What is so wonderful about this is the students’ understanding of the need for techniques. Beautiful work Tara!

  7. Toolbox of writing, choice and flexibility, the writers become artists. I am glad that reading student work on Sunday gave you positive surprises.

  8. The techniques you teach have moved your students to writing in their own way and to feel like writers…with wind at their backs. (And under their wings…you!)

  9. This post is especially interesting to me Tara as we are only 7 weeks into our school year. It is a good reminder to me that they can get there and surprise us and that they do take it all in. Thanks for all the links to previous posts too, I’ll be checking those out too. 🙂

  10. Such joy to hear that your students have choice, and also that it isn’t always working, sometimes is full of challenges to make it work the way they envision. With the tools you’ve given them, it sounds as if they’ve been both challenged and then will feel much success this week. Nice for the students, and for you, too.

  11. There’s nothing more satisfying than seeing all our students have learned come to life in their writing. Bravo, to you and your students, Tara! And thank you for sharing the Ralph Fletcher quote, although writing “downhill, with the wind at my back” is a goal I rarely feel like a reach.

  12. I find that the interest level in the choice is my challenge. Kids get the choice and that is special at first but when they realize they must still do the work, the interest fades. “I want to do something different,” they say on day 5 of the assignment. We don’t have time to change and restructure. Still the time thing gets in the way. It is the technique of reinvesting that I find I have to share again and again.

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