Workshop 1: Creating a Community of Writers
Key Practices To Observe in Workshop 1
In this workshop, you will see a number of effective practices for creating
a community of writers. They include the following:
- Teachers recognize that middle school students are experiencing many
changes. During this emotional time, they are trying to make sense of
themselves, other people, and the world around them. They need to experience
their own voices and to have an opportunity to think and communicate
about the views of others. Participation in a community of writers will
help these students not merely as writers and readers but as people.
- Providing students an opportunity to write for meaningful purposes
and to share their work with their peers is an important way to create
a community of writers. The experience of expressing something that matters
to them in writing and then being able to share their ideas and feelings
with classmates is especially helpful for young adolescents.
- When students write and when they talk with others, they are expected
to offer their own ideas. Promoting student ownership does not isolate
individuals; rather it fosters a sense of occupying a responsible position
in the community of writers. For students to consider themselves members
of a community and gain from this experience, they must feel that they
have a place, a position, an identity, a voice. They also must feel that
they are contributing members of the group.
- Teachers write with students, provide students copies of their own
works in progress, and display their writing by overhead projector. They
talk about the challenges they face as writers. They convey their satisfaction
in expressing themselves. After reading their work, teachers listen carefully
to students' responses. They make notes on their drafts and talk
about their plans. Not only does this modeling help students learn more
about the craft of writing, but it also helps students feel less threatened
sharing their own writing.
- The physical environment of the classroom contributes to a sense
of community. Desks are arranged so that students face each other and
easily talk about their work and so that the teacher can easily sit or
kneel beside the student in a non-domineering position. The room contains
books, posted examples of students' work, quotes about writing,
resources for writers, and other artifacts of a literate environment.
An overhead projector and screen enable the teacher and students to share
and discuss their work. One teacher includes a large rug in her classroom,
a risk-free meeting ground for writers to read their work aloud and applaud
their classmates' accomplishments.
- Teachers establish orderly, meaningful routines that give students
a place in the community and foster their growth as writers. Core parts
of the routine include writing, sharing writing, and talking about writing
in a non-threatening atmosphere. The routine establishes that the students'
feelings and ideas are important. This experience is especially important
young adolescents and for students who are new to the language and culture.
- Teachers organize so that students regularly gain response to their
writing and provide response to classmates. Teachers also model respect
in conversations about their own writing, as well as in conversations
about the writing of students. Students are not just asked to respond,
they are taught how to respond effectively. Diversity in opinions and
backgrounds is acknowledged and embraced. Students realize that response
does not have to be threatening, that members of the community are helped
- Through reading, especially reading aloud, teachers promote a sense
of community. Community develops as the teacher and students recognize
the meaning and value of the shared text and study the author’s
writing techniques. Reading aloud also provides a group experience with
literacy that draws the class together and demonstrates the importance
of developing as a writer and reader.
- Teachers provide opportunities for their students to celebrate each
other's writing accomplishments.