Workshop 6: Responding to Writing: Teacher to Student
Key Practices To Observe in Workshop 6
This workshop demonstrates a variety of techniques for responding effectively
to student writers. They include:
- Teachers help students write for meaningful purposes, prompting students'
interest in developing their writing and establishing a foundation for
effective conferences. It is difficult to promote revision when students
do not find the writing meaningful.
- Though teachers respond to a particular sample of writing, the goal
of the response is not merely to correct or "fix" the individual
piece; the teachers focus also on strategies for writing, ways of thinking
about writing that can transfer to other writing.
- Teachers organize for response in a variety of ways: a whole-class
response; a quick, over-the-shoulder comment; a one-on-one conversation
guided by the student's questions and concerns; a small-group conference
that focuses on the work of one student but also engages the other students;
conference forms; and frequent questioning to help students think and
make decisions about their work.
- As students are getting ready to write or are just beginning to revise
a draft, the teachers' response concentrates on meaning, purpose,
awareness of readers, and methods of support. Mechanics are addressed
later, as students edit their work. The response is focused, and teachers
do not attempt to "cover" everything.
- In their responses, teachers emphasize that students have ownership
of their writing; the writer makes the decisions, even though the teacher
and classmates may offer suggestions. In responding, teachers do not "take
over." Teachers often ask students, "What do you think?"
or "What have you decided?" Response is student-based.
- Different kinds of response are offered: description of what is working,
questions, suggestions, options, explanations of strategies, personal
reactions to the work. Most often the response is oral, but teachers
also write notes to the writer, list ideas or techniques on the chalkboard
or a flip chart, and provide handouts, examples, and other reading materials.
- Listening carefully and patiently to students as they talk about and
read their work is important in providing response. Teachers are calm
and soft-spoken in their conversations with students, which is especially
important with students who are early learners of English. Response occurs
in a setting described as a community of writers.
- Though the teachers are alert to the "teachable moment,"
they also are purposeful in the way they arrange for response to student
writers. Routines are established in the writing workshop, and teachers'
practices are methodical.
- Teachers maintain positive views of their students. They convey a trust
that students can and will think, because the students are writing about
matters of concern to them. Response is characterized by positive expectations
and a view that writing is valuable—what students do as writers
is important. The tone of the response is positive, not critical.