I am a teacher of writers. This year I have had the fortune to coach nearly 200 teachers as a fairly large district has taken on writers’ workshop and using units of study that are organized around genre study. I have looked at my role in this initiative as one who prods the process forward. I meet with various teams (each of the seven schools has six teams) in approximate monthly meetings or workshops and we discuss their progress in taking on writers’ workshop and in writing in a particular genre within the narrative, informational and opinion modes of writing. In this role, I am someone who has gotten to see the district progress as a whole as I have worked with administrators, teachers and students alike.
Some of the strategies used this year in our work include:
- using self-reflective tools;
- looking at student work;
- collaboratively planning units within a genre focus;
- modeling lessons;
- providing specific information in a direct manner;
- working 1:1, in small groups and across grade levels and between grade levels to provide a variety of support;
- unpacking units of study collaboratively;
- providing communication and resources via email and other modes of communication
- viewing video resources to discuss modeled strategies;
- dissecting a writers’ workshop in a day and in a unit and providing more detailed support on one aspect of the workshop (mini-lessons, conferencing, notebooks, etc.).
The list goes beyond this quick brainstorm. At the beginning of the year teachers had a range of enthusiasm—as is true in any change process. I worked with teachers who were frustrated—some to tears. I worked with teachers who were already doing workshop and some who didn’t know what workshop was. Some teachers fully embraced the concept and instruction from day one. Some teachers embraced the initiative as they felt more comfortable or as they saw student success. Some teachers are traditional and others not quite so. Some view themselves as writers—others do not. Some teachers were very well-versed in types of genre writing. And again—some were not.
The year has gone on and I have been fortunate to prod the process forward. This week these are some of the comments I have received from teachers and administrators:
- My students have never written so much. They have grown so much in their ability.
- My students love writing. It is their favorite time of the day.
- I know more about teaching writing than I ever have. I can teach a genre of writing knowing where I need to go throughout the unit.
- I love the flow of writers’ workshop. It is predictable and that is so good for kids.
- My students are taking the state assessment in a few weeks. The quality of their writing has never been so high.
- I am amazed at the growth of this student from the pre-assessment piece that shows where he was before instruction and the piece that shows where he is after instruction.
- I (teacher) love writers’ workshop. It is my favorite time of the day.
- We have never had this kind of writing on the walls throughout our building. Parents are amazed.
Year one of this process is completing at the end of June. As in any change process, true change takes time and much effort. Today I am celebrating that we continue to prod this process forward and as we do students and teachers are growing in expertise and confidence.