Moving Writers … an Invitation

Eight hours before your presentation at NCTE isn’t the time for second guessing.

Huddled on a hotel bed, surrounded by a sea of papers, laptops, and California Pizza Kitchen take-out, we debated. Something was missing. After months of polishing the fundamentals, something wasn’t right. Something we couldn’t put our finger on.  Some meaning for which we were still grasping.

The past 48 hours had been filled with more inspiration than we could process. And now it was our turn.  What could we say about writing instruction the next morning that would say it all? That would really matter?

We thumbed through our stenographer’s pads and found our notes from a session earlier in the day, led by some of our teacher heroes: Penny Kittle, Kelly Gallagher, and Chris Tovani. In her talk, Chris Tovani quoted Penny Kittle as she wondered about the criterion often used to measure good writing:  “Who will actually read this and be moved by it?”

That was it! Our own guiding question!  The idea we had been searching for but hadn’t yet found. This was what we wanted to achieve—not just in our presentation, but in our classrooms.

We want to move the text, nudging students forward in their craft.

We want our writers to move their reading—to change the way they think about or experience the world.

But above all, we want to move the writer—intellectually, emotionally. Significantly.

And so the mission of moving writers—previously unnamed but always at the heart of our instruction—went into our NCTE presentation. And now it is filling this blog.

Here are some of the questions we want to explore with you in this blog:

  • What does writer’s workshop look like in the secondary – particularly the traditional high school –  classroom?

  • What conditions, tools, structures, and norms help guide writers towards independence?

  • What works in our writer’s workshop classrooms? What doesn’t work? How can we improve our craft as educators?

  • How can we help students maintain control of their own ideas while guiding them as writers? (Penny Kittle)

  • What are the short and long term benefits of writer’s workshop?

  • What makes a good mentor text? Where do we find them? How do we use them? Can we enlist students to find them?

  • Besides editorials, commentaries, and narratives, what other genres could and should be taught to secondary students?

  • What would a writer’s workshop scope & sequence look like?

  • How do writer’s workshop and reader’s workshop speak to one another? Build off of one another?

  • What would it take to change the way our students see themselves as writers?

  • How can we develop these characteristics in our students: curiosity, clarity, self- confidence, autonomy, and mastery? (Penny Kittle)

  • How do we bring joy and meaning into the writer’s workshop?

What questions do YOU have? Leave us a comment, and join our conversation.

– Allison & Rebekah

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