Allow me to offer a scenario for your consideration:
You read my last post (omg thank you!). Now, you have a strong understanding of what a writing workshop in a social studies classroom will look like. You’re ready to try it yourself. In fact, the thought of starting a workshop fills you with a specific joy and excitement that is not unlike what I feel when I pull up to the Popeyes drive thru. (If any Popeyes execs are reading this, I am open to sponsorships.) Despite these positive emotions surrounding your imminent entrance into the world of writing workshops, there’s a problem– you have no idea how to actually choose which workshop to use in your classroom.
Choosing the right writing workshop (say that five times fast) at the right time in a content-based classroom will have a large impact on the success of your writing instruction. A workshop that is too complex or does not serve your class’s current needs could also derail your unit, resulting in total heartbreak for you and your students.
As you sit there (I assume you’re sitting), wondering how to select your perfect writing workshop match, I enter the room wearing a shawl. The sound of plucky, Eastern European fiddles fill the air. That’s right. It’s time for me to play matchmaker. We’re going to find you a writing workshop that you can bring home to Mama.
Just like in the dating world, a little self-reflection is advisable before jumping into the proverbial workshop pond/sea/inflatable pool. Here are some of the questions I ask myself before choosing a workshop:
- What content do I need to teach in this unit?
- What historical skills are my students struggling with?
- What kind of bandwidth do I have for a project right now?
- How can I make the content meaningful/personal to my students?
These questions, especially number three, will reveal what you’re looking for in a workshop. For instance, did you just finish a large project with your students? Then, maybe right now you need a workshop that is simple and carefree. And honey, I’m only going to say this once, don’t push yourself into a workshop that is elaborate just because you think that that’s the workshop you should be with right now. It’s not worth it. It will end in a bad breakup, resulting in a need for extra therapy sessions, which none of us, as teachers, have the healthcare coverage to pay for.
Now that you’ve granted yourself time for curricular introspection, let’s browse through some eligible writing workshop dating profiles. Below, are the profiles of five different writing workshops that I would recommend to anyone, even my own sister. And while I am an only child, I do highly recommend these workshops to any social studies teacher I know.
From my experience, there are two kinds of writing workshops in this world: synchronous and self-paced.
If we were on Tinder, the algorithm would surely funnel the profiles of our synchronous workshops into our feed first, simply based on their accessibility. These workshops are quick and easy, lasting only a class or two. I like to use a synchronous workshop when I want my students to connect the historical content we’re learning to current events. In these workshops, I walk my students through the linear research and cyclical writing processes in one class period, and stick to one mini-lesson around a focused skill that I want to see students develop. Students use the remainder of the class period/homework to create their product.
Up first, The Fling:
Next, meet The Romantic:
If we return to our Tinder profile and adjust our settings to accommodate a wider array of workshop types– come on, we’re looking for love here, people– these self-paced workshops would appear on your feed. Self-paced workshops last longer, requiring a bit more commitment. However, students can progress on these workshops independently, meaning the workshop can be picked up off-and-on throughout a unit. This makes them highly student-centric and malleable to your schedule.
Let’s read through the profiles of some of our highly loveable, but more complex self-paced workshops!
Here we have, The One Your Parents Would Like:
Looking to impress? Meet, The Eye (or Ear) Candy:
Ready for a true commitment? Introducing, Serious Marriage Material:
Certainly, any of these workshops would be lucky to have you. You are, after all, a catch. So, open your heart, swipe right, or say “yes” to the workshop that will make you and your students fall in love with writing like a historian.