“A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.”
I was reminded of this quote as we worked through our recent session on ‘Writers Workshop‘. Not only the global concepts of ‘writers workshop’ (lots of time to write and explore, choice and voice, conferring during and not after the fact…) but what this looked like in the digital world? Our goal was to use Google Docs as an avenue to explore, critically challenge and grow our student writers. The advantage of Google Docs was the availability of anytime, anywhere as well as the collaborative nature of the tool allowing both teacher and student to work, support and revise in real time.
We started with a visual sequence of the writing process to frame our journey and then dug into a couple of “mini lessons” examples (adding detail, voice). Mentor texts used for each were Love You Forever (R. Munsch) and Voices in the Park (A. Browne).
One of the most difficult parts to grapple was the structure of a “mini lesson”. Trying to keep it to 10-15 minutes is a challenge for any teacher. These sessions are meant to be focused on specific elements, allowing for majority of time for actual writing. A good resource that explains this is Day by Day by Ayres and Shubitz.
What I took away – ’mini lesson’ was focused on a specific target, making it possible to keep to 10-15 minutes, use only specific pages in the mentor text that provided a clear example of the focus. Finally the lesson was teacher-directed so student input was not included (or kept to a minimum) in the mini time period. Students were asked to quickly return to writing in order to practice the skill on their written piece.
Google Apps for Education provides us with a coordinated collaborative environment to further our writing efforts. We were able to easily create IDs/passwords following our blog ID conventions. Another collaborative community was born.
Our little pilot writing project of seven classes across the district is excited to see what will happen to student writers as they engage deeper with the writing process. Our history tells us that when others (even family members) join in the writing conversation, that both the writer and the writing is taken to a different level.