Answering Questions About Writing Workshop
I received a bunch of questions from a regular reader of TWT yesterday. Her questions seemed like ones that other folks might want the answers to, so I asked her if I could answer them on TWT without mentioning her name. She said yes.
Q. My kids constantly tell me, “my mother conferred with me and she says it is fine.” Do I worry about this or just let it go? (My guess is the parents are doing a lot of the work at home for them or with them.)
A. It’s lovely that parents are involved in their child’s writing life at home, but not if you think that their parents are doing the work for them. I wouldn’t let it go. Unless you’re streaming your lessons on TeacherTube, your students’ parents aren’t sitting through your minilessons. Therefore, there’s no way they can confer with them in the way that is helping their child as a writer (seems like they’re helping their child with their writing). I’d speak with my colleagues, if I were you, and see if it’s a problem in other classes. If it is, then perhaps you can formulate a grade-wide plan for dealing with this. It might involve hosting a Writing Night where you train parents to confer with their child in a way that helps their child as a writer so that the parents aren’t the ones doing the writing for their child.
Q. How long do your kids spend actually writing on their piece after your minilesson?
A. My kids spend 30 – 40 minutes writing independently before they share.
Q. Are they in their seats or out of their seats?
A. Very few of my students write at their desks. I have six pieces of furniture (two beanbags, two back jacks, and two lounge chairs), which are given to the first six kids whose plan boxes are approved (that doesn’t mean the first six kids who bring their plan boxes to me since I’m pretty picky about approving them. I want their plan to be SOLID before they leave the rug, so one has to work hard on their plan in order to get it approved on the first shot). Any kid who finishes seventh or beyond has the option to take throw pillows or a woven rug and sit on that. They may also work on one of the two rugs in the classroom. Hence, very few kids are sitting at their desks and writing.
Q. Do you let kids collaborate (co-author) on their independent writing?
A. At this point in the year, my students are working independently on their writing. Later in the year they’ll have the option of collaborating on a writing project.
Q. Do you have independent writing going on?
A. None of my students are working on independent writing projects at this time. I have a few kids who are interested in participating in the Kids Are Authors Contest, but haven’t started working on their submission yet.
Q. How long do you spend on each unit of study?
A. Most units I teach are 3 – 5 weeks long. However, there are a few mini-units on persuasive letter writing and notebook work that only last two weeks. They’re usually sandwiched in-between the longer ones.