Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Working Out Issues in Workshop

I mentioned in a previous post that one of the few issues I am having this year is the noise level in writing workshop. Reading workshop is relatively silent – in all three of my classes. Writing workshop’s noise level has approached ridiculous levels.

Starting the year with a free choice unit was in some ways brilliant, in others insane. They are extremely excited to write daily. I’ve been begged on more than one occasion to extend our writing time. The noise level, from what I can tell, is on task. They are all sharing ideas for stories – it is just LOUD. I’ve talked about voice levels, being considerate of others in the classroom, asked if we should abandon partnerships, but nothing has worked. Today I glanced at my plan book with some trepidation.

I wanted to end the free choice unit after two weeks. When I originally looked at the calendar, I had thought that a quick free choice unit would give me some opportunity to teach workshop, get a short piece to publishing, and allow the students the freedom to write anything they’d like. With the end of the unit approaching on Friday, I scheduled extra time to write today and tomorrow to allow ample time to polish pieces up in class. With the issues we’ve been having with noise, the idea of writing for almost 90 minutes today was more than a bit intimidating.

We began our workshop this afternoon with a blank chart. I talked to the students about how I was feeling with workshop, the issues I saw, and asked for advice. It was interesting – I had no idea what the solutions they would come up with were, just that I wanted to talk about it. What we ended up with were their thoughts about what workshop should look like on the chart below. They each signed it signifying that they would strive to exemplify that model in our workshop today.

Was it 100% successful? Nope. But I’d say 95% of us were there, instead of 25% most other days. I consider that some major progress. Add that to the fabulous writing I saw happening as I moved around the room and I’m calling it a day to remember.