There are so many moving parts to a Workshop class and questions you will more than likely have about it. Below are frequently asked questions and my responses. If you have others, please let me know.
What is a Workshop-based class?
A Workshop class is built on empowering students to take control of their writing and reading learning through brief, high-focused mini-lessons, teacher modeling of skills, and time to apply them directly. It's an extremely organized format and allots time in class for students to write so the teacher can see who is struggling with what concept and help the child immediately. Because students have choice about what genres and topics to use for some pieces, Workshop allows them to explore more freely. There will be a few assigned pieces in the year. If you get a chance to read Nancie Atwell's In the Middle that would give you the full picture of a Workshop class.
What's the format for a Workshop class?
Each class begins with a mini-lesson. This is usually a high-focused writing lesson that students can apply directly to their writing. After the lesson, we have a state of the class conference where students tell the teacher what they plan to accomplish (stage and genre) that day during Writing Workshop time. The teacher records all plans. After this brief whole-class conference, students move into Writing Workshop: about 20+ minutes of undisturbed writing time. Students have access to necessary materials and resources, computers, printers, and even peer conferences. Because each student shared his goal during the state of the class conference, it makes this time quite focused. While writing, the teacher moves around the room checking/writing down the books/page numbers students are on, and offering advice/suggestions/questions to the writers. After this time concludes, we move on to Reading Workshop. Depending on the quarter, students might all read the same novel, work in groups/Book Clubs on separate books, dive into short stories, vocabulary studies, write reading journal letters, and more.According to Teaching That Makes Sense, Inc., "In writing workshop classrooms, full class lessons are short and tightly focused on practical real-world issues. As in professional writing workshops, emphasis is placed on sharing work with the class, on peer conferencing and editing, and on the collection of a wide variety of work in a writing folder, and eventually in a portfolio...The workshop setting encourages students to think of themselves as writers, and to take writing seriously...Writing workshop is an effective way of organizing writing instruction, and it works because is it based on the idea that students learn to write best when they write frequently, for extended periods of time, and on topics of their own choosing."
What are reading letters?
Reading letters are the only legal note students may pass in class! Students write letters about reading to one another, offer recommendations, discuss specific characters, or even reading strategies that help them. These letters must be one-page long. In the spiral, students have directions from the teacher explaining ideas that can go into their letters. A copy of this letter is under "Paperwork" on this website. At a minimum, students will write three letters to other students per quarter. After writing a letter, students deliver it to the addressee. That person then must respond to the letter.
Can my child write these letters at home?
Yes, your child may write these at home.
What is a Workshop Piece?
When I refer to a Workshop Piece, this is a piece your child is basically in charge of when it comes to decision-making. He chooses which genre to use, the topic, and length. The only stipulation is that the student chooses a genre we've fully explored in class/mini-lessons. Because we study many genres, students have an arsenal of notes and examples to guide them while writing a Workshop Piece. When turning in this piece students fill in a Workshop Piece rubric. On that rubric students write in all the individual editing rules they've received in the past, and their piece is graded based on those rules. Did they use each one? Are they still struggling with a certain rule? And upon receiving their graded piece from me, I will have listed new rules for the student. Not all students need the same editing rules; they all come with a different skill set. So I want to tailor rules specifically to what each student needs.
Why are portfolios kept in the classroom?
I've learned that sometimes when materials leave the classroom, they do not make it back to the classroom. And because the portfolio is such an extremely important piece, we have a shelf that houses them for each class.
What are the printing rules students must use for typing?
Rules for typing a draft:1. 1-inch margins (click "Layout" then "Margins")2. 12-point font3. Double space (not necessary for poems)--CtrlA+Ctrl24. Left-justify (you may center poems)5. Times New Roman6. Save in English folder7. Print 1 copy to work with at your desk
What is Reading Progress?Every class period I write down what book and page your child is currently on. Over a two-week period I look at what reading progress he had made. Was he increasing in page number each class? Is he on a new book? What are his reading habits? Then based on evidence of progress, the student is assigned a grade out of 10 points. In the past I have tried reading logs and parent-signed forms, but find this much easier. It also gives me a clear view of the student as a reader over the year.
What is the quarterly plan for this class?
Review: elements of literature (e.g., theme, figurative language, etc.)
Writing: Narrative, book review, free verse poetry, cautionary tales, book review, memoir
Launch writing and reading workshops
Review: elements of literature, plot
Writing: Research/expository writing
Writing and reading workshops (various nonfiction and short stories)Book Club
Quarter 3Writing: analysis
Grammar: all parts of speechWriting and reading workshops (various short stories)
Quarter 4Writing: argumentative pieceWriting and reading workshops (various short stories)
**Note: subject to change as necessary**
Also see the county course syllabi for more information.
Could you clarify what X, M, and T mean in Phoenix?
When viewing your child's grades in Clarity, please take a moment to read the narrative about each. If the assignment was not turned in at all, I input an "M" for it. If your child turned the assignment in, but it is not yet graded, there is a "T" in the grade box. The "T" should not last more than two weeks (depending on the length of the piece). The "X" means exempt. You may also notice comments beside some assignments.
Weak Words poster?