Saturday, February 11, 2017

Writer's Workshop - 5 Reasons to Share

One of the most important things I have learned as a teacher of writers is that writers need to share.  I'm embarrassed to say that in the past I was one of those teachers who left out sharing on a regular basis.  I had the best of intentions, but it just seemed to get squeezed out.  Was it really that big of a deal?   The answer is YES!

Not sharing in writer's workshop is like leaving the movie before the final scene. It's like eating all the crust off the pizza and leaving the rest. It's like quitting the game when your team is winning.  Skipping "the share" is missing the best part!!

The share is the most powerful part of writer's workshop and here's why:

1) The writer gets to hear his/her story aloud.  So many times, the act of reading the story out loud causes the writer to notice missing words or information that is crucial to the piece.  Reading it aloud, especially before it is finished, can lead the writer to revision.

2) The writer can get feedback from audience questions.  When the audience asks questions, it helps the writer notice things that may need some revision.  It really helps the writer see and hear things from the reader's point of view.

3) The writer can see the reaction of the audience.  Did everyone laugh at the funny part?  Did you see smiles or nods from the audience?  I like to remind my writer's to think about the reader throughout the writing process.  (What do your readers need to know?  What do you want your readers to remember when they finish reading this piece?  How do you want your readers to feel?)

4) The writer develops confidence when positive feedback and praise are given.  As the teacher, when I want to reinforce a practice, I make sure to point it out to the whole class.  "I love the way Susie used descriptive words.  I can really see the scene in my head.  I almost feel like I was there!"  Now others are going to try to add more descriptive words to their writing as well.

5) Sharing helps other writers get ideas.  Often when one person shares a topic, it sparks an idea for someone else.  Our brains are designed to seek connections.  When a writer shares, another person may think, "Hey, a similar thing happened to me."  Those connections can inspire new writing.

Sharing can be done in so many ways.  While students are writing, I am walking throughout the room, conferring and noticing writing samples that I want to share.  I will often ask the writer if I can share all or part of their writing.  Sometimes I only want to point out a single word, sentence,  or small part.  In that case it's not necessary to read the entire piece. (Another important thing I learned!)  I usually ask the author to read it to the class while I show it on the Smart Board with the document camera.

Another option is to have students share with a partner.  This often happens when we have little time.  When partners share, each one gets to read his or her piece and get feedback.  If we have more time, I will have each person at a team table read his or her piece aloud to the group.  (There are usually 6 students on a team).

On some occasions, we have an inner/outer circle for sharing.  We might share with 2-3 people in this way.  It's a novel way to share that the students seem to like.

I used to use random sticks for students to share, but I rarely do that anymore.  It makes me think of Forest Gump.  You know… "Life is like a box of chocolates.  You never know what you are going to get."  I like to have a positive focus point in my head before the author shares.

Whatever way you choose to share, just don't let it get pushed out of your writing time.  Treasure it!  So many teachable moments that empower the writer arise through sharing!  The bottom line is that if the students don't get to share on a regular basis, they will not be motivated and inspired to continue writing.

How do your writer's share?  Do you have any tips for sharing routines?

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