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Thinking About Choice

One of the sessions I attended at the conference last week was June Yazel’s “The Power of Choice.” It has been rattling around in my mind since. June believes choice is the defining factor of writing workshop. I believe this too. Sometimes it seems as though we strip choice away from writing workshop. I’ll be the first to admit it is difficult to offer ample choice and still feel as though I’m doing “my job” as a writing teacher.

However our “jobs” as writing teachers is to provide students with the best opportunities to become more proficient writers. Choice is an integral part of the plan. Here are some of the choices (beyond topic choice) I’m hoping are part of writing workshop next school year.

  • Audience — Students write for many different audiences throughout the year.
  • Process — Students find what works best for themselves in each phase of the writing process. For instance, planning goes beyond a web, outline, or list.
  • Writing Supplies — Students use the paper and writing instrument that is most comfortable to them. If possible, they can type their drafts if this is their preference.
  • Work Places — I rarely write sitting straight-up in a chair at a desk. Others always write at a desk. Students ought to be able to chose the place they work best.
  • Publishing Opportunities — Students put their writing in the world outside of the classroom walls.
  • Genre — Students have the option to change genre if it makes sense in regards to their topic and audience.
  • Deadlines — As students get older the more imperative it becomes for them to set their own “mini-deadlines” in order to meet the looming deadline of a big project. Students need to learn their own needs for time to plan, draft, revise, and edit. This varies from writer to writer, therefore, they should have to option to make a plan for themselves.

What are some ways you are planning to expand the opportunity for choice in your writing workshop?



Ruth Ayres View All

Unhurried. Finding the magic in the middle of living. Capturing a life of ridiculous grace + raw stories.

6 thoughts on “Thinking About Choice Leave a comment

  1. Thanks Ruth…I know I provide choice in many things. I’d like to allow more choice of genre (when it suits). I’d also like to push students to show more of their planning which would help emphasize choice. It’d be interesting to study an author together and then give students a choice in who they’d like to study individually or in groups…do you think second graders could do that?


  2. Great post! I always felt I gave my students a great deal of choice in writing, yet I only thought about choice in terms of topic. This helped me think about many more choices I can offer my students, so thank you for the aha moment.


  3. I am a firm believer in choice: of topic, of genre, of paper, of writing tools, and of setting. My students are sprawled all over the room. They also choose their peer conferencing partner and when to conference with me. Time is a tough one. Some students can write five pieces to someone else’s one. I live with that but it is a struggle as I worry the parents will think their child did not do much in Writer’s Workshop. My love of writing did not come from school where there was no choice, it came from the dozens of journals I filled at home. I try to replicate that feeling in my classroom. I find, when ready, students do hear and see my mini lessons and do experiment with their writing incorporating vocabulary choice, and structures. I have to be patient and let them write.


  4. I hope to spend 2-3 days every couple weeks through the year modeling, conferencing and selecting student samples of different types of writing (aside from personal narrative). I am a kindergarten teacher, and personal narratives are often the focus; however when given permission to write a list, letter, informational or a creative piece, I discover something about individual student’s writing that may have gone unnoticed. Once the process of different types of writing and displays of student examples are available, readiness for gradual release into independent practice begins. Then, what my students and I call “other work on writing” is able to take place. This seems to really motivate students and creates a buzzing and cooperative writing workshop environment. Students appear less bogged down by what I want, knowing they will get a chance to do something within their favorite genre too. If interests and strengths were not revealed in personal narrative work, usually these aspects of the student’s process will come out in another genre. I hope to conference with students more frequently on their own selected pieces and lead them to this discovery as well. If they see more clearly their strengths in one area of writing, expectantly it may spill over to their personal narratives. I have often had students select pieces to conference/workshop from personal narrative samples, but have been more hesitant to select from other genres. I found and hope to continue finding that this type of writing practice is very positive for students overall attitude within writing workshop. Expanding my approach for conferencing and student selection should push me to see all aspects of student growth in writing process. I love watching their learning unravel.


  5. I think choice in all aspects of workshop is not only empowering, but also motivating. The one that I am having most difficulty with is that of deadlines – do you provide your students with a deadline at the beginning of each unit, or what are your expectations? When doing genre studies do you expect your students to publish a work in that genre?

    I think the most profound, yet at the same time common sense is the flexibility of writing process and how it is individualized for each student. I think it all points to our goals of focussing on the ulimate goal of writing education, and what better way than through authentic & meaningful environments?

    Thanks for the insight.


  6. I do well with topic choice, but after reading your post I realize I need to work on giving students more choice. I have never given them much choice in where they write-so that will be an area of focus for me this year-thanks for the ideas


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