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Words that are Speaking to Me

Haven’t done one of these for awhile…but these words from Katie Wood Ray in her book WRITING WORKSHOP: WORKING THROUGH THE HARD PARTS AND THEY’RE ALL HARD PARTS have been tumbling around in my mind.

It’s funny, but as they’re learning about writing workshops, my teacher education students almost always say at some point in every semester, “But it’s so much more fun for the students to teach writing this way.” They are indignant and unable to understand how a teacher could possibly choose not to have a writing workshop when it’s so much more fun for students than doing language arts exercises from a textbook. And then I have to do my big blowup: “You think teachers have writing workshops because they’refun for students? Is that what you think this is about? If that were true we might as well have them all line dancing! Line dancing is fun!”

I have to help my students understand that teaching writing in a workshop setting is highly theoretical teaching. That’s why we do it — because it’s theoretical. Every aspect of the workshop is set up to support children learning to do what writers really do. The teaching is challenging because what writers do is engage in a complex, multilayered, slippery process to produce texts. The writing itself is very satisfying, even fun at times, but that’s the truth of writing. It’s not some motivational game we set up to keep children’s interest. If that were all we wanted, we would do things that were far less challenging for us as teachers.



Ruth Ayres View All

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

7 thoughts on “Words that are Speaking to Me Leave a comment

  1. Thanks for reminding me of Katie’s always smart & pithy words. Yes, writing workshop is fun, but it’s also more rigorous than any workbook exercise I’ve ever seen because it invites students to think critically and independently make meaningful strategic choices. And it’s precisely that mix of rigor and fun that makes writing workshop so powerful and empowering for students.


  2. Thanks for the thoughts – fun – not so much today but after much grumping and “I don’t get it” they went off to write some wonderful poems. Yes, with in a structure but their thinking was amazing. At the end we reflected and decided it was hard but worth the grumping. Everyone had a poem or two to share! Yes to the hard work of the writing workshop!


  3. I am afraid that the perception of those new teachers is one shared with administrators who are not educated in best practices for literacy instruction. Katie makes an important point–thanks for sifting it out of all of her other words to share with us!

    This quote also reminded me of how awesome it was to sit in your session at NCTE with Katie Wood Ray as a fellow audience member (along with Mary Helen)!


  4. But for those young teachers who haven’t had the pleasure of this good conversation in their education, they may still be approaching the workshop as fun. Perhaps that’s what happens when teachers choose the ‘fun’ idea, and so on. They haven’t done the thinking of ‘why’ they are doing what they are doing. How do we reach them? Thanks for these words, Ruth.


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