I’m in the midst of a conference and I glance up at the clock. Oh no! We were supposed to be at lunch five minutes ago! The kids drop their pens, leave their writing to put away later, and scurry to line up. I make a promise to myself to use a timer next time.
Kids learn more when they are given time to reflect on their learning, self-assess, and check in on goals they are working toward. That’s what the end of workshop share and reflection time is for, and too often it gets cut short, or left out completely.Whenever I have to end writing workshop abruptly, I know I’ve missed an opportunity.
The end-of-workshop meeting time is often used as a sharing time, or “author’s chair,” or sometimes as a follow-up to the day’s minilesson. These are important ways to respond to kids’ work, but there are even more powerful ways to use this time. The routine of gathering together in the meeting area at the end of the workshop creates a space to reflect, problem-solve, set goals, and celebrate. That’s why I’ve taken to calling this time a “reflection time” instead of always the “share.”
The reflection time at the end of the workshop is the perfect time to ask kids to brainstorm solutions to any problems that may have come up. This allows the kids to problem solve and address issues as they arise. The kids share the responsibility for a well-run workshop with each other, as well as the adults in the room.
The end of a writing workshop is the ideal time to ask kids to bring a piece of writing with them to the meeting area to reflect on their work. You might invite them to talk with a partner about what they found challenging that day, or what they enjoyed most. Perhaps you’ll ask them to compare their current work to older work to notice their growth. Perhaps you’ll ask them to retell what they’ve studied so far in the unit of study, then and notice places in their writing where they’ve tried (or plan to try) those strategies. Reflecting helps kids revisit and remember prior learning and connect it to the work they are doing now.
There is a subtle difference between reflection and self-assessment, and though they may often overlap they aren’t necessarily one and the same. Self-assessment involves noticing and naming strengths as well as next steps. Perhaps you’ll invite your students to use a checklist to analyze their own work, or look at a benchmark or exemplar piece of writing against their own to notice and name what is the same and what is different, identifying strategies they’ve used, as well as strategies they could be using.
Along with self-assessment, the end of the workshop could be a time for kids to check in on their writing goals (or create them). You might ask kids to bring their writing folders or notebooks with them to the meeting area. You might coach kids to reread their writing, marking where they’ve tried strategies that help them meet their goals. The workshop might end with talking to their writing partner, naming out what they’ll do the next day to continue working toward their goals.
My own current writing workshop goal? To make sure to leave five or ten minutes every time I’m teaching writing for the sharing and reflection time!
Literacy Coach, Consultant, Author, Graduate Course Instructor, and Mom. Passionate about fostering a love of reading and writing in learners of all ages.