I recently watched a live social media chat on a new educational resource. One of its authors, Christine Hertz, was making the distinction between classroom management and classroom communities. As the author spoke, she talked a little bit about how we frequently build these lovely communities within our classroom that are clothed in the belief that children can learn the skills we are teaching each day. Then within those same classrooms, there is this other belief when it comes to behaviors students are unable to monitor themselves without some sort of management system.
As I listened intently to Christine’s explanation, I was nodding my head in agreement. It is this constant cyclone of thought that I cannot seem to turn off and around every corner, there it is again. How are we talking to kids? What directs our conversations? Who’s doing the heavy lifting?
When I center this idea around my writing workshop beliefs, certain management issues arise as problematic for the writing teacher. We’ve written about many of them here on Two Writing Teachers. The three I notice that seem to be the most challenging for teachers to let go are silent writing, non-negotiables, and teacher directed corrections.
Here are some thoughts to ponder as you observe your workshop.
Instead of an expectation of silence during your writing workshop block, consider:
- Partner talk areas
- Sharing zones within the classroom
- A set time for talking each day within the workshop block
Instead of a non-negotiable list of conventional objectives, consider:
- Assigning convention monitors or partners
- Setting aside at least one-two mid-workshop interruptions for convention work each week
- Using your word work or phonics time (if separate) as an opportunity to apply a skill
Instead of pointing out mistakes directly, consider:
- Highlighting a mentor text with the exact skill the student is approximating
- Using a demonstration notebook to teach into a skill
- Employing patience
Is my workshop a community that adjusts to the learners or is it a workshop that fosters my set management system?
Am I honoring the needs of students as a facilitator?
Do I have knee-jerk reactions to students’ work or do I exhibit patience and control within my responses?
It can be so difficult to be patient with children when we feel as though they are deliberately failing to utilize our amazing models, strategies, and minilessons. It might even feel like it is all for nothing. When these feelings creep in, I have a suggestion for you, go back to earlier writing samples. Maybe you can access pieces from their previous teacher or earlier in the year. Go back. Take a look. Let them see what they know now that they didn’t know before. Dissect together their old writing and look for new bits of growth that have bloomed in the current year. Frustration can melt away quickly once a writer feels successful. If our habitual behaviors are reactions to missing periods, and gasps at the incorrect spelling of they, we really are missing the point. Are these things important? Of course. But what you need to ask yourself is, are they more important than the spirit of the writer?