A glance at the clock tells me we have just three minutes to get our coats and lunches and line up. Students are still writing, but now there is no time to gather and share. I sigh, realizing this has become a pattern; without a clear plan for making the share happen, it often does not.
Sound familiar? (If not, please let us know in the comments how you’ve come to make the share a not-to-be-missed component of your writing workshop!)
There is so much to plan for in an instructional school day. Elementary teachers, like myself, teach every subject to often large groups of students with diverse abilities. Thoughtful planning of every subject is essential but is also challenging when so much is on our to-do lists as teachers. For me, I’ve gotten into a habit of often skipping the share in writing workshop, and this is the year I’m going to turn it around and make share time a priority!
Why make share time a priority?
When I have a pedagogical question, I go to the experts and read what they have written. Here are some quotes from educators that emphasize why share time needs to be priority.
Share time is not just a component of the workshop to check off (or not). It’s an opportunity:
- for students to talk about their process
- to read part of their work and receive feedback
- to help each other through the challenges and celebrate goals met
- to allow each writer’s voice to be heard
Share time is when we gather as a learning community and discover more about each other as writers and people. This will spill over into all the other work we do as a learning community. Having reaffirmed in my mind that share time is essential in the classroom, a plan will help me make sure it actually happens.
Share Time Obstacles and Possible Solutions
Obstacle 1: I don’t know what the share should look like. Whole class? Small groups? Partnerships? Are kids sharing writing each day?
As I’ve been exploring this topic and reading professional texts and blogs about students sharing, I think a structure will help me to make sure that each day students are talking about their writing.
While I structured the slides to coincide with the days of the week, you could certainly remove the days and just create a list of possible shares: Mentor Texts, Mindset, Technology, Wondrous Words, etc. You and your students (or colleagues) could come up with your own list of possibilities for shares and keep it handy for those times when you feel unsure of the best way for students to share that day.
I also created this form to help me plan my share sessions for the week and have a place to record my noticings, future minilesson ideas and/or information about individual students.
Obstacle 2: I run out of time!
I posed the share time question on Twitter to see why teachers sometimes skip it. Most responses had to do with running out of time. Here are some ideas for getting around that obstacle:
- Set a cell phone alarm to leave yourself enough time for the share.
- Put students in charge of remembering the share. It could be a classroom job to let the teacher know when it’s time to transition to the share.
- Play a song that would let the writers know they need to wrap up what they are doing and go to the sharing circle by the time the song ends.
Obstacle 3: Partnerships don’t get along / Kids are off-task
I’ve struggled with the best way to match up writing partners. Typically, I assigned partners to work together for the whole year. Third-grade teacher Erika Victor, said she has her students switch writing partners for each unit of study, which I plan to try this year. In the past, when students have difficulty getting along with their writing partner, it’s been easier to just skip the share instead of teaching into ways to resolve the problems. This year, instead of avoiding partnerships and share time, I can plan to teach more minilessons about ways to be an effective partner and problem solving predictable issues that come up for writing partners, such as:
- One partner isn’t listening
- Partners don’t know what to say when the writer finishes reading
- A partner hasn’t written much
- A partner is off-task and fooling around
- A partner is absent
I’ve come to realize my job as a teacher is not to erase all possibilities of conflict but instead to teach students what to do when conflict inevitably arises. A learning community needs to struggle with some of these questions and concerns to figure out the best way to help each other grow. By allowing my students the opportunity to navigate these relationships, I’m teaching them how to handle conflict and find solutions, which will not only help them in writing workshop… it will help them in life. If I’m committed to making share time happen every day, I also need to commit to teaching students how to be writing partners and how to solve problems that will likely arise.
This is the year…
Understanding why share time is so vital to writers was my first step in making the commitment to share each day. Now I firmly have the WHY in my mind, I have come up with the WHAT and HOW we will share. I will put some procedural minilessons in place so students understand how to transition for share time and how to work with a partner. With a plan in mind, a way to keep track of my noticings, and my goal made explicit, I will make sure to leave enough time each day for my writers to reflect, listen, talk, and share their writing.
How have you made share time a priority in your writing workshop?
*Thanks so much to the many generous educators who replied to my tweet and inspired my thinking in this post, including Dr. Gravity Goldberg, Michelle Haseltine, Erika Victor, Scott Fillner, Lisa Corbett, Peter Anderson, Betsy Hubbard, Ona Feinberg, Kristen Picone, Stacey Riedmiller, Andy Schoenborn, Jennifer Orr, and Angie Wake.
The Transformative Power of Sharing by Kayla Briseno
Why Sharing is the Most Important Part of the Workshop by Lori VanHousen
My Five Favorite Share Sessions by Leah Mermelstein
Sharpen Your Workshop Routines: Don’t Skip Share Time by Dana Murphy
End of Workshop Share & Reflection Time by Beth Moore
The “Share” Time by Beth Moore
If We Build It They Will Come: Tales from Inside the Sharing Circle by Lori VanHousen
This is the Year I’m Going to Use Purposeful Partnerships by Betsy Hubbard
Setting up Writing Partnerships by Melanie Meehan
Creating Classroom Environments: Making Space for Partnerships by Anna Gratz Cockerille
Writing Partners: Authentic Purposes for Writing by Beth Moore
Don’t Forget to Share by Leah Mermelstein
Day by Day by Ruth Ayres and Stacey Shubitz
When Writers Drive the Workshop by Brian Kissell
Learn Like a Pirate by Paul Solarz
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