As teachers of writing workshop, we strive to do it all: teach an effective lesson to our writers, confer with them in individual conferences and small groups during independent work time, and… yes, allow for closure– a meaningful share time– at the end of the workshop. With that said, as a teacher, and even as a staff developer, I have found that sometimes the share gets the short shrift…or worse, it gets skipped altogether (you know the feeling, right?). Working within a tightly segmented middle school schedule (or any pre-planned schedule) can pose a challenge to “fit in” an opportunity for the teaching share. There’s nothing quite like that frantic glance up at the clock and the accompanying feeling of “Uh oh” when you know that today your “share” just isn’t going to happen!
With this special challenge in mind, how can we perhaps be more intentional about this important time in our workshops? Consider the following ideas:
Tips for Time Management
- Plan for it – Over the years, one important tip I’ve learned is how vital it is to include the teaching share as part of my planning. By being intentional–that is to say, devoting some energy to it– I have found the share much more likely to happen. By spending some time planning for it, I help myself to view it as a meaningful slice of the overall picture of daily student learning. This has actually made it less likely I’ll “forget” to include closure to our day. A very short list of possibilities for writing shares might include:
- Building Writing Identities (e.g., writers discuss strengths or accomplishments)
- Partner Time (e.g., teach/model how writers give feedback to writing partners)
- Goal-setting (e.g., partners share about goals and/or progress)
- Planning Forward (e.g., use this time to discuss next steps or maybe homework)
- Assessment (e.g., use a checklist to self-assess, or lead a short inquiry with mentor texts on what makes for strong writing)
- Reteaching – (e.g., celebrate a student’s writing, using it to tuck in an extension of today’s minilesson, or invite writers to find a place they might use a particular strategy)
- Grammar/Conventions (e.g., using a mentor text, lead an inquiry on ways a particular convention is used and invite students to try it out in their own writing)
- Set a timer – Many or most of you reading this post right now know well that working with students in conferences and small groups can sometimes be unpredictable. In my experience, I have found that losing track of time during conferring can be a real issue, even with the best intentional planning. Sometimes a share time can be lost due to thinking about the moment the bell will ring, versus the three to six minutes before the bell rings. To address this common issue, some teachers set a timer that designates when independent writing time is to end and share time is to begin. If the teacher happens to be “mid-conference” with a student, he or she can make a note that this conferring session is “to be continued”; of course, you’ll want to let the writer know- with all sincerity!- that this conference will finish next time. And then, by all means, write this down in your notes.
- Publicly display share time – Another way teachers work to ensure the share time is included is by displaying the actual time that share time is to begin and announcing this at the very end of the minilesson. This might sound like, “Writers, I know you’re excited to go off and write today! Looks like you’ll have around 25 minutes to work, then we will begin our share at precisely 8:55 a.m. Will someone please remind us?”
- Designate a student helper – Piggybacking off the above tip, some teachers enlist the help of a student timekeeper who will reliably cue everyone– including you!– when it is time for the share to begin.
Teaching shares are really quite important, as kids do need some recognition for the work they’ve done across the day. Shares are a time when student voices– all of them– can be heard. At Two Writing Teachers, multiple co-authors have written about different ways to think about the teaching share, such as Beth’s 2014 post here, or author Leah Mermelstein’s guest post here. If you are interested in reading more, simply scroll to the bottom of this page, find “Looking for Something?” and select “sharing.”
Whatever ways you choose to plan and/or structure your share, I hope you find some of the above tips supportive in working to include them this year.