I use workshop because providing students with choice, time, feedback, instruction, and structure creates a magic that entices even the most reluctant and spazziest 6th grader, as well as the coolest and laziest 12th grader, to write and risk and create.
The days when I know my writing workshop is thriving are the days when I get to class and the students don’t even notice my arrival. Full disclosure: The first time this happened, I felt insulted. Hey, I’m the teacher and this is MY class! Everything revolves around ME! Nothing begins in here until I get class going!
And then, I took advantage of this “fly on the wall” opportunity and I listened and observed my writing workshop at work. I watched my students get their writing areas set up, lining up pencils, finding a fresh, clean page in a writer’s notebook, and powering up computers. There was a happy buzz of productivity as the students greeted each other and got situated. They were happy and excited and motivated. I realized that while my students still needed me, they didn’t need me to get them started or to tell them what to do that day – they knew what THEY wanted to do as writers. Because of the work we did to establish our workshop at the beginning of the year, my students were serious about their writing work, and they wanted to get down to business.
It was writing nirvana. And it was magic made possible by workshop.
–Sheila Kaehny, CWP Teacher Consultant