For this blog post I wanted to take some time to investigate a little bit more about the benefits of utilizing a writing workshop model in the classroom. This is an approach to teaching English that is fairly new to me as I did not participate in any English class that was structured in this way during high school. There was one class which did make use of the writing workshop format on occasion, but it was largely still a more traditional approach to education. This is a model that appeals to me because it shifts the focus of the classroom back onto the students and allows them to learn through practice instead of merely listening to a teacher lecture at the front of the room.
The first article I found touched a bit on the useful nature of the writing workshop setup when dealing with students’ lives in general. The traditional classroom model may work for some, but no one could argue that it prepares students to deal with real-world situations. Many jobs do involve a fair amount of sitting, but rarely does any career require its employees to sit for hours taking in information without contributing anything of their own. By forcing children to adapt to this unnatural environment in their earlier years, we are not positioning them to be as successful in the real world. The design of a writing workshop, however, is one that is much more natural. Students take in information for a short period of time in the form of a mini-lesson. They are then required to spend class time utilizing that information in their own work, and then share it with others. This is a classroom design that will allow students to be successful in other areas than English, as is discussed in the first article I read on this topic, “learners need to be made to come face to face with the fact that in order to achieve in their studies, they must actively read and write in the language classroom” (Regis-Onuoha, Christopher 97). By showing students that what they learn in the English classroom can apply to other classes, the teacher also extends the promise that what they learn in the classroom will apply out in the real world as well. This can go a long way toward helping student motivation.
The second article I read dealt with another element of traditional education that is not useful in the real world: testing. Taking tests has become such an integral part of the modern education system that people rarely think to question their usefulness. Yes, it does provide a straightforward way to measure student progress, but how inclusive is the information provided for these tests? In addition, the ability to test does not carry over into any other life experience once a child completes their education. What we are left with, then, is a heavily-weighted construct that exists solely within the educational world, where the ultimate goal is to prepare students for the real world. This article handled the question of assessment in the writing workshop classroom by suggesting conferencing as a substitute. It involves crafting questions that are designed to measure student learning without the weighty grade or pressure to memorize and forget, “highlighting the practice of conferring with writers as a valuable form of assessment because it allows an instructor to scaffold students in a manner that supports both the fears and cognitive differences students present, as well as the recursive nature of writing” (Marina 451).
Overall, the writing workshop classroom is not only more useful when teaching English but more valuable for preparing students to go out into the real world as well. Students often ask why what they are learning is important, and few accept the poor answer “because I said so”. Students often leave high school lacking the basic skills necessary to survive on their own, and while it may not be the final answer, a writing workshop formatted classroom could be a step toward providing instruction that is practically useful.
Using the Writing Workshop to Improve Reading. 2018. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.chadronstatelibrary.com/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.64082853&site=eds-live&scope=site.
Gair, Marina. “Slaying the Writing Monsters: Scaffolding Reluctant Writers through a Writing Workshop Approach.” International Journal of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, vol. 27, no. 3, Jan. 2015, pp. 443–456. EBSCOhost, ezproxy.chadronstatelibrary.com/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eric&AN=EJ1093717&site=eds-live&scope=site.