Professional Response #1

Professional Response #1

Children want and need to communicate, and writing offers them an outlet for creative expression. Calkins suggests that children view writing as an act that helps them communicate, but adults impose too many rules, and we “have turned writing into an exercise on lined paper” (p. 59). She goes on to argue that “[o]nce children regard themselves as writers, they go through their lives like vacuum cleaners, sucking up knowledge of written language” (p. 72). Unlike many of my experiences as a writer in elementary school, Calkins views writing as an act of discovery. Within the context of a writing workshop, especially the one that Ray describes in her opening vignette, I think that Calkins’ philosophy about teaching writing makes a great deal of sense.

In particular, since I want to teach children in later elementary school, I agree with her point that “[a]s children get older, their work can become more intentioned and deliberate” (p. 150). Many of the assignments that I did in school were not of my own intention – state reports, book summaries, note taking, and fill-in-the-blank lab reports. As Ray compares the idea of a writing workshop to that of the writing process, I realize more and more that I may have been using the writing process, but my writing was not intentional, nor was it really something I enjoyed, even though I have always considered myself a writer. I wonder how students who typically struggle with writing feel about this though? Do they prefer, maybe even need some structure to their writing tasks? Would a workshop environment like Calkins, Atwell, and Ray describe really help them progress as writers?

Also, as I consider the number of GLCEs that address the writing process, I wonder how I can fit them in to an overall writing workshop structure? I agree with Calkins that students need to develop their own ideas and have options for how they pursue these topics (or not) over time. Yet, I also know that I am going to be teaching in a school (and state) that requires certain things to happen in the curriculum, and I don’t want parents to think that their students are wasting time during our language arts block if they are all working on “whatever they want,” so to speak.

I come back to Calkins’ idea that “[a]s children become more planful and more aware of what they do when they write, they also become more open to instruction” (p. 151), and I wonder how this connects to what we are doing in our own writing workshop time in ENG 315. The minilessons that our instructor presents are much shorter (hence,
“mini,” I suppose!) than most of the lessons I recall in my writing history. If students are more open to instruction as they get older, do mini-lessons get longer or more complicated? What makes up a good mini-lesson? And, how do you get through everything that you need to teach if you are just doing one short lesson each day?

All that said, I was really excited to see Calkins’ ideas about how writers develop over time, as I hadn’t really understood how a child goes from drawing stick figures with a few words in kindergarten to full-fledged stories by later elementary school. I now have a little bit better understanding of this process, and I am looking forward to seeing how Calkins’ ideas connect to larger aspects of teaching writing. I know that I learned how to write, and I still enjoy writing. Yet, I wonder if my teachers had used some of these ideas if that would have helped me learn more about the craft of writing? Moreover, how do I help my students become better writers if I am still not entirely sure of my own writing abilities? These might be some questions that I explore in future professional responses, and maybe even in my inquiry project, too.

Professional Response #1 – Katie Wood Ray

    (Intro/Summary) In her chapter, “Understanding the Essential Characteristics of the Writing Workshop,” Katie Wood Ray… letting students choose their own content, workshop vs. process (QUOTE), be interactive, publication, time for writing

    (Compare, Show Similarities, Connect) Like Nancie Atwell, who shares her thoughts in her “Conditions of a Writing Workshop,” Ray also believes that… students need time, quantity rather than quality, passion

    (Contrast) On the other hand, Ray and Atwell sometimes don’t quite agree on… structure, noise level,
    (Apply, Reflect) As I consider the implications of Ray’s chapter for me, I believe that … My classroom wasn’t like that… I wish… I think… Perhaps,
    (Question, Extension, Critique) Yet, I wonder… How do I manage this? What happens when students are unmotivated?

    (Conclusion, Opinion on her message, how to apply it, ) Finally, as I examine her stance as a writer,

Professional Response #1 – Katie Wood Ray

1. In her chapter, “Understanding the Essential Characteristics of the Writing Workshop,” Katie Wood Ray…

Students who use writing, not just do writing – quote this

Describe a structured and consistent environment

Encourage productive talk

Write with purpose and intention

All of her students will grow and learn in different ways

2. Like Nancie Atwell, who in her “Conditions of a Writing Workshop,” Ray also

Students should have choice

Writing in different genres/topics are good

Dedicating significant and regular time

3. On the other hand, Ray and Atwell sometimes don’t quite agree

Atwell – whisper, Ray – talking

Atwell – 3-5 times a week, 45 minutes; Ray 35-45 minutes

4. As I consider the implications of Ray’s chapter for me, I believe…

I never had this in elementary school, so as I think about student teaching and my midtier…

5. Yet, I wonder…

Student motivation to write with fewer prompts, finding topics

Students who don’t write well will be frsutrated – how to avoid and balance

How do I manage this!?

How do you have a schedule?

6. Finally, as I examine her stance as a writer

She used the word non-fiction-y and I thought that was clever, I wasn’t affronted

Well-organized – intro and subheadings