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Writers Workshop at the College Level

I have had so much fun reading student work this week.

There. I said it. I actually ENJOYED grading…for once!

Like Amy, I learned about the world, my students, and their funds of knowledge.  Grading has been going well for me this week.

Well, I wasn’t really grading so much as giving students feedback on their final papers, which are due on Monday.  We’ve been engaging in a virtual writing workshop, in which I start a dialogue with students about their writing via comments on their Google Docs, and they reply, revise, and we re-read.

Screen Shot 2017-04-21 at 6.13.47 AM

I taught a mini-lesson via email on what I noticed the whole class might need to know (shorter paragraphs, most recently, as well as the power of the single-sentence paragraph).

In class, I’ve taught mini-lessons on seamlessly weaving in references to outside texts, developing a writing voice, and crafting an “I believe” credo statement.  We’ve read each other’s writing, as well as our course readings, not just for content but for craft.

Students had choice in their topic, genre, and process.  They described their teaching philosophies, educational experiences, and literacy histories through cartoons, lists, stories, essays, pictures, and poems.

We worked for about six weeks this semester on this writing, all of which was ungraded.  It will eventually constitute 10% of their course grade, and when I calculate that number, I’ll factor in student growth, effort, and style–not just the final product.

With great success, my students engaged in writers workshop–at the college level.

I knew that this was a new experience for them for several reasons.  Many students emailed me to ask if they could send me extra drafts, or began their pleas with an apology for being a bother, or panicked when they first saw the sheer volume of my comments.

But when they realized my feedback was a balance of suggestions, praise, or exclamations of delight, they relaxed.

When they realized that I would read as many drafts of their writing as they wanted, and that we had built-in class time for peer review, they relaxed.

When they realized that questions were welcome, and not an indication of ignorance or a lack of preparedness, they relaxed.

They relaxed into becoming teacher-writers, which is something we all believe every teacher should make a part of her practice.

imgresWriting–at every level, from kindergarten to college and beyond–should be therapeutic, pleasurable, engaging, challenging, and every bit of the art form that it is.

Writing should not be painful, terrifying, or crippling.  It should serve as a way for our students to continue their learning, rather than as an end measure of what they know.

By keeping these values at the heart of my teaching, I’ve felt like I was back in my high school English classroom for the past few weeks.  There was fun, noise, creativity, debate, and even dance parties and craft supplies when we assembled portfolios, in my college classroom.  In addition to being enjoyable for everyone, this workshop mentality helped produce some outstanding writing that I’ll be so proud for my students to showcase in their final admission portfolios.

Shana Karnes lives in West Virginia and teaches sophomore, junior, and senior preservice teachers at West Virginia University.  She finds joy in all things learning, love, and literature as she teaches, mothers, and sings her way through life.  Follow Shana on Twitter at @litreader.

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4 thoughts on “Writers Workshop at the College Level

  1. teach977 April 24, 2017 at 4:37 pm Reply

    Hi Shana,
    I love reading about our class in your blog. For me, the comments were what made every time-consuming paper worth-while. There’s nothing I hate more than spending two weeks on a paper and getting it back with 50/50 and nothing else. Especially when that’s the only grade I’ve received from that instructor all semester and I know for a fact that not all of them were my best work.
    THANK YOU!
    –anetta

    Liked by 1 person

    • Shana Karnes May 1, 2017 at 6:36 am Reply

      Anetta, thanks for your comment!! I enjoy grading way more when I don’t have to give a grade. The reading and feedback are way more fun!! 🙂

      Thanks for a great semester.

      Like

  2. Pat Delzell April 21, 2017 at 10:20 am Reply

    It would be interesting for teachers, beginners, and veterans, to write a letter to themselves to be opened in the middle of the school year…goals, dreams, etc…

    Liked by 1 person

    • Shana Karnes May 1, 2017 at 6:36 am Reply

      Pat, I love this!! It would be such a great reminder. We could tape it into the front cover of our notebooks!

      Like

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