A Taste of Workshop for Juniors

Deciding to jump into workshop is sometimes a little intimidating, especially if you’re a high school teacher. It seems that resources abound for workshop in the younger grades but that high school teachers (except for places like this blog) don’t have as many options.


One way that I have been easing some of my Juniors into workshop writing involves college application essays. Over the past few years, I have gotten tons of requests from former students for help with their college application essays. These requests generally come in the summer, so I’m not always able to spend a ton of time helping them. This year I decided to take a more proactive approach. I went to the Common Apps site and pulled the list of essay topics that they posted for 2018-2019 and created my own essay prompts. My plan is to have my kids write on one of those essay prompts as an in-class writing assignment every month this year. Once they turn in the initial timed-write draft version, they’ll transfer their essay to a Google Docs file and then we’ll have lots of workshop back and forth goodness until they’re satisfied that they have developed a good solid reflection of themselves in that particular prompt. At the end of the year, they should have a folder on Google Drive that has a good solid 8 essays that are ready for them to use or tweak for the college and scholarship application process.

My goal with this is twofold–garnering buy-in from some of my more reluctant writers and giving my students tangible materials to have at the end of the process. I think it’s an easy way to pull some of them into workshop. They have a very tangible goal at the end of this process–to have materials for their college application process that will begin over the summer–so they’ll be more motivated to dig in to the process and take ownership of their writing. I like the thought of arming them with lots of materials to help them prepare for the college application process, too. Of course the prompts may change when they’re actually sitting down to write their college application or scholarship essays, but hopefully this process will give them some solid time and experience to pull from as they work on those things.

We spend a large amount of time on both reading and writing workshop tasks in my classroom throughout the year, but I thought I would share this one little idea as a way for some of you to try out workshop and see if you can make it work for you and for your students. What are some other ways that you have used to take baby steps into writing workshop?


4 thoughts on “A Taste of Workshop for Juniors

  1. mrsturnerblog September 16, 2018 at 1:46 am Reply

    Thanks! Good interesting or bad? 🤣


  2. Gordon September 15, 2018 at 7:57 pm Reply

    Nice idea using the essay prompts as assignments for the juniors. We are adopting a similar approach to our programs and seeing interesting results.


  3. Amy Estersohn September 15, 2018 at 7:22 am Reply

    Yes, yes, and yes! I will be doing something similar with juniors – I will be introducing the Common App questions as an authentic purpose and prompt soon.

    One thing I’d like to add — a college essay doesn’t have to be a memoir. Notice that the essay topics are intentionally broad, so an essay could be about personal experiences with sexism or future goals or a favorite band.

    This is also an assignment I’d like to return to throughout the year, so that students begin senior year with a handful of “college essays” they’ve already written and then can decide what they REALLY want to write about to the colleges with the confidence that they can develop 500 words on a topic that matters to them.


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