Preparing to Teach Writing: Research, Theory, and Practice

By James D. Williams | Go to book overview

4
The Classroom as Workshop

STRUCTURING A CLASSROOM WORKSHOP

Most writing intended to be read by others is a collaborative effort. In the workplace, reports and proposals commonly are written by teams. Before academics send their papers out for publication, they ask friends to read the manuscript and offer suggestions for improvement. Sometimes they use the suggestions in their revision, and sometimes they don't, but they always feel grateful to their friends for taking the time to offer constructive comments.1 Recognizing these realities, the process model led to an important change in the structure of writing classrooms. It transformed them into writing workshops.

In a workshop, students sit in groups of three to five. Nearly all of their work begins and ends in the group. For example, a teacher who intends to ask students to write an analysis of a reading assignment might begin by having them do some freewriting on the assignment. The freewriting then might form the foundation for group discussions and brainstorming to help develop ideas for the writing task. Students might use the information from these activities to begin drafting their analysis. Drafts can be read by groupmates or by members of other groups, but they eventually return for revision. As students are revising, the teacher circulates among them and offers constructive comments on their work. He or she may see that several students need intervention for, say, punctuation problems. The teacher interrupts students, gives them brief instruction on punctuation, and then has

____________________
1
Feedback of this sort, used to help revise a paper still in draft form, is often referred to as formative evaluation (see Huff & Kline, 1987).

-131-

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