Preparing to Teach Writing: Research, Theory, and Practice

By James D. Williams | Go to book overview
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3
The Classroom as Workshop

OVERVIEW

The process model brought about significant changes in the way teachers interact with students. One of the more important of these changes was restructuring the classroom to allow for a workshop environment that shifts the focus of the writing class from teacher to students. In a workshop classroom, students sit in groups of three to five rather than in rows. Ideally, all activities begin and end with these groups. There is very little lecture; instead, students are working and talking among themselves, focusing their attention on drafts of assignments. Students read one another's drafts in their groups, offering comments and suggestions for revision. Sometimes, they work on projects together, as a team. In many respects, these work groups require the sort of collaboration that characterizes what takes place in natural writing situations. Students take on more responsibility for their own learning and for their own achievement. They also engage in cooperative problem solving that can enhance critical thinking skills.

Teachers who use the workshop find that their roles change. They move freely about the room to offer advice on papers that are still in draft form. Students can use this advice immediately to improve their revisions. Teachers, in this environment, serve as coaches for their students, intervening when their help is needed most and when it is most effective.


STRUCTURING A CLASSROOM WORKSHOP

Most writing intended to be read by others is a collaborative effort. In the workplace, reports and proposals are commonly written by teams. Before academicians 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

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