The Writing and Reading Workshop


Research has shown that the best way to improve reading, become a better writer, increase one’s vocabulary, become a better speller, and learn grammar is to read and write regularly. Because of this, your student’s 8th grade English class may be somewhat different from what you’ve come to expect. A large part of your student’s class will include reading books of his or her choice every day. Daily choice-writing opportunities and regular time to share our writing will add to this experience.

In addition to all this individual reading and writing, I also read out loud to the students regularly. This serves several purposes: It gives us a sense of community because we now have some works that we’ve all read; it gives us an opportunity to explore various reading strategies; it gives us great examples of writer's craft; it gives the kids a chance to just kick back and enjoy a good story.


More than anyone else, you have a huge impact on your student’s learning, so please, ask your student to share some of his or her writing and talk with your student about what she or he is reading - maybe even consider reading a book together! I would also like to extend an open invitation for you to join us during during class. I don’t need any notice, all I ask is that you check in at the office first (school policy) and then join us with our literacy activities. Even better, if you would be willing to read something that you love to our class, we would all be thrilled. In this case, I would need some advance notice, so that I can arrange the day’s activities. Middle schoolers like everything from Dr. Seuss to (maybe) Shakespeare, so please share anything you love.

As students finish a piece of writing, they will publish it in whichever format they have chosen (short story, narrative, digital story, song, poem, letter, etc) and, if practical, post it in their wiki-portfolio, then possibly on the 8th grade "Gallery" page. The wiki-portfolios are available on-line for perusing at any time - just look for your student's class and name to check it out. In this way, adults can keep up with their student long before grades come out and help the student to realize his or her personal goals each marking period.


Grading:


The rules for workshop are pretty simple: in writing workshop, students should be writing; in reading workshop, students should be reading, and students are graded on a point.

Students receive points for participation, and can lose points by goofing off, being off-task, or being generally disruptive. Students will get an immediate warning when points are being lost, so that they may correct the behavior and not lose additional points.

Additionally, points will be given for completing the Quickwrites, longer writing pieces, and reading response journals.

A large portion of grades (one-quarter to one-third, typically) will be determined near the end of each marking period in a special conference with the student - this conference may be verbal or written. The grade will be largely determined by the progress the student has made toward his or her personal goals for that marking period. The student is fully involved in this process and there are no surprises. In this way, students are directly responsible for their progress and grades each period.


Check out some of these sites for further information:
Teachers First
Info about Nancie Atwell, a guru of the workshop method
Nancie Atwell responding to an article about the reading workshop in the NYTimes
Barry Lane and some crazy ideas