Remembering Writing Workshop in Cotulla ISD
At Frank Newman Campus in Cotulla, Texas, I had many wonderful teaching experiences. It was there that I learned how to share my love of writing with children. Since I was a "brand new" public school teacher, I had few preconceived notions of what it meant to teach Language Arts and Reading the "right" way. So, I began with Lucy Calkins' book on "The Art of Teaching Writing," William Zinsser's "On Writing Well," and, most importantly, Nanci Atwell's "In the Middle." Using these books, I taught children how to write--not from the Houghton-Mifflin textbook that the more experienced teachers used--from the mini-lessons and workshops I gleaned from the maverick writing teachers. I supplemented those minilessons with the work of Writer's Digest magazine, Kenneth Koch's "Wish" poems, and avoided grammar except to teach them "X-words" and how to diagram.
My classes were writing and reading workshops, and what my students did was transform how they learned writing. I managed to sidestep the grammar in Houghton Mifflin and help my students learn how to share their stories, to listen to others, and find their voice. Wow, what a powerful feeling and excitement that caught us all up.
Collaboration: I fostered sharing of ideas and collaboration, per Nanci Atwell's instructions, by how I grouped students. Heteregeneously grouped, these students worked together on their writing. In Cotulla, I worked with several groups of students.
One of my favorites was using Marjorie Franks' book, "If you're trying to teach kids how to write, you've gotta have this book!" What a wonderful book full of activities, like the clothesline activity I did with my students.
Check out Miguel's Workshop Materials online at http://mglearns.wikispaces.com
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