First (and second, and third. . .) Order of Business

I've been thinking carefully about the order in which I want to cover genres for Writing Workshop. Besides covering Memoir/Personal Narrative first, of course, I haven't settled on any definite progression for the other genres. I know short story will take some time, so I will probably place this somewhere near the middle of the year.

Genres I absolutely want to cover: Memoir/PN; Poetry; Short Story; Book/Movie/Music Review; Persuasive Essay.

Genres I hope to cover: Thanks You/Get Well/Condolence letters; Persuasive Letter; Parody; Children's Picture Book?

I'd love to hear everyone's thoughts on the process by which you determine how you will order the genres your students will address. Please keep in mind that I am doing writing workshop in a school that does not invest any time/training in this approach to instruction. Thus, I don't anticipate there being whole lot of other teachers I can turn to in my own school to discuss these types of things.

Many kind thanks for any input!


Mrs. V said...

I am going to do writer's workshop for the first time this year. I will start my new 6th grade position in 2 weeks (Whew - the summer flew by!). I have been reading a lot about writer's workshop and trying to think back to my own experience as a writer. I am like you, I didn't receive formal training from my school.

I do not have an order mapped out for the whole year of genres yet, but I will post later when I have ideas.

I want to launch my workshop by reading everyday stories (I can't remember which book I got the idea from) in order to help students generate a list of their own stories that they may want to tell. This will lean toward a focus on narrative, but I also want to encourage students to think of a variety of genres early on. For example, I want them to think about how they may be able to tell a story they typically only would have thought of telling as a narrative as poetry. Although I will have a time during the year when I really focus on poetry, I will integrate poetry throughout the year.

I will be posting how it goes on one of my sites (www.mrsvsreviews.blogspot.com or www.enbuscadeequilibrio.blogspot.com). I will probably talk about writer's workshop on the second one since I have just been doing book reviews on my review site.

Good luck.

kathryn said...

thanks for the input! and best wishes for your new position!

i like what you're saying about having students stretch their creativity to apply what they would be inclined to tell in story narrative and instead put that into poetry or another form.

although the secondary ed/english dept. at my college did operate on the premise of workshop for both reading and writing, we did not, of course, get to addressing every one of the specifics of each approach, and this was just a question we didn't cover together.

in atwell's lessons that change writers, she does lay out a continuum for the year. but, as much as she is my hero, i don't always want to rely on what she did for her students.

maybe i've answered my own question--maybe i simply can't know the exact order right now, since i don't know my learners. how can i assume that my long-term planning will meet their needs and interests? hm...

teach people not books said...


ah, so now anyone who cared knows my first name.

such is life. anonymity is not particularly important today, but it will become exceedingly so in the months ahead, i believe.

Anonymous said...

I tend to follow the T.C. Scope and Sequence from my days as a NYC Public School Teacher. However, I add things that RI's GLE's state that we teach. Also, I flipped poetry and memoir, teaching poetry last. (Just b/c National Poetry Month is in April, doesn't mean that I need to teach Poetry in April. After all, I teach Poetry all year around!) Hope that helps.

Mrs. V said...

I think you just answered the question for both of us. No matter how much I have planned on my previous positions, I have always adapted and adjusted so much once the year starts and I get to know my actual students. I want to have the beginning of the year and first units well planned, all the while knowing that it might be majorly overhauled if necessary. Then I will fine-tune the rest of the year based on where they are at. It goes right along with your "teach students not books"!

AMY S. said...

last year i had a 5/6 blend and followed five of the six Lucy Calkins Units of Study books. i invested a lot of time in reading and rereading these very rich books and i attribute most of my success in sustaining a strong writing workshop to having such a specific and powerful model to follow. although it's a 3-5 model, it was excellent for sixth graders and i think could be adapted for any middle school population.

this year i'm planning to add a whole lot of poetry, primarily from Nancie Atwell's Naming the World book, and also work in some of the Lessons that Change writers mini-lessons. While i do agree that you've got to be flexible and respond to your own students' needs, i know i would have been very lost, often, without such a rich and detailed model.

enc said...

I can't give any input here, because I don't have any expertise on the subject!

I will say that I'd love to learn to properly write all these genres. It's been a long time since I took a writing course.

Thank you for your comment on my blog. Please come again!

Mary Lee said...

(I have averted my eyes from that first-name-slip that occurred. We'll pretend that never happened...)

One of the best parts of my writing workshop (the kids will agree) is the time at the end of genre studies when the quick ones are done (What should I work on now???) and the rest are finishing up. When you have completed the assigned writing (in the genre we're studying), you get to work on "your novel." (That's code for whatever project it is that YOU want to work on -- not the teacher's agenda, YOURS. And sometimes it IS a novel -- those long, convoluted stories that 10 year-olds specialize in.)

There are also times when we take a break from the Teacher Agenda, and the requirement is just to finish a written product of YOUR CHOICE! Oh heavenly day!

I've never been able to make writing workshop run on all choice, all the time (sorry, Donald) and feel like I'm teaching what I'm supposed to. But it was brilliant when I made CHOICE a desirable commodity, because it make kids value their own ideas (indeed, COME UP WITH their own ideas).

teach people not books said...

twt--yes! poetry all year round. i am with you there. a poetry "unit" doesn't really apply for me, at least in the reading of it. i love poetry (not POETRY on high, but poetry that is messy and fun and everything in between) wayyy to much to not have my students reading amazing, knock-your-socks-off poetry every single day of their school lives.

ms v-- major overhaul is always a possibility, but you said it-the best part is it means we're doing what's right for our kids. good stuff.

amy--i googled the calkins materials you were speaking of. although i would love to have a go at them, the set is way expensive! i'm hoping maybe my school's media center will have a copy, or possibly one of my colleagues in the elementary. thanks for the resource idea!

mary lee--i feel so much better now. last night i was up until the wee hours of the morning, reading in the middle (again. for about the hundredth time). and my major issue last night, all of the sudden it hit me, was--no way! i could never (at least this year, in this school) have students write ANY genre all year! i decided, in order to sleep, that i would do genre studies but also leave time for personal choice.

i also feel like i want students to have enough craft minilessons before i send them off to the land of free choice, enough to make my less-confident writers more self-aware and ready to make those choices that can at first seem intimidating. so, is it wrong to confine students to a genre? no. but do they also need time to do what real writers do, and make their own choice? yes! what a serendipitous comment.

thanks everyone for helping me elucidate my thinking here.