Writer’s Workshop and Author’s Chair

5 Dec

I have been teaching writing using the writer’s workshop model for years now.  The Lucy Calkins Units of Study have been my go-to in terms of solid, curriculum-based writing lessons.  Even though I read the research and I understood the reasoning behind it, I was still hesitant to devote a good amount of classroom time to student sharing.  Shouldn’t the time be spent actually writing?  Or, wouldn’t the time be better spent learning a new editing technique?

It seemed like the occasional times I tried to have Author’s Chair, it fell flat.  They didn’t seem interested in listening to each other’s writing and didn’t know how to listen and respond appropriately.  Research says this is an essential part of writer’s workshop.  What could I be doing wrong?

This year I committed to making time for Author’s Chair twice a week.  What a difference it made!   I believe the reason Author’s Chair wasn’t working is precisely because we weren’t doing it enough!

Now that we are well into the second quarter of the school year, the students have their routines and they love it!  They ask for Author’s Chair.  My favorite result of this is that the students have become fans of each other’s writing.  The students must learn and practice certain types of writing throughout the year (personal narrative, how-to, poetry, etc.).  However, once a week the students have a free choice of writing for homework followed by sharing the next day in Author’s Chair.

What a joy to hear the students say to each other, “Did you write another Ninja Baby story?”  “I want to know what happened to Humperdink next!”  Even better, we have characters cross over into each other’s stories!  We have created a community of writers.

The children are getting a taste of what it’s like for authors who have fans waiting for the next installment in a series to come out.  (Of course, on a much smaller scale.)

Why is this important from an educational standpoint?

  1. It gets pencil to paper.  The only way to become a better writer is to write!
  2. The students learn to write for an audience.  Other than journals and diaries, the purpose of writing is communication with others.
  3. They learn to be good listeners.  As they listen to stories, they look for characters, action, and much more.

To any teacher who has been hesitating to find the time for Author’s Chair, I strongly recommend it!

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