This has been the best year ever.
By moving my class into a workshop model, my students have read more than ever. They’ve liked and understood what they’ve read.
They’ve not only written more than ever, but they’ve actually enjoyed what they’ve written, and their writing was the best I’ve ever seen.
We have a curriculum, but they’ve been given choices all year. When presented with a literature unit, they’ve picked the book. When presented with a writing assignment, they’ve picked their topic.
As I continue in this model, I’m contemplating changing the structure of our year with the first semester focused on our writing workshop, continuing to use poetry and smaller texts as models.
I’d like our second semester focused on literature in the form of genre studies. I’ll still weave writing throughout the semester, but I’d like to see my students build more stamina in their choice reading before tackling some of the harder, assigned texts.
I taught a few stories from J.D. Salinger’s Nine Stories in these final weeks of school, and I’d love to use that book as a mentor text during that first semester. Despite what my students call its “old-fashioned talking,” those short stories are complex and perfect for analysis practice.
Next year, I’d also like to have my students build blogs at the beginning of the year. During this last month, my students were encouraged to publish their work to earn “Exemplary” grades (one student even took to Twitter for publication!), but we definitely needed a lesson on how to build and market a blog earlier. If we had done this at the beginning of the year, it would have sunk in…but in these final weeks, it didn’t.
That said, this has been the most rewarding year of my teaching career.
When given permission to really take my class full-press into a reader/writer workshop, I was prepared for a lot of work.
It was a lot of work.
This isn’t easy. Building a culture of competent readers and writers takes very, very hard work.
On top of planning and grading, you have to conference with students every day.
You have to read a book a week to inform recommendations.
You have to write your own essays and bring them to workshop.
In a genre study, you have to read four books at a time, write discussion points, and guide groups of students through the text.
You have to truly, genuinely know every single student that sits in your room.
And it’s the most rewarding work I’ve ever done.