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Teaching Writers’ Workshop

03 Aug

As I once again return to the classroom (5th grade) the area I feel the most foggy about is writing. The only in-service class offered by Denver Public Schools is an introduction to Writers’ Workshop for new teachers. Since I have already taught the DPS 5th grade literacy guide two years I decided to get what I need from some professional reading instead. The first book I am reading is The Writing Workshop by Katie Wood ?Ray with Lester Laminack. I am currently halfwaythrough chapter 3. Here is one sentence that struck me:

p. 25, in talking about people who write to enrich their lives as opposed to those who write simply to maintain their lives, Ray says, “They’re the people…who write the stories of their childhoods because they just don’t want to forget.” The first genre in the DPS curriculum at every grade level is the personal narrative. By fifth grade students are often in a rut, writing essentially the same narrative at the same level as they did in second or third grade. Some are still stuck in a “dawn to dusk” listing of the day’s events. This quote and the letter my cousin Gib wrote my brothers and me about the summer he spent with our family gives me an idea to shake the students out of that rut. Instead of a prompt that asks them to write about an event that was important or fun or interesting, I can use Gib’s letter to show how detailed his memory of that summer is almost 50 years later. One of the reasons Gib wrote in such detail is that he kept detailed journals about anything related to flying and airplanes, but he also filled in other details. So the prompt becomes, “Think of something in your life that you want to remember 50 years from now, and describe it in a way that will help you remember everything about it and why it is important to you.”

More later. Since I just looked at my blog statistics and discovered that there is suddenly a great deal of interest in Dad’s World War II letters, I need to get started on the next month’s letters.

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