Slice of Life: Love Those Writers

Yesterday.

Yesterday was a pretty good day.

It was the day my first article as a contributing author got published on my very favorite teacher site, Two Writing Teachers.

And it was also the day that I asked my students to reflect on their experiences in writing workshop this year. I told them of my respect and admiration for them as humans, as writers. I told them how amazing it was to enjoy the process of writing alongside them this year. I told them that we’re going to have the chance to continue this work together next year, and I want their experience next year to honor their strengths and needs.

Here are the questions I asked:

How did you grow as a writer this year?
What did you learn from reading one another’s writing?
Describe your ideal writing workshop.
Looking ahead to next year, how would YOU like to grow as a writer?

I first used breakout rooms on Zoom (sigh. Always ZOOM) to let the kids discuss answers to these questions, to gather ideas and perspectives. I then gave kids a solid 20 minutes to complete the questions on Google Forms. And by 20 minutes, I MEANT 20 minutes. I told students they were not allowed to submit their survey before I gave the OK. If they reached a stopping point, they could stop, or think, or daydream, but I wanted the survey open for other thoughts that “trickled in” over the course of that 20 minutes.

I’m glad I did.*

My students brought it. And why shouldn’t they have? They’ve been bringing it every day we’ve been together.

As I read through their responses, I saw so many common threads, so many take-aways. I’m sharing a couple of highlights because they make me so happy.

On what we want writing workshop to look like, kids envisioned:
-Calm. Quiet. Peace.
-Solitude when needed.
-Collaboration when needed.
-Pens and paper and clipboards and fuzzy pillows and seating options.
-Freedom.

Word cloud showing how we envision writing workshop. Thanks, edwordle, for the resource!

On what we learned from sharing our work:
-We never gave enough credit to the skills of other writers.
-Other people have very different writing styles.
-Reading other people’s work made us want to write better.
-We’re better at giving and receiving feedback

Word cloud showing what we’ve gotten out of the experience.

On how I can help them learn and grow, students envision that I’ll be:
-Teaching specific writing skills
-Offering feedback
-Giving them the “push” they want and need in zones of discomfort
-Showing them text that mirrors the aspects they want to use in writing

This is just the tip of the iceberg, friends. I asked my kids to stop, to imagine, to dream about what writing workshop could be. They’ve given me so much to think about over the summer. And while summer canNOT come fast enough, I’m already looking forward to next year.

*(If we’re being 100% real, YES. There were plenty of kids who probably filled out the survey in four minutes and pretended to work longer. This is a COVID year. And it’s June. And Zoom. I’ll take what I can get.)


Today’s post is part of the weekly Slice of Life Challenge. Check them out!

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11 Responses to “Slice of Life: Love Those Writers”

  1. arjeha Says:

    I don’t think we ask our students enough about what they want, what their experience was like, how they grew, and what would they like. We learn so much when we do and when students are given a say in designing their learning it gives it gives them investment in their learning. I would say you and your students had a very productive writing year.

  2. nancyrsantucci Says:

    What a successful year with writing workshop even via Zoom! You should be proud, and I love how you’re excited about next year. Your students are propelling you forward, which is the beauty of workshop. BTW, thanks for mentioning your published piece. I read and “liked” it without even noting who was the author. Now I know it was written by you. Way to go, and wishing you the best for the upcoming summer.

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thank you! I appreciate the encouragement. My kids are always the thing that gets me out of bed each day. Now…I’ll know what I can do if I have to teach via Zoom next year, but oh. I PRAY that doesn’t happen…

  3. edifiedlistener Says:

    Lainie, I want to say ‘this is incredible’ – but it’s exactly *not* that! It’s entirely credible and real and awesome that your students can tell you exactly what they gained, what they need and what they’ll be looking for in the future. You did that! You did it *with* them and it shows. What a wonderful testament to your efforts and theirs. Hooray for all of you!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Thank you Sherri. Throwing myself into the work I do with children always has been, and continues to be, my one saving grace when I’m going through a rough spot. Even without COVID this year would have been enough to test my commitment to teaching. THEY are the ones who ground me. And boy oh boy…I can’t WAIT ’til next year.

  4. Tim Gels Says:

    Lainie, I’m stealing this. Thanks!

  5. Fran Haley Says:

    So many magnificent takeaways from your students – and magnificent facilitation by their teacher. This learning strikes the deepest chord with me: “We never gave enough credit to the skills of other writers.” What a vital, vibrant piece of reflection. It dovetails exactly with the respect and admiration you expressed to your writers as humans. It takes courage to put one’s thoughts, feelings, ideas on the page, and more so to share them (a conversation I was just having with an adult this week). A community of writers is a precious thing indeed – the whole organism flourishes when the individual nourish one another. I have been especially thankful for my TWT community this week for this very reason – this is a group which always seeks to see and honor one another and one another’s work. And how right you are – the end of this school year CANNOT come fast enough! I’m amazed at what you’ve accomplished this year and I had such fun interacting with your students – I’m in for next year if y’all want to do so again. Congrats on the guest post – I’m off to read it now!

    • Lainie Levin Says:

      Yes! I can’t agree enough with you about the power of TWT, and that community, that NOURISHMENT, has been the driving force behind what I’d like for my kids. As for the take-away you found, that’s probably the one I’m proudest of them for. As gifted kids, (and, let’s face it, as ten-year-olds!) they tend to be less likely to give others credit for varying gifts and talents. They tend to be less respectful of differing perspectives. For them to look around and see that other people have skills they don’t, and to then honor those skills? That. That’s my FAVORITE part. P.S. One of my kids – completely unprompted – told me that one of their favorite readings from the year was “Tiny Reader Heaven.” Thanks for being YOU, Fran.

  6. Raivenne Says:

    Lanie, I love it. You are so correct, your students brought it and it was inspiring. I am highly amused at the (I hope), prankster that got gas out of the experience. This was brilliant.

    Congrats on your guest post!

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