Putting pen to paper
We believe that our eighth grade students must actively engage in their own learning. Our aim is to create and maintain a workshop atmosphere where kids purposely read and write every day in the company of others and with the help of their teachers.
To that end, everyone, including teachers, reads and reflects on that reading. Students choose their own books, including fiction, non-fiction, and poetry—often with the recommendation of others. They keep reading notebooks in which they not only record titles of books they’ve read but maintain written correspondence between themselves, peers, and teachers about their reading. Lessons in reading strategies, literary components, and author/genre introductions support individual reading. As the year progresses, students set goals for their own reading development and assess their own work.
Writing, a process of pre-writing, writing, rereading, revising, editing, conferring, sharing, and publishing, is ongoing. Teachers demonstrate their own writing processes to show students how to proceed. Together, teachers and students read the work of published authors in order to explore what makes particular kinds of writing effective—writers’ craft such as particular schemes for organization, the use of specific images, the slowing and speeding up of narration, and punctuating dialogue. Again, teachers and students share their efforts in order to help others. Student-teacher and peer conferences extend whole group lessons and are integral to everyone’s writing development.
Students choose their own topics within specific studies of writing such as memoir, poetry, or opinion-editorial pieces. They also make decisions about how they will do that writing and, as in reading workshop, set goals and self-evaluate their processes, as well as their finished writing.
The goal is for students to grow as readers, writers, and thinkers, but it is also to tap into the social nature of the age and to help students navigate through the process of growing up.