Monday, February 20, 2012

Destination: Building a Community of Writers

Now that I am feeling confident that our school-wide efforts with Daily 5 and CAFE are fully up and running smoothly, it is time to focus on our next area of improvement--writing instruction.  With the Common Core standards staring us directly in the eye, there will be much more emphasis placed on students applying their learning through writing.  In researching what may be the best path to take with our professional development, all roads continue to bring me back to Lucy Calkins' work.  The writer's workshop is a direct reflection of the philosophy and structure we have embraced in regard to our reading instruction.  Teachers are comfortable teaching mini-lessons, modeling strategies through read alouds, meeting with students in small groups or one-on-one, and setting up a structured environment in which students become independent learners and are actively practicing reading and writing on a daily basis.  It just makes sense that we would apply this philosophy to teaching writing.

In our district, we are fortunate to have daily staff development built into our schedule.  Our day begins with a 30 minute instructional improvement block.  I am able to schedule specific staff development topics that are pertinent to our overall instructional improvement.  Two weeks ago, I shared Lucy Calkins' philosophy for writing workshop by reading an excerpt from Launching the Writing Workshop in her Units of Study.  We then talked about the perceived roadblocks that were preventing us from providing the type of writing instruction we dreamed of.  Many of the roadblocks were related to time--not enough time/ the time of day we have to teach writing is not optimal.  However, one roadblock that I found to be particularly challenging as an admininstrator is that not all teachers are confident in their ability to teach writing.  Why?  Most teachers do not view themselves as writers.  Imagine trying to teach reading if you didn't see yourself as a reader.  Wouldn't that be difficult?

So how do I get more of my teachers to see themselves as writers?  The same way we would expect to develop this belief in our students.  I am planning on doing some writing instruction with them and letting them practice writing during our instructional improvement block.  We will delve into the format of writer's workshop and how it looks, sounds, and feels.  We will build our writing stamina and create I-Charts to assist us in creating an independent learning environment. We will practice writing our thoughts on paper, revising our writing, and sharing.  

Last week, I purchased composition notebooks for each teacher and had them bring personal items to decorate their writer's notebooks.  I give Beth Newingham credit for this idea.  The teacher resources section of her website has been a delightful find!  This week, my teachers will be bringing their writer's notebooks to instructional improvement block and will be delving into the world of writing.  I must say that I am extremely excited to begin this journey with them.  I'm ready to start moving some of those roadblocks! 

This blog will also provide me with an outlet to begin to see myself as a writer and lead my staff toward realizing their potential as writers.  Once they begin to see themselves as writers, we can begin to move toward our ultimate destination--building a school-wide community of writers!

Share your favorite writer's workshop resources with me via Twitter!  @MMEPrincipal


  1. I'm so excited to have time built in to my teaching day to work on becoming a better writer myself! I spend a lot of time in the car or shower prewriting, but I haven't been actually WRITING much lately. I'm eager to see how dedicating time to writing helps me be a better writing teacher!

  2. Wow, this is great! You are already such a gifted writer..I have friends that have blogs for this same reason... (to improve their writing skills). I feel provoked in a positive way to write more myself. Well done! :)