On Monday I went to Mrs. Dolgas's third grade classroom with my cooperating teacher to support some of her students for ELA. To my surprise and delight, Mrs. Dolgas began to introduce to her class their new writers workshop program. I was so excited to see what format she had chosen and how she would introduce it to her students. I immediately started to think about the readings that I had done for this class and the assignment of how we would structure our own writers workshop. I found many of her techniques aligned with the strategies suggested in our readings.
Mrs. Dolgas started by calling the students over to the rug, she then pulled out her own writers journal and told them that they were going to start a writers workshop. She explained that this was going to be time for the students to explore topics and free write. That there would be structured assignments and free choice. This goes right along with the readings as she plans on allowing time for both structured and unstructured responses. This will allow for her students to pursue their interests and develop their creativity, while at the same time target specific skills.
Then Mrs. Dolgas jumped right into a targeted mini lesson on generating ideas. She chose one strategy for generating ideas, explained it to the class and then shared an example from her personal notebook. This mini lesson gave the students a starting point for their writers workshop. They had a strategy posted on the board and the teacher had modeled it's use. This also goes along with the format of a readers workshop that is mentioned in the articles we read for this class. After the mini lesson the students were given 15 minutes to write using the strategy. They had to write about a specific memory they had with someone that was important to them. This is a perfect mix of structure needed for students to get used to writers workshop, while still allowing for student choice of topic.
Mrs. Dolgas shared the piece that she had written using the strategy with the class. She wrote about the time she found out that her grandma had passed away. She made a note to tell the class that they could write about anything they wanted and it did not need to be a sad story. However, more than half the class wrote tragic stories that day. This goes to show how influential the teachers stories are in shaping her students writing.
The next day the teacher taught another strategy on zooming into a specific memory and really painting a picture. This target corresponded with their reading target for the day, which was to make mental images. This shows how Mrs. Dolgas was using the reading and writing process to supplement and support the other. This goes along with all of our class readings, and shows that she can use both reading and writing to teach the same skill. Mrs. Dolgas really focused on having students add "juicy details" in their writing and used their reading lesson as an example of good use details. This helped show the importance of painting a picture with your words so that the reader can paint a picture in their minds.
Lastly, during center time Mrs. Dolgas let each student decorate their notebooks with pictures and color. This helps the students create a bond with their notebook and really take ownership of it. It also helped foster excitement for writers workshop. I am excited to see how Mrs. Dolgas develops her writers workshop program and what the students create!