During this past week, teachers from PreK through Grade Five have been involved in professional development workshops about an instructional practice called Writing Workshop. Internationally known literacy consultant Carrie Ekey (http://www.carrie-ekey.com/) has spent a week on our campus, to explain and demonstrate this instructional practice and guide discussions about it. It has been an exhilarating week for all, with teachers deeply engaged in thinking about the best ways to teach children to become writers. In addition, our Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) sponsored a Parent Education Workshop with Carrie Ekey, to learn about the best ways they can support their child’s writing development. Over 50 parents attended this information-packed workshop with many requests for more.
Writing is one of the most challenging skills to master. Simply having correct spelling, grammar, and punctuation, while important, does not make you a good writer. The best writing engages the reader, brings strong visual images to mind, evokes emotion and connection. Think back to something you read recently that you really caught your attention. Often, after reading a particularly good work of fiction or a well-written news article, we are left with a feeling of satisfaction, a curiosity to learn more, a sense of improved insight. Award-winning authors have developed their own personal style and voice, as well as a following, people who appreciate and enjoy reading their perspective. Writing is powerful! A beautifully written piece is a work of art, to be admired again and again. Strong writing can influence and broaden one’s perspective. Clarity in writing can provide significant information to make life-changing decisions.
So exactly how do children and young adults learn to write? How do they learn to compose their thoughts and ideas into a piece of compelling writing? How do they develop a facility with language and word choice? How do they learn to use conventions of print? And most importantly, how do we teach them to love writing as a beautiful form of self-expression? Sadly, for many children around the world, writing is a drudgery, something that they dislike, to do only when they have to. How many of us as adults would say that we love to write, that we enjoy expressing ourselves in written form? Our goal as educators is to cultivate in our students an affinity for expressing themselves through writing. We want our students, all of them, to be moved by good writing, to be curious about ideas beyond their immediate world, to be inspired to express themselves in abundance.
In a Writing Workshop, the goal is to foster life-long writers, not just writing for school. This approach is based in over 30 years of literacy research about how children best learn, and what strategies are most effective. Students receive whole class mini-lessons in specific areas of writing instruction, followed up by time to write, individual conferences to target areas for improvement, and opportunities to share their writing. This methodology — high-volume writing, protected daily time to write, specific timely feedback, and sharing writing — provides a highly effective framework for young writers to practice the craft of writing and to improve over time. Coupled with this approach to writing instruction is a similar approach to reading instruction, resulting in a balanced approach to literacy development. We have known for years now that a child’s ability to read and write is a significant predictor of future academic success.
Over the next few years, Academia Cotopaxi will be moving steadily towards implementing what we already know are the most effective instructional practices. We will be investing in the best professional development possible for our faculty, and equipping them with the support and resources they need to provide personalized instruction for every student at our school. And, as our teachers grow professionally, we are also committed to working with our parents to help them improve their understanding of current best practice in education and how they can support their children as 21st century learners. It is an exciting time to be at this school, and our future is bright!
Thanks for reading and I invite your comments or questions!
Madeleine Maceda Heide