Margin Notes

Welcome to Writing Workshop #CyberPD


This is my final installment in this series of #CyberPD reflections on Welcome to Writing Workshop by Stacey Shubitz and Lynne R. Dorfman. I’ve enjoyed exploring this resource Welcome to Writing Workshopand would recommend it to teachers at any grade level who are interested in launching writing workshop or who are looking for ways to enhance an already established workshop practice. The final three chapters focus on small group instruction, share sessions, and strategic grammar, conventions, and spelling instruction. Again, the focus is on using the components of writing workshop to create a community of writers within the classroom, foster strong independent writing identities, and offer differentiated and responsive support to student writers.

Here are some of the ideas I captured in my notebook while reading:

  • “Small, flexible groups help teachers differentiate instruction. When teachers examine their conference notes, their anecdotal observations of daily progress, and information students provide for anchor charts during instruction or after whole-group discussions, they can decide which students might benefit from a small-group gathering.”
  • “There are myriad reasons to form small groups based on interest. Often these interest groups are started, organized, and run by the students without much help from the teacher. Sometimes the teacher gathers information in conferences that lead to the formation of small groups of specific students to study a craft move, an author, a sentence pattern or sentence patterns, or a part of speech.”
  • “Small groups are an excellent place to deliver highly individualized instructions while maximizing your instructional time. Although you’ll probably find yourself using small-group time to reteach minilessons, you will increase the effectiveness of your small-group instruction if you plan courses of study for your students to help them grow in specific writing skills. Remember to provide students with time for independent practice between course-of-study meetings so they will have ample time to try out the things you are teaching.”
  • “Our goal is to build and maintain a community of writers. Providing the time for students to reflect and to share writing pieces with classmates will help them build trust and respect. When students share their writing and thinking about their writing, they are sharing ideas that may move other writers in the community forward. In this safe community, students feel safe to try out new strategies, forms, and genres, as well as share their personal insights.”
  • “Clearly communicating the intended message is the goal of every writer. We must guide students to understand how our language works. Instead of making grammar and mechanics a chore, we must engage them in learning about grammar and conventions by teaching them how to love words.”
  • “When we grew up, we were taught to edit once we finished a piece of writing. As we’ve grown as teachers and writers, we’ve learned that isn’t what real writers do. Rather, ‘[E]diting shouldn’t be something editors save for the day before publication. Remind your students that writers are constantly editing. Yes, they’re polishing their writing by proofreading it before taking it to publication, but editing is a daily task’ (Shubitz 2017).”

As #CyberPD comes to a close for another year, I’m looking forward to joining the Twitter chat on July 23 at 8:30 EST/ 9:30 AST to connect with other educators about Welcome to Writing Workshop.

Welcome to Writing Workshop #CyberPD


As I continued reading Welcome to Writing Workshop for #CyberPD Week 2, I celebrated how the authors, Stacey Shubitz and Lynne Dorfman, make it explicit that the focus of establishing writing workshop is in the service of responsiveness to each student’s needsWelcome to Writing Workshop in order to foster independence. Although writing workshop provides a structure or framework for writing instruction, it is far from limiting or confining. Writing workshop, at the core, is designed to put student writers at the center, encouraging them to and providing the support they require to make their own decisions as writers. The ultimate goal is to create a space for students to live a writerly life.

Here are some of my favorite lines that I captured in my notebook while I read:

  • “The whole group setting is where teachers can set a positive tone by gathering the writing community for instruction. Here, we move students to independence by offering instruction through demonstration and guided practice. We share a mentor text, we present a piece of high-quality literature as an exemplar, and we model with our own writing. Our goal is to move students to independent practice as soon as possible so that the students are in charge, making decisions and self-regulating most of their work in writing workshop.”
  • “…in other words, being a responsive teacher is a great way to find things to teach during the whole class instructional time.”
  • “Dorfman and Capelli (2017) say that mentor texts help students move beyond their comfort zones—to take risks and stretch outside their ‘writing box’—and inspire student writers to reinvent themselves as writers, growing and changing in skill set, sophistication, and, we would add, in imagination.”
  • “If we want our writers to be successful, we need to give them the time to practice by actually writing. A regularly scheduled writing workshop—with time for sustained writing—gives students a chance to build their writing muscles. They can start to think about what they would like to write that day. They can talk about it with others before they write. They can plan “next steps” in their head. We cannot skimp on independent time because kids need uninterrupted periods of time to hone their writing craft to develop the stamina and endurance they need to be strong writers.”
  • “Independent writing time is a time when you want your students to live a writerly life. This time might help them envision other projects they might want to work on. Real-life writers are always engaged in multiple projects. Therefore, we think it’s important to provide your students with opportunities to have an ongoing project as their backup work. For some kids, it’s using their writer’s notebook as a playground. For other kids, it’s working in another genre.”
  • “…the one-on-one conference you hold with your students is time well-spent. Not only will you get to know your students better as writers, (and as people, too), but they will get to know you as a writer. Conferences are a way to build student confidence and resolve some anxieties. Writing is hard work, and some students will need a conference to cheer them on to do the necessary work to grow as a writer.”
  • “The true purpose of any conference is to move the writer, not the piece of writing, forward. It is here we can help every student find his writing identity so he believes he can write. We provide support and offer specific feedback. The relationships you forge during one-on-one conference time will help you find pathways to student learning and growth for every student in your classroom.”

Welcome to Writing Workshop #CyberPD


I am a week behind with my first #CyberPD post, so here I am reflecting on Week 1 in Welcome to Writing WorkshopWeek 2…

In the first 3 chapters of Welcome to Writing Workshop, Stacey Shubitz and Lynne Dorfman introduce readers to the structure of writing workshop and the conditions that make it successful for all writers, including the teacher. These chapters focused on the community- and identity-building aspects of writing workshop. Here are some of the quotes I captured in my notebook while I was reading:

  • “It’s our belief that every student can write—even the ones who have stopped believing in themselves as writers. All students have stories to tell. All students have opinions. We take what children come to us with and help them shape what’s inside of them into writing on the page.”
  • The structure for writing workshop is simple: it is student-centered and based on the belief that students become successful writers when they write frequently for extended periods of time, and on topics of their choice.”
  • “The focus in writing workshop is entirely on the writer. We help writers develop the skills, strategies, and craft that will sustain them across multiple pieces of writing in various genres.”
  • “Establishing a writing workshop begins with the work we do to help our students feel safe and secure. We create a social environment where students can share their struggles with others and benefit from listening in to acquire the problem-solving methods of their peers.”
  • “Building a writing community starts in September, but sustaining a writing community is a year-long effort. It starts with the teacher and important, achievable goals: to build and sustain a classroom writing community that fosters trust among students and to clearly establish shared values about good writing, the work that writers do, and respect for others’ work.”
  • “A teacher participates as a member of the writing community by writing, often modeling during minilessons, writing in her writer’s notebook and referring to it often, and sharing examples of the kinds of writing she does outside the classroom. When you share parts of a letter you are going to send a friend, a card you created for a birthday, or a post on your blog, you are lifting the level of writing workshop by becoming another writer within the community.”




poet xTrust me – The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo needs to be on your reading list. It needs to be on your bookshelves. It needs to be in the hands of young people.

This novel is the story of Xiomara – a tenth grade student who finds herself questioning her budding sexuality, her moral obligations, and her upbringing. Xio is looking for a passion to call her own, and as a first generation Dominican-American, Xio is continually seen by the colour of her skin and the way her body looks. Maturing faster than the other girls, Xio has been the victim of cat-calling and sexist comments since elementary school.

Unable to cope with the frustration that builds up, Xio feels that fist-fighting and anger are her only means of communication. This is, of course, until she finds a writing mentor and a group of peers that notice her drive and passion for slam poetry. Xio is able to realize that she’s not someone to be simply looked at – she’s someone whose voice is meant to be heard.

Realistic and imperfect characters round out the novel. Xio’s twin brother is a genius with a secret. Her father has a tainted past. Her mother is a religious devotee unwilling to budge from her beliefs and believes Xio is destined to be an unwed mother who will ruin their family’s lives.

With the exception of a few pages, the entire novel is written in verse through Xio’s poetry. Acevedo writes Xio’s story in a complex manner that begs to be read again and again. The Poet X is heartbreaking but brilliant, raw but elegant, harsh yet hopeful. I would encourage any high school student to pick up this book. Its timely narrative is a catalyst for other young women to understand the importance of self-expression and self-care.

Laura Noble is a high school English teacher at Leo Hayes High in Fredericton, New Brunswick. Laura is currently completing her Master’s in Education and is an avid reader of young adult fiction, true-crime, and feminist literature.