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Writing Workshops PLUS. Managing the complex demands of teaching writing (and still remembering to have fun) University of Wisconsin Reading Research Symposium June 27, 2009 Dr Kath Glasswell Griffith University drkathg@gmail.com. In “REAL” life people write to DO real things.

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writing workshops plus
Writing Workshops PLUS

Managing the complex demands of teaching writing (and still remembering to have fun)

University of Wisconsin Reading Research Symposium

June 27, 2009

Dr Kath Glasswell

Griffith University


in real life people write to do real things
In “REAL” lifepeople write to DO real things

Writing IS purposeful

Writing is learned and used in meaningful contexts where the goal is to do something OTHER than ‘produce the writing’

People write to:

conduct social and cultural customs “gust a little something”

persuade others to do things “Dear Mum”

manage their work lives “I cant work here”

report information “Kookaburras”

explore and express their own feelings “antiebodys”

writing is both reproduction and invention
Writing is both “reproduction” and “invention”

Children and OTHERSJOINTLY constructdevelopment inwriting(Glasswell, 1999, Glasswell, Parr & McNaughton,2003, McNaughton, 1995).

Joint construction takes place as children:

observeexpert writers at work (and want to become like them)

are engagedin meaningful writing WITH more skilled writers

experimentindependently as writers

Do our classroom programs provide meaningful opportunities for ALL these avenues of learning?

writing is a social enterprise
Writing is a ‘social’ enterprise

Learning to write is not a solitary activity.

“Literacy Floats on a Sea of Talk” (Britton, 1976)

In home and community contexts, talk and collaboration support learner-writers’ efforts.

Research in school and home contexts tells us that literacy learning is enhanced when the activity SURROUNDING it provides motivation, affirmation, purpose and identity (Dyson, 2003; McNaughton, 1995, 2003)

but in school life many times kids just do the writing
BUT in “school” lifemany times kids just “do the writing”

Writing is done to learn the writing

“The big people write, they write the alphabet and stuff we, the little folks got to write” (Dyson, 1982)

The purpose is work

“We’ve got to! [write at school]. You have to do the writing - everybody does- that’s what you do at school”

“You’ve got to learn the writing. You need to do the words right”

She [the teacher] shows us what to do so when we get to high school we’ll know and that” (Glasswell, 1999)

Writing is used to assess you

“Well, so the principal can see it and see how you’re doing…And see if your teacher is doing a good job”(Glasswell, 1999)

reflect for a moment
Reflect for a moment
  • What “messages” about writing do we want a writing program to give kids?
writing messages
Writing Messages

Our goals for children’s learning should be reflected in our teaching

These goals impact

the ways we organize for writing

the tasks we undertake

our instructional emphases

the ways we use our language to support learning

the assessment tools and procedures we use to understand where writers are at

All these carry powerful messages about what it’s all about(and sometimes the messages are mixed)

today 3 studies a few stories and some recommendations

Today: 3 studies, a few stories and some recommendations

The Patterning

of Difference

(1999, 2001)


Assessment tools for

teaching and learning

(2003, 2007)

Writing Workshop PLUS:

Learning to tell stories

in 4th grade

bilingual classrooms

in Chicago



Let’s take a road-trip

The genesis of a Writing Workshop PLUS

study 1 the patterning of difference

Study 1: The Patterning of Difference

Teachers and children co-constructing development in writing

Kath Glasswell

the study
The Study
  • 9 diverse Auckland Classrooms
  • 9 “exemplary” teachers
    • 3(Y1) + 3(Y5) + 3(Y8)
  • 54 young writers 27 (9 each grade level) “good” (high progress) 27 (9 each grade level) “poor” (struggling)
  • 4-6 weeks in each classroom observing, interviewing, collecting samples of work
9 new zealand classrooms writing workshop model four core activities
9 New Zealand ClassroomsWriting Workshop ModelFour core activities


Independent writing



working through the process
Working through the process


  • Any of a number of prewriting activities designed to generate, select and organize content


  • The act of getting it all down on paper


  • Examining substantive content and making changes based on judgments of effectiveness


  • Tidying- up surface features


  • Getting it ‘out there’
processes practices and problems
Processes, Practices and Problems
  • If it’s Monday, we must be planning…
  • What’s all this ME stuff? (What about writing across the curriculum?)
  • We KNOW that process writing approaches are not meeting the needs of all our students.
  • We need to engage learners AND TEACH
  • Raising student writing achievement requires a teachers knowing WHAT to teach, WHEN to teach it and HOW to make it transferable
  • Range of formats from text deconstruction to interactive writing and mentor texts
  • Usually WHOLE CLASS activity on the mat or at the projector
  • Increase in the use of textual models from Y1-Y8 (What if you can’t read them?)
  • Y1 kids more likely to be writing WITH the teacher (What if you are not yet confident and competent?)
  • Teachers reported that they used modeling for a range of purposes
    • To show a writer at work
    • To set expectations for kids
    • To promote enjoyment
    • To model writing in a range of forms and purposes

They reported that they focused on

    • conventions
    • genre
    • spelling

Implicit and explicit teaching in writing was occurring simultaneously

While teachers went through the process, they infrequently talked through STRATEGY and how to solve writing problems

Planning (Forming intentions):

Who am I writing this for? Why am I writing this?

What do I want to say? What’s the best way to do this job?

How shall I organize this ?


What should go in here? How do I write that?


Will this do the job? Have I produced what I intended?


Does this look right? Does it show I know what I’m doing?

Do I need to check anything?


What should this look like? Do I need visuals?

  • If some goals for modeling are realized through engagement or are “revealed” in context (Cazden, 1993) rather than the focus of explicit instruction then some kids may simply miss the point if they tune in and out of the activity.
  • They may take away different “messages”
    • Miss J, Fiona and Struan
independent writing
Independent Writing
  • “Seat work”
  • Generally after a modeling session or mini-lesson kids worked independently and individually on their own texts
  • Expected to select own topics and generate content, draft and develop the text for later sharing.
  • Independent writing provided opportunities for kids to get experience and hone their skills
  • But…
    • Struggling writers were often not engaged in writing at all, but were wanderers, talkers, dreamers, copiers
    • Teachers sometimes intervened to support, but comments were more focused on the problem-behaviour than on problem-solving the blockage
  • Teachers across all grade levels reported similar foci for conferences
  • Wide range of topics discussed
    • Audience awareness
    • Genre
    • Content/Ideas
    • Text/paragraph structure
    • sentences
    • Conventions

Conferences were of 2 types “roving” (informal and impromptu) and more structured (formal)

Differences from Y1-Y8 in who requested conferences

Y1 teacher controlled

Y8 student controlled (reflects a view of writer autonomy)

looking closely at 108 conferences a discourse analysis framework
Looking closely at 108 conferences: a discourse analysis framework

Deep features


Surface features

Student initiation

Teacher control


conferencing four ways to work against yourself
Conferencing: Four Ways to work against yourself

Way 1: Confuse Quantity with Quality

  • Total time vs. Actual time was not significantly different (but the “same” does not really mean equal in this case)

Way 2: Let Yourself Be Interrupted (More Often and for Longer) while You Work

  • Interruptions to struggling writers conferences were more frequent and more disruptive than those in good writers conferences.
  • Y1 struggling writers interrupted twice as often as good writers Y8 struggling writers 6x more likely to be interrupted than good writer classmates
  • Interruptions to struggling writers’ conferences were longer (Y1 3x longer)
conferencing four ways to work against yourself26
Conferencing: Four Ways to work against yourself

Way 3: Place Your Major Instructional Emphasis Consistently on Low Levels of Text

  • Teachers discussed surface features of text (sentences, words and conventions) with struggling writers, while with good writers they discussed ideas and higher order concerns

Way 4: Promote Their Dependence on You by Taking Responsibility for Their Actions

  • Teacher student discourse in writing conferences demonstrated more teacher control (telling and directing) than it did in good writers conferences where students were supported to independence
sharing and airing writing
Sharing and Airing Writing
  • Again teachers hold multiple and simultaneous goals for this activity
    • Validates and celebrates writers’ efforts
    • Creates a community of writers
    • Provides feedback for future use
    • Sets expectations for performance
  • Range of formats
    • Immediate and interpersonal response more common in early grades
    • More peer response in early grades
    • Written product focused in later grades.
    • More teacher-led response in later grades
identities ownership engagement

Identities, Ownership, Engagement

If your achievement profile is systematically “patterned”, what consequences are there for your identity as a writer?

teachers perceptions of good and struggling writers
Struggling Writers

(*often about what they lacked rather than their competencies)

writing “lacks a certain something” (Y8)

“No ideas” (Y8)

“Vocabulary is poor” (Y5)

“Doesn’t try” (Y5)

“He’s hard work” (Y5)

“No flair” (Y8)

Good Writers

(*personal strengths)

“Takes risks” (Y1)

“Willing to have a go” (Y1)

“Imaginative” (Y5)

“Uses resources well” (Y8)

Good vocabulary (Y5)

Teachers’ perceptions of good and struggling writers
teachers expectations for writers
Teachers’ expectations for WRITERS

Y1 teachers: All agree that it is possible that struggling writers will develop into good writers

Y5 teachers: Possible: It could happen, but it’s unlikely

Y8 teachers: 2/3 “Not now”. “It’s too late”

Teachers demonstrated less faith in the possibilities for learning as kids progress through the school.

writers identities were being developed in quite different ways
Struggling Writers

Daniel (Y1)

Pssstt - That’s not REAL writing

Sean- (Y1) already accomplished at avoidance tactics

William (Y5) erases his slimy night text after several days of work and starts the next piece of “work” over the top of it.

Kylie (Y8) “I’m not good at this- I never get the spelling right”

At Y8 Sarah no longer cares about spelling- “she [her teacher] will fix it up for me”

Good Writers

Alison (Y1) “You can tell people what you did at the weekend and that”

Danielle (Y5) is writing a book in her own time

At Y8 Colin conferences himself in the teacher’s presence and assigns his own (realistic) grade!

Writers’ identities were being developed in quite different ways
so what
So what?
  • I believe that different achievement profiles and identities of young writers are UNINTENTIONALLY yet systematically patterned via their experiences within and across MULTIPLE sites in classroom writing programs.
  • I believe that these are co-constructed in that patterns of engagement for teachers and kids both reflect and construct experiences.
  • I believe that we need to disrupt this pattern by providing support to teachers in curriculum, assessment and pedagogy.
  • How do you do that? One example: Project AsTTle
study 2 project asttle

Study 2:Project asTTle

Assessment Tools for Teaching and Learning

National testing “in teachers’ hands”

Thanks to Prof John Hattie and the asTTle team

designing assessment tools to scaffold teacher development
Designing Assessment Tools to Scaffold Teacher Development
  • Presenting detailed information about student achievement
  • Challenging beliefs about the impact of teaching on learning
  • Providing new knowledge to feed into understandings of the task and how it is best learned and taught
  • Providing access to new professional discourses
  • Facilitating self improvement and change within school communities and the system
contexts and constraints
Contexts and Constraints
  • Formal assessment of writing
  • Accountability
  • A search for ‘testing’ that teachers control
  • Project asTTle
    • assessment tools for teaching and learning
    • dual purpose: diagnostic and comparative
    • the power of feedback
    • teacher controlled testing (CDRom)
    • one of a number of sources
contexts and constraints37
Contexts and Constraints
  • ECNZ curriculum (writing)
    • “Broad” curriculum statements
    • Process oriented approach
    • A need for systematic assessment
  • New Zealand strengths
    • Meaningful literacy contexts
    • Learner-centered ideologies (some issues with practices!)
  • Learning we need from others
    • How to DIFFERENTIATE instruction in meaningful and POWERFUL ways (that impact student achievement)
    • Well-articulated understanding of genres, texts and grammars
    • Detailed criterion referenced writing assessment
teacher learning from the development and marking phases
Teacher Learning From the Development and Marking Phases
  • Two development phases
    • teachers involved in development, give input into criteria & scoring
    • training, scoring (reliability), feedback for developers
  • Teachers reflect on using the assessment tools
  • Marking centre exercise
asttle writing rubrics design
asTTle Writing Rubrics Design

(mapping children’s development in writing according to ECNZ achievement outcomesat Levels 2 – 4)

  • criterion referenced(major focus for teacher development)
    • provide a detailed profile of a child’s performance for each function and make explicit links between what is known and what needs to be taught
  • context
    • simulated audiences and purposes
    • knowledge and skill viewed within specific communicative tasks realised through writing
the framework for all
The ‘Framework’ for All

Rhetorical concerns:

the writer and the context

Text: content and structure





Conventions:sentences and words




teachers learning about writing and their practice
Teachers Learning About Writing and Their Practice
  • Self-report data: teachers’ learning about writing & teaching writing from:
    • Teachers involved in asTTle rubric development phases (21 teachers) via questionnaire
  • Interview data: practice
    • Interviews with 7 teachers in 2 schools involved in asTTle
themes in teacher reports
Themes in Teacher Reports

“I think it was difficult before to know what writers could do. Like we said, ‘that’s a report’ and it had no levels of development in it- now we can say that is a level two report writer and we can see what they know and what we need to teach to move them on.”

appreciating the range of functions of writing
Appreciating the Range of Functions of Writing

“…we were reminded when we were marking with this that yes, actually-we haven’t really taught this. And if we’ve taught it, we haven’t taught it well. Because it is …you sort of don’t know a lot about… or you tell yourself you don’t know a lot about the genre so we tend to go constantly with narrative or report writing and you think you’re doing report writing well- But when we did the marking we started thinking ‘Oh no– perhaps not!”

understanding how texts work
Understanding ‘How Texts Work’
  • All teachers made note of the fact that they had deepened their understandings about the ‘dimensions of texts’, which contribute to the way in which texts work to achieve their particular purposes.

e.g. “different sorts of texts have different structures”

e.g. “not just adjectives” but looking at how they work”

e.g. “…we need to think about linguistic and structural features of the texts when we are teaching them”

understanding about development in writing
Understanding About Development in Writing
  • “Now I have an answer to what x year olds should be able to do.”
  • “I never really knew what to look for in writing or what was what in the curriculum levels.”
  • “It made me see the big picture of how kids in New Zealand are writing at different levels.”
understanding the development of a meta language for talking about writing and texts
Understandingthe development of a meta language for talking about writing and texts
  • “asTTle has given me a language to use. Before I would talk very generally about ‘organising’ writing”
two consequences of teacher learning
Two Consequences of Teacher Learning
  • Changes to individual’s practices
  • Focused team discussions
consequences changes to practices
Consequences: Changes to Practices

What have you changed?

  • More explicit teaching.

–modeling what I am looking for.

-being more explicit about grammar within context.

-teaching of the language resources associated with the function.

“It reminded me again of things like…you have to talk to children about the language that they use… cos there was all that talk about compound and simple sentences and noun-stacking and adjectives and verbs that were used and it reminded me again of how important it is and that you cannot actually separate out aspects of grammar.”

consequences focused team discussions
Consequences: Focused Team Discussions
  • “I found I was able to lead discussions about specific aspects of writing e.g. I was able to talk with the beginning teacher about what dimensions to look for when assessing writing.”
  • “We had more specific discussions about language resources like how you might use action verbs and make choices that are appropriate to the writing.”
all of us writers telling stories
All of us writers:Telling Stories
  • A 4 week critical literacy unit to explore point of view in narrative (it took 6 weeks!)
  • Workshop model (PLUS)
  • Genre focused: Making explicit the reading-writing connections by reading and analyzing familiar and unfamiliar narratives as readers.
  • A focus on writers’ craft and how texts work to achieve their purposes.
  • “Pulling them into” writing
  • An oral language “wrap around” to build ways with words as well as ways with TEXTS
  • Assessment FOR learning.
  • Flexible groupings and differentiated instruction to meet learners’ needs.
essential question
Essential question

A critical take on “spin”

“In what ways do writers shape readers’ understandings of their texts?”

“How’s it getting at ya?”

investigations with texts
Investigations with texts
  • Pre test (narrative)
  • Text pairings that explore point of view
    • Explore pov through Alexander and innovate on the text
      • Draw on OWN experiences to write a new version to read to kindergartners
    • Explore pov implications for character: Red Riding Hood and Rotten Red Riding Hood
      • Extended, embedded vocabulary focus using semantic webs to build out from children own language).
      • Writing and “playing” with character descriptions
    • Explore pov implications in representations of events
      • A) 3 Little pigs, True Story of 3 little pigs
      • B) Goldilocks, Dearest Bear family and an unbelievable excuse
    • Reflect on pov in a retelling of your own choice- books for the class library
  • Post test (narrative)
five types of learning in writing
FIVE types of learning in writing

Learning process and strategy

Making informed decisions about writing

Learning about texts

Critical reflections on texts and grammars

Learning to encode meaning in text

Breaking the written codes of the meaning making systems

Learning to talk about texts and processes

A meta-language for talking about writing

Learning to BE a WRITER

Ownership, identity, motivation and engagement

powering up the four core activities
POWERING UP the four core activities


USE strategies, model and EXPLAIN decision-making,

deconstruct texts and language in use

Joint writing for real-life or life like purposes

Small group modeling

Independent writing

Engage and coach throughout the process

Use different grouping strategies

USE writing: reflect, analyze, craft extended pieces


Monitor time and focus

discuss, guide, coach


authentic audiences, focus on helpful feed-forward as well as feedback,

time to shine for ALL



See scoring anchors

See tips on scoring

BENCHMARKS Working on Meeting Exceeding



I can write some parts of a story or tell a brief story. My readers may be left with many questions.

I can tell a story. My story shows that I am thinking about writing for another person. I include information a reader needs.

I can use narrative writing to entertain. I am clearly attempting to be creative and interesting for my readers.




Paragraphs are detailed and well developed. Whole text is effectively managed. Overall natural language flow achieved and enhanced through the use of strong transitions.

I can write about a topic and include a few details. Most of my ideas belong in the story.

Paragraphs are used and mainly include sentences on the same topic. An overall STORY structure is present.

I can keep to my topic, including main ideas and several details to develop my story.

I can write a detailed and focused story. I develop characters, setting and plot.





Paragraphs are self-contained and the organization is managed. Letter flows from beginning to end.


I can write my story using simple words. Little description is present.

I can use some descriptive words and phrases in my writing.

I can choose descriptive words, phrases and use figurative language to create images.






I can order some parts of my story. Other parts may jump around and confuse readers.

I can manage my story from beginning to end. My story has a clear structure



I can write a story with a beginning, middle and end.

I can use simple paragraphs. I may just use one paragraph for my story. Some sentences may be out of place.

I can use elaborated and focused paragraphs with transitions to help my story flow.

I use simple paragraphs . Some paragraphs have detail. Most sentences belong together.





I can use simple and compound sentences correctly most of the time.

I can use simple, compound correctly and some complex sentences.

I can use a variety of sentences correctly. I vary them to enhance the language flow.



I can apply simple rules correctly most of the

time. I may be trying to use more complex spelling & punctuation.

I can use simple spelling, simple punctuation, and grammar correctly some of the time.

  • I can write with few errors. Grammar, more complex spelling patterns and complex punctuation are mostly correct.