Workshop Woes

In fourth grade, there was a writing process poster stapled to blue tablecloth-sized paper in the back of my classroom. I remember sitting on the carpet with my classmates as my teacher described each step and kept using the word “workshop”. My nine-year-old brain only correlated “workshops” with Santa’s elves and a place where cabinets and chairs were made. These were not appealing ideas to me. This is the where my negative connotations with “workshop” began.


I don’t think I had ever written more than a paragraph or so. Writing was an advanced thing only grownups did and now there was a complicated process set before me to perform. I wasn’t confident and one of the steps involved my classmates reading what I wrote. This made me even more uncomfortable.

**Fourth grade Mary Anne was quiet and kept to herself. Her shell was a solid wall of books only few passed and other kids just kind of existed. She was a foil of present-day Mary Anne.**


Writing workshops were a constant from this point on. My peer-reviewed papers came back to me with little to no comments and sometimes an added comma where it was definitely not needed. We were never taught to evaluate each other’s ideas, only grammar and conventions, but for a book nerd like me, elementary conventions were a snap. Sometimes we were graded by the number of marks we made on each other’s papers so I knew my classmates were only marking mine for the grade. What I learned from writer’s workshop was I had “good word choice”, excellent punctuation skills and poor spelling (I didn’t really learn this, it was duly noted). In a nutshell, I hated writer’s workshops.


Now in my senior year of college I am still workshopping, but things are different now. Like a lot of things, college changed my perspective on workshops. I liked the way they were done in my creative writing classes and now we are doing them in my special methods class. There are a few different ways to do them I’ve learned, and all of them are far more beneficial than the method I was trained to use in school. I still get nervous my paper is going to come back to me with added adjectives and no useful ideas but that has yet to happen.


As a teacher, I need to conduct writer’s workshop in an encouraging, constructive way. I understand some students will always be scared to let others read their thoughts and I will be sensitive to this situation. I will also encourage them to be honest and help each other. My students will work to give positive, useful feedback – no simple underlining Miss Johnson’s class!


This is another way I will take my learning experiences and implement them in my classroom to benefit my students.


Images courtesy of Creative Commons


2 thoughts on “Workshop Woes

  1. Ali Meyer says:

    I totally agree! One of my biggest fears is student’s providing negative/unneeded feedback on other student’s work. But I really love your idea of having a positive environment. I think that’s truly where all of your other ideas stem from. If your classroom is that “safe haven” for your students, then there should be no fear or anxiety of being ridiculed or torn down by others. I think it’s also important to teach your students how to give feedback. I think we can all agree that none of us really knew how to give positive and constructive feedback until our Creative Writing classes. It takes time and practice, but also guidance and encouragement. It’s all about having that solid environment where students feel safe to share their pieces with others. But it’s also a place where the readers give back constructive feedback that will help them continue writing their piece.


  2. rmaydowling says:

    I can remember a kid in seventh grade saying he hated grading my papers because there was nothing wrong with them. That was my workshop experience. I learned that i could write well, and the teachers and students hardly ever helped me to be better. I love that you want your classroom to be a safe place for students, and yes its going to be a challenge to change their mentality about writing workshop, but I believe you can do it.


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