An effective approach taken by many teachers in teaching the complex skills of writing is that of the Writer’s Workshop. This approach can take many forms, as each teacher will adapt the Writer’s Workshop to the particular needs of their students and their own teaching style. Generally speaking, the Writer’s Workshop includes some or all of the following elements:
During writer’s workshop time, students work independently on their own writing projects. The organization of the class is generally flexible, with students working on various stages of the writing process. A student’s writing project generally carries over from one writing period to the next.
Teachers will give students short lessons which focus upon one particular writing skill. The skills taught in such lessons may be a response by the teacher to a perceived need in the class.
Students are presented with texts which model the types of writing they are undertaking themselves.
Students have the ability to choose the genres or topics they write about.
Students will share their writing and confer with a wide variety of readers, including other students, their teacher, or guest editors.
Whole Group Sharing
Students share their writing with the entire class. In this way, they are writing for an authentic audience of peers.
How COW Supports the Writer’s Workshop
COW has been designed to be a flexible, adaptable, relevant tool for classes engaged in learning the complexities of writing.
Students can access COW at any time and from any location. Their writing does not need to be limited to the classroom during Writer’s Workshop time, but can continue at home or at other times during the school day. Keep in mind that each session of writing in COW has a minimum word goal (the default set at 100 words). Be sure to allow enough writing time for students to achieve this minimum word goal. COW allows students to return to their writing later to add chapters or to edit.
Teachers can use the text analysis statistics generated for each piece of writing in COW to focus the students’ attention on particular aspects of writing. (For example, variety of sentence length, use of adjectives and adverbs, or consistency of tense.)
Teachers can create their own models of exemplary writing using COW, themselves. A live writing demonstration on a SMART board or projector is a very effective means of modelling how a writer thinks as they write.
Teachers can create a variety of writing challenges, giving students choices. In addition, COW has a weekly writing challenge, as well as offering a free write option with a huge bank of prompts and thousands of bonus words.
Using COW’s edit mode, students can pair up for peer-to-peer editing. Also, teachers can leave comments on each piece of writing, guiding students as they launch into editing their writing.
By sharing their writing to the class bookshelf, an entire class can read an individual student’s work, thus providing an on-going forum for whole group sharing with an authentic audience.
COW provides teachers with the flexibility they need to facilitate the Writer’s Workshop, and provide their students with an engaging platform for writing and sharing.