Writing Workshop: The Highlight of My Month

When I was working full time for Edmentum, I was required to complete VTO hours. Immediately I thought about reaching out to my local library to see what I could do with teens. I was immediately offered an opportunity to run a new teen writing group.

What started out as volunteer time for my company, turned into my favorite night of the month. We have been running the workshop for a year now and it’s been amazing to see these writers grow!

Each meeting starts with the writers sharing their “homework” from last month (a response to a writing prompt). We all provide feedback and ask questions for each writer. Then I introduce the new writing prompts of the week, and after some chatting, we have some writing time. At the end of each meeting I have the writers share either a sentence or summarize what they got accomplished during the writing time. Sometimes the writers don’t have much because they were too busy chatting, or the creative juices weren’t flowing, and that’s totally okay.

As a teacher, I love being able to connect with kids on a personal level outside the classroom. We have created a safe place for middle/high school students to be themselves and share their writing. During our last meeting, I told the writers I was going to do a blog post on writing workshop, and they were gracious enough to provide me with their thoughts. (I typed their responses as they wrote them. Please keep in mind these are all middle school student responses).

“I love writing club because it’s a place where I feel welcome and unjudged. I love getting tips from other writers and making new friends that have similar interests. The prompts help me with my creativity and help me improve. I look forward to it every month!”

“Writing workshop is a great place to connect, write, and socialize.”

“It’s inspiring. Get to be helped out with your writing. Everyone’s nice.”

“Writing club is a great way to meet other kids with your interests.”

“How it gives teen writer the chance to share their work.”

“Writing work shop- I like that they let you speak your mined and that we can be creative and I have fun being around people. Every this is very organized. ”

I love that I get to spend time in my community by helping young writers. It’s the highlight of my month :).

Tips for Helping Students Stay on Task in ESY

This summer I spent the month of July working with high school students in an extended school year program at a private out of district placement school. Working with 25 teenagers, in the summer, every day, can be challenging to say the least. I co-teach a class of sophomores, and teach a class of juniors and seniors.

We’re currently on day 16 of 20 in ESY, and I would love to share some ideas on how to keep students motivated.

Allow them to listen to music. This is by far the best thing to keep kids calm and somewhat on task. Students in my program are allowed to use Chromebooks to listen to music on Youtube while they work. As long as they are not singing, dancing, rapping, or blasting their music, I’m quite happy with this arrangement.

Allow them to help choose materials. My program requires students to write a book report during summer school. Since we only have 20 days, we’ve been using short stories instead of teaching a novel. This has been super helpful because of vacations, field trips, etc. The first day I told my students the plan and asked for their input. One of the kids actually requested “Lamb to the Slaughter”, so we incorporated that into the curriculum. Students were definitely more engaged with reading and discussing this text.

Utilize film versions of texts. I have always been a huge fan of showing movies or TV shows then teaching, so I continued this in my ESY classes. In the three classes, we read “All Summer in a Day”, “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”, and “Lamb to the Slaughter”, which all have a movie/short film.

Personally, I think the film versions for “All Summer in a Day” and “Lamb to the Slaughter” are great adaptations that help students with reading comprehension. “All Summer” is super heavy on figurative language, so it was a little overwhelming for some of students. The film version really clarified the setting for them.

Walter Mitty is a full length movie that is very slightly similar to the short story. Walter does have daydreams quite frequently, but that’s the only similarity.

Be flexible. We have about a field trip a day, so I’m constantly losing kids to trips. Some students don’t want to participate with the field trips, so they see me every day. In these cases I work with kids individually to assign them work. For instance, my one student finished the book report, so she brings in a book from home to read. She sits in class every day, reads, listens to music and tells me about something that happened in her reading.

Since I know kids love to use the Chromebooks, I always make sure to have some vocabulary words ready to go for them to define. It’s super easy for them and they can listen to music while staying on task. I also make sure to have a couple of back up reading passages with questions for students to work on as well.

 

However, even with all of these tips, my classes are far from perfect. I still have students show up late, ask for food, walk out of class, and refuse to do their required book report. However, I’ve learned that incorporating these tips can help these situations and help keep my students calm.