Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Writers in Writing Groups

Sixth grade writing groups are here. We have been writing since the first day of school. Sharing our writing too. And now, we have formed writing groups to become better writers. I remember my first writing group.

I became part of a writing group ten years ago as part of a graduate class from the Northern Virginia Writing Project. My instructor was reviewing the format of the class and when I heard writing group, my first instinct was to drop the class. I panicked! The idea of sharing my writing with other people terrified me. I didn't run. I stayed and shared. It changed me. My writing group was composed of high school teachers (at the time I taught elementary). Thinking they knew more than I did, I worried they would think I was not a good writer. Boy was I wrong! They were kind and supportive. Their feedback encouraged me and I slowly took more and more risk with my writing.

Since that group, I've been part of many writing groups over the years and each one has made me a better writer. I shared that with my sixth grade writers. We talked about the fears of being in a writing group. We rehearsed giving feedback. We talked about being respectful to each other. I felt the tension ease slightly as they changed seats to sit with their new group.

They sat with their new groups, introduced themselves, and shook hands. We took time to talk to each other and get to know each other. I've added this part and stressed it because the relationships in writing groups are vital to effective feedback.

"What do you do when someone suggests something and you don't like it?" Isn't that a great question? Many sixth graders struggle with being confident to say no to a suggestion. We talk about how to say no thank you and how to listen without defending the writing. My favorite response to that is this, "Thank you for your suggestion. I will consider it, but I am the boss of my own writing."

That gives my sixth grade writers ownership and permission to say no. It sounds funny too, so it diffuses any tense moments. Listening to the writers meet and begin revising their leads made me grateful to be surrounded with these brave and creative writers!


Thank you to the Two Writing Teachers for this amazing platform to write and share writing! What a wonderful community you've created! I'm honored to be part of it. Join us at Two Writing Teachers.

11 comments:

  1. Love that you are having writing groups, Michelle, and also that you are teaching them explicit ways to be the bosses of their own writing. I'm sure it took many of us years to gain confidence in our own writing. Your students are lucky!

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  2. Thanks for sharing your writing journey, and your students' journey, here. It seems like you set the stage for some rich sharing and discussions.
    Kevin

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  3. I still struggle with saying "no" to a suggestion and I'm waaayyyy past 6th grade! Good for you for leading your students towards living a writer's life! Your enthusiasm inspires me, friend!

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  4. Kuddos to you for starting writing groups with your students! I am always impressed with how well our students participate when we model and set clear expectations. I completely understand how overwhelming it can be.

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  5. I love writing groups! They have helped me grow so much as a writer and my writing has improved so much because of them. :) I've also made some pretty awesome friends!

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  6. Michelle, my new presentation on digital writing will have teachers forming writing groups to positively critique others' work. I like the idea of supporting your students as owners of their learning and having the ability to say no. I think I will share your experience with my group. What a timely piece of evidence you added to my thought process.

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  7. Because you can talk from your own experiences, it must give the students courage to begin, Michelle. I love that you've started the introductions and the shaking hands. How wonderful that beginning is!

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  8. Your positive experience allows you to make the writing groups effective. I am happy for you and your students.

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  9. Writing groups sound like a huge undertaking, but I'm loving the conversations that you're trying to have with your students. This year, I've started allowing students to share their writing with us as a whole group. We put it up on the document camera and discuss. The other students take turns reading and offering suggestions. At first it was hard, and now they're begging for their story to get picked. Little do they know they're really learning to be better writers. I'm hoping that means when they get to be in 6th grade and have a teacher like you, they will embrace a writing group and be so excited about the possibilities it gives!!!! :) Keep it up!
    ~Ana

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  10. You are outstanding, and thoughtful, and your students are so very lucky to have you as their teacher!

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  11. Do these brave and creative writers know how lucky they are to be in Ms. Hasseltine's class? When I read your blog, I wish I could have taught sixth grade in the classroom next to yours. You rock!

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