Something Worth Sharing About Writing

It goes by several names. That brief few minutes at the end of the writing workshop. Sometimes it’s called ‘share time’. Some people refer to it as ‘share out’ or simply “share.” It’s that time at the conclusion of a lesson that all too often gets squeezed out, which is a tragedy because it represents a critical stage in the lesson, -It’s the finale that’s provides closure to an effective lesson. It’s when the fat lady of writing sings. And the aria is in praise of the writing that has just taken place! Deny her and you are diminishing the integrity of your writing program.

We should never underestimate the intrinsic value of ‘sharing’ writing. It remains an incredibly valuable teaching and learning opportunity. It should be protected within the workshop structure as one would protect anything of value. For the teacher it provides an invaluable opportunity to provide feedback on elements of the lesson just concluded.
Sometimes it’s a chance to celebrate a discovery, a breakthrough, a special moment where the developing writer has created a magical concoction of words and ideas that beg to be shared.
The teacher also has the opportunity to receive valuable feedback on students’ perceptions and understanding regarding the writing that is taking place within that particular group of writers. The reflective teacher senses messages relating to the effectiveness of their teaching. Their future instruction is thus informed. The moment is valued. This time provides an opportunity to share new knowledge across the group. The reflective teacher knows full well that there is more than one teacher of writing in every classroom. All contributions are therefore invited. Everyone listens actively.

This is a time for the teacher to act strategically. Students invited to share with the class are those students noted during the conferencing phase who can productively contribute to the collective understanding of the group. If, in the course of conducting a writing conference the teacher notices that young Kelsey has used action verbs effectively in her writing then it might be prudent to ask Kelsey to share her writing at the end of the lesson. If Jason, successfully transforms a piece of writing from a ho hum description into a piece of writing rich in voice, it would make sense to ask him to share with the class, how he went about this important transformation. The data a teacher collects from these roving conferences should contribute to the sharing forum. The students selected to share contribute to the attainment of the lesson’s objective – i.e. to further develop the quality of student writing.

Teachers sometimes structure share time as an opportunity to let students read their writing aloud to the class. This is often managed according to a list, or by randomly choosing volunteers. To achieve its potential, sharing needs to be more considered than mere random selection of students on any particular day. To share at the whole class level students need to be identified on the basis that they are making a tangible contribution, or have achieved a breakthrough in their writing that is worthy of recognition. It is critical to acknowledge effort and persistence.

It is possible to give every student an opportunity to share their writing at some point. This can be achieved through such structures as writing partners, author’s circles, or peer conferences. No student voice is denied under such structures. It doesn’t take students long to realize that if they want to make a contribution at the conclusion of the lesson, then they need to come up with something that is worth some air time.

Share time provides a sense of closure to the lesson. The teacher and students tie the learning threads together and then consider what comes next.

Asking questions such as:
“What did you learn about writing today?”
“What did you learn about yourself as a writer today?”

-encourages students to be reflective learners. Share time is an essentiaL part of the architecture of the writing workshop – and that’s a piece of information I’m more than happy to share.

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