Building Community in the Writing Workshop

I have recently been working in a Grade 4 classroom at Heany Park Primary School in Melbourne's eastern region. The focus of the writing has been developing memoir pieces. The teacher, Prue Nimmo has provided her students with a high level of support by immersing them in the genre. She has read memoir pieces to her students. She has written several memoir pieces of her own and shared the development of her writing pieces with her students across several lessons. Prue has worked tirelessly to ensure her young writers take the learning journey along side her. Telling her personal stories, Prue has signalled to her students that their personal stories are valuable as well. Her teaching has focused on the structure and features of the genre. She has taken time to alert her students to the need to write with the audience in mind, and so her students have worked hard to engage their readers with snappy, attention grabbing leads. Time has been given over to discussion and planning so that the writing produced matches the intention of the pre-writing focus. Conferences have teased out critical considerations for these writers and they have responded with much enthusiasm to accurately and entertainingly tell their slice of life stories.

Prue has alerted them to the need to inject voice into their writing as they are telling a story from their own lives They understand the need to make that story interesting for others to read.

I have been able to support Prue with lessons on writing effective endings, and adding dialogue and details which show the characters in action. The students for their part have worked to polish their writing and have become aware of the real purpose of memoir –to shed light on an event/s considered important in one’s life.

Prue has demonstrated the value of writing for and with students. With her patience and high expectations for herself and her students, this group of writers have developed into a writing community, sharing ideas and striving to improve the writing products they produce. The quality of the writing has been enhanced because the teacher cares enough to ensure that effort, experimentation and risk-taking are undertaken in a climate of trust and support. She clearly understands the need to have these essentials in place if we want to achieve improved learning outcomes in writing.

It is clear the writing has been given time and space to blossom. I enjoy being among this group of writers. There is energy around what is being produced. They approach their daily writing with confidence. One gets a sense of shared pride in writing well for others to read and enjoy.


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