Above and Beyond the Writing Workshop

By Fran McVeigh

Wakelet link for entire chat archive

When the stars are perfectly aligned, nature often has a message for us. Thursday, February 3, 2022, the #G2Great chat was graced with an author who has also been a teacher, principal, superintendent and staff developer. Her books include:  Going PublicLasting ImpressionsLifetime GuaranteesWriting through Childhood, Novel PerspectivesMessages to Ground ZeroLook Who’s Learning to Read, and her most recent Above and Beyond the Writing Workshop which we were discussing. Shelley Harwayne’s depth of knowledge is vast. Her understanding of reading, writing AND students is equally vast.

With so much information in the book, in the chat and in the questions we ask our authors, I have decided to begin with Shelley’s motivations in order to understand the end goal.

What motivated you to write this book? What impact did you hope that it would have in the professional world?

I was concerned that some of the hallmarks of the writing workshop had gotten lost amid overwhelming curriculum mandates. I hoped to remind teachers about the joy of exploring new ideas. I hoped to re-energize the writing workshop for students and teachers alike.

My biggest goal was to inspire teachers to create their own meaningful, joyful, and accessible writing challenges for their students and to do so in the company of their colleagues.

Shelley Harwayne, email, 1/26/2022

Joy.

Joyful.

Exploring.

Create.

These words caused me to reread this response again. So much wisdom and so many hopes and dreams for the writing workshop to achieve! And what about the “hallmarks of writing workshop”?

The quote below was shared before the chat began. Read through it and think of the students in front of you. Is this a description of your students? Yes/No? And then is it a description of engagement or compliance?

PreTweet for Twitter Chat

Does that sound like your students? Are they curious? Do they wonder? Do they share with others? Last week in #TCRWP Supper Club, Tyrone Howard shared that our students come to us in kindergarten as question marks and exclamation points, and yet they leave elementary schools as periods. That curiosity and excitement has died out. Or has it been worn out day after day and year after year?

Stop.

Think about some kids you know. Are they still curious?

Think about some teachers you know. Are they still curious?

And are they joyful?

Let’s move onto the second question we ask authors: “What do you want to stick with readers?” Let’s see what Shelley hopes for!

What are your BIG takeaways from your book that you hope teachers will embrace in their teaching practices?

I hope teachers will participate in all the writing tasks that they ask their students to accomplish.

I hope teachers will find ways to keep up with children’s literature and share that responsibility with their colleagues.

I hope that teachers will recognize that there are many benefits to introducing shorter genres. 

I hope teachers, (and their administrators), realize that there are many ways to achieve curriculum goals. 

Shelley Harwayne, email, 1/26/2022

So let’s dig into those hopes that Shelley has shared by looking at tweets from Shelley and #g2great chat participants.

Teachers will participate in all the writing tasks that they ask their students to accomplish.

Opening Twitter Chat Quote

TIP: Writing and also reading like a writer is important. Check out Jill’s wisdom, (ShelfieTalk), in these two tweets. I can’t wait to try this tomorrow when I’m reading.

Teachers will find ways to keep up with children’s literature and share that responsibility with their colleagues.

Teachers will recognize that there are many benefits to introducing shorter genres.

Twitter Chat Closing Quote

CHALLENGE APPLICATION:

Teachers, (and their administrators), realize that there are many ways to achieve curriculum goals.

Where do you see these four “take aways” in your school or life? Which ones are essential? Which ones are you going to work on? How will you continue to work on matching what you need and want in your school environment for your students with the hallmarks of writing workshop? It doesn’t have to be a perfect match. How closely are those hopes aligned? How can you increase that alignment?

To emphasize those hopes, here is the final author question Shelley was asked about a message from the heart for every teacher.

What is a message from the heart you would like for every teacher to keep in mind?

Long to be surprised. Create the kind of writing workshop in which you are surprised by students’ topics, their areas of expertise, their questions about the world, and the words they use to share their ideas and information.  Long to learn, as deeply as you long to teach.

Shelley Harwayne, email, 1/26/2022

In closing . . .

What was the message from nature that I alluded to in my opening paragraph? That perfect alignment? Expertise, Skill, Passion, Surprise and Joy are needed by teachers and students alike in writing and in life. Both groups must remain curious and adventurous. Both groups must continue to read, write, talk, and think with other groups of people. Both groups must continue to be surprised by life around them. Joyful learning does NOT occur in a black hole. It requires a collaborative willingness. Joy; where will YOU find it? Joy; where will YOUR STUDENTS find it?

Additional Resources:

Melanie Meehan’s TWT Blog about Above and Beyond the Writing WorkshopLink

Study Guide for Above and Beyond the Writing WorkshopLink

Online Resources for Above and Beyond the Writing WorkshopLink