What is the pedagogical model?
All About Writers presents what is fundamentally a process writing pedagogy, within a writer's workshop classroom. The key tenants of our model are:
We teach writers, not just a piece of writing.
Skills learned in the workshop are transferrable, and kids can use them every time they write.
Writing is a skill developed through practice.
Writing is a process that is explicitly taught and modeled.
Writers need readers, and children need to write with purpose, for an audience.
Mentor texts are key teaching tools.
Writing partnerships and writer's notebooks are essential within writing lessons.
The most important part of the writing lesson is the writing conference, which happens during independent writing time.
We look at qualities such as ideas and content first, and attend to conventions later. (They are important, after all.)
Where does it come from?
Our approach to writing combines three main elements: teaching the writing process, within a writer's workshop, and attending to the qualities of great writing.
We begin with the work of Donald Graves, who is regarded as the father of process writing pedagogy. His research over thirty years ago began a movement to teach children to write authentically, as published authors do. We can explicitly teach children skills within a writing process, starting with thinking and going right through to publishing. This process will grow and change from kindergarten through to grade 6, by which time your students will have developed autonomy within their own process.
Next, we look to the birthplace of the writer's workshop pedagogy at the Reading and Writing Project at Columbia University. Here, Lucy Calkins continues the work of Donald Graves. Within a writer's workshop classroom, a community of writers gather to hone their craft as writers, to find their voices as writers, to offer feedback to each other as writers, and to share their writing in meaningful ways. The workshop we present has particular elements and a predictable routine that support teaching and learning.
Finally, there is so much more to a great piece of writing than following a formula and worrying about spelling. Building on the 6+1 Traits of Writing (from Education Northwest), we will show you how to identify the qualities of great writing, and break them down across a continuum of skills that you can use as a primary resource for teaching.
Research and Reading
The research and subsequent work of Donald Graves (1930-2010) revolutionised writing pedagogy. He published several books which are still regarded as foundational texts within the field, including Writing: Children and Teachers at Work (1983). The man and his work are remembered in Australia today through the annual Donald Graves Address presented by ALEA and PETAA. In 2012 the inaugural address was delivered by Australian author, Mem Fox, and is well worth a read: www.alea.edu.au/aleanews/mem-fox-delivers-donald-graves-address
The Reading and Writing Project
The work of Donald Graves is continued under Lucy Calkins at Columbia University's Teachers College. Many leaders in the field of writing education are alumni of the Reading and Writing Project, including Ralph Fletcher, Carl Anderson, and Georgia Heard. You can learn more about the work of the project at https://readingandwritingproject.org/about and also access the research base supporting their work.