One of our third grade teachers, Kaia Huseby, shares from her experience attending the Columbia Teachers College: Summer Writing Institute.
In the first week of August, I traveled to New York City to attend a writing workshop for teachers. Many of Gateway’s elementary teachers have attended this workshop, so I was eager to see what it was all about. 1,200 teachers from all over the world were there to learn about how to teach writing; I met people from Jordan, France, Texas, and Florida. I even met teachers from public schools where so much emphasis is placed on test preparation that there is hardly any time for writing. That is difficult for me to imagine, since we place such emphasis on the development of writing skills at Gateway.
My favorite part of the week-long program was the small group workshop of about 25 teachers. We were active participants in the writing exercises so that we could learn what writing workshop feels like as a student. Models of personal narratives were shown to us and we analyzed them together. Then we were asked to think and write quickly, to get first ideas down for a personal narrative of our own. Then, after being offered tips and techniques, we were told to go back to our writing and apply them. This made me feel ownership over the process, in a way that I hope students will feel during writing workshop. As our group leader talked and shared more strategies, I felt sad to have to stop writing.
Another fun assignment was to choose a topic to practice information writing. After reviewing mentor texts, we dove in. I started a piece describing the process of soldering; this is a new skill I have been practicing this summer, as part of making jewelry. Writing workshop involves a lot of writing, but also a great deal of quick shares and check-ins with a partner. This makes the writing less solitary and more social; it also made me feel continuous support from others as I honed my work.
Now that I have experienced this workshop, I am excited to apply what I learned to all that we do in third grade writing!