Writer’s Workshop this morning looked the way it should look: 25 kids scattered around the room, some typing furiously while others wrote furiously across their pages.
Writer’s Workshop this morning sounded the way it should sound: typing, whispering, music playing softly (Harry Potter again) from the overhead speakers.
Writer’s Workshop this morning felt the way it should feel: energized, productive, positive.
But as I walked around to confer with students about their fantasy stories, I quickly realized that something was just slightly amiss. Something wasn’t the way I thought it should be. It took me a few conferences to figure it out: most of the fantasy stories my students were writing had fantastic characters, strong plot lines, great detail…and almost no fantasy to them whatsoever.
One girl was writing about a pair of friends who are split apart by the infringing friendship of a new girl. Another was writing about a pair of friends who have an argument that ends their friendship. A boy next to them wrote about a day with no wifi.
Where is all the creativity? I wondered. Where are all of the things I’ve taught them?
We’ve worked with two questions over and over in reading and writing across the school year: What is this about? What is this really about? I paused and asked myself these same questions.
What is this writing experience today about? I thought it was about writing fantasy…
What is this writing experience today really about? It was about developing a story arc. It was about including dialogue and developing characters through action and conflict. It was about focusing in on small moments and making them seem authentic to readers. It was about finding the joy in writing and expressing oneself through written words.
On that note, today’s Workshop wasn’t quite so “off” after all. My students were learning–just as they should in a workshop setting–in their own way and at their own pace. And they taught me something today as well: the value of remembering to look beyond the obvious to focus on what’s really at the heart of learning.