After the Rutherford Board of Education’s decision to adopt the Writer’s Workshop Units of Study writing program in grades K-6, Washington School has entered into a partnership with Columbia University in hopes of growing the program through professional development. The program is part of Teachers College, Columbia University Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP), which, according to the program website, “has developed state-of-the-art tools and methods for teaching reading and writing, for using performance assessments and learning progressions to accelerate progress, and for literacy-rich content-area instruction.”
The second-grade teachers at Washington School reported that the students are enjoying Writer’s Workshop and remain engaged with the culture of writing in their classrooms, particularly with the nonfiction unit. Further, they mention that “the structure of the workshop allows the teacher to explicitly teach a skill while giving the students the choice of when and how to apply it as their writing progresses.“ English/Arts supervisor Brian Ersalesi adds that the students benefit from Writer’s Workshop as it adds uniformity to the ELA program and allows students to develop and use the same skills as they advance to the next grade.
In first grade, Amanda Onofrio reported having great success with the program: “…we have seen an increase in students’ writing stamina and motivation. The structure of the program allows time for teachers to conference with students individually and in small groups about their writing goals. Even at the first-grade level, students are analyzing mentor author text and revising their writing to apply craft moves. Our students are excited to write each day and even ask for additional time outside of Writer’s Workshop to work on their stories!”
In addition to student engagement, the teachers at Washington School praised the professional development they have received through the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. They claim that the program encourages them to use their training and apply it to their students’ work, rather than just being taught abstract concepts.
When asked about what they like about the partnership, the second-grade teachers at Washington School responded: “We have the expertise of the trainer to help us troubleshoot and get insight into things that are happening currently in our workshops. The teachers look forward to our monthly sessions with our staff developer from Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. She has been supportive, professional, and incredibly approachable. This experience has given teachers a boost of enthusiasm for Writer’s Workshop.”
Although the partnership with Washington School has been a resounding success, other schools in the district have had much success with the framework and praise its integration with the ELA curriculum. For sixth grade at Pierrepont School, Mark Doty says, “The Writer’s Workshop program has shown our students many different strategies to improve their writing skills. We have seen great progress in narrative and informational writing. Through teacher and peer conferencing, the quality of writing has shown impressive growth.”
Through the continuation of the TCRWP partnership at Washington School and in addition to the reinforcement at Pierrepont School, the Writer’s Workshop will serve as a solid foundation for students’ writing skills for the duration of their academic career.