Thursday, January 19, 2017

Our Approaches to Teaching Writing Are Changing

Over the past twelve months all homeroom teachers, along with the Principal and PYP Coordinator have been involved in an internal inquiry-based self study.  We have been examining our own practice with a fine-toothed comb to try and understand how our teaching is impacting students' writing development. As a result of this self-study, teachers have been analysing student work samples and data, observing each other's classes, and participating in professional development to identify ways of improving our students' writing.

As a result of this ongoing inquiry, the Writing Workshop model is the approach we have decided to implement across all Elementary grades. Since August 2016, all classes have been using the Writing Workshop model with their students.

On Friday February 10th we will be hosting a Coffee Morning to explore this Writing Workshop with parents.  This will be held in the Multi-Purpose room from 8.45am - 10am. The workshop will be hosted by our Phase Level Leaders:
  • Mr. Mat Brigham, Phase Level 2 Leader (Grades 1 and 2) 
  • Ms. Mollie McAllister, Phase Level 3 Leader (Grades 3 and 4) 
  • Mr. Mikie O'Shea, Phase Level 4 Leader (Grades 5 and 6) 

Upper Elementary students working on their independent writing

Feedback cards help students in Phase 2 (Grades 1 and 2) to identify their next steps

Below is a brief summary of the Writing Workshop model.  However, for an in-depth explanation and exploration, we would like to encourage all parents to attend the Coffee Morning to learn about:

  • The structure of the workshop
  • How it will affect your daughter's engagement with the writing process
  • How you can help support writing development at home. 

What is the Writing Workshop?

The Writing Workshop is a daily structure that allows students to inquire into specific genres of writing.  Students work for a sustained amount of time inquiring into a specific genre.  During these inquiries, teachers explicitly teach students techniques for developing the structure, elaboration, craft and conventions of their writing.

How does it work?

Each workshop session starts with a short mini-lesson, where teachers connect the session to previous skills taught, teach and model a specific strategy and actively engage the students to try the strategies. However, for the majority of the workshop the students are engaged in independent writing.  Students work at their own pace to progress through the writing process (collecting ideas, planning, drafting, revising, editing and publishing) on topics of their own choosing.   During this time, the homeroom teachers confer with individuals or small groups to offer feedback and advice on their next steps.  Each unit ends with a celebration of the writing, where students get to share their work as authors with an authentic audience.

Why are we changing our approach to teaching writing?

The workshop model has been used successfully by PYP and non-PYP schools across the world.  It allows students to see what successful writing pieces look like through the use of mentor texts, and gives them very explicit genre-specific goals to work towards in the form of student checklists.  The shared approach also provides us with more opportunities to strengthen the connections between grade-levels since the workshop provides us with a continuum of student work samples at different levels.

We hope you can make the time in your busy schedules to join us for the Writing Coffee Morning and look forward to working with you to share some samples and student writing journeys!


  1. Really appreciate this self study and proactive initiative for our young girls. The "written word" is so so important, but the art of thoughtful writing is fast fading. Such concentrated programs are essential in an age where short messages and emails require little or no thought to quality and/or depth.

  2. Thank you for your feedback, Mr Rahman. We appreciate your support.


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