9th graders tackle workshop, write more


Tristan Callaghan

Freshman Brooke Hendry, a student in Language Arts 9 holds her storyboard project in breakout room 3115. The storyboard helps benefit her with being able to recognize plots in stories in Writing Workshop.

By Skyler Edquist and Andrew Lisak, Reporters

The freshmen class this year are the first group of students to arrive at the high school having already been injected with Writer’s Workshop. This year, the high school freshman English teachers are following suit, teaching those students in that workshop vein, adding the curriculum into their classes more continuously and holistically than in the past.

“Teachers received professional development to try this model in 2018-19,” Hintzman said.

The Writer’s Workshop pushes students to research, think critically and – of course – write. It also allows students within their own constant writing to explore, experiment, and strengthen skills.

According to the November and December “Spartan News” district newsletter article written by Crystal Hintzman, Director of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment to inform parents about the changes, the Writer’s Workshop gives “opportunities for students to develop collaborative conversations to enhance their learning.”

“The idea is that you give the students many opportunities to write, and the teachers provide feedback on that writing,” said Hintzman

Students are exposed to a wide variety of writing by published authors, which they use as models for their own writing. This concept also allows students to get used to writing more often and think less about a singular final product. Hintzman explained in the article in the November and December “Spartan News” that students will be given “Writer-Reader Notebooks as a place to practice their writing craft as they learn from their teacher, peers, and other authors.”

One exercise, in English teacher Lynn Krause’s class, required students to create a visual storyboard showing the complexity of plot in their story. The storyboard “helps recognize plots in stories, which was more fun than plotting on Google Docs,” freshman Brooke Hendry said.

In the 2013-14 school year, Writer’s Workshop was introduced into the elementary schools in the school district by a group of teachers, administration, and staff after research on its benefits in the classroom. As these students made their way up into the middle school the district integrated it into curriculum there as well.

“The SHS ELA teachers visited SMS in the spring of 2018 to observe it in action. The decision was collaboratively made to try out this model in the 9th-grade language arts classes at the high school,” Hintzman said.

The model is intended to give students “multiple opportunities for students to plan their writing, create a draft, receive ongoing feedback from teacher and peers, make revisions, and celebrate their growth as writers,” Hintzman wrote in the November and December “Spartan News” article.

When 9th grade English teacher Olivia White gives a writing assignment to her students, she writes alongside them. This allows her students to edit and make suggestions for everyone’s paper, including her own.  Then they can all improve their writing, students and teacher alike, which creates that workshop environment, as opposed to a traditional teacher-lecture style of class.

“We teachers want to see our students continue to grow and develop as writers,” White said.

Freshman Morgan Evans, one of White’s students likes the idea of Writer’s Workshop because of its consistent structure. She also likes being able to receive feedback from friends and classmates.

“It’s helpful to have student feedback along with teacher input,” Evans said.

Freshman Brodie Raygor, another one of White’s students has found a benefit to doing it because it helps him to better understand topics he writes about. On the other hand, he thinks it sometimes gets in the way.

“I wish we could only type,” Raygor said. “Writing on paper is boring.”

Hintzman says that the plan is for the Writer’s Workshop is to continue to expand throughout the high school language department as the current freshmen move up.