Writer's Workshop... In Social Studies!!!!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Being a social studies teacher (and former language arts teacher), I have always taught my share of writing but over the years the focus has changed. Right now, my department is really trying to implement the Common Core so we are no longer focusing on the five paragraph essay (thank the education gods!) and really moving towards writing frequently with a focus on summarizing and argument writing. We have been doing persuasive writing for quite some time but we are aligning the vocabulary to that of the CCSS (i.e. persuasive to argument, thesis to claim, etc.) and again, we have been working on quality as opposed to length. Many years ago we had adopted the John Collins Writing Program and we recently brought Mr. Collins back to our school to share his ideas on the CCSS. His biggest push was for us to help students learn to grapple with complex texts through completing an assignment called a 10% Summary (http://collinsed.com/PDFs/10%25_summary_focus%20sheet_TSAT.pdf).
This sheet really does a nice job of guiding them through the process of summarizing. The next thing I wanted to work on was writing an argument piece on a gun debate article from The New York Times Upfront Magazine. I have been using these articles for years and had created a pretty good graphic organizer to help the kiddos create their rough draft. I decided to switch it up a bit and instead turned the organizer into a notebook foldable.
I decided to truly launch these I wanted to run a writer's workshop. Of course, being a middle school social studies teacher I really didn't know what a writer's workshop was!!!! I spent my MLK weekend studying up online and on the almighty Pinterest and put this together......

I set up their work stations with scissors, glue and sticky notes and had the handouts on the back table. The first thing we did was the 10% Summary sheet. I broke the assignment into two parts and initially gave them 5 or so minutes to gather the information for the topic sentence (i.e. title, source, etc.). At the bottom of the paper the kids were to write three to four main ideas. In order to set up a climate of modeling, I had each kid in the group grab two sticky notes where they were to write two different ideas that they found to be integral to the understanding of the article. The kiddos then shared their stickies with each other and as a group chose the three best main ideas. The kids loooooved this and it worked brilliantly. It really helped the kids who were having difficulty to actually see well written main ideas. For the kids that understood the concept, it allowed them to hone their evaluation skills.

Next we did the argument article, which my kiddos had already done many times this year so I just had to teach them how to use the notebook foldable. They thought it was magic because once you have completed every tab of the foldable, your rough draft is all done!!!
To finish these all up we headed on down to the computer lab, typed these up on Google Drive and now I have some fabulous artifacts for their writing portfolios.
I really loved the idea of working on the writing collaboratively and got a lot of commendations from the students for making it so easy. As time goes on I will wean them off of the collaboration but I really do think it brings down the writing anxiety when we begin a new type of writing. Overall I consider this a success!
If you are interested in my Argument Writing Foldable, mosey on over to Teachers Pay Teachers to take a look!

1 comment

  1. I love doing workshops! I teach an entire after school course this way. Thanks for posting and sharing your ideas. I think I may incorporate your sticky note idea into my classes the next time I teach creative writing. Here's a post on how I teach workshop-style for my ESL students in Korea: