Last week Jodee wrote: “ I have just read your book and am so excited to use your ideas in my classroom. I have been trying to find a way to do writing workshop that fit me and this is it!” She also had a number of specific questions about publishing student work. I suspect that others might have similar questions, so I’ll post my answers. To read more about publishing go here. You can also preview the entire text of No More I’m Done online.
First, how do the students choose which stories to publish?
I usually suggest a student publish a piece that demonstrates growth and I try to be as specific as possible when giving my reasons for publishing: “Thomas, your piece has so many quality details. When you wrote that you “love the clunk, clunk, clunk sound of the dryer,” and that you “hold the warm clothes up to your cheek,” I felt as if I were at the Laundromat with you. Let’s publish this piece!”
There are always a few eager students who wish to publish every piece they write. When these students ask, I respond with my own question: “With this new piece, how did you grow as a writer? What did you do differently this time?” Students come to understand that I am looking for ways in which they have stretched.
Of course, I work hard to ensure that each and every student publishes on a regular basis.
Do they publish every story that they write or only favorite ones?
No. With writer’s workshop students understand that we do many, many practice pieces and only some of the written work will be published.
Also, do only published stories go into the monthly “Best Writing Book”?
No. In fact, I don’t include published pieces — although you certainly could. In an evaluative conference, I have students choose one piece that represents their best work for that month (it might be the draft of something they published) and I glue it into the book. I suggest sharing the book during parent-teacher conferences and prefer to have the students’ uncorrected written work.
When they do publish is it only one page or do you do a separate page for the beginning, middle, and end?
I don’t separate beginning, middle, and end, but publish it as one flowing piece. Sometimes the piece is one page long, at other times it is published as a book and there is some text on many pages.
Do you let the students illustrate their published work?
Absolutely! If it is published on a single page (to go in the class binder) I have students draw images around the borders (as you might see with a magazine story). If it’s published as a book, students illustrate every page. Often students have done some wonderful drawings as part of their prewriting and we choose to cut these out and use them as the final illustrations.
Do students only share completed work at the author’s chair?
No. I want students to listen to the feedback they receive during Author’s Chair and make changes to their work when appropriate. Often students think they’re done, but discover that the audience has many questions about the clarity of the piece.
Do they sign up to share?
Yes. Three students sign up to share each day.
If they do sign up, what do you do for the students who will never share?
I look for something positive the student has demonstrated in her writing, and then I ask her to co-teach a mini-lesson with me. Together, the student and I share. I find that once a student has had a supportive, rewarding time in front of her classmates, she is apt to sign up for author’s chair.
Once you’ve set the supportive tone in your classroom, you’ll find that no one wants to be left out of this enthusiastic, helpful community of writers.