The following notes are made from an article–Exploring Inquiry as a Teaching Stance in the Writing Workshop authored by Katie Wood Ray–shared with me today by Angie Zapata at the Heart of Texas Writing Project Spring Conference. Ms. Zapata provided copies of the article to the folks present.
My notes on Ms. Ray’s article:
- Preparing to launch a study of op-ed writing in a fifth-grade writing workshop, a teacher goes through newspapers looking for op-ed pieces by columnists who explore topics she thought might interest her students.
- Instructional Frame for inquiry about writing:
- Gather Texts – Teachers and students pull together writing students will do.
- Set the Stage – Students are told they will be expected to finish a piece of writing that shows the influence of the study.
- Immersion – Teacher/students spend time reading and getting to know the texts they’ll study, making notes of what they notice about how the texts are written, and reflecting about the process writers use to craft texts like the ones they are studying.
- Close Study – The students–as a class–revisit the text, framing talk with the question: “What did we notice about how these texts are written?” Teacher and students work together to use specific language to say what they know about writing from this close study, developing curriculum as they go.
- Writing under the Influence: Studnts (and often the teacher) finish pieces of writing that show the influence of the study in specific ways.
- Focus work around an instructional frame for whole-class inquiry that would allow studying of a wide variety of genres along with writing issues other than genre, such as punctuation, and how to make illustrations work well with written texts.
- Framing instruction in this way represents an essential stance to teaching and learning, an inquiry stance, characterized by the repositioning curriculum as the outcome of instruction rather than as the starting point.
- Writing is used as a tool for learning and as a means to communicate that learning…inquiry stance is used to uncover curriculum about writing itself.
- Reading Like Writers…when teachers immerse students in reading and studying the kind of writing they want them to do, they are actually teaching at two levels. They teach students about the particular genre or writing issue that is the focus of the study, but they also teach students to use a habit of mind that experience writers engage in…they teach them to read like writers.
- This means noticing as an insider how things are written, learning to look at texts the way a mechanic looks at cars…to use the particular knowledge system of a writer.
- When teachers teach writing without any writing attached to it, they end up teaching things that just aren’t true or at least they aren’t true all the time. Edgar Schuster calls these things “mythrules.”
- Anyone who has moved from a delivery stance to an inquiry stance has stories to tell about having to reconsider the content of his or her teaching.
- Writers…often purposefully exploit usage at so many turns as a way of creating voice in their texts.
- When teachers give students a simple way to write something, not only are they not true to the product, they aren’t true to the process either.
- Inquiry does not narrow our perspective; it gives us more understandings, questions, and possibilities than when we started.
- In an inquiry stance, teachers help children explore these different alternatives for how to write something and then they let them do what writers really have to do–make decisions about how their pieces will go.
- While students are getting that experience, they are grounded in the realities of real-world writing, both product and process.
- Taking the inquiry out of the teaching would diminish students’ need to read and think like writers, and would most likely diminish their understanding as well.
- “If students are to understand what is known, they need to simulate or recreate some of the inquiry by which the knowledge was created” (Wiggins and McTighe, 2001).
- Before Revision, Vision. Writers write well, often even in first drafts, when tey have a clear vision for the kind of writing they will do.
- When teachers work from an inquiry stance, they have decided that the model for the writing will come from the stack of gathered texts.
- Students who are prepared to meet the demands of writing in a constantly-changing world…know writing is not static…they’ve learned how to learn about writing.
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