I am trying to find out just how bad the current writing curriculum mandated by the Saint Paul, MN public school district is.
The curriculum is called Writer's Workshop.
It's been difficult to find district-wide info such as syllabi, curriculum maps, on WW. Instead, I've been able to find little blurbs on the various elementary schools' own web sites--note that each school speaks differently about the same program. It seems to be a good example of the chaos that Steve is trying to wrap his head around. Here we have a curriculum which is positively abysmal in its goals, implemented district wide, yet appears to mean vastly different things inside each school and each classroom anyway.
I've included here everything I can find about the Kindergarten portion of Writer's Workshop.
All errors are in the original web pages.
from Prosperity Heights Elementary:
Depending on your class situation and available time, Writer's Workshop activities is a useful and meaningful extension to the current curriculum. Writer's Workshop is a teaching technique that invites sutdents to write by making the process a meaningful part of the classroom curriculum. Writing is an expected activity on a daily basis. Students are exposed to the organization and thought required to create a story or write about a favorite topic. Because they are allowed to chose the topic, students are motivated to create and complete works to read to classmates.
For Kindergarten stduents, whose skills will greatly vary, the goal is to move pre-emergent readers into the writing process by eliciting a story from a drawing, and encouraging the student to move from drawing to writing by guiding the student in the use of phonetics to sound out words. Ideally, students become enamored by the power of their words, and will strive for the independence of fluency. Writer's Workshop can be paired with reading activities to create a powerful motivating tool when teaching literacy. "
From Webster Magnet Elementary:
We are writers! During Writer's Workshop we write, write, write! By the end of kindergarten we will be independent writers using sound spelling and standard spelling to communicate our ideas. We will record our thoughts with labels and sentences. Some of the concepts we focus on in Writer's Workshop are: directionality of print, using letter sounds to write words, using word wall words and environmental print in our written work, the difference between letters, words and sentences and using spaces between words. We know our ideas and stories are valuable and enjoy sharing them with others!
from Randolph Heights (note this applies to their whole program, rather than focusing just on Kindergarten:
Randolph Heights is implementing a new writing curriculum - "Writer's Workshop". During Writer's Workshop, students learn about the techniques that authors use to make writing effective.
Each workshop session begins with a mini lesson presented by the teacher. Lessons may be on skills or the craft of writing. Grammar skills suich as subject-verb agreement, capitalization, paragraphing and punctuation are developed during mini lessons. Students are also taught about the writing process - drafting, revising, and editing - during mini lessons.
The next step in Writer's Workshop is planning and drafting. This is when the students are writing in their notebooks. Writing assignments are generated by the mini lessons on skills and craft.
During planning and drafting time, while students are working on writing, the teacher meets individually with students. This time is used to assess progress ona written work and to reteach/review skills taught in mini lessons.
During the last 5 - 10 minutes of Writer's Workshop, students gather together to share their writing with the entire group or to bring closure to the lesson.
This is my personal favorite, which appears on the Crossroads Elementary website, but appears to be a draft document (that I cannot find anywhere else on the spps web site) of Saint Paul Public Schools' Project for Academic Excellence:
Launching Writer's Workshop: Living the Writerly Life
The Literacy Initiative of the Project for Academic Excellence is guided by two sets of standards for what students should know and be able to do: the Minnesota Standards and the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE) Standards. In this first unit of study of the year, Writer's Workshop addresses the NCEE Kindergarten Writing Standard 1: Habits and Processes of Writing Standard.
* Write daily.
* Generate content and topics for writing.
* Write without resistance when given the time, place and materials.
* Use whatever means are at hand to communicate and make meaning: drawings, letter strings, scribbles, letter approximations and other graphic representations, as well as gestures, intonations and role-played voices.
* Make an effort to reread their own writing and listen to that of others, showing attentiveness to meaning by, for example, asking for more information or laughing.
The teaching objectives of this unit are based largely on the Habits and Processes Standard. As such, they are only begun in this unit and continued throughout the year.
* View themselves as confident and competent writers.
* Develop the habits, fluency, and stamina of writers by writing daily, including recording oral stories.
* Develop an understanding that ideas for writing come from many sources, including oral stories that can be remembered, told, and written down.
* Generate their own topics by choosing an idea from their own oral stories or writing folders to work on over the course of a few days.
* Understand the steps of the writing process from collecting entries through publication.
* Reflect on the quality of their writing.
* Practice the rituals and routines of the Writer's Workshop - ways of working independently, productively, and resourcefully in a workshop environment.
* Listen to stories read aloud as a way to develop an understanding that they will be writing stories like their favorite authors.
This is bad enoughm ut it doesn't really say what's happening in a classroom--it could all be perfect teaching of writing for all this says.
So what does happen in a classroom?
I was able to find this link, pointing to a 4th grade class at Galthier Magnet Elementary, pointing to a page for the use of Writer's Workshop. The page says:
Here you will be able to receive help on our current theme in the workshop.
Click on this link to review the what's on our SMARTBOARD for the realistic fiction unit!
Ah, a SMARTBOARD. So shall we see that SMARTBOARD presentation? Read it and weep.
Here is the movie.
This is apparently classroom instruction on how to write realistic fiction for fourth graders.
My favorite part is the end where we see a note to parents saying they need to help their child do their writing homework, including using the "editing checklist" to check their work.