Teachers in general, play a significant role in creating opportunities and foster an environment for students to develop their self- efficacy, or perception of self. Teachers make decisions every day about how to implement writing instruction. These decisions influence what children write, how they write it, and how they are as writers. Students tend to recognize the importance of writing and view themselves as writers when teachers make writing a priority in the classroom. Therefore, writers who have a strong belief of their own agency and understand the writing process, will apply skills and strategies to compose, revise and share their writing. During writing workshop, students are given writing experiences that foster their own writer identity and a development of self-efficacy.
About 25 years ago, a paradigm shift arose for writing instruction in America’s schools . Previously to this shift, traditional approaches to teaching writing was more teacher-directed lessons on isolated skills using unnatural writing assignments, occasional requests to write long texts and focus on the elements of writing. Over the years writing has changed from assigning a paper and correcting it, with emphasis on working on the final product, to focusing on the writing process. Writing is not primarily about responding to a teacher’s prompt. Children need to have ownership of their writing. Writing also is often conceptualized in individualistic terms rather than a collective project.
The writing workshop is an effective strategy that gives students the very best tools to move confidently towards improving their written communication which can make a difference in children’s writing lives, shape learners’ identities, and improve the quality of students’ writing. Writing workshop is built on the foundations of literature; therefore, students can make connections to their own lives and also imitate their favorite author’s craft within their own writing. A balanced literacy approach that allows educators to promote critical thinking, allows space to create experiences that support academic, social, emotional, intellectual, and physical development.
Jasmine and Weiner state, “the writing workshop program provides the opportunity to support the students in their growth as writers through mini-lessons, individual conferences, publishing opportunities and whole class sharing”. Mini-lessons are needed to focus on improving the aspects of writing such as, prewriting, revision, editing and writing skills. According to Jasmine and Weiner, “students who master the mini lesson will immediately apply it during writing workshop. Those who are still struggling with the lesson will experience exposure to the concept that will have to be reinforced through continuous writing and teacher-student conferences”.
Another component of writing workshop is conducting conferences. Through questioning, discussion, and feedback, students start to ask their own questions about their writing and discover meaning of their own writing. Lastly, sharing helps students develop audience awareness through feedback from their peers. Also, sharing finished products around the room or “publishing” the products to parents or other peers helps students develop personal reasons for editing and revising work. Overall, the writing workshop provides an environment that is conducive to the formation of individual student writing identities.
Due to the high-stake testing, teachers have been forced to teach in ways that are limiting to the way students think and interact with each other. Traditionally, approaches to writing were more teacher directed lessons and focused more on the conventions rather than the content. Overall, writing in the curriculum is pushed to the side, and it varies from teacher to teacher on how the writing is taught.
According to Adair, “the pressure to prepare children for the test-taking grades has pushed early childhood educations to reprioritize what and how they teach children. Ghiso study found the following: In early literacy classrooms, writing activities often entail following specific writing templates or prompts, or engaging in personal narrative that does not include critical dialogue about its content or form. Because of children’s youth and their emerging development in the conventions of writing, the tendency has been to circumscribe both content and form in order to provide students with a foundation of ‘Basic skills. When students participate in writing workshop, they are given authentic writing experiences that foster their writer identity and self-efficacy development.