As Hicks mentions there are three main elements of the writing framework: your students, the subject of writing, and the spaces in which we write. In my opinion all of these elements play an important role in the framework of writing. Thinking back on my time at Jamison, in Cleveland, Ohio, I remember how I decided to incorporate all of these elements in my classroom. I cannot help but wonder now if things were done differently if they would have ran more smoothly.
Starting with my students, I had a very unique group of second grade students, some of which were reading at a 2.5 reading level at the beginning of the school year, and others were still unable to write the alphabet down. Trying to teach a group of students with such diverse learning abilities was a huge challenge. I had to begin with finding a starting point for all of my students. I worked with each individually to find out where the students strengths and weaknesses appeared. I found that the students who were reading at a higher level were able to get their thoughts down on paper easier than my students who were still struggling with letter name/sounds. My struggling students were, however, able to use their imagination for writing story a lot better than my students who were trying to be ‘perfect’ in a sense. My stronger students were getting caught up in the spelling of words and the sentence structures, whereas my struggling students were able to dictate to me their ideas they were trying to write down.
One major struggle I had was finding a topic to have my students write about that would interest all of them. I started the year by having each student write in their journals about simple topics, what did you do this weekend? Write about your family. Write about yourself.... I wanted to first get the students to begin to write. Next I wanted to get the students to think more about writing. I would have the students pretend they were the principal of the school, what are some of the things they would change? This always had the students excited to think about if they were someone else. Eventually I had the students thinking about what if your breakfast could talk, what do you think it would say to you? - This encouraged my students to use their imagination which was an extremely difficult thing for them to do. They had difficulty seeing past the real life writing assignments. By the end of the year, my students were encouraged to write their own stories in which they would work on daily. These story topics were selected by them and approved by me, and gave the students the freedom to explore their imaginations.
The space in which I had the students write evolved over the school year, I entered a classroom where the students were bounded to their seats. They were to do everything there, This was no way I wanted to run a classroom. However, I could not change this overnight, it was going to be a process for both the students and myself. I started by having the students separate their desks during journal time, so they had their own personal space to work. Overtime I began to assign special writing spots around the classroom (the carpet, the writing table, or the floor), by the end of the year my students had the choice to sit in the rocking chair, choose one of our new writing carpets to sit on or stay in their seats. Giving the students choice, helped them stay in control of their environment. I like a classroom set up that has space for centers, and space for whole group activities. By bringing in new ‘writing carpets’, the students could move everywhere in the room to work on their writing.
The Digital Writing Workshop is a new idea to me, this is something that I wish I had more of an education on before my experience at Jamison. I feel that it could be very successful at some schools, however with the low amount of funding given to Jamison, it might be hard to incorporate. I would have liked to at least given my students an opportunity to learn about how a digital writing workshop works however with only 3 working computers in my classroom it would have been an opportunity that only happened every once and awhile.