I just spent an amazing week teaching writing workshop in Roselle, NJ. The teachers I worked with are fairly new to workshop teaching. At the beginning of our days together I noticed that their minilessons were maxilessons. Lots of teacher talk, not much student writing. I see this all the time. I think it’s hard for teachers to cut their lessons to ten or twelve minutes and still feel like their teaching is effective.
Throughout the week, I modeled short minilessons, held lots of student conferences and worked with plenty of small groups. Teachers were surprised that I could do such short lessons and still get a message across. Then they started trying the lessons out on their own. And guess what? They were just as effective.
We decided that workshop teaching comes down to Belief and Trust. First, you have to believe that the work the students do is as important or MORE important than the work that you, as a teacher do. Then, you have to trust that when you set the kids free, they’ll actually do the work. Not always easy to manage, but with the right structures in place, very doable. Once you see how much kids produce and how engaged they are in learning, letting go gets easier and easier every day.