Developing Writers: An Eight Part Professional Development Workshop

Maryland Public Television
Annenberg Media
Publication Year
Resource Type
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Target Audience

Developing Writers: A Workshop for High School Teachers is a video workshop for grade 9-12 writing and language arts teachers, consisting of eight video programs, a print guide, and a Web site. Teachers can use these components for professional development in two-hour weekly group sessions, or on their own.

Each one-hour workshop video is divided into two half-hour sections.
Each workshop features:

  • Four current high school teachers talking together about their concept of a writing community and how they encourage students to grow as writers.
  • Visits to classrooms throughout the country, featuring students of all ability levels writing and talking about writing.
  • Excerpts from a writer's workshop in which the four key teachers in the series participated, led by Judith Ortiz Cofer.
  • Commentary from noted educators and authors about writing and encouraging young writers.

The titles of the videos are:

  • First Steps
  • A Shared Path
  • Different Audiences
  • Different Purposes
  • Usage and Mechanics
  • Providing Feedback on Student Writing
  • Learning From Professional Writers
  • Writing in the 21st Century

The guide and Web site provide background, activities, discussion questions, homework assignments, and resources to supplement the video programs and provide a robust professional development experience. They also provide information for facilitators to plan and structure group sessions.

All materials developed for this workshop reflect the Standards for the English Language Arts developed by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) and the International Reading Association (IRA).

Required Training

The instructions for using this workshop for self study or in a facilitated group are included.

What the experts say

The resource is an extensive and well organized professional development course on a process approach to writing, which has been widely used in secondary schools (as well as elementary schools) and which has been shown to be effective when teachers have professional development. The materials include text explanations, video, and activities developed specifically for the course, as well as extensive references to books and articles and Internet links. The materials are professionally produced and attractive, and the technology works smoothly. It is well designed to support groups of teachers who might decide to work together to improve their writing instruction. Although the course is aimed at elementary and secondary teachers, it should be applicable to adult education instructors and learners as well.

Workshop 1
Prominent authors and teachers discuss their own struggles in writing and creating texts. The teachers presented excellent technology resources for teaching writing that are applicable to high school students. Students shared their own writing blocks. Their sharings will help teachers to know what students are feeling regarding the process of becoming effective writers. The message that the process is collaborative is important since the research has shown that academic discourse is highly effective with students who are racial minorities and English as second language learners. Very applicable teaching strategies were shared that teachers could implement in their classroom tomorrow.

Teachers modeled their own processes for building a community of learners in their classrooms. The strategies presented were practical and easily applied to a variety of teaching situations. The teachers modeled how they work together with their colleagues in building writing lessons that promote engagement and student voices. There were powerful strategies shared for getting students started on writing like two truths and a lie, in which students have to write convincing situations and the audience has to guess which two are true and which is the lie. The teachers modeled their own writing which is a highly effective process for building a strong writing community.

Workshop 3 Different Audiences
Teachers learning from each other in order to increase their students’ achievement is the theme for this video. It clearly demonstrates that when teachers learn from each other they can be more effective at their teaching. It also addresses writing across the curriculum and having all content teachers see themselves as teachers of writing. This concept is imperative when working with English as second language students. The presenters are applying the skills they have learned from each other directly in the classrooms. Once they teach the lesson there is clear demonstration of student learning.

Workshop 4 Different Purposes
This video focuses on how to teach students to write for a purpose. The main focus is for students to learn to write for themselves first and use that as a strategy for expressing their feelings. The strategies shared are practical and make sense for all learners. The detailed components of the lesson are geared to teens and adult learners. Teachers learning from each other and teachers as learners is emphasized. The benefit of these lessons is that they do not require money or technology to implement. Most of the lessons were paper/pencil tasks.

Workshop 5 Usage and Mechanics
The challenges of teaching usage and mechanics to teens and young adults were addressed. The teachers and writing experts emphasized writing for content over emphasizing mechanics. They agreed that it is best to look at mechanics especially if it changes the meaning of the text after the writing portion of the task has been completed. They offered highly engaging, interactive ways for increasing the correct use of words and punctuation.

Workshop 6. Providing Feedback on Student Writing
Strategies for providing feedback were valuable, doable and efficient such as Praise Three Things, Suggest One Improvement and peer review of student work. One teacher shared a highlighting strategy for providing feedback (each color meaning a different type of feedback). Rubrics are fine, but real feedback is specific. The main notion is that feedback is provided by the community of learners, not just the teacher.

Workshop 7. Learning From Professional Writers
This segment documents the value of learning form professional writers and the idea that they struggle with writing. The professionals shared hints for starting to write (ex: use a body part to write about). Lessons learned are valuable to those teaching writers. This video sends the message that promotes the fact that we are all a work in progress when it comes to writing. You have never quite reached the end of learning how to improve.

Workshop 8 Writing in the 21st Century
Culmination of the use of technology embedded into the lessons. On line resources were very helpful (Blackboard).