Writing is hard work. Teaching it can be even harder. As most teachers know, writer's workshop doesn't always go as planned, and many find there are obstacles that they consistently struggle with. In his role as a literacy coordinator and teacher, Mark Overmeyer has heard the same issues raised again and again by both new and experienced colleagues. When Writing Workshop Isn't Working provides practical advice to overcome these common problems and get your writing workshop back on track. Acknowledging the process-based nature of the writing workshop, Mark does not offer formulaic, program-based, one-size-fits–all answers; rather, he presents multiple suggestions based on what works in real classrooms. The ten key questions this book addresses include:How do I help students who don't know what to write about?How do I help students develop stronger vocabulary and word choice?How do I prepare my students for standardized tests without compromising my writing program?How should I assess student writing?How can I help my students use revision effectively?
This book is a handy reference tool for answering specific questions as they pop up during the year. Mark uses student examples throughout to help teachers envision these solutions in their own classes, and he includes an array of classroom-tested ideas for helping primary and intermediate English language learners.
There may not be any easy answers to the complexities of writer's workshop, but by identifying and providing advice on the most common stumbling blocks one encounters, When Writing Workshop Isn't Working provides a solid groundwork—freeing up time and creativity for teachers to address the specific needs of their students.
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About the Author
Mark is a native of Colorado, and received his education at the University of Northern Colorado, Colorado College, and University of Colorado at Denver. He has over 30 years of teaching experience, most of it in Cherry Creek Schools in Denver, Colorado. He has worked as a classroom teacher in grades 2 through 8, a special education and Title I teacher, a coordinator for gifted programming, and as a literacy coordinator. Currently, Mark works full time supporting reading and writing workshops in schools around the US and internationally. Since graduating from the Learning Forward Academy, Mark also consults with schools and school systems as they move through any kind of change (implementing professional learning communities, embarking on standards-based reporting systems, designing effective feedback models...).
"I became a teacher because school has always felt like home. I never considered another profession. I began working in schools as a senior in high school. . . .I consider myself a lifelong learner, and so teaching is the perfect profession. Teaching is a process: an art that can never be perfected because each day brings new challenges. I work to become a more effective teacher every day, but I always know there is more to learn."
Mark worked for several years as a co-director for the Denver Writing Project, which is part of the National Writing Project. NWP is still one of the most important staff development experiences Mark has ever had: "The learning you do at a writing project site is impossible to duplicate: you become a writer, and you also have time to think deeply about your own teaching practices. I will forever be grateful for my experiences with NWP, and I continue to seek out their support as I learn more about writing, teaching, and learning." When it comes to professional development, Mark strives to model a process for writing that teachers can take back to their classrooms. "I try to make my staff development useful and concrete, but I push myself to think beyond the event itself. I listen to the needs of teachers during my presentations. I encourage interactive sessions so teachers have the opportunity to share their best thinking with colleagues."
Mark grounds his presentations in his own work with students and teachers and he is always current on research in writing instruction. As he was working on his most recent book, Let's Talk (Stenhouse, 2015), he spent a lot of time brainstorming and thinking prior to writing. "As I write, I tend to find my way as the words begin to form into thoughts, and then phrases, and then sentences. As soon as my ideas become very clear, I write two to three times per week, staying with each chapter until it is complete."
When Mark is not busy teaching, speaking at national conferences, or writing, he likes to travel and read and write poetry.