Thursday, April 23, 2009

TOS REVIEW-Writer's Workshop, by Maggie Hogan

When I downloaded this We-ebook, I felt like I had hit the jackpot once again at The Old School House Magazine. As a writer wanting to pass down my love for the art, I found myself grinning at the cover shot where three smiling kids peered down at progressing books of their own.

Though only ten of the pages downloaded in the WE-ebook, Writer's Workshop, by Maggie Hogan, were actual writing group information (the rest being instruction on how to homeschool), the book was plenty wise on how to begin and host a writing workshop for children.

With the purpose focused on process over product, the author discusses how she founded and ran children's writing workshops, which proved to be more inclusive than most groups, incorporating the whole family rather than an age-segregated group of students. This one factor may make her type of workshop more appealing to homeschooling families as it includes even toddlers in the weekly 1-2 hour sessions. Additionally, those who were new at writing or not good at it at all, could orally relate their stories to adults who would record it for them on paper or other means.

Parents were also enlisted to “brainstorm” for content and help develop the lesson plans as well as to take turns preparing snacks, hosting the group in their homes, and monitoring the children in the meetings. Any adults present would not socialize with each other but help with the class instead. Depending on the size of the group, the responsibilities could be divided up according to interest or skill.

The workshop encompassed both individual and group writing excercises and a special Author's chair where children may present original works for critique purposes. Caution is taken to lay ground rules for critiquing so that there is a safe and positive learning experience for all participants.

The book also described an individual conference in which the children would each choose an adult to help them get “unstuck” and encourage them to improve their craft. This person would act like a coach with guidance but not to influence the suggestability of the child by changing the ideas of the story.

Next, Writer's Workshop, refers to the editing and publishing proccess showing readers how to help the children self-publish their books. The process includes allowing the students to have a choice in word content, illustrations and design layout. Before the final product is ready to take to press, however, the parents are to direct the supplemental learning at home by helping with editing and final draft-writing of the children's manuscripts.

My favorite parts of the workshop are the list of mini-lessons from which parents and students can choose and the final publishing party or Author's Tea. Here, the children may display the polished masterpieces and participate in a sort of “Roundtable” discussion of the final products each has presented. It should be semi-formal or even elaborate with fancy party foods and an atmosphere of celebration for all the children's hard work.

Writer's Workshop proved to be exactly the tool it promised to be. The unusual ideas detailed in it make it a perfect fit for the diversified world of homeschooling. Now that this reviewer has read and reviewed the “ultimate how-to manual” on children's writing workshops, I have to give the book two thumbs up!
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